A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
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A tradition, first recorded in the 16th century, that there was anciently a college of secular priests at Frocester (fn. 1) is given some support by the description of the church there as 'the old minster' in 1313. (fn. 2) The church was evidently of a fairly early foundation and once served a wider area than Frocester parish. When first found recorded c. 1150 it had parochial rights over Nympsfield, (fn. 3) and in 1185 it was agreed that the chaplain serving the chapel at Nympsfield should swear fealty and pay an annual pension to the mother church, which retained burial rights over the wealthier of the Nympsfield tenants. (fn. 4) Frocester church may also have once served Coaley parish, (fn. 5) and a portion of the tithes of Alkerton owned by the church and commuted for 20s. a year in 1377 (fn. 6) may have represented the remnant of parochial rights over that tithing. In the mid or later 12th century Frocester church was held by Cardinal John de Columpna and was served by a chaplain. (fn. 7) In 1185 rights in the church, presumably as patron, belonged to Gloucester Abbey (fn. 8) which had licence to appropriate the church, reserving a portion to a vicar, in 1225. (fn. 9) The living, which remained a vicarage, was united with the rectory of Eastington in 1953. (fn. 10)
Gloucester Abbey retained the rectory (fn. 11) and the advowson until the Dissolution. Edward Welsh presented to the vicarage for one turn in 1552 under a grant from the abbey. (fn. 12) In 1554 the Crown granted the advowson to George Huntley (fn. 13) whose successors to the Frocester Court estate were patrons until the mid 19th century. (fn. 14) In 1869 and 1871 the advowson was exercised by the Revd. W. H. Bloxsome, in 1872 and 1873 by George Atkinson, and in 1875 by Daniel Sykes. (fn. 15) In 1879 the incumbent Robert Henniker held the advowson; by 1885 it had passed to J. G. and R. P. Henniker, by 1919 to R. J. A. Henniker, and by 1935 to John Graham-Clarke, the lord of the manor. (fn. 16) In 1968 the advowson of the united benefice was shared by Lady Cooper and the Diocesan Board of Patronage.
The grant of 1225 assigned to the vicar the corntithes of five yardlands, all the hay-tithes of the villeins, and the tithes of the wages of the abbey's servants at Frocester. (fn. 17) In 1680 the vicar was receiving all the small tithes and the great tithes from certain lands in the parish, later estimated at a third part of all the great tithes; most of the produce was tithable in kind but a payment of 1d. a cow was made for milk. The Frocester Court estate, as the former Gloucester Abbey demesne, was tithe free. (fn. 18) In 1817 a composition was being paid for all the vicar's tithes but his proposal to raise it caused the tithe-payers to revert to paying the old moduses; soon afterwards a new sum was fixed for the tithes of the manorial estate and shared among the tenants. Commutation under the Tithe Act was delayed by a dispute over the vicar's refusal to accept the validity of the old modus for milk; (fn. 19) under a compromise solution he was awarded a corn-rent of £260. (fn. 20) A close of c. 5 a. awarded to the vicar in 1225 (fn. 21) remained the only glebe. (fn. 22) The vicarage was valued at £40 in 1650, (fn. 23) c. £60 in 1754, (fn. 24) and £229 in 1856. (fn. 25) The vicar was assigned a house in 1225. (fn. 26) In 1613 the vicarage house had a parlour, hall, and kitchen on the ground floor, and other rooms above. (fn. 27) It was rebuilt c. 1668, (fn. 28) and in 1828 had three rooms and a pantry below and six rooms above. (fn. 29) George Hayward, then vicar, claimed that it was too small and unfit for residence and lived in his own house in the parish. (fn. 30) The vicarage was rebuilt as a gabled house of stone by Charles Jones c. 1838. (fn. 31) After 1953 the incumbent of the joint benefice lived at Eastington, and the vicarage house was sold.
There was a chapel of ease in the village by 1282 when it was decided that repairing it was the vicar's responsibility; (fn. 32) according to tradition it stood near Frocester Court. (fn. 33) It was evidently in use in 1537 when some inhabitants were described as parishioners of the church and chapel of Frocester, (fn. 34) and c. 1600 the chapel was being used for some marriages. (fn. 35) Between 1677 and 1691 the chapel was rebuilt on a new site, north-west of the main crossroads, given by Anne, Lady Brooke. (fn. 36) From that time the chapel was used for almost all services; the parish church, used only for burials, fell into disrepair, and was in ruins in 1828. (fn. 37) In 1849, however, the GrahamClarke family and others promoted the rebuilding of the old church, although the vicar, Charles Jones, opposed the plan because of the church's inconvenient position and favoured building a new church in the centre of the village. The rebuilt church was consecrated in 1852 and services were shared between it and the chapel (fn. 38) until 1873, when the chapel ceased to be used and in its turn fell into disrepair. In 1889, after a poll of the parishioners, it was decided once again to hold some services in the chapel, which was restored in the 1890s, (fn. 39) and both buildings were used until 1952, when the parish church was largely demolished (fn. 40) and all services transferred to the chapel.
