History

St Bartholomew's

Chosen HillThe ancient church of St.Bartholomew, Churchdown, Gloucestershire, was for centuries the parish church of the villages of Churchdown and Hucclecote and the central point of a barony belonging to the Archbishops of York. It stands on Chosen Hill which is over 511 feet above sea level and is isolated from the villages below it, it is positioned on a mound, at least partly man-made, within the enclosing banks of an Iron Age Camp and it has been almost certainly a site of ritual or military significance over a very long period of time, dating perhaps from the Bronze Age or even earlier.

The present church is Norman in foundation, with the nave being the main surviving part from this era, and Roger du Pont L'Eveque, Archbishop of York from 1154 to 1181, is thought to have been the builder in about 1175 AD. Archbishop Roger was contemporary with Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, and there was much rivalry between these two primates so it has been suggested that Roger erected his church on such a prominent spot in Canterbury's southern province as an act of defiance. Some have suggested that View of Chosen HillChosen Hill was selected as being a half-way point between the two parishes of Churchdown and Hucclecote, that it was station on a pilgrim route, or even, in local legend, that the Devil carried the stones from the proposed site in the village below to his chosen one on the hill. (Legends like this are not uncommon and often reflect the habit people had in early Christian days of returning, secretly by night, to worship at their old pagan sites.) It seems likely, though, that Archbishop Roger built a new church to replace an earlier Saxon one that had fallen into dereliction.

The church was extended in the 13th century by the addition of the south aisle,the south wall of the nave being opened up by an arcade of piers in the Transitional style (and, surprisingly, one has a millstone as its base.) The Early English south doorway has an arch of Norman chevrons and sculptured heads on the inner face and this may have been removed from an arch in the original building. A number of small voussoirs of Norman work are scattered haphazardly throughout the wall fabric providing evidence of earlier rebuilding work. Possibly the most interesting feature of the church is the Early English north porch North Porchand the room above it which is reached by a narrow stair in the north nave wall. It is thought that the canons of St.Oswald's Priory in Gloucester who served the parish in the office of priest lodged in this upper room as it has a fireplace and is furnished with cupboards. In the entrance porch below are stone benches and a number of examples of mediaeval graffiti including a spouting whale (considered a symbol of resurrection) a haloed head, possibly of Christ, and a crude figure of a mermaid. Masons' marks and votive crosses are also scratched on the wall surfaces. There is a holy water stoup in the inner nave wall by the porch door.

 

 Grafiti Priest room looking towards entrance Priest room looking from entrance
Graffiti and views of the Priests Room

The font is 14th -century and stands on stone blocks which may have come from the Norman building.

Font Chancel
Font and Chancel

 The chancel, extensively restored in the nineteenth century, is late mediaeval; some fragments of ancient sculptured stone, possibly Saxon, have been built into the north wall and the Tudor south window possibly replaces an earlier opening. The glass in the Perpendicular east window was given in 1890 as was that in the south window.

Piscina Nave at St Bartholomews
Piscina and Nave

The original mediaeval stained glass, the Rood and all features and imagery belonging to the Catholic tradition suffered at the hands of Reforming and Puritan iconoclasts in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some mediaeval tiles, probably from the chancel, Lady Chapel or Chantry of Our Lady's Service, are preserved in the room at the base of the tower. The piscina, of the Decorated period, now in the south chancel wall was discovered behind wainscotting in the south aisle.  

The altar contains some of the Jacobean woodwork preserved during the restoration work undertaken in 1880 and is thought to have been part of panelling probably originally in the tower. This was built in 1601 and houses a peal of six bells, the heaviest being the tenor (11 cwt. 2 qr.)

Jacobean Pulpit

The carved oak pulpit, with sounding board above, is also a fine example of Jacobean craftsmanship and is inscribed with the date '1631'.

The minstrels' gallery which once existed across the west end of the church was removed in the nineteenth century during the course of the extensive restoration project and when this had been completed the church interior would have looked much as it does today except for where new seating has been provided.

In 1953, a local business man provided for an illuminated cross to be erected on the tower to mark the Coronation celebrations and this proved so popular that a permanent cross was donated as a family gift in 1976. When this needed replacement in 1988 the present cross was given anonymously as a personal memorial.

