St. Martin's Church, Bladon

Ambrosden church

The medieval church of St. Martin at Bladon, demolished in 1802, comprised a chancel with north chapel, a clerestoried nave with south aisle and porch, and a west tower; the south aisle was separated from the nave by an arcade of three bays. A 12th-century outer doorway to the south porch, presumably not in its original position, was the oldest part of the fabric. The 15th-century windows in the south aisle and south wall of the chancel were probably inserted c. 1445 when the 'nave and belfry' were repaired or rebuilt. The clerestory was presumably added at the same time. Two mid 16th-century wills left money for the repair of Bladon church, one of them for the lead. 

Minor repairs were carried out regularly in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1680 the rector, Thomas Marshall, 'repaired and beautified' the chancel, and in 1717 the parish made substantial repairs to the north wall of the nave. By 1802, however, the church was in such a bad state that plans for repair were abandoned in favour of a complete rebuilding, and the medieval church was demolished that year. The new church, completed in 1804, comprised a small chancel with a vestry room on its south side, a wide nave, and a west tower. It was longer than the medieval church. Most of the cost of the building was borne by the duke of Marlborough. The medieval font, possibly 12th-century, seems to have been lost after 1813. In 1891 the church was restored under the direction of Sir Arthur Blomfield. The chancel was completely rebuilt, in 14th-century style, at the expense of the rector, A. Majendie; the nave was remodelled in the same style, with two narrow aisles with timber arcades, and a south porch; the tower was refenestrated and given pinnacles. In 1893 Majendie gave a lych gate in memory of his mother. In 1937 a statue of St. Martin was placed in a niche over the porch. 

The old church had a ring of three bells, of 1670, c. 1470, and 1629; they were not rehung in the new church, but were recast with extra metal at the Whitechapel foundry in 1883 to make a new ring of six bells. A silver chalice and cover, recorded in 1664, had been lost by 1819 when the rector, William Mavor, gave a silver communion cup and paten. 

The churchyard was extended northwards in 1902. Immediately north of the tower are the graves of members of the Spencer-Churchill family, including those of Sir Winston Churchill and his father Lord Randolph Churchill. The wrought-iron gates in the north wall of the churchyard were presented in 1965 by a group of 15 Oxfordshire blacksmiths.

Historical information about the St. Martin's Church is provided by A P Baggs, W J Blair, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn and S C Townley, 'Bladon: Church', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock, ed. Alan Crossley and C R Elrington (London, 1990), pp. 31-34. British History Online [accessed 3 April 2023].

St. Martin's Church is a Grade II listed building. For more information about the listing see CHURCH OF ST MARTIN, Bladon - 1053025 | Historic England.

For more information about St. Martin's Church see Bladon: Church | British History Online (