We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Mark, Avington, Berkshire

(51°24′35″N, 1°27′54″W)
SU 373 680
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now West Berkshire
medieval Salisbury
now Oxford
medieval not confirmed
now St Luke and St Mark
  • Ron Baxter
03 September 1989, 24 November 2004

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=11074.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Avington is in the Hundred of Kintbury, in the SW corner of the county. The village is in the Kennet valley, 2 miles E of Hungerford and 5 miles W of Newbury. The settlement is tiny, consisting of the church and the former manor (now farm buildings) at the end of a lanes running S from the A4. The 12th-century church survives in its entirety, consisting of an aisleless nave with a chancel of the same width but slightly lower. To this was added, in the 13thc, a transeptal N chapel at the E end of the nave; gone now but the present vestry of 1877 is in more or less the same position. A S porch was added in the 16thc. There is no tower, but a bell-cote over the W gable of the nave, that may date from the 13thc. The interior was repaired, paved and seseated in 1765, and a major restoration was carried out by Butterfield in 1848-53, when the 18thc pews were removed and the chancel roof retiled. The church was again refloored in 1903, and in 1910 new roofs were erected on nave and chancel. Avington is valued as much for its sculpture as its architecture, and the main areas of interest are the richly-carved S doorway, the chancel arch, the remains of the chancel rib vault, and the font.


The manor was held by Gunnere under Edward the Confessor, and by Richard Pungiant in 1086. By 1166-67 it was in the hands of Richard de Camville, founder of the Cistercian Abbey of Combe (Warwicks). He died in 1191, the manor passing to his son John. It remained in the male line until before 1226, when it passed to a female heir, Idonea, married to William Longespee, son of the Earl of Salisbury. Further details of the manorial history may be found in VCH. The church is not mentioned in Domesday, but the advowson went with the manor throughout the Romanesque period. It became part of the United Benefice of Kintbury with Avington in 1949, and it is now in private hands, although the owners allow occasional services there on major feasts


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Vaulting/Roof Supports




Loose Sculpture


The sculpture at Avington falls into 4 groups. The re-used capital on the W facade is a common late 11th-century type found e.g. on the W tower of Sompting (Sussex). The font may or may not belong to the same campaign. Its iconography is at best enigmatic. Figures 2,8,9 & 10 are certainly clerics. 8 may represent St Peter, 6 looks like an angel on a journey, but if he is Raphael, there is no sign of Tobias or the fish. 3 must be a prophet or an evangelist. 5 is probably the Kiss of Judas, but in general, the intention to convey particular subjects must be discounted, since only 2 of the 11 arches contains imagery which can be identified with any confidence. This leaves 2 possibilities: no programme at all, or a generalised programme juxtaposing representatives of good (angel, prophet or evangelist and clergy) with representatives of evil and a hint of mankind's position in the middle (scene 1, an unambiguously human, secular figure between the fighting devils at 11 and the coped and hooded cleric at 2) now and perhaps originally facing E. On the whole, the latter possibility seems likelier in view of the baptismal context.

The lion-mask capitals capitals on the 2nd order, W face of the chancel arch also occur at Great Shefford (Berks), where there is no direct workshop connection, at Sherborne Castle and Abbotsbury (Dorset), where there may be (see below) and are relatively common in the south of England, deriving ultimately from the Saintonge region of W.France. Stalley considered that this feature of the architectural sculpture at Avington, as well as the beast-head vault corbels and the decoration of the chancel arch soffit roll with beak-heads on both sides, was related to Bishop Roger of Salisbury's work at Sherborne Castle. He placed Avington in a group including, along with, Sherborne, Roger's work at Old Sarum and the church of Lullington (Somerset), considering that the bird beak-heads on the vault ribs (but not those on the chancel arch) may have been carved by a sculptor active at the other sites. More likely is a connection with Reading Abbey, whose cloister sculpture, largely in the Reading Museum, is approximately contemporary. Finally the S doorway with its neat chevron ornament, trefoil capital and beaker clasp is also related to work at Reading Abbey. In any case the Avington work should be dated in the 1130s or ‘40s.


F. Henry and G. Zarnecki, 'Romanesque arches decorated with human and animal heads', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 20-221, 1958.

C. E. Keyser, 'An Architectural Account of the Churches of North Moreton, Brightwell, Little Wittenham and Long Wittenham', Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal, 15 (1909-10), 4-10, 33-39, 65-73, 97-102.

C.E. Keyser, 'The Norman Architecture of Berkshire', Transactions of the Newbury District Field Club, vol. 5, 1911.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 75.

R. Stalley, 'A Twelfth-Century Patron of Architecture. A study of the buildings erected by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury 1102-1139', Journal of the British Archaeological Association 1971, 62-83, 78-81.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010, 145-46

Victoria History of the Counties of England: Berkshire. Vol. 4, London 1924, 158-62.