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St Mary the Virgin, Charlbury, Oxfordshire

(51°52′19″N, 1°29′8″W)
SP 355 194
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Janet Newson
02 June 2011

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Feature Sets

Charlbury is a large village in NW Oxfordshire, 6 miles S of Chipping Norton. There was originally a smaller Romanesque church on this site. It was greatly enlarged in the 13thc. by the extension of the chancel eastwards, and by the addition of a tall W tower, a S aisle, and N and S chapels. The S chapel runs the whole length of the chancel as well as the nave. There was a major repair and refit by G.E. Street in 1856. As the church is so wide relative to its length, the seating is now oriented with the altar at the W end where it is visible to worshippers from the side aisles as well as the nave. The only surviving Romanesque features are the three round arches of the N nave arcades with responds and a single pier.


In 1086 Charlbury was almost certainly included in the 50-hide Banbury manor held by the Bishop of Lincoln. Like other estates in this hundred, it had probably formed part of the possessions of the bishopric of Dorchester before the see was transferred by William I. In 1094 Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, granted Charlbury in exchange for Newark and Stowe (Notts) to Eynsham Abbey, which thereafter retained the lordship. The church also probably passed to the abbey with Charlbury manor in 1094 (VCH).

The ancient parish of Charlbury included Fawler, Finstock and Walcot, and from the Middle Ages the chapelries of Chadlington and Shorthampton. The latter were served by curates or chaplains attached to Charlbury. Although the other churches later became independent parishes, the hamlet of Shorthampton has remained, and the parish and benefice is named Charlbury with Shorthampton.


Interior Features



There are some indications that the Romanesque church was cruciform. Of the three N nave arcades, the E arch appears earlier than the others and may represent the opening into a former transept (VCH). This would account for the piece of walling on this side that later became another respond. There may have been a piece of masonry performing a similar function to the S.


J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth 1974, 527.

Victoria County History: A History of the County of Oxfordshire, Volume 10. London 1972, 127-157.