A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
An exhibition of ecclesiastical and related history to mark the millennium of the County of Gloucester in 2007
These texts for the displays were produced by Brian Torode and together they offer a picture of the story of Christianity in the county during the last thousand years. In many ways these simple and succinct texts offer an overview of many of Brian’s historical interests – Cheltenham history, the Oxford Movement, holy wells, pilgrimage, religious communities, church architecture and liturgy.
The BEGINNING OF THE SECOND MILLENNIUM
By the beginning of the 800s there were monasteries – mission settlements – at Beckford, Berkeley, Cheltenham, Bishops Cleeve, Deerhurst, Twyning, Westbury, Winchcombe, Withington and Yate.
Some of these communities owned large amounts of land. Little churches were built near to the centre of population and the clergy from the monasteries served them.
It was at about this time that the Diocese of Worcester was formed, and included that part of present day Gloucestershire east of the Rivers Severn and Leadon. West of those rivers was part of the Diocese of Hereford.
From 1062-1095 the saintly Bishop Wulfstan was Bishop of Worcester and therefore Bishop too of most of Gloucestershire.
During the 1150s and beyond, many churches and chapels were built on monastic lands to serve the hamlets and villages. The gentry too built their own chapels on their lands and expected their servants and tenants to attend it. In return for serving these churches and chapels the monasteries were granted tithes, left property in the wills of the gentry, or given land and property in gratitude for services rendered or as a way of seeking a favour from the Church.
In 1239, the Bishop of Worcester dedicated Tewkesbury Abbey, St James Priory, Bristol, Winchcombe Abbey and St Peter’s, Gloucester. Hailes was dedicated in 1251.
During the period 1237-1266 Friars made their appearance in the county, the Franciscans in 1231, and in 1239 the Dominicans. The Carmelites arrived in 1267. This was at a time when there was strong anti-Jewish prejudice in the Church and just thirty years later they were expelled from England by King Edward 1st – 1290.
The 1300s was a period of much church building and we know there were churches in the village communities of Cam, Badgeworth, Fretherne, Elmore, Tetbury and of course Cheltenham, by 1315 at the latest.
In 1349, Gloucestershire was terribly affected by the Black Death, the Plague and as many as 80 parishes lost their incumbent. In the following year, the Bishop held 8 large Ordinations to fill the vacant benefices.
Bishop Hugh Latimer was Bishop with oversight for Gloucestershire from 1534-1539 and it was under him, St Oswald’s Gloucester, Llanthony and Tewkesbury were suppressed.
In 1541, Henry VIII allowed Gloucester Abbey to be spared destruction and he divided the Diocese of Worcester and made Gloucester a Diocese in its own right with the former Abbey becoming the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity. He fixed the boundary of the county as the boundary of the new Diocese, to include the Forest, taken from Hereford, and the town of Bristol. However the following year, the Diocese of Bristol was created, to include the town itself.
1552 saw the union of Gloucester and Worcester into one Diocese when Bishop Hooper was transferred to Worcester, but they were separated again when Hooper was deprived of his Bishopric.
Records show that between 1715 and 1725 there were 34 places in Gloucestershire where there were nonconformist sympathisers comprising over 8,000 persons.
In 1836, the Diocese of Gloucester was amalgamated with the Diocese of Bristol – one Diocese now with two Cathedrals – taking in the county of Gloucestershire and North Wiltshire.
They were again separated into two Dioceses 1897.
DEERHURST PRIORY CHURCH
Once part of a rich Benedictine monastery, and endowed with 30,000 acres, it is the only surviving Anglo Saxon Church in England. It has seventeen doorways, a Saxon tub font and a lovely brass bearing the inscribed dog’s name on it ‘Terri’.
It is reputed to be the building in which King Canute and Edmund Ironside met in 1016 to discuss Canute’s becoming King of England.
Near to Deerhurst Church is a Saxon chapel built by a relative of Edward the Confessor, Odda. It was dedicated in 1056.
BISHOPS, ABBOTS, MONKS.
Medieval Bishops and Abbots were powerful landowners and were equal in status and rank to the barons and attended the councils of the Monarch, and served in his Government. This was true right up to Tudor times and in a way is still pertinent to today’s system of Government where a certain number of Bishops still have seats in the House of Lords.
Many of the Bishops and Abbots were very wealthy and had private, sometimes very luxurious, apartments in the monastery which they used when entertaining Royalty and other influential guests. During the Middle Ages, over a third of all the land in the country belonged to the church. The biggest estates in Gloucestershire were owned by the Abbeys of Tewkesbury, Cirencester, Gloucester, Winchcombe, Bristol and Hailes
King William the Conqueror held a Council at Gloucester in 1085 where he was guest of the Abbot and brethren. It was here that he ordered the compiling of what we know as the Domesday Survey. This was in a building attached to the monastery, and just two years before the present building was started.
On October 28th 1216, the young son of the deceased King John was crowned in what is now the Cathedral and became King Henry III. It is said that he was crowned with his mother’s gold bracelet as King John’s crown had been lost with other royal treasures, in The Wash.
King Edward II is buried in what is today, the Cathedral, because other monasteries and abbeys were too frightened to receive it in their own establishments for fear of reprisals from the dead king’s enemies. Abbot Thokey received the body for burial at Gloucester and displayed great courage in so doing.
It was probably because of Edward’s burial in the monastery that King Henry VIII spared the building from destruction at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries-he would not want to destroy the shrine of one of his ancestors.
Parliament was held at Gloucester Abbey in 1378. It is believed that it was on this occasion, when the commoners and the lords disagreed and decided to move into separate rooms to private discussion, that the Government divided for the first time into separate Houses (rooms) – Lords in one, and Commons in the other.
The last Parliament to be held in Gloucester was in 1407. The half timbered building opposite the present Dean’s House is believed to have been the meeting place of Parliament when it met in Gloucester.
CLERGY in the Middle Ages were either very learned secular priests – ie, not attached to a monastery or abbey but living amongst the people to whom they ministered – or else they were members of a religious community and often not very well educated but extremely devout. If there was no priest in the town or village, the ordained monks took the services in churches which they had built for the people.
In some cases, wealthy landowners wanted a church on their estate, and so had one built and in exchange for land and protection, the monks provided priests to take the services.
Clergy were entitled to tithes – one tenth of the produce or income of their parishioners – and this provided their keep. The earliest record we have of a church being built and put under the charge of a Parish Priest is at Woodchester.
It must be remembered that until the time of King Edward VI, the services were in Latin, the Roman Catholic form of service was followed and the Roman Catholic faith was taught.
The parish church was part of the everyday life of the ordinary people and the centre of their social and religious activity, whereas the abbeys and monasteries seemed isolated and detached from everyday society.
The office of Churchwarden came into being about 1300 and their special role was to administer the funds raised by rents from Church owned lands. Churchwardens could be men or women and were elected by the parishioners for one year only. They had to keep accounts of the money they collected, and to provide funds for the repair of the nave of the Church as well as ornaments, books, and everything else needed to maintain the services in the church.
THE PARISH CLERK
The post of parish clerk is one of the most ancient of the lay parish positions, the London Guild of parish clerks was incorporated in 1232. He would assist in the service and lead the singing and responses. The clerks often wrote up the parish registers although this was illegal. The position would very often be passed down from father to son through many generations.
In 1571 Archbishop Grindal of York stated: ‘That no parish clerk be appointed against the good-will, or without the consent of the parson, vicar, or curate in any parish, and that he be obedient to the parson, vicar and curate, specially in the time of celebration of divine service or of sacraments, or in any preparation thereunto; and that he be able also to read the first lesson, the Epistle, and the psalms, with answers to the suffrages, as is used; . . . . and also that he endeavour himself to teach young children to read, if he be able so to do.’
The Middle Ages saw the construction of many of the great cathedral churches which still stand today. A number of today’s Cathedral churches – Gloucester for example – were linked with or founded on the site of monasteries.
Monks lived isolated lives, and often the nearby towns were left without spiritual support and leadership.
Friars on the other hand, dedicated themselves to the religious life but lived and worked among the ordinary townsfolk. They preached in the open air whenever possible, taught children and adults and performed all sorts of works of charity.
In Medieval times the majority of the population was the peasant class who worked on the lord’s estates, and in return for using some of the land for their own benefit, they had to give at least twenty days service to the Lord himself.
60% of the peasants were villeins – villagers – or serfs and were in fact just that. They were the property of the lord who could call upon their labour at any time and also hire, fire or sell them at will. People accepted in those days, that the hierarchy of man was according to God’s will.
Monasteries adopted a Rule of Life which the monks followed and the Rule was one introduced by a holy Founder in a previous generation. The most popular one was that started by St Benedict, well established and followed in this country before the Norman Conquest.
Westbury on Trym, dating from the tenth century, was probably the first monastery in the county to follow the Rule of St Benedict, It was soon adopted by Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Deerhurst. The Rule was based on regular recitation of the Divine Office, work and hospitality to those in need.
But some monks wanted something more strict, more regimented, and this was to be achieved in the Cistercian Order, which established itself at Hailes and Kingswood, near Wotton under Edge.
The Augustinian Canons, following the Rule of St Augustine, established themselves at Bristol, Cirencester and Gloucester.
All these Religious Orders were established before William I arrived in the country but after his arrival there was a great surge in rebuilding existing churches or building bigger and more ornate churches. The only one today which retains much of its original appearance is that at Deerhurst.
The monastic communities kept very much to themselves and would not have had a great input into village life.
However about 1220 the Friars arrived and established themselves in Gloucester. They were soon followed by the Dominicans and another order was established at Wotton under Edge.
By 1022, the monasteries at Winchcombe, Deerhurst Tewkesbury and St Peter’s Gloucester had become Benedictine establishments. St Peter’s Gloucester was destroyed by fire in 1058 and a new church was built, not very large, and probably resembling Deerhurst today.
In 1072, Serlo was appointed Abbot by William the Conqueror. He found only two monks and 8 novices at St Peter’s Abbey, but by 1100 he had raised this to 60 monks and had built a new Abbey church. At this time Tewkesbury was only a small priory, but was soon enlarged and became an important Abbey.
St Oswald’s Priory at Gloucester was built about 909 near to the Royal Palace at Kingsholm and was probably the most important church in the town at the time. It was called ‘St Peter’s not St Oswald’ until the relics of the Northumbrian King Oswald were brought there and the church was enlarged. In 1152-3 it became an Augustinian Priory and the arcade we can see at present dates from that time. The Priory was suppressed in 1537 but part of it was converted into the parish Church of St Catherine. This was demolished in 1655 and a new church built on the site. This too was demolished in 1915 when the new St Catherine’s was built at Wotton Pitch.
The Carmelite Friary (White Friars) was founded in Gloucester before 1268, outside the city East gate. By 1538, the house was in decline with only Friars who were ready to surrender to the King’s commissioner.
In |July 1538, the House was suppressed. The inventory of the House listed vestments (copes) of white, blue and red; a requiem vestment lacking an alb; and old banner, 8 chasubles, 2 altar cloths, old and torn, Our Lady’s Coat, (to cover a statue) a cross, a staff, a lamp, a pair of organs, a holy water stoup, kitchen stuff and bedding and 2 small beds in the steeple. Value – £8.14.8
Llanthony Priory in Gloucester was built for Augustinian Canons – like Cirencester – and completed by 1150. The church was rebuilt in 1275 and again in 1493, under the watchful eye of Prior Henry Dene, who later was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1501. Numbers were about 30 in the 1340s and 22 in the 1530s. 100 also lived there as servants and benefactors.
The Priory was dissolved in 1538 and was the seventh richest in England at the time. The estate and Priory covered about 40 acres. It was bought and used as a private house until 1643, then the church and the cloister were raided by Puritan fanatics. It continued as a farm unitl 1898 .Today the new Gloucester College occupies part of the site and only the Gate House remains as a sign of its previous life.
The Black Friars, Dominicans, arrived in England in 1221 and had established themselves in Gloucester by 1239. Their role was teaching and evangelism, they were not monks. They travelled preaching the word and owned nothing personally, hence they were known as mendicants (beggars) Building at Gloucester had started c1239 and continued until 1270 when there were 40 friars in residence, but by the time of the suppression of the monasteries, there were only 7 and they were living in extreme poverty.
The Priory was purchased by Sir Thomas Bell who converted the church into a grand mansion. The property is now in the care of English Heritage.
The Grey Friars were the first to become established in Gloucester in 1231. Grey, the colour of their robe, gave them their name. They were welcomed to the city in the name of Henry III who had a special affection for Gloucester having been crowned there in St Peter’s Abbey.
The Friary was rebuilt n 1518 but was dissolved twenty years later and only the minimum of remains still stand today behind Eastgate Market and the Public Library.
St Mary’s Abbey, Cirencester was founded by King Henry I in 1117 and very richly endowed with rents and lands. The Church was consecrated in 1176, King Henry II being present. It was home to Augustinian Canons, not monks but priests who lived in community. St Mary’s was the largest and richest of all the Augustinian Abbeys in England. The Abbot had a seat in the House of Lords from 1416.
In 1273 there were 25 Canons with about 100 Abbey servants. The Abbey was suppressed in 1539. From the time of its foundation, Cirencester Abbey served Cheltenham with priests and there may have been a small Priory nearby to house them, and from which they would go to minister in the churches at Leckhampton, Charlton Kings, Swindon Village, Up Hatherley etc
Cirencester Parish Church of St John the Baptist – the largest parish church in the county, was begun about 1400. It has the oldest peal of bells in the county.
Tewkesbury Abbey was founded in 1091 and consecrated in 1121, by Theulf, Bishop of Worcester, with three other Bishops assisting. The present north door is probably the same one on which the Bishop knocked at the consecration, although it has been remade once or twice. The Abbot was very powerful and there were serious disputes with the town’s inhabitants resulting in threats against the Abbot and the monastery.
Very little remains now of the original Abbey buildings apart from the church and the site was levelled in 1830. The Church featured prominently in the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Abbey was dissolved in 1540 with 33 monks still in residence. The Abbot, John Wakeman was made first Bishop of the new Diocese of Gloucester by Henry VIII in 1541.
The people of Tewkesbury offered to buy the church before it was demolished and were allowed to do so for the estimated cost of the bells and lead which were left – £453 in total. It thus became the Parish Church of the town.
To say that the county is littered with ancient barns is not an exaggeration. Most date from medieval times and were built to store the tithes – grain or wool – collected by the abbeys and monasteries of the time.
At Ashleworth is a huge tithe barn, and it is probably over 500 years old. It was built on the instructions of Abbot Newberry for the Abbey of the Augustinians at Bristol.
Hartpury, was built for St Peter’s Abbey at Gloucester and is 14th or 15th century.
Southam barn, just outside Cheltenham dates from 1400.
Syde barn dating from 14th century, belonged to Abbeys of Cirencester and Gloucester with a priest’s house at the lower end of the barn.
Frocester is one of the largest in England and was owned by the Abbey at Gloucester until 1539. The barn was built between 1284 and 1306 to house the tithes due to the Abbey.
Another fine barn is at Winterbourne Court dating from 1342 and the barn at Elmore belonged to the Abbey at Gloucester and dates from 1400s.
At Brockworth, the barn was built for the monks at Llanthony in the 1300s and although partly destroyed by fire in 2000 it has since been rebuilt.
In Prestbury, the aptly named Reform Cottage is probably a converted barn once belonging to Llanthony Priory.
In Bishop’s Cleeve, the manorial tithe barn serves today as the village hall and has been much altered. It belonged to the Bishop of Worcester who owned the manor house, now named Cleeve Hall, and which stands opposite the barn.
Wealthy persons left money in their will to pay a priest to say Mass for the repose of their soul daily or weekly, for ever. As well as money to pay the priest, funds were also left to pay for the creation of a Chantry Chapel in the parish church, which then became the benefactor’s Chapel where the Masses could be offered.
By the fifteenth century all the larger parish churches had a number of Chantry Chapels with its own altar. St Mary’s Parish Church in Cheltenham had Chantry Chapels and there are several in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral.
The priest who said the Masses for the benefactor was not the Parish Priest, but another Priest who was duly instituted by the Bishop and who did only that particular task – saying Mass daily for the deceased, and receiving a generous remuneration in return.
Not all Chantries were well endowed however and some Chantry Priests had to teach to supplement their meagre income. When the use of Chantry Chapels was discontinued at the Reformation and prayers for the dead were forbidden by law, many of these Chapels were converted into private rooms within the church for the members of the deceased’s family, or partly demolished and opened out into the main body of the church.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I there were some 200 Chantry bequests still available in Gloucestershire, but she dissolved most of them and ploughed the income from them into the establishment of schools.
St Mary’s Church, Cheltenham, had two Chantry Chapels, one dedicated to the Virgin Mary and one to St Catherine.
At the time of the Reformation, the Chantry Priests were Thomas Bell for Our Lady and John Grove for St Catherine.
The Chantries had been endowed in the Middle Ages to support two priests to say Mass for ever, for the souls of the founders and all Christian people. Walter French who died in 1476 endowed one of the chapels at St Mary’s and he also endowed one at Charlton Kings, dedicated to Our Lady. This was in the south transept.
In 1574 the income from the Chantries in St Mary’s, Cheltenham was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Richard Pate for funding the Grammar School and a hospital – the Pate’s Almshouses.
In Tudor times, many old churches were enlarged and renovated as a result of wealthy influences.
Places like Chipping Campden, Northleach, Lechlade and Fairford have beautiful churches which resemble small cathedrals. These were rebuilt, renovated or enlarged as a result of the important trade in Cotswold wool that prevailed at the time and which made fortunes for many landowners.
Money was ploughed into the churches by these wealthy landowners or merchants who had amassed great wealth from selling the wool to European markets. Many of these people endowed the churches and paid for their internal adornment and after their death, their bounty is recorded in the mass of BRASSES that are to be found in these Wool Churches.
THE DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES
When King Henry VIII’s henchman, Thomas Cromwell set about destroying the monastic buildings, some townsfolk raised enough money to purchase the building for their own use. Tewkesbury was one such case where the inhabitants of the town paid £453 for the actual church part of the monastery, to be used as the Parish Church of Tewkesbury.
Other places where the former Abbey was allowed to remain as the Parish Church are Gloucester, Cirencester, and to some extent, Winchcombe.
Where the former monasteries were dissolved, the clergy were dispersed and their buildings and land were sold. Some were converted into private dwellings – as in Gloucester with Blackfriars, or else if the building was demolished the stone was either sold for reuse, as in the case of the tower of Toddington which is composed of Hailes stone, or as at Chavenage House which was rebuilt using stone from the dissolved Priory at Horsley.
ABBOTS OF GLOUCESTER FROM 1072
During this period, Gloucestershire, east of the Severn and as far down as Bristol, was part of the Diocese of Worcester. The Abbot was the Head of St Peter’s Abbey, which later became the Cathedral under King Henry VIII.
Serlo: Abbot 1072-1103. He had been Chaplain to William the Conqueror and it was he who transformed a small and declining Religious Community into a great and prosperous monastery. He rebuilt the Abbey which had last been altered in 1058 and Serlo’s new building was consecrated in 1100. He died in 1104 having been Abbot for 32 years. He was buried in his Abbey Church.
He was successful in obtaining grants of money and land to enable the building work to continue and also to provide funds for supporting the growing number of monks during his Abbacy.
Peter: Serlo’s Prior, succeeded him and served as Abbot from 1104-1113.
William Godemon or Godemore was Abbot from 1113-1130 when he retired.
Walter de Lacy was appointed by Godeman as his successor. During his term of office, Robert Duke of Normandy died at Cardiff and was buried in the Abbey. De Lacy was Abbot from 1131-1139.
Gilbert Foliot was Abbot from 1139-1148. He was a Cluniac monk and Thomas a Becket was his mentor and friend although he seems to have lost that friendship just before Becket’s assassination. Foliot became Bishop of Hereford in 1148 and later was translated to the Diocese of London.
Hammeline was Abbot 1148-1179. It was during his Abbacy that anti-Jewish propaganda was rife, resulting in some horrific stories about Jewish atrocities – totally unfounded.
Thomas Carbonel served from 1179-1205.
Henry Blond ( Blunt?) served from 1205-1224 and during his Abbacy, Henry III was crowned in the Abbey in 1216.Henry was succeeded by
Tomas de Bredon 1224-1228; he was succeeded by Henry Foliot, 1228-1243;
Walter de St John was appointed but died before his installation and was succeeded by
John de Felda 1243-1263.
Reginald de Hamme served 1263-1283 and was succeeded by
John de Gamages 1284-1306.
John Thokey was Abbot from 1306-1329 and after the murder of King Edward II at Berkeley in 1327, Thokey was the only Abbot or bishop prepared to accept the body for burial in his church. Edward’s Monument is n the north Ambulatory next to that of Abbot Parker.
John Wygmore served from 1329-1337.
Adam de Staunton served 1337-1351, Thomas Horton 1357-1377, John Byfield 1377-1381 and
Walter Froucester 1381-1412 who kept a Chronicle of the twenty Abbots after the Conquest.
Hugh Moreton 1412-1420 was succeeded by
John Morwent 1421-1437 to whom we owe the west end of the nave.
Reginald Boulars (Boteler?) 1437-1450 became Bishop of Hereford and in 1453 was translated to Lichfield.
Thomas Seabroke served 1450-1457 and it is to him we owe the building of the tower. He was succeeded by
Richard Hanley who began the building of the Lady Chapel which was completed by
William Farley 1472-1498.
John Malvern was Abbot for only one year 1488-1489 and his successor was a monk,
Thomas Braunche, 1500-1514. He was succeeded by
John Newton or (Brown?) DD who served from 1510-1514.
