The real importance to Scott of St. Mark’s, Swindon, was that it introduced him to the Great Western director, George Gibbs (1785-1842), whose family was soon to become an important source of work for Sir George Gilbert Scott. George Gibbs had just inherited the manor of Clifton Hampden in Oxfordshire when he died on 21 August 1842. He was succeeded by his eldest son Henry Hucks Gibbs (1819-1907), who immediately commissioned Scott to restore Clifton Hampden church with a legacy from his father’s estate and to place in it an elaborate tomb for his father with recumbent effigy, commemorating the benefaction. The work on the church was carried out between 1843-4 and was the start of a twenty year programme during which Scott transformed the small village into a highly picturesque combination of buildings and landscape. He was particularly helped by the natural beauty of the setting, with the old church perched on a cliff-top by the edge of the river Thames. This, like so many others, had been allowed to fall into a ruinous state in the eighteenth century. Scott wrote that ‘we had hardly anything left to restore – it is rather a refoundation (keeping in the main the old floor)’. The result is a Victorian church built of rubble stone walling with smooth ashlar dressings. Scott took the remains of the old church as his basis for his design, which has early fourteenth century details, particularly an elaborate bell turret which sits diagonally over the western gable and has a small spire and ogee arches over the bell openings. The cost of the restoration was £1,800, which necessitated supplementing George Gibbs’ legacy by funds from his widow and son.
Sir George Gilbert Scott also carried later work on the church in 1864-6, enlarging the north aisle and adding a vestry and organ chamber. At the same time, he provided a pulpit and a chancel screen in brass with bronze figures.
Victoria County History of Oxfordshire, VII, p. 25.
Pevsner, N. and Sherwood, J., Oxfordshire, Buildings of England (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1974), p. 936.