Thame, St Mary's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 16th century Lord Williams tomb
In the south transept, which is known as St Christophjer's CHapel, are a pair of table tombs to members of the Quatremain (Quartermain) family (see Rycote Chapel). The oldest is to Sir Richard Quatremain, his wife Sybil, and their godson Richard Fowler. This tomb is especially notable for the memorial brasses, with finely etched details of the armour worn by the men.
This is the true highlight of St Mary's; it is almost unchanged since the 14th century and contains several fascinating memorials and wonderful woodwork.
The choir stalls and linenfold panelling brought here from Thame Abbey at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. There are several interesting memorials, most notably that of Lord Williams of Thame and his wife Elizabeth (nee Bledlow).
Lord Williams rose to become Keeper of the King's Jewel House under Henry VIII and acted as guardian (read gaoler) to Princess Elizabeth during the reign of Queen Mary, and the future queen became firm friends with the Williams' daughter. Lord Williams founded the grammar school which still stands just outside the churchyard. He also re-established the Quatremain almshouses, which provided for 6 poor people until 1880. The Williams tomb is made of black and white marble, and though it was damaged during the Civil ar it is still a remarkably beautiful Elizabethan piece of art.
The font bowl is original and dates to at least the early 14th century, but the base may be another 3 centuries older still, suggesting it belonged to a Saxon church on this site. The bowl is topped by a 17th century wooden cover decorated with a frieze of acanthus leaves.
In the vestry, beside a 14th century priests door, is the tomb of Sir John Dormer (d. 1502) with his two wives and children. Dormer's wealth came through the wool trade, and the symbols of the Calais wool staple are on the corners of his tomb.
Between the tower crossing and the north aisle is a beautifully carved oak screen dating from around 1320. This is one of the earliest surviving examples of a wooden screen in Oxfordshire. On the south east pier of the tower is a fragment of a medieval wall painting, probably painted around 1500, and showing the Pieta, with Mary holding the dead Christ on her lap.
In the sanctuary is the very nicely carved communion table, purchased in 1625. The corbels supporting the nave roof are worth noting; each is individually carved, with a wonderful variety of themes, including a veiled woman (possibly St Osyth), an angel playing a pair of kettle drums, and another playing a zither.
Wow! There is so much to see; gicve yourself plenty of time. The Quatremain and Williams tombs are well worth seeing, but thee is also a wealth of historic woodworking and numerous memorial brasses. St Mary's is undoubtedly one of the best town churches in Oxfordshire. Thame itself is a very attractive town. Look for the almshouses just outside the church, and the grammar school founded by Lord Williams.
Address: Church Road, Thame, Oxfordshire, England, OX9 3AJ
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Town parking area within a short walk. Very limited on-street parking. Usually open daylight hours.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Long Crendon, St Mary's Church - 1.7 miles (Historic Church)
Long Crendon Courthouse - 1.8 miles (Historic Building)
Rycote Chapel - 2.5 miles (Historic Church)
Nether Winchendon House - 4.2 miles (Historic House)
Nether Winchendon, St Nicholas Church - 4.2 miles (Historic Church)
Waterperry Gardens - 4.6 miles (Garden)
Waterperry, St Mary's Church - 4.6 miles (Historic Church)
Aston Rowant, St Peter & St Paul - 4.7 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Thame:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tel: 01844 212 833
Fax: 01844 216 094