The last Abbot was William Parker who served from 1514-1539. His monument is in the north Ambulatory of the Cathedral today, but his place of burial in not known. He remained Abbot until the Dissolution of the greater monasteries, but when Gloucester Abbey was spared destruction by Henry VIII, Abbot Parker was not made first Bishop of the new Diocese. Perhaps he died before the appointment was made, or perhaps he had in some way upset the Royal Applecart.
BISHOPS OF GLOUCESTER:
John Wakeman was the last of the Benedictine Abbots of Tewkesbury. He was a chaplain to King Henry VIII. At the Dissolution of the Abbey, he was appointed first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Gloucester.
John Hooper, second Bishop of Gloucester from 1551was originally a monk at Cleve. He became a Lutheran and was very anti-establishment but was a sound theologian of the Calvinist school. When offered the Bishopric of Gloucester he at first refused but after a period in the Tower of London he was persuaded to accept and became the second Bishop of the Diocese. For a short period he was also Bishop of Worcester the two Dioceses having been temporarily joined.
He was burnt at the stake in Gloucester by Queen Mary and his memorial shows him dressed in the robes of a Bishop of Queen Mary’s reign.
James Brookes was Bishop for four years – 1554-1558 under Queen Mary. He was a Roman Catholic and was delegated by the Pope to serve at the examination of Archbishop Cranmer, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer, who were subsequently martyred in Oxford.
Richard Cheyney was Bishop 1561-1579.
John Bullingham served as Bishop 1581-1598. Bishops Cheyney and Bullingham each held Gloucester and Bristol in plurality until 1589.
Godfrey Goldsborough served 1598-1604.
Thomas Ravis was one of the translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible, and had formerly been Dean of Christ Church Oxford. He served Gloucester 11604-1607 when he was translated to London.
Henry Parry was translated from Rochester in 1607 and served Gloucester until 1610. From there he moved to Worcester.
Giles Thompson served 1611-1612 and was succeeded by
Miles Smith, another translator of the Authorised Version of the Bible. He is credited with having written the Preface. It was Miles Smith who refused to enter his Cathedral in Gloucester until Dean Laud had been removed.
Godfrey Goodman succeeded Miles Smith 1624-1649 and he in turn was succeeded by
William Nicholson 1660-1671.
John Prichard was Bishop from 1672-1680 and he was succeeded by
Robert Frampton 1680-1691.who was Dean in 1673. Bishop Robert was one of the Non Jurors, Bishops who refused to take oaths of allegiance and supremacy at the succession of King William III. He was deprived of his position as Bishop of Gloucester but given the living of the Parish of Standish.
Edward Fowler (1691-1714) succeeded Bishop Frampton and he in turn was succeeded by
Richard Willis 1714-1721, at which point he was translated to Salisbury and later to Winchester.
Joseph Wilcocks was Bishop from 1721-1731 when he was translated to Rochester and appointed also Dean of Westminster.
Elias Sydall came to Gloucester from St David’s in 1731 and stayed until 1733. He was also Dean of Canterbury.
Martin Benson was Bishop from 1734-1752. He initially refused to accept the nomination but was persuaded to do so, and upon accepting, he vowed that he would never leave the Diocese. It was Bishop Benson who ordained George Whitfield. Benson also made very rigorous visitations throughout his Diocese and was very critical of the laxity which he found. He made strenuous efforts to rectify these and was on the whole, successful. His role as Bishop was challenged by the rise of the non-conformist movement in the county and his personal life was very detached form the people of Gloucester. He was succeeded by
James Johnson 1752-1759 when he was translated to Worcester. He was a worldly man, intent on improving and modernising his Episcopal palace rather than Mixing with his people.
William Warburton was his successor from 1759 to 1779. He was a coarse man who had no love of preaching. He denounced the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Methodists, and his memorial tablet in the Cathedral was obviously written by one of his closest friends – it is too flattering to be unbiased. He was followed by
James Yorke who only served three years 1779-1781. He came from St David’s and was translated from Gloucester to Ely.
Samuel Halifax 1781-1789 was appointed to Gloucester then translated to St Asaph, a rather unusual ‘promotion’.
Richard Beadon was the next appointment to Gloucester, 1789-1802. He resigned his position as Master of Jesus College Cambridge upon his appointment and was translated from there to Wells.
George Isaac Huntingford served Gloucester from 1802-1815 at which time he was translated to Hereford. He was a respected mathematician. He published a book titled “Thoughts on the Trinity” which was not well received by the literary theological critics. He lived to be 83.
Henry Ryder was Dean of Wells and was appointed to Gloucester in 1815. He remained there until his appointment to Lichfield in 1824
Christopher Bethell succeeded Ryder in 1824 and remained until 1830. He moved to Exeter as Bishop for one year and was then translated to Bangor.
James Henry Monk was consecrated Bishop of Gloucester in 1830. He had formerly been Dean of Peterborough. He was more of a writer than a preacher and a very scholarly man. The Sees of Gloucester and Bristol were united in 1838 and he remained Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol until his death in 1856. During his time at Gloucester, there appeared the famous Tracts for the Times which heralded the Arrival of the Oxford Movement. In 1847 four of his cathedral clergy converted to Roman Catholicism which upset him deeply.
Charles Baring was his successor at Gloucester 1856-1861 from where he went to Durham. He was Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol at a time when Darwin was causing great excitement. He was a staunch evangelical and was much opposed to clergy who held High Church views.
William Thompson was appointed to succeed Baring at Gloucester and Bristol in 1861 but in 1862 was appointed Archbishop of York. It was he who was supposed to lay the foundation stone of the new St Mark’s Church in Cheltenham, but was unable to do so.
Thompson was succeeded by the longest serving Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England,
Charles John Ellicott who was appointed in 1863. The See of Gloucester and Bristol was again separated in 1898 and Ellicott continued as Bishop of Gloucester from 1897 until his death in 1905.
Ellicott was a Bishop who tried to maintain a ‘middle way’ between the evangelicals and the High Church party amongst the clergy. He believed in the infallibility of the bible as the word of God. He was scholarly, quiet and unassuming. He consecrated most of Middleton’s churches in Cheltenham. During his episcopate it is said that he was nominated for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury but this was blocked by a certain politician.
Edgar Charles Sumner Gibson served 1905 –1923 when he was succeeded by
Arthur Cayley Headlam who guided the Diocese through WW II. He was not a very emotional man but he had a sharp mind and keen intellect. Between 1923 and 1946 he devoted much of his energy and attention to the unification of the Christian Churches and he had one or two very influential and well known Roman Catholic friends with whom he corresponded.
Clifford Salisbury Woodward was appointed in 1946 and was succeeded by
Wilfred Marcus Askwith 1954-1962
Basil Tudor Guy succeeded Askwith and served until 1975.
John Yates, a very spiritual and kindly man, was appointed in 1976. He was Bishop until moving to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff at Lambeth Palace and he was succeeded by an Anglican monk, a member of the Community of the Glorious Ascension, who was translated from Lewes where he had been Area Bishop,
Peter Ball. Bishop Peter served just over a year as Bishop 1992-1993 when he retired. His successor was
David Bentley the Suffragan Bishop of Lynn who served Gloucester until 2005 when he retired and was succeeded by the Dean of Derby,
King Henry VIII really had no open desire to join the Protestant Reformation and it is generally accepted that it was his second wife, Anne Boleyn who brought to England, the French Reform Movement. However Henry’s spiritual adviser, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer gave the Church of England a distinctive identity. He wrote Prayers and the Litany which are still used today in the Book of Common Prayer which he compiled for Henry’s successor, his son, Edward VI.
Under Edward, gradually the effects of the Reformation began to infiltrate the country and many of the old traditions and forms of worship disappeared. Pictures, murals, statues, vestments, – everything that added colour and beauty to worship, was destroyed on the orders of Edward’s henchman.
The Reformation in England flourished under Edward VI. Then the country reverted back to Roman Catholicism under Queen Mary after Edward’s death, but returned to a reformed Church under Elizabeth I. This Elizabethan Church of England, the Established Church of England, tried to combine the Protestant and Catholic element and Elizabeth was tolerant of a wide variety of practices, provided that she was acknowledged as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
PROTESTANTISM was established as the State Religion in 1547 when King Edward VI, Henry VIII’s heir, succeeded to the throne and the Prayer Book replaced the former Catholic Missal and Breviary. Forty Two Articles of Religion were introduced as the standard beliefs of the Church of England – now reduced to 39.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Nonconformists openly protested that the State had no right to interfere in a man’s religious beliefs. Nonconformists were known as Dissenters or Separatists and included Roman Catholics.
Dissenters were punished if they did not worship in their parish Church and all baptisms, marriages, burials were required by law to be conducted in the Anglican Church.
As time passed, some Roman Catholics – called Recusants – had their own Catholic Priest to minister to them and he was kept secretly in the large houses of wealthy Catholics. If the house was searched – and it was punishable by law to be a Catholic Priest in England – the Priest would be hidden in what came to be known as Priest Holes – until the danger had disappeared.
A PERIOD OF RELIGIOUS CONFLICT began during the reign of King Henry VIII, when he broke away from the authority of the Pope in matters of faith, and declared himself Supreme Governor of a separate Church of England.
Soon, some groups of Christians found themselves in opposition to the doctrines of the Church of England and established their own Nonconformist Churches – these included the Roman Catholics who still looked to the Pope in Rome for spiritual leadership.
The Anglicans persecuted these minority groups and treated them harshly and when opportunity arose during the reign of Catholic Queen Mary, the table was turned on the Anglicans.
In 1689 a Toleration Act was passed by Parliament allowing Nonconformists to worship freely in their own meeting houses and chapels, but this did not specifically included Roman Catholics. However as long as they kept to themselves and did try to convert others. With the passing of the two Catholic Relief Acts towards the end of the eighteenth century they were also allowed to worship freely as long as their churches did not look like churches and were not sited in prominent positions in towns or cities.
The passing of the Catholic Relief Acts and then Catholic Emancipation in 1829 excited some hostility and there is evidence of this locally. Under Francis Close, Rector of Cheltenham, opposition to Roman Catholicism reached its peak in Cheltenham. He preached against Popery and organised protest marches and bitter anti – Catholic debates in the town. The local press however wrote of the Catholic population as ‘a loyal, long suffering class of our fellow subjects’. Further anti-Catholic feeling was aroused in 1850 when Roman Catholic Dioceses were established in England, and this resulted in protest attacks on the Catholic Chapel in Cheltenham. This was deplored by the local MP and the Unitarian congregation who offered financial help to defray the cost of the damage.
In 1895 the growing number of Catholics in the town necessitated the building – or rather conversion of a house – in Prestbury Mill Street, which could accommodate 50 worshippers. This closed in 1902.Nowadays, Mass is celebrated in Holy Name Hall, which is served from St Gregory’s, and which opened in 1964.
The Church of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Joseph at Charlton Kings was opened in 1957. The Parish of Sacred Hearts had been created in 1947 and a presbytery built in 1954.
Mass had been celebrated in the village since 1939 when the Sisters of La Sainte Union opened their school and convent at Charlton Kings.
THE OXFORD MOVEMENT
The Oxford Movement and the Ritualist Movement which succeeded it, promoted an increased awareness of the Church of England’s rich tradition and links to the Church Universal prior to the Reformation. The Movement had a tremendous effect on religious life in Britain. The followers of men like John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey took a keen interest in the teachings and writings of the early Fathers of the church, and sought to restore decency and order to a Church that was struggling for its existence.
For the first time since the Reformation, religious orders of monks and nuns appeared once more within the Church of England and the Movement heralded the increased vocations of young men to the life of Priests in the Anglican Church, many eventually working tirelessly in the industrial slums of London and the new industrial towns.
They sought to lift their congregations from the dreariness and monotony of daily life into the beauty and splendour of ceremonial worship and its attendant symbolism. Sacred music and chants, incense and vestments, the emphasis on the position of the altar and weekly Holy Communion were re-introduced to give glory and honour to God and to lead the people into an awareness of the presence of God and an experience of the Holy.
In Gloucestershire, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, funding was available for the building of new churches to accommodate increasing populations in the townships and also in rural areas.
In Gloucestershire, the Oxford Movement inspired the building of churches at Bussage: at Tetbury – St Saviours: Highnam; France Lynch; Oakridge; and additions and alterations were made to the church at Prestbury.
Later Tractarian churches built as their influence increased were All Saints in Cheltenham and in 1873, St Stephen’s, although Tractarian meant built on the lines of medieval churches with a defined raised sanctuary, separate chancel and choir stalls, the pulpit moved to one side, and the font at the west end and not necessarily “ bells and smells.”
THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is still a favourite expression of Church of England Worship and doctrine, with many congregations today, although this is becoming less so. Prior to the advent of printing in the 15th century, service books were handwritten in Latin – the universal language of educated people, and decorated by monks or Religious. Only the wealthy could afford to own their own Breviary containing Offices and Prayers and Litanies.
By the beginning of the 1500s it was possible to print service books in English and in 1549, in the reign of King Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII, the first English Prayer Book was printed. This was a revised, simplified and shortened version of the old Latin services. Now people who could read, could also follow the services from their own books.
The services of new Prayer Book were tried out at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey other places and by March 1549 the first Prayer Book was published. The Act of Uniformity decreed that from June 9th this Book had to be used in all Parish Churches in the country.
The following year, John Marbecke set the Communion Service to music.
The Second Prayer Book of 1552 was a revision of the first, and begun as a result of adverse criticism from some of the continental influential Protestant Reformers and including our own Bishop Hooper of Gloucester. This Second Prayer Book remained in force for just eight months – the end of the reign of Edward VI in 1553 – and England became Roman Catholic again, under Queen Mary. Once again, services returned to pre-Reformation pattern and were in Latin.
With the Accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, steps were taken to restore the Prayer Book and this was done in 1559, Prayer Book Three. A Latin version was produced the following year, as a sop to traditionalists.
The Kalendar of Saints was drastically revised and curtailed, the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion – the C of E’s statement of Doctrine – was reduced from the previous forty two Articles, the Psalter as we have it today was almost complete, and the rubrics enforced a minimum of ceremonial.
Soon the staunch Protestants found fault with the new version and avoided using it, in spite of the law which compelled its use.
King James I became King in 1603 and a revised Fourth Prayer Book was published in 1604. Although it was not very much different from it’s the previous versions, it did lay more emphasis on the Sacraments and prayers for special occasions. Some of the previously discarded ritual practices – bowing at the name of Jesus for example – were enforced as were the introduction once again of altar frontals, fair linen cloths on the altar and the reintroduction of some liturgical vestments.
During the Commonwealth period, the use of the Prayer Book was banned and its use even in private was a criminal offence. King James died, Charles I was executed in 1649 and it was not until 1660 that the Prayer book again saw daylight, and was used by King Charles II before the House of Lords in May.
In 1661 a Committee of Bishops was appointed to revise the Prayer book, and the completed version is the one still in use today – The 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
There have been many revisions of specific services as well as the whole Prayer Book but these have not always been favourably received, such as the 1928 Prayer Book. Most visitors to this exhibition will remember the Series 1, II and III succession of provisional services, the ASB and to bring us right up to date, Common Worship 2000.
THE ENGLISH BIBLE
The Bible translation, like the Book of Common Prayer, has had its ups and downs, but most translations have reflected the language of the age and also advance in scholarship.
In 1525, William Tyndale translated the New Testament from the Greek and some Old Testament Books from Hebrew.
1535 saw the first complete printed bible in English, translated from the Latin and German and based upon Tyndale’s version. This was the Miles Coverdale Bible which was chosen for the Great Chained bibles placed in churches by Henry VIII.
The Bishops’ Bible was produced in 1568 and is the basis of the King James Authorised Version so well loved still today.
The Roman Catholic Church produced The Douai Bible in 1582 – New Testament, and the Old Testament in 1609. It is almost a literal translation of the Latin Vulgate.
The Authorised King James Version of the Bible was completed by six committees in 1611.
In 1881-1885 The Revised Version was an ecumenical attempt at a modern translation but is inferior to the Authorised Version.
Since then we have seen many new translations – the New English Bible, The Revised Standard Version, The New Revised Standard Version etc etc. Some very modern versions are dialect translations in Scouse, Geordie and Cockney.
SAINT ALPHEGE, (Alfege) Archbishop of Canterbury
Little is known about the early life of Alphege, saint and martyr whose life is celebrated in the Anglican Calendar on 19th April. However, he can be claimed as a ‘local’ saint in that he started his life as a disciple of Christ in the monastery at Deerhurst.
Alphege came from a well to do family and was well educated by them. However as he grew up he realised that his mother’s love for him and his father’s wealth stood in the way of the life to which he believed God was calling him. With some deep regret he left home and entered the monastery at Deerhurst. He was clothed in the religious habit and set an example to his fellow monks in fasting and prayer. Nevertheless he found the monastic life at Deerhurst too worldly and after several years he left the community and moved to Bath where he spent some years living the life of a hermit. Awareness of his holiness soon spread and others came to join him so that his life as a hermit changed to that of life once again within a community of monks.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who later was canonised as St Dunstan, heard of Alphege’s holiness and love of God and appointed him Abbot of the monastery at Bath and some years later, in 984 he was appointed Bishop of Winchester.
In 1005 Alphege was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury but six years later the Danish invaders took him prisoner and he was brutally murdered by his captors at Greenwich on April 19th 1012.
His Festival is celebrated on 19th April in the Anglican Calendar:
Merciful God who raised up your servant Alphege to be a pastor of your people and gave him grace to suffer for justice and true religion, grant that we who celebrate his martyrdom may know the power of the risen Christ in our hearts and share His peace in lives offered to your service.
SAINT WULFSTAN, Bishop of Worcester
Wulfstan was born in 1008 in Warwickshire and he received his early education at Evesham Abbey and Peterborough Abbey. As a young man he became a member of the household of the Bishop of Worcester, was ordained to the priesthood and entered the monastery at Worcester, where he was appointed Prior in 1050.
Ten years later, he was elected Bishop of Worcester a position he held until his death in 1095. During his time as Bishop, the Diocese of Worcester included most of today’s Gloucestershire, east of the River Severn and down as far as Bristol.
Wulfstan was the first English Bishop recorded as having made a systematic visitation of his whole Diocese and he began a massive building scheme throughout the Diocese – a new Cathedral Church at Worcester, Tewkesbury Abbey and Pershore Abbey to name but three of his lasting projects. The crypt of the present Worcester Cathedral dates from his time.
He was a very loved and holy man who did not enjoy the pomp and graces surrounding his office. He was never happier than when ministering to the needs of his flock, especially the children and the poor. Many miracles were recorded during his life and “Cured by St Wulfstan’s water” became a much used figure of speech. He brought back a child to life at Gloucester, he cured a man possessed by demons at Bishop’s Cleeve, he worked miracles at Kempsey and consecrated the church at Longney, and dedicated the Abbey Church at Gloucester. At Blockley, he caused a mishap to the Sacristan who had upset him.
He died at Worcester on 19th January 1095 and was soon canonised. He was buried in his Cathedral and there is on record, many visits from Gloucestershire, of people who went to pray at his shrine and to seek healing. His tomb was destroyed at the Reformation.
St Wulfstan’s day is commemorated on 19th January in the Anglican Calendar
Lord God who raised up Wulfstan to be a Bishop among your people and a leader of your church; help us after his example to live simply, to work diligently and to make your kingdom known.
Exhibits: Crypt; Portrait; churches consecrated by him
HENRY DEAN (b c1430; d 1503), Archbishop of Canterbury
Henry Dean was Prior of Llanthony Abbey in Gloucester and the Abbey owned the Church of St Mary de Crypt in the city. During his lifetime, Henry was responsible for rebuilding this church on the site of the original Norman building. Henry became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1501 just before the Reformation took hold. He died two years later in 1503.
WILLIAM TYNDALE, Bible Translator and Reformer
Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire in 1484 or 1485. Some researchers claim Slimbridge, others North Nibley, as his place of birth, but according to John Foxe, he was born ‘on the borders of England and Wales’. He grew up in an age when people who could read could not afford to own books, and even then, holy books such as the Bible were usually available only in Latin. John Wycliffe, born 1330 had already translated the Latin scriptures into English, but only hand written copies were available to the roving preachers who toured the country sharing the Gospels with the common folk.
William Tyndale studied at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1521 he became tutor to the son of a wealthy gentleman at Little Sodbury Manor, near Bristol. The house still reserves an attic room as the Tyndale Room. He also preached in Bristol and in what is today the South Gloucestershire area and was astounded at the lack of knowledge of the scriptures that the people displayed.
By William Tyndale’s time, printing had been invented and he produced a translation of the New Testament, based on the Greek texts then available, in the 1520s. Because of opposition to the work Tyndale was doing – one had to have the permission of a Bishop to translate any part of the Bible into English in order to ensure accuracy and avoidance of heresy – – he was forced to live in exile in the Netherlands where he continued with his translations. Soon, over 12,000 New Testaments were printed and many were smuggled into England from 1526. Other publications of his angered the King, Henry VIII, especially when Tyndale opposed Henry’s divorce and remarriage to Anne Boleyn.
William Tyndale was hunted like an animal and when eventually traced to Antwerp, he was arrested and burnt at the stake eighteen miles outside of the city, for heresy. This was in 1536, and he was aged only 46. His final words before dying were:
Lord open the eyes of the King of England.
By the time of his arrest he had translated the whole of the New Testament into English. Most of the 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible, The King James Version that is so loved today, is a result of Tyndale’s original translation.
The Tyndale Monument at North Nibley was designed by the well known Victorian Architect S.S Teulon in 1862. The tower was completed in 1866. It measures 111 feet in height and is 26 feet square.
The inscription above the entrance reads:
Erected AD 1866 in grateful remembrance of William Tyndale, translator of the English Bible who first caused the New Testament to be printed in the mother tongue of his countrymen; born near this spot, he suffered martyrdom – strangled and then burnt at the stake – at Vilvorde, in Flanders, on October 6th 1536.
