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St Michael, Letcombe Bassett, Berkshire

(51°33′42″N, 1°27′47″W)
Letcombe Bassett
SU 373 849
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now Oxfordshire
medieval Salisbury
now Oxford
  • Ron Baxter
26 August 1991, 04 December 2013

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Letcombe Bassett is a small village, much smaller than its neighbour Letcombe Regis, overlooked by the Ridgeway that runs half a mile to the S. The church is on the southern edge of the village, and consists of 12thc. nave and chancel and a 13thc. W tower. There is a two-bay S nave aisle by Butterfield added in 1862 when the church was restored, and the chancel has a modern S vestry. Good quality early 12thc. sculpture is found on the N chancel doorway and the chancel arch.


In 1066 the manor was held by Vigot and was assessed at 10 hides. In 1086 the landowner was Robert D'Oilly and assessed at 7 hides. No church was mentioned in 1086, but there were 2 mills. The manor passed to the Bassetts in the 13thc. The parish of Letcombe Bassett was united with Letcombe Regis in 1931.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

The design of the N doorway, with plain tympanum and lintel, en delit shafts, cushion capitals and fat rolls in the arch, appears again, expanded to three orders, at nearby Buckland. Pevsner suggests that the inscribed design of the Letcombe Bassett tympanum may be a later addition, and certainly Buckland has nothing of the sort, but it could equally represent the geometric matrix of an original painted design. His opinion that the Letcombe Bassett doorway is reset is difficult to assess because the wall around it is rendered. The chancel arch must belong to the same campaign, and the distinctive cable moulding on both structures suggests the same workshop. The quality of the foliage sculpture on the imposts of the chancel arch indicates that this was a major workshop, but I have yet to find close parallels. There is nothing particularly close among the Reading Abbey fragments, which may, in any case, be later. There seems no doubt that the doorway and chancel arch belonged to the original fabric, and the proportions of the doorway, the fat roll in the arch, the forms of capitals and bases and the use of decorated imposts without capitals on the chancel arch all suggest a date early in the first quarter of the 12thc.


C.E. Keyser, 'Notes on the Churches of Letcombe Regis and Letcombe Bassett', Berks, Bucks and Oxon Archaeological Journal 12 (1906), pp. 33-41.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth 1966, 166.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010. 354-55.

Victoria History of the Counties of England: Berkshire. London, vol. 4 (1924), 217-22.