have the story of : St Margaret of England, St Margaret s of England, Little Little Faringdon, Oxfordshire.

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1 From a humble beginning, through 300 years of attentive From ownership a humble by beginning, Cistercian through monks to 300 a dedication years of attentive on ownership by Cistercian monks to a dedication on 4th 4th February February by by the the Bishop Bishop of of Dorchester, Dorchester we to: have the story of : St Margaret of England, St Margaret s of England, Little Little Faringdon, Oxfordshire.

2 Before King John The earliest history of this Grade II* listed church is not recorded, can we deduce a little? On 25th January 1205 King John gave the manor of Little Faringdon along with the manors of Great Faringdon, Great and Little Coxwell, Inglesham, Langford and Shilton to the Cistercian monks. All the manors except Little Faringdon and Inglesham, are listed in the Domesday Book (1086). In Saxon times all these places and half Oxfordshire were owned by King Harold and so passed to William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings, and on to King John. From the Dissolution of the Cistercian Abbey of Beaulieu in 1538 until 1864 Little Faringdon was certainly a chapelry of Langford. Was it a chapelry of Langford before 1205? St Matthew s at Langford was a minster church in Saxon times when Christianity was spreading into the area. Minsters were where groups of priests, friars or monks lived and from where they travelled to smaller chapels-of-ease, maybe Little Faringdon, Radcot and Grafton (which have lost their chapels) to convert and preach to local communities. After 1205 the Cistercian monks spent money hiring skilled stone masons to extend the church and build an arcade with carved pillar capitals. English Heritage states that the church was extended in circa 1200 and heightened circa So English Heritage appear to agree that a simple building existed here before the Cistercian monks used their wealth and knowledge to add many expensive and notable features. The Property of Little Faringdon Church 2

3 The White Monks. King John gave Great Faringdon to the Cistercians as a possible place to build their abbey. They chose to build at Beaulieu but retained all the local manors as farming granges for income. The Cistercians, white monks as they wore un-dyed sheep wool habits, were a strict order living by agricultural means. They improved medieval farming by their many innovations. Little Faringdon lies at the centre of the area King John gave to the Cistercians which extends from their massive tithe barn at Great Coxwell, left, with a possible arable emphasis, to their grange at Shilton which had living accommodation and a smaller tithe barn. Sheep farming was the emphasis in this period and the wool was exported. Architectural Features. Deeply moulded, round arches of the Norman (Romanesque) style with foliated capital carvings verify that this was built around 1200, just before the stronger pointed Gothic arch appeared extensively in England. The intricate flat leaf, late Romanesque carved capitals, above the stout Norman columns, testify to the skill of the medieval stone masons. The Property of Little Faringdon Church 3

4 Two other fashion features dating the building of the arcade to the early 1200s are the faces carved between the arches above the columns, in the spandrels (below), and those at the centre, the apex, on top of the arches (at left). Eternal damnation, hell, demons and devils played a major part in medieval religion. They even feature in this church s architecture. The one behind the pulpit shows traces of wall painting which probably originates from the 1200s. A 12th century tub font, the 12th century nave and 12th century chancel, all with the lower level eave height, indicate that the Cistercians did not waste time but speedily built this church in its present, mainly Norman, style. The Property of Little Faringdon Church 4

5 In the chancel the niche (below left) between the east windows is possibly an Early English deep cusped design while the aumbry is Decorated period. The only item from the Decorated period in this church is the aumbry, dry cupboard, (or some suggest it s an Easter Sepulchre,) in the north east wall of the Chancel (at right). It has a ball flower decoration used during Edward I s time ( ). This proved so expensive to produce that only about six exist in England. The Cistercian medieval church would have had a flat floor with an altar table, the Mensa, in the centre of the chancel around which the clergy, monks in this church, received the Sacrament. However, records appear to indicate that there was only one monk here and 3 permanent farm workers. The chancel was separated from the nave by the chancel arch and a rood screen. Axe and other marks at the top of the chancel arch indicate that a rood screen existed here but was allegedly hacked out by Cromwellian soldiers. Fixings and axe marks are definitely visible top right. The nave was for the laity and would have been the village social and business centre. After Dissolution churches became a parish responsibility and often fell into disrepair. It is probable that the 2nd Baron de Mauley, who arrived in the village in 1862 at the height of the Victorian Gothic Revival period, carried out major refurbishment, installed pews, plastered walls and had stained glass windows installed. The Property of Little Faringdon Church 5