In 1540 and 1544 the vicarage was being farmed and the farmer was paying a curate. (fn. 41) In 1554 the vicar, John Dyston, was deprived for marriage, (fn. 42) but he apparently regained the vicarage before 1563. (fn. 43) Thomas Tully (1571-1610) (fn. 44) was described as a good scholar in 1576 (fn. 45) and as a preacher in 1584. (fn. 46) His successor was Richard Hathway from whom the vicarage was sequestered in 1646; (fn. 47) in 1648 the minister was Walter Pritchard who signed the Presbyterian Gloucestershire Ministers' Testimony, (fn. 48) and in 1650 John Chappell was described as a preaching minister; (fn. 49) Richard Hathway apparently regained the living at the Restoration. (fn. 50) John Hayward (1729-76) was also Rector of Nympsfield from 1754; his successors to the vicarage, George Hayward (1776-1814) and George's son George Hayward (1814-37), were both also rectors of Nympsfield. (fn. 51)
The parish church of ST. PETER, so called by 1313, (fn. 54) stood on a site occupied in Roman times. The church mentioned in the mid 12th century apparently comprised a wide but short nave, a narrower chancel, and a transeptal tower on the north. In the 13th century the nave was rebuilt on a narrower plan, the chancel was extended eastwards, and the tower was remodelled with double cusped lights at the belfry stage and given a short broach spire of timber. In the 14th century the church was again extended to the east and a north aisle made east of the tower with an arcade on the line of the old chancel wall extending into the west end of the nave; at the same period the nave was given new windows and a gabled south porch was added. The east windows of the chancel and aisle and one in the north wall of the aisle were replaced in the 15th or early 16th century. (fn. 55)
The church was not properly roofed or glazed and the chancel was out of repair in 1563, and the church remained unrepaired in 1572. (fn. 56) It was allowed to decay during the 18th and early 19th centuries (fn. 57) until 1849, when it was rebuilt to the designs of Francis Niblett. The new church was on the same plan with much the same detail as the old one, except that the new tower, which had a broach spire with gabled lights, stood further to the north projecting fully beyond the eastern part of the aisle, and the previously narrow western part of the aisle was widened; (fn. 58) much of the stonework of the old church, including some of the window tracery, was apparently re-used. (fn. 59) In 1952 the church was demolished except for the tower and spire, the porch, and a few courses of the outside walls. Some of the stone was used to rebuild the chapel at Wycliffe College, Stonehouse, (fn. 60) and Eastington church acquired the ring of six bells. (fn. 61)
The chapel of ST. ANDREW (fn. 62) comprises nave and chancel. It was built in the late 17th century but incorporated some materials from the chapel recorded from 1282, (fn. 63) including presumably the small Norman light in the north wall of the chancel, and the wagon roof decorated with carved bosses over the nave which is dated 1637. In the late 18th century the chapel had small square windows on the south, a narrow round-headed south door, a squareheaded chancel door, an east window of three arched lights possibly also from the medieval chapel, and the small gabled bellcot which survives over the east end of the nave. (fn. 64) In 1812 the chancel was extended eastwards and given a new east window with wooden mullions and a brick chancel arch; external buttresses were added and the chapel was repaired and given a west gallery. (fn. 65) The chapel was in a very bad state of repair after the period of disuse in the late 19th century; some repairs were made in 1888-91 and during extensive restoration in 1896-7 the nave was almost completely rebuilt, a new set of Gothic windows inserted, and a new stone chancel arch made. (fn. 66) The 17th-century font, with an octagonal bowl on a pedestal adorned with trefoilheaded niches, (fn. 67) is probably the one mentioned at the chapel in 1680. (fn. 68) The single bell was cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1719, (fn. 69) and the plate includes an elaborately decorated flagon of foreign workmanship given c. 1885. (fn. 70) The parish registers are virtually complete for baptisms and marriages from 1559, and for burials from 1570. (fn. 71)