Churches of the Diocese of Oxford


Mediaeval churches in the Oxford diocese were mostly built in stone and few are pre-Norman structures. Most have been rebuilt, extended and modified over the centuries in distinctly different styles to meet changing liturgical, clerical needs, and popular beliefs and practices.

Distinctly different building styles are a useful but not precise guide to dating these buildings and this extends to fittings and decoration which are seldom all of the same period. The furnishings (fonts, screens, altarpieces, pulpits, lecterns, stained glass, mural paintings, timber roofs and benches or pews) all help to explain and record how a church has evolved as well as its artistic significance. Monuments and other memorials add specific people and provide a social context to the local history of a church.

Full use will be made of fine examples from churches in the Oxford diocese, i.e. the city and county of Oxford, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, with a few contrasting or spectacular examples from neighbouring counties.

The course will provide an opportunity for students to develop and apply what they are studying to specific local examples of their choice from any period of that church's construction and furnishing.

Programme details

Courses starts: 24 Apr 2023

Please note: there will be no class on the 1st, 8th and 29th May due to the public bank holidays.

Week 1: a. The function of parish and other churches and their liturgical uses. b. Anglo-Saxon churches and the minster system.

Week 2:  Norman parishes and the features of Romanesque churches.

Week 3:  Early English/first pointed architecture and chancel developments.

Week 4:  The Decorated style and its many forms and features.

Week 5:  The long period of Perpendicular developments in styles of building design and furnishing.

Week 6:  Chantry chapels, charitable foundations and commemorative tombs in the later middle ages.

Week 7:  The Reformation settlements and liturgical arrangements for worship in the Church of England.

Week 8: Classical church design and furnishing and the reintroduction of some gothick features

Week 9:  The Gothic Revival in architecture and ritualism with their impact of old and new churches.

Week 10:  Twentieth century church designs and plans and the wider impact of the liturgical movement and social innovations.


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr David Boswell

David Boswell has spent 30 tears teaching at the Open University and for OUDCE on villa gardens'  history and design, the architectural history of Italy, Malta, Central Europe, France and English parish churches with research in  Sicily, Malta, Zambia and Britain.    

Course aims

To promote understanding of how the structure and fittings particularly of parish churches have been developed in accordance with their uses, and the means of of recognising their styles of construction and the purposes of their modes of furnishing.

Course Objectives

1. To demonstrate the architectural styles in which Oxford diocesan churches have been built.

2. To explain the functions of church furnishings and decoration as they have been installed with specific intentions.

3. To encourage the observation and understanding of these buildings from the use of class illustrations, further reading and students' own visits.

Teaching methods

Classes will take the form of illustrated lectures in two parts with ample opportunity for student's observations and discussion. A central break will provide opportunity for personal enquiries and discussion of particular issues as well as the perusal of relevant books and guides  laid out in the room. Handouts of directly relevant illustrative material will also be provided. With the recommended reading the latter will provide will provide a common grounding to use as resources for students to apply to their specific case studies.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Recognise the main styles of English architectural developments and apply them to give approximate dates to local church features.

2. Understand the liturgical and other functions of special furniture and fittings found in parish churches and the changing ways in which their spaces have been used.

3. Become familiar with church plans and the different materials used to build them.

4. Make practical use of what they have learnt to make an elementary study of a specific local church of their choice.

Assessment methods

The usual assignment will take the form of a written essay of the appropriate length with any relevant plans or other illustrations of a particular church, or compared churches, chosen by the student, and describing its architectural features and development as well as its mode of furnishing and other particular monumental and decorative features. Joint projects could be mounted with separate reports on the architectural development of the building and its furnishings etc.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

No preliminary knowledge is expected of those who apply to study this course.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)