Church of St Ebbe
Church, mid-late C12 and C19 with work by William Fisher, 1814-17, and G.E Street, 1862-66. Top of tower and bell-openings by A. Mardon Mowbray, 1904.
MATERIALS: rubble stone walls with ashlar coping and quions to tower; course rubble with ashlar quions; slate, and tiled (south aisle) roofs.
PLAN: chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower.
FAÇADE: the present church comprises a stone tower, probably C12 although it is known that partial rebuilding took place in 1648. The nave and chancel are of 1814-16, and are of stone with a tiled roof. The style is early English, and the detailing, as especially seen along the north wall, deliberately flat. A south aisle with windows in the Decorated style was added in 1862-68 by G.E Street, at the same time a north aisle being created by inserting an arcade and the top stage of the tower rebuilt. The uppermost stage of the tower was added in 1904-05, at which date a doorway of c.1170 with two orders of colonettes, decorated scallop capitals, an inner arch order of beakhead and outer order of zig-zag (taken from the south wall in 1813) was inserted in the west wall to the south of the tower base.
Internally matching arcades in the Early English style with slender, simple, piers separate nave from the aisles to either side. The benches have been removed to create a single open space, although a C19 pupit stands against the north side of the chancel arch, and C19 choir stalls and early C20 altar rails (missing gate in 2005) remain in the chancel. In the south aisle first window from east includes much armorial glass of C15 to C17 date. Octagonal stone font, crisply carved in generally gothic style, 1810-20. Three tablets on the north wall: armorial cartouches to Robert Whorwood (d.1688), and to Frances Whorwood (d.1678), 'virtuous gentlewoman'; and a simple classical monument to William Bodley (d.1717).
HISTORY: the dedication to a little-known Northumbrian saint may suggest an early foundation, possibly C10. St. Ebbe's was granted to Eynsham Abbey c.1005. A rebuilding of the church seems, stylistically, to have taken place, Sherwood and Pevsner suggest, c.1170, and this is the date of the earliest surviving fabric. Various enlargements and additions were made during the Middle Ages and early modern period, but by 1813 the church was reported by two architects to be in a dangerous condition. On their recommendation it was demolished, but for the lowest part of the tower and 22 ft. of walling at the south-west corner. A new church was built 1814-16 to a design by William Fisher in the Early English style on the same site but extending further north to include the site of the former rectory house on the corner of St. Ebbe's Street and Church Street. By 1826 this was reckoned too small, but only in 1862-68 was it enlarged and restored under G.E Street, the diocesan architect, who added a south aisle, inserted an arcade to create a north aisle, and rebuilt the top stage of the tower. In 1904 under A.M Mowbray the tower was heightened and a C12 door from the old church inserted in the west wall.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: St. Ebbe's has been part of the ecclesiastical fabric of Oxford for more than 1,000 years. Although the medieval and later church was largely rebuilt in the early C19, the tower and parts of the nave were retained and these (together with the finely carved C12 doorway) form an imposing composition especially since the Church Centre opened, its entrance and forecourt standing immediately alongside. The two-phase C19 rebuild is an austere structure yet William Fisher's early C19 interpretation of the Early English style is not without academic interest. It merits inclusion on the list at grade II*.
St. Ebbe's Church Centre of 2004 which wraps around the south-west corner of the church is excluded from the listing.
J. Sherwood and N. Pevsner, Oxfordshire (1974), 89, 292; V.C.H. Oxfordshire 4 (1979), 378-80