At the present time the ancient church is suffering the effects of ground movement which is undergoing monitoring. Further structural repair is necessary but it remains open for worship on a regular basis.  See the St Bart's Project page for the latest information.

St. Andrew's

At the end of the 19th century it was felt that the old church of St.Bartholomew's on Chosen Hill, inaccessible as it was in bad weather and difficulty of access for the elderly or infirm, could no longer adequately serve the needs of the parish's growing population. So, on St.Andrew's Day in 1901, the decision was taken to build a new church which would be a Chapel of Ease with St.Bartholomew's still remaining, at least for some time to come, the parish church. The site chosen was the north-west corner of the Chapel Hay field near where a small chapel had perhaps once existed. The Churchdown Land Company, who owned the field, made a gift to the parish of the site for the new church.

Initial, and subsequent, fundraising and donations enabled the project to go ahead and the design of the architect W.B.Wood was selected from six competing entries; the building was to be traditional in style and simple in proportion consisting of nave, central and side aisles, baptistry and chancel with raised sacristy. It was envisaged that extensions might be built later as needed. A.J.Dolman of Gloucester were awarded the building contract and the first sod was cut in 1903. On 15th July in that same year the Foundation Stone was laid by Sir John Dorington, Bart., the local Member of Parliament. Construction was completed in 1904 and the Dedication Service was held on 25th April with the Consecration Ceremony, conducted by the Rt Revd. KC Sumner Gibson, Bishop of Gloucester, taking place on 29th November, 1905.

St Andrews Nave

Many of the furnishings were gifts by members of the parish, the sanctuary rails, for instance, being given by the schoolchildren of the parish and the chairs donated individually by the village people at a cost of three shillings each, old currency. (In recent years, after long usage the seating has needed replacement.) The sanctuary chair, carved and given by a lady who lived locally, is a facsimile of the Abbot's State Chair in the Bishop's Palace, Wells. St. Andrew's is very fortunate in having a ancient font which is 15th -century and was given to the church by the Rector and churchwardens of Witcombe.
Sanctuary Chair Font
Sanctuary Chair and Font

The communion table was constructed by a local craftsman and presented by his son; it incorporates, as does the communion table at St.Bartholomew's, oak panels from the old church. The mural paintings behind the protective curtains at the back of the table were painted in remembrance of the vicar's wife who died in 1905.

AethelflaedBishop HooperWilliamOsric
Aethelflaed, Bishop Hooper, William and Osric
 

Over the years St.Andrew's has been greatly enriched by furnishings and features donated by local people in memory of members of their families and the North Porch, dedicated in 1965, (it has inner glass doors engraved by E.M.Dinkel) and all the stained glass windows are such gifts. The east window, depicting the call of St.Andrew, was installed in memory of two young men killed in the First World War, and the lancet windows in the chancel and the three coloured nave windows all illustrate people and incidents from Churchdown's past. The lancet in the north wall portrays St.Oswald and it was the canons from St.Oswald's Priory in Gloucester who served the parish in the office of priest during the Middle Ages. Opposite him is Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and by local tradition owner of the Barony of Churchdown in Saxon times. The 7th-century king, Osric, who ruled the territory of which Churchdown was part and who established the first monastery in Gloucester, is shown in the south nave window. In the north nave wall opposite, a local man, William, is seen being rescued from the collapsed trench in which he had become buried; those saving him were directed through prayers offered to the recently-martyred Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury. Further to the east is the Hooper Window illustrating the death by burning of the Bishop and the seizure of the church valuables during the Reformation. These three nave windows are the work of the late E.R.Payne, a well-known stained glass artist. There are insets of Art Nouveau' glass in the remaining windows.

The village War Memorial is situated in the churchyard. The new Church Centre, completed in 2001, is attached.

St. Andrew's is now the parish church of what is designated the Parish of St. Andrew and St.Bartholomew, Churchdown.

The History and Guide to the two churches and The Story of Churchdown (ISBN 0904586049), by Gwen Waters provide further reading.