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St Mary, Ardley, Oxfordshire

(51°56′32″N, 1°12′46″W)
SP 542 274
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval Lincoln
now Oxford
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Janet Newson
26 July 2012, 26 June 2013

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=12625.

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Ardley is situated between Bicester and Banbury in N Oxfordshire. Although an earlier church existed, this one is largely the result of rebuilding at the end of the 18thc. The chancel arch dates from the 13thc., but one of its responds has an early Romanesque base. Although the tower with its saddle-backed roof dates from the 14thc., original Romanesque materials were re-used on the upper stage; these include the round-headed bell openings and, below these on each of the S, W, and N tower faces, a single rectangular narrow opening faced with large dressed stones. There are also reset fragments acting as corbel-like features. There is a plain tub font.


It is known that an early church was in existence here by 1074. The original church of St Mary’s, Ardley, was probably built at around the same time as St Mary’s, Weston-on-the-Green, nearby. Both have a similar history, being part of the demesne of Robert d’Oilly of Oxford, granted to the church of St George in Oxford Castle, and later to Oseney Abbey.

The church now belongs to the Cherwell Valley Benefice, comprising Ardley, Fritwell, Lower Heyford, Upper Heyford, Somerton and Souldern.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




The corbel-like structures on the tower at Ardley, apparently reinstated from an earlier church, are not common and seem here to be only decorative. However, similar but functional ones occur around the chancel walls at St Mary’s, Westwell, near Burford in SW Oxfordshire (Blair & Blair, 2008). There, most take a different form, like an impost with a quirk and a hollow chamfer below. But three of the nineteen, at the E end of the chancel, have a cylindrical roll below, like those here, but with an equally wide and thick shelf above. The general form is somewhat similar to roll corbels, of Andalucian origin, rare in England.

Sherwood and Pevsner (1974) say that both chancel arch respond bases are Romanesque, the L with cable and the R with a water-holding base. The L side is undoubtedly Romanesque with two motifs that substantiate it, the raised zigzag on the convex base and the cable motif on the moulding around the column just above it. However, on the R side the column base looks a later replacement, lacking the decoration and also any water-holding properties. This is substantiated by a church information board (no author, no date), available at the author’s visit.


J. and S. Blair, ‘St Mary, Westwell, Oxfordshire’. The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/search/county/site/ed-ox-westw.html

J. Sherwood and N.Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 422-3.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 6 (1959), 7-14.