St. Andrew's Church, Chinnor

Ambrosden church

St. Andrew's Church in Chinnor is a large building of flint with stone dressings comprising a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch and western tower. Although the present structure appears externally to be of the 14th century, there are in fact considerable remains of an earlier church. It is evident that the nave was rebuilt early in the 13th century, for its north and south arcades have cylindrical columns and bases of that period. The mouldings of the arches of the northern arcade are, however, earlier in character than those on the south side. Whether or not there was a west tower in the early 13th century is difficult to determine, as the existing tower appears to have been begun towards the end of the century. Its west window dates from that period, and straight joints in its west wall show that it was built before the aisles assumed their present form.

Early in the 14th century the whole church was enlarged and remodelled in the style of the period. The chancel was entirely rebuilt and furnished with a piscina and triple sedilia; the aisles were widened and rewindowed; the tower was heightened; and a vaulted south porch was added. The recorded dedication of the high altar and chancel in 1326 probably marks the completion of the work. It was probably some time later in the century that a clerestory was formed over the nave and a lowpitched roof with parapets took the place of the highpitched 13th-century roof whose weathering on the east face of the tower can be seen in Buckler's view of 1822. 

No further structural changes appear to have taken place until the 17th century, when the roof of the chancel was lowered. The inscription '1633 Natha. Gy Pastor et Patronus' was carved on one of the beams. The nave roof was renewed in 1658–9, when a special rate was raised for the purpose. In the next century growing population led to the erection of a gallery in the tower arch in 1729. Compared with many neighbouring churches the building seems to have been in fairly good order in 1759, for only minor repairs were ordered by the archdeacon. The north door was to be mended, the belfry door renewed or thoroughly repaired, the floor was to be levelled, and the seats repaired. Some minor repairs were carried out in the south aisle in 1809, in the chancel in 1832, and in the north aisle in 1854, but in general the fabric was neglected until 1863. The cumulative effect of this neglect was described by the curate, Francis Buttanshaw, in a detailed account of the state of the fabric before the restoration of 1863. The exterior was covered with rough-cast, rubble blocked several windows; parts of the tower were repaired with red brick; a slightly embattled brick parapet surrounded the top of the tower, the chancel, and the aisles; the stone mullions of the clerestory windows on the south side had been replaced by wooden frames. The appearance of the inside of the church was spoilt as the upper parts of the east window and the chancel arch were cut off by the flat ceilings. The labels of many windows were mutilated; the pews were in 'every degree of dirt and dilapidation'; pillars and arches were thickly white washed and the walls decorated with painted texts. Some years later the church was reported to have been for the last twenty years in worse repair than any in the diocese.

In 1858 the rector, the Revd. Sir William Musgrave, agreed to pay for the proposed repairs to the chancel, having long refused to do so, and funds were obtained for a general restoration from the principal landowners, and from the Diocesan Building Society. The architect was E. Banks of Wolverhampton, but his plans were modified by G. E. Street and J. H. Parker. The builder was Cooper of Aylesbury. Work was begun in 1863 and was completed in 1866 at a total cost of £3,000. It included enlarging and raising the level of the chancel above that of the nave and restoring the high-pitched roof of the nave. The chancel was relaid with Minton tiles and new stalls were erected. The body of the church was reseated, and such medieval tiles as were not too worn were assembled and relaid. They can now be seen in the nave. The ancient painted glass was so skilfully restored by Clayton & Bell that it is difficult to tell what is medieval and what is 19thcentury. A new east window of painted glass by Clayton & Bell was inserted at the expense of J. S. Turner and the Revd. Sir William Musgrave. The 14th-century font and the oak-panelled pulpit and sounding board were replaced by a new font and pulpit of Caen stone. The 18th-century oil paintings of Christ, the four Evangelists, and the Disciples, that adorned the chancel, were cleaned and rebacked and removed to the nave. These were said at the end of the 19th century to be the work of Sir John Thornhill, and may have been presented by James Musgrave.

The chancel was refurnished. The altar cloth by Jones & Willis, and other furniture for the sanctuary were the gifts of the rector and several friends of the church. An organ seems to have been installed about 1859 and was not replaced until 1909. Two years later oak panelling, designed by H. Read of Exeter, was installed in the chancel at the cost of Miss Howman in memory of her father, late rector. In the north and south aisles windows of painted glass by William Aiken have been erected to Leonard Baldwyn (rector 1902–34); to W. E. Benton (d. 1940); to three airmen killed in 1941; to Capt. C. G. P. Cuthbert, killed in Tunisia, 1943, and to Elizabeth Anne Benton (d. 1947).

