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St Margaret of Antioch, Harpsden, Oxfordshire

(51°31′18″N, 0°54′0″W)
SU 764 809
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Nicola Lowe
10 August 2014

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Harpsden cum Bolney occupies a narrow strip of land about two miles long just S of Henley-on-Thames, SE Oxfordshire. St Margaret’s church is a small, neat church, standing S of the village on the edge of Henley Golf Course. The exterior is of flint and stone dressings with tiled roofs. The only visible 12thc sculpture are the round-headed S nave doorway; the round-headed piscina in the S chancel wall and the carved tub font at the nave W end. The chancel was extended in the 14thc but only the S chancel wall and the S nave wall of the medieval church remain. The building is otherwise of the 19thc when it was reconstructed and extended northwards, with a tower, aisle and porch added on this side after 1852. A new parish room (St Peter's Vestry) was built S of the nave in 1975. This is accessed via the 12thc S nave door.


By Domesday, Harpsden was held by Alfred from Miles Crispin who had acquired it with other holdings from Wigot of Wallingford. No church is mentioned. Harpsden is one of a handful of small estates of around five acres each that were detached from the royal estate of Benson, pre-Conquest. See also Rotherfield Peppard, Oxon and Rotherfield Greys, Oxon. The manor was divided between two estates, Harpsden and Bolney. By the early 12thc, each appears to have had a church but both estates declined rapidly and by the mid 13thc they were among the poorest parishes in the deanery of Henley. The two parishes were amalgamated by the mid 15thc and Bolney church has left no remains. St Margaret's today belongs to the benefice of Shiplake with Dunsden and Harpsden.


Exterior Features




Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


The S nave doorway was in use until alterations of 1852, to designs by Benjamin Ferrey of Henley, when it was blocked and replaced by a doorway to a new aisle on the north side. It is described as blocked by Sherwood and Pevsner but had been re-opened in 1975 to provide access from the church to a newly constructed church hall and meeting room, known as St Peter's Vestry. There are some interesting graffiti around the dooway including what may be a pilgrimage mark beneath the left impost and a number of scratch dials on either side.


G.C. Tyack, Harpsden Church and Parish, n.p., 1981

J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth, 1974 (repr.1979), 634

Victoria County History:Oxfordshire, 16 (2011). 238-264