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Adderbury, Oxfordshire
 
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10355 Adderbury has one of Oxfordshire's finest churches, and the village is charming in itself, rich with old companionshouses, thatched roofs, and a corner where the rectory and the tithe barn look up to the church on its bank of velvet turf. It has an old yew and a graceful lychgate with overhanging eaves, and is lovely without and within, with something from all our great building centuries.
The tower and spire have been here 600 years, the sturdy spire being one of the famous three which stand in a line across this countryside in view of every traveller on the Oxford road. From Adderbury's tower the bells ring out with hymns every three hours, and below them, round the tower and under, the parapet of both aisles, is a remarkable company of curious folk who never hear them, for they are as deaf as a stone. There are in this gallery about 100 of the most delightful sculptures we have seen. On the tower are lines of heads, birds, and grotesques, with winged gargoyles at the corners. On the south wall is a great strip of stone pictures among which we noticed a dragon with a knotted tail, a boy with two dogs on a leash, a man merrily ringing two hand-bells, and a magnificent mailed knight drawing his sword to fight an animal on his back. The strip on the north wall has a medieval orchestra with all the fun of the fair, and it has come down the years almost untouched by time. There are men playing trumpets and clanging cymbals, playing the fiddle and the harp; one is grinding a hurdy-gurdy and another is playing the bagpipes. Here is a mermaid with two tails and a dragon with two bodies, and in the middle is a little joke the masons left behindan archer has taken his aim at a prowling animal and his arrow has pierced an old woman's knee so that in her fright she is clinging to the neck of her cow. The west door of the tower has been fixed on ancient hinges of rare and beautiful craftsmanship, and all the great doors of the church have copied this lovely work. The north porch shelters a 14th century doorway of exquisite beauty, with delicate mouldings from which fir-cones hang. Spacious and imposing, and rich with craftsmanship, the church within has quaint corbels under the roof of the chancel, one showing a man and his wife (who is blowing a fire with bellows), another a shepherd with a sheep, and another a pedlar; and opening from the chancel into the vestry is an elegant 15th century doorway with trefoils in the spandrels and continuous mouldings like a skein of delicate threads. The vestry has a beautiful oriel window, an old stone altar, and a stone stairway to a priest's room over it.

The sanctuary has a wealth of lovely stonework forming the reredos. At each side of the east window are rich canopies like spires reaching nearly to the roof, with hfesize figures of Gabriel and the Madonna below them. Under the window is a row of canopied niches with figures of the Apostles. The sedilia and the piscina complete the rarest corner of a beautiful church; they are dehghtful work, with canopies of rich tracery and ornament, all finely vaulted. The chancel screen, with much of its 15th century work still left, has fan-vaulting and a loft reached by the old rood stairs. The choir-stalls have grotesques carved under the seats. There are braced beams with kingposts in the 14th century roof and from its stone corbels grinning and scowling faces look down. The fine oak chest of 1725 has beautiful wrought ironwork. 600 years old, 13 straps with branching leaves. The nave arcades are 13th century, and in them are two outstanding pillars of exquisite beauty. They are by the bays dividing the transepts from the aisles, and that on the north side has the stately heads of four women, while the other has four knights arm in arm and in hooded mail. Hanging on the wall of one of the transepts is a painted panel of an unknown Thomas More of 1586. He is with his wife Mary, and they kneel before a marble tomb, looking very charming in ruffs and long dark gowns, their serenity quite undisturbed by the skeleton laid out before them, under which are these lines:
We have been flesh and now we are but bones,
And lie for other flesh to take their view :
Our sides were never brass, our strength not stones,
We could not, choose but bid the world adieu.
So far is aught from lasting aye
That tombs shall have their dying day.

On a corner of the wall quite near them is a stone canopy with a sort of showman's St George, looking half like a poor Britannia and half like a Roman warrior. In this church with so much splendid sculpture we noticed a thing rare in our experience, a man's face in the middle of the tracery of one of the windows outside. There are two brasses and two stones of much interest. One of the brasses shows the portrait of a lady who died on February 30 in the Julian calendar in 1508; the other brass has the portrait of an unknown knight and his lady of 1460, he in armour with his sword, she in a high-waisted gown with a tiny dog tucked in its folds, and wearing a necklace. In the churchyard is a stone to William Beau, who was a major in Charles Stuart's army, a volunteer in the Swedish army, and then became a vicar here and at last Bishop of Llandaff. The other stone covers the grave, in front of the altar rails, of William Oldys, a vicar who fell a victim to the Civil War.

Two houses by the green have come into the story of this countryside, one a fine gabled house of the 17th century in which lived Lord Montague, a minister under William the Third, and the 17th century Adderbury House reached by an avenue of trees across the green, once the home of the dissolute poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Here also the poet Pope stayed with the Duke of Argyll, writing him some nattering verses in which the ducal virtues were contrasted with the vices of the earl.

DR OLDYS lies in peace at last at Adderbury, the scene of his tragic ride. "Having by his great loyalty and affection to the Royal Cause rendered himself very obnoxious to the rebels," he was obliged to leave Adderbury and take refuge at Banbury. But his young son was shortly due for his first school term at Winchester, and his father, in spite of the risk, decided to go to see the boy settled in his new surroundings. A neighbour, hearing of his plan, sent word to the local Parliamentarians, and so it happened that on the way to Winchester William Oldys saw ahead a party of troops. Feeling that his wife and son, who were with him, would be safer without him, he sent them on ahead, and awaited their signal. The signal, when it came, warned him to fly, for the troops were the Parliament men, obviously on the lookout for somebody. He turned his steed, and as he fled he heard the clatter of horses closing in behind him. Slowing down his pursuers by scattering money on the road, he might have got safely back to Banbury but for the fact that his road led him through his own village of Adderbury and past his own home. As he galloped down the village street his horse recognised the old home and stopped.

Nothing would persuade the faithful creature to go on. Whenever his master frenziedly turned the horse's head towards Banbury the horse reared round towards the vicarage stable he knew so well.

The vicar heard the clatter of hooves behind; they were drawing closer. He hit the horse, he dug his heels into it and urged it forward, but still the creature, faithful unto death, stood stubbornly in front of the stable gate. Then suddenly he did swing round, snorting with fear, for there was a shot, and his master fell limply from the saddle, murdered by one of his own parishioners turned soldier, a man he had often befriended. The others had not meant to kill him, and turned angrily on the traitor who fired; and all the time the old horse stood by, faithful indeed, knowing his own stable, and unable to understand why his master lay on the ground so still.


 
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