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St Giles, Water Stratford, Buckinghamshire

(52°0′11″N, 1°3′5″W)
Water Stratford
SP 652 343
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
23 October 2006

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Feature Sets

Water Stratford is in the NW of the county adjacent to the Oxfordshire border, in the Domesday hundred of Stotfold, 3 miles E of Buckingham. It consists of a few houses and the church scattered along the line of the old Roman road from Bicester to Towcester and Northamptonat a crossing of the Great Ouse. The village and church are on the N bank of the river, on rising, wooded ground given over to pasture.

The church is at the S end of the village, near the river crossing. It consists of a nave and chancel with a low W tower, and the nave has been extended alongside the tower on the S to provide a staircase. All walls are of stone rubble, mortar rendered and marked with fake coursing lines in the render. The entire church is 12thc, with carved Romanesque doorways on the N side of the chancel and the S side of the nave. The chancel arch was renewed in the 13thc, and lateral lancets were added to the chancel towards the W end at the same time. Both originally had low side openings below them, and the N still survives, with its hinged shutter. The chancel was lengthened in the 14thc (see the straight joint in the S wall) and the E window is of that date with flowing tracery. Slightly earlier in the 14thc diagonal W buttresses and a reticulated W window were added to the tower. The nave windows, two on the S and one on the N, are apparently 17thc imitations of medieval traceried windows. A date stone above the S doorway suggests that this work was done in 1652. The church was rebuilt by Willmoor of Buckingham in 1828-30, and there was another restoration in 1890. The S nave doorway is one of the highlights of Romanesque sculpture in Buckinghamshire, and the N chancel doorway is unusually elaborate for a priest’s doorway.


The manor was held by Azur son of Toti before the Conquest, and in 1086 was held by Turstin from Robert d’Oilly. It was assessed at 8 hides with meadow for 6 ploughs. There was a mill, but no church or priest was recorded.

The church of Water Stratford was part of the original endowment of Luffield priory, a Benedictine house founded by Robert de Bossu before 1133. The advowson descended with Luffield priory until the Dissolution.

The parish is now part of the Buckingham West benefice, i.e. Biddlesden, Shalstone, Tingewick, Turweston, Water Stratford and Westbury.


Exterior Features



The form of the Christ in Majesty seen on the S doorway tympanum, with Christ in a mandorla supported by angels, came to England from Burgundy. Its earliest surviving appearance in this country may be on the Prior’s doorway at Ely Cathedral in the 1120s, which shares compositional similarities with Water Stratford. This doorway cannot be significantly later. Zarnecki (1958) dated it c.1150, but at that time he preferred a date of c.1135 for the Prior’s doorway (later accepting Meredith’s 1120’s dating). In fact, in 1958 Zarnecki accepted Kendrick’s view that the Water Stratford tympanum and the Prior’s doorway tympanum were not directly connected but shared an Anglo-Saxon design. The loose knotwork of the capitals may be distantly related to the similar forms on the tower arches at Castor (Hunts), a church here dated c1100-10, but the knotwork at Castor is accompanied by complex foliage and animal forms. The tympanum of the N chancel doorway is presumed to belong to the same campaign as the S doorway, although the two share no motifs. Another Agnus Dei, much cruder in conception, may be seen on a reset relief at nearby Radclive.


T. D. Kendrick, Late Saxon and Viking Art. London 1949, 143

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire.London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 712-13.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north).London 1913, 310

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. I (1905), 347-50 (on Luffield priory)

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 263-67.

G. Zarnecki, The Early Sculpture of Ely Cathedral.London 1958, 32, 48.

G. Zarnecki, "Some Observations concerning the Romanesque Doorways of Ely Cathedral", in C. Harper-Bill, C. J. Holdsworth & J. L. Nelson (ed), Studies in Medieval History presented to R. Allen Brown, Woodbridge 1989, reprinted in Further studies in Romanesque Sculpture,London 1992, 288-310.