St James the Great, New Bradwell, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

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Feature Sets (2)


The settlement of New Bradwell is on the northern edge of Milton Keynes, but unlike many of the Milton Keynes villages it is of relatively recent date. It was begun in 1852 to provide housing for workers at the railway works founded in 1838 at nearby Wolverton.  St James’s was built in 1857-60 to satisfy their spiritual needs, and designed by G. E. Street, who also provided the design for the addition of the N aisle in 1897. It consists of an aisled nave of 4 bays with the W bay of the N aisle distinguished as the base of the NW tower. This was never completed in ashlar; it rises to a height of approximately 7m and is topped by a timber turret with a spire, intended to be temporary. The chancel has a S chapel and a timber N vestry.  In 1956 the roof of the abandoned church of St Peter, Stantonbury (qv) collapsed, and the chancel arch was removed to preserve it.  At some time in the 1960s (c1963 according to the List Description, 1969 according to Folwell and Cooper (2010)) it was installed here as an interior surround to the W doorway.


The medieval history of New Bradwell is irrelevant to this sculpture and readers are referred to the entry on St Peter's Stantonbury.


Exterior Features


W doorway interior

The 12thc chancel arch from St Peter’s, Stantonbury was installed here as an internal surround to the 19thc W doorway. In the description that follows the 19thc work is ignored. Round headed, 2 orders.

Height of opening 2.95m
Width of opening 1.53m
1st order

En-delit nook-shafts decorated with lozenges made by deeply cut hollows framed by a row of beading. Each shaft has a vertical row of six of these, each with a central field with a beaded border containing a motif that is either a quincunx of five beads, a swastika with curved arms terminating is small bosses, or a quatrefoil, with or without a central boss. The bases are attic, on square plinths with chamfered socles. The S capital is a double scallop with a quatrefoil in each shield. The shields are defined by a beaded lower border and the cones are sheathed. The N capital has a pair confronted animals., one on each face with their mouths touching at the angle. That on the R is certainly a lion, with a mane indicated by hook-shaped marks and the brush-ended tail curving over the back. The L creature is more like a bird, with just two legs and a dove-like tail of parallel cuts.  Both, unusually have rabbit’s ears. The neckings are plain and chamfered and the imposts quirked hollow chamfered.

The arch is carved with a variety of beakheads on an angle roll. There are 17 voussoirs in the arch, each with a single head. The 7 central heads are beasts, and the 5 at either end are alternately bird heads and beast heads. The 6 bird beakheads are similar, with oval eyes surrounded by grooves for eyebrows above and below and drilled decoration on the beaks.  The beast heads are of two basic designs: one with a pair of spiral tusks at the mouth and the other with a wide grinning mouth and displayed tongue.

2nd order

The jambs are as the 1st order except for the decoration of the nook shafts and the capital designs. The S shaft is cable or spiral moulded, with a row of beading between fillets. The N has nested chevron, alternating hollows with beading between fillets.  The S capital is carved with a pair of confronted creatures, similar to one another, that may be intended for lions. They are stout creatures with birdlike heads on columnar necks, and pointed tails that curve over their backs. Like the lions on the 2nd order N capital they have stylised manes, but their legs are very short. The N capital has a pair of confronted lions with longer legs and conventional brush-ended tails.  Imposts and neckings are as the 1st order, and the arch is carved with chevron consisting of a roll outside a quirked hollow on the face,  point-to-point with a simple quirk on the soffit. These define lozenge-shaped fields on the angle, each containing a spherical boss decorated with drill holes.  There is no label.


This spectacular arch is a highlight of Romanesque Buckinghamshire.  VCH (1927) describes it in-situ at Stantonbury as ‘small chancel arch’ and ‘a beautiful and fairly well preserved example of Norman work of about 1150’, and the detailed description that follows matches the present arch well. Writing in 1960 Pevsner noted only that the Norman chancel arch had been removed from Stantonbury; it had not been installed in New Bradwell church at that date. The 1976 list description confines itself to formal description.  Pevsner and Williamson (1994) describe the arch as impressive but give the erroneous information that it was brought here early in the 20thc.  The editors must have wondered why, in that case, Pevsner did not mention it in 1960.

The beakhead ornament and confronted lion capitals point to a distant connection with Reading Abbey. Locally beakhead and chevron are found in combination at Twyford on the S doorway which also has a capital with confronted fighting beasts.


  • English Heritage Listed Building 45641

  • D. Folwell and J. Cooper, St. James Church, New Bradwell: Celebrating 150 years (Church Guide), New Bradwell 2010.

  • N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 241 (Stantonbury), 300 (New Bradwell).

  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 540-41.

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 462-66 (Stantonbury).

Exterior from SW
Interior to E


Site Location
New Bradwell, Milton Keynes
National Grid Reference
SP 828 415 
now: Milton Keynes
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
now: Oxford
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: St James the Great
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
06 September 2014