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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The church at Churcham was recorded from 1100 when the Bishop of Hereford gave Gloucester Abbey leave to appropriate it; a chapel of ease at Bulley then belonged to it (fn. 1) and Bulley has remained a chapelry to Churcham. A vicar's portion had been assigned by the early 13th century (fn. 2) and the living has remained a vicarage. The advowson and the rectory of the church were retained by Gloucester Abbey until the Dissolution and granted in 1541 to the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester (fn. 3) who remained patrons in 1970. In 1544 William Walter presented to the vicarage by virtue of a grant from the abbey; (fn. 4) John Veel presented in 1545 and John Brown and Hester Webb in 1598 under grants from the dean and chapter (fn. 5) who otherwise, apart from their dispossession during the Interregnum, have retained the patronage in hand.
In the late 12th or early 13th century, when Gloucester Abbey granted the vicarage for life to Nicholas the chaplain, the vicar's portion included little more than the offerings in money at the altar; the remainder of the profits, including all the greater and lesser tithes, a payment of one mark from Bulley chapel, and all offerings of food at the altar, were reserved to the abbey as rector. The vicar's small share reflected the fact that he and his deacon were then being supported at the abbey's cost at its manor-house near the church and his horse given fodder and stabling there. (fn. 6) Some years before 1280, however, Andrew, Vicar of Churcham, agreed to give up the right of maintenance in return for a greater share of the profits of the church; subsequently Andrew and his successor lived at Bulley and since, in order to retain the full amount of the profits, they did not appoint deacons, the church at Churcham went unserved. As a result in 1280 the bishop ordered Gloucester Abbey either to resume supporting the vicar and deacon at the manor-house and take back the extra portion assigned, or else to give him a site near the church and timber for building a vicarage house. (fn. 7) The abbey evidently adopted the latter course and a later undated medieval statement of the assets of the vicarage included a site of ½ a. for a house; (fn. 8) the vicar then received the corn tithes of three parts of a yardland, all the hay tithes, various offerings, and all the small tithes of Churcham and Bulley, specified as those of wool, flax, calves, lambs, piglets, geese, ducks, chickens, milk, cheese, and eggs. (fn. 9) In 1681 the vicar was receiving in addition tithes of wood, hemp, turnips, honey, turkeys, apples, and pears. A composition of 18d. for the yardland was then being paid for the hay tithes and 1d. a cow for milk, and there were also payments for agistments, but all other produce was tithable in kind; detailed customs regulated the tithing of animals, the basic rule being that if there were fewer than seven to be tithed the vicar received their tithe value in cash, estimated at ½d. for a lamb and a pig and 1d. for a calf, while if there were seven the vicar took the tithe animal and repaid the owner the tithe value of each wanting from ten. The vicar also received Easter offerings of 6d. for a man-servant and 4d. for a maid-servant and a payment of 1d. for each garden. From 1663 he was also receiving the rectorial corn tithes arising from Highnam, Linton, and Over, which were leased to him by the dean and chapter to augment his income; (fn. 10) before 1807 the dean and chapter granted those tithes to the vicar in fee. (fn. 11) No tithes were paid at all, however, from Gloucester Abbey's former demesne land in Highnam manor, mainly consisting of the grounds of Highnam Court and the woods and park. (fn. 12) In the 1790s an annual sum of £157 10s. was being paid to the vicar for the tithes of the tithable part of the Highnam manor estate by the Guises who presumably adjusted their tenants' rents accordingly. (fn. 13) At the inclosure of the Churcham half of the parish in 1803 the vicar was awarded 95 a. for his tithes there, (fn. 14) and the tithes of Highnam, Linton, and Over were commuted for a cornrent of £240 1s. in 1843. (fn. 15)
The vicarage included no glebe land, apart from the vicarage house and orchard, before the award of 1803, (fn. 16) although c. 1267 the vicar held 8 a. by the service of providing a cresset (oil-lamp) to burn in the church every night; (fn. 17) he had presumably held it at the time of the grant to Nicholas the chaplain, for Nicholas was required to perform the same service and also provide wax-candles for the use of the monks when they visited the manor and for the abbey's bailiff. (fn. 18) The land was evidently represented by that described as 4 a. in the tenure of the vicar which was granted with other lamp-land in the county to William Sawle and William Brydges in 1549; (fn. 19) in 1550 the vicar Thomas Kingswood, who claimed that the land was glebe, was attempting to regain it from their assignee. (fn. 20) Before 1807 the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester annexed 6 