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Cotswold Churches

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Eastleach St Martin, Gloucestershire - St Michael and St Martin’s Church

An attractive old church now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust


This a lovely church in a tiny Gloucestershire village on the River Eastleach and separated from its equally small neighbour, Eastleach Turville, by a clapper bridge. In spring the church is surrounded by daffodils and must be a strong contester for the title of the prettiest church in Gloucestershire.



It is a simple church founded in the C12th. It has grown a bit over the years with chancel added in the C13th and side aisles in the C14th. It was reroofed and restored in the C19th without destroying its character.



It has a sturdy square tower with low pointed stone slab roof. Later a large Decorated style window was added in the base of the west wall. The nave and chancel are long and low with the remains of a small bell cote above the chancel arch. There is a chapel on the north side and a porch on the south. This covers a Norman doorway with a round arch supported by pillars.



Inside it is equally as attractive with whitewashed walls and a wood beam ceiling. Pointed arches lead into the chancel, north chapel and back of the tower. The plain glass windows make the church light and airy.



Opposite the door is a C15th octagonal font with quatrefoils containing flowers carved round the bowl. The cover is a Victorian addition.The solid wooden pews are Tudor too. Those on the north have solid carved posts on the tops.





The pulpit is Jacobean with a small carving at the top of the panels. The lectern stands on a pedestal made from either an Elizabethan table leg or bed post.



On the west wall is a benefactor’s board.

The chancel contains a simple altar with gold curtains hanging round the sides. On the south wall is a small piscina. In the chancel is a 1662 chest, old table and lovely carved priest’s chair.

The north chapel has two large Decorated windows which are set in pointed arches with small carved heads and foliage at the base. On the back wall is a screen made from the timbers of the old roof when it was replaced in 1886. Behind would have been the vestry but is now a storage area.

Just across the river is St Andrew’s Church in Eastleach Turville. The population wasn’t large enough to support two churches, so the livings were merged. St Michael and St Martin’s was declared redundant and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The trust allows the church to hold a Christmas Carol service by Candlelight. It is open every day and there is parking on the road outside. The nearest post code is GL7 3NN and the grid reference is SP 202052.

It is a lovely walk to St Andrew’s church along the track through the churchyard to the river bank. Turn left and cross the river by the clapper bridge.



Turn right for the church. Return across the road bridge for a circular walk.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Eastleach Turville, Gloucestershire - St Andrew’s Church

A Norman doorway and tympanum


Eastleach is a delightful small settlement on the banks of the River Leach. It developed from two separate manors and is made up of two parts, each with its own church. Across the river is the redundant church of St Michael and St Martin, reached by a short walk along the river bank and across the clapper bridge.

Both churches date from the early C12th and are very similar, except that St Andrew’s has double Norman windows at the top of the tower and a saddleback roof added in the 13th or 14th century.



It has a superb Norman doorway with a carved tympanum above it. Slender round arches with either spiral or chevron carving support a round arch. This is has more chevrons and round billets carved round it and extends down to the ground. The semi circular tympanum has Christ in Majesty in the centre with angels on either side.







The inside of the church has whitewashed walls and wooden beam roof. The elm was cut in the parish.





Pointed arches lead into the chancel and north chapel, which contains the organ. There are monuments on the back wall and a benefactors' board.

By the door is a carved C15th octagonal font. Pews are very simple. The Jacobean pulpit has elaborately carved panels.



The shaft of the lectern originally came from Tewkesbury Abbey and for many years was used by a parishioner as a parrot stand. He gave it to the church when the bird died.

The chancel has a small altar set under three lancet windows. There is an old chest dated 1678 and a priest’s chair dated 1632.



The church is still used regularly and lovingly looked after by the parishioners. It is open during the day and there is parking outside.

The nearest post code is GL7 3NH and the grid reference is SP 202054.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Elkstone, Gloucestershire - Church of St John the Evangelist

A wonderful Norman church


Pevsner describes this as one of the most interesting and best preserved Norman churches in the area. It has a splendid Norman doorway and two glorious Norman arches at the east end.

The original church was begun in 1160 and had a nave and chancel divided by a central tower. The tower collapsed or was demolished in the C13th and the present tower was built at the west end in the C15th.

The church is set on a rise to the north of the village, next to the large old rectory. The tall square tower at the west end is battlemented with big gargoyles at the corners. The nave has a corbel shelf with carved heads, centaur and griffin.



At the east end is a Lovely Norman window with ball flower and crenelation carving.



The south wall of the chancel is heavily buttressed as it is beginning to bulge outwards. The chancel is unusual as it is very tall with a room above it. This was reached by a small doorway behind the pulpit and had nesting holes in the walls for doves.

Entry is through the south porch which has stone benches on the sides. The heavy wooden door is studded with iron nails and has big iron hinges and handle. Above the doorway is a marvellously carved tympanum supported on pillars with elaborately carved capitals. This depicts Christ in Majesty holding a book and giving a blessing with his right hand. Round him are the symbols of the four evangelists; the lion of St Mark, the ox of St Luke, the eagle of St John and the winged angel of St Matthew. On the top left is the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). Above is the hand of God. Round the arch is beak head carving with a double row of chevrons with small balls between them.



Entering the church, the eyes are immediately drawn to the two glorious Norman arches set on their supporting pillars with carved capitals.





These were originally the transept arches supporting the central tower. They now separate choir and sanctuary. The arches are decorated with chevron carving and balls. The outer arch ends in dragon heads.



The ceiling is vaulted and has a central boss with four grotesque faces. There are two benches. The tiny Norman window on the north wall has an image of St John and is in memory of the Rector 1893-1909.

The north and south windows of the sanctuary contain yellow glass which bathes the sanctuary in golden light. The tiny Norman east window has flowers and chevron carving round the arch. The stained glass image of the Virgin and Child dates from 1920.



The nave has a wood ceiling with painted shields at the base of the beams. Walls are whitewashed. The box pews are C17th. The blocked north doorway has the remains of an unidentifiable wall painting above it.



Round the back of the west end is the remains of the stone bench which originally went round the base of the walls and provided the only seating in the early medieval church. It was for use by the old or infirm, hence the expression 'the weak shall go to the wall'.

The octagonal font is set at the back of the nave and is a typical C15th Gloucestershire font with quatrefoil carvings with flower motifs set on a carved base. There are more carved flowers under the bowl. The pulpit is beautifully carved Jacobean woodwork which sits incongruously on a stone base.



On the opposite side of the chancel arch is a small carved reading desk.

There is a carved wood screen across the base of the tower. This has a vaulted ceiling with carved bosses and winged angels on the sides. Propped up against a wall are two old grave slabs. One is C13th and has a cross. The other is C10th with a non-Christian pattern.

The church is open daily. We found the best place to park was on the side road approaching the village from the A471, take the first turn right and park along the wider bit of road near the junction. It is a short walk to the gate into the church.

