A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

The Raymond-Barkers and the building of the Catholic Chapel of St Mary of the Angels, Bisley


The Raymond-Barkers and the building of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, Bisley

by Richard Barton (October 2017)

St Bartholomew’s Church at Oakridge was built as a chapel-of-ease to Bisley and the architect employed was Robert Stokes.

The Vicar of Bisley, Thomas Keble and his curate, Sir George Prevost, set about raising money for a new church at Oakridge, to serve some 2000 inhabitants. The Appeal was worded ‘To persons disposed to support the case of sound religion and the Apostolic Institutions of the Church.’

The Appeal, commenced in 1834, was signed by Thomas Keble, his brother, John Keble of Oriel College, the Reverend Sir John Prevost and the Reverend Isaac Williams of Trinity. This Appeal raised £1,000 which included the following donations: the Keble family £292; Bishop Monk of Gloucester £20; Reverend Sir John Prevost £100; Reverend Isaac Williams £45 and Reverend John Henry Newman £25.

John Keble wrote to Prevost with suggestions that he gather up some of the superfluous sovereigns at Oxford:

‘write and tell them that the inhabitants live a long way from the Mother Church (Bisley) and there is a lack of accommodation in the church anyway. Stress the poverty of the people and the fact that they would willingly go to church if they had one. If you and Tom (John Keble’s Brother) agree I would ask for two sums of money – one for a mere building and one for a handsome building. I would prefer you to do it without the help of the Church Defacing Society who will not give any aid when there is any beauty of architecture.’

The church was consecrated in 1837 and the first licensed curate, the Reverend Charles Raymond Barker, was appointed in that same year on the recommendation of Dr Pusey. He was a son of Charles Raymond Barker, a man involved in finance and banking in London. The younger Charles attended Wadham College Oxford, gaining his M.A. in 1838. At Oakridge he enjoyed a stipend of £40 and a glebe house.

In 1839 Charles Raymond Barker and his brother, Frederick, were among the twenty members of the University of Oxford who agreed to set aside £20 each year to build a church wherever one was needed.

In 1843 Charles Raymond Barker eloped to Gretna Green with Bethia Tyler, a Sawyer’s daughter of Oakridge. They were married at Holy Trinity, Bath, according to the rites of the Church of England, on 17th May 1843, having received a special licence to do so.

Charles Raymond Barker was appointed as the first Vicar of Oakridge when the village was designated a separate parish in 1844 but he left shortly afterwards and went to live in Horfields, Bristol, where he was described as a clergyman of the Church of England without cure of souls. He died on 12th November 1875 at 10 Carlton Place, Clifton, survived by Bithiah, and the East window of Oakridge Church is in Charles Barker’s memory.

Charles Barker’s grandfather, John Raymond Barker of Fairford Park, had married twice. By his second marriage he had two daughters one of whom, Maria, born c1801, married Edward Bouverie Pusey in 1828. Pusey was ordained just before the marriage took place. Pusey was well known to the Kebles and the Kebles well known to the Raymond Barkers. Maria died in 1839 leaving Pusey distraught. Their daughter Mary Amelia married Rev James Graham Brine in 1854, in Oxford, and they had thirteen children, one of whom, James Edward Bouverie Brine, married Louisa who died at Cheltenham, aged eighty-four, in 1947.

James Edward Brine was curate at St Thomas’s Church in Oxford at the time of the 1881 census, aged 25, and living with Dr Pusey as an undergraduate. He was the father of Norah Bouverie Brine whose plate memorial, a silver salver, is at St Stephen’s, Cheltenham.  Norah died in Winchester but is buried at Leckhampton. In 1911 she was living with her mother at Greenmount, Cleeve Hill where she died in 1947. Her father J.E.B. Brine had died in April 1915. Norah was born in Ceylon, a British subject by parentage. She was Pusey’s great granddaughter.

