St Michael’s Church

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Most people head to the tourist honeypot of Broadway and ignore the delightful small village of Buckland a couple of miles away. It is an attractive settlement of large well tended stone houses with attractive gardens, along a stream. It is at the end of an unclassified road and has no shops to attract the tourists. It does, however, have an attractive church.

The church is set above the houses and next to a hotel. It is surrounded by a well tended graveyard with violets and primroses growing in the rougher areas.

Built of honey coloured stone, it has a square battlemented tower at the west end with formidable gargoyles at the corners. The clerestoried nave has lower side aisles and chancel.

The church escaped the worst of the Victorian restorers, apart from the scrapped walls. Do look up at the wooden beam rood with its painted beams and bosses. The 15thC roof was rotting so the surface layer with the paintings of roses and devil’s faces was carefully cut away from the old, rotten timbers and bonded onto new roof timbers.

Aisles are separated by arcades with pointed aches. The pews, panelling around the base of the chancel and the pulpit are 17thC. On the north wall are the ‘Shepherd’s pews’ , simple wooden benches with high panelled backs. Between the windows are hat pegs. These were occupied by shepherds and their dogs who entered from the west door, and not through the porch. When the panelling was removed for restoration, the remains of wall paintings were found behind it.

At the back of the west end is a wooden gallery supported on wood pillars. This was erected in the 17thC for the use of the Laverton Free School, but now has the organ. On either side on the wall are panels with the Lord’s Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments.

On the floor of the south aisle are the original 15thC encaustic tiles in red and black with burgundy and gold patterns. Some bear the arms of the Earls of Warwick. The tiles in the rest of the church are 19thC and specially made to match the originals.

The Arts and Crafts wooden reredos below the east window is in memory of Lt Charles Brough Scott of Buckland Manor, who was killed in the First World War. It has a carving of St Michael and ‘The Happy Warrior’. The east window contains three panels of painted glass thought to have come from Hailes Abbey. They represent three of the seven sacraments, Baptism, Matrimony and Extreme Unction.

The church contains two treasures worthy of note. At the back are three painted panels which may have come from a reredos, possibly from Hailes Abbey. The panels show a pair of angels under trefoil arches, on each side of a central moulding. These had been kept in an outhouse in the rectory until the 1920s when they were brought into the church.

On the north wall in a glass case covered by curtains is an embroidered 15thC pall. This was used to cover coffins or may have been used as an altar cloth. The central portion is blue velvet with embroidered fruits and foliage. The red velvet strip at the top or bottom came from portions of earlier religious vestments and is embroidered with religious figures.

Guide booked refer to a Maser (ceremonial goblet) on display in the church. This is no longer there. The glass case on the north wall used to display it is empty apart from an information sheet.

The church also used to have a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (first published 1563 and a history of the persecutions inflicted upon Protestants). The original 400 year old copy was stolen from the church and has been replaced by a modern copy.

This is an attractive church still with some treasures, not normally seen in a small country church. It is well worth finding. The church is open during daylight hours and there is a small layby on road outside.

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