St.John's Church Hornton
Both church and village are built from the same golden Hornton stone - ironstone - which was once quarried locally and is now quarried at Edge Hill. The building dates from the late 12C. The nave and north aisle, the Norman pillars and the cylindrical font have survived from this period. In the 13C the chancel seems to have been re-constructed and the north aisle lengthened to the west.
In the early 14C the chancel was rebuilt and a chapel added on the north side. The south arcade of two bays was built and a clerestory added. A flat timbered roof replaced the steeply pitched one and the doorways and the windows were re-modelled. Later the tower was built. During the 15C a four light east window was added. The remains if a reredos of this period can be seen next to the pulpit.
The Church is a Grade I listed building
The church is notable for its wall-paintings. Once a common feature in English churches, most have been lost over the centuries. Hornton is fortunate to have several intriguing examples of medieval painting, giving us a glimpse of how rich and colourful the interior might have looked.
There is a fine 14C pieta on the left of the chancel and a figure of St.George. This painting depicts the Black Prince as St.George as can be seen from the fleur-de-lys, the Black Prince's emblem, in the background.
The famous painting over the chancel arch is known as the "Doom". These strange, pale figures represent part of a painting of The Last Judgement. From recent research it appears to date from 12C or 13C. It was overpainted in suceeding centuries, including a coat of limewash during Cromwell's time. Originally it must have extended over the entire chancel arch and down both sides underneath the pieta and St.George.
In the floor of the south aisle there are two brass figures purported to be of a yeoman, Thomas Sharman (died 1586) and his son.
There is also a small fragment of medieval glass remaining, depicting the arms of the Verdun family who were owners of the lay manor of Horley and Hornton.
In 1390 Silas, a priest from Canons Ashby, was the first recorded curate to live at Hornton and was responsible for the building of the tower.
He lived in what was then a large house of two bays and tended his own garden by the holy well. This plot is now over the wall to the west of the Church. The spring and well can still be seen and, until Hornton went over to Banbury water, it used to provide the best water for a cup of tea in the village.
Up until 1438 both Horley and Hornton residents were buried in the churchyard at Hornton. There are resting stones for coffins in the Church porch and there used to be a lynch-gate in which coffins could be stood whilst bearers got their breath back.
The Church fell into disrepair in the latter half of the 19C and this continued until 1916. Trees were actually growing through the roof and people has to bring umbrellas to Church. A house was built in the churchyard and the Church itself was used as a depository for furniture when people moved house. The vicar attempted to raise money, but with little effect.
Today the Church is well cared for but still requires considerable upkeep. We are very grateful for the generous donations of visitors.
Acknowledgments to J.P.Bowes & G.G.Walker. April 1998