6 Stained Glass The south nave window contains a collection of mid 13th century medieval glass fragments in rounded formats from, allegedly, Salisbury cathedral. Some further fragments are 17th century and come from the Netherlands. The medieval glass fragments on the left and above are possibly 13th century fragments from Salisbury cathedral. The two on the right are 17th century pieces from the Netherlands. In the right hand light of the later west window glass is the tell-tale wheatsheaf trademark of the well known stained glass artist C. E. Kempe ( ). The height of the nave was increased about 1500 and the original eave height is visible on the west and south sides externally below the string course. At this time the window housing the medieval glass fragments may have been altered and strengthened to accommodate the clerestory window above it. The increased height of the west wall also allowed the perpendicular style window to be installed in the west end. The perpendicular style was used from approx 1350 to 1500 when Tudor designs, too late for this church, became fashionable. The Property of Little Faringdon Church 6

7 The Exterior As you leave the church, glance at the stoup, for holy water, in the porch, note the Crusader crosses on the external porch door pillar, study the perpendicular style west window (1500) under the bell cote (early 20th century with earlier bells) and the closed north doorway with the Maltese cross above it. Finally note the unusual castiron gravestone as you return to the path leading to the gate. Unusually this church has a porch built in the 1200s at the same time as the main reconstruction took place. Usually porches were added in Tudor times. Seating was provided because commercial negotiation and contract signing often took place in the church porch. The old stoup in the north east corner was for the holy water which everyone would have used entering and leaving the church. The inner door was remodelled in the 14th century but the outer doorway is claimed to be original and on the pillar are three carved Crusader crosses. Three Crusader crosses can be found on the left hand, outer door frame. The story is that Crusaders made one cross when they left home and a second when they returned. More crosses, probably Crusader, are also carved into the exterior east chancel wall, below. From 1089 until 1844 both Langford and Little Faringdon were part of Berkshire and under the jurisdiction of the Lincoln Diocese. When the Ecclesiastical (nowadays the Church) Commissioners bought the cathedral estates Langford and Little Faringdon were transferred to the Oxford Diocese and to Oxfordshire. In 1864, soon after the 2nd Baron de Mauley s arrival, Little Faringdon separated from Langford and became an independent parish. It remained so, with its own vicar, until the mid 20th century when it rejoined Langford and later a larger benefice. The Property of Little Faringdon Church 7

8 Externally, the vertical tracery of the perpendicular style Gothic period is more discernible in the west window. This is probably late perpendicular, , as the window has a Tudor style hood moulding over it. The bell cote is early 20th century, according to English Heritage, although the bells are earlier, one dated Below the window the string course, and change of stone coursing, show where the nave height was increased. As a chapelry, probably, no one was buried in this churchyard before 1864; until then corpses would have been carried along the road and footpaths to Langford for burial. Below a cast-iron gravestone, very rare, one other can be found in Broughton Poggs churchyard and a second in Burford church. Finally, in the lean-to north aisle, dating from 1200, is a simple, low and narrow, in-filled segmented arch doorway with a Maltese consecration cross in the arch centre. It is thought that it was used for excommunication of persons unknown from the monastic order or Catholic Church? It was probably blocked after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. There was no known dedication of this church so it was dedicated to St Margaret of England, an early Cistercian nun, in 2000 by the Bishop of Dorchester to mark the 2nd Millennium. The sources of information for this guide have been the leaflet found in the church originally, English Heritage, John Blair s Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire and various histories about the Cistercian order and Knights Templar, etc. Victoria County History and Dr Mark Page s research into Langford s history is also acknowledged and some of his information has also been included here. Photographed and produced by Derek Cotterill The Property of Little Faringdon Church 8

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