This day is kept as his memorial in the Anglican Calendar.
Lord, give to your people grace to hear and keep your word that after the example of your servant William Tyndale, we may not only profess your Gospel, but also be ready to suffer and die for it, to the honour of your name.
Exhibits: Model of Tyndale Monument. Little Sodbury Manor. Portrait. Bible. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
BISHOP HUGH LATIMER, Bishop of Worcester and Reformer
Latimer was born in 1485 of a yeoman family and at the age of twenty one, entered Cambridge University. He was a staunch Roman Catholic and was Crucifer at College services. He was ordained and became a powerful preacher, but soon came under the influence of the Continental Protestant reformers and his Bishop banned him from preaching in the university. Several times he was called to appear before the Bishop of London on charges of heresy. Strange as it may seem he caught the attention and interest of King Henry and was made a Royal Chaplain. His appointment to a parish in Wiltshire as Vicar aroused much criticism from his fellow Catholic clergy and he was eventually excommunicated and imprisoned for a time in London.
Again, as if by divine intervention, the King secured his release and appointed him Bishop of Worcester, so he thus became Bishop of a Diocese which included most of Gloucestershire, where he remained for four years.
He resigned his Bishopric after four years because he refused to agree to the strict Roman Catholic teaching which King Henry required in the Church. He was eventually arrested and imprisoned but when King Edward VI came to the throne, Latimer was released and again offered the Bishopric of Worcester, which he refused. He retired to live with Archbishop Cranmer at Lambeth Palace, and promoted the Reformation by his preaching.
When Queen Mary came to the throne, he was again arrested and imprisoned and put on trial for heresy.
In October 1555 he was led to a place of execution in Oxford – where the Martyrs Memorial now stands, and together with Bishop Ridley was burnt at the stake.
He left no descendents to carry on the name.
Thus two who had been Bishops of a Diocese which included Gloucestershire – Bishop Hooper and Bishop Latimer became martyrs for the Protestant religion.
In Bishop Latimer’s episcopate of the Diocese of Worcester which included Gloucestershire east of the River Severn, the Sheriff of Gloucester complained to the King’s Vicar general, Thomas Cromwell, against the disorderly and colorable (?) preaching of certain of the Bishop’s preachers, to the disquiet of the people. During his episcopate Bishop Latimer threw out of his Cathedral a medieval statue of the Virgin Mary which was venerated by pilgrims from far and wide in the Diocese and which was reputed to have miraculous powers.
It was also Bishop Latimer who was responsible for the removal and analysis of the phial containing the Holy Blood of Hailes and ordering its destruction in London.
BISHOP JOHN HOOPER, Bishop of Gloucester and Reformer
Hooper is remembered through the memorial erected to his memory outside the west gate of Gloucester Cathedral – his Cathedral. It was on a site near to this monument that Bishop Hooper was burned at the stake in 1555. During excavations to erect the monument in 1862, a charred wooden stump was discovered which many believe to be the remains of the stake to which Hooper was tied.
John Hooper was born in 1495. His religious life started as a Catholic monk at Cleve Abbey in Somerset, and later at Blackfriars in Gloucester. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, he was pensioned off and devoted his next years to study and teaching. He soon became interested in the protestant doctrines of the Reformation and he sought refuge in the Protestant community in Basle and Zurich. After the death of Henry VIII Hooper returned to England where he spent much of each day preaching to the crowds who came to listen to him.
Hooper was nominated second Bishop of Gloucester in 1551 by King Edward VI and although he was strongly opposed to the pomp and ceremony which surrounded the office, he reluctantly agreed to accept the nomination. He was very concerned about the needs of the poor, but more so with the lack of scriptural and spiritual knowledge among his clergy in the diocese. He visited all the parishes in 1551 including Cheltenham, and found that among other things, 10 priests could not say the Lord’s Prayer, 27 did not know who had ‘composed’ it and 30 did not know where in the Bible to find it.
Sometime later, Gloucester and Worcester were united as one Diocese and he became Bishop of Worcester and Gloucester.
When the Catholic Queen Mary ascended the throne in 1553, Bishop Hooper refused to return to Catholicism and he publicly denied many of the teachings of the Catholic Church. He was imprisoned in London. Later he was sent to Gloucester and was burnt at the stake on February 9th 1555.
John Foxe in The Book of ( Protestant) Martyrs describes his death:
He was taken in silence to the appointed place, smiling cheerfully on any whom he knew. He walked with difficulty as he was suffering from sciatica which he had caught in prison. Upwards of 7,000 persons congregated to see the last scenes, the tree boughs being used as seats. Three iron hoops had been prepared to fasten him to the stake and he had three bags of gunpowder tied to him. He pointed out how the faggots of wood were to be arranged and even arranged some with his own hands.
In three quarters of an hour his body fell forwards and he was released from his sufferings.
Bishop Hooper was regular in making visits to the parishes in his Diocese and reporting on his findings. In 1551 he complained that the people of Gloucestershire repeatedly failed to communicate, as was required in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, when it was their turn on the rota to provide the elements for the service. Instead they persuaded neighbours to do so on their behalf! Bishop Hooper issued an injunction requiring of all his clergy the stripping out of any steps or partitions where altars had been [against the east wall]; forbidding the celebrating of communion anywhere where the Mass had been celebrated; forbade the decking out or apparelling of tables [altars] behind or in front as if they were altars; and any variety or tone or pitch of voice which might be reminiscent of the Mass.
We do not know for certain that Bishop Hooper visited Cheltenham but we do know that the destruction of the images of St Christopher and St Erasmus – and perhaps others too – and the defacing of the chancel wall paintings were carried out in response to his injunctions.
ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM LAUD, Dean of Gloucester and Archbishop of Canterbury
Laud was born in 1573 in Reading and ordained in 1601. He opposed the protestant teaching and worship which prevailed in the Church of England at the time and believed that the majesty of God should be reflected in the liturgy and worship of the Church as it was before the Reformation. In 1616 he was appointed Dean of Gloucester by King James I and his brief was to put Gloucester to rights. He spent money on restoring the fast decaying stonework of the Cathedral. He also made an enemy of the Bishop of Gloucester, Giles Smith, a strong Calvinist, by moving the altar from its Puritan-preferred place in the Chancel back to where it belonged, against the east wall of the Sanctuary. The Puritans complained that he thus made the altar more important than the pulpit! He is also credited with introducing communion rails to separate the chancel from the sanctuary, thus emphasising the importance of the sanctuary as a sacred space and he insisted that Holy Communion was to be received kneeling. His teaching that the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church were both part of the same Catholic Church also earned him many enemies.
He was appointed Bishop of St David’s by the King, in 1621 and for the remainder of his life he sought to enforce liturgical uniformity amongst the clergy in the Anglican Church, thus arousing the hostility of the ruling Puritan party. Later in 1633, King Charles appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury. He was relentless in enforcing his views upon his clergy and continuously came into conflict with the Puritan element, which had power in Parliament at the time. In 1641 his enemies within the Church had him arrested and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London where he was kept until his trail. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on 10th January 1645 aged 72, on a verdict among other things, of moving the Church of England towards re-union with Rome.
Until the last century, a special Laud’s Day celebration of the Eucharist was held in Gloucester Cathedral on 10th January, but fell into abeyance. Thankfully William Laud has a deserved place in the Anglican Calendar today, where on January 10th the anniversary of his death can be celebrated as a Lesser Festival.
A small unpolished brass plaque at the north end of the altar in the Seabroke Chapel is the only memorial to Dean William Laud, to be found in Gloucester Cathedral, although a room in the former Deanery (Church House) is named the Laud Room.
Exhibits: Portrait, altar rails; the Bishop of Glos; St John’s Oxford; pre-Laudian Church; the Laud Room. Interior of Cath in 1620.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD, Evangelist
Whitefield was born in Gloucester in 1714, where his father ran the Bell Inn. He studied at Oxford where he came into contact with ‘The Holy Club’ later named, Methodists. He was so attracted by their lifestyle that he modelled his own life pattern on theirs, taking over leadership of the Oxford Methodists after the Wesleys, John and Charles had left to work in America. Whitefield was to become one of the greatest evangelists of the eighteenth century. In 1736 at the age of 22, George was ordained deacon by Bishop Benson of Gloucester and soon earned a reputation as a gifted preacher, his first sermon being preached at St Mary de Crypt church. The pulpit is still in situ. He was ordained priest in 1739 but as not welcomed to preach by the local clergy because of his association with ‘dissenters’ – non conformists.
He immediately started a round of preaching in Bristol in order to raise money for overseas mission work. He preached in the open air at Kingswood, where he estimated the crowd to number 10,000 people. Later ‘audiences’ numbered 600 in Stroud and 3,000 in Gloucester Cathedral and 3000 in the street at Painswick. In Cheltenham he found the responsive remarkable: “Some were so filled with the Holy Ghost that they were almost unable to support themselves under it.” It is surprising that one of his ‘Societies’ was not started in the town.
In later life, George Whitefield threw in his lot with the Welsh Calvinists and became chaplain to Lady Huntingdon who founded the Huntingdon Connexion denomination.
There was quite a display of emotion during many of his sermons, with faintings and convulsions but also many lasting conversions.
He died in 1770 in America while on a preaching tour.
Exhibits: (St Mary de Crypt) Pulpit and font of Raikes and Whitefield. Bell Inn. Portrait
JOHN WESLEY, Evangelist
Brothers John and Charles Wesley together with George Whitefield met at Oxford University and dedicated their lives to praying and living methodically according to the teaching of the New Testament.
John became an Anglican Priest and such an enthusiastic preacher, that many Anglican colleagues would not have him in their pulpits. So John took to preaching in the open air. Thousands turned up at these open air gatherings – some say that as many as 30,000 turned up at one meeting. It is estimated that he preached over 40,000 sermons and travelled over 250,000 miles.
John Wesley preached in St John’s Church, Northgate, Gloucester in 1739 and the first ordained Ministers of the ‘Methodists’ in this County were appointed in 1779. The first local chapel erected in the County was at Gloucester, by which time there were only three Ministers in the whole County.
Wesley made his first visit to Cheltenham in August 1744. He addressed an audience from the open pillared Market Place to the front of the present Regent Arcade. He wrote in his diary; “ Here I addressed one of the largest audiences ever assembled there. The footmen in livery created a disturbance but on speaking to them, they were attentive.” He also gathered an audience as they left the Parish Church after morning service but his preaching had little effect upon them. He came again in October of the same year, but,“ The company seemed to understand just as much what I said as if I had been talking Greek and Latin.” He later visited Gotherington on several occasions and was much better pleased there with his reception.
However, not to be daunted, John Wesley again came to Cheltenham in 1766 – twenty two years after his first visit, and received a much better reception. “I preached in the open air and did not notice any rich or poor go away until I had completed.” He visited again in 1768 and finally in 1784 when “The audience was but small and cold and dead enough!”
The Anglican Church Calendar commemorates John and his brother Charles, on 24th May
Wesley left us another insight into his interests with the publication in 1747 of a book of home remedies to give advice and relief to his followers. The book was called The Primitive Physick, an easy and natural way to cure most Diseases. Cold baths appear to have been one of his fix-all remedies. Although many of the remedies in the book were quite useless the book proved popular and was reprinted several times.
A cure for Asthma: A pint of cold water every morning and wash the head in cold water and use a cold bath every two weeks. A decoration of liquorice often gives relief or half a pint of tar water twice a day, or live a fortnight chiefly on boiled carrots. It seldom fails.
How to prevent chilblains: Wear flannel socks or socks of chamois leather.
A Cold Cure: drink a pint of cold water in bed – lying down.
Or a Cold in the head: pare very thinly the rind of an orange, roll it up inside out and stuff a roll into each nostril.
Headaches: apply to each temple the thin yellow rind of a lemon newly pared off, OR pour some brandy into the palm of the hand and add the zest of a lemon and hold to the head.
Exhibits: The Cross; Portrait of Wesley; first Methodist Chapel in Chelt.; Page from his diary referring to Chelt. His recipe book; his diary.
JOHN MOORE, Archbishop of Canterbury
Moore was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1783 to 1805. He was born in Gloucester where his baptism is recorded in the Parish register of St Michael’s Church on 13th January. His parents were Thomas and Elizabeth. Thomas was twice Churchwarden of St Michael’s. John won a place at Pembroke College Oxford and matriculated at the age of 15.
FRANCIS, WINTERBOTHAM AND BURCHELL, Baptist Ministers
Benjamin Francis was minister of Shortwood Baptist Church in Horsley Parish from 1757 until 1799 and William Winterbotham served there from 1804 until 1829. Both were eloquent and persuasive preachers and developed the Baptist Church in the Nailsworth area so that it was said at one point to be the largest Baptist Churches outside of London. They established Sunday schools and sought to support the poor, suffering, cloth workers and their families. Winterbotham also supported missionary work abroad and Shortwood sent seven of its members on the mission field. The most noteable was Thomas Burchell who went to Jamaica in 1823 where he founded a hill station called Shortwood and fought ceaselessly on behalf of the slaves. In 1833 an Act was passed liberating 800,000 slaves in the British West Indies. Burchell spent a large part of his savings on helping them. The Shortwood congregation contributed £107 towards rebuilding chapels destroyed by furious slave owners.
ROBERT RAIKES, Founder of Sunday Schools
Raikes, born in Gloucester in 1735, was a Gloucestershire journalist. His statue stands in the Embankment Gardens in London, not because of his journalism but because of his work with prisoners and neglected and deprived children. He was a staunch churchman and set up a class in Gloucester prison whereby the more educated prisoner helped the less able to read and write. In 1780, he teamed up with a Gloucester Rector, Thomas Stock, of St John’s, Northgate, who already had started a school for poor children on a Sunday, the only day of the week on which children were not compelled to work to scrape a living for their parents. Hence Sunday Schools. Raikes had witnessed scenes of ragged urchins playing, swearing and screaming in the streets on their day off, after working six days a week mostly in the city’s pin factories. Robert provided premises, trained teachers and set in place rules for behaviour and attendance. The early days were fraught with difficulty and some opposition, especially from the factory owners, but within a short space of time the impact of his work became widely known and influential people visited Gloucester to admire and inspect his work. He inspired and encouraged William Fox of Bourton on the Water to found the Sunday School Society. In 1787 Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III invited him to Windsor to talk about his work, but his beloved city of Gloucester provided his final resting place after his death in 1811.
“ the Sunday Schools established by Mr Raikes of Gloucester at he close of the (18th) century were the beginning of popular education” (J R Green in A Shorter History of the English People)
St Mary de Crypt is where his remains lie to this day although his national memorial stands on the London Embankment.
Exhibits: Robert Raikes House in Southgate Street) First Sunday school in St Catherine’s street; Cheltenham’s Alstone Lane School. Portrait of Robert. St Mary de Crypt.
REVEREND ROWLAND HILL, Evangelist
Rowland Hill, the celebrated divine, was born in Shropshire in 1744. He was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1773 and he became a respected evangelical preacher with a very strong following. A chapel or Tabernacle was built for him at Wotton-under-Edge, and he opened the one in Cheltenham in St George’s Square, in 1809. He regularly preached the anniversary sermon there until his death. He was a committed supporter of Dr Jenner’s vaccination campaign and worked tirelessly for the Religious Tract Society and the London Missionary Society, both evangelical organisations. Rowland Hill developed opportunities for poor people to find work and established almshouses in Wotton-under-Edge.
Exhibits: Cheltenham Chapel; Portrait; Wotton Tabernacle
SAMUEL SEBASTIAN WESLEY, Organist
Samuel Sebastian Wesley is probably best known as an organist – of Hereford, Exeter, Worcester and Gloucester Cathedrals. He is acknowledged as one of the most influential figures in English choir singing and composed many anthems, settings and hymn tunes, some still used today.
Samuel was born in Bristol in 1766. John Wesley was his great uncle and his grandfather was Charles Wesley, the renowned hymn writer and brother of John.
He took up his appointment at Gloucester, in June 1865, upon the death of the previous organist. He was of a rather irrational temperament and prone to bursts of impatience. Once, when invited by Mrs Ellicott, wife of the bishop of Gloucester, to play for the Ladies’ Society, he stuck it out for only a few minutes, then in absolute rage, shouted out “Cats” slammed down the piano lid and stormed out of the room. Samuel was organist at Gloucester Cathedral for the last eleven years of his life and he died at his home in the city in his 66th year in 1886.
His memory and contribution to Gloucester Cathedral’s music is recorded in one of the Chantry Chapels in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral.
Exhibits: Portrait; Lady Chapel; samples of his compositions.
REVEREND BENJAMIN PARSONS, Prophetic Preacher
Benjamin Parsons (1797-1855) was born in North Nibley. He served as Minister of Ebley Chapel and there gained a reputation for being a fearless preacher. He preached against slavery, the Corn Laws and the enclosure of the common land around Stroud. His support for the Peace Society, the Chartists, the Temperance Society, schools and women’s rights is remembered today.
REVEREND FRANCIS CLOSE, Rector of Cheltenham, Dean of Carlisle
Close was born in Frome in Somerset in 1797. He gained an ordinary degree at Cambridge and was ordained in 1821. He became the incumbent of Cheltenham in 1826. As Cheltenham’s incumbent he was responsible for the building of St Paul’s, Christ Church, St Peter’s and St Luke’s churches.
Close was a staunch evangelical and he only appointed to these churches, clergy who subscribed to his vehemently anti Roman Catholic prejudices, – prejudices which he shared with his followers in writing and from the pulpit. He was likewise strongly opposed to the developing move towards catholic practice and ritual in the Church of England as promoted by the influence of the Oxford Movement.
However, Close contributed much to the advancement of the protestant religion and learning in Cheltenham. As well as the churches mentioned above he also promoted the building of more than a dozen schools in the town, and was one of the founders of Cheltenham College. It was to combat the growing Romeward move in the Church of England and its schools that he founded St Paul’s Training College for schoolmasters who would have definite Protestant beliefs.
He also was an opponent of the railways running to and through Cheltenham on Sundays and preached stirringly about the evils that were associated with gambling and the Cheltenham Races and the Theatre.
It was for these reasons that the poet Tennyson gave him the title Pope of Cheltenham” a reign that lasted for thirty years. He left the town in 1856 on his appointment as Dean of Carlisle Cathedral, where today his life-size, recumbent, marble memorial lies just outside the south east corner of the chancel.
Dean Close School is his local memorial and was opened in 1886. The renaming of St Paul’s College in 1980 as Francis Close Hall is a contemporary tribute to its founder of 1847.
So loved and respected was Francis Close while Incumbent of Cheltenham that his congregation paid for the building of a ‘Vicarage’ as a personal gift to him. This building, slightly altered, stands just to the east of the Christ Church in Malvern Road and is still known by its nineteenth century name-The Grange.
Exhibits: Portrait; Vicarage; Carlisle; Parish Church service; Dean Close School; Posters from my file. St Paul’s College.
SAMUEL BOWLY, Quaker and Social Reformer
Bowly was born in Cirencester in 1802 and came to Gloucester in 1829 to commence business as a cheese manufacturer. He was a keen supporter of the abolition of the Slave Trade and spoke on public platforms in support of his African Christian brethren as often as possible. The ladies of Gloucester presented him with a silver salver as an appropriate token of their support and he then turned his attention to alcohol abuse and intemperance, becoming one of the country’s most eloquent orators in support of abstinence reform.
He wrote and spoke in favour of the repeal of the Corn Law and the abolition of capital punishment and many other social issues of his time.
Samuel was an acknowledged Minister of the Society of Friends and was universally respected throughout the kingdom.
He died in 1884 and his ‘was the most remarkable funeral ever seen in Gloucester’.
DR ANDREW MORTON BROWN, Minister and Social Reformer
Dr Andrew Morton Brown began his ministry in Cheltenham in January 1843. He was of Scottish stock but held wide liberal views which often led him into conflict with those who were more conservative. Among his classmates at the University of Edinburgh were Dr Tait, later to be Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr Norman MacLeod, Queen Victoria’s favourite Chaplain. He did much good missionary work as a layman in the slums of London.
Ordained in Poole in the late 1830s he moved to Cheltenham with his new wife, and was appointed to Highbury Chapel, then in Grosvenor Street and immediately began denouncing the many social ills of the period – child labour, the moral injustice of church rates, and the lack of pastoral provision in the villages around Cheltenham and the wider community, and the long working hours of shop assistants. He was a founder member of the Cheltenham Literary and Philosophical Institute.
In addition to supporting Highbury he paid out of his own pocket for the opening of the Congregational Church in the Tewkesbury Road area of the town – now Gas Green Baptist Church, and opened Working Men’s Institutes in Bath Road, Tewkesbury Road and the town centre.
In 1850, his appeal had grown so strong that a new Chapel was needed, and this gave rise to the Winchcombe Street building of Highbury Congregational Chapel, on the site of the recently closed Odeon Cinema. This Chapel was opened in 1852.
Dr Brown was a champion of the poor and the ill used, and was determined in his spread of the Gospel through the opening of further chapels in The Readings, Bishops Cleeve, Oxenton and Northleach. He was ecumenical in his relationship with other non-conformist denominations, especially the Baptists.
He was not afraid to make his political opinions known and spoke in favour of the Reform Bill of 1832, the abolition of the Corn Laws and the removal of civil disabilities.
He died at his brother in laws home in Bridport, while on holiday in 1879 . His funeral took place in Cheltenham and was attended by the largest crowd that the town had ever known on such an occasion.
His monument still stands proudly in Cheltenham Cemetery, although not in its original position, and an elegant wall memorial can be seen on a wall in the present Highbury Congregational Church.
Exhibits: PCs; portrait; grave; memorial at Highbury.