In 1930 a faculty was obtained to fit up the side chapel of the south aisle; between 1934 and 1937 a new vestry and choir stalls were installed at the expense of W. E. Benton, and the 14th-century font was dug up and restored to the church. In 1940 a clock was placed in the tower. In 1951 and again in 1957 extensive repairs to the woodwork were carried out after the ravages of the death-watch beetle. In 1957 the walls were also lime-washed and much of the 19th-century pitch-pine furniture was removed. 

The church is notable for the early-14th-century rood-screen which separates the chancel from the nave. It is pierced with Geometrical tracery springing from turned wooden shafts on moulded bases. Though it has lost its loft, and was reduced in height in 1866, it retains its original wrought-iron hinges. A piscina in the wall of the nave on the south side of the screen probably marks the position of a former altar beneath the rood-loft. In 1660 the Restoration was marked by the erection above the chancel screen of the royal arms of Charles II, painted by William Goldfinch of Chinnor for £2 15s.; and of a partition to separate the chancel from the nave. The screen was made by a local carpenter and was no doubt the 'Jacobean' one that was removed in 1863. In 1661 the communion table was provided with a carpet at a cost of £3 17s. The carved Jacobean panelling, apparently brought from some demolished house, which was in the church in 1874, may also have been installed at this time. Some early-15th-century glass survives in the chancel. At some time it had been used to glaze the east window, but in 1866 it was replaced in the north and south windows to which it evidently belonged. It includes figures of St. Laurence, St. Alban, a bishop, and an archbishop. The east window of the north aisle contains fragments of medieval glass depicting Christ in Majesty and two angels censing. Some heraldic glass, including the arms of Zouche, Sapey, and Malyns, was seen by Anthony Wood in the 17th century. Only the shield of Zouche remains. 

There is one medieval monument, the recumbent effigy of a cross-legged knight, clad in mail and jupon, and dating from about 1270. It stood originally at the west end of the south aisle, but is now at the east end of the aisle. 

There are some medieval brasses which were removed from their slabs in 1866 and subsequently fixed to the walls of the chancel. The earliest bears the head of a priest within a foliated cross; it commemorates William de Leicester (rector 1314–c. 1338), who rebuilt the chancel. Others are to two rectors, Master John de Hotham (d. 1351), represented in academic dress, and Alexander Chelseye (d. 1388). All were originally laid in the chancel. At the east end of the nave were the late-14th-century brasses of the Malyns family: effigies of Reynald de Malyns (undated) in armour, and his two wives; demi-effigies of Sir Esmond de Malyns (undated) and his wife Isabel; an inscription to Adam Ramsey (c. 1400), the second husband of Isabel de Malyns; and the figure in armour with arms to John Cray (d. 1392), esquire to Richard II, who was perhaps related. There are 15th-century brasses to Robert atte Heelde and his wife Katherine; to their son Nicholas atte Heelde; and a third to Reynald Malyns (d. 1430/1). There is also an inscription, now undated, to John Cristemas (c. 1400). There is one 16th-century brass to Folke Poffe (d. 1514) and one of his wives, which was moved from the vestry in 1935. A wall tablet to William Turner (d. 1797) is the only post-Reformation memorial before the end of the 19th century apart from a number of ledger stones. Later brasses are to Henry Douglas (d. 1899), churchwarden, and his wife Ann; to Lt. Donald Coker Beck (killed 1916); and to Gunner G. T. North (killed 1917).

Both the chancel and the nave were once paved with medieval figured tiles. Many of these were destroyed at the restoration of 1863, but some were relaid. Others of late-15th-century date were discovered in the nave in 1957.

Only one silver chalice, four bells, and a sanctus bell were recorded in 1558. A large silver paten, dated 1761, and engraved with the arms of Musgrave and Huggins, was later given by the rector James Musgrave and his wife, a daughter of a former lord of the manor, William Huggins. In 1958 there was a ring of six bells and a sanctus bell. Two of these were recast in 1864 from the former tenor bell of 1651; the present tenor is a comparatively rare specimen of the work of William Knight of about 1586; and three others, dated 1620, 1635, and 1663, were made by other members of the Knight family. 

The registers begin in 1581 for baptisms (with a gap 1609–21) and in 1622 for marriages and burials. There are some 17th-century churchwardens' accounts.

Historical information about St. Andrew's Church is provided by 'Parishes: Chinnor', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 8, Lewknor and Pyrton Hundreds, ed. Mary D Lobel (London, 1964), pp. 55-80. British History Online [accessed 16 March 2023].

St. Andrew's Church is a Grade I listed building. For more information about the listing see CHURCH OF ST ANDREW, Chinnor - 1368881 | Historic England.

For more information about St. Andrew's Church see Parishes: Chinnor | British History Online (