Farndon St Peter


Saxo-Norman doorway
with counterpitched
rubble walling
to the right

The earliest visible fabric appears to be a round-headed doorway in the north wall with irregular voussoirs and long-and-short jambs, dated by the late Harold Taylor to the Saxo-Norman overlap of the 11th century. Adjacent to this doorway, and visible externally under the modern rendering, is counterpitched rubble work, typical of the 11th or 12th centuries and apparently in situ. In the north aisle, ex situ, is a coffin formed of ashlar stone, and apparently dating from the 12th century.

South arcade South arcade pier base

The south arcade of the nave has a circular pier at the west end with four attached colonnettes and moulded capitals, typical of the late 13th century. The east pier has four attached shafts alternating with four keeled shafts with fillets, all with moulded capitals, and the east respond has a circular column with fillet and two engaged colonnettes.

There is considerable evidence for 14th century work throughout. There is a single 14th century, restored, two-light window in the north wall, and the clerestory has three restored segmental pointed arched 14th century windows each with two ogee arched and cusped lights, tracery, hood mould, label stops and flush ashlar quoin surround. In the south wall of the chancel is a single restored 14th century segmental pointed arched window with two ogee arched and cusped lights. The south chapel has a single, restored, segmental pointed arched 14th century window, and there are two similar windows in the south wall of the south nave aisle, and one in the west.

There was evidently a restoration in 1598, probably impacting on the whole church, but especially the west tower. The date of the tower presents some difficulties in interpretation mainly due to the absence of documentary evidence to explain the significance of the wording of the panel on the outside west face. It may refer to the rebuilding of the whole tower or solely to the window, or it may simply represent, as is often the case, a major restoration. The panel reads:


The belfry openings have two arched lights under a flat arch and dripmould and are typically Tudor in style; they almost certainly date to c1598.

After the refurbishment of 1893 a new two-light window was inserted in the tower.

Throughout the church there is evidence of mid- to late-19th century restoration.

The particulars of the proposed changes contained in the faculty drawn up in 1892 are as follows, drawn directly from the faculty application (though this does not constitute evidence that all the works were actually carried out, though most evidently were):

  • To build a new north aisle to the church.
  • To remove the font from its present position in the south aisle to the interior of the tower and fix it on a new base with steps.
  • To rebuild the chancel of the same length as the present one but wider and higher, reusing the present windows, parapets, buttresses, lead roofing and dressed stonework, with arches opening into the proposed new south chapel and organ chamber.
  • To rebuild the chancel arch to suit the increased width of the chancel.
  • To build a new aisle or chapel on the south side of the chancel to accommodate 30 adults, the present east window of the south aisle to be refixed at the east of the said chapel and the present south window of the chancel to be placed in the south wall.
  • To build an organ chamber and vestry on the north side of the chancel and the north window of the present chancel to be refixed there
  • To rebuild the porch.
  • To remove the present pews and flooring throughout the church and lay a bed of concrete over the whole area covered by a flooring of wood and stone – all old grave slabs being relaid.
  • To reseat the nave and aisles with benches of stained deal or substantial wooden seated chairs.
  • To provide a new pulpit and altar rail of oak.
  • To erect a chancel screen of oak surmounted by a cross.
  • To place a heating apparatus in a vault under the organ chamber. (This was a patent ducted air system. In the vault referred to was a furnace fed by coke). The hot air generated was led through a system of ducts beneath the church floor and exited through grating.)
  • To excavate the earth which has accumulated around the walls of the church to the level of the (interior) floor and continue that level for three or four feet from the walls and from thence slope the ground gently back to the higher level.

A Viking sword, approx. 90 cm in length, was discovered in the churchyard in October 1892. It is one of the few objects of Danish origin found in the county and is now in the British Museum. It is a Petersen type V sword, iron tanged, with a straight guard and a semi-circular shaped pommel; the edges of blade are corroded. It has the B.M. accession reference 1906,0612.1. A late Anglo-Saxon key was also discovered in the churchyard; it is an iron key with a looped handle, of flat section, and with two teeth to the key. It has the B.M. accession reference 1906,0612.2.

Electric lighting was introduced into the church in the 1950s to replace the gas lighting system.

