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St John the Baptist, Padworth, Berkshire

(51°23′29″N, 1°7′13″W)
SU 613 662
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now West Berkshire
medieval Salisbury
now Oxford
  • Ron Baxter
19 August 1998, 19 November 2013

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Padworth is a village in West Berkshire, in the Kennet valley midway between Reading and Newbury. The church is surrounded by woodland and the grounds of Padworth College, just outside the village centre to the north. It is a complete 12thc. church with a rectangular aisleless nave and apsed chancel and a shingled W bell-turret. The external masonry is covered with pebbledash rendering throughout. High-quality 12thc. sculpture is to be found on the N and S nave doorways (the S doorway protected by a modern porch), and the chancel arch.


The Domesday Survey records two holdings in Padworth. The larger, assessed at 7½ hides but paying geld for 5½, was held by three thegns in 1066, and by Stephen FitzErhard in 1086. Of Stephen's holdings, Nigel held 1 hide from him and "a certain knight" held half a hide. This land also contained 48 acres of meadow and 2½ mills. In 1164 this land was in the possession of Miles of Padworth, and his successor might have taken part in the revolt of 11y73, for his land was in the king's hands by 1175. By 1240 it was held by Fulk de Coudray.

The smaller holding, assessed at 2½ hides, contained the remaining half of the mill, and was held by Aelfstan in 1066 and William de Eu, and Joscelin from him, in 1086. The overlordship later belonged to the Earls Marshal, and passed to the Earls of Gloucester after the marriage of William Marshal's daughter and heir Isabel to Gilbert de Clare. It remained in Clare hands until the death of the last Gilbert de Clare in 1314.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Comparisons may be made between the capitals here and from the cloister of nearby Reading Abbey. The two capitals of the second order of the chancel arch share many features with eg. Reading Museum 1992-76, notably the lavish use of intertwining beaded stems, sometimes issuing from masks, and the tendency to mark leaf joints with small spiral bosses. There are no very exact comparisons with Reading, but that is hardly surprising in view of the low survival rate of that enormously varied sculpture. The palmette motif on the S doorway label is also found at Letcombe Bassett on the chancel arch impost. The use of semicircular beaded stems found on the chancel arch capitals here recurs as a repeated motif on the label of the N doorway at West Hanney. For the work at Padworth, a date in the 1130s is suggested.


J. Martin, Padworth Church Guide, 1993.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth 1966., 190-91.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010, 420.

Victoria County History: Berkshire III (1923), 413-17.