REVEREND HENRY SOLLY, Unitarian Minister and Social Reformer
Henry Solly (1813-1903), an ‘earnest radical’, was a Chartist pamphleteer and Unitarian minister who lived and worked in Yeovil and Cheltenham. He became a nationally-known campaigner for co-operatives, anti-slavery, the vote and rational recreation.
JOSEPHINE BUTLER, Educationalist
Josephine Butler was born in Northumberland in 1828. She moved to Cheltenham in 1857 on the appointment of her husband George, as Vice Principal of Cheltenham College. They lived successively in Priory Street and later in The Priory, where a commemorative plaque records her time there.
Josephine was a promoter of women’s education at a time when that was not acceptable and on moving to Liverpool worked tirelessly in the city amongst the destitute and ill prostitutes who had bee forced into the profession through desperate poverty. She travelled Europe in pursuit of her campaign for social reform.
She was a devout Anglican and woman of prayer, basing her spirituality on that of St Catherine of Siena, whose biography she wrote. Josephine died on 30th December 1906.
She is remembered in the Anglican Calendar on 30th May, the date on which she was baptised.
O God of compassion and love, by whose grace your servant Josephine Butler followed the way of your Son in caring for those in need; help us like her to work with strength for the restoration of all to the dignity and freedom of those created in your image.
Exhibits: Priory; Biography of Catherine, Mr Butler. Portrait of Josephine
REVEREND JOHN KEBLE
Keble was born in 1792 in Fairford, where his father was at the time Vicar of Coln St Aldwyn.
He studied at Oxford from the age of 14 and after ordination at the age of 23, he returned to Gloucestershire where he acted as Curate to his aging father looking after the villages of Eastleach, Burthorpe and Southrop for ten years. He then moved to Hampshire to his own parish and served there for a further thirty years.
He was one of the founder members of that great religious movement within the Church of England aptly named the Oxford Movement. It started as a result of a critical period in Church-State relations and developed into a movement which sought to restore decency and order to worship in our parish churches and to raise awareness of the catholic tradition of which the Church of England was a part, but which had been sadly ignored since the time of the Reformation. He was acclaimed as a poet of some standing and his collection of poems – some later set to music and sung as hymns in many churches still today – ran through 95 editions. The collection was titled, “The Christian Year”.
Keble College in the University of Oxford was founded and named in his memory.
John Keble numbered among his colleagues in the Oxford Movement men such as John Henry Newman (later Cardinal Newman) who visited him at his parents’ home in Fairford on several occasions; Dr Edward Pusey and Isaac Williams. He was instrumental in the raising of funds for the building of the church at Oakridge near Stroud, and in restoring Bisley and Stinchcombe churches, all staffed by men who subscribed to the theory and practice of the Catholicity of the Church of England. He was devout, pious and much loved priest and a multitude of people lined the street at his funeral in April 1866. A bust to his memory is to be found in Westminster Abbey.
John Keble’s brother Thomas and later, his nephew, were both in turn, Vicar of Bisley and Thomas senior is equally well known especially for his work among the mill workers in the Stroud Valleys.
Some of John Keble’s poems are still sung as hymns:
New every morning is the love
Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear
Blest are the pure in heart
Lord in Thy name Thy servants plead
When God of old came down from heaven
There is a book who runs may read
John Keble is commemorated in the Anglican Calendar on 14th July.
Father of the eternal Word, in whose encompassing love all things in peace and order move;
Grant that as your servant John Keble adored you in all creation, so we may have a humble heart of love for the mysteries of your Church, And know your love to be new every morning in Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Exhibits: Copy of the Christian Year; Collect; photographs of him and home and churches; Bibury Museum exhibits.
REVEREND THOMAS KEBLE, Vicar of Bisley
Thomas was the younger brother of John Keble, and like John, Thomas was greatly influenced by the Oxford Movement. Thomas was appointed Vicar of Bisley and served there from 1827 – 1873. He introduced daily services – at times which the working people of the area could attend, – emphasised the importance of the Sacraments and began a grand building programme for the large parish. He was largely responsible for the building of Oakridge Church, the enlargement of Chalford Chapel and the creation of that area as a separate parish; Bussage Church, France Lynch Church and the restoration of Bisley Church itself. He also built several schools for the poor of the parishes.
When he arrived in Bisley the population lived in a state of almost chronic unemployment and destitution and when they managed to find employment, life was hardly better for they were frequently paid in kind rather than money. Thomas and his curate begged for funds from the wealthy landowners, with which to buy food for the poor and Mrs Keble ran a shop in the Vicarage where parishioners could buy rice and other foodstuffs at half price.
John Henry Newman, later Cardinal Newman, visited the Keble’s at Bisley several times as he was a family friends from Oxford days. The Bishop of Gloucester was also present for a confirmation service later in the day. Newman expressed his disgust at the food provided for the bishop when most of the parish was on dry bread, and water.
The funeral of Thomas in 1875 was a reflection of his High Church principles. Holy Communion was celebrated at 8 am; breakfast in the Vicarage and schoolroom; Morning Prayer at 10 am followed by the Burial Service at the graveside. The services included three psalms, Venite, Te Deum, Benedictus, a hymn, anthem, canticle, and a recessional hymn. Each service was conducted by Sir George Prevost, Archdeacon of Gloucester, a former curate of Thomas’ at Bisley and later Vicar of Stinchcombe.
Thomas Keble was succeeded as Vicar of Bisley by his son, also Thomas, who consolidated the great work amongst the poor which had been started by his father.
Thomas’ grandson served his curacy at St Stephen’s, Cheltenham from 1926-1936.
FATHER CHARLES FUGE LOWDER
Lowder was born in 1820 and while at Oxford University he came under the influence of the Oxford Movement. After ordination he became increasingly drawn to the Tractarian and catholic expression of faith and in later life he worked tirelessly in the slums of London amongst the poor and destitute. He was the epitome of the Anglo-Catholic ‘slum priest’.
His original intention after ordination was to go as a missionary to New Zealand, but financial difficulties and family responsibilities ruled this out of the question.
His first appointment was Chaplain to a workhouse but within two years he was appointed Curate at Tetbury in 1846. He soon bacame well known for his conscientious attention to his duties both in prayer and in the work of caring for the people of the parish. He made the Tractarian principles the foundation on which he ministered to his flock but felt somewhat restricted in advancing the Anglo-Catholic cause in such a small place as Tetbury.
The church of St Saviour at Tetbury, the “Church for the Poor,” was built at the instigation of Fr Lowder and provided a model church built on Tractarian principles with roof decoration in the chancel designed by Pugin.
He moved to London and became one of the most loved and respected of the Anglo Catholic clergy of his day and his work at St Peter’s London Dock, is still remembered in 2007 with great affection and gratitude.
His memorial is kept in the Anglican Calendar on 9th September.
FATHER ARTHUR HENRY STANTON.
The Stantons, of Thrupp near Stroud, had long associations with Gloucestershire and were connected to the Keble Family. Arthur Henry Stanton was born in Stroud in 1839. As a boy, his devotion to religion left his parents in no doubt as to his vocation. He became an undergraduate at Trinity College Oxford, and while there he fell in with many fellow students and Dons who were to become well known in the Oxford Movement. The Gospel of Christ and the Sacraments of the Church were the things most dear to his heart and in 1862 he moved on to Cuddesdon Theological College where he studied under the saintly Edward King.
After ordination he moved to St Alban’s, Holborn, as curate, a position he held until his death. He was a loved, respected and even venerated parish priest and friend, preacher and counsellor to the undeserving poor – those who did not normally come to church.
He worked tirelessly among the poor, the sick and the homeless and never refused a call to ‘come’ no matter what time of day or night.
In 1912, his health began to deteriorate and after Christmas he returned to his sister’s home in Stroud.
1913, Lent came and Easter. His death was imminent. Fr Stanton made his Easter Communion and slowly sank into the sleep of the just. He died in the early hours of March 28th and by the afternoon all the London newspapers carried the headlines: Death of Fr Stanton. He was over seventy but not an old man. His body was taken to London for burial ‘amongst his people’ and long files of people passed by his coffin during the day and night until time for the Requiem Mass, attended by more than 100 priests and hundreds of people.
He was buried in St Alban’s private burial ground, and hundreds of men and women gathered there to pay their last respects to one who to them truly as ‘Father’.
St Alban’s Mission Church in Stroud was built in his memory, the foundation stone being laid in 1915 by Fr Stanton’s only surviving sister.
REVEREND THOMAS MOZELEY
Mozeley spent the final 13 years of his life in Cheltenham, although he was familiar with the town, having been a private tutor here in his early twenties, but only for a few months.
His last years were spent at 7, Lansdown Terrace, Malvern Road. He married (Cardinal) John Henry Newman’s sister, and this brought Mozeley into greater involvement with the Oxford Movement. He died in 1893 and is buried in Leckhampton Churchyard. While in Cheltenham he completed his two-volume work, “Reminiscences, Chiefly of Oriel College and the Oxford Movement”
REVEREND WILLIAM AWDRY was born in Hampshire, the son of a parish priest. He inherited from his father a love for railways and when he had a son of his own, he used to amuse him with stories about locomotives which later developed into the popular Thomas the Tank Engine books.
After work in East Anglia, Awdry retired to Gloucestershire, making his home in Stroud.
Exhibit: Portrait, Thomas Book.
THE CHURCHES OF CHELTENHAM – AN OVERVIEW
Henry Davies writing in his 1832 Strangers’ Guide to Cheltenham, boasted that few towns of equal extent in the kingdom, possess so many churches or chapels.
FC Westley writing in his New Cheltenham Guide in 1861 commented on the influence of the Dissenting ( non-conformist) ministers and the crowded congregations which attend their chapels.
Cheltenham’s Chapels and Churches have played an important part in the religious, social and architectural life of the town and their very date and geographical location reflect to some extent the growth and development of Cheltenham. High or Low, Church or Chapel, rich or poor, the social make-up of 19th century Cheltenham is reflected in the religious heritage handed down to us by our forefathers. The landscape would be much less interesting were it not for these Temples of Faith and the spin off in the establishment of schools and colleges, almshouses and charitable institutions has had a positive and lasting impact upon the inhabitants of, and visitors to, the town.
They are a heritage worth preserving, if only for the variety and order of architecture which they display, but hopefully also for the contributions of the people and events which are recorded in many of their interiors and surroundings.
There is evidence for the existence of a Church in Cheltenham c773 AD and it may well have been a mini monastery. Perhaps this was destroyed by the Danish invasion of the 9th century but reference is again made to Cheltenham Church in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was held by a Priest of Cirencester Abbey. On his death he left his property to the Abbey. At the beginning of the twelfth century, Cirencester Abbey built a new church in the town of which the present St Mary’s is the continuation.
St Mary the Virgin, Cheltenham’s Parish Church.
Built in a cruciform plan, the present church dates from the 12th century. The history and development of the town are intertwined with that of St Mary’s and the churchyard was the rallying point when the bell tolled to advise or warn of some great and important happening.
Cheltenham was originally part of the Deanery of Winchcombe but was placed in the care of the Augustinian Abbey of Cirencester by King Henry I in 1133. We also have it on record that ‘the church at Charlton Kings was subject to the Mother Church of Cheltenham in 1180.’
In the 1200s the tower was rebuilt, and in the 1300s the chancel was lengthened, the aisles widened and an octagonal spire added. The north porch and its upper room date from the 1400s. This upper room was most probably the overnight quarters for the priests who came over from Cirencester to take the services the following day.
At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 it became the property of the Crown.
Not much of the original church remains, the present building showing evidence of continuous additions, alterations and enlargements representative of most centuries since its foundation.
There is an old stone cross in the churchyard. Such crosses were considered the communal memorials for all those persons buried in the churchyard in days before headstones were common. It is said that both John Wesley and George Whitfield preached standing alongside this cross with crowds reaching as far as the end of what is now Bennington Street. The top of the cross was probably destroyed by the Puritans – the present cross on the top is relatively modern.
St Matthew’s Church.
The Parish Church of St Mary was closed from 1859 until 1861 due to its dangerous and unhealthy state of repair. A temporary corrugated iron church was erected to provide for a continuance of worship in the town centre, on the site of today’s St Matthew’s. When St Mary’s was reopened in 1861, it could not contain the large congregation at one sitting so some continued to worship in the ‘tin’ church, others returned to St Mary’s. By the 1875 St Mary’s had been further restored and a decision had been made to build a new, additional permanent church to accommodate the needs of the parish and to replace the temporary ( eighteen year old) tin church. This new church, St Matthew’s, was built on an enlarged site of the tin church, and was consecrated in 1879. A tower and spire were built in stages, but the spire was removed in 1952 and the tower lowered in 1972.
In the later years of the eighteenth century, with the increase in the town’s population, it became evident that more church accommodation was needed but it was not until the building of Holy Trinity Church between 1820-1823 that the matter was addressed. Until this happened, many visitors and residents were obliged to attend worship at Leckhampton, Charlton Kings or Prestbury.
Such lack of accommodation in the Established Church of England provided the opportunity for the building of many non-conformist chapels to which those Anglicans who could not be accommodated in St Mary’s or Holy Trinity, resorted. The Chapels also proved attractive in that unlike the Anglican Church, chapel seating was free for the poor and rich alike, whereas in the Anglican churches only a very limited number were allocated as free sittings for the poor, which in itself carried an obvious stigma.
In the 1820s in addition to Holy Trinity, St James, Suffolk Square and St John’s were built as proprietary churches. People bought shares in the new building, and were thus proprietors, and were allocated a number of sittings in the church depending on the number of their shares. This income paid for the building of the church and its maintenance. The minister also was given a number of sittings which he could rent out to visitors or locals, and the income provided his salary.
Obviously good preaching and a fashionable congregation attracted new members and income.
The only way in which the Diocese was involved was in approving the site for the church, approving the appointment of the minister, and insisting that at least one fifth of the pews were reserved for the non paying poor. Anyone who did not own or rent a pew could obtain a ticket for payment entitling them to a seat on the Sunday.
By 1830, the new Anglican churches had provided nearly 4,000 additional sittings but only 900 were reserved for the poor – usually in the aisles where little could be seen – neither could they!
St Paul’s Church
This was the brainchild of Rev Francis Close, a church built for the poor. Grants and donations provided the cost and it was consecrated in 1831. 1,230 of the seats were free the remainder being charged at £1 per annum, and available to tradesmen who could afford to pay. Ironically for a ‘Free’ church for the poor, the Reverend Sir Henry Thompson was appointed the first incumbent. . Originally the churchyard extended only a few feet in front of the building but in the early 1840s more land was bought extending the frontage to the road boundary.
This did not solve the problem of accommodation for the poor and non conformist chapels continued to be built in the town right up to the end of the 1850s.
Described by George Rowe in 1845 as a ‘PLAIN AND NOT VERY HANDSOME BUILDING’ Trinity Church was built to accommodate 900 persons. It was the first church to be built since St Mary’s had been built in the 12th century and Francis Close started his ministry in Cheltenham here.
Trinity Church was opened in 1822 by Bishop Ryder of Gloucester. It was a proprietary Church, meaning that the congregation financially supported the minister by renting their pews. He also had a designated number of pews which he was allowed to rent out to supplement his income.
St John’s Church
Now demolished, St John’s stood at the east corner of Albion Street, an area today marked by a grass verge. Many of the interior fittings are now part of the furnishings in the Chapel at St Luke’s Church.
St John’s was built in 1828 and consecrated by Bishop Bethel of Gloucester. The cost of building was paid for entirely by the first incumbent. In 1845, George Rowe commented that ‘The congregation assembling here is highly respectable’
Schools behind the building were erected shortly after the church was opened, for 150 children of both sexes.
St Philip’s Church
This Church was opened in 1840 for the population of the Bath Road and Leckhampton districts. It was capable of seating 850 persons.
It was demolished in the 1880 and the new church of St Philip and James was built on the same site.
St James Church
Now a Pizzeria, St James, or Suffolk Church, was consecrated in October 1830. It was built by private capital, and planned to accommodate 1500 persons. It was a very fashionable church and had a high standard of preaching and music – the organ being one of the finest in the county.
Christ Church was built to serve the hamlet of Alstone, and to include Lansdown, and Bayshill, which had some of the best houses in the town and a population of about 3,000. Free sittings were provided for the working class population of the hamlet of Alstone itself. The church was consecrated in January 1840. Of the 2075 seats, 485 were free. This was another of Cheltenham’s proprietary churches and its eventual parish extended to include the Tivoli area up to its boundary with the Park.
St Peter, Tewkesbury Road
This church was promoted by Francis Close to serve the working population in the Tewkesbury Road area. Many of the 3,000 souls in the area were very poor and there was not one gentleman’s house in the district. Up to this point in time, Anglican services were held in the Waterloo Street Infants School, the nearest church, St Paul’s being too full on a Sunday to accommodate further worshippers. Close agreed with the Church Commissioners to raise the funds, and in this he had almost succeeded by 1845.
Samuel Whitfield Daukes was appointed architect, but work did not commence until 1847, due to difficulties over title to the site. The church was completed in 1848 and consecrated in 1849.
St Luke, College Road.
This church was built party for pupils at Cheltenham College which at that time did not have its own chapel, and partly to serve the wealthy and fashionable residents of the Sandford area. This was another of Francis Close’ initiatives and the money was to be raised by voluntary subscriptions. The completed church was originally to be called All Saints. By 1853 sufficient funds had been raised and the church was consecrated in 1854 – dedicated to St Luke. Half of the sittings were free.
The fact that the General Hospital is on the church’s doorstep is most appropriate – St Luke is the Patron Saint of Doctors.
Three of the five mid-to- late-Victorian churches of John Middleton were built in response to the extensive development of the town and the increasing population in the new, outlying areas of St Mark’s, Charlton Kings, and Tivoli. The other two were mainly the realisation of their promoters’ personal ambition.
St Mark’s Church, Lansdown.
This, the first church in the town designed by John Middleton, was provided to serve the Lower Alstone district to the west of Cheltenham, then a very poor needy area. Half of the planned 500 sittings were free, and grants for the building of the church were provided by the Diocese and Church Building Society. The first incumbent, Rev G P Griffiths also made considerable contributions towards the building costs. The first stage of building was completed within eighteen months and work on the tower and spire was completed by 1866. In 1889 the church was enlarged by the addition of the present transepts.
All Saints Church, Pittville.
All Saints Church was built with a High Church tradition in mind. It began life as a result of a split from the High Church St John’s, whose patronage had passed to the ultra evangelical Simeon Trustees.
Land for All Saints was donated by two of the breakaway congregation and in December 1865, the foundation stone of All Saints was laid. There were many stumbling blocks to overcome prior to its completion, not least opposition from the incumbent of Cheltenham and the bankruptcy of the initiating Incumbent designate, the former curate of St John’s who had sunk most of his resources into the costs of the new church. However in 1868 All Saints was consecrated although its interior decoration was as yet incomplete.
The proposed 200 feet tower and spire of John Middleton’s design were never built, but All Saints is nevertheless Middleton’s masterpiece-the envy of many of his contemporaries.
Holy Apostles, Charlton Kings
Holy Apostles, the third of John Middleton’s churches was the brainchild of one man, Charles Cook Higgs who lived in what is today The Langton restaurant on the London Road, behind the church.
The foundation stone was laid in 1866 and the church was completed in 1871. In view of the fact that Higgs funded the total cost of building the church, costs which rose as work proceeded, it is not surprising that the proposed tower and spire never materialised.
The church – intended to be named The Twelve Apostles – was built to serve the growing population of Charlton Kings in the area west of the village church of St Mary, as far as Hailes Road.
St Stephen’s Church, Tivoli
This is the smallest of Middleton’s churches and was built in two stages. The present chancel was the first stage completed in 1874, the cost being raised by subscriptions made by the congregation of Christ Church in whose parish St Stephen’s served as a Mission Church for the poor.
The second stage, promised if the church proved popular and used, was begun in 1881 and completed in 1883. This comprised the nave and side aisles. The north porch is in fact the base of a proposed tower and spire, which, surprise, surprise, were never completed.
St Philip and St James, Leckhampton
The earlier church of St Philip proved too small for the expanding population in the South Town area of Cheltenham. It had been built especially for the poor and sparsely populated district which it served but by 1879 it was realised that it did not suit the wealthy and improved neighbourhood which was then flourishing around it. A decision was made to solicit funding to demolish St Philip’s church and to build a new and larger church. John Middleton was appointed architect of the new St Philip and St James Church.
Completion had been accomplished by 1882, with the new church rising around a temporary iron church which had been erected inside the shell of the old St Philip’s, so that worship could continue uninterrupted. A spire had been planned but again, was not built, and the present saddleback was added to the tower in 1902/3
St Peter’s Church, Leckhampton
No mention of a church at Leckhampton appears in the Domesday Survey of 1086 but by 1162, the priest at Leckhampton was summoned to appear before Archbishop Thomas a Becket.
Like Cheltenham, Leckhampton was owned by the Canons of Cirencester Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries. Up to this time, Leckhampton, together with Cheltenham, was in the Deanery of Winchcombe and in the Diocese of Worcester.
The church has undergone many changes since its foundation and has been considerably enlarged, most noticeably in the 14th century and in 1868 when John Middleton almost demolished the church apart from the east end and rebuilt it as we see it today. The Norman font still survives as does the 14th century Giffard memorial.
St Mary, Prestbury
The present church was started in the twelfth century and was a possession of the Bishop of Hereford. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century. Much internal damage was done during the Civil War and since that time the church has undergone many alterations and restorations. The most lasting alterations were completed in the 1860s. The Vicar at the time, a devoted supporter of the Oxford Movement, initiated a massive reordering and restoration programme and introduced Anglo-catholic worship and ritual, which has continued to the present day.
