S MICHAEL, STEWKLEY, BUCKS
You don’t see many complete Romanesque churches of any size in England, unlike France. Iffley may come to mind; Stewkley is another of this small band, dating from the third quarter of the 12th century. The relative prosperity of this country in the later Middle Ages, combined with an absence of a major conflict raging across the landscape, in contrast to the Hundred Years’ War in France, conspired to ensure that a lot of reconstruction went on in England.
Just over forty years ago the villagers of Stewkley did have to take up their arms in defence of the community and its church, when the Roskill commission proposed the site for a third airport for London, which would have meant that church and village was levelled to the ground. For once the planners met their match, and the church survived.
Actually, the church had another lucky escape in 1862, when the Vicar, Charles Henry Travers, wanted to extend the nave westwards, rebuilding the W front in the process, and also to build a north aisle. His architect did not agree, and the resulting restoration was quite conservative. George Edward Street (1828-1881) was that architect; he was a very devout High Churchman who worshipped at All Saints’ Margaret Street almost from its opening and for many years was vicar’s warden there. Street’s one major change consisted of providing a “Norman” S porch, together with a pulpit in the 12th c. style, but the tub-shaped font is original. It’s the powerful Romanesque chancel arch, along with the arcading of the tower and the triple-arched W front that you take away with you.
Map reference: SP852261