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Rousham, Oxfordshire

(51°54′51″N, 1°18′12″W)
SP 480 242
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval St Germanus and St Mary
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) St James and St Leonard and St James
  • Janet Newson
05 July 2011

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Feature Sets

The village lies entirely within the parkland of Rousham House in the Cherwell valley in N Oxfordshire, 11 miles distant from both Oxford and Banbury. The earliest church presumably consisted of nave and chancel. In the late C12th, the first bay of a S arcade was begun at the E end of the nave. A W tower was built in the early C13th The chancel was repaired or rebuilt in 1304. Later in the C14th, a S chapel was added and the S arcade and aisle extended the full length of the nave. The church was restored in 1867-8, and the chancel was rebuilt using some late C12th material. The Romanesque work comprises the re-used nookshafts and capitals of the chancel arch, and the first bay of the S arcade. The latter has an E respond with trumpet scallops on the capital and a round pier with a large decorated polygonal capital.


In 1086 Robert d'Oilly held an estate in Rousham which he had bought [back] from the king. It later formed part of the honour of Wallingford, and in 1279 was held of Edmund earl of Cornwall. D'Oilly's tenant in 1086 was Reynold, son of Croc, the king's huntsman, and his descendant Robert Foliot held two knights' fees there in the early C13th. Another estate in Rousham and Steeple Barton was held in 1086 by Roger d'Ivri. It later formed part of the honour of St Valery and was held in the late C12th by Bernard of St Valery.


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches



The pier of the S nave arcade has an unusual polygonal capital decorated with windswept leaves and beading. The extended lip at the E end emphasises its eccentric appearance. Also, the basal decoration of the pier is simple but unusual. As pier 1 is free-standing, the timing of the building of the other two bays may be in doubt.

The original dedication to St Germanus of Auxerre (d. 448) was recorded in 1382. It suggests that the area had an early association with Christianity, and possibly the saint himself (VCH). Before 1846 it was changed to St Mary, when a N chantry named after her was demolished. In 1864 it was named St James, and in 1904 St Leonard was added. In 1981 the parish became part of the benefice of the Lower and Upper Heyfords, Rousham and Somerton.

The present Rousham House nearby was built c.1635 for Sir Robert Dormer soon after he acquired the original manor. It has been owned by the Dormer family ever since. In 1738-40 William Kent remodelled it and created the naturalistic gardens and parkland. The church is not far from the stable block yard.


J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (Harmondsworth, 1974), p. 763.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 11 (London, 1983), pp. 159-68.