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St Michael, Begbroke, Oxfordshire

(51°49′21″N, 1°19′20″W)
SP 468 140
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Janet Newson
31 May 2012

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This little church is situated about 6 miles NW of Oxford in a quiet backwater just off the A44 road. Originally of limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, it retains the original 12thc. structure of chancel, nave and W tower. The third stage of the tower with a saddleback roof was added in the 14thc. The small gable window in the chancel and the window and openings in the lower stages of the tower are probably original. Although the nave and chancel were largely rebuilt in the 19thc., there is an unspoilt Romanesque S doorway with decorated shafts and capitals, and chevron over the arch. The Romanesque chancel arch was dismantled but rebuilt, probably re-using original materials, and it too has decorated shafts.

Extensive restoration and alterations took place in the 19thc. Until 1828 there were narrow single light 12thc. windows at the E end of the chancel and in the S end of the nave at the E end. These were replaced in the Romanesque style, that on the S side being given 15thc. exterior mouldings, and the walls were rebuilt down to below window level. In 1845 the rector dismantled the chancel arch and rebuilt it using the same materials. The 12thc. small gable window at the E end was discovered and opened up at that time (VCH). In 1982 a blocked N doorway was discovered opposite that on the S.


Begbroke is recorded in Domesday with a taxable value of 4.3 geld units; the lord in 1086 was Ralph and the Tenant-in-Chief was Earl William son of Osbern. Nothing is known about the church at this time: the first known presentation to the rectory is in 1216. A vicar was mentioned in 1232 but no further reference to a vicarage can be found. The rectory was assessed at £2 in 1254 and in the 1291 Taxatio at £2. 13s. 4d..

The church is now in the benefice of Begbroke, Yarnton and Shipton-on-Cherwell.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

The decoration of the nookshafts of the Romanesque S doorway and of the chancel arch are clearly related, and there is no reason to suppose that those of the chancel arch are not original. Spiral motifs are rare in Oxfordshire. The fretwork mouldings over the chancel arch are uncommon too, the nearest fretwork probably being over the portal at St Nicholas Priory, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and similarly at East Lockinge, in pre-1974 Berkshire, outside the N and S extremities of the county.


J. Sherwood and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 449-50.

Victoria County History. A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. London 1990, 10-13.