The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Deddington

The church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Deddington  is a spacious building of local ironstone standing on high ground on the east side of the market place. It comprises an aisleless chancel, a nave of four bays with wide aisles, north and south porches, a west tower, and a small crypt beneath the east end of the south aisle.  The reconstruction of part of the church in the 17th century may have obscured evidence of the building's earlier development. There are no certain remains of the 12th-century church,  but there are indications of a major rebuilding in the early 13th century. The three western bays of the chancel, the north and south doorways, the circular piers in the nave arcades, and the string courses at the western end of the south wall are of that date. The east wall of the south aisle shows signs that the aisle was once narrower, but the widening had evidently been carried out before the early 13th century. The vaulted crypt or charnel house (12 ft. square) is a later insertion, probably of the 15th century. In the later 13th century the chancel was extended eastwards by one bay. The north aisle, though probably achieving its full width to match the south aisle in the 13th century, contains no features earlier than the piscina and blocked doorway of c. 1300 at its east end; its windows are 14th-century and later. The head of a niche of similar date survives above the screen, south of the chancel arch.  In the 14th century a piscina was placed in the south aisle and a three-light window in the south wall, east of the doorway; the nave arcades may also have been remodelled at that time. In the 15th century the nave was heightened to accommodate a clerestory, which included a window above the chancel arch. A large window was inserted in the south aisle, its mullions carried below the glazing to a window seat in the manner of Richard Winchcombe, the master-mason of Adderbury chancel (1408–19) and the Divinity School at Oxford (1424–40). Later in the century a clerestory was inserted in the chancel, and c. 1500 large east windows were inserted in both aisles. Another 15th-century window is in the south wall west of the porch. The medieval south porch, replaced in the 18th century, was surmounted by an upper room or parvise, traces of whose stairway are visible in the adjoining aisle wall; the present porch dates from 1865.

The medieval tower, surmounted by a tall spire, 'the most noted of all Oxfordshire and seen the farthest', fell in March 1634 and broke down 'a great part of the body of the church'. The estimated cost of the rebuilding, £8,250, suggests that the damage was extensive. A brief for the collection of contributions was granted in 1635. The tower was partially rebuilt during the next few years, but work was suspended during the Civil War and not resumed until 1683 when Thomas Wood, an Oxford master-mason, contracted to complete it for £500 or £600. The tower was rebuilt from ground level, and is a notable example of the continuity of Gothic design; it is nearly 31 m. high, of four stages, clasped by huge diagonal buttresses, and crowned by eight pinnacles. The statues of St. Peter and St. Paul high on its west front seem to have been salvaged from the old steeple and to have been partly renovated in the 17th century; they were crudely restored in 1966. The west ends of both aisles were rebuilt after the fall of the tower and are pierced by elaborate Caroline Gothic windows; the north-west window of the north aisle may also have been rebuilt at that time. Medieval material appears to have been incorporated in the reconstruction of the arcade, but the use of glass as a packing course at the base of the easternmost pier of the north arcade implies post-medieval rebuilding; indeed the whole arcade may have been realigned, since its eastern respond partly blocks the former doorway to the roodloft. The octagonal piers towards the west of each arcade are later in date than the corresponding aisle walls, and, though 14th-century in general appearance, seem to be substantially of 17thcentury workmanship. If the arcades were rebuilt in the 17th century the clerestory, though Perpendicular in style, was presumably reconstructed at the same time. The north porch, with its unusual saucer-shaped Gothic vault, may also date from the 17th-century rebuilding.

Until the Reformation the church contained several chantry chapels or altars, of which the most important, that of the Trinity guild, was presumably in the north aisle, the present Lady chapel, which contains the monument of William Billing (d. 1533), who desired to be buried in the guild chapel. Under the second window from the east in both aisles are the stone supports of stairs which presumably gave access to lofts over the screens enclosing the eastern chapels. The present south altar commemorates St. Thomas, recalling the medieval altar to him.

A school was held in the church from 1673 until the early 19th century, probably in the south-west corner, which contained a hearth and was entered by a small doorway west of the porch. In the 18th century the west end of the nave was occupied by a singer's gallery, and another gallery was built at the west end of the south aisle in the early 19th century to seat the large congregations attracted by 'a popular preacher', presumably Richard Greaves or his curate, Hughes. In 1840 a new gallery was built at the west end of the nave to house an organ. In 1836–7 the arcades were 'restored to their original condition' by W. C. Risley, who at the same time gave a new pulpit and the controversial altar piece. In 1838 the chancel roof was restored and its partially blocked windows opened up at the expense of Risley and the Windsor chapter. Plans by Risley to restore the church to designs by J. M. Derick in 1842 were not carried out, but in 1843 the nave roof was rebuilt by Robert Franklin. 

