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St Nicholas, Chearsley, Buckinghamshire

(51°47′12″N, 0°57′27″W)
SP 720 103
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter

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Feature Sets

Chearsley is a village in the east of central Buckinghamshire, six miles SW of Aylesbury. It stands on the rising ground on the W bank of the river Thame, and the church is at the SE end of the village, in rolling wooded pasture near the river. The church has a nave with a S porch, chancel with N vestry and a W tower. The relation between nave and chancel is an odd one; the chancel is slightly lower than the nave, and offset to the N. A local tradition suggests that the lower walls of the chancel may have been part of a single-celled 11thc. chapel. There is certainly a change in the masonry, from very irregular rubble below to coursed and more regular rubble above. A priest's doorway was added to the chancel in the 13thc., and it was completely remodelled in the 15thc., when ashlar buttresses (including diagonal ones at the E angles) and Perpendicular windows were added. The vestry was added c.1850. The nave has some herringbone masonry in the N wall, but no other signs of its early origins. The lateral doorways and two side windows are 13thc., and the N doorway has been blocked in its lower part to leave a window. The S porch is an 18thc. utilitarian brick structure, and the wooden W gallery of the nave also dates from this period. The tower is 15thc., and has a polygonal turret with a pyramid roof on the S side that rises above the battlemented parapet of the tower. The only Romanesque sculpture here is the font.


In 1086 a manor at Chearsley was held by Earnwulf and Geoffrey from Walter Giffard. It was assessed at eight and a half hides with meadow for six plough-teams. Before the Conquest this manor was held by six thegns. In addition, one and a half hides of land with meadow for one plough-team were held by Richard from Miles Crispin. Richard's land was held by Healfdene, a man of Earl Harold, before 1066. Chearsley chapel formed part of the original endowment of Walter Giffard's early-12thc. foundation of the Augustinian abbey of Nutley, in the neighbouring parish of Long Crendon. In the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, Nutley held both the chapel and the manor of Chearsley. The parish is now in the benefice of Long Crendon with Chearsley and Nether Winchendon.




The font belongs to a group of 22 (according to Pevsner) centred on Aylesbury, of which thirteen (not all complete) are in Buckinghamshire. These are at Aylesbury, Bledlow, Buckland, Chearsley, Chenies, Great Kimble, Great Missenden, Linslade, Little Missenden, Monks Risborough, Pitstone, Weston Turville and Wing. Of these the finest are at Aylesbury, Chenies, Great Kimble, Great Missenden (base only), Weston Turville and Wing (base only). Others in the group have shallower or less complex carving, while a further three in the county, at Ludgershall, Saunderton and Haddenham, are less adept copies of the design. The Chearsley font is less proficiently carved and not by the same workshop as the main group. It may be compared with the examples at Buckland and Saunderton.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. I (1905), 377–80 (on Nutley Abbey)
Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 19–22.
E. Hooton, The Parish Church of St Nicholas, Chearsley (undated post-2004 church guide).
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 1 (south). London 1912.
N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994.