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 Stonehouse was probably founded by one of the lords of the manor in the 12th century; the priory at Chepstow, the caput of their honor of Striguil, (fn. 1) later owned a portion in the church. (fn. 2) Architectural features of the church before its rebuilding dated from the 12th century or earlier. (fn. 3) A vicarage was ordained by the Bishop of Worcester between 1218 (fn. 4) and the first mention of a vicar of Stonehouse c. 1230. (fn. 5) The church was evidently appropriated by then to the nuns of Elstow Priory (Beds.), who presented a vicar in 1270. (fn. 6) At the Dissolution the patronage was retained by the Crown, although assignees of the priory presented for one turn in 1554; (fn. 7) the Crown remained patron in 1967. (fn. 8)
At the ordination of the vicarage in the early 13th century Elstow Priory's revenue from the church was fixed at £6. (fn. 9) It had apparently been withheld by the vicar, John Mill, (fn. 10) for some years before 1473 when he owed the prioress a considerable sum. (fn. 11) The priory's portion was recorded in the survey of 1535, (fn. 12) but in spite of this its profits from the church were concealed at the Dissolution and until 1561 when the rectory was leased to George Lloyd for a rent of £6 as a reward for acquiring it for the Crown. (fn. 13) In 1565 a controversy between Lloyd and the vicar was in progress over their respective rights in the church. (fn. 14) Later all the tithes and profits of the church were collected by the vicar who paid a rent of c. £5 to the Crown for the rectory. (fn. 15) The Priory of Striguil at Chepstow received £1 6s. 8d. from the profits of the church in 1291; (fn. 16) the priory, owned by an alien house, had forfeited its portion to the Crown by 1325, (fn. 17) but in 1384 was said to have continued to receive it throughout the war with France. (fn. 18)
The vicar was receiving £5 in 1291, (fn. 19) and £21 1s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 20) The vicarage was said to be worth £120 in 1650, (fn. 21) and £160 c. 1703, (fn. 22) but only c. £100 in 1723, (fn. 23) and £150 in 1750. (fn. 24) In 1798 it was valued at £180, (fn. 25) but in 1803 at c. £300, (fn. 26) and in 1826 at c. £500. (fn. 27) In 1839 all the tithes of the parish were commuted for a total rent-charge of £570. (fn. 28) The vicar had 30 a. of glebe in 1584. (fn. 29) In the early 18th century his tithes included cash payments from the clothiers of the parish assessed on the number of mill-wheels they had. (fn. 30)
The vicarage house, standing west of the village street, was mentioned in 1533. (fn. 31) It was rebuilt in 1684 by the vicar, William Robson, (fn. 32) and in the early 19th century was a long low house with two large gables on the west, and a projecting wing on the east. It was again rebuilt, by the vicar Henry Cripps, in 1858 (fn. 33) as a stone house in the Gothic style. It ceased to be the vicarage and was divided into flats in 1954 when the vicar moved to a house on the main Eastington-Ebley road. (fn. 34)
There were two references to early Protestantism in the parish. In 1528 an unnamed parishioner of Stonehouse was accused of heresy on several counts, which included attacking the saying of prayers for the dead, worship of the Virgin, the ownership of land by priests, and the use of ceremonial in church; he was also said to have had books by Luther in his possession. (fn. 35) In 1540 Humphrey Grenfell, a Stonehouse weaver, was charged with reading an English bible in a Gloucester church and denying the doctrine of purgatory. (fn. 36)
Richard Browne, Vicar of Stonehouse from 1515, was also holding another benefice in 1531, (fn. 37) and in 1540 was Rector of Great Rissington; (fn. 38) in 1548 Stonehouse vicarage was being farmed by the clothier Richard Fowler. (fn. 39) In 1554 Browne was deprived of Great Rissington because he was married, and he resigned Stonehouse in the same year. (fn. 40) Edward Fowler, instituted in 1556, was perhaps a member of the Stonehouse clothing family. Edward Cross, instituted in 1563, was non-resident in the same year. The vicarage was then being farmed by the clothier William Sandford, and William Fowler, lord of the manor, was farming it in 1572. Thurston Shaw, vicar 1574-1609, was nonresident (fn. 41) and had another benefice in Essex in 1576, when the church lacked a surplice and a suitable bible, (fn. 42) but in 1584 he was said to have no other benefice. (fn. 43) In 1593 he was described as a preacher and a non-graduate. (fn. 44)
William Norris, vicar from 1610, (fn. 45) was succeeded by his son John in 1643, but John Norris was ousted by supporters of Parliament in 1644. He was replaced by a Scotsman, Thomas Wallace, (fn. 46) who signed the Gloucestershire Ministers' Testimony in support of the Covenant in 1648, (fn. 47) and was described as a constant preacher in 1650. (fn. 48) Thomas Thatch succeeded him on the Protector's presentation in 1654; (fn. 49) in 1659 he was accused of supporting Edward Massey's attempts to foment a royalist rising at Gloucester. (fn. 50) Nevertheless Thatch was deprived at the Restoration when John Norris returned as vicar. (fn. 51) William Robson, instituted in 1670, was a non-juror in 1689; he died the next year still apparently in possession of the vicarage. (fn. 52) Robert Ratcliffe, vicar from 1690, had lived in America for 10 years as chaplain to the English forces there; from 1694 he also held the rectory of Coin Rogers. (fn. 53) Samuel Lawrence, instituted in 1723, was also Rector of St. Michael's, Gloucester. (fn. 54)
During the incumbency of Samson Harris, 1727-63, (fn. 55) the parish was visited several times by his friend George Whitefield, the Methodist leader. In 1737 Stonehouse church was served for about two months by Whitefield during the vicar's enforced absence; he preached every night and claimed to have increased the congregation during his stay. Whitefield again visited Stonehouse in 1739 and preached in the rain to a crowd, which he estimated at c. 3,000, in the churchyard, (fn. 56) and at another visit in 1743 he helped to administer communion in the church. (fn. 57) Samson Harris's work as a parish priest, which Whitefield praised, (fn. 58) was later said to be the reason for the lack of converts to Methodism in Stonehouse; (fn. 59) his friendship with Whitefield and apparent sympathy with his views were presumably also factors.