The next major change was mooted in 2004 during the incumbency of the Rev. J B Quarrell. To update the amenities of the church it was proposed to apply for a faculty to install a disabled toilet beneath the tower, the conversion of part of the vestry into a kitchen, basically for the provision of basic refreshments, and for the installation of a gas-fired central heating system to replace the wall-mounted radiant heaters. This necessitated the installation of piped water for the first time in the history of the church, and the laying on of a modern gas supply. The works entailed the conversion of the space under the tower, which had been the baptistery since 1893, into storage, the disabled toilet mentioned earlier, a location for the controls for the sophisticated electrical system and of course continued access to the belfry since government heritage advise strictly vetoed any change to the existing steep staircase. Of course the font had to found another location – the third in its known history – and the chosen spot was in a corner in front of the Lady chapel step. This in turn produced another discovery for the builders’ excavations to strengthen the floor in order to take the weight of the font revealed the curved brick roof of the Girton vault.

The triangular grass green outside the church’s south porch is said to be the burial place of those who died in a 17th century plague, though the validity of this is questionable.

Medieval Cross Slab

A section of an incised cross slab has been re-used as the sill of the actual ashlar frame of the second window from the west in the south wall of the south aisle. All that is visible is a little of a ring enclosing the cross head, and the bud and the beginnings of one leaf of a ?fleur-de-lys terminal. Lower down the slab (beneath the eastern light of the window) is another incised line which may be part of an emblem, if indeed it is part of the original design.

Externally the sill is rendered and nothing of the slab design is visible.

Drawing and description of the cross slab courtesy of Peter Ryder.

Technical Summary

Timbers and roofs

Moulded ties to posts and brackets with curved braces, moulded side and ridge purlins, plain common rafters and planking above. Dated to 1664.

Ties to posts and brackets with curved braces, decorative panel work between, all apparently 1893.
Heavy crossing ties with common rafters and planking above, heavy timber wall plates. Principal timbers perhaps C17/18th, some rafters and all planking later.
S.Aisle Lean-to with moulded ties and moulded purlin, curved braces to wall posts and brackets, 1893 and possibly later. South chapel has lean-to with moulded ties and moulded purlin, curved braces to wall posts and brackets, 1893.  
N.Aisle Lean-to with moulded ties and moulded purlin, curved braces to wall posts and brackets, 1893. Organ chamber has plain, sloping boarding, all 1893 or later.  
Other principal      
Other timbers     Tower 1st floor and belfry have timbers as lintels to windows, perhaps C16/17th.


A steel frame of type Pickford Group 8.3.B, pedestals mounted on steel girders, 1998. Prior to this was a timber frame, type Elphick 'W', Pickford Group 6.D. of 1703.

Not scheduled for preservation Grade 5.


Plaster covering & date Plastered and painted Plastered and painted Limewashed/painted
Potential for wall paintings No visible evidence, painting probably unlikely No visible evidence, painting unlikely but stencil/texts possible None.

Excavations and potential for survival of below-ground archaeology

There have been no known archaeological excavations, though a Viking sword and Anglo-Saxon key were discovered in the churchyard in 1892 (see above).

The fabric dates principally from the C11th to the C17th with major restorations between 1864 and 1893. The majority of the core medieval fabric of the nave remains intact whilst the aisles and chancel were subject to heavy restoration or rebuilding in 1893; the tower may date from the late C16th or early C17th. There is a small section of medieval cross slab reused in a south aisle window cill. The roof of the nave is of 1664 whilst the remainder, except the tower, are all C19th replacements; the tower roof is perhaps a mixture of C17th/C18th and later.

The churchyard is square in shape with the church positioned centrally. There are burials evident on all sides.

The overall potential for the survival of below-ground archaeology in the churchyard is considered to be HIGH-VERY HIGH comprising pre-Conquest and medieval construction evidence, burials, landscaping, and later restorations. Below the present interior floors of the church it is considered to be HIGH comprising medieval-C19th stratigraphy with probable post-medieval burials, though probably heavily disturbed in 1893. The archaeology of the upstanding fabric is largely medieval and post-medieval and its archaeological potential is HIGH-VERY HIGH with at least one identifiable section of C11th fabric.

Exterior: Burial numbers are expected to be average.

Interior: Stratigraphy under the entire building is likely to be medieval with later layers and considerable restoration evidence. In the body of the church the stratigraphy is likely to be punctuated by medieval and post-medieval burials.