The nearest post code is GL53 9PD and the grid reference is SO 968123.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire

Medieval stained glass and the grave of Tiddles the church cat


Fairford is an attractive small Cotswold town whose wealth derived from the wool trade. The church was rebuilt at the end of the 15thC at the expense of John Tame, one of the wealthy wool merchants. Unfortunately he died before the church was completed. It is a superb example of a perpendicular wool church but what makes it really unique is that it contains a complete set of medieval narrative glass covering history of Christian church.

It is a big church with large central tower with an open carved balustrade and double crocketted pinnacles The nave, side aisles, chancel and south porch are battlemented with many tall crocketted pinnacles. It is worth walking round the outside of the church to admire the stonework.



Near the south porch is the gravestone of Tiddles, the church cat, 1963-1980. Tiddles arrived as a stray in Fairford, Gloucestershire and was adopted by the verger and his wife. She became a firm favourite and was soon. Attending church services and sitting on the knees of anyone in the congregation that would let her. When she died, a local stone mason decided she deserved a memorial in the churchyard and this can be seen near the main door.



In the early years of this century, she had a successor. Tiddles 2 was seen wandering homeless around the village and was adopted by the church. She was fed by volunteers and had a basket in the church porch,. Tiddles 2 died in 2010 and doesn’t seem to have a successor ….yet.

Entry is through the south porch, with a statue of Mary and Jesus set in a niche under an ogee arch. Inside it has a fan vaulted ceiling and an old door studded with nails.



Inside it is a big and impressive church.



Light floods through the stained glass windows filling the church with colour. The detail and imagery is amazing. The glass was installed by Edmund, John Tame’s son. The windows around the side aisles cover the Bible stories. The Crucifixion and Passion is in pride of place in the east window.



The Lady chapel covers the life of the Virgin Mary, and the Nativity.



To the south of the east window and into the Corpus Christi Chapel is the Resurrection.



On the west window is the Last Judgement with the judgement of Solomon and the Judgement of David on either side.



The rest of the windows in the side aisles contain images of Old Testament prophets, New Testament apostles and saints.



The windows in the clerestory include persecutors of the church as well as more saints.



Having been wowed by the windows, we then turned our attention to the rest of the church. The central crossing has pointed arches with bell ropes hanging. On either side of the crossing arch are the remains of a wall painting with angels.



The arcades have tall slender fluted arches with low pointed arches. Above are clerestory windows. The wood beamed roof has carved stone angles with shields at the ends of the beams.



A C16th rood screen with carved base panels and tracery above separates the chancel from the rest of the church. There are C16th carved parclose screens round the chapels. The altar has a bright scarlet curtain round with gold angels holding candles at the corners. The choir stalls have carved end panels and fronts as well as beautifully carved misericords.







The Lady Chapel has a cloth reredos with a painted image of the Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and St John. Beneath the parclose screen is a large tomb chest of John Tame who died in 1500. On the top is a brass of John and his wife.





On the opposite wall is the Lygon tomb of Katherine Denys d 1584 and the widow of the grandson of John Tame. She remarried Roger Lygon and the effigies are of Katherine and Roger.

Simon Jenkin’s in his book “England’s Thousand Best Churches” gives this his highest rating of 5*. It is definitely a 5* church. The glass is amazing and there is some excellent woodwork, especially the medieval misericords.

The church is open from 10-5 in the summer (4pm in winter). There are welcoming stewards on duty who gave us a leaflet with details of the stained glass windows. There is a large free car park opposite the church. The nearest post code is GL7 4AF and the grid reference is SP 152012
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Fulbrook, Oxfordshire - St James the Great

An unspoilt Norman church that avoided the worse excesses of a Victorian makeover



St James the Great is a Norman church, showing traces of earlier Saxon work and avoiding the worst of the Victorian make-overs. It is surrounded by a churchyard with yew trees with cyclamen growing round the bases.

It has a simple Norman tower with louvred bell windows and a sundial on the south wall. The low flat nave has a row of small clerestory windows on the south side. Beyond is the small chancel. Remains of Saxon work can be seen at the base of the south wall.



Entry is through the south porch. Two rows of small round pillars frame the door and support pointed arches. There is beak head carving round the inner arch.

Inside, round Norman pillars with carved capitals and pointed arches, separate north aisle and nave. The wooden beamed roof has carved bosses and there are carved stone heads at the base of the wall supports.



At the east end of the north aisle is a pointed arch into what would once have been a chapel, but now contains the organ and vestry.

There is a lovely round Norman chancel arch. This has the remains of wall paintings at the top SE corner, but it is impossible to make out any details.



On the north arcade is a small painting of a foot. There are traces of other paintings on the north wall of the vestry.



The chancel is simply furnished with altar, altar rail and a priest’s chair. The east window contains C19th stained glass. The other windows are plain glass. There is a small brass memorial on the wall by the altar.



At the back of the nave is a simple Norman tub font.

On the south wall is the Royal Coat of Arms. A board gives details of the restoration of the church in 1827 at a cost of £891. It lists people and organisations who contributed. Friends of the Rector gave the princely sum of £17. On the north wall is a benefice board.

The church is open daily. Fulbrook is to the north east of Burford and the church is set back off the A 361, the main road through Fulbrook and it is easy to miss the turn to the church. There is some parking space by the church but turning is difficult. The post code is OX18 4BN and the grid reference is SP 258130.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Hailes, Gloucestershire - Hailes Church

An unspoilt and isolated church with lovely wall paintings



Hailes Church is a tiny Norman church set in the depths of the Gloucestershire countryside on the edge of the Cotswolds, north east of Winchcombe. Surrounded by a small churchyard, it is well off the tourist beat and receives few visitors. This is a shame as it is a lovely church with some nice wall paintings.

The church dates from 1175 and is in fact older than nearby Hailes Abbey. There is no settlement around it apart from a couple of farms. The villagers were moved to nearby Didbrook when the church came under the control of the abbey. The church was used by pilgrims, visitors and workmen to the abbey who were not allowed to use the abbey church.

It is a small building with nave, south porch, chancel and tiny bell cote, built from honey coloured Cotswold stone with a stone slate roof.


The church which is equally simple inside. There is no electricity. It is still lit by candles.



At the back of the nave is a very battered C13th octagonal stone font with a lead lining. The box pews are the originals. The very simple, panelled pulpit is 1606.

On the south wall is a painting of a hunter and dogs chasing a hare which is trying to hide beneath a tree.



On the north wall is a very faded painting of St Christopher with the Christ Child.



Across the chancel arch is a rood screen with panelled base and open fretwork top. The stairs
leading to the now long gone rood loft can still be seen leading off the back of the chancel arch. The pillars and columns supporting the chancel arch still have remains of paint on them.

The chancel has benches round three sides, medieval tiles on the floor and the remains of a sedilia on either side of the priest's door on the south wall. The east window contains pieces of medieval glass rescued from Hailes Abbey after the dissolution.



There are images of nine of the twelve apostles with sentences from the Creed written above them.

On either side of the altar are old grave slabs. One has a foliate cross, the other a simple cross.

The walls of the chancel are painted with a brick pattern with the heraldic arms of pilgrims and patrons of Hailes Abbey, especially the double headed eagle of the founder of Hailes Abbey, Richard, Earl of Cornwall and brother of Henry III.