A younger brother of Charles Raymond Barker, of Oakridge, was the Reverend Frederick Mills Raymond Barker and he was Vicar of Sandford in Oxford from 1843 until 1851. In the 1851 Census he was living with Dr Pusey, the Regius Professor of Hebrew, at Christ Church, Oxford, where he is described as a relative and a clergyman with no cure of souls. Also living in the house were Pusey’s son Phillip, aged 20; his daughter Mary aged 17, Mary Brine, a Sister of Mercy, aged 38 and born in Ireland.

On 16th July 1853 Dr Pusey joined in Holy Matrimony his nephew, Frederick Raymond Barker, and Elizabeth at the Church built by Newman at Littlemore. The bride, Elizabeth Hacket, was an accomplished Musician. The newly-weds seem to have lived at Beaumont Street, Oxford after their marriage and then they purchased Bisley Manor, in 1854, where they were still living in 1863. Whilst continuing to own their Bisley property, the family moved to Brighton where they were living first in Western Terrace and then at two addresses in Montpelier Villas.

The couple had four children who survived into adulthood, namely, Mary who was baptised at Christchurch, Oxford, in 1854, Edward, Charles and Catharine who was baptised at Bisley by Thomas Keble in 1863. An infant, Edward, was baptised in 1856 at Merton College and buried from there in the following year. The marriage was not a happy one and ended in a legal separation in 1872. The husband was a violent man and assaulted and traumatised his wife and daughters.

Geoffrey Sanders, in his fascinating booklet entitled ‘The Younger Brother’ (1975) includes a vivid  description of Bisley Church shortly after the Raymond Barkers arrived to live in the village in 1854:

‘The Church presented a most extraordinary appearance, chiefly from without. All the mill-owners, who after enriching themselves in the Stroud Valley, had come to live at or near Bisley, had erected each for his own family separate little galleries, or, as Mr. Keble called them, Windows (the Church was stated to have then eleven doors or door-windows, besides seven casements). To reach these from the Churchyard they each built their own little stone staircases, so that the Church presented to view a conglomeration of steps, of varying size, shape and ugliness on all sides of the building. A greater disfigurement can hardly be imagined. Besides the smaller tribunes inside, a large gallery with its private pews had stretched across the tower arch at the west end.’

Elizabeth Raymond Barker was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church together with her two sons and one of her daughters. Her son, Charles Raymond-Barker, became a Jesuit Priest and Catherine, ‘Mother Mary Loyola’, was a Teacher and Canoness of the Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel at Hayward’s Heath. Their sister, Mary, may have remained an Anglican and she was named as her father’s sole executrix when he died in 1890. Her mother, Elizabeth, died on 6th October 1916 at Haywards Heath.

From: ‘Scottish Church Music – its Composers and Sources’ by James Love (William and Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1891)

Barker, Elizabeth (not Baker, as in the U.P. Hymnal), daughter of Mr William Hacket of Aylestone Hall, Leicestershire ; born at Leicester, 1829 ; pupil of G. A. Lohr; married in 1853 to the Rev. Frederic Mills Raymond Barker, M.A., of Oriel College, Oxford ; joined the Catholic Church in 1867, when she took the additional names of Mary Agnes ; composer of much beautiful music. Mrs Barker composed, at the request of Dr Neale, tunes to his ‘ Hymns of the Eastern Church.’ The first series, published BAENBY BARROW. 71 in 1864, contains six hymns which were set to music at Bisley, Gloucestershire, in 1863. One of these is the tune ST JOHN DAMASCENE. This occurs as No. 271 in S.H., No. 184 in U.P.H. (where it is named ” Damascus “), but the form of the melody in both of these Hymnals is a corrupt one. The tune was a favourite with Dr Neale, who had it sung to him while on his death-bed. CORONA, No. 96 F.C.H. and 55 (Second Tune) U.P.H., 192 U.P.P., was also composed by Mrs Barker, and was published in the fourth series, which bears the title of ‘ Catholic Hymns,’ 1868.

