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St Mary the Virgin, Steeple Barton, Oxfordshire

(51°55′14″N, 1°20′59″W)
Steeple Barton
SP 448 249
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Janet Newson
20 June 2011

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Feature Sets

The Bartons constitute a group of villages in the NE of Oxfordshire between Chipping Norton and Bicester. With very few houses nearby, the church of Steeple Barton stands alone in fields showing traces of early habitation and fish ponds. A church was recorded on this site between 1186 and 1190, but no traces remain. It had acquired its stocky tower by 1247 when the name of Steeple Barton was first recorded. A S aisle and porch were added in the C14th. The internal corbels and sculpted heads around the capitals of the S nave arcade are also of this time. It was largely rebuilt in 1850-51 by J.C. Buckler. The only known surviving Romanesque feature may be the fluted font.


In 1086 Adam, son of Hubert de Ruys, held 10 hides in Steeple Barton of Odo of Bayeux. The manor passed from Adam to his brother Eudes the steward, and to his widow Rose. On Rose's death after 1120 the manor passed to the Crown and was probably granted to Thomas of St John, d. 1126. His brother and successor, John of St John, was dispossessed in Stephen's reign when Roger de Bussey held the manor, but the St Johns recovered it under Henry II. Thereafter the manor descended with the St Johns' other Oxfordshire manor, Stanford St John, being held by Thomas of St John and his descendants (VCH).

Barton means ‘outlying grange’, implying that it was probably part of a larger estate centred on the royal manor of Wootton (VCH). Between 1186 and 1190, the Rector, Roger of St John, gave the church and the rectory lands to Oseney Abbey. The village was badly affected by the Black Death, when three-quarters of the tenant farmers died. The villages of Middle Barton and Westcote Barton, half a mile north on the Bicester road, are now the more populous.

The church belongs to the Benefice of Duns Tew, Sandford St Martin, Steeple Barton and Westcote Barton.





The fact that the fluted font is very slightly tapered (the upper circumference is 8 cm larger than the lower) rules out the possibility of it being part of a reused Roman column. There are no similar fonts in Oxfordshire.


J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (Harmondsworth, 1974), 788.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 11, (London, 1983), 59-75.