Rural Oxfordshire is writ large north of Witney. Visible from afar, the spire of St Michael’s church dominates the village of Leafield. In 1858 the vicar commissioned a new church, Gilbert Scott swung into action, and the church was consecrated in 1860, though the spire was not finished until 1874 (and was subsequently amended). The church is a solid essay in the 13th century style, powerful and severe, with triple lancets in the east window (Durandus and the Victorian ecclesiologists would rejoice at the symbolism of the Holy Trinity) and double lancets under quatrefoils in the aisles. Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878) came from Gawcott in Buckinghamshire and admired nearby Hillesden church (ND November 2014).

He built his first church in 1838, just before he discovered Pugin and was converted to Gothic. Scott built or restored around 800 churches in the next forty years, in between other works like the Albert Memorial and Saint Pancras station in London. He was the architect of the multitude; Scott’s churches do not have the excitement of Butterfield or the refinement of Bodley, but you know what you will get. Peter Anson once said that you should visualise a Gilbert Scott church at the time it was built, populated by ladies in vast crinolines and males wearing loose-fitting dark overcoats and carrying immense silk hats. Anson also said that Scott’s churches expressed the character of Hymns Ancient and Modern (a most underrated hymnal).


Kudos to the incumbent and congregation of Leafield, along with St Peter, Upwell; All Saints, Bircham Newton; Holy Trinity, Blythburgh; St Gregory, Hemingstone; and all other churches who have kept their doors open for daily prayers at a time of Coronavirus.


Map reference: SP318153

Simon Cotton