St Mary, Tansor, Northamptonshire

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Feature Sets (4)


St Mary's has an aisled nave with a clerestorey. The nave is more or less rectangular in plan, but the arcades to N and S are differently treated. On the S are five uneven bays; the two western bays round-headed and the remainder pointed. The N arcade piers are more regularly spaced, i.e they are entirely out of step with those on the S. In the N there are three round-headed bays at the W end, then two full-sized pointed bays and a short pointed bay, leading to a vestry and partly blocked with a later doorway inserted. These different arrangements bring the two arcades to roughly the same point, and here the aisleless chancel starts, although there is no masonry chancel arch. The liturgical arrangements have been altered at some time, and a chancel step built right across the nave at S pier 1, which is part-way along the first full-sized bay on the north. This bay now houses the organ, and the liturgical changes have brought it into the chancel. The chancel is short and square-ended, substantially 13thc., although on its E wall are the remains of an earlier round-headed window. The W tower arch is 12thc., but a pointed arch has been inserted to reduce its size. The tower itself has a tall lower storey of rubble with plain 12thc. windows, and to which a 13thc. storey has been added. There are N and S nave doorways, both under 19thc. porches. Romanesque work is found in the nave arcades, the tower arch, the N nave doorway and a piscina set in the S nave aisle. The church was restored by Ewan Christian in 1885-87 (N and S porches, N aisle wall), and by H. F. Traylen and F. J. Lenton in 1933-35 (tower).


Tansor was held by the king in 1086. No church was noted. Nassington, a prebend of Lincoln Cathedral was endowed with Tansor church in 1107-16. In the early 13thc. there were two Lords of Tansor, each of whom claimed the advowson. This resulted later in the century in two rectors. The chapter of Lincoln eventually picked up one advowson c.1300 and the other by 1325, but the moieties were not consolidated until 1397.

Benefice of Warmington and Tansor and Cotterstock and Fotheringhay and Swick.


Exterior Features


N nave doorway

Two round-headed orders.

h. of opening 2.22 m
w. of opening 0.92 m
First order

The archivolt is carved with hyphenated lozenges, with rings in the centre of each hyphen. The centre of each lozenge contains a raised four-petal flower resembling dogtooth. The jambs are carved with slender, engaged shafts and carry small stiff-leaf capitals. The thin, deeply moulded imposts are plain.

Second order

The archivolt is carved with point-to-point chevron, which does not meet up at the apex. The roll on the arris is prominent. Most of the triangular units on the face are carved with a foliage motif, but two and a half are plain and others are carved with letters (I V A D D). These may or may not be contemporary with the doorway, but appear to be of 12thc. date (see VIII Comments). The en delit shafts have rings and carry stiff leaf capitals. The label is carved with free-standing directional chevron, under which the arris is visible, and has human head stops.

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Tower arch

The arch has been partly blocked and a narrower pointed arch inserted in the 13thc., presumably to strengthen the tower. The arch is of two depressed orders, the inner chamfered, with a chamfered label. The lower parts of the jambs are 13thc. work of plain chamfered masonry, but the upper part retains the coursed nook-shafts of a single 12thc. order. The shafts carry damaged triple-scallop capitals with wedges between the scallops and roll neckings. Imposts are quirked hollow chamfered.



N arcade

In this description the short E bay to the vestry is not included. W of this are five bays, the first two pointed and the last three round-headed. These round arches are of two orders on each face, the inner chamfered on both faces. Of this five-bay arcade, the E respond and its capital are 19thc. The remaining piers are cylindrical, the first two carrying 13thc. moulded capitals. This leaves piers 3 and 4 and the W respond. Their bases have roll/hollow profile; their capitals are described below. Pier 3 capital. Square in plan and multi-scallop with four scallops per face. There are wedges between the cones, and a groove outlines the lower edge of each shield. The necking is chamfered and the impost is quirked hollow chamfered. Pier 4 capital. Multi-scallop with six plain scallops per face and wedges between the cones. The necking is chamfered and the impost is quirked hollow chamfered. W respond capital. As Pier 4.

S arcade

Five bays, the first three pointed and the last two round-headed and with two orders on each face, the inner chamfered on both faces. The piers are cylindrical, with 12thc. scallop capitals on all except pier 1, which is 13thc., moulded and enriched with nailhead. The 12thc. bases, neckings and imposts are as the N arcade. E respond capital. Multi-scallop with four double-sheathed scallops on the main face. There is a large repair to the N side of the capital. Pier 1 capital. 13thc.. moulded with nailhead. Pier 2 capital. Multi-scallop with four sheathed scallops per face. Pier 3 capital. As pier 4, N arcade. Pier 4 capital. As pier 4, N arcade. W respond capital. As Pier 4, N arcade.


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Set in the S wall of the S aisle, E bay, at window-sill level. A capital piscina, hollowed on its top surface and drilled for drainage. It has no pillar, and the necking and lower part of the bell have been chamfered. In form it is Corinthianesque, with heavy angle volutes, multilobed leaves on short stems at the top centre of each face, and signs of fluted foliage on the bell.


The doorway has been rebuilt, and the outer apex voussoir cut down in the process. This raises the possibility that the letters of the inscription may have been jumbled, and that it originally read DAVID. The author is indebted to John Higgitt for this suggestion.


  • RCHME Report, uncatalogued.

  • Victoria County History: Northamptonshire, II (1906), 597-99.

  • J. Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary J.Bridges, Esq., by the Rev. Peter Whalley.Oxford, 1791, II, 475-78.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, Harmondsworth, 1961, rev. by B. Cherry, 1973, 423-25.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northampton. VI. Architectural monuments in North Northamptonshire, London, 1986, 144-49.

Exterior from E.
Exterior from N.
Interior to E.
Chancel to E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 054 909 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Northamptonshire
now: Northamptonshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Peterborough
now: St Mary
medieval: Our Lady (1527)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Kathryn Morrison, Ron Baxter