Window arches are painted with a black and red chevron pattern. Above the arches are figures from the Medieval Bestiary. On the north wall is a winged elephant charging a griffin. On the south wall is a basilisk and a griffin separated by the bare branches of a tree.



Above the sedilia is an owl.



On the side of the chancel arch is a leopard, recognisable by its spots.



In recesses are paintings of St Catherine of Alexandria and St Margaret of Antioch.



Round the top of the chancel wall between the timber supports of the roof is a painted frieze with unidentified figures, possibly the apostles and other Biblical characters.



The church was open when we visited. If locked, it may be possible to get a key from the Fruit Farm further down the road. This also has a tea room. There is plenty of parking outside the church. The nearest post code is GL54 5PB and the grid reference is SP 048301.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Church of St John the Baptist, Inglesham, Wiltshire

A marvellous small church, forgotten by time and gently mouldering away



Down a short farm lane just off the A361, the church is all that remains of the lost medieval village of Inglesham. Set in the depths of the countryside and surrounded by water meadows,
with only the old rectory and a farm for company, this is a small unchanged church, neglected by time.

From the outside it is uninspiring, a box like church with a small bell cote at the west end and a big porch. Outside the porch is the remains of a C15th cross.



Little is known about the history of the church. There seems to have been a Saxon church here, although the present building is probably C13th and internally has changed little since Cromwell’s time. There was a major restoration planned in the 1880s but fortunately this was resisted by William Morris who was a founder member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and lived in the nearby Kelmscott Manor. Instead it was sympathetically restored to preserve much of the original work.

The carving of the Virgin and Child, now at the east end of the south aisle, is Saxon.



There are the remains of wall paintings spanning over 600 years and often painted one on top of the other, up to seven layers thick.

The unused north door has huge hinges and is set under a trefoil arch. The south door has the remains of a sanctuary knocker and is studded with nails. Above the door is a C16th inscription.



Inside it is a lovely church, gently mouldering. Arcades with round pillars with carved capitals and round arches on the south side and pointed on the north, separate nave from the wide side aisles. The floor is uneven stone slabs. The box pews would have been much taller but have been cut down. A few of original height survive at the back of the north aisle.



To the left of the door is an octagonal font with quatrefoils with flower motifs round the bowl. To the right of the door, a C15th or C16th parclose screen encloses the south aisle. This has a panelled base with carved ogee arches. Above these is a narrow carved band of flower heads. Above are small tracery arches, still with the remains of red paint.





There is another parclose screen between the north aisle and nave.

By the chancel arch is a Jacobean pulpit with carved panels and sounding board above. In front of it is a reader’s desk.



The Lord of the Manor’s pews in the chancel have carved decoration around the top. A similar pattern is also used round the top of the altar table.



There are three blind arches on the north wall of the chancel and a small piscina and aumbry cupboards.



Behind the altar is the remains of a C13th painted reredos with parts of angels. At the base are red and white horizontal stripes. The painting has been overpainted with a later inscription.



Above the chancel arch, at the sides are the remains of wall paintings of two flensing angels. In the centre is a later table with the Ten Commandments.



The Creed and Lord’s Prayer are painted on the north wall, again over earlier paintings.



The Royal Coat of Arms hangs above the north arcade.

This is a fascinating church with lots of atmosphere. We opened the door and our first words were “This is great”. The church is no longer used and is looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. It is open everyday and there is parking at the end of the road. The nearest post code is SN6 7RD and the grid referrence is SU 205984.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Lechlade, Gloucestershire - St Lawrence’s Church

A large but rather uninspiring wool church


Lechlade is a rather work-a-day town on the upper reaches of the River Thames with a good range of shops. In the C13th it was an important wool town and there was a priory and a church here. The priory was dissolved in 1472 when a brand new church was built. In 1510 fire destroyed the roof and interior. During the rebuilding, a clerestory was added. The church has remained virtually unchanged since then, apart from a spire and south porch being added in the C16th. It has been described as one of the “six finest churches in Gloucestershire”. We’re not sure that it would feature in our top six list.

It has a tall square battlemented tower with corner pinnacles and a tall slender spire. The nave is battlemented while the chancel has an open carved balustrade. This and the side aisle are decorated with pinnacles. It is worth walking round the outside to look at the detail of the carving, especially the gargoyles.



Entry is through the west door. Inside it is a big church with tall fluted pillars with pointed arches.



The clear glass clerestory windows make the inside very light. There is a simple wood beamed roof. Hanging from the ceiling is a large brass chandelier dating from 1730.

The C15th octagonal font still has traces of paint in the carvings. The stone pulpit is C19th.
Near it is a brass of John Townsend, a wealthy wool merchant.

There are two old carvings which are thought to have come either from the priory or the older church. One depicts the martyrdom of St Agatha with a sword thrust through her naked breasts.



The other stone is square and is thought to represent a baptism scene, although it is badly damaged.



Above the chancel arch is the Royal Coat of Arms. The rood screen has simple base panels and delicate tracery above. On top is a stylised cross with small carved angels on either side.

The organ is at the end of the north aisle. The memorials to the dead of both World Wars is on the wall of the north aisle.

At the end of the south aisle is a chapel dedicated to St Blaise, who was the patron saint of wool combers. In the corner is the monument to George Coxeter who died in 1699.

The base of the walls of the chancel are panelled, with nicely carved tops. The wooden reredos below the stained glass east window has a carving of the Agnus Dei with a cross in the centre, with the symbols of the four evangelists at the sides.



The chancel roof has elaborately carved corbels. The bosses have been recently recoloured and are very colourful. They include ten angels with the instruments of the passion.



The vestry door is mentioned in all the guides as it has a carving of a pomegranate, the symbol of Catherine of Aragon. We weren’t sure which was the pomegranate, but it is a nicely carved door set under an ogee arch.



The church is open daylight hours and there is free parking in the market place, although this can get busy. the nearest post code is GL7 3AB and the grid reference is SU 215995.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Little Barrington, Gloucestershire - St Peter’s Church

An attractive small Cotswold church


Little Barrington is an attractive village in the Windrush valley to the west of Burford. Stone built houses are set round a long green with a stream flowing through it. The church is on the eastern edge of the village.

There has been a church here since the C12th and the doorway, nave arches and tower base date from this time. The nave was rebuilt in the C14th, the windows altered in the C15th and the church was restored in the C19th.

The church has nave, chancel and north aisle which has a small square battlemented tower at the west end. Above the chancel arch is a small belfry with a sanctus bell. Unfortunately we didn’t walk round the church to find the tympanum above the blocked north door with a carving of Christ flanked by angels.



On the east side of the south porch is a monument to William Tyler who died in 1699 with his wife, son and daughter. The south porch covers a lovely carved door with chevrons and flowers around the arches and a small carved head at the top. Stone benches on either side of the porch were used for village meetings.



It is a simple church with whitewashed walls and wood beam ceiling. The north arcade is pure Norman with round pillars with carved capitals and round arches.



At the back of the church is a Perpendicular octagonal font with quatrefoils with flower motifs round the bowl. At the back of the north aisle is a benefactors board and the Royal Coat of Arms. The Lord’s Prayer was painted above the arcade in 1736.



