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St John the Baptist, Hornton, Oxfordshire

(52°6′7″N, 1°25′44″W)
SP 392 450
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Janet Newson
03 Aug 2012

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Hornton is in NE Oxfordshire, 3 miles NW of Banbury. The church was originally built in the late 12thc with ironstone rubble, and comprised a chancel, nave and a N aisle. It now has a largely 14thc exterior, resulting from the rebuilding and alterations of the next two centuries. The chancel was rebuilt twice in the 13thc and 14thc. The lengthening of the nave, the addition of a clerestorey, of a S aisle and a N chapel took place in the 14thc. The tower was added in the 15thc. The church went through a stage of chronic disrepair in the late 19thc and until 1916. Structural evidence of this is still visible on the S nave clerestory wall. The church interior is well known for its wall paintings, but it also has several remaining Romanesque features: corbels in the chancel, a transitional N nave arcade with round piers and scallop capitals, and a font with cable and intersecting arcading.


Hornton was part of the ancient parish of Horley, composed of both townships, and Domesday Book does not mention Hornton. The situation of St John the Baptist of Hornton being in a joint parish with St Ethelreda's of Horley three miles away pertained from the 12thc to this day. In Horley in 1086 there were two large and two small estates. One 10-hide estate, held by Berenger de Todeni and Ralph, had been held before the Conquest by Queen Edith and Turgat the Law Man. The later lay manor of Horley and Hornton was held in the 13thc by the Bardolf family, forming part of the honor of Brandon. Over-lordship of the two villages may thus have followed the descent of Brandon, which passed from Geoffrey de Clinton to his daughter Lesceline, who in the early 12thc married Norman de Verdun. In the 1220s Norman de Verdun is recorded as over-lord. In 1115 Henry I granted land in Horley, plus the church of King's Sutton in Northamptonshire held by Ranulph Flambard, so to augment the prebend that he and his son held in Lincoln. Both Horley and Hornton's churches and tithes were appropriated to this prebend, known as that of Sutton-cum-Buckingham (VCH). In 1231 Horley church belonged to the Archdeacon of Buckingham, who held the prebend until the mid-15thc, and in 1403 Hornton church was recorded as a chapel of Sutton.

Hornton and Horley tried to become independent of each other in the 19thc but division of the parish was so difficult that they have remained as one. The present Ironstone Benefice links Alkerton, Balscote, Drayton, Hanwell, Horley, Hornton, Shenington and Wroxton.


Interior Features



Vaulting/Roof Supports





As with Horley, there seems to be no reference to the presence of corbels in the literature (Sherwood and Pevsner, VCH and the Church booklet). They would have been reset when the chancel was rebuilt in the 13thc, but their unsophisticated style looks Romanesque.

In the 12thc Hornton stone was quarried near the church to the N, and in 1969 extensive working quarries still existed on the NW boundary with Warwickshire (VCH). Elsewhere in N Oxfordshire there were small quarries wherever ironstone outcropped.


J.P. Bowes and G.G. Walker, St John the Baptist, Hornton: a short guide to the church. n.p., 1998.

J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 654.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 9 (1969), 127-9.