St Martin, Dunton, Buckinghamshire

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Feature Sets (4)


Dunton is a small village on a hill in the Vale of Aylesbury, in the Domesday hundred of Mursley, situated 6 miles N of Aylesbury in the heart of the county.  The village consists of a few houses along a minor road in rolling mixed farmland.  The church is in the village centre, with Dunton Manor, a timber-framed brick-faced house parts of which date from the 16thc, immediately to the N.

St Martin’s consists of nave, chancel and W tower.  The chancel is 12thc in origin, but was rebuilt in the 13thc (see the plain pointed S lancet and similar low side windows on both sides).  The triple lancet E window is a 19thc replacement.  The chancel walls are rendered and painted yellow.  The nave has a 12thc N doorway, now blocked, and the remains of a later medieval N window arch, but the S wall was rebuilt and the N windows replaced c.1790 with standard wide, round-headed brick windows.  The N wall is of rubble painted yellow, and the NE angle of the nave has been rebuilt in brick.  The S nave wall was rebuilt in large, roughly squared blocks, incorporating some Romanesque carved stones.  It is not painted, and has a simple 18thc porch that is rendered and painted yellow.  The plain 15thc tower is of large blocks like the S wall of the nave, with unusual thin clasping buttresses at the angles.  It was given a brick parapet in the 18thc. Inside the nave has plain 18thc box pews and an 18thc W gallery. The chancel arch has 12thc responds but was given a new arch after 1300. The wall piscina in the S chancel wall is 12thc, as is the old font now relegated to the vestry under the W tower.


Dunton was held by Turstin de Gironde from the Bishop of Bayeux in 1086.  It was then assessed at 10 hides with meadow for 8 ploughs.  Before the Conquest it was held by Earl Leofwine.  The manor passed to Turstin’s assumed descendant, Hamo de Gerunde and his son Hugh, who held it in 1194 and 1197.  Hamo’s son Philip was recorded as the landholder in 1198, but forfeited Dunton in 1216 when he was imprisoned for rebellion.  The Gerundes were back in possession by 1221, and Dunton remained in the family until it passed by marriage of a female heir to the descendants of Henry de Chalfont in the early 14thc.  In 1425 it was held by Edmund Hampden and it was in the Hampden family the 18thc, when Richard Hampden lost everything in the South Sea Bubble. The advowson of the church appertained to the manor, at least from the reign of Edward I.


Exterior Features


Nave N doorway

The entire doorway has been painted with a yellow wash.  The original jambs do not survive, although the E jamb has been rebuilt in plain ashlar blocks.  The lintel is long, extending beyond the jambs on either side.  The central section of the lintel retains traces at its E end of angular interlace carved in relief.  The two ends of the lintel, above the jambs, have carved panels.  The E panel has a figural scene carved in relief and surrounded by a raised border.  To the R is a standing frontal figure, of which all surface detail is lost except thin vertical folds of reeded drapery at the bottom of an ankle-length robe.  In the centre is a prostrate figure shown in R profile at the feet of the R figure.  At the far L is a second standing figure turned towards the main group.  This is better-preserved and apparently female, with details of facial features and drapery surviving.  The head is lowered, and she has a simple headdress and long gown.  In the upper centre of the field is a large form with two semicircular lobes looming over the prostrate figure.  This retains some surface articulation, in the form of curved reeding and a stepped lower edge.  For possible interpretations, see Comments and Opinions below. The W panel is much more simply carved with an incised drawing of a horse in L profile.  The upper edge of the central section of the lintel is chamfered, and the recessed tympanum area is rubble-filled.  The arch face is carved with lateral centrifugal chevron consisting of a roll with a hollow outside it.  The inner edge is left plain.

E relief max. height 0.20m
E relief max. length 0.40m
Height of lintel 0.20m
Height of opening 1.90m
Length of lintel 1.74m
Width of opening (estimated) 0.95m
W relief max. height 0.20m
W relief max. length 0.39m

Exterior Decoration


1. Chevron voussoir 1 reset in nave S wall

Set to the W of the W window on the S wall, 2.3 m from the SW angle of the nave and 2.8 m above the ground, a lateral centrifugal chevron voussoir carved with chevron rolls at the intrados and extrados, and between them a narrow low roll flanked by thin fillets.   No measurement of the length of the stone was possible.

