History of Saint Laurence’s Church Milcombe
Compiled and written by T S Cowell
The Church of St Laurence’s, Milcombe, is a small but well proportioned church built of the local Horton stone, consisting of Chancel, Nave, separated from the Aisle by an early English arcade, North Aisle, North Porch and an embattled Western Tower with pinnacles, containing three main bells and a Sanctus bell.
There has been a church in Milcombe for at least 800 years, and possibly longer.
The earliest record dates from the year 1200 when Robert, Abbot of Eynsham gave Godstow Abbey a lease of some land for the maintenance of a chaplain in the village. For the next 650 years, Milcombe was a chapelry of the neighbouring parish of Bloxham, served by the vicar and curates of the parish.
From 1854 until the 1920’s, Milcombe was a parish in its own right, and had its own vicar, with the vicarage being built in 1862. The vicarage is now a private house (Renamed Milcombe House) and the parish is re-united with Bloxham as part of a united benefice.
Throughout the years the fortunes of the church building have ebbed and flowed. Every generation has made its contribution towards its upkeep. The nave was re-roofed in the fifteenth century, (and the marks of the old roof are still visible on the west wall). By the eighteenth century one visitor recorded that, sadly, the church was indifferently kept. Nevertheless, many repairs were carried out during the following years. The north aisle was taken down and re-built; there were repairs to the wall and battlements in 1742; and again to the wall and roof in 1789; and to the tower in 1837. But by 1859 the building was apparently very dilapidated. Fortunately, the vicar, Rev’d Philip Hookins, engaged the well-known architect, Mr Street to supervise the restoration. Almost the entire interior of the church dates from that time. Mr Street was also responsible for the restoration of Bloxham church, and for the design of Bloxham School. Work has continued since then.
In 1906 the organ was installed in the main body of the church, although it was moved in 1945 to its present position.
The church as we see it today is small and well proportioned. It is built of local Hornton stone. There are traces of thirteenth century work in the church windows. The tracery from the medieval bench ends is displayed on the wall at the east end of the north aisle. There is medieval work, originally from the church, in the window at the east end of the village hall. This was formerly the Church of England Primary School, and joins the Churchyard.
The fine wooden screen, which separates the nave from the chancel, is fifteenth century, although it has been much restored. It is said that in the course of this work a mural painting was found representing the seven deadly sins. One of the central panels displays St. Laurence our patron saint, as does the window in the west wall of the bell tower. The font in the north aisle also dates from this period.
This is a precious and much loved church, which for centuries has been the place of worship in Milcombe. Sunday-by-Sunday the people of the village have gathered here to ask for God’s blessing and to praise him in word and song. Babies have been brought for baptism, couples have come to be married and at their end parishioners have been brought to be laid to rest in the churchyard.
The most recent restoration work has included water-tabling stones being replaced around the Chancel and Vestry areas, the Porch and Font area and new window guards fitted during 1979. In recent times work has been carried out to the bell chamber, which contains a most unusual medieval wooden bell frame. The three main bells (treble, second and tenor) were re fitted for Ellacombe chiming and the Sanctus bell re hung during 1980 by White’s of Appleton (Church bell hangers). The frames were retained in the ringing chamber so that the bells can be re hung for change ringing at a future date if required. New light fittings and wiring were installed in 1983. The Tower was again restored in 1991 and a new Clock added in 1994.
Copies of the publication together with illustrations can be obtained from T S Cowell, 12 Strawberry Hill, Bloxham. OX15 4NW Price £1
CHURCH ROOF PROJECT The good news is that the Diocese finally granted the faculty for our work on the Church roof and that is thanks to Sarah and Adrian. Grants have been promised by English Heritage, the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and Viridor Credits for which Adrian Mills has been quietly beavering away in the background.
We all have to say “A HUGE THANK YOU” to all the residents who supported our fundraising events and those who wrote letters in support of the project to enable us to obtain the grants as well. The other good news is that the work is due to start early March and will probably end mid June. In the meantime, we need to keep on fundraising – so please drop your donations into the Church on January 11th when you hear Michael ringing the bells. We will have a great celebration when the work is finally completed to thank everybody.