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St Michael, Bray, Berkshire

(51°30′32″N, 0°42′6″W)
SU 902 797
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Berkshire
now Windsor and Maidenhead
medieval Salisbury
now Oxford
  • Ron Baxter
18 August 1991, 8 November 2013

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Feature Sets

Large church of 14thc. and later, extensively restored 1859-60. In the churchyard N of the church a flint building, originally the Chantry Chapel of St Mary, later a school called St Michael's Hall. In the S wall of this is a reset 11thc. or 12thc. relief.


The manor, including a church, was held by the king before and after the Conquest. It was assessed at 18 hides. It was usually let out to a warden, but this was not an advantageous post as the Crown reserved the right to grant pensions out of the issues (which sometimes exceeded the income -see VCH).


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Within Berkshire, the Aquarius relief from Wallingford Castle, now in Reading Museum, is of similar dimensions but differs from the Bray relief in having a more simplified figure style, greater depth of carving and a reserved border. Outside the county, reliefs of similar size carved with animals are found, for example, at Peasmarsh (Sussex) and in the group of five stones excavated in Canterbury in 1985, which Kahn (1989) tentatively ascribed to Lanfranc's screen of c.1080-90. A screen seems less likely here than an original setting as part of a frieze, or as a 'random relief' in or on an earlier church, although if the slight chamfering of the lower corners is original it might point to a spandrel setting. Pevsner (1966) noted the relief with the query, "Is it Norman?" Stylistic parallels are not easy to find the horse with its slender legs, deep chest and indications of front and rear thigh joints bears little resemblance to the blockier Wallingford, Canterbury or Peasmarsh figures. The decorative treatment of the tail, delineation of thigh joints, deep chest and narrow waist invites comparison with such late 11thc. work as the capital carved with a lion from Campsall, Yorkshire (see Bibliography) but there can be no workshop connection. A date of c.1080-90 is tentatively suggested.


D. Kahn, 'Recently discovered eleventh-century reliefs from Canterbury', Gesta, 28/I, 1989, 53-60 (Canterbury and Peasmarsh reliefs).

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. Harmondsworth 1966, 100.

G. Tyack, S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Berkshire. New Haven and London 2010, 201-04.

Victoria County History: Berkshire III (1923), 93-116

G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland (ed.), English Romanesque Art 1066-1200. Catalogue of an exhibition held London, Hayward Gallery, 5 April – 8 July 1984, 153 (Campsall capital).