Church of St John the Evangelist

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Pevenser 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. Above the doorway is a marvellously carved tympanum supported on pillars with elaborately carved capitals. The tympanum 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 Agnes Dei (Lamb of God). Above is the hand of God. Round the arch is beakhead carving with a double row of chevrons with ball balls between them.

The heavy wooden door is studded with iron nails ad has big iron hinges and handle. Two steps lead into the church.

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. Look closely as the outer arch ends in dragon heads. The ceiling is vaulted and has a central boss with four grotesque faces. 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 altar rails are C17th.

The choir, under what was originally the tower, has a vaulted ceiling. 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 nave has a wood ceiling with painted shields at the base of the beams. Walls are whitewashed. The box pews are C17thC. 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 that the week 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.

This is a delightful church and definitely has the wow factor. The quality of the Norman carving is superb, especially the two chancel arches.

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.

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