An illustration drawn from almost the same angle as this photo but before the Victorian re-ordering shows another stage to the tower of lesser width and depth, and the chancel roof has a shallow pitch, not like the present one. In the illustration there is no vestry in the corner between the transept and the chancel.
On a low limestone rise on the North edge of a large area of flat land (presumably once a marsh) is the village of Marsh Gibbon.
Close to the top of the rise is St Mary’s church, built in about 1240. It is not a particularly old or large church, but it is well worth visiting, as there is nice though restrained stonework throughout.
A little unusually, St Mary’s was originally in the cruciform plan. That is, when built it was shaped like a Christian cross. The nave and chancel form the upright of the cross, but extending from the chancel end of the nave there are two transepts at right angles to the nave; the arms.
Sometimes there’s a tower in the middle of the cross as there is at Stewkley or Simpson, but there’s no evidence of that here.
The nave, South aisle and South transept. The plain arch from transept to aisle and the stiff-leaf carving on the arch capital are centre left. Note how the line of 17th Century pews dip in the middle; there’s been some floor settlement.
The South transept has a fine, five light window in the 16th Century Perpendicular style, and also houses the organ. You can see that window and transept in the centre of the first photo, above. The North transept still has its original narrow North and East lancet windows.
The transept arches into the nave have very nice Early English “stiff-leafed” carved capitals.
The nicely executed Perpendicular window in the South transept.
Stiff leaf carving on a capital at the base of the North transept arch.
As built, there would have been no clerestory and all the church windows would have all been lancets. It would have been quite dark inside, especially in the winter.
The set of three lancets in the East wall of the chancel are a product of the 1879-80 restoration. The lancet windows in the sides of the chancel were renewed at the same time. There’s a moulding under the side windows and another at higher level that follows the window arches.
There are similar mouldings on the outside of the chancel. There’s also an under-window moulding in the North aisle.
An original 13th Century lancet window (left) and a 16th Century window (right), both reused when this North aisle was built.
Down the Aisles
Also part of the Victorian restoration was the new North aisle. Two 16th Century windows were reused, moved out from their old positions in the North wall of the nave to the North wall of the new aisle. The lancet window at the West end of the aisle probably came from the West wall of the North transept, where there is now an arch connecting the transept to the new aisle.
The narrow South aisle is much older, added in about 1300. There’s a simple arch joining it to the transept. Apart from this one, the arches are all quite similar in design, no matter their age.
A nicely carved limestone reredos.
One of the 19th Century lancet windows from the 19th Century restoration.
Tower and Clerestory
The clerestory was added in the early 16th Century. The reused 13th Century corbels supporting the nave roof above it are carved with angels. The tower was built in around 1340, but altered and rebuilt in the 16th Century. The tower arch was rebuilt during the restoration works.
Above the alter is a stone reredos carved from a single piece of limestone, which Pevsner’s Buckinghamshire says is “conventional, but well-carved and composed”. It portrays the Last Supper.
Last to mention but first to see is the 15th Century porch. I went to the church on a Sunday in February and the church was open until around 5pm.
The 15th Century porch, early 16th Century clerestory windows and 16th Century tower are the first things you’ll see as you approach the church.
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