The Manor at Prestbury was owned by the Bishop of Hereford in Medieval times, but the church and parish was actually in the Diocese of Worcester– and also in the Deanery of Winchcome – as was Cheltenham, until after the Reformation. The original church is probably of 12th century date.
During the Civil War, soldiers stationed in the village did a lot of damage to the church, removing “Popish” statues, destroying the medieval Rood screen and making off with the church silver.
In 1702, the then Rector started a Charity School. He was rector for about 48 years.
In the 1860s The Rector, John Edwards II who adopted the name of De la Bere in 1879, was responsible for restoring and adapting the Church in line with advanced Anglo-catholic principles and this work was completed by the Feast of the Transfiguration 1868 and kept as the church’s Dedication festival.
From this date, the use of vestments, incense, altar and processional candles have continued and an almost unbroken daily celebration of the Eucharist.
This apparent ‘Romanizing’ was opposed by some people – not all from Prestbury by any means, – and Fr Edwards was dragged through the church courts and eventually deprived of his living, but his legacy continues to the present, more enlightened time.
One legacy which is perhaps unique in Gloucestershire at the present time, is the use of HOUSELLING cloths – white cloths draped over the communion rails and held up to the chin of the communicant to catch any crumbs which may fall from the Sacrament. These cloths are not used as such today, but are retained at Prestbury as a reminder of the need for reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament.
In 1873, St Luke’s Church erected a mission church in Naunton Terrace and named it Emmanuel. In 1916 this building was destroyed by fire and the Church of England Institute in the former Naunton Park Infant School was converted into a church to accommodate 400 people.
In 1922 the District of Emmanuel was established and six years later a commission recommended that the Parish of Emmanuel should be provided with a permanent Church. The mission church was then used as parish rooms.
Emmanuel Church as we see it today – minus the meeting rooms – was built in 1937 on a site that had formerly been market gardens.
St Christopher, Warden Hill
Completed in 1960, St Christopher’s Church is a daughter church of Ss Philip and James, Leckhampton. It is distinguishable by its small spire erected as a millennium memorial in 2001.
There are some stunning modern glass windows in the nave by Tom Denny placed in the church between 1985 and 1995. The font came from the closed St James Church, Suffolk Square and some of the furnishings came from the Community of St Peter, Westminster, at Glenfall, Charlton Kings.
St Christopher’s was built to serve the fast expanding Warden Hill area of the Parish of Ss Philip and James.
St Aidan, Princess Elizabeth Way
This church, a daughter church to St Mark’s, was completed in 1959 to serve the new Princess Elizabeth/Coronation Square estates. The congregation had originally met in temporary accommodation, nick-named “The Hut”.
There is only a slight indication of a sanctuary area internally and the church can be dived by a screen for use as a hall.
St Michael’s Church, Whaddon
In 1915 a small wooden building was acquired in Whaddon Lane which later became a Mission Church dedicated to St Michael. It had a regular congregation and Sunday school of more than 300 children. The church stood in green fields until the estate was commenced in the 1930s.
In 1935 a new wooden church was constructed for about £2,000 by many men who would have been otherwise unemployed.
During the Second World War, the whole parish of All Saints came to worship at St Michael’s as it was the only church that could successfully be blacked out.
By 1966 the present new church to modern design was completed and many local people helped with its construction. Today, St Michael’s is part of a Local Ecumenical arrangement with the Methodist Church and has been responsible for the provision of a thriving and popular community centre with many social facilities
St Barnabas Church, Orchard Way was opened in 1946.
St Silas began life as the Hesters Way Mission Room but was dedicated to St Silas and opened in 1962.
NONCONFORMITY in Cheltenham
In the 1688s the Catholic Chapel in Gloucester had been ransacked by the followers of William of Orange and the Priest had been driven out of the city. By 1773 there were only 210 Roman Catholics living in the whole of Gloucestershire. They were served by four private chaplains attached to Catholic families at Hartpury Court, Beckford Hall, Horton Court and Hatherop Castle. In the 1780s a Franciscan Priest travelled periodically from Monmouth to Gloucester and Stroud to say Mass, but congregations were very small.
St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Gloucester
In 1788 money was donated to reopen a Mission in Gloucester and a young 25 year old Priest was appointed. He was succeeded within a short while by another priest who stayed until 1800. A Mission chapel was opened which served the community until a site was purchased in lower Northgate Street for the erection of a small redbricked chapel. This was licensed for worship in 1792. It served the Roman Catholic population until it was demolished in 1859 to make way for the present church on the same site.
It is known that there were three non-conformist denominations represented in Cheltenham in the 17th century – Baptists, Quakers and English Presbyterians (Unitarians).
Originally these small congregations probably met in one another’s homes or in rented halls, until numbers warranted the building of a purpose built chapel.
St Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic community in Cheltenham was originally served towards the end of the 1790s by a priest from Gloucester or by French priests living in Cheltenham. They met for Mass in a private house in North Street and later in a room in the York Hotel. One of the French Priests was Abbe Alexandre Cesar Robin who was given permission by the authorities to say Mass in the Town Hall in 1807/1808. Then in 1809 a Chapel was built on the site of the present St Gregory’s Church and supported by the Benedictine Order. This first church was built on the initiative of Fr Birdsall. It was paid for by subscriptions and was capable of holding 500 persons at one time. It was fitted up with an altar, galleries and an organ. As the Catholic Community increased due in no small part to the influx of French exiles during the Napoleonic Wars, a new and larger church was considered. The design by Charles Hansom of Clifton, was accepted and the present church was started in 1854 almost in the same position as the 1809 one. The opening ceremony in 1857 was conducted by Cardinal Wiseman, much to the Francis Close’s annoyance.
In 1998 the Benedictines of Douai Abbey near Reading who had served the church since its opening, handed over the parish to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clifton.
Sacred Hearts, Charlton Kings
Built in 1957, Sacred Hearts is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2007. This Roman Catholic church at Charlton Kings is very simple inside and is lighted by an almost continuous glazing beneath the roof line. The Church is dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
St Thomas More, Princess Elizabeth Way.
Before 1960, the Catholics living in the growing residential district of St Mark’s and Hester’s Way worshipped first in a scout hut and then in St Mark’s Community Centre. In 1962 a parish hall was opened and used for services, a presbytery was completed by 1964 and the first services held in the new church in 1966.
The site for the church was not very large and the best fit for the church suited an hexagonal design. A noticeable feature of the church is its 30 feet fibre glass spire which arrived complete in a lorry from Essex.
The Friends Meeting House.
There has been a Quaker congregation in Cheltenham since about 1660. The Original Friends Meeting House was completed in 1702, in Manchester Walk. Its successor from 1835 still survives in part on the site occupied today by Chelsea Square and could hold upwards of 300 people. It is now a Fitness Centre.
The Quakers maintained a Burial Ground in Grove Street, just off the Lower High Street. Above the blocked up doorway today, is a replica plaque bearing the date 1700.
Cheltenham was the only place in the county where the first converts to the Society of Friends were allowed to hold their meetings without being persecuted. Among the early preachers at Cheltenham were William Penn after whom Pennsylvania is named.
The Unitarian Chapel, Royal Well.
Unitarianism was begun in Cheltenham in the mid seventeenth century through the exertions of a former Master of Gloucester’s Crypt School, John Biddle. Biddle was dismissed from his Mastership and was succeeded by Rev John Cooper, who after 16 years, became the perpetual curate of Cheltenham. He was driven from the CofE under the terms of the Act of Uniformity and was almost immediately elected minister of the Unitarians. The congregation survived until 1789.but after that the next fifty years were ones of decline. The original place of worship had been in Albion Street and a revival of the congregation had been started by the arrival of a Mr Furber a Bath Unitarian in 1832. Interest grew and the congregation prospered so that a new, purpose built Unitarian Chapel was opened in Royal Well on Good Friday 1844. This building is now an Auction Room. Attached to the building was a schoolroom and burial ground.
The Unitarian Congregation now meets in the former school room behind the church.
Approached from St George’s Square (Bowling Green Square) is Cheltenham Chapel. This delightful building – now modernised and serving as offices – was built in 1809 on the initiative of Rev Rowland Hill a leading non conformist Theologian of the time. It provided worship which was a cross between the established Church of England and non conformity. The Deed of Enrolment stipulated that the Minister must be an ordained Church of England Minister. Church of England Services were the main liturgy in the morning and evening. Rev Hill made it quite clear that if there had been adequate provision in the town for the poor as well as the middle classes to attend the established churches on a Sunday, he would not have dreamt of opening yet another place of worship. As it was, Cheltenham Chapel welcomed Anglicans and non-conformists and the pulpit was open to preachers of all denominations.Around the chapel is a burial ground which is in 2007 being restored as a quiet oasis in the centre of the town. The chapel itself is no longer a place of worship.
Rev Rowland Hill
The Cheltenham Chapel was erected almost totally at the expense of the Reverend Rowland Hill. He was a captivating preacher, eminent theologian and a great friend of Dr Jenner during his time in Cheltenham. The famous playwright Sheriden, said that he went to hear Hill preach because his ideas were red hot from the heart. Other contemporaries described Hill as an actor in the pulpit. Hill served Cheltenham for a generation and he and Jenner were known as ‘the one who saves souls and the one who saves men’s bodies.’
Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel
The Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel or Portland Chapel or North Place Chapel is now an indoor sports and keep fit centre and was erected in 1816. It was paid for by Robert Capper a wealthy local magistrate who lived at Marle Hill House. Its first Minister was Rev. Thomas Snow who had resigned from the Anglican Church. However Capper and Snow differed over Baptismal doctrine and their association was short lived. Capper then gave the chapel to the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. It stands near the Portland Street car park.
Rev Snow later became Minister of a chapel in Grosvenor Street, Snow’s Chapel built for him by a wealthy patron. Rev Snow disagreed yet again with his new patron and soon reverted to Anglicanism and closed the chapel. He gave it to the patrons of the Parish Church in Cheltenham but it was soon sold and became the first Highbury Congregational Chapel in about 1827.
The original chapel for what is now known as the Congregational Church, Highbury, stood in Grosvenor Street off the upper High Street. It was named Highbury after the Theological College which trained ‘Dissenting’ ministers for the denomination, in London.
St Andrew’s Church
The Presbyterians worshipped in the Cheltenham Chapel, St George’s Square, from 1858 until their numbers warranted a larger building. This was achieved in 1886 when they moved into their new St Andrew’s Church, Queen’s Circus. The Warden Hill URC was opened in 1961
Ebenezer Chapel, King Street
Just off the lower High Street, the Wesleyan Methodists built a large and impressive Chapel in 1813 capable of seating 1000 worshippers. By 1844 it had become a Baptist Chapel and later a chapel for the Primitive Methodists. Today it has been converted into domestic apartments.
Quite near to the Bowling Green in the High Street is a hidden gem – Wesley Chapel in St George’s Street. It belonged to the Wesleyan Methodists who had worshipped for 27 years at Ebenezer Chapel, but increasing numbers rendered that building insufficient for their needs. They opened the present building in 1840 and it held more than 1,000 persons. There was an excellent organ, galleries and pews.
Today, St George’s Chapel has also been converted into domestic accommodation.
Bethesda Chapel, Great Norwood Street
In order to serve the increasing artisan population settling in the South Town area of Cheltenham, a Methodist congregation was established 1828 in St Phillip’s Street, followed by the building of a small chapel in Great Norwood Street by 1830. This soon proved too small and in 1846 the present chapel was opened. It was enlarged in the 1860s and is still used by the Methodists as a place of worship.
Highbury Congregational, Chapel Winchcombe Street.
This building was the successor to Snow’s Chapel in Grosvenor Street, and was opened in 1852. It was designed by a local architect, and its size and architectural style conflicted somewhat with the title ‘chapel.’
Highbury was closed and demolished in 1932 and the congregation moved to the present Highbury Chapel in Priory Terrace.
Until 2006 the Winchcombe Street site had been occupied by the Odeon Cinema.
The Baptist Chapel in Leonard Stanley is one of the oldest in the country, dating from 1640, only Cirencester’s dating from 1639 being slightly older, but they were not officially registered until the Toleration Act of 1688 which allowed Dissenters to register their own places of worship
Tewkesbury also has one of the oldest meeting rooms in England – records date from 1655, when probably clandestine meetings took place, but as an actual recognised chapel, Tewkesbury dates from c1689. Another chapel at Cam dates from 1702.
It was during the Archiepiscopal reign of William Laud that the Old Dissenters, the Baptists broke away from the Church of England.
In 1828 dissenting churches, such as the Baptist Chapels, were freed from all civil disabilities, the members were allowed to vote and given the right to serve on local councils.
In 1835 Dissenters were allowed to conduct marriages in their own Chapels
Situated opposite St Gregory’s Church, the chapel was built in 1821 for the first Baptist congregation, which had worshipped on the site in the original chapel as early as 1701. This original chapel was demolished in 1820 and the present one is its replacement, currently used by the congregation of the Christadelphian Church.
Cambray Baptist Chapel
This chapel was built as a result of a split in the congregation of the Bethel Chapel members in 1843. The departing members met in several premises in the town until they were able to provide their own new chapel in Cambray in 1855 together with a schoolroom to the back of the building, which can be entered from Rodney Road.
Salem Chapel, Clarence Parade
This chapel was opened in 1844 and paid for by the sale of a smaller chapel in Regent Street. It was used by the Baptists until the end of the 1990s when it was sold and a new chapel was built in St George’s Road. The Clarence Parade chapel is now a bar and eating house.
Gas Green Chapel
Built in 1836 for the Primitive Methodist congregation, it is a very plain, rendered building now used by the Baptist congregation.
Following on from the Methodists the chapel was used successively by the Congregational Church, and later still, by Salem Baptists.
In 1858, the Albert Street Chapel as it was then known, opened the Baker Street Mission School. In 1864 the Chapel was known as Gas Green Chapel commemorating the congregation’s former home at Gas Green, in Six Chimney’s Lane near the Gas Works. At this time it became an Independent Baptist Chapel.
It was a vibrant and flourishing chapel having form 1900 a Sunday School, Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Young People’s Guild, Young Men’s League, Girls’ Club, Bible Classes, Youth Fellowship, Boys and Girls Life Brigades and much more. In 1910 there were 500 children at Sunday school morning and afternoon classes.
The Salvation Army
William Booth (1829 – 1912) and Catherine his wife were originally Methodists, but in 1865, they broke away from that denomination and formed their own mission in the East End of London.
The Salvation Army started in Cheltenham in 1879 and was at first supervised by two Army Sisters. Further Corps were started in Stroud and Gloucester in the same year. By the end of that year, Cheltenham’s membership stood at 89. Meetings were originally held in hired hall or theatres, but of course from the very beginning, open air marches and meetings were the hallmark of the Salvationists. This perceived desecration of the Sabbath and the no-sacraments doctrine of the Salvationists roused the anger of Dean Close who was not slow in voicing his feelings to the local Press, even though by then he was well established in Carlisle. In 1895, they purchased the Cheltenham Chapel which served as their Citadel until in 1902 they were able to move to purpose built quarters on the site on which the present Citadel now stands in Bath Road. This 1902 building was demolished to make way for the present building in the 1980s.
General Booth visited Cheltenham on three occasions – December 1882, 1896 and finally in 1905.
(Most of this information has been gleaned from an article written for the Cheltenham Local History Society’s Bulletin No 21 in 2005, by Leslie Burgess and from the Cheltenham Examiner.)
The MARINERS’ CHAPEL, GLOUCESTER
In the nineteenth century, there was no suitable place of worship for the crews of the ships in Gloucester Docks. Their clothing was considered too working class so a public subscription was started to raise money for the provision of a Mariner’s Chapel which opened in 1849. The chaplain visited every ship that entered the docks and distributed bible and religious tracts. He also visited the two sailors’ homes in the city.
The Jewish Community in Gloucester
The real influx of Jews to this country began about 1096. They settled in the larger towns and cities of which Gloucester was one. There are records of Jews in that city as early as the mid twelfth century and by 1215 it was an important Jewish centre.
Sixty years later however, Jews were expelled from the country by the King and it was not until the time of Elizabeth I that we begin to find Jews returning to this country.
During the 1700s and 1800s their numbers increased in Gloucester due to the potential business opportunities that were available in a thriving port such as Gloucester was at the time.
The Synagogue is mentioned in 1792 as being on the south side of Barton Street opposite the Presbyterian Meeting House. By 1802 it had relocated to a site opposite the now demolished, Royal Hospital, in Mercy Place. The congregation was still functioning in the 1840s and there was a Burial Ground in Organ’s Passage off Barton Street.
The Cheltenham Synagogue stands somewhat hidden in Synagogue Lane, behind the Old Fire Station. It was opened in 1839. The Jewish Community had first worshipped in a private house on the corner of what is now Clarence Street and St George’s Place, but increasing numbers of Jewish residents, itinerant tradesmen and business men, and the closure of the Gloucester Synagogue, necessitated a larger and purpose built place of worship. The architect was Mr W H Knight, a local man. The Synagogue is still used as a place of worship and services are held weekly.
Burials take place in the Jewish Burial ground in Elm Street just off the Tewkesbury Road, the cemetery dating from 1824 when burials of members of the Jewish Community still had to be buried outside the town’s boundary.
The Jewish community provided several dentists and doctors for Cheltenham as well as silversmiths, fancy goods dealers and men in the professions. The Reverend Isaac Pulver one of the earliest Readers in the Community resided in Tivoli and gave Hebrew lessons to those wanting to study the scriptures.
This Burial Ground was closed in 1938 and the bodies were re-interred at Coney Hill Cemetery.
From the mid 1840s the members of the Jewish Faith used Cheltenham’s Synagogue as their place of worship.
The Jewish Community in Stroud.
In the late 1870s many Jews fleeing from eastern Europe sought refuge in this country, mainly London.
Stroud however proved attractive due to the number of large mills in the area, and their attendant tailoring and clothing trades.
By 1890, the Jewish Community in Stroud numbered about 100.
From 1878, Jews worshipped in a small building in Slad Road, but as this proved too small when numbers of residents increased, a new purpose built synagogue was opened in 1889, in Lansdown Road.
This congregation had only a short existence, and the synagogue closed in 1908, mainly due to the decline in the textile industry.
Tewkesbury Jewish Community.
There is mention of a synagogue in Tewkesbury during the later Middle Ages but no evidence for its existence has come to light. In the 1700s the only Jewess living in the county was living in Tewkesbury.
The CHURCH and EDUCATION
In the Medieval period up to the time of the Reformation, Religious Orders of monks, friars, and to some extent, nuns provided many of the social services which are supplied by the State today.
However the assumption that these Orders kept schools to provide an education for the young is misleading.
Most Religious Houses had a schoolmaster – lay or ordained – but his task was to instruct the novices or junior monks in grammar – with the intention of encouraging and preparing these young men for entry into the Order as novices and eventually monks.
Many Abbeys also maintained boy choristers who received their keep and teaching in singing and reading in return for their services singing in the Lady Chapel at services.
Schools to educate the ordinary neighbourhood children possibly did exist informally in some areas but this was the exception rather than the rule. The teaching of these children usually fell to the parish priest but here again, his intention was to secure candidates for service in the church.
WINCHCOMBE MONASTERY SCHOOL
The Master of the 6 boys singing in the monastery received his salary for teaching them the art of grammar and singing, and for keeping the anniversaries of the founders at the Monasteries at Hailes and Winchcombe yearly, with a distribution of bread to the poor. Another Master, who trained 6 boys for singing in the Lady Chapel had an endowment out of which he was required to provide annually 6 gowns, 24 pairs of shoes, and 12 shirts. This was a fine example of a Monastery Song School which ceased at the Dissolution.
The CRYPT GRAMMAR SCHOOL, GLOUCESTER
This school was founded in 1528 through the Will of John Cooke. It was a Free School for the ‘erudition of children and scholars.’ The Will provided for the employment of a schoolmaster who must be a Priest, and who would keep school and teach grammar and also to say Mass daily.Until the 18th century, this school was called Christ School.
CIRENCESTER GRAMMAR SCHOOL
This Grammar school is first mentioned in 1242 and was partly funded by the Abbot of Winchcombe Abbey.
WOTTON-UNDER-EDGE GRAMMAR SCHOOL
Wotton’s school was founded by Katherine, Lady Berkeley in 1384. The Master had always to be a Priest and should celebrate the Mass in the Lady Chapel of Wotton Manor, or the Parish Church, for the souls of the Berkeley family.
The person appointed to the Headship was appointed by the Berkeley family or the Abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey, Bristol. Prior to the Reformation he was always instituted by the Bishop of Worcester.
No child over 10 years could be admitted and the duration of the course was six years maximum.
We know a lot about the terms and holidays at Wotton:
THE POST REFORMATION PERIOD
After the Reformation there was a rise in semi-formal education of the young and this was supported mainly by private enterprise. However, schoolmasters had to hold a Bishop’s Licence before they could teach and from 1604 they had to ‘accept the Royal Supremacy and the claims of the Church of England to be part of the Apostolic Tradition’.
Nonconformists – Dissenters – could not provide their own day schools and this is what eventually brought about the Sunday Schools movement at the end of the 18th century.
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
From the middle of the seventeenth century we find individuals leaving money to the church to provide schooling for the poor – boys that is! In Cheltenham, George Townsend financed the costs of the Chantry School in the Parish Church and similar ventures were started in Chipping Campden, Winchcombe, Northleach and similar larger areas of population. The focus was on teaching the Catechism and Bible knowledge.
THE TEWKESBURY DISSENTING ACADEMY
The Dissenting academy in Tewkesbury was an important centre of learning for the Protestant Non-conformists in the early 18th century. The Tewkesbury Academy, set up by Samuel Jones, had as its students both dissenters such as Samuel Chandler and those who became significant establishment figures such as Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker, and Joseph Butler.
