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Kenilworth (preserved in the registry of the priory, now in the British Museum), the church of Yftel, as it is there called (plainly a corruption of the Givetelei of the Domesday-book, and an approach to the present name), with a virgate of land in Covele (now Cowley), are stated to have been given to the monastery by Juliana de Sancto Remigio." (Skelton.) Its great antiquity is therefore clear, apart from the evidence afforded by its style, and fortunately it has escaped without any remarkable injury. It is generally admitted to be one of the finest and most beautiful specimens in England of an Anglo-Norman parochial church. It consists of a nave and chancel, which are separated by a large square tower. The tower is low and divides the church into two nearly equal portions. On each side of it are two windows with circular arches supported by pillars. As in almost all these Norman edifices, the doorways are the most elaborately ornamented, and most striking features. That on the western side is the finest, and has long been known and admired by antiquaries. It is large, and has a bold circular arch with receding mouldings, carved in the richest manner, with the zig-zag and other ornaments; the outer arch has a double row of grotesque heads, and one of animals above. These carvings have been supposed to have an allegoric signification; they are rude in style, but they possess on the whole somewhat of grandeur of effect. The doorways on the northern and southern sides of the church are likewise considerably enriched. The southern is singular, but far less beautiful than the western doorway. On each side of it are two pillars, with the usual Norman ornaments, but all differing from
each other; they support a circular enriched arch. Over the western door there was originally a circular window ornamented with zig-zag tracery, but a window with a pointed arch was inserted within it on occasion of some alterations being made in the church, it is supposed from the form of the arch, in the fifteenth century. At the same time several other windows in the sides of the building were altered in a similar manner. The original circle is still plainly visible, however, in each instance.
The interior of the edifice, although it received some alterations at the same time as the exterior, still retains much of its original character, and previous to the recent restoration, had a remarkably venerable and sombre look. Mr. Brewer, in the 'Beauties of England,' calls it rude and cold, but no one possessing any true feeling for Gothic architecture will agree with him in that opinion. The chancel is vaulted with stone, and groined. There are some circular arches of bold span and handsomely carved at the intersection of the nave and chancel with the tower. A few of the windows contain some curious painted glass.
There are no monuments of interest in the church. Perhaps the most curious thing in it is the font, which is as old as the church. Being intended for baptism by immersion, it is very large. It is a plain trough, supported on an extremely thick central pillar, around which are four smaller ones, each of which is carved differently.
In the churchyard is a yew-tree with a trunk of enormous girth. Near this are the remains of a cross. Many of these crosses are to be met with in the churchyards about Oxford; several of them are in a much more perfect state than this, which has suffered greatly from the effects of time and ill usage. Looked at from the churchyard, the appearance of the church is highly picturesque, especially when the huge dark mass of the yew and the old slim cross beside it are in the foreground.
At Littlemoor, a liberty adjoining Iffley and belonging to it, there was formerly a priory of Benedictine nuns; it was founded in the reign of Henry II., and was among the smaller religious houses suppressed by a papal bull in the reign of Henry VIII. It was given to Wolsey towards founding his new college in Oxford. Considerable portions of the building were standing in the last century, and some still remain.
Iffley Church Font.
Just by Iffley there is a very picturesque mill and weir on a branch of the river; and a mile or so lower is a large paper-manufactory called Lock's mill, which is by no means picturesque. The scenery onwards is varied and pleasant. The banks are well clothed with foliage, and the easy windings of the river afford a constant succession of agreeable prospects. The uplands are thickly sprinkled with villas and residences, embowered among lofty trees, and speaking aloud of the graceful enjoyments of genteel life. On the river numbers of light wherries and cutters glide swiftly by, and stout horses tow briskly along the gaily painted pleasure-boats, from which as they pass break the sounds of soft or merry music, or the light laughter of hearts at ease. Altogether our river perhaps nowhere else presents such an air of graceful and holiday cheerfulness. On a bright summer's afternoon it has hardly the semblance of belonging to this hard-working country of ours.
And there before us are the pleasant groves of Nuneham-Courtnay, with Oxford holiday-seekers of all classes the most favourite resort. And no wonder. It lies at an easy distance from the city, being about five miles by the road, and not more than seven by the river; and as the row to it is one of the pleasantest on the Thames, few make an aquatic excursion from Oxford without Nuneham serving as the goal; and it deserves the favour in which it is held. Few parts of the river are pleasanter, and fewer of the parks along its banks are so beautiful in themselves, or afford so rich a variety of views. Some have not scrupled to assert that it is the most beautiful place by the Thames, but this is an exaggeration which its loveliness does not need.
We must stay awhile here. Its history is soon told. At the Domesday Survey it belonged to Richard de Curci.* It afterwards passed to the
* So says the Earl of Harcourt in his 'Account of Nuneham ;' but from the terms of Domesday-Book it rather apfamily of the Riparys, or Redvars: Mary, youngest daughter of William de Redvars, Earl of Devon (surnamed Harcourt), married, in 1214, Robert de Courtenay, Baron of Okehampton, by which marriage the manor was probably transferred to the Courtnays, and thence assumed the name of Nuneham-Courtnay. From them it passed through several hands, till, in 1710, it was purchased for 17,000/., by Simon, first Earl of Harcourt, and Lord Chancellor of England. It is now the property of the present Archbishop of York, who assumed the name of Harcourt upon succeeding to the Harcourt estates on failure of the male line.
The house is not remarkable for beauty or picturesqueness, but it has a somewhat imposing effect from its size, and the simplicity of its form. It was erected by the first earl from a design by Leadbeater, but underwent much alteration and enlargement under the superintendence of Brown during the time of the second earl. It consists of a rather handsome stone front, uniting by curved corridors to projecting wings; the back-front is ditferent in character, having a bold bow-window in the centre, supported by Ionic columns. The rooms are described as being numerous, spacious, and of good proportions, being elegantly decorated and furnished, and containing an extensive collection of sculpture, paintings, and other works of art and objects of virtu. The paintings are mostly by the old masters; the modern pictures are principally by English artists, and amateurs of rank. Among them are several portraits of persons illustrious for their victories by
pears that the property of De Curci ■was Newnham-Murren, near Wallingford.