St Nicholas, Ibstone, Buckinghamshire

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Feature Sets (4)


Ibstone is a village in the Chilterns, 6 miles W of High Wycombe.  The village is dispersed, with dwellings scattered over a network of minor roads in the hilly, wooded landscape.  St Nicholas’s church is at the S end of the village, alongside Manor Farm.  It consists of a tall 12thc nave with N and S doorways; the N blocked and the S protected by a timber porch.  At the W end of the nave is an 18thc or 19thc gallery, and on the exterior above it is a weatherboarded bell turret with a tiled pyramid roof.  The chancel arch is 12thc too, but the chancel is 13thc.  A carved head is set at the apex of the chancel arch, and another is set above a S nave window outside.  The church also has a plain 12thc font.


Ibstone was held by Hervey the legate (possibly an interpreter) from the king in 1086.  It was assessed at 2 hides with woodland for 100 pigs.  Confusingly a second holding of one hide with 3 acres of meadow in Ibstone was recorded under Hervey’s name in the Oxfordshire returns.  In 1270 Henry III granted the manor to Walter Merton, Bishop of Rochester, for the endowment of Merton College Oxford.  Subsequently the advowson of the church passed to the college.


Exterior Features


N nave doorway

Round headed, single order with tympanum, blocked.  All that remains is a cuboidal W impost block and the top of the jamb on which it sits.  This impost supports one end of a plain lintel which in turn carries a semicircular tympanum made of lozenge-shaped and half-lozenge blocks, as a form of opus reticulatum, surrounded by an arch of plain voussoirs.

Height of lintel 0.17m
Height of opening 1.82m
Height (radius) of tympanum and enclosing arch 0.74m
Length of lintel (approx.) 1.15m
Width (diameter) of tympanum and enclosing arch 1.45m

S nave doorway

Round headed, single order with tympanum protected by a late 19thc porch. The jambs are plain with chamfered impost blocks decorated on the face and on the chamfer with single rows of chip-carved saltires in squares.  The imposts carry a lintel carved with three rows of billet moulding, and this supports a plain recessed tympanum surrounded by an arch of plain voussoirs.

Height of lintel 0.18m
Height of opening 2.24m
Height of tympanum and lintel 0.74m
Length of lintel 1.41m
Thickness of lintel 0.145m
Width of opening 1.01m

Exterior Decoration


Head set over S nave window

This is a male human head with heavy eyebrows, drilled oval eyes, rounded cheeks, a straight nose drilled for nostrils, a moustache and an open mouth.

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Single order, round headed.  The jambs and arch are plain and unmoulded, with chamfered imposts carved on the face under the arch only with a row of chip-carved saltires in squares on the face and another similar on the chamfer.  At the apex of the arch, under the soffit is a carved head, described below.

Interior Decoration


Carved head under chancel arch

This is a human head set to be viewed from the chancel side; i.e. the crown of the head is set flush with the chancel side of the arch soffit.  It shows a male figure with a flat-topped head, heavy brows, rounded cheeks with high cheekbones, a long, triangular nose and a wide, straight, closed mouth.




Towards the W end of the nave stands a tub-shaped font on a chamfered drum base.  The 12thc bowl is unlined and covered by a network of repaired cracks.  The exterior has been vertically tooled with a claw-chisel, probably in the 19thc.  There are inserted repairs at the N and W of the rim.

Ext. circumference at foot of bowl 1.88m
Ext circumference at rim 2.50m
Ext. diameter of bowl at rim 0.80m
Height of bowl 0.58m
Height of font 0.73m
Inner diameter of bowl 0.60m


The doorways and chancel arch have very tall proportions, suggesting an early date that is confirmed by the use of chip-carving and plain chamfered imposts.  Probably not 11thc , but certainly dateable to the first twenty years of the 12thc.  The two heads appear to be carved by the same hand, and could be contemporary with the other Romanesque work. The font can’t really be dated at all, beyond noting that this is a common 12thc form.


  • N. Pevsner and E. Williamson, Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. London 1960, 2nd ed. 1994, 409.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Buckingham. Volume 1 (south). London 1912, 212-14.

  • Victoria County History: Buckinghamshire. III (1925), 62-65

Exterior from SW
Interior to E from W gallery


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SU 756 923 
now: Buckinghamshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Buckinghamshire
medieval: Lincoln (Dorchester to 1085)
now: Oxford
now: St Nicholas
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
14 September 2011