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St Kenelm, Enstone, Oxfordshire

(51°55′23″N, 1°26′55″W)
SP 380 251
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
now Lincoln and Oxford
medieval St Kenelm
now St Kenelm
  • Janet Newson


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Enstone is a village towards the north of the county, 4 miles SE of Chipping Norton on the N side of the A44 to Oxford. The church is in the centre of Church Enstone, the eastern part of the village. There was a Saxon church dedicated to St Kenelm on this site in the 9thc. Nothing of it remains, but the present S aisle of c. 1180 is thought to be an addition to it. The rest of the church was rebuilt piecemeal thereafter. In the 13thc., a N aisle and a new eastwards-extending chancel were built, and a new chancel arch made in the E wall of the old chancel. Circa 1450, wide arches were made in the side walls of the old chancel, the S aisle was widened and both aisles were extended E to form chapels. The widening of the S aisle did not extend to the Romanesque S doorway and its two-storeyed vaulted entrance porch, built in the 14thc., which remain in situ. In the 16thc., a chantry was built E of the S aisle with a wide arch into the chancel, which was remodelled. The W tower was also added at this time. The church was restored in 1856 by G.E. Street. The main Romanesque features are the decorated south doorway, the S nave arcades with decorated capitals, spurs on the pier bases and animal head stops, and a reset scalloped capital. There is also a plain late 12thc doorway, reused when the N aisle was built.


The first church was probably founded on this site some time before 830, and dedicated to St Kenelm. St Cynhelm or Kenelm was the son of the Mercian king, Cenwulf. Kenelm was reputedly murdered by his sister, c.812, and was buried at Winchcombe Abbey. Enstone was given to this Benedictine monastery in 821, and it appears in Domesday Book as ‘the land of the Church of Winchecombe. The Abbey of Winchecombe holds 24 hides in the Henestan’. St Kenelm is known as the Cotswold Saint, and seven churches in the area are dedicated to him. Enstone’s still-surviving tithe barn collected tithes for Winchcombe.

The Benefice of Chadlington, with Ascott-under-Wychwood, Heythrop and Spelsbury.


Exterior Features


Interior Features



Interior Decoration


Sherwood and Pevsner 1974 mention fox head label stops on the nave arcades, but the presence of the little antlers is suggestive of roe deer, which would have been common in the area in the12thc.

Enstone’s Romanesque/Transitional features might span several decades as they include the round-headed re-used plain N doorway of unknown origin, the slightly depressed S doorway, with its late Romanesque point-to-point chevron and the Transitional pointed S nave arcades. Point-to-point chevron occurs elsewhere in Oxfordshire, at Middleton Stoney (15km E), dated 1150, and at Cuddesdon (30km SE), dated 1180 by Sherwood and Pevsner. The decoration on the capitals and the basal spurs of the nave S arcades also resembles that at Middleton Stoney. The double cones of Enstone’s S doorway arch are rare in Oxfordshire, and this may be the only example.

Enstone, St. Kenelm, groundplan possibly by G.E. Street, 1855, is an image from Church Plans Online (Published by the NOF Digitise Architecture England Consortium). Reproduced by kind permission.

Anon, Enstone St Kenelm guide: Welcome to St Kenelm’s Church Enstone, 1987, n.p.
EH, English Heritage Listed Building 253223.
N. Pevsner and J. Sherwood, The Buildings of England. Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth 1974, 593-94.