a. to the vicarage to be held on lease at a rent of £3. (fn. 21) The vicarage retained 16 a. of glebe in 1970. (fn. 22) The vicarage house, standing on the west side of the lane leading to the church presumably on the site given after 1280, had four hearths in 1672 (fn. 23) and in 1681 was described as a building of about four bays with an outhouse of about three bays; (fn. 24) fairly extensive repairs were carried out on it in 1725. (fn. 25) In 1825 the vicar claimed that the house was unfit for residence (fn. 26) and it was largely rebuilt in the mid 19th century as a two-story house of brick with Tudor-style windows and gables with decorative barge-boards. A part of the old house, adjoining the new house on the north, was retained at the rebuilding, but most of the older range was removed during modernization of the house c. 1962. (fn. 27)
In 1291 the vicar's portion in the church was valued at £5 6s. 8d. and the rector's at £20. (fn. 28) By the time of the undated medieval survey of the vicarage its value had risen to £11 6s. 10d. (fn. 29) and it was valued at £20 4s. 5½d. in 1535. (fn. 30) Its value had increased only to £30 by 1649, (fn. 31) and in 1651 the trustees for the maintenance of ministers ordered that the vicar should receive annual augmentations worth £40. (fn. 32) The vicarage was valued at £80 in 1750, (fn. 33) at c. £120 in 1786, (fn. 34) and £389 in 1856. (fn. 35)
Few 14th- and 15th-century vicars appear to have held the living for more than a few years; between 1391 and 1438 there were at least 13 vicars. (fn. 36) Roger Olbroke, the vicar in 1554, was keeping a mistress. (fn. 37) Thomas Kingswood, presented in 1545, was a former monk of Gloucester Abbey (fn. 38) and was presumably the prebendary of the cathedral who later held the lease of Churcham manor. (fn. 39) In 1551 the vicar Robert Johnson was found satisfactory in doctrine. (fn. 40) Francis Gough (1562-98) (fn. 41) was found to understand Latin and have a good knowledge of religion in 1576, (fn. 42) but in 1584 he was said to be neither a graduate nor a preacher. (fn. 43) William Loe, presented in 1598, was the author of a number of theological works. (fn. 44) The clergy of the period of the Interregnum were Francis Hathway, instituted in 1633, (fn. 45) who departed to another living c. 1649, (fn. 46) and John Johnson, who held the living in 1650 when he was described as a preaching minister, (fn. 47) and, subscribing to the Act of Uniformity at the Restoration, (fn. 48) remained vicar until c. 1672. (fn. 49) Abraham Gregory, instituted in 1673, petitioned to hold the living with St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, in 1675, and Robert Cooke, vicar from 1690, was also presented to Castle Eaton (Wilts.) in 1695. Thomas Parker (1786-1801) (fn. 50) was also Rector of Saintbury. (fn. 51) Townsend Selwyn (1824-37) had leave of absence throughout his incumbency. (fn. 52) His successor George Hall remained vicar until 1895. (fn. 53)
At Highnam a chapel of ease to Churcham church was recorded between 1356 and 1544; (fn. 54) it may have been the chapel which stood just to the south-east of Highnam Court, but that was only one among several chapels on Highnam manor during the period. The chapel at Highnam Court was recorded in 1607 when it was said to have stood there from time immemorial, (fn. 55) and it was probably the chapel built at Highnam before 1337 by the Abbots of Gloucester. (fn. 56) It may also have been the chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross which was leased with Highnam Court to John Arnold in 1516; the lease reserved all the offerings and emoluments to Gloucester Abbey and stipulated free access to the chapel for its warden and for travellers. (fn. 57) By 1607 the chapel at Highnam Court was being used merely by the Cooke family (fn. 58) and it remained their private chapel, several of the family being buried there; (fn. 59) the Cookes may have rebuilt it before the early 18th century when it had a small spire. (fn. 60) It was demolished in 1807, (fn. 61) perhaps because, as was said a few years earlier, it stood too much in front of the house. (fn. 62) Two Mile House, at the junction of Two Mile Lane and the GloucesterRoss road was also apparently a medieval chapel. It incorporates a small building, orientated east and west, which was originally single-storied and of two bays. It is built of rubble with stone quoins and a chamfered plinth; a small stone niche is set externally in the south wall and in the north wall there is a two-light square-headed window with a hoodmould. Internally the building retains a wagon roof of timber which springs from an embattled stone cornice at wall-plate level. The building had been adapted as a dwelling-house by 1607, (fn. 63) and in the early 19th century a brick extension was made on the west. A village cross formerly stood near-by. (fn. 64) The position of Two Mile House, as well as the niche in the south wall, is consistent with its having been a roadside shrine and the reference to travellers in the lease of 1516 suggests the possibility that it and not the building at Highnam Court was the chapel then referred to.
