History and Bells

A Brief History

A building dedicated to Christian worship has been on the site for over a thousand years. The original chapel was added to significantly in the 14th Century, and again in the 1850’s, when the current tower housing the bells was added.

Some of the oldest parts of the church are in the chancel area (where the Communion table and choir stalls now stand). This is believed to be the original part of the building.

There was a major development in 2018 when a new servery was installed at the west end of the church along with an accessible WC.

Items of particular note

  • the windows on either side of the chancel dating back to 1220

  • the “Easter Sepulchre” (a small recess) on the left hand wall by the choir stalls

  • Behind this choir stall is a stone slab taken from a tomb probably dating from the 16th century. Engraved on this stone is the coat of arms thought to come from the Towers or Tours family (from where the name “Towersey” is derived). This coat of arms includes the motto used in the Millennium window “In the LORD is all our trust.”

Hexagonal Jacobean pulpit, dated between 1603-1620

Solid Brass lectern given in 1892

12th century piscina in the right hand corner

Other interesting features

  • Stone section of the font (dating from Saxon times).

  • Millennium Window, depicting the life of Towersey at the end of the 20th century, and given by the village.

  • Font cover carved in the Jacobean style, which incorporates features from the pulpit and poppy heads, given in 1874

  • 16th Century clock in the tower. Originally in Rycote Chapel but was transferred to Thame Market House (now the Town Hall) in the 18th Century. It was presented to St Catherine’s in 1887.


St Catherine’s has a peal of four bells cast in 1627 and 1695, and a chimed Sanctus bell cast in 1800. We are one of only a handful of 4 bell towers in the UK. The bells are of conventional design, but retain the original bearing system of cast iron gudgeon pins into brass sleeve bearings, the bearings being adjusted by opposing dovetails within the original cast iron pillow blocks. The clappers are suspended from the crown staples on an iron to leather bearing surface, in the original manner. This causes some problems in ringing up and maintaining an even striking rate.

Sanctus: No inscription. Date 1800; possibly from the foundry of Henry Penn about 1700, but certain features of its construction suggest a more likely date of 1800. Weight 1cwt.

St. Catherine's is a member of the Oxfordshire Diocesan Guild of Bellringers, South Oxon Branch. Read more on the Bell Ringing Website and enjoy the view from the church tower with this photo-sphere image.