Churches / Odds & Ends

Not your average Medieval church 2018

St Mary’s Bloxham- ‘not your average Medieval church!’

 

Those of us who live in the village and/or worship here can so easily take for granted the wonderful church building we are privileged to use.

Local clergyman and former Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings for English Heritage, Revd Canon Jeff West described how the story of St Mary’s began in the 7th century.

It was altered several times over the next 1400 years although most of the existing building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. Of the earlier structure, bits of 12th century stonework survive in the door to old vestry, and pillars supporting the chancel arch, because these were ingeniously incorporated into the 14th century design in recognition of their architectural and historical merit. During the 13th century the two arcades were added, but it was the 14th century building phase, when the tower and spire were added, which our speaker found most worthy of attention. Outside we were shown the creative architecture which allows the square tower to transpose into an octagonal spire at the hollis (effectively a balcony at the base of the spire). This feature is unique in this country and you have to look to Catalonia, eg the churches of Aragon for parallels in octagonal church spire architecture. Did this afford a clue as to the identity of the (wealthy) patron of the development at this time?

In the 15th century the splendid windows of the perpendicular Milcombe chapel were added. The rood screen with original medieval paintings also dates from this period. Clerestory windows above the arches were added to the nave, and the roof raised to increase the light. 16th century records show that the chancel (the ‘holy’ end) had been allowed to fall into disrepair. (The chancel is the responsibility of the patrons of the church, which at that time were the nuns of Godstow Nunnery).

In the 19th century G E Street, who was also the architect of Bloxham School, redesigned the chancel – which has remained largely unchanged since, with its William Morris East window, choir stalls, tiled floor and wooden roof. Street introduced pews, and stripped the walls of their decorated plaster. Today only small patches of original paintings can still be seen.

About 30 years ago a reordering of the church brought a second altar into the nave area. Wooden screens were designed by Nick Hodges of Wroxton separating the Milcombe Chapel and belfry chamber.

The church is about to embark on a further phase of reordering and beautification under the Building Our Future programme in order to create a resource which is better equipped to provide a central community space.

And so the present generation will add its contribution to this ancient and important church building.

For more information on the plans please contact Dale Gingrich 01295 720 252

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