St Mary Magdalene, Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire

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Feature Sets (2)


The church of St Mary Magdalene stands in the Castle Ashby estate, with access through the S entrance for the parish, and through the N entrance for the house. It has a three-bay aisled nave with Perpendicular arcades; the N aisle extended eastwards to form a chapel with an arch from the chancel. This has a N vestry, and there is a Perpendicular W tower with a lead ogee roof. There are nave doorways to N and S, both under porches, and the N porch entrance is treated as a 12thc. doorway using some Romanesque stones but incorporating a good deal of 19thc. material too. The exterior is faced in small grey stone blocks, roughly shaped and coursed.


In 1086 Castle Ashby was held by Hugh from Countess Judith.

Benefice of Yardley Hastings, Denton and Grendon with Castle Ashby and Whiston.


Exterior Features


Nave, N porch entrance

Round-headed, three orders. The opening is largely made of replacement stones, but some 12thc. elements are incorporated. The embrasures are stepped, the capitals forming a frieze of flat-leaf forms with additional single leaves with spinal ridges rising from the roll necking, with square abaci and hollow-chamfered imposts.

The first order has an angle roll with hollows on the face and reveal, and the other two are on attached en-delit nook-shafts, and at these three points on either jamb the capitals are carved in the round. There are no bases. The steps between the orders are chamfered, and traces of carving remain in places on the chamfers, in the form of a vertical line of medallions containing cusped foliage forms. These are best preserved on the top block of the W embrasure between the second and third orders. The first order arch has an angle roll with a large scotia on the face, and curiously the order springs from a cushion-shaped block above the impost on either side. Outside this arch is an angled row of dogtooth-like quatrefoils, forming a bridge to the second order arch.

The second order is carved with point-to-point lozenges of roll profile on face and soffit, with an angle roll and rolls at the extrados on the face and the inner edge of the order on the soffit, these three rolls framing the bands of lozenges. Another band of dogtooth-like quatrefoils forms a bridge to the second order arch.

The third order is of frontal chevron on face and soffit, with three quirked rolls on each, either side of an arris at the angle. The label is chamfered with sawtooth chevrons carved centripetally and terminating on the chamfer. Each unit has a pair of chip-carved triangles on the face, a ridged border and a hollow chamfered inner edge.

Of this elaborate composition much is due to restoration. The lower parts, including the capitals, are badly worn and may be original. The arches are much better preserved and could represent a 19thc. copy of the 12thc. forms. Voussoir 5 of the second order is interesting in this respect, as it is much more eroded than its companions and may be original. If so it has been very well done. The inner order arch is almost certainly a replacement.

h. of opening 2.07 m
w. of opening 1.34 m


Pevsner (1973) comments on the juxtaposition of chevron (normally considered to be a Romanesque ornament) and dogtooth (diagnostically Early English) on the same doorway, finding it 'a rare (and historically instructive) combination.' He notes that the doorway is much restored, but does not appear to question the authenticity of its ornamental forms. The present author is inclined to agree.


  • Victoria County History: Northamptonshire. IV (1937)
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. B. Cherry 1973, 136-38.
Exterior from NE.
Interior to NE.


Site Location
Castle Ashby
National Grid Reference
SP 864 592 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Northamptonshire
now: Northamptonshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Peterborough
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Mary Magdalene
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter