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Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Beckley, Oxfordshire

(51°47′51″N, 1°11′11″W)
SP 562 113
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Oxfordshire
now Oxfordshire
  • Janet Newson
27 Sept 2012

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Feature Sets

Beckley is situated in countryside five miles NE of Oxford. The present church dates from the 14thc. and 15thc., but was built on the site of a previous late Romanesque church. It now comprises a chancel, a clerestoried nave, N and S aisles, a S porch and a central tower. The rebuilt 14thc. tower stands on the 12thc. foundations of the previous crossing arches (Sherwood and Pevsner). The only Romanesque parts remaining are most of the N wall of the chancel, possibly including the NE pepperpot stair turret. The plain tub font and a reset corbel may also be late Romanesque.


Beckley was acquired by Robert d'Oilly after the Conquest, on his marriage to the daughter of the Saxon, Wigod of Wallingford. Beckley became the chief seat of the honour, which d'Oilly gave to his brother-in-arms, Robert d'Ivry. The latter died in 1089 and was succeeded by his son Roger, who is believed to have died childless. However, in 1066 Walter of St Valery had accompanied the Conqueror to England, and by 1138 his grandson, Reynold of St Valery, held lands in Oxfordshire jointly with John de St John of Stanton St John. When John died, his lands returned to the sole possession of Reynold, and by 1155-6 he held all of the Ivry lands. Reynold of St Valery is documented as giving Beckley church to the Templars at Cowley, Oxford, c. 1146, at the time of the Second Crusade. They never possessed it, or were unable to keep it, for in 1226, Robert, Count of Dreux, granted it to the Prioress and Convent of Studley. They also struggled to keep it, but finally did so by transferring the right to the advowson to Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln in 1230, and it was finally returned to the Priory in 1352 (VCH).

The church is in the Wheatley Benefice, comprising Beckley, Cuddesdon, Forest Hill, Garsington, Holton, Horspath, Hornton-cum-Studley, Stanton St John, Tiddington, Waterperry, Waterstock, and Wheatley.






Sherwood and Pevsner refer to the circular stair turret as puzzling and seem doubtful as to its age. However it resembles those on the E corners of the chancel at St Peter-in-the-East, Oxford, dated from 1140-60. The latter bear small round-headed windows, whereas Beckley’s turret bears only small rectangular slits.

The plain font might have originated in either the 12th or 13th century.


J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth 1974, 447.

Victoria County History: Oxfordshire, 5 (1957), 56-76.