St Arild’s Church

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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.

This isn’t the easiest of churches to get to. It is no longer used and cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. Their website says access is either across the fields or through the farmyard. We decided to use the farmyard. We parked up and walked round the front of the house which did feel very private. We couldn’t see any gateway into the churchyard. We retraced our steps and tried approaching from the other side struggling through long grass. We saw the gate into the church but a wall blocked our way. We retraced our steps again past the farmhouse to pick up a track beyond. Turning right brought us to the gateway. Michael muttered “This had better be worth it”. I’m not sure that it was, although he did take more pictures here than he did at many of the other churches we visited.

The church dates from the 13thC 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 felt cold, damp and deserted. There were remains of box pews on the south side, with hat pegs above them. The tall double decker pulpit had a reading desk below with a bench to sit on.

The chancel contains 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 20thC stained glass window depicting the Virgin and Child and the Agnes Dei. 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 19thC stone memorial over them.

The website describes the church as being little change since the 18thC with box pews, double decker pulpit and reading desk. Many of the pews have been taken out and the church has a neglected, unloved feel.

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