THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. MARY, PYRTON, OXFORDSHIRE
There has been a church on this site since 987AD, when according to the terms of grant by Oswald, Archbishop of York, 5 hides of land in Golder were to pay church scot (tax) to Pyrton.
About 1115, William Fitznigel, Lord of Pyrton, granted the church to his foundation - the Augustinian priory at Runcorn in Cheshire.
In 1546 the rectory and advowson were granted to Christ Church, Oxford and in 1943 the living was reunited to that of Shirburn. In 1981 Pyrton and Shirburn together with the neighbouring parish of Watlington became a United Benefice. The patrons of the parish, who have the responsibility in turn of presenting the Incumbent, are the Bishop of Oxford, the Earl of Macclesfield and Christ Church, Oxford.
The original church was built in 1856 by J. C. Buckler in flint and brick with stone dressing. Parts of the 12th century building still remain. Much of the decoration is unusual to Oxfordshire.
The South doorway hood has unusual decorations of grapes, leaves and fruit. The hood of the Chancel arch has flat fluted leaves. The decorations of the capitals of the Jamb shafts is rare in Oxfordshire.
The Chancel arch is Romanesque with three orders of chevron moulding, Jamb shafts and scalloped capitals. The window in the North Wall is also Romanesque. The window in the South Wall is a modern copy in the same style. The Romanesque South Doorway has Jamb shafts and scalloped capitals and has a 14th century arch and gable.
During the rebuilding the nave was lengthened by 6 feet at its West end.
FURNISHINGS AND HASSOCKS
The oak pulpit is Jacobean dating from 1638, as is the plain wooden chest in the vestry. In the South Porch there are some medieval tiles of six different designs. The tub font is also medieval, although the base is modern. The brass tablet to Alfred St. G. Hamersley 1929 is inscribed by Eric Gill. The stained glass in the South East window was designed by Clayton and Bell.
The beautiful hassocks were designed by the artist Ruth Mathews Heppel in 1993 and made by parishioners and friends. They were dedicated to the Bishop of Dorchester on Whitsunday 1994. The Pear tree design reminds us of the derivation of the name Pyrton; the lily represents St. Mary; and the cross is a potent symbol of the Christian faith.
PLATE AND BELLS
The church possesses a chalice dated 1573, a flagon of the same date and a paten of 1637, and are kept in a place of safe-keeping. The Church had three bells in 1552 but these have since been replaced. The inscription on the present treble bell reads “Henri Knight made this bell 1606" and the tenor “Henri Knight made me 1605". The small bell was given in 1953 by Mr. Ives to replace the saunce bell made in 1593 by Henri Knight.
The oldest surviving memorial in the church is the very rare Purbeck marble slab of a priest lying in front of the altar. Previously dated at 1340 it is now believed to be 1285. There was formerly a marginal brass inscription.
A brass now on the South side of the church, but originally in the body of the church depicts Thomas Symeon (died 1522) sumtyme fermar of Purrton courts and Margaret his wife. The figures are full length, in civilian dress and below are the matrices of their children.
There are memorials in the chancel to:
Susanna Acworth, wife of Thomas Acworth, Vicar, who died in childbirth in 1685; Clifford Middleton (died 1607); Elizabeth Hill (died 1715); George Hutchins (died 1735); Paul Backall (died 1811) and Ann Backall (died 1801).
A black marble gravestone, now in the South porch, commemorates Thomas Eustace (died 1713) and his wife Martha (died 1701).
Translation of the Latin inscription is:
This is the Resting Place of THOMAS EUSTACE of Pirton. A noble man, who while he lived was loyal to his friends, dutiful to ........ and harmonious with his neighbours and treated all his life, all with pure honesty of his mind. A man witty in his dealings with men. Hard working in business. In family life so (steady) that he provided fully for his own demise. And also provided (money) that the poor there should be some (money) for a largesse. He was a regular churchgoer, a generous patron of the poor. A very loving husband. He died 7th April in the year of our salvation 1701 at the age of 39. Also of Martha, wife of ............ who (loved) life so much ........ As in her life she ......... ------
(Translation provided by Stanley Eustace - Eustace Families Association).
A stained glass window (1893) on the South side of Hugh Hamersley and his wife Mary; Lt. John Ducat Hamersley (died 1892); Edward Samuel Hamersley of Pyrton Manor (died 1909); Lt. Col. John Henry Hamersley (died 1928); Col Alfred St. George Hamersley (died 1929); Commander Gerald Ducat (died 1955); Emily Clare Hale (died 1903); her son lt. W. A. L. Hale (died 1898); Sergeant. Eborn (killed in action 1902); G. W. Taylor (torpedoed 1914); Charles Hopkins Morris (died 1953); C. A. Morris (died 1924).
There are some carved 18th century tombstones in the churchyard. The lychgate was erected in memory of the 13 parishioners killed in the 1st World War. A teak garden seat was given in the memory of Alfred St. George and L. M. Hamersley.
The Bell Stand
The bell stand for the old cracked bell stands just inside the South doorway, to the left. It was presented to the church by the Eustace Families Association in 1979.The engraved brass inscription on the Bell Stand reads:
The stand for the ancient bell
was given to the glory of God
and in the memory of their namesakes
who served him in this place
by the Eustace family in 1979
The register of Baptisms dates from 1597; of Marriages from 1568 and Burials from 1570. They are now lodged in the Bodleian Library for safe keeping.
John Hampden married Elizabeth Symeon on 24 June 1619 in this church. John Hampden was later to die in Thame of wounds received in the Battle of Chalgrove.