In 1330 Queen Isabella had licence to rebuild a church in Churcham parish; (fn. 65) it may have stood at Over where she owned lands until 1344 (fn. 66) and was possibly the chapel of St. George, described as being in the manor of Vineyard in the parish of Churcham, where an ordination was performed in 1480. (fn. 67) There was also a chantry chapel in Churcham church in 1336. (fn. 68) Stephen the chaplain of Longney who held ½ yardland from Churcham manor c. 1267 (fn. 69) and John Birdwood, chaplain, who died in 1389 holding a messuage and ½ yardland and a messuage and a fardel from the manor (fn. 70) probably served the chantry. A church house was held by the parish from the lords of Churcham at a nominal rent in 1649. (fn. 71) An iron mission room was built at the Birdwood cross-roads c. 1900 (fn. 72) and remained in regular use in 1970.
The ancient parish church of ST. ANDREW (fn. 73) comprises aisleless nave, chancel, south porch, and west tower. Both tower and nave are basically the original Norman structures, but the church owes many of its features to 19th-century restorations, notably the unusual roof of the tower which was added after the church had been damaged by fire in 1875.
The tower is without buttresses and has several small single-light windows, the lower ones roundheaded and those in the upper stage slightly pointed. The tower carried a spire in 1563, (fn. 74) which may have dated, like the upper tower windows, from the 13th century; in the mid 19th century it was a broach spire of moderate height covered with shingles. (fn. 75) A single Norman light has survived in the north wall of the nave, and the semicircular arch of the south doorway retains 12th- or early-13th-century mouldings, although the shafts have been restored. The north doorway is Norman in style but has evidently been renewed. The nave also has a restored twolight 14th-century window in each wall and one of the 15th or early 16th century in the south wall, and in the west end of the south wall is a small triangular piscina. The Norman chancel arch survives; it is semicircular and of two moulded orders resting on plain shafts with cushion capitals. The chancel was largely rebuilt in the 19th century but some features of the earlier structure were retained and suggest that it dated from the 13th century; the dedication of an altar at the church by the bishop in 1283 may have been connected with a rebuilding of the chancel. (fn. 76) From the earlier chancel there survive a single cusped lancet in the north wall and an internal roll-moulded string-course on the south side; (fn. 77) a similar string-course runs round the whole church but it was added in the nave, and possibly also on the other walls of the chancel, only after the fire of 1875. (fn. 78) A two-light 14th-century window in the south wall of the chancel was restored or renewed at the rebuilding. (fn. 79) The sanctuary is lined with oakpanelling of 16th-century design. The south porch of the church has been partly renewed but retains an early wagon roof with moulded ribs and bosses, perhaps dating from the 14th century.
