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St Mary the Virgin, Hambleden, Buckinghamshire

(51°34′22″N, 0°52′12″W)
SU 784 866
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter

14 September 2011

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Hambleden is on the edge of the Chiltern hills, among rolling wooded pasture. It stands in a valley 4 miles W of Marlow and 3 miles NE of Henley. The picture-postcard village with its brick and flint cottages arranged around a triangular open centre has often been used for filming, and the church stands on the N side of the triangle.

St Mary’s is an imposing building consisting of a W tower; a long unaisled nave with windows of c.1300; N and S transepts and a square-ended chancel. Off the chancel are two-bay N and S chapels, entered through the transepts. The N chapel now contains the organ, with a vestry to the E, and to the N of the organ room is a small chapel with the grand tomb of Sir Cope D’Oyley (d.1633) and his wife and ten children. The S chapel is called the Lady Chapel. The chancel is equipped with 14thc triple sedilia and piscina, and on the N wall is the tomb of Henry, son of Thomas Lord Sandys (d.circa 1555). None of the internal fabric appears Romanesque, but both the font and a blocked doorway in the W wall of the N transept are of 12thc date, and there are fragments of chevron moulding re-used in the exterior nave walls. There was originally a crossing tower that collapsed in 1703 and was replaced with the present W tower in 1721 (heightened in 1883). A date of 1859 refers to a general restoration that included the building of the N vestry, the S chancel aisle (now Lady Chapel) and the timber S porch.


The manor was held by Earl Aelfgar before the Conquest, any by Queen Matilda in 1086. It was assessed at 20 hides with meadow for 8 p[loughs, woodland for 700 pigs, a fishery rendering 1000 eels and a mill. This substantial manor was home to 50 villans, 9 bordars and 9 slaves as listed in Domesday – perhaps 350 people in all.

It became attached to the barony of Gloucester by the 13thc, passing to Hugh Despenser after Gilbert’s death at Bannockburn, and when he fell from grace to descendants of Gilbert de Clare’s relative Margaret. By the late 14th century it had passed to the Scrope family of Bolton (Yorks). The advowson of the church remained with the manor throughout the middle ages.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration





The font has some similarities with the less precisely carved example at Newton Longville in the N of the county. The doorway was certainly multi-ordered originally, and the Church Guide raises the possibility that it was the original W doorway of the church.


Anon, St Mary the Virgin Hambleden, 14th revised edition 1999, reprinted 2008.

EH, English Heritage Listed Building 46745.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, Harmondsworth 1960, 153-54.

VCH, Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. III , London 1925, 45-54.