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The Parish Church of Saint Mary, North Leigh[1][2] is the Church of England parish church of North Leigh, a village about 3 miles (5 km) northeast of Witney in Oxfordshire.

St Mary's Church, North Leigh
Parish Church of St Mary, North Leigh
NorthLeigh StMary SouthEast.jpg
Coordinates: 51°48′52″N 1°26′29″W / 51.81444°N 1.44139°W / 51.81444; -1.44139
LocationNorth Leigh, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 6TT
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
WebsiteSt Mary's – North Leigh
DedicationSaint Mary
StyleAnglo-Saxon, Early English Gothic, Decorated Gothic, Perpendicular Gothic and Georgian
Years builtcirca 1050–1725
ParishSt. Mary, North Leigh
Vicar(s)Rev. Margaret Dixon


From Anglo-Saxon foundation until the ReformationEdit

11th-century Anglo-Saxon arch blocked since the 12th century, with Decorated Gothic window added in the 14th century.

The bell tower is late Anglo-Saxon, probably built in the first half of the 11th century.[3] There was an Anglo-Saxon nave west of the tower, and presumably an Anglo-Saxon chancel east of it.[3] In the latter part of the 12th century the nave was abandoned and its arch in the west wall of the tower was blocked up.[4] A new nave was built east of the tower in place of the Anglo-Saxon chancel, with north and south aisles flanking it and a new chancel extending further east,[4] all in the Early English Gothic style.[3]

Early in the 13th century the arch between the tower and the new nave was enlarged, a third chancel was built east of the 12th-century one, and the 12th-century chancel was made part of the nave.[4] Early in the 14th century both aisles were extended westwards, flanking the tower on both sides, and arches were cut in the tower to link with the aisle extensions.[4] New Decorated Gothic style windows were inserted in the east end of the chancel, the west end of the nave and along the south aisle.[4]

In the middle of the 14th century the division between the nave and chancel was moved back to where it had been in the 12th century.[4] The 13th-century chancel arch was removed, but its imposts remain in the north and south walls of the chancel.[4] An arch was cut in the north wall of the chancel, presumably to connect with a new chapel.[4]

Alabaster effigies of Sir William Wilcote (died 1410) and his wife

After 1439 this chapel was replaced with a new Perpendicular Gothic style chapel, which has fine fan vaulting of unusually high quality for a parish church.[3] It was built for Elizabeth Wilcote, widow of the then Lord of the Manor.[3] She had been widowed twice and lost two of her sons,[3] and had ordered the chapel as a chantry to offer Mass for them. Parts of the chapel's original 15th-century stained glass survive in its windows.[3] Also in the 15th century, new Perpendicular Gothic windows were inserted in the north and south aisles.[4]

Since the English ReformationEdit

The parents of the Civil War Speaker of the House Commons, William Lenthall, came from North Leigh and are buried in the church. A memorial tablet in the Wilcote chantry chapel commemorates them.[3]

In 1723, John Perrott, Lord of the Manor, engaged Christopher Kempster of Burford to refit the church and build a burial chapel for the Perrott family to the north of the north aisle.[4] Kempster was a mason who had worked for Sir Christopher Wren on churches in London.[4] Kempster linked the Perrott chapel and the north aisle by an arcade of Tuscan columns.[5] The chapel is lit by tall, round-headed Georgian windows with plain glass. On the walls are several large, ornate 18th-century memorials to members of the Perott family.[5]

15th-century Doom painting in nave, above entrance to chancel

In 1864 the Gothic Revival architect GE Street restored the church.[5] Street unblocked and re-glazed windows that Kempster had blocked up for Perrott, and reinstated the Norman font that Perrott had had removed to the churchyard for use as a water butt.[4] Kempster had inserted round-headed Georgian windows in the north and south walls of the chancel.[4] Street replaced these with ones to match the restored Decorated Gothic east window.[4] During the works a 15th-century Doom painting at the east end of the nave was uncovered and restored.[4] Street also had the south porch rebuilt.[5]

Perpendicular Gothic fan-vaulted ceiling of Wilcote chantry chapel


There are records of the church tower having bells since the 16th century.[4] By 1875 there was a ring of five, hung for change ringing, which that year were recast by Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to make the current ring of six bells.[4][6]

West end of St. Mary's church, where the Saxon nave formerly stood.


  1. ^ St Mary's – North Leigh
  2. ^ Oxfordshire Churches & Chapels: North Leigh Archived 3 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 719.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Crossley & Elrington 1990, pp. 231–235.
  5. ^ a b c d Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 720.
  6. ^ Davies, Peter (14 December 2006). "North Leigh—S Mary". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 3 November 2009.

Sources and further readingEdit

Stained glass quatrefoil in Wilcote Chapel east window

External linksEdit