Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Notices of New Publications: A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford

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A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford. Part I, Deanery of Bicester. Part II, Deanery of Woodstock. Published by the Oxford Society for Promoting the Study of Gothic Architecture. 8vo. Oxford, J. H. Parker.

Although this work has to a certain degree a local object, yet it deserves to be generally known to all lovers of ancient ecclesiastical architecture, as possessing a general interest and utility. When the student is familiar with the first principles of a science, nothing is more useful than the study of a miscellaneous collection of examples; and few districts afford examples of architectural antiquities so varied, and so well grouped for historical study, as the neighbourhood of Oxford. We have there, within a small compass, every style from the supposed Saxon to the debased Gothic of the seventeenth century. The book is published by a very praiseworthy Society, under the immediate care of its Secretary, Mr. Parker, and is illustrated profusely with woodcuts, of which we can best convey an idea to our readers by giving a few specimens.

The 'neighbourhood of Oxford,' comprised in a circuit of about ten miles, is divided into four deaneries, those of Bicester, Woodstock, Cuddesdon, and Abingdon, of which the first two are already published, and the others are, we believe, in an advanced state of preparation. The Deanery of Bicester commences with Islip, the birth-place of King Edward the Confessor, and includes sixteen parishes; that of Woodstock contains twenty-nine parishes, in several of which the churches are remarkably interesting.

Belfry Window, Northleigh Church.

The church of Caversfield, in the Deanery of Bicester, presents in its tower a remarkable example of the style supposed to be Saxon, joined, as usual, with Norman additions. In the nave of Bicester church is a triangular-headed arch, supposed also to belong to the Saxon style. The tower of Northleigh church, in the Deanery of Woodstock, has also been supposed to be Saxon; it contains curious belfry-windows of two lights, with a balustre, supporting a long stone through the wall, corresponding with the imposts.

Interesting specimens of Norman architecture are found in the churches of Islip, Caversfield, Bucknell, Cassington, Begbroke, Northleigh, Southleigh, Stanton Harcourt, &c. The north porch of Caversfield has a good doorway, ascribed to about the year 1180. The pillars in Islip church are also late Norman. The tower of Bucknell church is a specimen of plain Early Norman, with interesting belfry windows. Large portions of the churches of Begbroke and Cassington are of this style, as well as the nave of that of Stanton Harcourt. The inner doorway of the south porch of the church of Middleton Stoney is a rich example of late Norman, with varieties of the zigzag moulding, and very singular foliage in the head.

Capital. Bicester Church. c 1260.

The Early English style is found in the naves of Bicester and Charlton-on-Otmoor, in the nave of Kirtlington, in the tower of Middleton Stoney, in the east windows of Hampton Poyle, and one or two other churches, and in various parts of Stonesfield and Stanton Harcourt. The chancel of Bucknell church is pointed out as a fine specimen of the manner in which country churches were built in the thirteenth century. The nave and aisles of Bicester church present some interesting examples of Early English clustered columns, many of which have been mutilated. They have capitals, with the stiff-leaved foliage, as represented in the cut.

Merton church is nearly a perfect specimen of the Decorated style. The church of Ambrosden is a very fine example of the same style; as are also Kidington, North Aston, Chesterton, Hampton Poyle, and several others.
East end of South Aisle, Kidlington, c. 1320.
Of these the south aisle and porch of Kidlington are particularly worthy of notice. That of Chesterton contains some elegant early Decorated sedilia, consisting of three cinquefoil arches, with a square label over them, with ball-flowers.

The Perpendicular style is found in the later additions to, and many windows inserted in, nearly all the churches, and it is hardly necessary to mention particular examples. Ensham is a fine church of this style; and those of Handborough and Coombe, in the Deanery of Woodstock, and of Bicester, contain many parts deserving of study.

Most of the parishes described in these two Parts are connected with interesting historical events, and many of them contain other ancient remains, besides their churches. Islip, as we have already observed, was the birth-place of King Edward the Confessor; and there appear to be some remains of the old palace, afterwards the manor-house of the abbots of Westminster. There are several good specimens of old domestic architecture in various parishes.

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Kitchen, Stanton Harcourt.

Of these the most remarkable are the remains of an ancient seat of the Harcourts at Stanton Harcourt, with the tower in which Pope translated the Odyssey, and the kitchen, a valuable specimen of a class once numerous, but of which the only examples remaining, that we are acquainted with, are this and that at Glastonbury. Remains of monasteries are found at Bicester, Godstow (the burial-place of Fair Rosamond), and Woodstock. Some of the churches contain early crosses. Traces of a castle are seen at Middleton Stoney. British, Roman, and Saxon remains are found scattered over the whole district.