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St Margaret, Binsey, Oxfordshire

(51°46′10″N, 1°17′54″W)
SP 485 081
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Jane Cunningham
  • Janet Newson
13 June 2014

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Binsey is a small village by the River Thames about 1.5 miles NW of Oxford. Although this little church is now within Oxford City, it is hidden away along a narrow wooded lane, half a mile N of Binsey village. Its earliest datable stonework is the round-headed S doorway of the late 12thc. It is uncertain whether the porch was built at the same time (as suggested by Sherwood and Pevsner), or added in the 13thc remodelling (as posited by Clark). The church has always been a two-cell structure and much of it was rebuilt, at least from waist height, in the 13thc. The present church comprises a chancel, a nave and a central bell-cote. The S doorway is the surviving main Romanesque feature, and the plain font probably also dates to the 12thc.


According to a legend, the original Anglo-Saxon church on this site was built c. 700 as an oratory by St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. It was a place of pilgrimage, dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch, who is said to have caused a sacred well to appear close to the church. By the 12thc the church had come under the priory of St Frideswide, based around the present cathedral at Christ Church.


Exterior Features





The S doorway capitals are comparable with those at Sens and Canterbury. The leaf motifs that stray on to the surrounding stonework are also notable here.

It is possible that the S porch was added in the 13thc, as David Clark believes, especially as flat leaves on capitals can occur either side of the Transitional divide.


D. Clark, The History and Architecture of Saint Margaret's Church, Binsey. Church leaflet, n.p., n.d. (see www.frideswide.org.uk)

J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth 1974, 456.