St Nicholas, Tadmarton, Oxfordshire

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Feature Sets (3)


Tadmarton is situated 5 miles SW of Banbury in N Oxfordshire. The earliest evidence of a church is the early work remaining in the building. The small ironstone church comprises a nave and chancel, both with N aisles, and a W tower. The late C12th church was of the same plan but there was no evidence of a tower. In the C13th the chancel was largely rebuilt, and an Early English chancel arch was inserted within the Romanesque one. The nave of three bays was lengthened to westward by the addition of a narrow arch to the nave arcades, and the existing tower was built. The surviving Romanesque features include a window in the chancel S wall, the blocked chancel N arcade, and the nave N arcade.


In the C10th, both Upper and Lower Tadmarton formed a royal estate. In 956 King Edwy is reputed to have granted 20 hides to two of his thegns, but these soon came into the possession of Abingdon Abbey, who retained them until the Dissolution. After the Conquest, Abbot Aethelm was induced to grant them to Robert d'Oilly, Sheriff of Oxford. In 1086 the estate was still around 20 hides. In Henry I's reign, Simon le Despenser exchanged lands that he held of the abbey in Berkshire for Tadmarton manor and 3 hides at Garsington. Simon was a nephew of Reynold, Abbot of Abingdon. There was continual trouble between the Despensers and the abbey until the end of the C13th, although the abbey had secured bulls from the Pope in 1146 and 1152 confirming its possession.

The church was attached to the manor throughout the relevant period. Tadmarton was a manor of Abingdon Abbey , but for much of the C12th it was held of the Abbey by the Despenser family. The advowson was in the hands of the abbey until it was surrendered to the crown in 1538 (VCH).


Exterior Features


Chancel window, S wall

A small pointed window in the S wall of the chancel, deeply splayed, shows a large round-headed rear-arch on the interior.

Interior Features



Chancel N arcades

Two round-headed arcades, now blocked, on the N side of the chancel. One plain square order.

E respond. Square corbel in the NE corner, with two scallops on the E face and one on the N face. Each scallop has a continuous incised line outlining the shields. Impost with a hollow chamfer below a quirk.

Pier 1. Slender, probably originally square but worked with chamfers at a later date, no base. Capital square, form as E respond, but four scallops on the N face and two on each lateral face.

W respond. Squarish corbel in the form of an impost, with a hollow chamfer below two quirks. 


Nave N arcades

The arcade is of three round-headed bays to which a small westernmost bay was added later. A single plain square order, as chancel. Label, with a chamfer, on S side only, decorated on second bay. The spandrels over the two free-standing piers each carry a male head in low relief.

E respond

A half-column. Base a big roll with rudimentary or damaged spurs. No necking. Capital square, with small multiple scallops, eleven on the E face and four on the sides. Impost crudely worked with a broad hollow chamfer below.

Pier 1 and hood detail of bay 2

Cylindrical column. Base, a broad flat roll. Necking narrow, integrated in the shallow square capital with ten to thirteen scallops on each face, some poorly defined or missing and some replaced. 

The spandrel carries a crudely carved male head in low relief with incised triangles representing eyes, a long flat nose, and a deeply grooved horizontal incision for a mouth.

The hood of the middle bay, between piers 1 and 2, bears a row of unevenly cut nailhead, with occasional small half-cylinders. 

Pier 2

Cylindrical column. Base chamfered. Necking integrated as above, square capital with larger scallops with a continuous incised line outlining the shields. Impost with a chamfer below.

The spandrel carries a male head of similar size and shape as pier 1, but with incised oval eyes, a flared nose with two drilled nostrils, and a slightly curved mouth with drilled holes between the lips, giving the appearance of teeth.

W respond

Square with chamfered-off corners. Base chamfered, with bulbous stops at the bottoms of the chamfers on the respond. Capital square with chamfered-off corners (conforming to the plan of the respond), decorated with multiple scallops, ten on the W face and one and a half to the sides. Impost with a chamfer below.


The N arcades are thought to be late C12th, and therefore comparable with the N arcades at Swalcliffe nearby. The sculpture at Tadmarton, however, is more crudely executed with little variability in motifs. Swalcliffe has shallow capitals but those here are even shallower.

The C13th chancel arch is said to have been inserted within the former Romanesque one. There is no sign of the original arch on either face. 


  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (Harmondsworth, 1974), 803-4.

  • Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 9 (London, 1969), 150-9. 

Exterior from S


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 392 378 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
now: St Nicholas
medieval: St Nicholas
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Janet Newson, John Blair, Sarah Blair 
Visit Date
01 November 1994, 14 August 2014