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St Peter, Cassington, Oxfordshire

(51°47′31″N, 1°20′35″W)
SP 454 106
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval Lincoln
now Oxford
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Janet Newson
22 September 2011, 24 May 2012

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The village of Cassington is 4 miles NW of Oxford. St Peter’s Church has a known consecration date of 1123 and it remains a relatively unspoilt example of early Romanesque architecture. It is built of limestone rubble, with ashlar quoins, and shows areas of herring-bone masonry high on the nave walls. It comprises a chancel and aisleless nave with a central tower. It retains two original nave doorways and a tower doorway, most of its round-headed windows, and complete external corbel tables on chancel and nave. In 1318, when an upper stage and spire were added to the tower, the original corbel stones of the second stage were reused. Interiorly, there are two decorated tower arches and a sanctuary with quadripartite rib vaulting. There is also a Romanesque font.


The Domesday Book records that in 1086 Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and King William's half-brother, was the overlord of the manor of Cassington; he designated as mesne lords Wadard of Cogges and Ilbert of Lacy.

The church was founded in 1122 by the elder Geoffrey de Clinton, Chamberlain to King Henry I, who held one of the manors in Cassington and built it as a chapel attached to his residence; it was dedicated to St Peter and consecrated by 1123. Sir Geoffrey de Clinton laid the church under the jurisdiction of Eynsham Abbey. It was called a chapel as late as 1406, and Eynsham retained the advowson until the Dissolution.

Cassington is now part of a joint benefice with Eynsham.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Vaulting/Roof Supports





The church was restored between 1841-1842 by vicar Thomas Forster. In 1876 a second restoration took place under the direction of George Frederick Bodley. The nave roof, the windows and the N porch were restored in 1901; a vestry was built on the S side of the chancel.

S and N doorways

The plain tympana are similar to those in the crypt of St Peter-in-the-East, Oxford, and of comparable date. In 1970, the roof of the N bay of the S porch was raised to reveal the chevron moulding of the hood of the S doorway (VCH). In Romanesque times the more richly decorated S doorway then faced the village and would have provided the main access to the church.


Many of the corbels are comparable to those at the church of St Peter and St Paul, King’s Sutton (Northamptonshire), only 15 miles away, E of Adderbury, near Banbury. Two motifs in particular show a close resemblance: those with two (addorsed) heads facing away from each other on the same corbel (S17,S31 and N19), and those with a series of stepped squares with a central boss (S4, S16, S20, N13, N17 and N24) (Baxter, 2008). As these motifs are unusual, they might have been carved by the same mason, and probably with the patronage of wealthy patrons at both churches. Dating at King’s Sutton is not certain, but it could be as early as the 1120s.


R. Baxter, 'St Peter and St Paul, King's Sutton, Northamptonshire.' www.crsbi.ac.uk/search/county/site/ed-nh-kisut.html (2008).

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 12 (1990), 49-52.

J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth, 1974, 522.