St. Mary's Church, Buscot

Ambrosden church

St. Mary's Church at Buscot consists of a chancel 29 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft. 3 in., nave 46 ft. 10 in. by 20 ft. 6 in., south porch and west tower 10 ft. square, all these measurements being internal. There is also a modern vestry at the east end of the north wall of the nave.

The walling throughout is of rubble with ashlar dressings, but the chancel, porch and the south side of the nave are rough-casted; the roofs are eaved and covered with stone slates. With the exception of the tower and porch the plan would appear to represent substantially a building of c. 1200, the east wall of the nave, including the chancel arch, being of that date, and perhaps part of the chancel. The outer order of the chancel arch is, however, part of a 12thcentury arch with double zigzag ornament re-used, and indicates that a building of that date preceded the present one. The chancel windows and other details belong to the first quarter of the 13th century, but the presence of two piscinae and aumbries of different types argues a lengthening or alteration of the chancel in the latter half of the century. The porch and tower were added in the 15th century, at which time the nave may have been refashioned, the south doorway and the only ancient window now remaining being of that period. The two windows on the south of the nave date from 1854, when the church was restored, but do not reproduce ancient work. In 1849 there was one lancet in the nave, the other windows being 'perpendicular.' 

The chancel has an east window of a single light, which appears to have been a wide lancet mutilated in the 18th century, when plaster ceilings were erected. It has now a rounded arch flat at the top, but the pointed chamfered rear arch remains. The window is now filled with stained glass by BurneJones representing the Good Shepherd. Near the east end of the north wall is an original narrow lancet, and at the west end of the south wall is a similar one. Opposite to these on either side are wider pointed windows with foliated rear arches, which may originally have been of two lights. The priest's doorway, now built up, is square-headed and is a later insertion or restoration. On the south side is a trefoiled piscina with foliated bowl, and in the east jamb of the window an aumbry of similar type rebated for a door. The sill of the window forms a sedile. A second piscina has a shouldered head and foliated bowl. The second aumbry, which is also shouldered, is in the middle of the east wall behind the altar. The chancel arch is pointed and of three orders towards the nave and two to the chancel. On the nave side the middle and outer orders spring from angle shafts with carved capitals and moulded bases. The detail of the carved capitals is of the 13th century with stiff-leaf foliage. A small nail-head ornament occurs in two of the capitals and the inturned volute in another, and the imposts have a hollow moulding. The north jamb leans considerably outwards. The chancel has a barrel-vaulted plaster ceiling with a single tie-beam, and all the walls are plastered internally.

The nave is of little architectural interest. The old window on the north side is a square-headed opening of two rounded lights high up in the wall, with external hood mould terminating in heads. At the north-east and south-east angles are flat double buttresses of c. 1200, but the four buttresses on the north side are probably of 15th-century date. The south doorway has a four-centred moulded arch with square hood mould and plain spandrels, but the semicircular outer doorway of the porch is modern or a restoration. The gable coping and finial are old. The line of the old nave roof on the east side of the tower shows the ridge to have been slightly higher and the roof of flatter pitch than at present, the walls having been apparently reduced in height when the existing roof was erected. It has a curved plaster ceiling.

The tower is externally of two stages, the lower being about two-thirds of the total height, and has diagonal buttresses, moulded plinth and embattled parapet. The belfry windows are square-headed and of two trefoiled lights, and the pointed west window is of three cinquefoiled lights with perpendicular tracery. The four-centred west doorway has a square label terminating in heads, and there is a mural sundial near the south-east angle. The north and south sides of the lower stage are blank, except for a small opening to the ringing stage. The tower arch is of two orders, the outer moulded and dying into the wall, and the inner chamfered, springing from shafts with moulded capitals and bases

The font consists of a plain circular bowl moulded on the lower and upper edges, standing on a modern shaft and square 13th-century base moulded at the angles.

The pulpit was given by Sir Alexander Henderson, bart., in 1908, and is constructed from a carved Flemish triptych of early 16th-century date, with painted panels said to be by Mabuse, representing the Adoration of the Kings, the Annunciation and the Virgin and Child, the two latter being on the shutters.

On the south wall of the chancel are two late 15th-century brasses of a man and woman with hands in prayer, each 2 ft. in length. There is no inscription, and the head of the man is missing. The chancel also contains two elaborate mural monuments to the two wives of Edward Loveden Loveden of Buscot Park, Elizabeth Pryse (d. 1784) and Elizabeth Darker (d. 1788). In the floor is a blue armorial slab to Walter Hungerford, D.D. (d. 1681). The nave contains memorials to Mrs. Susanna Place, eldest daughter of Roger Loveden (d. 1686), and to Edward Loveden (d. 1713).

There is a ring of three bells. The second is of pre-Reformation date, and bears the inscription ' † Sandta (sic) Maria W.', the treble was cast by Edward Neale of Burford in 1661, and the tenor by William & Robert Cor of Aldbourne in 1708. 

The plate is all silver gilt, and consists of a cup of 1711–12, inscribed 'Burwescott Parish in Berkshire. Geo. Browne, John Nash, Churchwardens, 1712. Gilt at the Expence of Edward and Margaret Loveden 1779'; a breadholder of 1710–11, inscribed 'Ex dono Thomae Kingston hujus ecclesiae Rectorisanno domini 1711. Gilt at the expence of Edward and Margaret Loveden 1779,' with the maker's mark RY below a crown; and a cover paten and flagon of 1779, both inscribed 'The Gift of Edward and Margaret Loveden for the Use of the Parish Church of Buscott 1779.'

The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries from 1676 to October 1744; (ii) from July 1745 to December 1798; (iii) from January 1799 to November 1812.

The churchyard is entered at the south-east through a lych-gate erected in 1897 by Sir Alexander Henderson.

Historical information about St. Mary's Church is provided by 'Parishes: Buscot ', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, ed. William Page and P H Ditchfield (London, 1924), pp. 512-517. British History Online [accessed 24 February 2023].

St. Mary's Church is a Grade I listed building. For more information about the listing see THE CHURCH OF ST MARY, Buscot - 1368093 | Historic England.

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