St Margaret of Antioch, Harpsden, Oxfordshire

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Feature Sets (3)


Harpsden cum Bolney occupies a narrow strip of land about two miles long just S of Henley-on-Thames, SE Oxfordshire. St Margaret’s church is a small, neat church, standing S of the village on the edge of Henley Golf Course. The exterior is of flint and stone dressings with tiled roofs.  The only visible 12thc sculpture are the round-headed S nave doorway; the round-headed piscina in the S chancel wall and the carved tub font at the nave W end. The chancel was extended in the 14thc but only the S chancel wall and the S nave wall of the medieval church remain.  The building is otherwise of the 19thc when it was reconstructed and extended northwards, with a tower, aisle and porch added on this side after 1852. A new parish room (St Peter's Vestry) was built S of the nave in 1975.  This is accessed via the 12thc S nave door.


By Domesday, Harpsden was held by Alfred from Miles Crispin who had acquired it with other holdings from Wigot of Wallingford. No church is mentioned. Harpsden is one of a handful of small estates of around five acres each that were detached from the royal estate of Benson, pre-Conquest.  See also Rotherfield Peppard, Oxon and Rotherfield Greys, Oxon. The manor was divided between two estates, Harpsden and Bolney. By the early 12thc, each appears to have had a church but both estates declined rapidly and by the mid 13thc they were among the poorest parishes in the deanery of Henley. The two parishes were amalgamated by the mid 15thc and Bolney church has left no remains. St Margaret's today belongs to the benefice of Shiplake with Dunsden and Harpsden. 


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

Narrow, round-headed, chalk doorway in the centre of the S nave wall, of a single order consisting of a broad continuous roll defined by a quirk edging both jambstones and archivolt and interrupted by shallow imposts.  L impost damaged; R impost edged beneath with a narrow roll moulding. The hood is a roll moulding. Segmental rear arch with jamb stones and voussoirs of uneven size. The interior of the door opening has been replastered and the floor level changed to accommodate a ramp. 

Height of opening 2.14 metres (ground level has been raised)
Width of opening 1.06 metres



Tub shaped font

The font is sited at the centre W end of the nave.  It is tub-shaped, slightly tapering and lead-lined with a scallop and pleat design all around the bowl, resembling a hanging textile. Several substantial cracks have been repaired. There is a cable roll decorated with small, worn nailheads around the base.  It is mounted on a plain stone support similar in shape and size to the bowl but inverted, with a roll moulding and quirk at the base

Height of bowl 0.42 metres
Inner width of bowl 0.54 metres
Outer width of bowl 0.71 metres

Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Located in the S chancel wall; round headed and stilted; continuous jambs and arch of regularly sized voussoirs; rectangular projecting shelf with cut away corners; chamfered beneath; fluted drain.

Interior height 0.42 metres
Interior width 0.41 metres
Overall height 0.69 metres


The S nave doorway was in use until alterations of 1852, to designs by Benjamin Ferrey of Henley, when it was blocked and replaced by a doorway to a new aisle on the north side.  It is described as blocked by Sherwood and Pevsner but had been re-opened in 1975 to provide access from the church to a newly constructed church hall and meeting room, known as St Peter's Vestry.  There are some interesting graffiti around the dooway including what may be a pilgrimage mark beneath the left impost and a number of scratch dials on either side. 


  • J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth, 1974 (repr.1979), 634

  • G.C. Tyack, Harpsden Church and Parish, n.p., 1981

  • Victoria County History:Oxfordshire, 16 (2011). 238-264 

1. Exterior view from NW


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SU 764 809 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Oxfordshire
now: Oxfordshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
medieval: St Margaret of Antioch (pre-Reformation)
now: St Margaret of Antioch
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Nicola Lowe 
Visit Date
10 August 2014