All Saints’ Church

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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 building 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 perpendicular beamed roof supported on carved corbels. The corbels on the north wall are thought to be Henry VI. William Whitchurch the rector responsible for rebuilding the church after the fire and 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. Although 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 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 the rood loft, screen and reredos date from that time. The rood and loft are based on a medieval design. Across the 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 Willaim 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 then 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 clock in half to share with a beggar. On the right is St Urban, holding a bunch of grapes.

This is a very satisfying church to visit. The quality of the workmanship is very high and there is a lot to see and admire.

It is in the Churn Valley, just off the A435. There is a small parking area on the road 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.

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