Welcome to St Michael's Church
It is known that a church existed here about 1080, for the advowson (right of presenting an incumbent) was included in a grant made by William the Conqueror to the Abbey of Preaux in Normandy. Bishop Jocelyn of Salisbury (1142-84) notified the Abbot of Preaux that he could only present a parson with the consent of Nicholas, son of Torold, whose family appears to have given its name to the village.
The Nave is clearly Norman, but there is evidence of earlier origin, notably the rough square-headed doorway now set in the Victorian north wall and leading to the Vestry. It is probably Saxon, and was in the original north wall opposite the doorway. The south doorway is also early; there is a similar one at nearby South Moreton. The Chancel was rebuilt in the early 13th century, the south Transept added in the same century and the west Tower a little later. Apart from the partial rebuilding of the Transept in the 14th century and the insertion of windows, there seems to have been no major alteration until Victorian times. In 1852 the church was stripped of its box pews and of galleries in the Transept, and the Chancel arch renewed. In 1863 the arcade and north aisle were added, a Norman window from the north wall being used at the west end of the aisle. The organ chamber and vestry were added early in the 20th century. The date of the South Porch is uncertain, but it was probably built in the early 19th century using parts of 14th and 15th century screens from elsewhere in the church. The original transept roof was replaced in 2000 using the design and wood (unstained green oak) of the 13th century structure.
Nave and chancel roofs are Victorian, but over the Chancel arch are a truss with king-post and braced tie beam surviving from the 15th century Nave roof. Other items of interest inside the church are: in the Transept, a 13th century tomb slab carved with a foliated cross, three 14th century brackets on which statues once stood; in the Chancel, a 13th century priest's door; between the Chancel and the Nave, doorways to the rood stair (blocked) and the rood loft; in the Nave, a blocked Norman window above the south door, and a 16th century chest; and in the wall outside the south door a Holy Water Stoup.
Memorials — In the south Transept two 17th century memorials high up on the south wall commemorate William Sambourne of Moulsford, a benefactor of the parish, and Edith Redknapp, whose family were also benefactors. Others are two members of the Fuller family who held the Manor from the early 18th century until 1901, to Dr Langmore who worked among the sick and suffering for nearly 50 years and was Churchwarden to six Rectors, and to his son who was killed in the second world war.
A bronze tablet near the altar rails records the restoration of the Chancel in memory of Sir John Hoskyns, 9th baronet, who was Rector for 66 years; nearby is another to the Revd. F.C. Gillespie, who died in 1938 after a short incumbency of 16 months. The brass chandelier hanging before the chancel arch was given by "Robert and Ethel Moon in deep thankfulness for God's mercies to them — Serbia 1915".
The area under the Tower, formerly the Vestry, became the Baptistry in 1915. The oak paneling, designed by Sir Charles Nicholson, was erected in memory of Hilda Morris and her son who died as a boy at Clifton in 1913. The west window is also in his memory.
Bells — the peal is of six bells, which have the following inscriptions:
- Treble 1937 To commemorate the Coronation of King George VI M. & S
- 2nd 1603 This bell was made 1603 (by J. Carter of Reading)
- 3rd 1520 MARIBELW (a unique inscription — significance unknown)
- 4th 1617 Henry Knight made me (Reading)
- 5th 1639 Love God Tenor 1639 Leser & Pack, London
Incumbents — Immediately before the Dissolution, the advowson was held by the Prior of Witham in Somerset. Thereafter it changed hands many times. In 1583 Thomas Jones bought it and presented himself to the living. His son sold it in 1608 to Magdalen College, the present patrons.
Most of the Rectors in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries were fellows of Magdalen who held the living in plurality and seldom came near the village. One was Henry Fairfax. He had won praise as a strenuous opponent of King James II's proceedings against his College, but after becoming Dean of Norwich in 1689 it was said that "his whole life was the pot and the pipe". William Can" (1803-43) lived at Bolton in Yorkshire, where he was also incumbent and wrote books about the local dialect. All this changed when Sir John Hoskyns became Rector in 1845. He built the Rectory, restored and enlarged the church. One may now regret this restoration, which seems to have destroyed much medieval work, including wall paintings in the transept, as well as galleries and box pews. While these survived. Sir John wrote, "The want of reverence was grievous, and the encouragement of sleep very great". The contractor for some of the Victorian additions built better than he spelt: one of the bills refers to work on the "Knave" and the "Isle".
For further details of the History of St Michael's see British History on Line, The Victoria History of Britain, Aston Tirrold Church.