A brief for the repair of the spire was circulated in 1729 after it had been struck by lightning; (fn. 80) it was re-shingled in 1793-4. (fn. 81) The whole of the church was repaired c. 1780 (fn. 82) and it was ceiled and re-tiled in 1802-3. (fn. 83) A gallery, evidently for the use of the occupants of Highnam Court, was inserted in 1818 or 1819, (fn. 84) and in 1847 new pews were provided, (fn. 85) presumably replacing the low, open benches which c. 1780 were thought to have survived from medieval times. (fn. 86) In 1859 the chancel was largely rebuilt and a schoolroom erected adjoining it. The schoolroom was demolished in 1867-8 when a thorough restoration of the nave was carried out. (fn. 87) In 1875 a fire, which started in the tower, destroyed or severely damaged the spire, the nave roof, and many of the fittings. (fn. 88) During the subsequent restoration, completed under Waller & Son in 1878, (fn. 89) the tower was given its distinctive helm spire, a foursided pyramidal roof so placed that the ridges are central on the tower walls, the walls rising in gables to meet them. (fn. 90) The damaged nave roof, which apparently dated only from the restoration of 1867-8, (fn. 91) was replaced, and the tower arch, in a simplified Norman style, may also have been renewed.
The 15th-century octagonal font of the church was replaced by a copy in 1884; part of the original pedestal was kept in the church in 1970 and its mutilated bowl was in the churchyard. (fn. 92) There was formerly a brass to John Arnold (d. 1545), the lord of Highnam, and his wife in the north of the chancel, perhaps set in the altar-tomb recorded there in 1850; (fn. 93) both tomb and brass have been removed, presumably at the rebuilding of the chancel. A wall tablet to Edward Oldisworth (d. 1570) and his wife was formerly also in the north wall of the chancel; (fn. 94) it survives in the tower, although severely damaged by the fire of 1875 which also damaged irreparably several other wall tablets. A stained glass east window by Hardman was presented to the church in 1868. (fn. 95) A small relief figure carved in stone was discovered in the churchyard in the 19th century and set above the north doorway of the church; it has been thought to be a medieval representation of St. Andrew but it has also been suggested that it dates from the Romano-British period. (fn. 96) There is a much-weathered sepulchral slab in the churchyard. In 1280 the bishop required Gloucester Abbey to provide a chalice for the church. (fn. 97) In 1681 the plate comprised two silver cups and covers and a pewter flagon. (fn. 98) The church retains, among other plate, an Elizabethan chalice and a paten of 1716, the latter given in the late 19th century. (fn. 99) In 1668 Abraham Rudhall cast five bells for the church and a sixth was added in 1688; (fn. 100) individual bells were recast by the Rudhalls in 1707, 1743, 1771, and 1790, and by Taylor & Co. in 1871. The bells were partly melted in the fire of 1875 and the whole peal was subsequently recast. (fn. 101) The registers begin in 1541, and are virtually complete. (fn. 102)
The church of the HOLY INNOCENTS at Highnam, built and endowed by Thomas Gambier Parry, was begun in 1849 and completed and consecrated in 1851, when it was assigned the hamlets of Highnam, Linton, and Over as its ecclesiastical district. The living was made a perpetual curacy to which the Gambier Parrys nominated; in 1856 it was worth £120. (fn. 103) A glebe house, of stone in the Gothic style, was completed in 1852. (fn. 104) In 1922 the benefice was united with the rectory of Lassington, (fn. 105) and the rectory of Rudford was added to the united benefice in 1955. The alternate patrons of the united benefice in 1970 were Mr. Fenton and the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester. (fn. 106)
The church is on a lavish scale and richly furnished and ornamented. It was designed by Henry Woodyer whose plans are said to have been much influenced by the wishes of the founder. (fn. 107) Built of stone in the Decorated style, it comprises a lofty aisled and clerestoried nave of five bays, a chancel flanked on the north by an organ chamber and vestry and on the south by a Lady Chapel, a south porch, and a west tower carrying a tall broach spire. The polychromatic decoration of the interior includes frescoes executed by Thomas Gambier Parry using a process he had himself invented; the most notable are the Last Judgement over the chancel arch executed c. 1860 and the Triumphal Entry in the north aisle which is of a later date, being completed by 1880. (fn. 108) The glass of the south aisle windows is by Hardman and that of the north aisle by Wailes. The fittings include coronas and lamps by Hardman (fn. 109) and ornate ironwork grilles concealing the hot-water radiators. The Lady Chapel contains a bust of Annamaria Isabella (d. 1848), the first wife of Thomas Gambier Parry, and brasses to other members of the family. A set of plate, dated 1850, was made by Keith, (fn. 110) and three bells of the same date were provided by C. & G. Mears of London. (fn. 111)