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St Nicholas the Confessor, Forest Hill, Oxfordshire

(51°45′47″N, 1°9′23″W)
Forest Hill
SP 583 075
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Janet Newson
27 Sept 2012

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The village of Forest Hill is 6 miles E of Oxford. The church occupies an attractive hilltop site with views south across the valley to Shotover Park. The original church was not documented until c. 1140. It now comprises a chancel, nave, N aisle and S porch, dominated at the W end by a high gabled bellcote that required propping up by two massive buttresses in the 17thc. In the early 13thc., the S wall, the N chancel wall, the greater part of the bellcote and the S porch were rebuilt. Remaining Romanesque features from the earlier church are the large chancel arch with its plain imposts and the probably reset outer doorway of the porch, Transitional into Early English, with stiff leaf capitals and plain square imposts.


The original chapel may have come under the mother church of Stanton St John nearby. It may not have achieved parish status until 1273, when its graveyard was consecrated. Initial disputes between Oseney Abbey and St Frideswide’s Priory were resolved when it was given to Oseney Abbey, c. 1140. Oseney held it until 1526, when Cardinal Wolsey granted it, with Oseney manor, to his Oxford college, Lincoln, who still retain it (VCH).

The church is in the Wheatley Benefice, comprising Beckley, Cuddesdon, Forest Hill, Garsington, Holton, Horspath, Hornton-cum-Studley, Stanton St John, Tiddington, Waterperry, Waterstock, and Wheatley.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches


Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Another Transitional doorway is mentioned as being reused in the new N aisle built by G.G. Scott in 1852 (VCH). However, this has been out of view in a coal bunker for at least forty years (Sherwood and Pevsner). Scott also rebuilt the S chancel wall that shows a possible restored Romanesque stringcourse. A heavy roll moulding runs along the length of the wall following the bases of the restored round-headed windows, and also occurs on the E and N walls. A similar heavy roll features in the Romanesque chancel at St Ethelreda, Horley and in the Transitional chancel at St Peter’s, Bucknell, both near Banbury, Oxfordshire.

The pillar piscina, described as Romanesque by Sherwood and Pevsner, is not mentioned in VCH. The quatrefoil hollows cut in the plain square top seem more 13thc. However, at St Ethelreda, Horley, Oxfordshire, there is a piscina with trefoil hollows accompanied by nailhead and chevron carved on the same bowl. It may be safer to attribute both to c. 1200.


J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 605-606.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 5, 1957, 122-134.