Napton on the Hill

Our Church History

Welcome to the Napton section of The Bridges Group of churches, website.

The name Napton means by derivation the village on the hill top, from Anglo-Saxon “cnaepp”, a hill top, and tun, a homestead or village; it is Neptone in the Domesday Book.

The church of St Lawrence is a Grade II* listed building and stands on the summit of Napton Hill in the middle of a small churchyard to the north of the village. A local legend tells us, that the church was to have been built where the present village green is located. However, the stones which lay there ready for building were found to have been taken overnight to the top of the hill, and as a consequence the builders decided to erect the church where the Spirits had dictated.

The church was originally built in the later part of the 12th or early 13th C and probably consisted of chancel, north and south transepts, nave and west tower. Changes and additions have been incorporated since that time, with the present nave arcades together with the north and south aisles being added in the 14th C, while the south door structure dates from the late 12th C and was probably moved from the original nave when the aisles were built.

The porch appears to have been built during the 16th C, while the stone shafts and tracery in the two porch windows is made up from early 13th C stonework. These windows were blocked up some centuries later. The seats on either side of the porch, are made at different levels for adults and children. Slits worn in the outer two porch columns, were possibly made by men sharpening their arrow heads whilst practising their skills when the Parish Butts were in, or near the churchyard. The land to the east of the church is now known as Butt Hill.

The unusual Vestry Door is a mystery and probably replaced the original outside door when the vestry was built in the mid 19th C. It has been suggested that the small hatch and iron grille incorporated into the main door enabled the vestry to be used as a confessional, but it may merely have been used for ventilation purposes. It would however, also permit anyone in the vestry to keep the church under observation. It is certainly an interesting and unusual feature.

The two stone altars situated in the north and south transepts are of the late 13th C and after being buried at the Reformation when stone altars were banned, they were uncovered in the 1950’s and 60’s following floor restoration in the transepts. They have since been placed in their current positions.

The church has six bells located in the upper 17th C tower. Four of the bells date from 1731, a fifth was installed in 1874 and the sixth in 1963.

The churchyard contains a large number of listed 17th C headstones, finely carved from local Hornton stone.

The first recorded vicar of the church in 1310, was a John de Napton, whilst the registers of Baptism, Marriages and Burials go back to 1604, when such records became compulsory.