Oxfordshire Anglo-Saxon Church Guide
Of all the groups who have invaded England, the Anglo-Saxons made quite the impact including the permanent establishment of the English church.
Despite having a prominent linguistic and cultural impact, their remnants are few and far between. The best surviving structures from the Anglo-Saxon era are stone churches or earthworks.
In Oxfordshire, the earliest example of Anglo-Saxon churches dates back to around 1000-1050, including St Michael at the North Gate, St Matthews in Langford and St Mary’s at North Leigh. Read on to discover the history of churches on our doorstep!
St Michael at North Gate Church
The church tower is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Oxford and is one of the last original pieces left to this day. Other surviving parts include the chancel, the eastern part of the south aisle (nearest the altar), and the south door, all dating back to the 13th century including the stained glass. The lady chapel and the north transept are from the 14th century and the north aisle and nave originate from the 15th century.
The church has had its fair share of demolition, rebuilding and enlargement from parishioners among past congregations. Local heritage is also evident with some of Oxford’s leading citizens and scholars commemorated on the wall plaques and memorials.
In the 19th century the church was restored by the G.E Street and again after a disastrous fire in 1953. Since then, the largest project was the tower restoration in 1986. One of the highlights of this magnificent building is the roof of the Saxon tower which is open to the public. It provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city and the hills around it.
St Matthews Church Langford
Similar to St Michael at North Gate, this church still has the original bell tower, which is the longest surviving part of the church. The tower dates back to the 11th century and is a beautiful example of Saxon masonry.
The north and south aisles were introduced around 1200 and the south porch in the 13th century, all in the early English gothic style. The west walls of the nave and two aisles each have a 13th century lancet window. It features beautiful and unique Early English stonework in its chancel and nave, bringing visitors from far and wide.
Surrounding the church are a number of characteristic listed buildings, which have managed to retain excellent architectural cohesion, since Langford was listed as a royal estate in the Doomsday survey of 1086.
St Mary’s Church North Leigh
This church has an Anglo-Saxon foundation but with various reformations. Over the centuries it has seen additions of early English gothic, decorated gothic, perpendicular gothic and Georgian styles.
St Mary’s Church is also home to a number of unique artefacts, including Silver communion tankards of 1717, and The Gask Reredos, embroidered in the 1930s. In 1999, St Mary’s commissioned Nicholas Mynheer to create an altarpiece for the Wilcote Chapel. The hinged polyptych, showing Christ-based scenes, is one of the standout modern features of the church based in North Leigh, Oxfordshire.
These fascinating buildings, with unique and charming features, are among some of the oldest in England. With a stunning array of historical architecture, they are a must visit for church enthusiasts and explorers.