Width at extrados 0.20m
Width at intrados 0.17m

2. Chevron voussoir 2 reset in nave S wall

Set near the E end of the nave, 1.4 m from the SE angle and 1.0 m above the ground.  It consists of 1½ units of lateral chevron, of roll, hollow, roll, hollow profile with wedges between the elements.  There is evidence of a cogwheel inner edge.

Length of voussoir 0.28m
Width at extrados 0.23m
Width at intrados 0.20m

3. Beaker clasp voussoir with chip-carving set in nave S wall

Set high near the E end of the S wall, 0.9 m from the SE angle and 3.8 m above the ground.  It has an inner angle roll with a fluted beaker clasp and two units of chip-carved saltires in squares on the outer fillet.  No measurements possible.

4. Double-scallop capital reset in nave S wall

Set at the E end of the S wall, 0.4 m from the SE angle and 2.9 m above the ground.  The stone is badly damaged and only one face is visible, but this has a pair of tapered cones with a triangular wedge between them, and no sign of shields.  Owing to the placing of the stone only one measurement was possible.

Height of block (approx.) 0.18m

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

The jambs have 2 orders to the W and a single order to the E. They are 12thc but much disturbed, while the pointed arch is a later medieval replacement with 2 orders (see Comments, below). At some time a screen was inserted as testified by slots cut in the arch soffit..

1st order (shared)

Plain square jambs with chamfered imposts. The arch is narrower and deeply chamfered on both the E and the W face. When the new arch was fitted, the imposts and jambs were cut back to match the new arch profile, and the impost shaved under the arch. On the W side of the S jamb, however, the impost is not cut back, and part of the original profile remains. This shows a chamfered impost with a low roll at the foot of the face. The face above it is carved in relief with plian leaf foliage and a stem decorated with nailhead. Nothing of the original decoration survices on tne N jamb.

2nd order E face (arch only)

The arch  is plain and dies into the wall on either side.

2nd order (W face)

Again the arch is deeply chamfered and represents a later modification that does not fit the jamb well. The jambs have fat, cylindrical detached nook-shafts carrying block capitals whose decoration is largely erased. The S capital and nook-shaft bear traces of red paint added after the modification of thar arch. The capital shows traces of a fat necking but the decoration of the faces is erased. The N capital has traces of single cable necking surviving, and above it, on the W face, what may be the body of an animal carved in relief.



Disused Font

The font is now in the vestry under the W tower, set in the SE angle. It consists of a plain square bowl set on a modern mortar rendered support of the same plan as the bowl. The bowl itself is undecorated as far as can be judged. It has marks of lock removal on the rim in the middle of the E and W sides, and a circular basin. The interior of the basin, and much of the two visible faces and the upper rim are repaired with mortar. The font is unlined. 

Height of bowl 0.340 m
Height of font 0.975 m
Internal diameter of basin 0.55 m
Width of bowl at rim (E-W) 0.69 m
Width of bowl at rim (N-S) 0.64 m

Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Set in the S wall of the chancel is a wall piscina with a round-arched head and the remains of a dished basin in the centre of the flat floor of the niche. The only decoration is a continuous angle roll on the front face of the opening.

Depth of opening 0.285 m
Height of opening 0.46 m
Width of opening 0.51 m


The narrative panel on the N doorway lintel may well show the Noli me tangere, an episode from John, 20, 17 when Mary Magdalene encounters Christ after his Resurrection.  In this reading the figure on the left can only be one of the angels guarding the empty tomb, and the amorphous shape above, two further angels.  This identification is no longer clear, but RCHME described this shape as angels and clouds. The figure style and irregular chevron arch point to a date in the 1st half of the 12thc.

The font has no features diagnostic of date, but is assumed to be 12thc on the basis of its form and dimensions. The same may be said of the piscina. The surviving ornament on the chancel arch, the N capital necking and the S impost face, provide some help in dating, as there are similarities with the S doorway of Dinton church, here dated to c.1140. The upper parts of the chancel arch appear stylistically to date to the years around 1300, although RCHME offers a rather puzzling date of the 2nd half of the 15thc for the rebuilding of the arch.


  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, London1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 291.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham, Volume 2 (north). London1913, 101-02.

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. III (1925), 348-50.

Exterior from SE
Interior to E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SP 824 244 
now: Buckinghamshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
now: Oxford
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
medieval: St Martin (pre-Reformation)
now: St Martin
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
04 August 2006, 22 January 2019