There is another inscription from Ephesus 5 v 14-16.

The north aisle contains a small altar with empty niches which would have contained statues, but were destroyed during the Reformation. These have traces of wall paintings round them. The walls are marked out in a brick pattern with a small red flower motif.



A squint gives a view of the high altar.

The chancel is empty apart from a priest's chair and reading table. On either side of the east window are boards with the Ten Commandments. A corona with candles hangs from the roof.

The church is open all day. There is verge parking outside the church or more space in the village hall to the west. The nearest post code is OX18 4TF and the grid reference is grid reference is SP 209128.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Little Washbourne, Gloucestershire - St Mary’s Church

An unspoilt Georgian interior


This is a lovely church set off the B4077, a few miles east of Tewkesbury. Apart from a few houses further down the track, it is completely isolated with nothing but birdsong to disturb the peace. It is surrounded by a church yard containing only one grave as the ground is very waterlogged. Legend says this is that of a boy who drowned and now mischievously haunts the nearby Hobnails Inn.

The church is tiny with a small nave with a single window and an even smaller chancel and belfry.



Opening the door, inside is an unspoilt Georgian interior with box pews, double decker pulpit
with inset marquetry panels and sounding board with a sunburst design on the under side. Below is a big reader’s desk.







The C19th font feels almost incongruous.

There is the remains of a C13th wall painting in the nave which has been over painted with C17th texts.



A small round arch leads into the chancel with wonky altar rail and table altar. There is no electricity in the church and the only artificial lighting is from candles on tall floor standing candlesticks. The large plain glass windows help make the church feel light. The only memorial in the church is in the chancel, to Gulielmus Hill who died in 1786.

The church, no longer used, is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. It is open everyday and there is parking on the verge. The nearest post code is GL20 8NQand the grid reference is SO 989334.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Lower Oddington, Gloucestershire - St Nicholas Church

Some of the best wall paintings in the Cotswolds


The walls of Medieval churches were covered with wall paintings. These were covered by whitewash during the Reformation as they were regarded as ‘Popish’. They lay forgotten until Victorian restorers came along. In many churches, plaster was scraped off the walls to reveal the bare stonework, so removing all traces of paintings. Elsewhere, the paintings were revealed and left to amaze the congregation. Many are in poor condition and offer a tantalising suggestion of what the church may have been like. St Nicholas Church is one of the few churches where walls are still covered with paintings, many in good condition.

Lower Oddington is a small settlement just off the A436 to the east of Stow on the Wold. Make sure you find the right church, as the one in the village is Victorian. The old church is signposted half a mile from the village centre at the end of a narrow road which peters off into a narrow track. It is surrounded by yew and beech trees and the churchyard.

The original village around the church was abandoned in the C18th when the villagers moved to round the new church. Although they continued to use the churchyard, the old church was left to fall into ruins. In 1912, it was lovingly restored by the Vicar, Thomas Hodson, although the villagers still continued to use the new church.



There has been a church here since Saxon times. It was extended by the Normans and again in the C14th, when a visit by Henry III led to the addition of a much bigger early Gothic nave and chancel beside the Norman one.



The Norman nave became the south aisle separated by a three bay arcade. A new square tower with battlements was built over the old chancel, with the chancel arch filled in for additional strength. In the C14th, Decorated windows were inserted into the aisle wall.

Entry is through the south porch with a mass sundial scratched into the side of it. Before clocks, this was how ithe lliterate congregation knew what time it was.



Steps lead down into what used to be the Norman nave. To the right is a small archway leading to the old chancel which became a side chapel when the tower was built above it.

There is always a sense of excitement when you open a church door as you never know what to expect. We opened the door and said “WOW”. It is an amazing church. Inside it felt cold and damp as it is no longer used, but the ghosts and memories survive and the wall paintings are definitely worth seeing.



Immediately facing on the north wall is a C14th Doom Painting of the Last Judgement. The flames of Hell are still bright red. The lower part of the painting with the dead rising out of their coffins is hidden by the panelling round the bottom of the nave walls. At the top is Christ in Glory with his feet resting on a round shape representing the world. He is surrounded by apostles and saints. Below are two angels sounding trumpets to waken the dead and summoning them to judgement. A tall crowned figure on the left is St Peter with his Papal tiara. Another angel with raised and spread wings may be Archangel Michael.



On the left, the righteous are welcomed into Heaven by angels. They are led by a Pope and there are several kings among them. Heaven is depicted as a castle and most enter by the main gate, but one man is either being helped over a turret by an angel, or pushed back down for trying to enter illegally.



On the right, the wicked are driven into Hell. This group includes kings as well. The jaws of Hell are on the lower right edge and the devil is shown as a black figure with paws, a spiky tail and horns, holding a long prod in his hand. Other demons, wearing striped clothes, help to torture the damned. One demon uses a bellows on the fire beneath a cauldron in which people are being boiled. Just to the left, a figure hangs from a gallows while another kneels in front of it, begging for mercy.



To the right is another painting, dating from around 1520. It is dominated by an elegant figure in a gown with long pointed sleeves. The jury is out on what it is supposed to be. It varies from the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy, Seven Deadly Sins or the Weighing of Souls. Another suggestion is that it represents characters from John Skelton’s morality play, ‘Magnificence’. which is assumed to be a satire on Cardinal Wolsey. Whatever it is, it is a lovely painting.



Above the chancel arch is a painted Royal Coat of Arms of William IV, dated 1835. This appears crude in comparison with the Medieval paintings.



Ignoring the paintings, it is is still an interesting church. The original Norman nave is tiny and makes you realise just how small the Norman churches were. It is no longer used and contains an old bier.
There is a very small arch into the original chancel which has the ropes hanging from the bell tower above it. Against the wall is the remains of an old pew with a lovely carved end.



There is a small altar with an aumbry cupboard, now minus door, in the wall. A wooden screen separates it from the present nave.

The octagonal font has carved flower motifs round the bowl.

In the nave is a very high Jacobean pulpit reached by steps with a sounding board above. This has elaborately carved panels.



In the sanctuary there is a wooden altar rail and altar. Beneath the east window is a stone reredos with a carving of the Nativity. On either side are painted panels with the Ten Commandments. There are memorial slabs on the chancel walls and wooden hatchments on the south wall of the nave.

There is no lighting in the church and we were advised to visit on a bright day. The church is is open from 9-4 in winter and 9-5 in the summer. There is a small layby on the road outside. The nearest post code is GL56 0XE and the grid reference is SP 235255.
 
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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Malmesbury, Wiltshire - Malmesbury Abbey


A splendid Norman building


Malmesbury was founded as a Benedictine monastery around 676 by Aldhelm, nephew of King Ine of Wessex. King Æthelstan died in Gloucester in 939 and was buried in Malmesbury Abbey in 941. By the C11th it housed the second largest library in Europe and was one of Europe’s leading seats of learning.

The building was substantially finished by 1180. The central tower and spire collapsed during a storm in 1500 destroying much of church. Then the west tower fell down in 1550, demolishing the end bit of the nave.

