"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 25 March 2019

Adderbury - Part 1: St Mary's Church

Last Saturday D and I went to the picturesque village of Adderbury in North Oxfordshire. Ever since reading The Stray Rambler's blog post on St Mary's, Adderbury, I have been keen to visit the church.

The oldest parts of the building date to the 13th century but most of the current church is 14th century. There is a wonderful array of stone carvings - gargoyles, grotesques, mythological creatures, people and medieval musicians. The church tower has a carillon which plays a different tune every day.

The church which features in "England's Thousand Best Churches" by Simon Jenkins is usually always open. Just my luck that last Saturday it was well and truly locked. I really did feel like throwing "my toys out of the pram" at one point!! A local lady I met later in the churchyard seemed to think it wasn't open because of recent thefts which is really very sad. The fact that it was closed meant I wasn't able to get a guide to the church so the information I have is limited. Luckily there are many carvings on the church exterior so it was worth the visit just to see these. Later a pub lunch, village trail and walk round the local nature reserve more than made up for a locked church!


There were many old tombs and gravestones in the churchyard.

The tracery looked beautiful.

Door to an old manor house next to the church.

The south frieze with its wonderful 14th century stone carvings by the North Oxfordshire School of Carvers.

A manticore?

A man and what look like two dogs on a lead.

Dragon with an entwined tail - oh to see inside the mind of a medieval stone mason.


More tracery and

ancient tombstones leaning against a wall.

I understand there may be "troll" carvings around the tower but the tower area was all cordoned off with metal due to scaffolding and work being carried out.

So we walked round to the north side of the church to see the frieze with more 14th century carvings of mythological beasts, strange creatures, humans, day to day life and medieval musicians.

First of all mythical creatures with quite a few dragons including one with two bodies.

A mermaid with two tails. I've just been going through the photos with D trying to identify mythical beasts and he mentioned the similarity between this carving and the Sheela na gig at Kilpeck although in this case it is a mermaid rather than a woman.

And an owl.

Scenes from medieval life and some of the carvings give an idea of clothes/headgear worn at the time.

I think the carving on the left is of a cyclops - D spotted this.

Man with livestock and a dog?

Medieval musicians

This carving looks like people climbing out of a coffin and two angels - D suggested it may represent The Day of Judgement??

Violets and primroses were found around the churchyard.

Many thanks again to The Stray Rambler and if you would like to visit his post which does have photos of the interior as well please see here

As you can see from his post I missed many more wonderful stone heads and corbels of ladies in wimples, knights etc. , St George and the Dragon, a stunning East Window and the Coat of Arms of William Wykeham plus misericords. I would like to return to the area as there are a couple of other churches nearby which also have some good stone carvings. It is only about an hour and a quarter away but next time I will check whether the church is open before I go!

All photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera