St. Peter’s Church – Little Rissington

Credit: Michael Boyes
Photo: Michael Boyes, 8 August 2020

THE WRITTEN HISTORY OF LITTLE RISSINGTON begins with the Domesday Book Survey of 1086 when there were twenty-two households in the village which was already distinct from Great Rissington and Wyck Rissington.  The name is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon words Hrisen and dune meaning brushwood on a hill – locally the name is pronounced Rizzington.  In 1086 the local lord, Robert Doyly, was receiving £8 a year from his manor here but lordship over the village never remained long in the possession of any one family.  Tithes from the village were given by Robert Doyly II to his foundation for Augustinian canons at Oseney Abbey, Oxford, before 1142 and by 1151 the church had been given to Oseney by Ralph Basset II, a clerk to the good Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Basset family had earlier given the two mills in the village and some land here to the nuns of Elstow in Bedfordshire and in the 13th century the village was known as Rissington Basset.  The vicarage had been ordained by 1231 when the vicar was to be assisted by a chaplain, but the church was not appropriated to Oseney and within forty years the incumbent was again called a rector and remains so to this day.  The canons of Oseney presented rectors to St. Peter’s until the Dissolution when the patronage passed briefly to Christ Church Oxford, but since at least 1584 the Crown has been patron of the living, although the duty is now exercised by the Lord Chancellor.

Little remains now of the building which was given to Oseney before 1151; the two arches which divide the north aisle from the nave may be part of that church but the rest of the building’s datable features are later.

St. Peter’s church stands in the midst of fields at a little distance to the north of the present village.  The original manor house, called the Court House, and some other houses which stood nearby were demolished in the 17th century, leaving the church somewhat isolated.  The path from the village leads northwards past the old rectory, over a brook and up to the church which is built on a small promontory commanding beautiful views across the Windrush Valley.  Where the path crosses the brook there is an iron gate; traditionally a local bride must be lifted over this gate by her groom, although it has been known for some assistance to be provided by the best man!


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