The Abbey closed in 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was sold to a rich merchant, William Stumpe. He gave the remains of the abbey church to the town as a parish church. He then filled the rest of the buildings with looms for his cloth weaving business.

Only the nave and aisles remain of the Norman abbey. There is little left of the rest of the buildings. The cloisters is a pleasant grassy area.



There may not be much left, but what there is is splendid. It is worth walking round the outside of the building to admire the craftsmanship and the carving. Only one of the west towers survives, giving the abbey a lop sided appearance.



This is covered with blind Norman arcades with chevrons and billet heads. There is an open carved balustrade along the top of the clerestoried nave and side aisles. Flying buttresses with tall pinnacles swoop from the side aisles to the nave.

The south porch is huge and has the most magnificent doorway with eight rows of carvings of Biblical scenes set inside a plain arch.



Inside there is a vaulted ceiling and stone benches along the walls with blind arcades with chevrons above. Above them, set in a semi-circle on either side are the twelve apostles with a horizontal figure above - the Holy Spirit maybe?



The south doorway itself is equally impressive with three bands of decorative carving around the tympanum with Christ in Majesty with an angel on either side.



This must surely rank as one of the best Norman doorways in the country. The original door is still there, but no longer used, having been replaced by automatic glass doors.



The inside of Malmesbury Abbey is equally impressive as the outside and has the WOW factor, even though it does end rather abruptly in a blank stone wall at the east end. This end of the church was never rebuilt after the central tower fell down.

Light floods in through the clear glass windows. Combined with the very pale stone this makes the inside very light. It almost shines in the light.



Massive round pillars with carved capitals support slightly pointed arches. Above the top of the arches is a narrow band of round billets with carved heads at the top and ends.



Above them is a blind arcade with round arches with chevron carving which enclose three smaller pillars with round arches.



The tall windows in the clerestory are later Decorated style and have pointed arches above leading to the vaulted ceiling with carved bosses.



On the south wall of the nave is what could be described as a ‘signal box’. There seems to be mixed opinions about its function. It has been suggested that it was an observation post as the nave would have been full of relics. Another suggestion is that the first organ may have been placed here.



There is no separation of nave and chancel. There are choir stalls in the chancel and an altar rail with barley corn twist pillars across the sanctuary. There is panelling across the end of the chancel with a stone reredos with IHS carved in the centre. Chancel bosses have been repainted and regilded and look splendid. They are a mixture of human heads and abstract designs.







At the end of the south aisle are glass cases containing copies of hand written illustrated Bibles.

At the end of the north aisle is the C14th memorial tomb of King Æthelstan who was buried near here. His effigy has a small crown and long flowing robes. His feet rest on a lion. Above is a fan vaulted canopy with crocketted spires above.

On the north wall is a small treasury of church silver.





The font is at the back of the north aisle, by the small shop selling books, cards etc.



The cafe is open from 9.30-3.30 selling homemade soups, paninis and cakes.

The church is open 9-5 daily (4 in winter). There is some parking on the street outside. The nearest post code is SN16 9BA and the grid reference is ST 933873.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire - St Kelelm’s Church

An attractive small church with a lot of character


St Kelelms’s Church is a small cruciform church with central battlemented tower next to the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall. It was built by William Lovell at the same time as the Hall and has remained virtually unchanged since 1450 apart from some refurbishment by the Victorians, which included the altar, pulpit and organ.



The nave is quite short compared with the rest of the church. At the back is a large C15th carved font with carved base and quatrefoils round the base. There are traces of C15th glass in some of the windows. There are pointed arches at the transept crossing with smaller arches on either side. Under the crossing is a lierne vaulted ceiling.



The north transept was once set apart for use by the people of nearby Crawley who had no church of their own. Now it contains the organ. At the back is a wooden screen with painted shields in front of the vestry. On the wall is a memorial to the dead of the 1914-18 war.

The south transept contains the magnificent alabaster tomb of William Lovell in armour with his head resting on a helmet and feet on a lion.





Round the base are painted shields with weeping figures (mourners), St Christopher, Virgin and Child and St Margaret.



This is also the Lady chapel and at the east end is a a simple stone altar with a blue wall hanging behind. Above the roof is painted blue. There is a squint which gives a view of the high altar.

The chancel is large and rather bare.



The reredos behind the high altar is late C19th and was erected in memory of Lady Taunton and wife of the then owner of Minster Lovell Hall. It has five carvings set under elaborate pinnacle with representations of the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion, Rising from the Dead and the Ascension.



The church is open daylight hours and is worth visiting if visiting Minster Lovell Hall. It is to the east of the village. There is a small wooden sign to the church at a road junction where there is parking space. The road is signed as unsuitable for motors. It isn’t. What they really mean is there is little parking at the end by the church and turning may be a problem. The post code is OX29 0RR and the grid reference is SP 324114.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
North Cerney, Gloucestershire - All saints’ Church

A lovely church with a lavish interior


All Saints' Church is in a lovely setting, perched on a low hill across the river from the village and surrounded by woodland and pasture. It is surrounded by a large graveyard and C14th churchyard cross.

It is a bit of a hotchpotch of a building. The nave is C12th and the chancel was extended in the C13th. In the middle of the C15th there was a disastrous fire which gutted the church and did a lot of damage. The Norman roof was destroyed and the tower acted as a chimney. Fortunately this was a wealthy wool area and money was available to rebuild the church. A Lady Chapel was added on the south side and St Catherine’s Chapel off the north wall.

The church has a low, square tower with saddleback roof and louvred bell windows. The original roof line of the Norman church can still be seen. The long low battlemented nave is rendered and painted cream. The chapels and chancel are rough stone with pointed roofs.



It is worth walking round the outside of the church first in search of the incised Manticora. On the south wall of the Lady Chapel is an engraved beast with human head and arms, animal body and sting in the tail.



There is another four legged beast looking a bit like a leopard on the on the tower.



Inside the south porch is a old oak studded door with its original closing ring. On either side are small round pillars with carved capitals supporting a round Norman arch with chevron carving. The tympanum and lintel are covered with star carvings.



This door is kept locked and entry is through the small door into the vestry at the base of the tower. Inside a spiral staircase leads up into the tower, and a few steps lead down into the vestry at the bottom of the tower. A pointed archway leads into the church.

Inside it is a very attractive church.



Walls are whitewashed and it has a beamed wood roof supported on carved corbels. The corbels on the north wall are thought to be Henry VI.



Another is William Whitchurch, the rector responsible for rebuilding the church after the fire and there is the Duke of Buckingham (with coronet and moustache), who was Lord of the Manor.



Across the west end is the C18th wooden gallery with decorative panelled front.
There are old grave slabs set against the north wall and two carved corbel heads on the wall.

The C15th octagonal font with quatrefoils and flower motifs is typical of many churches in Gloucestershire. On the wall above is a small Royal Coat of Arms. The original Queen Anne Coat of Arms was stolen and the present set of Elizabeth II were made from the insurance money.

