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Assumption, Leckhampstead, Buckinghamshire

(52°2′5″N, 0°56′29″W)
SP 727 379
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Buckinghamshire
now Buckinghamshire
  • Ron Baxter
12 June 2007

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Leckhampstead is in NW Buckinghamshire, 3 miles NE of the centre of Buckingham near the border with Northamptonshire, and extends along a network of minor roads with clusters of dwellings around the church and around Home Farm half a mile to the S. The village originally occupied a clearing in wooded, hilly country, and remains of the woodland survive in Leckhampstead and Wicken Woods to the N. As is usual with cleared settlements, Leckampstead has “ends”, and the church stands at Church End, at the N of the original clearing.

The church, of coursed limestone rubble, consists of a nave with N aisle and S porch, a chancel with a N vestry and a W tower. It was restored byG. E. Streetin 1871-72. The earliest work is in the S nave doorway, which has a figural tympanum of fighting dragons and a diapered lintel, suggesting a date at the very start of the 12thc. The N aisle with its 4-bay arcade, and the N doorway were added later in the 12thc. The unbuttressed chancel was rebuilt and lengthened in the 14thc, and has flowing and reticulated windows. The vestry is a 19thc addition. The nave, tower and N aisle windows are plain pointed lancets in groups of two and three, but all are 19thc restorations. The octagonal font is an enigmatic piece; 15thc in its present form but with one panel carved in a Romanesque style. This, the N arcade and the two nave doorways are recorded here.


The Domesday Survey recorded 3 manors in Leckhampstead in 1086. The largest was held by Gilbert Maminot from the Bishop of Bayeux and consisted of 18 hides, with meadow for 12 ploughs and woodland for 400 pigs. 26 people listed were listed on this manor, which was held by Earl Leofwine before the Conquest. After the confiscation of the bishop’s fief this manor became a barony, called after the Domesday tenant Maminot. The overlordship soon passed to Geoffrey de Mandeville and was held by Geoffrey’s heirs, the Says, in the 13thc and 14thc. The tenancy of this manor, known as Great Leckhampstead, had passed to Hugh Chastillon by the end of the 12thc and remained in this family until the end of the 14thc, when it passed by marriage into the Gernon family.

The next in order of size consisted of 3½ hides held by Osbert from Geoffrey de Mandeville. It had woodland for 150 pigs and was held before the Conquest by Swaerting, a man of Esger the Staller. The overlordship of these lands passed from Geoffrey to his descendants, the Earls of Essex andHerefordwhere it remained until after 1279. The tenancy passed to Richard fitzOsbert, who was sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire between 1159 and 1166, and appears to have remained in the same family until the end of the 13thc at least.

Finally a manor of 2 hides with meadow for 1 plough and woodland for 50 pigs and a mill was held by Hugh from Walter Giffard. This manor was also held by Swaerting before the Conquest. The overlordship became part of the honour of Giffard, passing to the Marshals, Earls of Pembroke, and their successors the Valences. The tenancy was combined with that of the manor above, held by Osbert in 1086.

The advowson of the church was held by Hugh Chastillon in 1209-19, and thereafter remained with the lordship of the manor of Great Leckhampstead

The parish is now part of the Buckingham North benefice, i.e. Akeley, Leckhampstead, Lillingstone Dayrell, Lillingstone Lovell and Maids Moreton.


Exterior Features


Interior Features






The earliest work is in the S nave doorway, suggested by Pevsner to be a work of two phases. He dates the tympanum before the rest, dating the latter to c.1150-70, on the grounds that it does not fit, which is true for its height but not its width. The present author sees no stylistic disparity between the tympanum, the shafts and their capitals and the heavy angle roll in the arch, and would be reluctant to date any of these elements later than 1140. This fits with a close connection with the Tree of Life doorway at Dinton, near Aylesbury (here dated c.1140), seen in the bird capitals, the use of confronted beasts of similar form and the tendency to fill empty areas of background with pellets. This connects the sculpture of Leckhampstead to an important Buckinghamshire workshop active in the 1130s and ‘40s, also seen at Cheddington and Twyford. It is clear that the Leckhampstead tympanum was once painted, and this could well have concealed any awkwardness in construction. As for its meaning, in general the monstrous creatures on the tympanum and capitals present an image of spiritual evil and vice, orchestrated by the smiling devil in the centre. Diaper work similar to that on the lintel is found on a reset fragment at Wotton Underwood. The N doorway is certainly later than the S; its moulded arch and centripetal chevron suggesting a date in the 1160s or ‘70s. The chevron arch is heavily restored but probably original in form, while the three heads might easily have come from elsewhere.

The font is described in Pevsner (1960) as, “originally circular, made octagonal in the C14, with one Norman panel… and seven of the C14.” This analysis was from the RCHM(E) description, and in the revised edition (1994) Williamson pointed out serious problems with it. The “Norman” panel shows no sign of ever having been part of a circular bowl. Whatever its date its framing and geometry demonstrate that it was always a panel of a regular octagonal bowl. The design of the panel and its clasped stems with nailhead ornament are certainly Romanesque forms, but the leaves are not. Their rippling surfaces, especially apparent in the flanking triangular leaves, relate them to the kind of foliage seen on the bosses of the screen at Beverley Minster of c.1335 and remained part of the sculptor’s stock-in-trade throughout that century. They are similar to 14thc leaves elsewhere on this font, and in the revised edition of Pevsner the entire bowl is dated to the early 14thc. This raises the possibility that this panel is a 14thc pastiche of 12thc work, perhaps carved as a reminder of an old font that was replaced. Something similar happened in the nave arcade, dateable with the N doorway, where new label stops were added to piers 1 and 2 in the 14thc, and a 12thc corbel was pressed into use as a label stop for pier 3. Likewise the arcade apex heads show a mixture of 12thc (bays 1 and 2) and 13thc-14thc (bays 3 and 4) styles, but in this case there is no question of pastiche.


N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 185-86.

N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 429-30.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 2 (north). London 1913, 165-67.

Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. IV (1927), 180-87.