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.

Teachers have said: ‘I was stunned by the church!’

‘I thought the project was excellent and was very well run. The children got so much out of the day! We definitely want to do some more work in Iffley next year and make this a regular topic for our summer term.’

Children have said: ‘It’s been the bestest day!’

‘I didn’t know about yew trees. They are poisonous.’

‘I found the little bird in the nest right inside the church!’


Visitors come to the church of St Mary the Virgin, Iffley for many reasons, but primarily for the extraordinary beauty of the building and for its sense of spirituality.9-angelic-musician







Iffley Church offers pupils a unique experience through which they explore and enhance their study of subjects such as RE, History, Art and Music. We welcome groups of all sizes and endeavour to provide a high quality service based on the individual requirements of each group.


SETTINGThe church is a safe-feeling ‘containing’ space in which it is easy to move around.4-interior-of-church

1-the-ancient-yew-treeThe churchyard is a large, defined space dotted with trees, plants, gravestones, and full of birds and other living creatures.





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



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.nh-school-walking-2016-07-14-11-42-52

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.








Our Education Co-ordinator can offer whole- or half-day sessions on curriculum-related topics :


Where this happens – 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.






Where this happens – Inside the church

  • Learn about Christian worship and how key points of the building are used.
  • Spot and learn about the Signs and symbols of the Christian faith.
  • Pilgrimage. Learn abut why pilgrimage was so important to medieval people and why it is a practice that still goes on today.
    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.


Where this happens – In the Church 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.
  • Medieval Minds: illuminated manuscripts, mediaeval literature, art and music.


Where this happens – In the Churchyard and the Glebe Field.

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    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    Do you supply materials for craft activities?

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

Q    How much does it cost?

A    Depending on the purpose of your visit and the nature of your activities, there will be a maximum charge of £2 per pupil/student.

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.

Q    Do you recommend follow-up activities?   

A    We offer support for follow up activities, and can visit the school to see work the children wish to share. We value your feedback and hope you will come back again for more enriching days at Iffley Church.


All school, college or university groups need to book before visiting. Please call Penny Tyack on  07813 692866 or email