Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Tower of the Quarter — St Mary the Virgin, CHASTLETON, OXON

(Photo: Chris Povey)

It's really an Oxfordshire issue this time. The county has had little if any exposure in recent past issues, so perhaps the two towers this time will help redress the balance. Salford features elsewhere in these pages (see Minimus Striking Competition report) and Chastleton is the first Oxfordshire church to feature in Tower of the Quarter. And what a little gem this church is! As can be seen, it stands beside Chastleton House, which is built from similar stone, so together they form a harmonious and timeless arrangement.

Although small, St Mary the Virgin's Church has a number of very interesting features. A visit gained much information, but the excellent Guide Book provided a great deal more and is recommended (£3 to Church funds - not being owned by the National Trust, it has to fend for itself!). An unusual feature externally is the difference in rooflines between the Nave and Chancel, the latter being higher due to the flat slopes of the nave roof. A pitched high wall, topped by an empty bellcote, divides them. The tower battlements reflect those on the side towers of the House. Which came first, one wonders?

Although its main entrance through the tower is not especially unusual, the size and height of the doorway may be. It is small and fairly low, and is the first indication that the Church has had little updating in the past to make it 'over-grand'. And so it seems when inside: how nice. There is evidence of a Norman North doorway, but this was blocked up many years ago. Notice the font, too, which is thought to be 13th.C or even earlier. A visual treat is the 1623 wood-panelled Jacobean pulpit, which is thought to have been made by the same craftsman who made much of the panelling in the House. Be sure to see the almost certainly 13th.C floor tiles in front of the altar in the South Aisle. To the side of this altar, near the lectern, will be seen two floor brasses, both of which date from about 1600. The South Aisle altar is new, having been designed by a Mr Poole from Oddington in 1993. Notice, too, the fragments of the wall paintings on the north wall of the nave at its east end. The windows have themes and provide much interest. There are many other features worth seeing.

The bells were rehung by Whites of Appleton in 1993. The details are: Treble 4-0-20 (John Rudhall, 1811), 2nd 3-2-21 (Matthew Bagley III, 1762), 3rd 3-2-25 (Richard Keene, 1696), 4th 3-1-13 (Henry Bagley III, 1731), 5th 4-3-13 (Henry Bagley III, 1731), Tenor 6-3-8 (John Rudhall, 1825).