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St Michael, Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire

(51°44′51″N, 1°23′50″W)
Stanton Harcourt
SP 417 056
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval Lincoln
now Oxford
  • Janet Newson
28 Sept 2011

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Feature Sets

St Michael’s church in Stanton Harcourt, SW Oxfordshire, is situated in the centre of the village together with the old manor house, both surrounded by land of the Harcourt estate. The Norman church had a chancel, a central tower at least as high as the second stage of the present tower and a spacious aisleless nave. The early work was in rendered rubble with limestone details, as it is today. The chancel was rebuilt c. 1260 to be almost as long as the nave, and the transepts and a stair turret to the tower were also added. In the C15th the Harcourt Chapel was built S of the chancel. The Romanesque features include the paired N and S nave doorways, the two paired round-headed windows on each side of the nave, a blocked N chancel doorway and four windows in the second stage of the tower.


There is documentary evidence that a Romanesque church existed by 1135. The C12th parish of Stanton Harcourt originally included the church of St Denis at Northmoor, and St James at South Leigh. Northmoor became a separate parish c.1148, but South Leigh remained a chapelry until 1868. Both the size of the parish and the scale of St Michael’s itself suggest that Stanton Harcourt was an early ecclesiastical centre. Queen Adela had granted the advowson to Reading Abbey before 1141, and this remained so until the Dissolution despite attempts by the Harcourts to secure the patronage.


Exterior Features




The decoration of this large church, despite wealthy patrons, is simple with roll mouldings and cushion capitals. There is no indication that anything significant was lost in later changes. It shows parallels with St Peter’s, Cassington, known to have been consecrated in 1122. The author suggests that the decoration at Stanton Harcourt is more consistent with an earlier date, 1120s to 1130s, rather than the 1150s suggested by Sherwood and Pevsner. This would also fit in with the documented first record of the church in 1135.

The interior nave corbels are referred to as Romanesque by Salway and Salway, but neither the VCH nor Sherwood and Pevsner mention them. The author believes them to be of later date.


P. and G.L. Salway, St Michael's Church, Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire: a Guide (1998, revised 2010).

J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire (Harmondsworth, 1974), 778-80.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire 12 (London, 1990), 289-93.