St Helen's Church, Abingdon

Exterior (to Interior)
St Helen's, Abingdon
  Notes in italics from Berkshire by Nikolaus Pevsner (1966)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
  Click photos below to enlarge  

The steeple rises splendidly at the S end of East St Helens. It is a C13 steeple (around 1200), which is surprising considering the rest of the church (mainly 1400s).


Doorway to the N with shafts with leaf capitals. Smaller blank arches l. and r. Lancet windows with continuous roll mouldings above. Pairs of lancets as bell openings. Perp parapet with pinnacles (Perpendicular, 1400s). Spire with one set of lucarnes at the foot and a band above. The steeple has often been restored. The spire was last rebuilt in 1888.


To this tower, which was always a N tower, a C13 church belonged. This consisted of nave and N aisle. Part of the E wall still remains, but the rest was remodelled when, in the C15 and C16, Abingdon built itself an exceedingly spacious new church with double aisles N and S. ...

The E side borders immediately on a street ... there are five gables of different pitch and details.


These pictures show the five gables from south to north, youngest to oldest. Originally the church built around the early 1200s consisted only of the first two aisles from the north, forming a north aisle and nave, with tower in the north-east corner. 

In 1420 a third aisle, the St Helen Aisle, was added on the south which became the new nave and with the highest gable..

This was followed by another aisle on the south side, the St Katherine Aisle. In 1539 the fifth aisle was added on the south. 

In 1873-97 the High Church neo-gothic renovations took place.


One examines the exterior by entering the churchyard from the tower through an Elizabethan archway. Between steeple and two-storeyed N porch a formerly two-storeyed structure supposed to have been the priestís dwelling.

  The porch has to the front three small niches. Then (renewed) Dec windows, i.e. on the N wall of the C13 N aisle.  

The W view is all Perp (1400s), four large windows, but no regularity. Also a W porch. (1873).

  Above the door a statue of St Helen holding a miniature model of the restored church.  
  The outer south aisle is late Perpendicular, built in 1539 by Katherine Audlett to re-bury her husband John, the last steward of Abingdon Abbey before its dissolution.   
  In the churchyard of St Helen a small square brick box with a pyramid roof, which is the Organ Blowing Chamber. Details at the town website.  
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