The question arises as to whether Frederick Raymond Barker, himself, became a Roman Catholic. Unlike his wife and three children he is not mentioned in ‘Converts to Rome’ by W. Gordon-Gorman which is probably significant. However, it seems unlikely that Charles would be allowed to receive an education at Stonyhurst if his father, an Anglican clergyman, had not made the step. It is possible, of course, that he was received and then returned to the Anglican fold.

Father Charles Raymond-Barker, S.J., was born at Bisley in 1859 and died on 11th December 1955 at St. Beuno’s College, North Wales, at the age of ninety-six. He was educated at Stonyhurst, graduated from London University in 1883, and ordained in 1892. For five years he taught at St. Aidan’s College, Grahamstown, South Africa. In 1908 he was appointed to Rhyl, and from 1911, whilst still living there, served the mission at Denbigh. During World War I he served as a chaplain. In 1919 he returned to Rhyl cum Denbigh and remained there until 1932 when he became attached to the Sacred Heart Church at Wimbledon. In 1941 he retired to St. Beuno’s but was active until shortly before his death. He was an accomplished musician and composed several motets and hymn tunes.

Chris Hobson, in his 2007 monograph for the Fairford Local History Society ‘The Raymond Barkers of Fairford Park’, informs us that Father Charles’s brother, Edward Raymond-Barker, became a prominent electrical engineer and inventor who specialised in submarine telegraphy. In 1871 he was attending Hurstpierrepoint College, a Woodard Foundation, but in 1883 he married Rose Marie Crawford and they had nine children including Mervyn, who became a Roman Catholic priest, like his uncle, and he died at Georgetown, British Guiana on 8th June 1962. Another of the sons of Edward and Rose Marie Raymond-Barker was Richard. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in October 1914 after serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers. He flew fighter aircraft on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in September 1917. On 20th April 1918 he was shot down and killed by Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’. Richard’s brother, Aubrey Basil Raymond-Barker, also served in the Royal Flying Corps too.

The 1917 List of Electrical Engineers includes the name Edward Raymond Barker with the address of Paul Mead Cottage, Bisley. During the previous year permission was granted to Edward Raymond Barker for Mass to be said in his private oratory.

Writing in 1937 about ‘Paul’s Mead Place’ or ‘The Mansion,’ the local historian, Mary Rudd offers the following information:

‘It is known that General Daubeny at one time owned the house, and on his death it was bought by Mr. Wilson, who sold it to the Rev. F. M. Raymond Barker in 1854 (From notes by the late Mrs. F. M. Raymond-Barker), from whom it passed into the possession of his grandson, H. E. Raymond Barker, Esq.’

Edward Raymond Barker died in 1929 and, during the following year, the family donated a site for the future Roman Catholic Chapel. Auction details for 1932-33, deposited in Gloucestershire Archives, would indicate that the family left the Mansion within a few years of making this gift of land.

For more information see :-


Bisley RC

Meanwhile, Charles Francis Ullathorne Meek, a convert, and a relative of Archbishop Ullathorne, through his mother, decided that he wished to build a Roman Catholic Church in Bisley as an act of thanksgiving to God for his conversion. Bisley then held only ten Catholic residents, but the chapel was intended to serve also the needs of the six surrounding villages of Oakridge, Bussage, Eastcombe, France Lynch, Upper Chalford, and Sapperton.

Charles Meek was born on 25th May 1883 at Chigwell in Essex and served in the Royal Artillery. At the time of the 1911 census he was a Captain.

On Rosary Sunday (the Sunday within the Octave of the Feast of the Ascension), 1st June 1930, the foundation stone of the new chapel was laid by the Rev. Father Dunstan Sargent, O.P., the parish priest of Stroud, acting as the delegate of Dr Burton, the Bishop of Clifton.

