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St Lawrence, Caversfield, Oxfordshire

(51°55′23″N, 1°9′23″W)
SP 581 253
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Jane Cunningham
  • Janet Newson
20 June 2013

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Caversfield is 1.5 miles N of Bicester in E Oxfordshire. There is no village here now, just agricultural land with farms, and St Lawrence's church is hidden away. It has early origins, the lower part of the tower being pre-Conquest, with original double splays around little arched windows to S and N. The chancel, nave and aisles were rebuilt in the late 12thc, and the chancel again in the 13thc. The bell stage of the tower and the saddle-back roof are also 13thc. The aisles were demolished in the 18thc, and the Romanesque S arcade was blocked up in the wall. In 1874, in a restoration by H. Woodyer, the arcades were unblocked and the aisles rebuilt. Although the pointed Early English arcades are c. 1230, they are supported on responds and round piers with corner spurs and capitals characteristic of the 1180s. The N aisle has a reset late 12thc decorated doorway, and a fine Romanesque arcaded font.


Caversfield was originally in the county of Buckingham until, by Acts of 1832, it was transferred to Oxfordshire in 1844. There had been a 5-hide manor of Caversfield since before the Conquest, and in 1086 the manor was held by William of Warenne. The overlordship of the Earls of Warenne lasted until the beginning of the 14thc; William de Warenne's tenant in 1086 was Brienza. Caversfield was probably held in the 12thc. by the Gargate family who owned lands in Northamptonshire, in connexion with which the names of Hugh and Robert Gargate are mentioned in 1181-2. Roger Gargate gave the church to the Abbot and convent of Missenden, Bucks., confirmed by Hugh, his son. He and his heirs endowed Bicester Priory and are last mentioned in 1236 (VCH).

Caversfield tower has a ring of three bells, the earliest being the treble. Its date and dedication can be established by an inscription on the sound-bow as being given by Hugh Gargate in honor of St Lawrence in the late 12thc.

St Lawrence is in the benefice of Bicester with Bucknell, Caversfield and Launton.


Exterior Features


Interior Features






The dating of some elements of this church is difficult, especially where features have been restored. The spurs on the bases of the piers and responds may be divided into two groups: those that are very simple with an ancient-looking patina, and those that are more complicated, with fluted motifs matching the capitals above them, and obviously sculpted later or even restored considerably later. Nailhead and dogtooth occur at Cuddesdon, Oxon., for example, as 12thc Transitional decoration, as they may do here, but they can also appear as early 13thc motifs. So here, although nailhead and dogtooth decorate the supposedly 13thc pointed arches of the arcades, nailhead also occurs on the capitals that are claimed to be earlier.


J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth 1974, 523-4.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire, 4 (1927), 157-63.