Binsey, Oxfordshire – St Margaret of Antioch

After Deb and I had coffee in Oxford we drove to Binsey, a hamlet just outside the city. There are a few buildings beside the Thames, and the church is about 1/2 mile to the west (within sound of the A34 Oxford bypass) – grid reference SP 485 080. Apparently crop marks show that there were houses between the two. The benefice has a website at, but there is little about the church’s history on it. In the church there is a laminated A4 sheet, and that’s it. Surely there is someone in Oxford who could help them produce a booklet which would give us visitors the information we want, and earn the church some money.

St Margaret of Antioch is a C12 church, rebuilt a century later. The South Porch was also added in the C13. Before we enter the church, let’s have a look at St Margaret’s well, which is dedicated to St Frideswide. We have met Frideswide before, have a read about her life at

Tradition says she fled to Binsey to avoid a Mercian Prince who wanted her. He was struck blind at the gates of Oxford, but she healed him with water from this spring. The spring was made into a well, and became a centre of pilgrimage. Louis Carroll wrote about a Treacle Well – Wikipedia tells me that the medieval sense of the word ‘treacle’ is ‘healing ungent’. I can’t say I’m an expert on Louis Carroll, perhaps I’ll find time when this MA is over to sit in the sun and read Alice in Wonderland.

A nice carved door arch, and a simple church when you got inside. Worth looking up into the roof.

Some nice glass at both west and east ends, and an interesting altar.  Lovely Annunciation.

The Piscina has a drain down the front, which is a bit unusual, and Deb decided to have an investigate of the font. The Royal Arms is of the reign on Queen Anne, and there was one memorial on which they got their monies worth – plenty of names!

I liked the harmonium. When I was at Offord (back in the mid-1980s) Don used to play the harmonium at our little chapel. He would go into overdrive for “earthquake, wind and fire”, and then reign it in for “still small voice of calm”. That is a very long time ago! Nice that some friendships go back that far.

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4 Responses to Binsey, Oxfordshire – St Margaret of Antioch

  1. John Carey says:

    The Lewis Carroll allusion harks back to his time at Christ Church College where Alice was the daughter of the Dean.

  2. jean wyber says:

    I was rather hoping you would have got a picture of the (I understood to be) Eric Gill relief carving of the supposed Margaret of Antioch inside the pulpit. The story I was told was that it had been on view but was thought to be too distracting for the congregation so was transferred to the inside.

  3. Michael Thomson-Glover says:

    Here is a photo of the wood relief of St Frideswide set into an oak panel on the inside of the pulpit. Perhaps for the delection of the vicar rather than congregation. I did wonder whether it could be by Gill hence I took the photo on our first escape from lock down visit today. It is certainly very fine.

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