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St Michael, Lambourn, Berkshire

(51°30′32″N, 1°31′53″W)
SU 326 790
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now West Berkshire
medieval not confirmed
now Oxford
  • Ron Baxter
27 August 1990, 09 March 2010

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Lambourn is a large village (with a population of around 3,000) in west Berkshire, two miles from the Wiltshire border. The river Lambourn rises here, and runs SE through the village. Lambourn is in the heart of the chalk downs of Berkshire and is famous for its association with horse racing. There are more than 50 racing yards in the Lambourn valley, with more than 2,000 horses in training. The church, surrounded by its spacious churchyard, stands in the centre of the village. It is a cruciform building with an aisled and clerestoried nave, crossing tower, transepts and a chancel with one N and two S chapels. Of this the nave, aisles and crossing arches are all late-12thc, the N transept (now housing the organ) is 13thc and the S transept 14thc. The inner chapels are both 14thc in origin, and the outer S chapel, with its battlements and elaborate pinnacles, is 15thc. The chancel, with its spectacular E window, is largely Perpendicular in style. The tower is largely 15thc, while the W front was originally a fine 12thc composition divided into four storeys by stringcourses, with large round-headed windows above the central doorway, an oculus in the gable, and plain round headed windows in the W aisle walls, but a three-light reticulated window introduced in the 14thc has rather disrupted the design. The church was repaired and reseated by T. L. Donaldson in 1849-50, and repairs were carried out by L.E. King of London in 1949-51. Features recorded here are the W doorway and oculus, the nave arcades, the crossing arches and a pillar piscina used as a stoup in the N aisle.

St Michael, Lambourn, groundplan by T. L. Domaldson, 1850. Image courtesy of Church Plans Online <http://www.churchplansonline.org> (Published by the NOF Digitise Architecture England Consortium)


The town was referred to as Chipping Lambourn until the 19thc., and the use of this name in 1227 indicates that a market (Chepying) was in existence by then, although the description of it as a "byri" or borough in a charter of Cnut suggests that its commercial status is much older than that. A fair to be held on St Matthew's Day (21 Sept.) at the manor was granted to Fulk FitzWarin in 1219. The earliest mention of a manor here is in the will of King Alfred, who left it, with Wantage, to his wife Ealswith. It subsequently reverted to the Crown. Before the Conquest Lambourn was held by Edward the Confessor, and in 1086 King William held it in demesne. This large manor was assessed at 20 hides, and was home to 44 villans, 60 bordars and 6 slaves. A church was recorded, with 1 hide belonging to it, and there were two mills and woodland sufficient for 10 pigs. A second manor of 2 hides and 1 virgate was held in 1086 by Hascoit. The same manor had been held by Beorhtheath from King Edward before the Conquest, when it was assessed at 8 hides. A third manor, assessed at 4 hides both before and after the Conquest, was held in 1086 by Matthew of Mortagne. A large holding in Chipping Lambourn was granted before 1155 to Joce de Dinan. He had died by 1166, leaving two daughters as coheirs; Sibyl and Hawise. Sibyl was married to Hugh de Plukenet, who was holding land in Lambourn at that date. The Plukenets retained their holding until well into the 14thc., when the male line failed. Meanwhile the second part of Joce de Dinan's land passed to his daughter Hawise and her husband Fulk FitzWarin in 1190. The FitzWarins retained the overlordship but a 13thc. FitzWarin granted the tenancy to a daughter as her dowry when she married John Tregoz, who was recorded as holding a manor in Lambourn in 1272. For the later history of the manors, see VCH. The church was known to exist in 1032, when Cnut granted one hide of glebe land to it, and gave the church to the Dean of St Paul's for his maintenance. Although it is recorded in Domesday as a possession of the king, successive Deans of St Paul's remained in possession and presented to it until 1832. At the end of the 12thc., Hugh and Sibyl de Plukenet granted land in Lambourn to Gloucester Abbey for the purpose of funding a lamp in the chapel of St Mary at Lambourn, and this chapel was still in existence in 1291. Details of later chantries are given in VCH.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches



Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Lambourn contains the most spectacular late-Romanesque carving in Berkshire, probably dating from the 1180s. Comparisons may be made with Shellingford, ten miles N of Lambourn, which has two doorways decorated with point-to-point chevron as well as using waterleaf and crocket capital forms. Ashbury, six miles NW of Lambourn, may be a product of the same workshop. A striking feature of the work at Lambourn is the extensive use of trumpet scallop capitals on the chancel arch. Shellingford S nave doorway has these too, and simpler comparisons can be seen on the pillar piscina at Marlston, the damaged N doorway at Fyfield and the S doorway at East Garston. Those at St Mary's Reading are not closely comparable. Of interest is the incomplete carving on the crossing arches, e.g. the S crossing arch first order capitals, pointing to a pressing need to erect the tower before the capitals were finished.


Victoria County History: Berkshire, IV, 1924, 251-66.

Anon, A Short Guide to the Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels Lambourn, undated church guide (post 1975)

J. Footman, History of the Parish Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Chipping Lambourn, London 1894 (reprinted Charleston SC 2009)

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth, 1966, 163-65.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010, 350-51