The beautiful carved stone wine glass pulpit is about 1480 and is carved from a single piece of stone. Next to it is a brass lectern of a similar date. The eagle is Flemish, although the base is Spanish.



Across the aisle is a reading desk made from an old box pew, belonging to William Cherrington, churchwarden. The initials WC and date 1631 can still be seen.

Hanging from the nave ceiling is a massive brass chandelier with candles. The church is now lit by electricity, candles are still used at church festivals.

On a window ledge in the nave is a fragment of a carved crucifix. This was found in the graveyard and is thought to be a fragment of of the reredos of the original Saxon church.



Set in an arch off St Catherine’s Chapel is the organ with gilded pipes in a blue and gilt frame. St Catherine’s chapel is no longer used for worship but still contains a small altar. The reredos has a carved wood surround with velvet centre with embroidered IHS and circle motifs. A squint gives a view of the high altar.



The church was refurbished in the C20th by William Croome of Cerney House, and rood loft, screen and reredos date from that time. The rood and loft are based on a medieval design. Across the Norman chancel arch is a simple screen with panelled base and small beam with decorative carving. The loft runs across the top of the chancel arch and has carved panels with painted figures of the Virgin Mary and St John. The beautiful figure of Christ on the Cross is about 1600 and was found in an antique shop in Italy by William Croome and bought for £10.



The chancel is fairly plain. There is a simple altar rail and altar. The painted reredos is some of the finest work by FC Eden.



In the centre is Christ in Majesty with a crowned Virgin Mary and angels. On either side, saints are coming to receive their crowns. The Latin inscription at the bottom can be translated as “They shall receive a glorious kingdom and crowns of gold from the hands of their Lord.”



The Lady Chapel is joined to the chancel by a passage squint. It has a beautiful carved wooden parclose screen across it. Above the door is a carving of the Annunciation with the figures of Mary and Gabriel. Between them is a tiny carving of Christ crucified. At the side are carved arches with a shield. Above is St George killing the dragon. Across the top is carved “Pray for the soul of Francis Thomas Maurice, a soldier greatly beloved who died October 29th, 1918”.

At the back of the altar is a stone shelf with three painted figures dating from the late C15th. In the centre is the crowned Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. On the left is St Martin about to cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar. On the right is St Urban, holding a bunch of grapes.

The church is in the Churn Valley, just off the A435. There is a small parking area on the road leading to the church. The church is always open 7-7. Remember to use the small vestry door in the tower as the main door is kept locked. The nearest post code is GL7 7BX and the grid referene is SP 019078.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Oldbury on the hill, Gloucestershire - St Arild’s Church

A redundant church, little changed since the C18th


This is a tiny church in the middle of nowhere, set on high ground overlooking the flat terrain of South Gloucestershire. There is no village, just the Manor Farm next to the church and a few scattered houses.

St Arild was thought to be a local virgin martyr who ‘fought the power of sin’. She lived beside a holy well at Kington near Thornbury and resisted the unwelcome advances of Muncius, who cut off her head. She was buried beside her holy well, but later her bones were transferred to Gloucester Cathedral. Miracles were later reported at her tomb.

The church dates from the C13th and has a small square battlemented tower at the west end with nave, chancel and north porch.



Steps lead down into the small porch with a simple round arch above the door. Inside the church feels cold, damp and deserted. It feels neglected and unloved.



There are remains of box pews on the south side, with hat pegs above them. The tall double decker pulpit has a reading desk below with a bench to sit on.



The chancel has an altar rail and altar with a wooden cross and candlesticks. On the south wall is a double piscina. One was used to wash the communion vessels, the other the priest’s hands.

At the back of the church, a pointed arch leads into the tower, with a C20th stained glass window depicting the Virgin and Child.



The font is shaped a bit like an egg cup.



Propped up against the wall is a board with the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. After the Reformation, these had to be displayed in all churches.



On the south wall are fragments of medieval wall paintings which were covered after the Reformation by religious texts and now have a C19th stone memorial over them.



The church is no longer used and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. It isn’t the easiest of churches to get to. Their website says access is either across the fields (footpath signed from the road) or through the farmyard. We decided to use the farmyard, where there is plenty of space to park. Walk round the front of the farmhouse which does feel very private and go through the gateway at the far end. Turn right and follow the wall to the gateway into the church. The church is open daily.

The neartest post code is GL9 1EA and the grid reference is ST 819882.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Ozleworth, Gloucestershire - Church of St Nicholas of Myra

A Norman church with an octagonal tower which had a make over in the C19th.


The church is in the depths of rural Gloucestershire, well away from main roads and set in a narrow valley. It is in the grounds of Ozleworth House and reached along a bridle path which drops down the sides of a wooded valley and through the grounds.

It is a lovely small Norman church set in a circular graveyard with a tall wall round it. The central tower is unusual as it is hexagonal and has a low pyramidal roof. The church has nave, chancel and south porch.



Inside the porch is a lovely wooden door with big decorative hinges and fancy handle. On either side round pillars with carved capitals support a big round arch with a most unusual semi-circle design with scallop shells.



The church is tiny inside and was restored and enlarged in the C19th. It feels dark inside as it still has the small Norman lancet windows. Walls are whitewashed plaster and there is a wooden beam ceiling. On the floor are Victorian encaustic tiles.



There is the remains of a coffin at the west end and two of the old pews. The C13th font is described as ‘rustic’ and has raised ribs around the bowl and bands of star carvings.

The transept arch also has unusual carvings which can best be described as interlaced chevrons supported on small wall pillars with carved capitals and bases.



In the crossing is the wood pulpit on a stone base, a pianola, an old chest and the stairs to the long gone rood loft.

The chancel arch in comparison is very plain and has a framed painting of the Annunciation above it.
The chancel has a wooden roof with carved bosses. There are two choir stalls.



The altar has carved arches on the base and a mosaic Agnus Dei in the centre. Behind is a small marble reredos with a mosaic crucifix in the centre with the four evangelists set on a gold mosaic background.



The wall above the stained glass east window is painted red. On either side are embroidered Victorian wall hangings. These are bright red with lilies embroidered on them. Along the top is “Holy, Holy, Holy” on the left side and “Lord God of Hosts” on the right. Between the lilies are green bands with white flowers. At the base of the hangings is a diagonal pattern on a green background.

On the walls are memorials to the Clutterbucks from nearby Newark Park.

It can be quite dark inside the church, so try and visit on a bright sunny day.

The church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open daily. It isn’t the easiest of churches to find. Ozleworth isn’t marked on road atlases, and you really need OS Landranger Map 172 (Bristol and Bath) to find it. There is parking in a cleared area off the road by the grand entrance to Ozleworth Park. It is then a 5-10 minute walk down a steepish path and through the grounds of the hall to the church.

The nearest post code is GL12 7QA and the grid reference is ST 794933.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
South Leigh, Oxfordshire - Church of St James the Great

Some of the best medieval wall paintings in Oxfordshire


This is a lovely church with amazing wall paintings. Set in the depths of the rural Oxfordshire countryside, it feels miles from anywhere. There is no traffic noise and all you can hear is birdsong. It is actually just off the A40 to the south east of Witney, reached down a narrow road with passing places. South Leigh is a small scattered settlement of well cared for houses with verges full of daffodils in the spring.



