St Matthew s Langford.

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1 St Matthew s Langford. 8th century artefacts from Normandy, definite Saxon construction and stonework, and an example of an Englishman prospering under Norman rule.

2 Three Features illustrate... The Important Early History of St Matthew s, Langford. A Saxon tower, right, with a definite Saxon long and short quoin structure and Saxon arches inside the church at its base. It is believed the church was built on the site of an earlier edifice and that the tower was built shortly after the Conquest before Norman building techniques, generally from 1150, became standard. Therefore, consider the importance of Aelfsige of Faringdon who would have used Saxon builders for the tower and was Langford s benefactor - he is described later. The size of the church indicates an important manor. Before the Conquest the religious Minsters, Bampton, Broadwell and Langford, were losing their power to manors owned by earls. The combined manors of Langford and Broadwell exceeded 50 hides = 300+ acres. (A hide could be anything from 50 to 200 acres but averaged 64 acres in this area.) Langford 2 The headless rood is set in a later wall. One expert maintains that it was imported from Normandy as it is earlier than 8th century due to the long garment Christ is wearing. At the time of the Conquest Christ would have been stripped to the waist in such effigies. So did the headless rood arrive directly after it had been carved in the 8th century or was it plunder from a military campaign of a later era?

3 Aelfsige. Aelfsige's estates comprised 15 Hides in Langford (960+ acres), 10 Hides in Shipton-under-Wychwood (640+ acres), Rycote 2 Hides (128+ acres), and in Berkshire he held 5 Hides at Barcote (320+ acres) and 4 Hides in Great Faringdon ( 256+ acres) together with 4 Hides (256+ acres) at Great Barrington in Gloucestershire... A total of at least 2,680 acres. (A hide could be anything from 50 to 200 acres but is thought to have averaged 64 acres in this area.) Langford was transferred from Oxfordshire to Berkshire after 1086, Domesday Book, owing to its connection with Faringdon which must have been Aelfsige, the Englishman who prospered under Norman rule. The roof line of Aelfsige s original church is shown on the tower wall viewed from the chancel, at left, and the narrow arches of the Saxon tower base vault. Clearly trusted by William the Conqueror we can understand how he had the confidence to embark upon a major building project like Langford church. Langford 3

4 The present two bay chancel was rebuilt in the mid 13th century but shortened at some time because the priest s door, on the outside at left, is set too far east. Inside, the 13th century trefoil piscina, below, is mounted in the blocked priest s doorway. No details are available for the plainer piscina to the right. Further evidence that the chancel was altered dramatically is shown by the mismatch of stonework in the corner of the east window above. A pillar doesn t fit the window reveal and a corbel is much too close to the top of it. Note the unusual design of the windows which also occur at Wyck Rissington, about 12 miles north of here. A 13th century two tier, six compartment aumbry to the north of the altar indicates a rich church with lots of valuable plate to store. Langford 4

5 The south porch is 13th century and you enter the church through a round arch Norman door into a large nave with north and south aisles. The nave was rebuilt with a north and south arcade and aisles in late Norman times, probably about 1200, with slender rounded arches and columns with highly carved, floriated capitals. Graceful Norman arches which, probably, just predate the introduction of the Gothic pointed arch into England. The style and design indicate money and influence in the building of this church, maybe even aristocratic connections. Note the superb decoration of the column capitals, at left. A Prebend of Lincoln. In medieval times the church was dedicated to St Mary and was part of the diocese of Lincoln. It remained as a prebend (supporting Lincoln in monetary terms) of the Lincoln Diocese until 1848 when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners gained ownership of prebendal estates. Langford then became part of the Oxford Diocese. At this time from 1810 to 1850 Langford had about 400 inhabitants most of whom would attend church here regularly each Sunday. Langford 5

6 Many building modifications have taken place over the years. After the Black Death (mainly 1349) some changes were made but in the 15th century local inhabitants made significant investments in new pavement flooring, seats, several windows and the present octagonal font. At one time the porch was two storey but only the block doorway and the hint of an access stairway remain, as left. The nave was also re-roofed at a lower pitch and clerestory windows introduced above the arcade. Fashions have changed in church services, as in everything else, and preaching was not a feature of the medieval church service. Preaching became common from late Tudor times onward and Holy Communion was only celebrated at Easter, Whitsun, Michaelmas and Christmas during the 16th and 17th centuries. This Jacobean pulpit was made in 1673 by Thomas Whiting (of Shipton-u-Wychwood?) for Originally it could have been a double decker type. However, in 1865 it was decided to scrap it and provide a new one but, when blank facing panels were removed and the fine carvings revealed, that decision was quickly reversed. The pedestal and stairs were provided in The Mysteries of the Exterior. The figures above the porch door of The Crucifixion with Our Lady and St John have been reset from another location. They are thought to date from and may have been commissioned by Earl Leofric of Mercia, a known patron of the arts. The form is similar to those found in the Syrian churches with the principal figure carved in high relief on four stones. When reset the hands have been juxtaposed right and left probably to fit the porch facade. Also the Virgin and St John are on opposite sides of Christ to normal. Christ wears a loincloth which is significant when considering the date of the headless Rood on the east porch wall. Langford 6

7 While the tower is undoubtedly the oldest part of the church this headless rood might be the oldest artefact. Studies revealed that Christ wearing a long tunic was common in statues up to the 8th century. There are no other figures like this anywhere in England. The method of construction supports the theory that the figure was carved in northern France in AD. In the 16th century the two flying buttresses were added to the north nave wall. The wall is out of true vertical, was it in danger of collapse? One buttress has an inscription dated The pointed and pointless West end decorations to the roof appear to have been added at about the same time. The square base and octagonal shaft column are thought to originate from the 15th century; its precise purpose is not known but it might have been for the broadcast of news and the King s proclamations. It was probably surmounted by a cross and damaged during the Reformation. The sources of information for this guide have been the original guide book in the church, John Blair s Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire, English Heritage and Victoria County History. The author is indebted to Dr Mark Page for permission to use his latest research material. Derek Cotterill Langford 7

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