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE
The first organised involvement by the Church came about in 1698 with the founding of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK). Clergy were encouraged to set up schools in their parishes and to solicit the support of wealthy benefactors who in many cases paid the salary of the teacher – £8 per annum being the average. Funds had to be raised to provide the essentials and also a ‘uniform’.
The Bishop of Gloucester in 1699 – Edward Fowler – was the first Diocesan Bishop to join SPCK and it was he who did most to encourage schools in the county. In 1707, a census revealed that in the city, there were 60 children in school, all clothed in blue. Oxenhall had a school at the end of the sixteenth century, Stroud in 1701, Wotton under Edge by 1706 and Prestbury by 1702. Initially the children attended for half the day only ‘for teaching in religion, writing etc, and for putting them apprentice.’ A Charity School was opened in Cheltenham 1713, and this became the Parish Church School.
The Vicar and Churchwardens were usually the Trustees of these schools. The curriculum in these Charity schools consisted in learning the Catechism, study of the Prayer Book, and reading the New Testament – boys had additional lessons in writing and arithmetic and the girls learnt spinning and knitting, all designed to improve their skills in becoming useful members of a family.
One of the most remarkable clerical benefactors of Church involvement in education of this period was the Reverend Samuel Wilson Warneford, a late vocation, and vicar of Bourton on the Hill. He devoted much of his own wealth to building schools in the county. The Warneford Ecclesiastical Charity and Clerical Trust still exists today to provide support with the preservation and repair of church buildings in the Diocese.
Gradually the influence of the SPCK waned and new organisations took over at the end of the 18th century – beginning of the 19th.
The first ‘alternative’ was the British and Foreign Bible Society (Nonconformist) founded in 1808, followed by The National Society (Anglican) founded in 1811.
The NATIONAL SOCIETY
By the end of the 1800s the National Society had become the education agency for the Church of England and its influence in Gloucestershire was very strong.
Its first school in Cheltenham was founded in 1817 in Bath Road in a building which later became St Luke’s Hall.
The first National Society School in Gloucester was started in 1816 when the foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Wellington. 1833 saw the opening of a similar school in Dursley.
National Society schools were supported by local effort, grants from the Society and the Diocese, and collections after special ‘Education’ sermons. Most children paid one penny a week ‘fees’. No books could be used in the school without the permission of the clergy!
The curriculum consisted of Holy Scripture, study of The Liturgy, Catechism, The Articles of Faith of the Church of England and Church History. In second place came grammar and writing.
The NONCONFORMIST CONTRIBUTION.
Up to the beginning of the 1700s there was recognisable co-operation between the Anglican and Nonconformist tradition in the work of educating the poor. Under Queen Anne, Nonconformists were disallowed from running schools but this was later repealed. There were only three nonconformist schools at the time, all in the Dursley area.
By the 1820s many Nonconformist communities had Sunday schools and often the school preceded the building of the Chapel. Nonconformist schools existed mainly in the towns while Anglican support was to be found mainly in the villages.
By 1833 there were 120 Nonconformist Sunday Schools in the county and 300 Anglican ones. In Gloucester alone there were 400 on roll in the Nonconformist schools and 512 on the Anglican roll. In Cheltenham the pupil numbers were 1137 Nonconformists as opposed to 1035 in Anglican ones.
British and Foreign Bible Society Nonconformist schools existed in Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Stroud, Wotton under Edge and Cheltenham.
The Wotton school sprang from Rev Rowland Hill’s Tabernacle in the town, and its first headteacher was Isaac Pitman – of shorthand fame. It is still called the British School in 2007.
The first British School in Cheltenham was in the basement of North Place Chapel, and was started in 1820. It moved in 1859 to Dunalley Street and in 1906 it became the first Cheltenham Council School.
There were others in Cheltenham – at Wesley Chapel in St George’s Street and at the Congregational Chapel in Grosvenor Street, both in existence by 1843. The Wesley Mixed School was built in Great Norwood Street by 1850.
Infant schools were started in Cheltenham as a result of the initiative of Rev Francis Close. The first was in a room at Arle when weekday education was provided. This opened in 1826/7. The second was a town centre one, in S James Square opposite the synagogue and the building exists today although not as a school.
Infant schools adopted the precept that young children learn through play, ‘play calculated to invigorate the frame, quicken the intellect and enliven the spirits.’
Children attended from the age of 18 months up to five or six, when they were encouraged to attend the National or British day schools.
An Infant school was opened in Exmouth Street in 1837 – the third to be opened and by 1846 there were five Infant schools in the town, and many in other parts of the county.
St Stephen’s Infants’ School was opened in 1889 and …
The 1870 Education Act saw some of the British and National Schools taken over by the newly formed School Boards – Charlton Kings in 1883, followed by Winchcombe, Stroud, Tewkesbury and others.
In 1903 Cheltenham had 28 schools of which 22 were National Society (Church) schools, including Christ Church Senior Girls school; 1 Wesleyan and one Roman Catholic.
THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
It is encouraging that in the new millennium, Gloucestershire has a new Anglican Senior School on the former Oxstalls site in Gloucester and there is the Roman Catholic St Benedict’s College in Cheltenham. There are plans, at an advanced stage, for this to become a joint Anglican Roman Catholic senior school for Cheltenham in 2008. There is also St Peter’s Catholic High School in Gloucester.
Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School at Wotton is a Voluntary Aided School, as is Pates Grammar in Cheltenham, while Farmors School at Fairford is Voluntary Controlled.
Of Primary schools in Cheltenham, the Roman Catholic Church supports S Thomas More and S Gregory’s schools; The Church of England has seven Voluntary Aided schools – Holy Apostles, Prestbury Junior and Prestbury Infant; St James; St John’s; St Mark’s and Christ Church. Voluntary controlled schools in the town are Holy Trinity and Leckhampton.
Of the 250 Primary Schools in the county eight are Roman Catholic, all Voluntary Aided; 50 are Church of England Voluntary Aided and 65 Church of England Voluntary controlled.
A VOLUNTARY AIDED SCHOOL decides its own admission policy and the provision of religious instruction is in the control of the School’s Governing Body, in accordance with the Trust Deed. It does not have to follow the County Agreed Syllabus, but can provide its own. Governors also control the use of premises and receive any letting fees.
A VOLUNTARY CONTROLLED SCHOOL provides Religious Education in accordance with the Local Authority’s Agreed Syllabus together with some provision for denominational instruction. Governors also confer responsibility for repairs and capital improvements or enlargements to the LA.
Voluntary and Controlled schools are subject to OFSTED inspections and also have to receive a Section 48 (Denominational) Inspection immediately after an OFSTED, by trained National Society Inspectors.
In Controlled schools Worship is rigorously inspected; in Aided schools Worship and the teaching of RE are rigorously inspected.
COPY OUT FOURTEEN TIMES EACH DAY IN BEST HANDWRITING;
Conversation should be pleasing and instructive
Avoid what is unbecoming
Serve the Lord with gladness
Youth is the season for improvement
Consider the shortness of time and the certainty of Death
Let me die the Death of the Righteous
He that swims in sin must sink in sorrow
Bereavement. Temperance. Amendment.
A TYPICAL SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMETABLE OF ROBERT RAIKES’ DAY:
8.30 am ; Assembly ‘with clean hands and face and hair combed’
8.45 am ; Roll call
9.00 am ; Morning hymn, prayer, Collect. Followed by Reading and spelling
10.00 am; Catechism – all children to stand round room and repeat with loud and distinct voice.
10.25 am; Church – orderly and quietly to take their seats. Children who can read to take a Prayerbook. Dismissal.
1.30 pm ; Assembly – Reading and spelling
2.30 pm ; Church. After Service, return to schoolroom for evening hymn and Dismissal.
(Many of these children had been working for the past six days probably over ten hours a day.)
Little children in Francis Close’s Cheltenham Infants’ School were taught to sing –here is an example of what they were encouraged to lift up their voices for:
Children as young as you, as gay,
As playful and as strong,
Are dying, dying every day,
And so may you, ‘ere long.
Sir William Alexander Smith of Glasgow was founder of the BOYS’ BRIGADE in 1883. It is a uniformed organisation among the unruly boys of his day. From this movement sprang much of the youth work so well known today. However the Boys Brigade was an obvious Christian organisation built on the twin pillars of religion and discipline according to King George VI, thus meeting two of the greatest needs of our time – true today as it was then in 1943.
CHURCH SCHOOLS IN CHELTENHAM
At Cheltenham, a Deed of 1585 insisted that the Master must be aged 30 at least, must be a Priest licensed by the Bishop of Gloucester and a pattern of true virtue and godliness.
The Master had to take scholars every Sunday and holyday to Public Prayers and Divine Service with sermon, at the Parish Church of St Mary. The scholars must be examined about the sermon to ascertain what benefit they have gained from it.
Although not monastic foundations, many schools today both in the private and state sector have Chaplains. In some joint Anglican/Roman Catholic schools, as at the proposed Christ College (formerly St Benedict’s School) there will be chaplains for both denominations. There are of course Chaplains at Ladies College, Cheltenham College, St Edward’s School, the University of Gloucestershire and Bishop College in Gloucester.
DEVONSHIRE STREET SCHOOL
It was Cheltenham’s second earliest school, a Charity School and was the successor of the school that existed above the north porch of St Mary’s, the Parish Church. This had been endowed in 1683 under the will of George Townsend and the room in which classes were held was very probably the room in which had stayed the visiting pre-Reformation Priest when he came from Cirencester Abbey to conduct the services in the church.
The Devonshire Street School was designed by local architect W.H. Knight in 1846/7 with much encouragement from Rev Francis Close. The school closed in 1992, but the building still stands today as domestic accommodation.
GIRLS’ PARISH SCHOOL
This was opened in 1856 in Knapp Lane
The GRAMMAR SCHOOL
Founded in 1586 by Richard Pates to give instruction to 50 scholars at least, in grammar (Latin). Up to 1850s at least, Latin was taught at no cost – the teaching done in English commanded a fee. The building stood in the High Street, where Tesco now stands. In the 1880s it was replaced by a ‘modern building which lasted until the school moved in the 1960s to a new site on Hester’s Way.
The FEMALE ORPHAN ASYLUM or Old School of Industry.
Under the patronage of the Bishop of Gloucester, this institution was opened in 1834 in order to board, lodge, clothe and educate destitute orphans, particularly THOSE OF RESPECTABLE PARENTS. The average number attending was 40 admitted between the ages of 8 and 11 and leaving at the age of 15. The residents were trained for domestic service and they provided for their keep by taking in sewing work.
The building was on the right hand side of Winchcombe Street as you approach Pitville Gates, almost opposite Columbia Terrace.
The NATIONAL SCHOOL
This stood in Bath Road, almost on the corner with St Luke’s Road. National Schools were Church of England foundations. This one was supported by voluntary subscriptions and had between two and three hundred pupils on roll. It was opened in 1817.
ST JAMES SQUARE INFANTS SCHOOL
This school was opened in July 1830 through the efforts of Francis Close to educate the Infant poor. It is the oldest surviving building of its kind in the country. The 60 feet school room has been extended but the tall windows are original. The playground can still be identified and it was one of the first in the country to be provided with swings, and other adventurous climbing apparatus.
(St John’s school History supplied by Secretary – not on computer).
St JAMES’ SCHOOL
St James’ School in Great Norwood Street came about as a result of State Aid to the National Society, first awarded in 1861, when payment was allocated according to results. Parishes were keen therefore to build schools and St James was built a short distance away from the basic schoolroom which already existed in the parish. This old building was demolished and ‘a pile of buildings’ was erected from Union Street to Bath Street providing room for boys, girls and infants. The design by local architect W H Knight ‘our talented townsman’ was praised for reflecting much credit on the architect’s taste and appreciation of the ecclesiastical style which he has adopted internally and externally in the construction of this great ornament in the neighbourhood.’
The foundation stone was laid in February 1864 and the completed building was opened in October the following year. The cost was £2,000 and ‘as large as it is, it has been met.’
The good design quality has contributed to its Grade II listing.
A new school was built in Merestones Road in the 1980s and St James School was converted into apartments. The new school, now in the parish of Ss Philip and James continues to be called St James’ School and is Voluntary Controlled.
The Foundation stone of Holy Trinity Boys’ National School in Sherborne Street was laid in 1835 and Holy Trinity Girls School was built in 1840. The schools merged in 1897 to become Holy Trinity Mixed School.
St Paul’s National School in St Paul’s Road opened in 1836.
A new school for boys opened in Horsfair Street, Charlton Kings, c1836.
Leckhampton National School was opened about 1841. The foundation stone of the current Leckhampton Church School was laid in 1905 and the school was opened a year later.
The St Philip’s School at the foot of Leckhampton Road was opened in 1860. This was enlarged in 1862 and closed in 1908.
Christ Church Schools in Malvern Road were opened 1850 and in 1934, the Junior and Infant department was started in the former St Mark’s School in Alstone Lane alongside the level crossing. It moved to the vacated girls’ school in Malvern Road in 1977, when the girls amalgamated with Elmfield Boys School on the former Technical School site in Gloucester Road.
According to Ruff’s Beauties of Cheltenham 1806, Sunday Schools were established in Cheltenham in 1787. They proved very popular not only with the residents but with visitors to the town who supported them financially through the annual sermon and collection made at the Church door of St Mary’s Parish Church.
It is generally accepted however that Francis Close established the first organised and permanent, purpose built Sunday school in Cheltenham in Alstone (Lane) in 1826.
‘From the regulation of these schools, and from the deportment of the children, there is every reason to hope that this establishment will be productive of as much essential benefit to Cheltenham as it has been throughout the kingdom at large’.
The documents connected with the foundation of the school in 1841, strongly emphasise the Christian aims and intentions of the founders to provide “an education conducted strictly in conformity with the principles of the Church of England.” and this certainly dominated the early years of the College.
However, expectations of the parents meant that College needed to provide a classical education to the sons of gentlemen so that they might go on to University. Francis Close was one of the original Directors and was not at all happy with the classical education, “putting into the hands of youth, the abominable mythology of the ancients, tending as it did to warp their understanding and destroy their better feelings.”
The school moved to its present buildings in Bath Road in 1843.Close; original College; first Head and other Clergy Heads.
CHELTENHAM LADIES COLLEGE
Although not a Church Foundation, Francis Close was involved in the foundation and became its first President. His influence was therefore evident form the start and under Dorothea Beale, its second Headmistress, the school acquired a ‘religious’ feel. Dorothea Beale was a woman of great faith –more inclined towards the Tractarians but this was not displayed in the way she conducted the school for fear of causing criticism from some of Governing Body living in such a Low Church town.
DEAN CLOSE SCHOOL
Four years after the death of Francis Close in 1882, it was decided that a fitting memorial to him would be a middle class school for boys, with education based on the scriptural and evangelical principles of the Church of England, a precept he so earnestly endorsed in the founding of Cheltenham College. The school opened in 1886 and was designed by William hill Knight.
Dean Close School was a decidedly ‘Low Church’ school and was intended to balance the influence of some schools which had been established by the High Church Tractarians – against whom Close preached vehemently on many occasions.
The Chapel was opened in 1923. Today the school is co-educational.
A former Dean Close pupil, and Hatherley local lad, Jim Thompson became England’s youngest Church of England Bishop in 1978 – at the age of 41.
THE CHELTENHAM TRAINING COLLEGES
St Paul’s was one of the first Anglican Training Colleges for teachers, and was opened in 1847 in hired rooms. Cheltenham already had a reputation as a good place to train in the rudiments of education, due to the number of schools in the town where potential teachers had undergone practical training. However, the profession was not such at that time to attract men and women looking for status and security.
Francis Close was Chairman of the Church of England Training School Society and he wished to establish an institution which adhered to the evangelical Protestantism of the Church of England, and which would counteract the advance of the Tractarian tendencies he had noticed in existing Colleges. The College started with seven students, and a year later had 39 men and a similar number of women.
The foundation stone of the College was laid by the College’s first President, Lord Shaftesbury, in 1849.
St Paul’s (Men’s) College and later, St Mary’s (Women’s) College, are the seeds from which the present University of Gloucestershire has grown and within which is still a highly regarded school of Education for the Training of Teacher.
In 1854, a Practising School for the Training College students was designed by the well known architect G F Bodley and today it forms part of the Francis Close Campus in St Paul’s Road. In 2007, former students held a reunion which was very well attended.
The new Chapel at St Paul’s was opened in 1910 by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS:
The first record of a Catholic school in Gloucester was one set up in the 1790s by Gilbert Usher.
The first Charity Catholic school was opened in Cheltenham about 1827 eight years before the Catholic poor school, which probably grew out of catechism classes. This Charity school was opened on 23rd April 1827 annexed to the original Catholic Chapel. It soon proved popular with both Catholics and non-Catholics, for in 1829, the local press reported that 58 Protestant children had received an education at the school, which was run by a Headmistress.
Numbers fell off as a result of anti-Catholic feeling in the town and in 1834 the Cheltenham Directory refers to a Catholic school for the poor being run above the Vestry rooms for the children of poor Catholics.
In 1857, two well ventilated schoolrooms accommodating 150 children were opened “close to the dwellings of the poor.” This was in St Paul’s Street North, opposite St Paul’s Church. These schoolrooms were in what had previously been a school but which had been sold to the Catholic Church for £300. The Government of the time gave a substantial grant towards conversion and improvements.
The foundation stone of the present St Gregory’s School was laid in 1935 and it took a year for the school to be built. The official opening took place on 3rd November 1936 and was performed by Alderman C H Margrett, Chairman of the Cheltenham Education Committee.
Independent School run by the Daughters of the Cross
Ursuline Ladies’ College
St Gregory’s High School for Girls
Sainte Union Roman Catholic School (Charlton Park) was formed in 1939.
Whitefriars was opened in 1958. The two schools merged in 1987 to become St Edward’s School.
The new St Benedict’s School was opened in 1963
RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE
One response to the influence of the Oxford Movement, was the establishment of Anglican Sisterhoods – Sisters of Mercy – who ran their newly founded communities on a Roman Catholic model.
The working Sisterhoods founded Houses of Mercy, for those seeking to reform their lives and the Sisters provided shelter, training, and the opportunity to find domestic employment in a secure home. Foundations which sought to reform immoral living were called Penitentiaries and the ‘residents were called Penitents.
One of the earliest of these Penitentiaries was at Bussage near Stroud, in 1851. The first Superior of the newly formed Sisterhood of St Michael and All Angels was a close friend of John Keble but although there was a never-dwindling number of residents, the number of Sisters did not increase as hoped for. In 1900 the Community was amalgamated with another Anglican Order, the Wantage Sisters, and they staffed the Home until 1948, when it was handed over to The Order of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, an Anglican Franciscan Order which had been started in Birmingham in 1894. They ran the Home as an orphanage for boys, until that too closed and the buildings were taken over by a Roman Catholic Community.
Thomas Gambier Parry of Highnam Court, Gloucester started a religious Community of Sisters in Gloucester in 1866 in memory of his deceased daughter Lucy. The Sisters ran St Lucy’s Home of Charity for children until 1872, but due to lack of recruits to the religious life, they handed over their work to the Community of St John the Baptist, Clewer who ran St Lucy’s Hospital for sick children at Kingsholm, Gloucester from 1872 to 1934 as well as St Lucy’s Home, Hare Lane, Gloucester, where girls were trained for domestic service. They also ran a Preventative House where they trained young girls in decent living at Newark House, Hempsted, near Gloucester from 1883-1920.
In 1934 their work was taken over by the Nursing Community of St John the Divine which had been founded in Hastings in 1849.
The St Lucy Homes have closed but the Clewer Sisters and the St John Communities still exist and do nursing and retreat work at Clewer and Birmingham.
The Anglican Community of the Evangelistic Sisters of Jesus of Nazareth was established at Westcote, between Burford and Stowe on the Wold in 1926 and they also ran a Branch House in Tewkesbury. Their work is indicated in their title – evangelism. They were quite a large Order but failed to attract new recruits and the Convent was eventually closed in 1969, the few remaining Sisters moving to other larger Orders.
From 1980 until 1991, Glenfall House, Charlton Kings, was home to the Anglican Sisters of St Peter the Apostle, Westminster. They had moved there from Laleham Abbey where they had run a boarding school for girls since 1932. The Sisters had originally been part of the Community of St Peter, Horbury, near Wakefield but had separated to devote their skills to education. They also ran St George’s House for Girls at Stonehouse where girls with learning problems were trained for domestic careers, including farming. This House eventually moved to Lansdown, Cheltenham and was called St George’s Wellclose.
The Sisters were elderly when they arrived in Cheltenham and after 11 years, numbers had dwindled and they decided to sell up and disperse into other larger Communities – mainly, that of St Mary at the Cross, Edgeware. Sr Frances Anne, the black Sister and the last surviving member of the Community is still alive, and lives in the Community at Walsingham where some of us met her again last year.
Glenfall House is now the Gloucester Diocesan retreat and Conference Centre.
The Community of the Glorious Ascension, a male community of Anglican monks living the Franciscan pattern of the religious life, was established at Stroud in 1960 and was involved in work in the secular community. Bishop Peter of Gloucester was one of the original members as was his brother Michael. The Community is now based in Devon.
ROMAN CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
The first community of Nuns to return to Gloucestershire since the Reformation arrived in 1794. They were Dominican Sisters fleeing from the French Revolution and were offered a home at Hartpury, near Gloucester. They were received kindly by the locals and the Bishop of Gloucester and the Dean and his wife made donations towards their settling in expenses. They opened a chapel in the village in 1829 and in all, they lived in Hartpury for 45 years, providing for their maintenance by teaching. They left for a new home in the Midlands in 1839.
