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Historical Significance

There has been a church on the current site since 987 AD, when Oswald, Archbishop of York, granted 5 hides (around 600 acres) to Pyrton. In 1115, William Fitznigel granted the church to Norton Priory in Cheshire. In 1546, the church, parsonage and some of the land was granted to Christ church college, Oxford, who to this day hold the chancel repair liability for St. Mary’s.

The building was constructed in flint and brick with stone dressings. The napped flint work on the exterior walls is of a particular high quality.  Parts of the 12Century building remain and much of the decoration is unusual to Oxfordshire. The church was listed as Grade 2* in July 1963.

The church consists of a simple Nave and Chancel with a Bellcote above the west gable and a small vestry extension on the north side of the Chancel.

The internal walls are lime plastered and decorated with a tinted limewash. There are solid oak doors to the vestry and outside porch, an oak Jacobean pulpit and oak pews, the majority of which are Victorian but a few, at the rear of the church, are made from mediaeval oak.


During the 1990s, following a fundraising appeal in the community, the church was replastered and repainted, new heating and a small servery, with sink, were installed and the church was rewired. External ground gutters were relaid and repointed.

  Since then, in 2011, repairs to the roof were carried out and new roof gutters and downpipes were fitted. Major restoration to the external brick and flint walls took place between 2012 and 2014 at a cost of around £200,000 and the vestry was repaired / refurbished.


Section 2: The significance of the church (inc. contents and churchyard) in terms of its special architectural and historic interest.

  • South Doorway, early 12 Century, is part of the original Norman church and forms the only entrance to the church from the 15 Century porch. The limestone hood is unusually decorated with grapes, leaves and fruit over a zigzag arch. Jamb shafts have scalloped capitals and quatrefoil imposts. The oak plank door dates from the mid 19 Century.


  • The 12 Century Chancel arch is Romanesque and has hood with flat reeded leaves over moulded arch on imposts decorated with star-in square pattern.  Jamb shafts are carved with basket weave (south) and interlace (north) and have scalloped capitals.


  • The window in the North wall of the Chancel is Norman and was resited in its current position during the Victorian restoration. (The South window opposite is a Victorian copy).


  • Embedded in the floor of the chancel (partly under the altar) is an incised Purbeck marble floor slab with figure of a priest. It’s been dated to late 13 Century / early 14 Century. (In 1994 Dr Norrish from Birmingham University believed it to be a memorial to Richard de Gretton, Vicar of Pyrton, who died in 1285. It is one of six such very rare monuments in the country and the oldest in Oxfordshire).


  • To the south of this slab is a brass, depicting Thomas Symeon (died 1522), ‘sumtyme fermar of Purton Courte’ and his wife, Margaret. The figures are full length, in civilian dress, and below are matrices of their children. Their descendant, Elizabeth Symeon, of Pyrton Manor, married John Hampden in St. Mary’s on 24th June 1619. John Hampden was mortally wounded in the Battle of Chalgrove in 1643 during the Civil War.


  • The Jacobean polygonal oak pulpit dates from 1636 and cost £19 19s 11d. It is decorated with carved panels in relief and is set on a 19 Century platform. There is an oak chest of similar age in the vestry, which cost 25s 6d in 1638.


  • A mediaeval lead lined font is situated towards the west end of the aisle. It has a fine oak and ironwork cover. The ruggedly elegant stone bowl, unfortunately, has been repaired very badly with hard cement at some point in the last century. The font is mounted on a modern octagonal stone base and there is evidence that it has been moved to its current position more than 50 years ago.




  • There are two fine stained-glass windows – the east window above the altar and a south east nave window by Clayton and Bell, dated 1893.


  • There are several wall-mounted memorials, ranging in dates from 1600 – 1800. A black marble gravestone forms part of the floor in the south porch. It commemorates members of the Eustace family, who died in the early 1700s.


  • The majority of the pews are Victorian, dating back to the reconstruction in 1856. However, parts of the shorter pews in the north west corner contain pieces of mediaeval wood. (These were identified by Natalie Merry, a former DAC Advisor, five years ago.)

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