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St Peter, Charney Bassett, Berkshire

(51°38′52″N, 1°27′2″W)
Charney Bassett
SU 381 945
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval Salisbury
now Oxford
  • Ron Baxter
6 May 1990, 2 August 2009

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Charney Bassett is in the NW of the traditional county, 7 miles W of Abingdon and 4 miles N of Wantage. The village contains only approximately 100 houses clustered, with the church, at a junction of minor roads some 3 miles W of the A338, a former Roman road from Wantage to Bicester. The church comprises a nave with a N aisle and S porch and a chancel. 12thc. sculpture is found in the S portal and in an important tympanum reset inside the church.


Charney was held by Abingdon Abbey in 1086, and remained in the possession of the monks until the Dissolution. The advowson of the church was also held by the monks of Abingdon. Charney was traditionally a chapelry attached to the parish of Longworth, and is so treated in the VCH. Its present status is as a constituent of the United Benefice of Cherbury and Gainfield, along with Longworth, Hinton Waldrist, Buckland, Littleworth, Lyford and Pusey, an arrangement set up in 2003.


Exterior Features


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Stone (1955) gives the traditional identification of the figural scene on the interior tymapanum as Alexander carried to heaven by griffins, a motif suppoesed to have found its way to England through the importation of Persian textiles. Pevsner (1966) points out that the representation does not fit the Alexander story, however the symmetry of the scene does make the textile source believable. Also under dispute is the question of reliance on Reading Abbey, which Stone saw as a likely destination for a textile import. He pointed to the animals in medallions on a colonnette from Reading as a parallel for these griffins (see Reading Museum, 1992-79, photograph BE 18/35). Similarities exist in the general formof the beasts and the treatment of plumage, but the Reading carving is too badly worn to make the case very convincing. Pevsner, on the other hand, dated the tympanum to the 11thc., implicitly ruling out any Reading connection. The carving is of high quality, and apart from the griffins there are furled-leaf terninations to the palmettes which also call Reading to mind, though without suggesting any very precise parallels. A date in the later 1130s or the 1140s is suggested here, and the possibility of some workshop connection with Reading is not ruled out. As for the iconography, an ultimate textile source for the image seems likely, but it was probably perceived in terms of man beset by vice or temptation rather than a story from the Alexander legend.


C. E. Keyser, 'Notes on the Churches of Hanney, Lyford, Denchworth and Charney Bassett', Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archaeological Journal, 19,1913-14, 65-70.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 112, pl.14a; A. Mee (ed.), The King's England: Berkshire. London, 1939, 59.

L. Stone, Sculpture in Britain. The Middle Ages, Pelican History of Art. 1955, 60.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010, 231-32.

Victoria County History: Berkshire, IV, 1924, 466-71 (under Longworth parish).