There are a group of churches in north Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, that have a arcades of c.1340, with pillars topped with fascinating capitals.  Each capital is decorated with four crouching demi figures, some with interlocking arms. 

Hanwell, Oxfordshire

Hanwell, Oxfordshire

The two above, decorated with demi figures of male and female civilians, are at Hanwell in north Oxfordshire.

Hampton Poyle, Oxfordshire

The example above, with four men in chainmail, is at Hampton Poyle also in Oxfordshire

Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire

And the last one is at Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire (Martin Beek’s photograph) is a similar example.  Interestingly the quality of the capitals at Hampton Poyle and Ludgershall are not so fine, does this suggest that the trend was set by the Hanwell capitals?

For more images of capitals, figurative and foliate, see my capitals set on Flickr  

3 thoughts on “Capitals

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  1. These are glorious, timeless sculptures in their own right: thank you for this post, Allan. Would they be from the second half of the 14th cent.? After the ravages of the Black Death, surviving craftsmen really began to come into their own (for obvious reasons).I also love the sprightly piper posed above the head of a severely beautiful lady that features among your Flikr collection of columns & corbels.


  2. You raise an interesting question: should we assume that the more accomplished carvings are the earliest, and the others are cruder copies? Or does the fluid chain-linking of arms at Ludgershall look more like a prototype, and the rather awkward arrangements of the arms at Hanwell an attempt by a highly-skilled craftsman to repeat the idea in a more naturalistic idiom? Either way, thank you for your wonderful pictures.


  3. Thank you both. John I think this raises an interesting point in terms of the relationship between works of art. There is a tendency to assume that the better finished pieces is prototype and that the rougher works are based upon it. We simply don't know, in this case, how that process of dependency functioned. It is quite plausible that the prototype has been swept away by later work, demolishen and restoration. All we can note for certain is the 'family' resemblance.


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