It is a simple church with low square battlemented tower, long nave with battlemented side aisles and porch with a small chancel. This has a priest’s door with a carved tympanum with a cross and stylised beakheads. From the outside it just looks like a typical country church.





The church dates from the C12th but most of it was rebuilt in the C15th. There was the usual restoration by the Victorians.

The porch has a wood beam roof, old stone benches used in the Middle Ages for communal meetings and a memorial on the wall to the dead of both world wars. The oak door into the church has carved trefoil heads.

Inside, the walls are covered with medieval wall paintings all beautifully restored 1992. If you want to see what a medieval church was like, this is the place to come.



Above the chancel arch and spreading round the sides of the nave is a Doom Painting of the Last Judgement.Round the base of the of the chancel arch beneath the Doom is a ‘William Morris’ design with birds and leaves, which is, in fact a Victorian over painting of a medieval design.

At the top of the chancel arch, the dead are wakened by trumpeting angels.



On the left St Peter welcomes the redeemed into a castle-like Kingdom of Heaven.



On the right, the damned are dragged into the mouth of hell propped open by a devil.



On the south wall St Michael, brandishing a sword, weighs souls on a scale with the Virgin interceding by dropping her rosary beads into the dead soul’s pan so that it weighted in his favour. At the bottom right, is the mouth of Hell.



This is a C15th painting and has a wide border with leaves. Looking closely the remains of an earlier painting can be seen beneath it.



On the west end of the north wall is the remains of a painting of the Seven Deadly Sins. A many headed monster with a figure representing one of the sins arises out of the mouth of Hell. This is the only painting that hasn’t been restored.



To the east of this is a painting of St Clement of Rome set in a pinnacled archway. He was martyred by being thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck. Angels built him a tomb on the sea-bed.



In the chancel to the right of the east window is a painting of the Virgin Mary holding a lily, with a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, above her.



There are the remains of later inscriptions painted on the walls.

The rest of the church is pleasant, but probably not exceptional. There are carved corbels under the beams on the nave roof and brass memorials under the south window in the nave.

The rood screen is C15th but was heavily restored by the Victorians. It has a small painted crucifix at the centre with the Virgin and St John on either side and a row of candles along the top. The screen to the north is also C15th.

The font is C15th and is at the back of the church, below the organ.

The pulpit is Jacobean and John Wesley preached his first sermon here in 1725. Next to it is a modern wooden lectern of St Michael holding a book.

Glass in the east window is Victorian. At the top are eight angels holding symbols of the passion. Below is Christ holding a banner proclaiming “Ecce Agnes Dei” and preaching to women, children and a Roman centurion.

At the back of the west wall is a tiny wooden door leads to the tower staircase. It is mended with clenched nails, a Saxon technique.



The church is at the far end of the village. It is open during daylight hours and there is plenty of parking in the village hall. The post code is OX29 6US and the grid reference is SP 394090.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
South Newington, Oxfordshire - St Peter ad Vincula Church

A lovely church with C15th comic strip wall paintings


South Newington is a small settlement just off the A361, south west of Banbury and on the very eastern edge of the Cotswolds. The church is built on the high ground, above the River Swere. This was a prosperous area in the Middle Ages and this is reflected by the church.

There is reference of a church here by 1170, although only the font and two Norman arches survive from this church. Around 1290 there was a major reconstruction when the south aisle, most of the north aisle and the tower were added. In the C15th, the nave roof was raised and a clerestory added. What makes the church unique is the remarkable collection of wall paintings on the north arcade and north aisle.

It is an attractive church with tall square tower with battlements and crocketted pinnacles.



The nave has a clerestory with lower side aisles. The chancel is lower and has a priests door on the south wall and two bat boxes on the south wall. The impressive porch was added in the C15th and has a battlemented roof with a lot of pinnacles. There is an empty statue niche above the door and there are carved heads of a king and queen at the base of the doorway arch.

There are steps into the church. The plain glass windows flood the church with light. There is a lovely Norman arcade with round pillars with carved capitals and round arches.



At the back of the church is a Norman tub font with chevron carving round the top. The pews date from 1825 and are numbered. There is a board on the back wall explaining that of the 224 seats 186 are declared to be free and unappropriated for ever.



The pulpit is wood panelled. The altar has a small wood reredos behind it which is just wide enough for a cross and candlesticks. On the south wall is a small piscina set under an ogee arch.

There is a small altar in the north aisle with a prie dieu and the remains of red floral motifs on the sides of the window. In the south aisle is the old bier.

The framed certificates on the north wall date from the C17th and C18th state the deceased were buried in shrouds made of sheep’s wool. They are decorated with bodies wrapped in wool shrouds, skeletons, skulls, hour glasses and other signs of mortality.





The NORTH AISLE was originally the chantry chapel of the Giffard family who embellished the walls with paintings dating from around 1330. They were a devotional expression as well as a statement of political affiliation and family status. The paintings were created using linseed oil on plaster. This slowed the drying process making it very expensive but ensured the depth of colour. It is a most unusual technique and only Westminster Abbey has paintings of similar quality.

The first painting on the left is the Martyrdom of Thomas a Becket. This is a remarkable survival as many of these paintings were destroyed by orders from Henry VIII who disliked being reminded of the church defying the crown. This survived as it was covered by a later painting of St George and the Dragon. Becket, in a red garment, is kneeling in front of an altar and is confronted by the four knights. The blow of the first knight is fended off by the white robed priest. The second knight strikes a fatal blow and succeeds in removing the top of Becket’s head. The third knight has his sword ready to strike while the fourth is unsheathing his sword.



Next to the Becket martyrdom is the execution of Thomas Plantagenet, 2nd Earl of Lancaster in 1322 for his role in the murder of Edward II’s favourite Piers Gaveston. Lancaster is kneeling with blood spouting from wounds on his neck. His executioner is behind him, poised to strike another blow. This is the only known example of this scene. After his death, miracles were reported at his tomb and Edward III was petitioned three times for him to be made a saint. It seems likely that this painting was part of the campaign to have him canonised by the Giffards who had been followers of Lancaster.



On a window splay is a painting of the Annunciation with Gabriel in a dark green mantle appearing to the Virgin Mary. Between the two figures is a lily in a vase standing atop an heraldic shield with the Mortayne coat of arms possibly those of Margaret Mortayne, wife of Thomas Gifford. Below is a depiction of St James.



The final picture in the north aisle next to the chancel arch is the Virgin and Child. This is a beautiful painting set under a Gothic arch decorated with scrolls. In her left hand, the Virgin is holding a fleur de lys. The Christ Child is holding an apple, signifying his acceptance of the sins of the world. At the bottom is a shield with the three leopards from the Gifford coat of arms. The kneeling figures on the left are possibly John Gifford and his wife Lucy Morteyn who may have been the donors.



The wall paintings above the NORTH ARCADE are later, having been painted in the C15th. They are more ‘rustic’ in style and great fun as they are painted in the style of a comic strip. They are completely different to any other wall paintings we have seen and are wonderful.