In 1858 a general restoration was begun under G. E. Street, the diocesan architect, but dissension between Brogden and his parishioners delayed its completion until 1865–8. A new vestry was built north of the chancel on the site of an earlier vestry, and an organ chamber inserted on the south side of the chancel, blocking a 13thcentury window. The south aisle was reroofed, a buttress added to its south wall, and the south porch rebuilt. The west window was unblocked and several other windows restored. The old box pews and galleries were removed, the walls stripped of plaster, the floors ventilated and paved with Minton tiles, and ducted heating inserted. The whole church was reseated and choir stalls built in the chancel. The tower was restored in 1893 and the distinctive weather vanes replaced. A new organ was installed in 1912 and the chancel repaved with Hornton stone c. 1930.

The range of three sedilia and a piscina with carved capitals in the chancel is late 13th-century. The medieval font was presumably a victim of the tower's fall or of later iconoclasm, since a new one was provided in 1664. The chancel screen, though heavily restored, retains some 15thcentury workmanship. Most of the other woodwork dates from the mid 19th-century restoration. The stained glass east window was designed by C. E. Kempe, and in the Lady chapel are two windows designed by A. J. Davies of the Broms grove Guild, commemorating Emily Jones (d. 1923) and Mary Vane Jones (d. 1936), who left a trust fund for the upkeep of the chapel. In 1574 the church contained heraldic glass commemorating Alice Delabere and her two husbands, Sir John Beauchamp (d. 1422) of Holt (Norf.) and John Blount (d. 1442) of Kinlet (Salop.), the latter a property holder in Deddington.

There are two 13th-century tomb recesses in the south wall, one of them containing the effigy of a 14th-century lawyer conjectured, without much evidence, to be Ralph of Barford. In the north aisle a Purbeck marble altar-tomb with a mutilated inscription to William Billing, merchant of the Staple (d. 1533), retains only the indents of effigies of himself and his wife, the metal having been sold by the sexton in the early 18th century. A brass fixed to the eastern respond of the northern arcade was formerly in the nave; it depicts the upper part of a bearded man of Edward III's reign, and commemorated William Hale (or Hayly), one of the early farmers of the rectory estate and a benefactor commemorated by a distribution of alms in the parish. In the south aisle are 17th-century brass plates to John Higgins (d. 1641) and his family, and in the north aisle brass plates to Job Nutt (d. 1679) and his daughter Barbara (d. 1687), and an ornate stone cartouche to Beata Belchier (d. 1686) and her husband Samuel. There are several tablets and inscriptions to members of the Appletree, Stilgoe, Churchill, and Cary families. Monuments lost since the 17th century include one to William Pope (d. 1523) and Julian and Margaret his wives, showing their twelve children 'in picture', and another commemorating John Colles, one of the founders of the Trinity guild, and his family. The churchyard, which was extended to the north in 1874 and to the east in 1907, contains several 17th- and 18th-century table tombs, and an elaborate classical monument of 1845 to members of the Hitchcock family, signed by George Cakebread of Bloxham. A stone carved with the arms of Lane is inset in the south wall of the chancel.

During the Civil War all but one of the five bells, which were not in use, were requisitioned by Charles I and sent to his magazine at Oxford to be made into artillery, with the promise that they would be restored in material or money 'when you shall have occasion to use the same'. In 1709 the parishioners belatedly petitioned Queen Anne for the fulfilment of that promise, but their request was opposed by the Board of Ordnance who could find no record of the incident and feared to set a precedent. The present ring of six bells was cast in 1791, and the treble and second replaced in 1946. There is also a sanctus bell of 1649 by James Keene of Woodstock. The church clock was the gift of the heirs of William Hudson; in 1953 the dial on the north side was added.

Historical information about the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is provided by A P Baggs, Christina Colvin, H M Colvin, Janet Cooper, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn and A Tomkinson, 'Parishes: Deddington', in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 11, Wootton Hundred (Northern Part), ed. Alan Crossley (London, 1983), pp. 81-120. British History Online [accessed 31 January 2023].

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a Grade II* listed building. For more information about the listing see CHURCH OF ST PETER AND ST PAUL, Deddington - 1365859 | Historic England

For more information about the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul see Parishes: Deddington | British History Online (