12th Century Tympanum

A prized possession of St Michael's Church is the tympanum over the inside of the south door leading to the porch. The Victoria History of Wiltshire says that the influence of the art of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts is to be seen in "the superb sculptured tympanum at Highworth, depicting the combat of Samson and the Lion. The lion with his huge eye, curling tail and dramatic slant to his body, and Samson in his short cloak, with his three-quarter profile, are both figures familiar to these manuscripts……. At Highworth, therefore, we have a piece of sculpture dateable to perhaps the fourth decade of the 12th century. The Highworth tympanum thus forms a fitting and not unworthy conclusion to the long and distinguished history of Anglo-Saxon art in Wiltshire.


The tympanum has been moved several times. We are told that it was originally set in the outside wall of the church, over the south door. In the 19th century it was moved from the wall over the fireplace in the priest's room to the outside wall of the Vestry. It was moved to its present position in 1904.

Cromwellian Cannon Ball

A cannon ball used to hang near the altar in the Warneford Chapel. This has now been put away in safe keeping, but can be seen on request. Tradition says that during the Civil War this cannon ball made the rough hole in the stonework on the outside of the church, at the left of the west door.

On Friday 27June 1645 Cromwell's forces, en route from Lechlade to Wanborough, drew up before the church and prepared to storm it. A Royalist garrison inside the church, led by one Major Hen, surrendered and Cromwell's men took 70 prisoners from the church.

For more on the furnishings of the church please see the pages on the chest, the memory table and the bell tower.