St John, Barford St John, Oxfordshire

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Feature Sets (3)


Barford St John, together with Barford St Michael, are paired villages lying 5 miles S of Banbury in the rolling countryside of north Oxfordshire. Both have churches with 12thc. origins, but Barford St John is the smaller and lies to the north of the River Swere that separates them. The chapel of St John was built c. 1150, and now consists of chancel, nave and S porch with an octagonal bell turret. The chancel was rebuilt in the 13thc. The church was radically restored by G.E. Street in 1860-61, who demolished the earlier tower and built a new one over the S porch. Only the S nave doorway and the font survive from the Romanesque.


St John's was initially built as an independent chapelry of the parish church of Barford St Michael, and remained part of the ecclesiastical parish. However, the two lie in different hundreds separated by the river Swere. The parish of Barford St Michael is in Wootton (North) hundred, and Barford St John is technically in the parish of Adderbury in Bloxham hundred. Adderbury was the mother church over a wide area in the Middle Ages. From 1014-5 land at Adderbury had been granted to the bishops of Winchester. Between 1038 and 1044 Bishop Aelfwine leased estates to Osgod for life, but by 1086 it was back in the hands of the bishop of Winchester. In 1284 Adderbury was one of the manors confirmed to the See of Winchester. In 1086 the manor of Barford St Michael was held by Robert d'Oilly of Oxford. Barford St John's history is difficult to untangle from these two neighbouring parishes. 

St John's is now in the benefice of Barford St John and Barford St Michael, together with Deddington and Hempton.


Exterior Features


Nave, S doorway

Doorway of two orders, the inner segmental and the outer round-headed, with an infilled space between them. The jambstones of the 1st order, and the voussoirs of both orders, are of alternating light and dark Hornton ironstone.

Height of opening 2.10 m
Width of opening 1.03 m
1st order

Plain chamfered jambs and voussoirs of Hornton ironstone of alternating light and dark colour. Impost continuous with 2nd order, and the same on both sides: a hollow chamfered lower arris below a double quirk

2nd order

Detached nookshafts of two pieces set en delit. Bases the same L and R, with a basal convexity with a hollow above. Plain roll necking. Capitals different but both basically of volute form. L capital: below the angle volute is a vertical cabled strip over a symmetrical lobed leaf. In the spandrels below, the volutes on both faces are 3-lobed triangular chip-carved motifs. R capital: below the angle volute is a vertical beaded strip over a raised disc. One of the spandrels is treated as on the L capital; the other contains a ribbed triangle enclosing a pellet. Impost as 1st order.

In the arch, three rolls of lateral chevron, roll/hollow/roll, on the face. Cogwheel edge with large pellets on all except the bottom two voussoirs on the R. (These voussoirs are clearly replacements: each one carries one and a half chevrons instead of the usual single one.) Label with inner chamfer.



Tub font

The plain tub font of oolitic limestone is located in the SW corner of the nave. The only decoration is a small star-in-circle motif on the W side. An octagonal 15thc. base stands on a modern plinth. There is a repaired horizontal crack the whole way round the middle of the font, and a vertical crack on the S face running from the rim to halfway down. 

External diameter at top 0.65 m
Height of bowl 0.55 m
Internal diameter at top 0.50 m


The segmental arch of the S nave doorway may be a restoration as there is a clear mis-match between it and the 2nd order round-headed arch. The whole doorway may not be in situ.


  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 445.

  • Victoria County History, A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 9, Bloxham Hundred. London 1969, 5-44. (Under Adderbury) 

Exterior view from SE


Site Location
Barford St John
National Grid Reference
SP 439 333 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
now: St John
medieval: St John
Type of building/monument
Parish church, formerly chapel  
Report authors
Janet Newson, John Blair, Sarah Blair 
Visit Date
05 September 1997, 14 August 2014