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St Michael, Barford St Michael, Oxfordshire

(51°59′24″N, 1°22′20″W)
Barford St Michael
SP 432 326
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • John Blair
  • Sarah Blair
11 Sept 1990

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The church stands on a steeply-sloping hill which, although basically natural, may have been scarped artificially. It consists of a chancel, nave, S aisle, and tower of three stages, unusually situated in the angle between the chancel and S aisle. The tower, which has extremely thick walls (1.50 m), seems to be earlier than anything else standing, and in view of its strange position it seems possible that the church has been built around it. The tower contains two Romanesque windows: one in the E wall, at ground level, which is narrow, single-splayed and round-headed. It has a monolithic head, continuous chamfer on head and jambs, with a slightly projecting chamfered sill. The internal splay is set within a wider round-headed arch with dressed quoins, presumably built in this way because of the exceptional thickness of the walls. The other is in the S wall, at the second stage. This is single-splayed, round-headed lancet, chamfered jambs, but with no sill. A battered plinth below a thick roll-moulding survives on the E, S and (now internal) W walls of the tower.

The nave was built in the 3rd quarter of the 12thc; its highly decorated N door and chancel arch are of this phase, as is the S door now re-set in the wall of the S aisle. The arcade as it stands is 13thc, but a fragment of Romanesque label surviving at its S end shows that there was an earlier arcade, extending further W than the present W end of the church. This deduction is confirmed by the roof-crease of an earlier and narrow S aisle which is visible inside the existing aisle, on the W wall of the tower.


The manor to which the church belonged descended from Wadard (1086) to Walkelin Wadard (c.1130), whose (probable) son-in-law Hugh de Chacombe gave the church to Chacombe Priory between 1163 and 1176 (VCH Oxon. vol. 9, 46-7).


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches



Interior Decoration





Common motifs link the two nave doorways and the chancel arch. The rich 12th-century work is probably by the same Reading-influenced workshop as Iffley and St Frideswide's (Oxford Cathedral), St Peter-in-the-East and St Ebbes, Oxford.


R.Halsey, "The 12th-Century Church of St. Frideswide's Priory", Oxoniensia, 53 (1988), 160-7.

A History of the County of Oxford: Vol. 11, Wootton Hundred (Northern Part), Victoria County History, London 1983, 54-6.