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The Building

The church consists of a single nave and chancel with a small western tower projecting into the nave. Except for the four Early English windows (two on the north wall and two on the south) and a Decorated window over the font, the building is Perpendicular in style. The medieval glass was destroyed by the parliamentary forces in 1644 during the civil War.

The Norman west front includes a round-headed doorway in the centre of an arcade formerly containing stone seats known 'penniless benches'. Originally there were five lancet windows in the second storey of the tower, but four were cut away to make room for a larger Perpendicular window. A tablet by the south arcade commemorates St. Edmund of Abingdon, who was contemporary with the earliest parts of the church. Inside the porch is a rare stone lantern, with a stone funnel.

The church is unusual in that the nave crosses the course of the River Stert. This river, which now flows in a culvert under Stert Street, marked the western boundary of the Parish of St. Nicolas', and so the tower and part of the nave were outside the parish. An arch over the river can be seen in the north wall from outside, and the water can be heard through a grating in the road on the south side.

On the north wall, halfway up the nave, is a stone cross uncovered during the 1881 restoration from beneath a layer of plaster. The figure of Christ which it once bore was probably removed during the civil War. Above the cross, to the left, is the attractive monument to Walter Dayrell, the first regularly appointed Recorder of the Borough.

Blacknall memorial

Further east, is a quasi-transept containing the tomb of John Blacknall, a fine monument dating from 1684. John Blacknall was the grandson of the purchaser of the Abbey after its dissolution, and by his will he augmented the funds for supporting the readers at St. Nicolas' as well as providing for a weekly distribution of bread to the poor.

The pulpit, on the south wall of the nave, is Jacobean but has lost two storeys of its height. Behind is a small Early English window, partly blocked when the Abbey Gateway was rebuilt in the 15th century.

In the Chancel is a tablet on the south wall which was erected in memory of Richard Bowles, rector from 1775 to his death in 1804 who left £2,000 for a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, to preach a sermon every Sunday.

Carving found under panelling

On the south wall of the clergy vestry is a fragment of an early reredos found under the panelling during the 1881 restoration. It depicts the Virgin Mary and St. John on either side and St. Nicolas in Bishop's vestments.

When the chancel was rebuilt after the fire of 1953 the Arms of Abingdon Abbey and of Trinity College, Oxford, were placed on the ends of the hammer beams together with those of four benefactors - Peter Heylin, a Sub Dean of Westminster Abbey who died in 1661, and largely due to whose efforts the Church was not demolished during the Commonwealth, Walter Dayrell who died in 1628, John Blacknall, and John Roysse who died in 1571.

The organ, built by Nicholson, dates from after the fire in 1953. The bells contain members of a peal of six cast by Abel Rundal of Gloucester in 1741.

Some historical photographs of the church are available from English Heritage.

Inside the Building

In addition to Services, St Nicolas Church may be hired as a venue for concerts, talks or exhibitions, and enquiries about availability and fees are welcome.

The church can seat around 100 in the pews in the main body of the church, with a further 20 plus using additional seating at the back, and a further 30 in the choir stalls. The church is wheelchair-accessible as far as the crossing.

The church has good acoustics and is a good venue for small chamber ensembles; there is a good baby grand piano and an organ, both available for use.

The church is located right in the centre of historic Abingdon, with easy access to the river, local car parks, and the recently renovated Abbey Meadows park. Vehicle access can be arranged alongside for deliveries.

There are basic facilities for coffee/tea making in church.

We hope the images below will give you some idea of our facilities, but do get in touch if you would like to know more. Or why not pop in and visit – the church is open most days between 10am-1pm, or additionally by arrangement.

Plan of church

Click on the thumbnails below for larger pictures:

West end of nave
1. West end of nave
South west end of nave with font
2. South west end of nave with font
North west end of nave
3. North west end of nave
West entrance lobby
4. West entrance lobby
West entrance lobby
5. West entrance lobby
View from west end up nave
6. View from west end up nave
North nave pews
7. North nave pews
South nave pews
8. South nave pews
Crossing with pulpit
9. Crossing with pulpit
Crossing with Blacknall memorial
10. Crossing with Blacknall memorial
Chancel and high altar
11. Chancel and high altar
North choir stalls and organ
12. North choir stalls and organ
South choir stalls
13. South choir stalls
High altar
14. High altar
View down church from high altar
15. View down church from high altar
View down church from crossing
16. View down church from crossing
View of Abingdon from West door
17. View of Abingdon from West door

Millenium Embroideries

Embroidery on the history of Abingdon

To celebrate the millennium, and their own 20th Anniversary in the Autumn of 2000, the Thames Craft Guild devised the embroideries which hang on the stone pillars on either side of the West door inside St Nicolas Church. These Millennium Embroideries consist of two separate hangings, one of which tells the history of Christianity and St Nicolas Church, whilst the other runs on a parallel time scale but tells the history of the town of Abingdon.

The Design Process

At a meeting in the church with the Minister and representatives of the congregation in July 1997, the stone pillars either side of the West door were identified as a suitable site for a pair of embroidered hangings. A group of volunteers from within the Thames Craft Guild met many times to discuss ideas for the designs. Local historians and embroidery experts were consulted and embroideries in other Churches were visited.

Suellen Pedley, a professional ecclesiastical embroidery designer was commissioned to produce the designs for the hangings. Discussions with members of the congregation revealed that an exhibition had been held in St Nicolas Church in the autumn of 1995 entitled "The Abbey, the Church and the Town". It was decided to base the designs on that exhibition.

Embroidery on the history of the church

The Sacred Hanging shows the history of Christianity and the Church of St Nicolas, Abingdon and the Secular Hanging shows the parallel history of the town of Abingdon.

The Construction Techniques

It was intended that as many techniques as possible should be used, so the embroideries actually include appliqueacute;, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, canvaswork, drawn thread embroidery, cross stitch, lacemaking and tatting. The materials for each picture were assembled into a pack with instructions for working the picture. The main features of each picture were appliquéd to the background fabric and most of the surface embroidery worked. The panels were then assembled onto a quilting frame before the cord was couched onto each panel. Finally the lace was applied before the completed hangings were stretched over the mounting board ready for framing.

 

There is a booklet which illustrates and describes the embroideries in detail. Copies of this are available in the church, priced £2.50. Copies of the booklet may also be obtained from Masons Embroidery Shop, Bath Street, Abingdon. For more information about the booklet, please contact Andrew Colborne, Sales Coordinator, or for further information on the embroideries please contact Marion Ellis, project co-ordinator and past Chairman of Thames Craft Guild.