The architect was Wilfred C. Mangan and the builder was R.A. Berkeley of South Cerney. Mangan’s design was illustrated and commented upon in The Tablet:

‘In designing this little chapel, the architect has been at pains to avoid anything out of harmony with the surroundings. The walls are faced in rough white cement, heavily quoined and buttressed with local stone in random sizes and courses. The mullioned windows, of local stone, are filled with leaded glass in diamond panes, and the roof is covered with hand-made grey Cotswold tiles. Sixty worshippers will find accommodation in the little building, but provision has been made for later extension.’

On 21 March 1931, The Tablet reported that the completed chapel would be opened on St George’s day by Monsignor William Lee, Vicar Capitular of the Clifton diocese, when Fr Bede Jarrett OP would preach. Although allowance was made for later extension, the church remains very much in its original form, and continues to be served from Stroud.

The solemn blessing and opening of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, which took place on Thursday 23rd April 1931, was reported in the local press. The ceremony was performed by Monsignor Lee and assisted by Monsignor Long. The service commenced with special prayers during which the celebrant, with his assistants, encircled the outside walls of the chapel, sprinkling them with holy water. Then, during the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the procession entered the chapel, the interior of which was also sprinkled, and the linen cloths and ornaments were placed upon the altar. The Solemn High Mass which followed was sung by Father Sargent O.P. (parish priest of Stroud), with Father Philip Darley O.P. acting as deacon and Father Nicholas Humphreys O.P. as sub-deacon. The music of the Mass was sung by a choir of Dominican Nuns from St. Rose’s Convent, Stroud. After a sermon preached by the Very Rev. Father Bede Jarrett O.P., the Provincial of the English Dominican Order), Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given by Monsignor Provost Lee. Among those present at the opening ceremony, which was largely attended, were the Countess of Gainsborough, the Marquis and Marquise de Ruvigny, Lady Makins and Mr. Albert Rutherstone.

The chapel, providing accommodation for nearly 100 people, was built of local stone and in keeping with Cotswold architecture, from designs by Mr. Wilfrid C. Mangan. The ground upon which the chapel stood and the contents were mainly the gifts of local Catholics. The altar was made of English oak, the altar rails being carved from Columbian pine. On a tree nearby was hung the bell to call people to church, while a distinctive feature of the building was that over the entrance was a medallion in gold and blue mosaic of the Papal Arms mounted on cross keys. The opening date coincided with St. George’s Day so the Papal flag and the Union Jack were flying over the entrance to the church, and the altar was decorated with red and white roses.

‘Over the entrance door, upon the inside of the chapel, is a brass tablet bearing the inscription: “Pray for the good estate of Charles F. U. Meek, who built this chapel as an act of thanksgiving to God, 1930. Sancta Maria de Angelis, ora pro nobis.”’ His daughter, Sister Mary Benedict Meek O.S.B., was for many years Prioress at Princethorp and Fernham and she was able to recall the opening of the chapel at Bisley.

The Meeks moved to Cheltenham in 1931, and there Charles founded the St. Vincent de Paul Apostolic Union, which developed into a wider movement called the Parochial Apostolic Union. This was a simple union of prayer for any practising Catholic who would undertake to work and pray for the conversion of some known individual person. For the spread of this work, Charles Meek visited many parishes in England and was in touch with many bishops abroad. He worked very hard but his Apostolic Union did not survive him. In his last years Charles Meek was living at St Edmunds, Andover Road, Cheltenham, and he died, a widower, at the General Hospital on 14th January 1961. The history of his movement is preserved in the archives of Douai Abbey.

In 1934 Mass was said in the chapel at 9 a.m. on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of the month; but in July of the following year, Monsignor Lee (who had been consecrated Bishop of Clifton on 26th January 1932) visited Bisley, with the Prior of Woodchester (the Very Rev. Father Hyacinth Koos O.P.) and the newly-appointed parish priest of Stroud (the Rev. Father Martin Harrison O.P.) and told a well-attended meeting of parishioners that arrangements had been made for Mass to be said at Bisley every Sunday at 8 a.m.. In the years 1951 to 1954 the time of the Sunday Mass was changed to 9.15 a.m.

