Little gems – All Saints, Burton Dassett II

burton dassett (3)

There is a calm, clean feeling to the church of All Saints in Burton Dassett. It isn’t just the limewashed walls or the plain glass in the windows… not the stone flagged floor or the mefdieval tiles. It is something about the place itself. The proportions are beautiful…right in an indefinable way. Yet this is quite a big church for such a small place. Not for nothing is it known locally as the Cathedral of the Hills.

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Although the original church dates back to around a century after the Norman conquest of 1066AD, the aisles are a little later, and much of the visible fabric of the building is typical of the 13th and 14th centuries. Strange creatires lurk in the roofspace where carved corbels bear the weight of ancient wood.

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The pillars of the south aisle may be plain, but those of the northern aisle … the direction associated in medieval times with the devil and his cohorts, are covered with intricate carvings. Beasts, both mythical and natural, chase each other around the columns, eating fruits with bared teeth and posing riddles to the 21st century visitor who no longer has access to the same language of symbols so readily understood by our forefathers.

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It is tempting with many of the carvings to see a sense of humour at play. There are, in other churches, very obvious examples, where humour and perhaps subversive political commentary, have been crafted into the fabric of these sacred places. It is a mistake, I think, to forget that the workmen were as human as we, with the very same concerns, hopes, fears and laughter. We may moan about taxation and government… no doubt they did so too. We too worry about our children, complain about our aches and pains and ask awkward questions of our souls.

burton dassett church (17)

The story of our own human history, as much ecclestiastical history or that of a nation, is encapsulated within walls such as these. The land and its people cannot be separated and what affects one is written upon the other. Within this litle church we can get a glimpse, almost as clearly as if it was a time machine, of the impact of the Norman invaders, altering the face of the country with their style and power. We can see, too,the glimpses of an older time to which the local folk were, perhaps, closer. In the 17th C, the overlay of Puritanism under Cromwell whitewashed the older paintings of the Catholic faith that had survived the Reformation under Henry VIII in the previous century. Only verses from the Bible were allowed to be displayed upon the walls and the rood screens were lost… most taken down and destroyed.

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The small folk of hill and dale had little choice but to obey, whether they agreed or not. Familiarity and a love of place would have held no sway. The Crown and the Church were all powerful… until Parliament briefly deposed the monarchy, changing one absolute rule for another. I can imagine, in places such as this, a real heartache at having to paint over the sacred stories, depicted on the walls of their church and that were the only access that the unlettered peasantry would have had to the Bible. I can imagine, too, that those with eyes for beauty would have found that a hard task.

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The wall paintings here span centuries . Many are too badly damaged to decipher… but amongst the rest are some of the most beautiful and poignant that I have yet seen. But… they’ll have to wait. They deserve space to themselves.

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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19 Responses to Little gems – All Saints, Burton Dassett II

  1. restlessjo says:

    It’s a very lovely place! The detail in those carvings…. 🙂 🙂 Fine piece of writing, Sue. Wishing you a good day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mahi says:

    Intriguing 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. V.M.Sang says:

    Another lovely old church, Sue. It’s such a pity the old paintings were destroyed by painting over them.
    Your photographs really bring this to life.


  4. simonjkyte says:

    it has a history of will o the wisp and obviously held greater regional importance in teh 16th and 17th centuries


  5. noelleg44 says:

    Another little (or big) jewel of a church, Sue. I just HATE what Cromwell did to these old churches. Perhaps in the future it will be possible to restore the paintings?


  6. Darcy Scholts says:

    It feels like a beacon, even clear over here….


  7. dragonsdean says:

    I know Burton Dassett church! Mum was brought up in the war in Warmington just south of there- my Nan and granddad ran the pub in that village. I used to stay with them, as a child, in Middleton Cheney near Banbury. Whilst staying with them I’d often go with my aunt Edna to a big manor by Burton Dassett- she was housekeeper to the man who owned the place ( forget the name of it – but he was Mr Middleton) and let me run riot in his enormous home and garden :). I’d walk to the church and get “ lost” in there – amazed at the wonder of it and the figures and beasts therein….wonderful memories .


    • Sue Vincent says:

      It is a lovely area, Dean…and what a playground for a child! I can see imagination being fired by those magical beasts and all the stories you could weavearound them 🙂


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