There have been many communities of Nuns and Sisters living and working in Gloucestershire, and Cheltenham in particular, since the 1820s. They were occupied mainly in teaching but some worked with the elderly, the sick and some followed a more contemplative life.
The Daughters of the Cross were teaching in St Gregory’s Parish in the 1860s as were the Sisters of Charity of St Paul, who lived in the convent almost opposite St Paul’s Church in St Paul’s Street North.
The Sisters of Nazareth had arrived in the town by the 1880s and are still here in 2007–moving to Charlton Kings 1964. Their specific role is care for the elderly, although they originally cared for orphans too. La Sainte Union Sisters were established in educational work at Charlton Kings by the 1930s and have only recently left Cheltenham.
The Ursuline Sisters first ran a school near Pitville from 1907 and then opened a larger Girls School at Fullwood, The Park, and many Roman Catholic Religious Festival celebrations were held in the grounds.
Male presence in the town dates from St Gregory’s Parish which was from its opening in the 1850s until quite recently a Benedictine Parish staffed by the monks from Douai Abbey near Reading.
The Carmelite Friars opened Whitefriars in the 1930s and in the 1940s and 50s, Toddington Manor was a seminary for training Christian Brothers.
Probably the most well-known local community is that of the Benedictine monks at Prinknash Abbey.
The Prinknash estate had been the property of Medieval St Peter’s Abbey Gloucester since 1096 and the House was the private retreat house for the last Abbot of Gloucester, Abbot Parker at the time of the dissolution of the monastery. Since then it had been in private ownership.
The Prinknash Community came here from the island of Caldey, off the Pembrokeshire Coast. Originally the monks at Caldey were an Anglican Order, founded by Aelred Carlyle in 1896, but in 1914 they were received into the Roman Catholic Church. Prinknash was bequeathed to them in the will of its owner and they moved to the old house, Prinknash Grange in 1928.
The new Abbey buildings were started in 1939 but as the Community is not growing, a decision has been made to return to the Grange which should be accomplished before Christmas this year – 2007.
Roman Catholic Convents have opened in many other places in Gloucestershire and carry on all sorts of evangelistic, teaching and nursing work. The Convent of the Poor Clares at Woodchester, is a closed Order following a life of prayer and providing facilities for retreats.
St Rose’s Dominican Convent at Stroud has provided educational facilities for the disabled and the Marist Sisters at Nympsfield provided orphanage care but now provide retreat and parish conference facilities, while the Sisters of the Temple at More Hall, near Stroud, provided care for the elderly until 1968.
A Dominican Priory flourished at Woodchester for 120 years but the buildings were sadly demolished in about 1970. The church itself remains and it was built in 1849 as a Passionist Church by William Leigh of Woodchester Park. Blessed Dominic Barberi, who received Cardinal Newman into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 1845, first established a Passionist retreat at Northfields, Nailsworth, but this was moved to Woodchester when the church was under construction. The Dominican Friars replaced the Passionists who soon afterwards moved to Broadway.
CHELTENHAM’S NEW BURIAL GROUND
Because of the overcrowded state of the Parish Churchyard, new burial space became a matter of urgency in the 1820s. Ten acres were purchased in 1830, in the lower High Street, and the New Burial Ground was opened shortly afterwards. A Chapel was erected facing the High Street and this site served the town until the opening of the Bouncers Lane Public Burial Ground in the 1860s.
Today the High Street site is named the Churchill Memorial Gardens and the chapel is used for various cultural activities.
Several denominations in Cheltenham had their own burial ground:
The Quakers in Grove Street – date plaque states 1700.
Hebrew Community in Elm Street, 1824 – still in use for members.
St Peter, Tewkesbury Road.
Holy Trinity Church.
The original St Philip’s Church.
Bethel Baptist – now the Christadelphian Church.
St Mary, Charlton Kings still in use, but a public cemetery also exists.
St Mary, Prestbury – still in use for nparishioners.
Ss Philip and James, Up Hatherley still in use for parishioners.
St Peter, Leckhampton- still in use for parishioners.
St Lawrence, Swindon Village- still in use for parishioners.
Ss Philip and James, Leckhampton has a Columbarium under the Church where cremated remains may be placed -still in use for parishioners.
BURIAL OF THE DEAD
The ancient practice of the Christian Church at death, was burial of the dead.
From the Reformation, up to the nineteenth century, every parishioner had a right to be
buried in parish churchyard, regardless of their denomination. The privilege of burying the dead lay with the Church of England and the Parish Priest could not refuse to bury a parishioner according to the Burial Service in the Book of Common Prayer, UNLESS the dead person was un-baptised, had been excommunicated or had committed suicide. Non-conformist baptism was recognised but the officiating minister at any burial in the Parish Churchyard had to be the Anglican Priest.
From the 1600s however, many non-conformist congregations sought to provide their own burial grounds.
Of course, clergy, nobility and persons of fame or repute and patrons of the Living were often buried within the Church building, and their foot worn memorial stones can be seen on the floors of many Cathedrals and old churches to this day.
It was not until the beginning of the 1800s that Public Cemeteries were opened, the first being it is thought, in Norwich.
CHELTENHAM BURIAL GROUND, BOUNCER’S LANE
The present cemetery replaced one, now Churchill memorial gardens, at the lower end of the High Street, when by 1860, it was almost at capacity level.
Sites were looked at including one in The Park, some at Hester’s Way, Warden Hill, Leckhampton Hill and Prestbury, but eventually eighteen acres of land were purchased at Bouncer’s Lane, providing 13,000 spaces and allowing for up to 39,000 burials. The Gothic style chapels were designed by a local architect, Mr W H Knight. One chapel was provided for the C of E and the other for Nonconformists. At the time cremation was unheard of in this country. The buildings were described by English Heritage in 1983 as “ despite the 20th century additions, this survives as the finest Victorian Cemetery Chapel in England, enhanced by its parkland setting.”
The estimate cost was only exceeded by a few pounds and included the Lodge and boundary walls and gates. The interior furnishings were supplied by Urch and Seabright of Gloucester Place, Cheltenham at a cost of £74
The CHAPELS were completed by November 1864 and the first burial took place on 29th of that month. The deceased was a Mr Thomas Smith of Cheltenham, Plumber, aged 65.
The area reserved for the Church of England was consecrated by Bishop Ellicott of Gloucester on 19th November 1864, although the whole cemetery was available for Nonconformists as well, including Roma Catholics. The two areas were separated by the central driveway.Many of Cheltenham’s well known citizens are buried in this cemetery, and a stroll around the grounds, reading the tombstone inscriptions will provide a potted version of the important personages and history of Victorian Cheltenham
Cremation of the dead began in Woking in the 1880s.
In the middle Ages, almshouses were among the many charitable institutions that were founded to provide shelter and care for elderly people in need. Often these institutions were founded by religious organisations although many were also founded by wealthy people with real Christian concern for those less well off.
Some of the older religious foundations, originating in monasteries, were for the care of lepers or pilgrims. Often the building consisted of a long large room with beds lining both sides and a chapel at the east end. Usually a curtain separated the bed spaces.
Many had chapels and gardens, as did Pates Almshouses in Cheltenham. As well as requiring the chapel to be used for the communal saying of morning and evening prayer, they were also used by the Chaplain to offer Mass for the soul of the founder. Alcohol was usually forbidden and the occupants were often required to wear a distinctive uniform – rather in the way that the Chelsea Pensioners do or the inmates of the St Cross Almshouses near Winchester.
Almshouses were called so because they provided alms for the inmates, but sometimes they are called Hospitals, colleges, House of God, homes and cottages- all of these names indicating the focus of the care provided. Inmates were frequently known as brothers or sisters , pensioners and dames.
Pates Almshouses, Cheltenham.
Originally on a site near the present Beechwood Arcade, Pates almshouses now stand in Albion Street just east of the crossing with Pittville Street. The original foundation dates from 1586, when Richard Pate provided accommodation for six indigent persons upwards of three score years and ten, or those labouring under some notable impotency or disease. Each inmate was given a private room and a garden plot. The almshouses had a chapel which was not replaced when the High Street property was sold in 1811.
The inmates had to attend prayers twice a day for an hour at a time, and they were given annually black material with which to make their gowns. The inmates of the new buildings, in Albion Street, in the 1840s were allowed 8 shillings per week, besides other household benefits.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
Originally built as a hostel in the twelfth century for workers in the construction of a bridge across the Severn at Gloucester, the house later became a hospice for the sick and had its own chaplain. Henry III gave the church of St Nicholas to the house, which then became known as the Hospice of St Bartholomew the Apostle. By the late 1200s it housed about 90 sick persons and had a community of monks as well as lay brothers and sisters. By the 1500s it was the largest of all the ancient Gloucester hospitals with 30 or so almspeople, five chaplains and a Master. In 1786 John Wesley preached to the residents. The building was allowed to deteriorate into a sorry state of repair so that it was demolished and rebuilt to what we see today, with a semi circular chapel on the north side. The building was sold by the trustees in 1971 and the Charity combined with the Gloucester Municipal Charities.
Today St Bartholomew’s has been restored and converted into business premises
St John’s Hospital, Cirencester. The remains of this twelfth century Hospital of St John can still be admired today and attached to them, is a row of nineteenth century almshouses.
St Margaret’s and St Sepulchre’s Gloucester, a 12th century Hospital in Gloucester, was run by St Peter’s Abbey as an isolation hospital for lepers. destroyed at the reformation but its chapel can still be found in the London Road and is still used for worship by the residents of St Margarets.
St Mary’s Hospital and St Mary Magdalene’s Chapel, Gloucester, was also founded in the twelfth century as a leper hospital for women, and was run by the monks of Llanthony Priory. Today all that remains is the chancel of the chapel near the junction of the London Road and Denmark Road.
Wotton under Edge
In Wotton, applicants for places in Ann Bearpacker’s Almshouses, opened in 1818, had to be members of the Church of England.
Older almshouses in the town are Perry’s almshouses founded in 1638 and the Dawes and the General Hospital Almshouses both founded in 1723. These three form one complex around an open courtyard. The chapel is usually open to visitors.
A painted plaque above the inner doorway details the rules of the almshouse
Not far away, are the Rowland Hill almshouse (see biography elsewhere.)
ALMSHOUSES AT WOTTON under EDGE
Rowland Hill paid for the almshouses at Wotton in 1815 intending them to be occupied by 10 females from his congregation at the Tabernacle. The original houses were very Gothic in appearance but when replaced in 1887 they took on the appearance they have today.
Hill’s comment after one preaching engagement in Cheltenham was “What an immeasurable work it is to preach to the rich.”
Rowland Hill died in 1833 and was buried under the pulpit in his Chapel – the Surrey Chapel, – in London.
ST JOHN’S, CIRENCESTER
These almshouses were founded by King Henry 1st. The appointed chaplain was required to sing Mass daily in the oratory – there was no chapel – for the 6 aged and feeble who were unable to attend Mass in the Abbey. Thus the almshouse oratory became their Parish Church. The chaplain received an allowance of food from Cirencester Abbey.
Then inmates were supported by the alms of the faithful, and by a daily distribution of food from the Abbey.
THE ST JOHN’S LECHLADE ALMSHOUSES
These almshouses were founded in 1246 and served by 7 Priests of the Order of St Augustine. There were also lay brothers and sisters to minister to the poor and sick. The Bishop of Worcester was the Visitor.
The residents had to wear a uniform dress; they had to be regular at mealtimes or miss their meal and they must never leave the premises without permission.
OTHERS. Almshouses/Hospitals also existed at Tewkesbury, where there is recorded a Leper Hospital; at Winchcombe, according to Leland; and at Stow on the Wold, which was reputed to have been founded pre the Norman Conquest for the maintenance of poor women. A chaplain was appointed to minister to their spiritual needs.
Many towns and larger villages had houses or terraces of houses provided for retired estate workers or those who had fallen on hard times, but these were usually philanthropic foundations rather than religiously inspired ones.
One such establishment was St Kyneburgh’s Hospital in Gloucester which stood just within the South Gate of the city. It was founded by Sir Thomas Bell for the maintenance of 6 poor people.
The residents of the Sir Baptist Hicks Almshouses received money, a ton of coal and a frieze gown and felt hat every year.
LONGBRIDGE, nr BERKELEY
The Holy Trinity almshouses were founded c 1170. A Prior and two brethren were appointed to provide spiritual and temporal welfare to the poor and sick. They were supported by the offerings parishioners of Berkeley made on the Feasts of St John the Baptist and St Mary Magdalene. These almshouses were suppressed at the Dissolution.
The first trustee savings bank was established by Reverend Henry Duncan of Ruthwell in Dumfriesshire for his poorest parishioners in 1810 with its sole purpose being to serve the local people in the community. The Savings Banks in Gloucestershire were set up as part of this Savings Bank movement. The plan was to encourage thrift by providing a safe means of investing money for a good rate of interest. Banks at that time required a minimum deposit of £10 which at this time was a substantial sum. Thornbury Savings Bank, for instance, shared the ideals of the new Savings Bank movement and its rules make it clear that it was set up “for the purpose of affording the industrious and labouring classes, whether minors or of age a secure institution for such sums of money as they may be able to deposit therein.” The movement spread quickly all over Britain and it is no coincidence that the Gloucester Records Office holds the records of ten banks in Gloucestershire dating from this period.
Wills and bequests provide an interesting insight into people’s faith and commitment as they anticipated their death.
Just before the impact of the Reformation, the purpose of how a will was worded, was to show that the person had died in Faith, Hope and Charity.
To die in Charity meant to die discharged of one’s debts – to neighbour as well as the Church, and to die in a state of forgiveness of all injuries given or received.It is very common to find Gloucestershire wills of the 1500s and before, which leave money to the High Altar of the Parish Church, to make up for ‘the tythes and offrynges which have been negligentlye forgotten.’
Most wills in Tudor times began with these or similar words: Almighty God, my savyor and redemer Jeshus Criste, through whose mercye and by the merites of his passion, I trust myselfe to be a saved soul…
And continue along these lines
I trust my soule to our blessed lady Seynt Mary, Seynt John baptist and all the holy companye of hevyn, beseching them to pray unto our sayd savyor Jeshus Criste.’
From a will of 1509, we learn that a certain Richard Machyn of Cheltenham directed that his body should be buried in the Parish Church of St Mary,, ‘ before the image of St Christopher, St Erasmus interceding for me..’
This Richard was one who left money ‘to the High Altar for tythes forgotten…to the building of the middle aisle of the church….7 lbs of wax for candles to burn before the image of St Erasmus.’
The Calvinist Bishop Hooper of Gloucester issued an Injunction during his episcopate forbidding any wills in his diocese to make reference to the Saints.
The will of a William Hoby who died in Queen Elizabeth’s reign and hoped to be buried at Hailes Parish Church , shows how effective Hooper’s Injunction was:
In the name of God, Amen. I William Hoby….first I give and bequeath my soul into the hands of Almighty God trusting through and for the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to receive at His pardon, the absolution of all my sins….and to rise both in body and soul at the General day of Judgement.’
Not a mention of a Saint or of the Blessed Virgin!
These were made compulsory under Henry VIII for births, marriages and deaths and were introduced c1538.
‘AS SURE AS GOD IS IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE’ – EXPLORING OUR MEDIEVAL CHURCHES
Church Wall Paintings- FRESCOES
In Medieval times, the interiors of ordinary parish churches did not look at all like they do today. The walls were painted in brightly coloured religious scenes depicting stories from the Old and New Testaments and also religious legends, a wonderful teaching aid in days when many people could not read, or of they could, they could not afford to buy books. In fact, the painted walls served the same purpose as do stained glass windows and religious works of art today – to teach, to beautify and to inspire.
Sadly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many of these paintings – frescoes – were painted or plastered over and lost to succeeding generations for hundreds of years. Fortunately, as many churches underwent restoration in the eighteen hundreds right up to the present day, traces of many of these medieval frescoes have been uncovered and in many cases, restored to view. It is a costly and time consuming craft, but one which illustrates the continuity of our faith from those dark, medieval times up to the present day.
Gloucestershire Churches which have some impressive medieval wall paintings are Baunton, Stoke Orchard, Kempley, Hailes, Duntisbourne Rous, Stowell, Hampnett, Ampney Crucis, Salperton and Turkdean. St Mary de Crypt, Gloucester (revealed 1982.)
Baunton Church dates from Norman times and belonged to the Abbey of Cirencester until 1539. In the Nave, one cannot fail to notice the magnificent wall painting dating from the fourteenth century . It was discovered under the plaster in 1877 and shows St Christopher carrying the Christ Child over the river.
Stoke Orchard is about 900 years old and all four walls of the Nave are covered in wall paintings only discovered in 1952. Most of the scenes are of the life of St James of Compostela, quite rare in this country. Bristol was the chief port of embarkation for pilgrims to St James shrine in northern Spain and Stoke Orchard is probably one of the pilgrim churches on the route to Bristol.
St Leonard’s church at Stowell is a treasure house of wall paintings, mainly in the nave and he south transept, all painted between 1150 and 1200.
These were a reminder to people who could not read and were their only illustrations of stories form the Bible – as well as amusing the congregation during long sermons no doubt! The paintings known as The Doom are allegedly the oldest wall painting in England.
The church at Hailes is across the road from the Abbey ruins. It dates from about 1130, well before the Abbey. The chancel wall paintings show weird beasts, gryphons, and dragons. Higher up the walls is a parade of saints each beneath a painted arch. In the splays of early Norman windows are fourteenth century paintings of two saints – Catherine and Margaret.
The Nave also has wall paintings but most of these are of secular images.
Most of Kempley’s wall paintings were whitewashed over at the time of the Reformation, and uncovered by John Middleton and his son in 1871 – 1872. Some paintings are in the centre of the ceiling, some around the chancel arch and over the north and south windows. Between these windows and the east wall are scenes showing pilgrims, probably linking up with the scenes at Stoke Orchard, on their way to Compostela. These wall paintings are some of the finest in Europe. Many of the paintings are really most beautiful
GLOUCESTER: St MARY de CRYPT
These wall paintings are of a much later date than most to be found in the county – 1530, just before the dissolution of the monasteries. However they are considered to be of a quality which makes them some of the finest in England. The most magnificent is that depicting the Adoration of the Magi, all the figures dressed in Belgian costumes of the period.
Of course not all wall paintings are mediaeval or pre Reformation.
One of the most prolific mural painters in the county, whose life spanned the last two centuries, worked in and from Cheltenham. J Eadie Reid was an art teacher at the Ladies College and he designed and painted the wall murals at Christ Church, Gloucester; Christ Church, Cheltenham; Ss Philip and James Up Hatherley, St Stephen’s Church, and All Saints Church, Cheltenham. He also designed secular and religious murals, panels and lunettes for Cheltenham College, Cheltenham Ladies’ College Princess Hall; and Bishop’s Cleeve Church.
Highnam Church near Gloucester, and St Andrew’s Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral also contain walls of nineteenth century murals by Thomas Gambier Parry, completed in the 1850s and 1860s
FURNISHINGS AND CHAINS
King Henry VIII introduced the requirement of having a Bible in every Church in the land, written in the language of the people. As books were so expensive in those days, and few people could afford them, huge parish bibles were chained to the newly introduced LECTERNS so that they could not be stolen.
Clergy, who were not terribly well educated at the time, soon found that people took great advantage of Bible reading and ended up ‘knowing more than we do.’ Bishop Hooper, on one of his examinations of the clergy in the Diocese, found that over half could not say the Ten Commandments from memory; a sixth could not say who the author of the Lord’s Prayer was and the same percentage could not say where it was to be found in the Bible.
PREACHING was not as regular a part of services as it is today. The legal requirement was that the priest had to preach at least once a quarter, but he had to make sure that the people knew the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed by heart. Sermons in the village or town churches were read from books and each parish would possess one of these which contained about five or six sermons to celebrate the major Christian Festivals.
As well as Lecterns, Pulpits were not very common furnishings in churches until Tudor times. It was towards the end of King Henry’s reign that they became more important although some pre-Reformation ones exist at North Cerney, Colesbourne, Naunton and Evenlode.
It was at this period also that wooden Holy Tables replaced stone altars, and many stone altars ended up as floor slabs in churchyards. One that has been restored to its original use can be seen at North Cerney church.
Benches or pews for the congregation also began to make their appearance at this time.
Roods were to be seen in every church until the Reformation. They were usually positioned above the screen which separated the Chancel from the Nave of the church. A Rood comprised a large crucifix with Mary and St John standing on either side. At the Reformation they were considered idolatrous – and valuable – and so were dismantled, sold if of precious materials or else burnt. If there was a wall behind a Rood, it was often painted or carried a carving of the Royal Arms once the Rood had been taken away, as at Cirencester. Fairford Church has a beautiful screen dating from 1534.
STAINED GLASS Mention medieval stained glass and immediately Fairford Church comes to mind. There are twenty eight windows all dating from the late medieval period – between 1500 and 1517 – and they illustrate the Christian faith as though they were the pages from a book.
The glass was made at Westminster and several glass makers and glass painters were brought over form the Netherlands to complete the work.
During WW II the main panels were removed and hidden away for safe keeping.
I to the church the living call and to the grave do summon all, is inscribed on one of the bells in Prestbury Church, and is a message inscribed on many bells in Gloucestershire. One other at Prestbury says “Prosperity to the Church of England” and a third “When you us ring, we’ll sweetly sing.”
Church bells summon residents to prayer, and at certain times during the day, some churches do still ring the Angelus – 6 am, midday and 6 pm – as at St Stephen’s up to the time of the Second World War and still today before services at those times. The bell is rung in three peals of three and one of nine. The Hail Mary being said between each peal.
