Living Stones at St Mary’s Iffley offers an education programme in celebration of the history and purpose of the church. Through exploring the building and its setting, Living Stones gives children and adults insights into the past, the present and our preparedness for the future.


St Mary’s church was built in 1160. It stands in a rural setting above the Thames near Oxford. Its sturdy Norman architecture and 850-year old sculptures instill a sense of wonder and let us glimpse a world-view strangely different from our own. Older still is the yew tree that stands in the churchyard, a silent witness to the so-called Dark Ages.

We welcome all ages, faiths and abilities and support curriculum studies ranging through History, English, Maths, Art and Design, Music and RE. We also offer workshops in conservation and stone carving. Trained teachers work with schools to prepare sessions, and volunteers lead small groups to instill a sense of discovery and fun.


During July 2017 the Norman sculptures around the outside of Iffley Church will be being protected from weathering through the application of a lime-wash ‘shelter coat’. Children from two local schools will be donning hard hats and high-viz vests, climbing the scaffolding and, with close supervision and instruction, working on the stones. They will gain a unique insight into Romanesque art and architecture, they can study the effects of weather and pollution and learn how to preserve our heritage for the centuries to come. This is an experience that will extend their understanding of the environment, material sciences and history.

The two schools are Rose Hill Primary School and St Mary & St John Primary School. I you would like to know more about this or future opportunities for schools, please email

SETTINGthe church is a safe-feeling ‘containing’ space in which it is easy to move around;


The churchyard is a large, defined space dotted with trees, plants, gravestones, and full of birds and other living creatures;


The Village Hall has one large and one small ‘classroom’, kitchen, toilet facilities and wifi. nh-school-clay-modeling2016-07-14-10-40-14nh-school-weaving2016-07-14-10-39-51

Iffley Village consists of a cluster of old stone farmhouses strung out along the winding village street, and a central untouched meadow known as The Glebe Field. Many of the cottages, including the Village Hall, are thatched.

A 5-minute walk down a lane leads to The River Thames, Iffley Lock and the site of the medieval mill. Arrival by boat from Oxford can be arranged through Salters Steamers.


CONTACT US All school, college or university groups need to book before visiting. Depending on the purpose of your visit and the nature of your activities, there will be a minimum charge of £2 per pupil/student. Please call 07813 692866 or email for more information.

We look forward to welcoming you and your pupils.


Q    How can I find information for children about the church and its setting?

A     We have specially prepared detective trails for children for use in and around the church which we will discuss with you when you are planning your visit. We always invite teachers to make personal contact with the Education Co-ordinator and, if possible, to make a preparatory visit to the church. During this visit you will be shown the building, the churchyard and, if possible, the Village Hall (which will be your pupils’ classroom). You will be given information about the history and architecture which you may wish to tailor to your own curriculum needs.

Have a general look on for information about the history, architecture and setting of the church.

Q    Is there parking for a coach?

A    Yes, but please make sure you tell us before planning to arrive by coach. And please note that Church Way, Iffley, is quite narrow.

Q    Is there disabled access?

A    There is a disabled toilet in the Village Hall and level pathways through the churchyard, but there are some steps inside the church.

Q    What are your suggestions for curriculum-related activities for primary school children?

A    Our Education Co-ordinator can offer whole- or half-day sessions comprising:


In the Village Hall

–    Learn about what Medieval Life was like in Iffley

–    Explore and handle: everyday medieval artefacts

–    Dismantle a model of the church, identify key parts of the building and reconstruct it.

–    Art and Craft: make and decorate a Norman sculpture in clay; use of range of materials including photography to create individual or group art works

–    Dress up as a medieval peasant, aristocrat or priest.


Outside and inside the church

–    Look closely at the sculptural and architectural features of the building –  Art and Design, Literacy

–    Draw and/or measure parts or the whole of the building – Maths, IT, Art and Design.

–    Experience how we in our generation work to preserve the past through the imminent conservation project.


Inside the church

  • Learn about Christian worship and how key points of building are used.
  • Reflect on emotions, relationships and spiritual awareness.
  • Role-play in costume, story of Iffley’s villagers in 1160 attending the dedication of the church; walk round interior of the church, spotting the original consecration crosses.

In the Churchyard.

Environmental studies. The Yew Tree in the churchyard is 1500 years old (45 generations ago). It is the oldest living thing in Oxfordshire. The next oldest thing here is the church, 850 years old.

  • Study the trees, flowers, minibeasts, birds.
  • Consider the life cycle, life and death
  • Explore the village – a walk around the Norman village: the mediaeval rectory, the lock, the site of the mediaeval mill, old farmhouses, the Glebe field.

Q    What are your suggestions for curriculum-related activities for secondary school children?

A    All topics suggested for younger can be appropriately tailored for secondary school children. In addition we will be offering participation in the conservation work due to take place on the precious Norman sculptures during the spring of 2017. We can also involve your students in an extended art project and in stone-carving workshops.

Q    Do you supply materials for craft activities that you offer for primary school children?

A    We can supply most materials for craft activities, but will need to discuss plans with you before your visit.

Q    What is your Risk Assessment policy?

A    Our Risk Assessment policy is comprehensive, and includes a requirement that groups including children and vulnerable adults carry out and submit their own Risk Assessment for the visit before arriving. If Living Stones considers your Risk Assessment inadequate we reserve the right to cancel your visit.

All visiting children and vulnerable adults must be accompanied at all times by a responsible adult.