Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Kidlington

Historical Notes by John Amor

Stand in the middle of the Nave
There has been a church here for about 900 years. The present building dates from 1220 when a new church was built in the Early English style on the foundations of an earlier church. The church is cruciform, and if you look towards the high altar you will see that the chancel is inclined to the south. It is just sixteen inches off centre but looks more. This is quite common in cruciform churches and represents the leaning head of Christ on the cross.

Nave North Wall
The Nave was the part of the church used by the villagers and a screen separated it from the eastern part of the church used by the monastic community. The roof of the nave was raised in 1450 when the clerestory windoes were added. The old height can be seen from the stone corbels. The long north wall dates from the Early English church of 1220. The doorway leading to the modern refectory was always known as the Bachelors Doorway and was probably used by the monks and led to their house or cells to the north of the church. The window in this wall between the doorway and the pulpit is of the decorated period, around 1330, although the stonework of the tracery seems to have been renewed in Victorian times when the stained glass was added. The window was copied from Sir Joshua Reynold's famous window in New College Chapel, and shows Faith, Hope and Charity. Between the window and the doorway is a good perpendicular niche, which rests on a branch corbel of a man's head. It has inset in the apex a Tudor Rose which dates it later than other Perpendicular work in the church. Also on this wall are three large painted coats of arms. These are hatchments wich were displayed outside the home of prominent residents who had recently died. These hatchtments belong to the Smith family who were chief Lords of the Manor of Kidlington in the 18th century. Tombstones belonging to the family are inset in the Nave floor and a wall tablet will be seen in the pier opposite the font.
West Wall
Turning west you can see traces of two early lancet windows of the Early English Church on either side of the large 16th century late perpendicular window. The glass (and most likely the tracery) of this windows is Victorian - 1857.

The font is also of the decorated period and is thought to have been placed in the church by Thomas of Kidlington, Abbot of Oseney. A plain round bowl on an actagonal base, it was moved to its present position in about 1846. The oaken font cover dates from 1885.

Some of the mechanism and pipework of the organ date from an 11 stop Father Willis instrument built in north transept and opened with a recital by C H Lloyd in July 1888. It was rebuilt to a design of Paul Hale and Richard Vendome in 1976.

The seating in the nave is also new and replaces very uncomfortable Victorian pews. Many of the chairs have been given by parishioners and local organisations.

At the crossing, underneath the tower
Above the four sturdy Early English arches supported by the massive piers rises the Perpendicular tower with its octagonal spire rising 171 feet above ground level. The spire, a familiar landmark in the Cherwell valley, is know locally as `Our Lady's Needle'. Before 1837 the bells were rung from floor level, but now the ringing chamber is reached by a staircase.

On your left as you face the high altar is the North Transept, occupied until the late 1970's by the organ. The new screen encloses the Children's Chapel. The three walls are Early English with Perpendicular windows replacing original lancet windows in the north and east walls. In the west wall two lancets remain. The perpendicular clerestory and fine oak roof were added about 1450. Remains of extensive wall paintings can be seen. Notice the elegant Perpendicular piscina with crocketed canopy and pinnacles.

The East Window
Move through the Chancel where the monks sang their daily offices. The east window is one of the most important features of the church. Medieval galss was collected from all over the church and assembled here in 1831 in the time of Edward Feild. For just over 100 years the window presented a kaleidoscope of colour, the delicate medieval colours arrangedin a series of haphazard pictures with brilliant crimson and blue 19th century glass used where pieces were missing. Then in 1951, the glass was expertly re-sorted, the lead renewed, and the out of place Victorian glass removed.
The East Window and The Chancel
The Chancel was once terminated with the east window level with those of the North and South Chapels. Notice the defaced Decorated piscina on the south-east side that shows where the high altar once stood. The Chancel is rich in medieval woodwork. The screens separating the Chancel from the side chapels and tower-crossing date from about 1450. The ten monks' stalls are particularly noteworthy because they are among the earliest stalls in England and date from about 1250. Look at the stalls, and notice the Misericords, the hinged seats with a carved bracket on the underside. When the seat was raised the monks could half sit and half stand during the long services. The beautifully carved oak bench-ends were once in the Nave but in early Victorian times were made into four long desks in front of the monks' stalls and the bench seats. They date from about 1420 and contain many interesting designs. The fourth panel is of a Bassett hound, the badge of an old Kidlington family, the Bassetts. One of the original viallage inns was named The Dog and the name was carried on by the public house in the Oxford Road, but has since been renamed ``The Squire Bassett''. The second and third carvings are rebuses on the name of Kid-ling-ton. One has a Kid, a Ling (a fish) and a Ton of wool, and the other a Kid ( a basket of wool), a Ling (a plant similar to heather) and a Tun (a large pitcher). Another medieval rebus can be seen in the south window of the Chancel.
The Lady Chapel
This South Chapel contains some outstanding Decorated period windows. The east window is notable for its four fine cinquefoiled lights and flamboyant tracery. Notice the great rose in the top centre containing in its centre the head of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Follow the window mould down each side and notice the man and woman leaning forward to hear the words of the Mass. The two south windows are also of the Decorated Period but the tracery differs from the east window and is of a net-pattern known as reticulated. Notice also the piscina and the stone bench or sedila. The Mothers Union banner has a design worked by Gladys Laughton in 1956 and is based on the 15th century mural paintings to be seen in the North Transept.
The South Transept
Here in the South Transept is the Soliders' Altar and memorials to commemorate those who died in the two World Wars. The local British Legion banners are laid up here. Although the walls of the South Transept are Early English the two windows are Perpendicular, as is the piscina and the Priest's door. Notice the traces of the original lancet windows in the the west wall above the old Charity Board. The plain niche alongside the piscina now contains a modern statue of St George and the South Transept is sometimes called St George's Chapel.
The South Aisle
This aisle, divided from the Nave by five decorated arches was taken down and rebuilt in 1880 when the roof timbers were renewed. The arches, arising from octahonal piers, are of unequal height and span, become gradually narrower and lower as they approach the west end.
The South Porch
Although recently restored in memory of the Revd. Iowerth LLoyd Jones, Vicar from 1925 to 1944, the Porch remains much the same as it was when first built in 1330. Notice the richly moulded outer arch which has tyoical Decorated ball-flower ornamentation within and without. The outside niche contains a modern figure. This is the work of the sculptor Water Ritchie and symbolises the figure of the Virign Mary with the hand of God pointing down to her.

There are are scratch or mass dials on the left side of the external wall. Pegs were placed in the holes to show the times of the services.

Picture Gallery
There are a number of exterior and interior views of the historical aspects of the Church in the Picture Gallery.