A single Sacring Bell can often be seen in a bellcote on a church and this is rung at the consecration of the sacred elements during The Eucharist. This is an old tradition to remind those not in church what was taking place, and also to encourage workers who could not be in church, to stop for a moment from their labours to say a prayer. Bishop’s Cleeve Sacring bell dates from 1695 while the one at Charlton Abbots dates from 1344. This tradition is still followed at St Stephen’s, Up Hatherley, All Saints and many other churches in the town.
Bells are christened when first hung in a Church and most are given names as well as being inscribed with the name of the bell foundry and a dedication.
At Lechlade, one bell dating from 1599 has the donors initials inscribed on it, another of 1635 has “Prayes the Lord” and yet another of 1796, “Rudhall fecit” referring to the Gloucester bell foundry.
A bell at Brimpsfield has inscribed on its rim, “Jesus filius Dei, Miserere mei” –
“Jesus Son of God have mercy on me.”
The Gloucester Abbey had a bell at least from the time of its foundation, but since the 1600s Great Peter, England’s only remaining Medieval GREAT BELL has been the attraction at the present Cathedral. Christened St Peter is the one most people like to hear. It weighs 59 hundredweights and its boom can be heard all over the city.
Many of the churches in the county contain wonderful reminders of the past, but their function is not always immediately recognisable. Some examples are given below:
At Didmarton, in the medieval church of St Lawrence, is a three decker pulpit, heavily restored. This pulpit together with the other church furniture gives us a good picture of what a Georgian Church looked like
The Parish Clerk sat in the bottom level leading the psalms and responses; the minister/priest conducted the service from the middle level, and then moved into the pulpit proper for the sermon.
At Syde – one of the oldest parish churches in England, there is a roundel touched by pilgrims in the Middle Ages and a Coat of Arms of King Charles II. There are also some wonderful but small box pews.
Stanley Pontlarge has some interesting medieval pilgrim graffiti scratched on the door posts.
An unusual egg timer is a feature of the church at Shipton Sollars. This is placed near the pulpit as a reminder to the preacher to time the sermon.
This church also has an original stone mensa – altar top.
Oddington Church has one of many pulpits in the county, together with its original sounding board, from the time of King James II. There are the Arms of King William IV painted over the Chancel Arch and a wonderful Doom Painting on the north wall.
In Winchcombe Church there is an alms box from the time of Edward VI with three locks – keys to be kept by the Vicar and one each by the two churchwardens.
Many churches have lych gates, covered gateways at the start of the pathway leading to the main door of the church. In the time of King Edward VI Priests were ordered to meet the coffin at the lych gate and begin the burial service there. One of the most attractive is to be found at North Cerney Church.
Bishop’s Cleeve and also Hartpury, contain massive oak chests, carved from a single trunk of wood, in which were stored the parish registers and where offerings for the poor were received.
The NORTH DOOR
The north side of a church was always considered the devil’s side and was avoided for burials if possible being reserved for criminals and suicides. The south was also preferred as this was the usual door by which to enter the church, and hopefully as people walked to church they would pass the graves and offer a prayer for the departed as they did so.
GARGOYLES Many churches are decorated and enlivened externally with Gargoyles, carved, often hideous figures of mythical creatures, heads, demons and the like. Their mouths are usually put to the practical purpose of acting as drain or gutter water spouts but their original intention was to instil in people a reminder of the horrors of hell as well as to frighten off evil spirits.
Some of the biggest and ugliest in this area are to be seen at Winchcombe over forty in number.
ROYAL COAT OF ARMS
In the reign of the boy King, Edward VI, these replaced the DOOM paintings and the ROOD which had been sited above the Chancel screen prior to the Reformation. He ordered that the Arms were to be placed in every parish church. These are to be seen in many town and country churches in the county – some even displaying the Arms of the present Queen.
During the Reign of King Edward VI, the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed were ordered to be displayed in a prominent place in the Churches. These were usually on the East Wall, immediately above and behind the ‘Holy Table’ where all could see them. Many can still be seen in our churches today.
Only the best is good enough for God, and hence, most of the vessels used in church for the Communion service, are made of precious metals – silver, or gold. Other metals such as pewter, or even brass have been used in early times usually in very poor parishes, but that is not the norm.
Before the years 1200 not many parish churches possessed a chalice of silver, and certainly not of gold, and such possessions were the prerogative of the monasteries and abbeys.
Up to the end of the Middle Ages, Priests were buried in full Mass vestments, clasping a chalice in their hands- usually made of pewter or if from a poor parish, an imitation one in wax.
In the 1200s right up to the 1530s most parishes acquired a silver or gold chalice and paten – the plate on which the consecrated wafers are placed. Wealthy benefactors, or Lords of the Manor sometimes left items of silver to their parish church and so some churches became quite wealthy in what they possessed.
At the time of the Reformation monastic treasures including chalices and patens were confiscated and melted down to provide money for the kings coffers and so in 1551 under King Edward VI every church lost its silver and gold communion vessels except for the least valuable chalice and paten. Instead of medieval style chalices, Edward introduced new style chalices – called communion cups which were much like wine goblets with a lid which could be turned upside down to make a paten.
In Queen Mary’s short reign, things did not change much, although some previously hidden-away chalices and patens reappeared.
Queen Elizabeth I ordered the Edwardian communion cups to be used in every church, and any old style chalices had to be melted down and remade in the new style. No religious symbols were allowed on such items, and most surviving examples have scroll or leaf patterns on them.
Patens also changed in Elizabeth’s reign as ordinary bread replaced the previous wafers. Chunks of bread required larger patens and on some of these can still be seen knife mark where the bread has been cut up during the service on the paten. Large pewter or silver flagons also began to appear in Elizabeth’s time, to hold the wine for the large number of communicants who were supposed by law to take communion regularly.
In a very few parishes, clergy commissioned chalices and patens based on the old medieval design and in the reign of King Charles I this was a delight to Archbishop Laud who encouraged such initiatives.
In the reign of King Charles II, some of the old ornaments and vessels were brought back into use. Medieval designs made a return and candlesticks and alms dishes reappeared on the altars in Cathedrals.
Some of the chalices and wine flagons were very large indeed – due to the fact that communion was only given twice a year in many parishes and people were inclined to take a mouthful of wine rather than the ‘Catholic sip’. Many of the cups also resembled the pattern to be seen in household table wares, and sometimes, household articles were in fact given to the church and used for communion.
Home communion sets were quite common in the 1700s and this ministry was very popular in Victorian times.
With the influence of the Oxford Movement and the growth of Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth and twentieth century, craftsmanship was encouraged and the vessels used for the Holy Communion/Mass became much more individual and enriched with jewels and other precious metals. Church furnishing companies were set up and individual studios for the design and making of the precious vessels were started in several larger towns and villages. In our own area, the Arts and Crafts Movement made a significant contribution to providing church silver and gold, and the Chipping Campden Guild received many commissions from local churches. St Stephen’s in Cheltenham has several pieces by Omar Ramsden, one of the most well-known and sought after craftsmen of the early 1900s
VESTMENTS AND ORNAMENTS OF THE MINISTERS:
Most ecclesiastical dress used in the Liturgy is of ancient origin, although adaptations and innovations from Victorian times bear witness to considered development as well as contemporary fashion.
The most familiar vestments seen today are those used at the Eucharist.
The CASSOCK was the normal outdoor dress of the clergy, over which they wore their gown. On arrival in church the Alb or Surplice was worn over the cassock in order to take a service. It is still an offence for Roman Catholic clergy to wear their cassock in the street “for fear they should be mistaken for Anglican clergy.”
The AMICE, a small square white linen napkin worn around the neck and over the shoulders to separate the alb from the cassock and to protect the alb from becoming soiled in contact with the neck.
The ALB so called because of its white colour representing purity, has been worn as an ecclesiastical garment since the early days of Christianity. It is usually worn over a cassock and under the Chasuble
The CHASUBLE developed from an ordinary everyday costume at least from Roman times. It was certainly the official Eucharistic dress of the clergy in the fourth century. The chasuble should reflect the colour of the season or Festival which is being celebrated.
The DALMATIC is similar to a Chasuble but is worn by the Deacon at High Mass. This garment dates from at least the fourth century, as does
The TUNICLE which is worn by the sub-Deacon at High Mass. The Tunicle and Dalmatic are very similar in design. The Anglican Church no longer has an official order of Sub-Deacon, although the role is still carried out on some special occasions.
A Bishop, when dressed properly for the Celebration of the Eucharist should wear underneath his Chasuble, a Dalmatic to remind him that he is still a Priest, and a Deacon.
STOLES are worn over both shoulders and hand on each side, by a Bishop; a Priest wears a stole crossed over the chest and a Deacon wears a stole over the left shoulder and tied loosely under the right arm. Stoles were originally towels for drying the Eucharistic vessels but their symbolism today is that of a Bishop’s, a sign of rank; a priest’s a sign of authority; and a Deacon’s a sign of service.
The COPE appeared in the Liturgy at the end of the sixth century as more suitable for outdoor processions than the costly chasuble. However in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI the Cope is given as an alternative to the Chasuble for the Celebration of Holy Communion. Its more common use today is at Festal Services – Matins or Evensong and for non – Eucharistic important liturgical occasions.
NON EUCHARISTIC VESTMENTS
For the Public Offices of the Church the Priest usually wears a cassock, over which he puts on a surplice which is rather like an alb but shorter and with much wider sleeves. It dates from the 11th century when because of the cold in churches, Priests wore heavy clothing under their vestments and the Alb was too tightly fitted to get over the outdoor warm clothing. The freer surplice was therefore introduced which was easier to put on.
The surplice is worn at all services outside of the Eucharist, and for the offices of Matins and Evensong it is worn with a black scarf or Tippet and sometimes a hood. The scarf or Tippet was originally attached to the hood, which served for the very practical purpose of protecting one from draughts in medieval churches. Graduate Priests should wear a silk scarf and non graduates one made of “stuff” – ordinary coarser material.
The SQUARE CAP was the ordinary outdoor wear of the clergy in Elizabethan times and was enforced during her reign. It changed appearance down the centuries and eventually became the mortar board. In this country it is often referred to as the Canterbury Cap and was a favourite item of headdress with the late Archbishop Michael Ramsey.
Throughout history, the Church has valued Art in all its forms and has provided opportunities for artists and craftsmen to work to the greater glory of God with a variety of media. One immediately thinks of medieval decorative art, the wonderful windows at Fairford, the great glories of Gothic architecture and the ornate paintings and furnishings of Stuart times.
However, the Church’s contribution to ecclesiastical art did not cease at the end of the Victorian era and today and in the last century and rolling over into the twenty first century, there are and were, skilled, imaginative and adventurous artists and craftsmen and women, providing additions to the ecclesiastical heritage for future generations.
Just a few examples will indicate what is available in the immediate neighbourhood.
Christopher Whall was a leading exponent of Arts and Crafts stained glass. He was born in 1849 and died in 1924, after which his daughter continued his work. Christopher completed the wonderful series of vibrantly coloured windows in the Lady Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral between 1898 and 1924 as well as the great East window in the Chapter House between 1903 and 1905.
A local stained glass artist was Henry Payne who trained with Whall and who moved to Amberley near Stroud, in 1908. He designed windows at Chipping Campden in 1925 and Turkdean in 1937, a window in the south aisle at the RC Church at Stroud and one for St Mary Magdalene at Rodborough. The East window for Prestbury Church in 1933 is also to his design but is not one of his better works.
Henry’s son Edward worked from his studio at Box until he died in 1991. He produced windows for Stonehouse; Elmstone Hardwicke – the St Hubert Window; and St Andrew’s Churchdown, and a very good 1964 East window at St Joseph’s RC Church at Nympsfield, amongst many other examples in this area.
J Eadie Reid was a prolific artist and taught at Cheltenham Ladies College at the end of the 19th century. He produced several stained windows in the Cheltenham area – at St Stephen’s, for example, and he was also responsible for several interior wall paintings including Christ Church, Cheltenham, and St Philip and James Up Hatherley; he painted panels on the pulpit at Bishop’s Cleeve, and painted the triptych of 1896. There are several of his windows in the north and south aisles. He also painted an altar panel for the Lady Chapel at St Stephen’s, Cheltenham, post WWI and one for St Philip and St James, Leckhampton, side Chapel at the same period.
Ultra Modern work by J P Crook of 1987 vintage is to be seen in Bishop’s Cleeve Church where above the West crossing is a good painted crucifix another local artist of immense talent.
Tom Denny again a local artist, has produced stunning modern, abstract work for St Christopher’s Church, Warden Hill, Cheltenham. Ten windows were designed for the church between 1985 and 1995 and other works are to be seen in the Blue Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral; at Tewkesbury Abbey; and a 1994 memorial window to Sir Peter Scott in Slimbridge Church.
Windows are perhaps the most striking works on entering a building but there are many recent artistic contributions in stone to be found, at Gloucester Cathedral for example in the form of modern commemorative gargoyles; at Charlton Kings in the form of a wall mounted sculpture of the Madonna – a millennium memorial; painted medallions at Churchdown RC Church and modern altar frontals at the Cathedral, St Philip and James Church, Cheltenham and Cirencester.
Contemporary sculptures have recently been added to the exterior of St Arild’s Church at Oldbury on Severn – St Arild’s statue over the porch; and to St Cyr’s at Stinchcombe, where St Cyr fills a previously empty canopied niche on the north face of the tower.
Prinknash Abbey has a wealth of stained glass much of it designed and made by members of the Community and it also holds a fine collection of silver – as does St Stephen’s, Cheltenham, from the Cotswold Arts and Crafts Guild at Chipping Campden. The pieces by Omar Ramsden are of particular interest.
The Church of St Edward the Confessor at Kempley, built 1902-1903 is an absolute delight for admirers of the Arts and Crafts Movement. There are so many features to captivate the visitor’s interest that here is not the place to list them all. However the Rood is of particular interest having had to be removed be removed temporarily before the Bishop would consent to dedicate the church. External sculptured figures by the artist Laurence Turner are also worthy of close inspection.
Here in Emmanuel Church, Cheltenham, built 1936-1937 we have a fine Baptistry window by J E Nuttgens. This was installed in 1938 and depicts the adoration of the Magi.
THE CROSSES of GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Just as monastic buildings were a common feature of medieval England, so too were large stone crosses. They were to be seen in almost every town and village and fall into several types – Memorial Crosses, Market Crosses, Boundary Crosses, Preaching crosses and Weeping Crosses.
Memorial Crosses were erected exactly with that intention – to commemorate some great event or person.
Market Crosses originated in towns where there was a monastic establishment nearby. A monk was sent to preach to a captive audience, inspiring the traders and customers to a moral and pious life. Sometimes these crosses were part of a larger structure under which the monastery representative would sit to collect the tithes and tolls.
Boundary Crosses marked the parish boundary and were stations where refuge from robbers could be sought by travellers.
Preaching Crosses by far the most common, were usually erected in churchyards and used as the gathering point for open air services and preaching by itinerant preachers – friars – as at Iron Acton.
Weeping Crosses were erected by the church, and public penance was done alongside them, if so ordered by the priest. The Cross at Ampney Crucis was probably intended to serve this purpose.
These large crosses could be seen from some distance and were often acknowledged by passers by with a small offering placed into a hole in the base of the cross.
At Didmarton, there is a fine late medieval Cross with badly worn figures at the corners and stump of the shaft.
Other 14th century Crosses are in the churchyard at Duntisbourne Rouse which has a mutilated top on a tall shaft and a moulded base and at Charlton Kings which was restored c1913
Most of the Crosses of Gloucestershire were mediaeval in origin and sadly, most were destroyed or mutilated and vandalised at the time of the Commonwealth in the 1600s. Their remains today serve to remind us of the great influence Christianity had on the social and national life of the people from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.
No two Crosses are exactly alike and most of the heads of these witnesses to the faith of our forefathers have been destroyed. Only a couple of survivors in the county – at Ampney Crucis and Ashleworth, – give us a clue to what was commonplace to mediaeval travellers and villagers.
The Cross at Hempsted near Gloucester is said to date from the end of the fourteenth century but was heavily restored in the 1850s.
At Ampney Crucis, on the way to Fairford, one can see in the churchyard, an almost perfect example of what our medieval crosses looked like. The head of the old cross was discovered in the mid 1800s sealed up inside the church, presumably hidden from the iconoclasts of the 1600s, while the defaced base and shaft remained in the churchyard.
The height of the cross is about ten feet but the head is its crowning (literally) glory. It is divided into four niches, containing sculptured figures: (i) of the Virgin and Child; (ii) a carving of a crucifix with Our Lady and St John: (iii) a sculpted figure of an Abbot and (iv) the figure of a knight.
The Cross has been dated by archaeologist as from the 1400s.
An elaborate Preaching Cross stands in the churchyard of Iron Acton, about twenty miles south of Gloucester. It is unusual in that it resembles more a building than the more usual plain shaft on a plinth. Though heavily mutilated its original height would have been somewhere in the region of thirty feet.
This Cross dates from the time of King Henry VI
Charlton Kings also has a fine Cross in its Churchyard, dating from the late fifteenth century. This was restored in the mid 1800s
The village Cross at Ashleworth is remarkable in that the head of the Cross was discovered hidden inside a chimney stack in the 1840s. The carved images in the niches are similar to those on the Cross at Ampney Crucis.
Cheltenham’s fine old Cross stands at the north east angle of the churchyard and the shaft is about eight feet tall and octagon shaped. A square block used to surmount the shaft and to this block carved figures were affixed but on the destruction of these figures, a sundial was attached and later a cross. Today Cheltenham’s Cross bears little resemblance to the original Cross that is believed to date from the fourteenth century.
It is from beside this Cross that John Wesley is supposed to have preached on one of his Cheltenham visits.
In early Christian times only the wealthy could afford to make a pilgrimage to Rome, the Holy Land or Compostella in Spain.
The average Englishman had to be content with visits to local places which had a connection with holy people or where their relics were buried or venerated in churches. In the 1300s pilgrimage was at its most popular with the Shrine of St Thomas Beckett at Canterbury and the Holy House of Our Lady at Walsingham being two of the most popular.
Pilgrims went for various reasons: to give thanks for favours received, to pray for healing, or forgiveness for oneself or a loved one; to ask for success in a venture, to prevent disaster, to atone for a grievous sin and for the holy joy of coming close to the remains associated with someone whose life had been one of total service and devotion to Christ – a saint.
The 14th Century was the heyday of pilgrimage, and it is important to remember that when pilgrims venerated the relics of a Saint, it did not always mean parts of that person’s body. Relics are also things that had touched the saint’s body, been used by him or her and kept safely by friends or followers. A precedent for this is to be found in the Acts of the Apostles where we learn in Chapter 19: “God did extraordinary miracles by the hand of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and evil spirits came out of them.”
From Gloucestershire pilgrims are on record as making pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James at Compostella setting sailing from the port of Bristol. The overland journey to Bristol would be made on foot and pilgrims would stop off at Pilgrim Churches on the way, to pray for a safe journey and to receive Communion. The church at Stoke Orchard is a fine example of one such Pilgrim Church, and it is probable that the Chapel of St James, at Postlip, is another, where pilgrims deviated form their main route to visit Winchcombe and the Holy Blood at Hailes.
ROGATION TIDE PROCESSIONS
These take place to beat the bounds of the parish on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day.
Ancient law allows parishioners to go on private land without permission in the cause of this tradition. During the perambulation, the Parish Priest stopped at certain places along the boundary to read a passage from scripture and this spot, usually under a tree, became known as Gospel Oak. There are still places in many of our villages locally known by this name or Gospel Beech – at Upton St Leonards, and Gospel hill at Pucklechurch.
It would appear that the last time the bounds were beaten at Cheltenham was in 1845. Then it was said that a large mansion, Agg’s house was built straddling the parish boundary and so everyone in the perambulation had to climb in through one window and out of another in order to complete the unbroken circuit
WELLS AND HOLY WELLS
The veneration of wells and rivers is one of the most ancient and universal forms of worship, because since the beginning of life, the necessity of water has been recognised. Springs and wells were therefore believed to have life giving properties as well as curative properties. They were worshipped by the Druids, and decorated with flowers as well as sacrificed to, by the Romans. Even after the Romans had left Britain, the cult of well and water worship continued to be practised.
The practice became so popular that every Bishops was ordered to make sure the practice ceased and if he failed to do so, he would be guilty of sacrilege.
Pope Gregory, who sent Augustine to this country, asked that he should destroy any pagan idols that were to be found adorning such wells, but to preserve the water source. Any pagan temples or altars that had been built over the water source were to be sprinkled with blessed water and a Christian altar was to be erected in place of the pagan one. This would be one step on the way to converting the pagans from worship of the devil to the worship of the true God.
Large numbers of pagan wells and spring sites were thus hijacked by the early Christian Church and were rededicated in honour of some local holy and respected person. They then became places of pilgrimage and the focus for cures and the working of miracles and were thereafter considered Holy Wells.
There were certain customs associated with visits to the wells, – an ill person perhaps being dipped three times in the waters in the Name of the Holy Trinity, or sometimes being carried around the well or spring three times, the bearers reciting the Gloria Patri as they did so.
Holy Wells were often associated with specific gifts left there as a sign of faith or as a thank you for miracles received. Thus we know of rag wells, pin wells, bead wells and button wells, all signs of the pilgrim letting the Saint to whom the well was dedicated, know that ‘I have been here and prayed to you.’ These customs are reflected today when we light candles in church or at some sacred shrine.
Holy Wells came in for a lot of stick at the time of the Reformation and many sermons were preached against pilgrimage to wells. Bishop Latimer of Worcester was one of the most vocal in his condemnation of such practices and under Henry VIII’s henchman, Thomas Cromwell, wells were locked wherever possible so that nobody could use the water for miraculous washing and places where crutches, shirts, petticoats or other items of clothing had been left, were utterly defaced by his men – St Anne’s Well near Bristol being one in particular.