It has been noted that the current arrangement where by the little chapel at Bisley is  served by the priest from Stroud reverses the ancient roles of the two places, for in pre-Reformation days, Bisley’s church was the mother-church of Stroud.


From ‘Taking Stock’: Chapel of St Mary of the Angels, Bisley

‘The church is small, with an unaisled nave and sanctuary under a prominent tiled roof (originally covered with grey Cotswold tiles), gabled south porch and lean-to north sacristy. The walls are rendered but with exposed dressings of local stone. The windows are mullioned, with stone hoodmoulds and leaded panes; the three-light east window is set high up. A stream gurgles in a channel under the west end. The interior, under a high-pitched collar purlin roof, is simple but pleasing. The walls are plastered, the floor timber boarded. There are no fittings and furnishings requiring particular mention.’



Bisley RC 2

Drawing by Ernest Michael Dinkel (1894-1983)

The Bisley Virgin

Our story begins with a Miss Mary Gompertz who was living in a rented cottage alongside, and belonging to, the Stirrup Cup in the village of Bisley. One day, whilst, digging in this cottage garden she came across a small headless stone statue with the broken head close by. She immediately took the parts along to Mr and Mrs Gerald Gardiner, the two artists living at Magnet House, and Mr. Gardiner was quick to recognise it as being a medieval stone carved figure. Mr. Gardiner had the head expertly restored to the figure and Miss Gompertz said that she would keep it safely in her home till a suitable bracket was made for it in the little chapel of St Mary of The Angels.

John Dinkel, the former Administrator of the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, and later Keeper of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, examined the little statue back in 1975 and he thought that originally it may have been an object of domestic devotion, dating from about 1500, and possibly of a Flemish provenance. The little statue certainly caused something of a stir in Bisley during the 1970’s and attracted interest from the local press.

For a time, the statue passed into the ‘care’ of the Paraclete Fathers at Brownshill until one day it was ‘rediscovered’ by a visitor from Bisley in their private chapel of St Michael. Father Burns was petitioned and, as a result, the statue was returned to Bisley on Monday 1st July 1974. Father Desmond Swann kindly offered to pay for a suitable niche to receive the statue and so Mr. Beames of Art Memorial carved a small ‘niche’ and fixed a little carved stone plinth to receive the statue. At last ‘Our Lady’ had a worthy home in the Catholic chapel at Bisley but then, on the following Palm Sunday, a fire in the church blackened her with smoke which necessitated a gentle clean.




Stroud Journal, 24th April 1931

Newspaper Cuttings, 1930, 1931

Gloucester Journal 6th July 1935

Catholic Directory 1934 and 1940

Clifton Diocesan Year Book 1951-1954

The Tablet, 1930, 1931

Copies of correspondence given to me over twenty-five years ago by a Bisley parishioner

Mary A. Rudd, ‘Historical Records of Bisley’

Geoffrey Sanders, ‘The Younger Brother – A Short Biography of the Rev. Thomas Keble’ 1975, F. Bailey & Son Ltd, Dursley.

Brian Torode, ‘Touched by the Oxford Movement’ (see elsewhere on this site)

Father Alban O.S.B., manuscript article ”The Lay-Apostolate in Gloucestershire from the Reformation to the Present Day’

J.N. Langston, Post-Reformation Catholic Missions in Gloucestershire – ‘Bisley’

Chris Hobson, ‘The Raymond-Barkers of Fairford Park’, November 2007, Fairford History Society

Clifton Diocese ‘Taking Stock’ ‘Our Lady of the Angels, Bisley.’

J.A. Harding, ‘The Diocese of Clifton’ 2000

Bussage Church History



St Saviour’s Totland – another church by Wilfrid C. Mangan



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