They depict the Passion of Christ, beginning with Christ's entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. This is followed by the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ holding a cup and two sleeping disciple. This is followed by the betrayal and arrest.



The next series of three pictures begins with the flagellation with Christ covered with spots of blood, which makes him look as if he has chicken pox. He is then shown carrying his cross with his mother standing watching. The third picture is the Crucifixion.



The next pictures are badly damaged but probably represent the entombment. These are followed by Christ rising from the dead (the tomb looks remarkably like a bath) with the sleeping figures of the Roman soldiers. The final scene again is in poor condition but would be the Ascension into Heaven.



At the base of the arches is a painting of what is described as the 'Trinity Tree'. A three branched tree has a shield with a cross and the instruments of the Passion in the corners. This is the only church with paintings like this.


At the east end, high on the wall is the remains of a painting of St Michael weighing souls at the Last Judgement with the Virgin watching. Below are more shields.



Above the CHANCEL ARCH is the remains of a Doom painting but it is in very poor condition and little detail can be seen. There are plans to restore this if finance is available.



The chancel just has a single painting on the south side of the east window, of Margaret of Antioch killing the dragon that tried to swallow her.



The south arcade is later and has pointed arches with no paintings.

There is parking on the road by the church. The church is supposed to be open in the summer months from April to September. It was locked when we arrived, but there was a list of key holders on the notice board. The church is part of the Bloxham Benefice and if intending to visit it might make sense to contact them to confirm opening arrangements.

The nearest post code is OX15 4JF and the grid reference is SP 407333.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire - Church of St James the Great

Unique wall paintings of the life of St James de Compostella



This is a tiny church in a small village just off the A38 to the south of Tewkesbury on the west edge of the Cotswolds. Blink and you will miss it.

From the outside it looks a small, rather insignificant white painted building with nave and chancel and a small bell cote with a golden cockerel weather vane. It isn’t on the tourist route and gets few visitors which is a shame as it has wall paintings dating from 1200 to 1723.



It was built about 1160 as a chapel for the Lord of the Manor. Dedicated to St James the Great, it was regularly visited by pilgrims travelling from the north or from Wales to Compostella in Spain. There is a reference on the web to incised pilgrims' crosses on the south door, but these are now hidden by new plaster render and paint.

The nave is substantially unaltered since it was built, although the chancel arch had to be replaced around 1300, probably as a result of sinking of the south pier. The problem still seems to exist today. The chancel was rebuilt in the C14th, explaining its slightly different feel and The larger windows were inserted in the C15th. The church escaped Victorian restoration which blighted so many church interiors.



The plaster roof has wooden beams across and the church still has its old wooden pews. The Jacobean pulpit has spirally carved panels. At the back is a Norman tub font with interlaced Norman arches.



Above the chancel arch is the Royal Coat of Arms. The chancel is very simple with organ, C18th altar rail and small table altar.

The walls of the nave are covered with wall paintings. Unfortunately there is no guide book although there is a certain amount of written information and drawings of the paintings pinned up on a wall by the door. Many of the paintings are in poor condition and incomplete. They have also been over painted several times which does make it quite difficult to interpret them.

The earliest painting is the story of St James de Compostella which is set between two borders and was painted between 1180-1220. It is the only example in Europe but unfortunately the scenes are fragmentary and confusing.



In the C16th, it was overpainted with inscriptions in black script.



Again many of these are fragmentary, but there is a Lord’s Prayer and part of the Ten Commandments which had to be displayed in every church from the reign of Elizabeth I.



The decorative scrolls round the windows date from 1663.



Information on the web suggests the church is open daylight hours. It isn’t. It is opened up every day by a volunteer and may not be unlocked before 9.30am. The church car park behind the church is also kept locked. There is parking on the road outside. The nearest post code is GL52 7SH and the grid reference is SO 918282.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Swinbrook, Oxfordshire - St Mary’s Church

Fettiplace tombs and medieval stained glass


Swinbrook is an attractive small village around the green, with the church set on higher ground to the west. The church is C12th with a very narrow battlemented square tower at the west end. This is Georgian and was built in six weeks in 1822. It doesn’t quite go with the rest of the church. Two supporting buttresses were needed at the west end which frame the west window in a tall arch. The nave is very tall with the clerestory windows partially blocked by the side aisles.



Entry is through the south porch. Inside it is an attractive church with a transitional Chancel arch and arcade with round pillars with carved capitals and pointed arches separating nave and side aisles.





On one of the pillars is a splendid memorial to Edward Goddard who died aged 70 in 1633.



The church feels very light as windows are plain glass apart from the east window in the south aisle. A German land mine with parachute attached was dropped in the field between the river and the church in September 1940. The explosion shattered the glass in the church, displaced roof tiles and shook down plaster. Other houses in the village were damaged but fortunately no one was hurt.

The fragments of glass were collected and replaced in the east window. There is an inscription at the base of the window commemorating the event and William Grenville who was Vicar from 1938-1941 and was responsible for rescuing the glass. It is a lovely window. Images are predominantly shades of white or brown. The angels have hair and wings picked out in gold.



The pews are C20th having been donated by Lord Redesdale. The chandeliers hanging from the roof are C18th and came from the bedroom of Lady Redesdale, when the family moved from Asthall Hall to Swinbrook Manor. There is a memorial to Lord Redesdale at the back of the church.

At the back of the north aisle is a benefactors board with names of many Fettiplaces. The last name in 1748 is 'Mrs Susannah Warren of Swinbrook, who gave £10, the interest of which to be given to the Poor. This money is now lost'.

The choir stalls have Medieval misericords from Burford Priory. The carved ends include faces, fish, and a double headed monster.



In the floor in front of the altar are two memorial brasses. One commemorates John Croston d1740 with his three wives and two children. The other is Anthony Fettiplace d1520 and the first of the Fettiplace family.

The chancel is dominated by the Fettiplace tombs on the north wall.



The Fettiplaces were Lords of the Manor and one of the biggest landowning families in Oxfordshire. The two monuments reflect their importance and status. Each has three effigies lying on shelves.



The monument on the left was erected by Sir Edmund d1613 for himself, his father and grandfather. The figures are identical with stylised hair, moustaches and beards and are wearing Tudor armour with swords. On either side, fluted Corinthian columns support small obelisks and a carved arch with an angel holding a shield at the top.

On the right is the monument to Edmund Fettiplace d1686 and his father and uncle. They are wearing full Stuart armour, picked out in gold. They are much more casually posed, holding gauntlets and with their helmets by their feet. At the sides, grey stone pillars with gold carved bases and tops support a marble arch with painted coat of arms.

On the wall opposite is a marble bust with drapes above with cherub heads. This is set between two columns with a coat of arms above, and commemorates Sir George Fettiplace d 1734 and the last baronet in the direct male line.



In the churchyard are many old graves with carved roll tops.



Three of the Mitford sisters are buried here.

The church is open daily. There is parking on the road around the village green or else down the side turning to the north of the church which has a grassy parking area for the church. The post code is OX18 4DY and the grid reference is SP 280121.
 

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