John Pettat (1763-98) from 1781 also held the perpetual curacy of Leonard Stanley which he resigned in 1789 to become Rector of Quenington. (fn. 60) Thomas Pettat, vicar 1798-1803, was also Rector of Hatherop, and William Baker, 1803-26, (fn. 61) lived on his benefice at Dowdeswell. (fn. 62) Henry Cripps, instituted in 1826, lived at Preston, near Cirencester, where he was also vicar, (fn. 63) visiting Stonehouse once a year, (fn. 64) but he presumably planned to live at Stonehouse when he rebuilt the vicarage in 1858. (fn. 65) His successor William Farren White (1861-98) was a well-known local naturalist, and wrote a book on the behaviour of ants. (fn. 66) In the early 19th century two services every Sunday and eight communion services a year were held at Stonehouse. (fn. 67) One of the last recorded punishments by penance was performed at Stonehouse in 1851. (fn. 68)
In 1835 the expansion of Ebley and Cainscross and their distance from the parish church, and perhaps also the increasing attraction of the Ebley Congregational chapel, (fn. 69) were recognized by some of the local inhabitants in their plans for a new church to serve the eastern part of the parish. It was begun in 1835, on a site between the two villages, and consecrated in 1837. It was assigned an ecclesiastical parish which included Ebley and Cainscross, and parts of Randwick, Westrip, Dudbridge, and Paganhill. (fn. 70) The church was built and the living endowed with gifts by Col. Henry Daubeny of Bath and leading residents of Cainscross. (fn. 71) A grant of £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty was made in 1838. (fn. 72) The right of nomination to the living, a perpetual curacy, was assigned to the chief benefactors; (fn. 73) Col. Daubeny nominated his son H. W. B. Daubeny as the first curate, (fn. 74) and Thomas Clutterbuck Croome nominated the curate in 1841. (fn. 75) In 1910 the right of nomination was transferred to the bishop. (fn. 76) The congregation in 1851 was over 400. (fn. 77) By 1882 an iron mission chapel had been built at Westrip for the inhabitants of the north part of the parish; (fn. 78) it was used as a youth club in the 1940s and was demolished c. 1950. (fn. 79)
The ancient parish church of ST. CYR (fn. 80) comprises nave, chancel, north and south aisles, west tower, and north porch. It was rebuilt except for the tower in 1854.
The oldest parts of the fabric of the earlier church were a Norman north doorway with billet ornament, and a window of the same period in the north wall of the chancel. The church also had a Norman font with star and boss ornament. (fn. 81) The central window in the north wall of the nave appears to have been a 13th-century lancet. The church was probably rebuilt in the 14th century; the nave and chancel both had windows of that period on the north and south, and the east window was perhaps similar. The gabled north porch and the lower stages of the tower may also have been built then. An embattled upper stage to the tower was added in the 15th or 16th century, and a square stair-turret added on the north side. There was also a window of the 15th or early 16th century in the north of the nave. In 1713 the church was re-roofed and internal repairs were made by one of the churchwardens, Giles Nash of Bridgend, who also bore the cost for the time being. (fn. 82) The low-pitched nave roof which contrasted with the high ridge of the chancel in 1803 was probably the result of the repairs. In 1746 the vicar Samson Harris built at his own cost an extension on the south side of the nave; the stone was brought from the quarry on Doverow Hill. (fn. 83)
The rebuilding in 1854 was carried out mainly in the Perpendicular style by Henry Crisp of Bristol. (fn. 84) The north doorway and some of the decoration on the font, however, were copied from their Norman originals. (fn. 85) In 1884 the church was restored and a chancel-aisle and vestry were added. (fn. 86) The church was reroofed in the early 1930s. (fn. 87)
Four of the six bells are dated 1636 (fn. 88) and the two others had been added by c. 1703. (fn. 89) One was recast by Thomas Rudhall in 1768. (fn. 90) The plate once included a set given by Mrs. Smith, perhaps widow of the former lord of the manor, in 1701, and a flagon given in 1785, but they were stolen in 1819, and a new set was made. (fn. 91) Before the rebuilding a small orchestra in the west gallery provided music. (fn. 92) At the rebuilding traces of medieval painting, apparently depicting the Last Judgement were uncovered. (fn. 93) There are several ornately carved 18th-century chest tombs in the churchyard; many late-18th- and early-19th-century tombs have the metal inscription plates that are a feature of the district.
The church of ST. MATTHEW, at Cainscross, completed in 1837, comprises nave, embattled north and south aisles, chancel, and embattled and pinnacled west tower. The design, by C. Baker of Painswick, (fn. 94) combines Perpendicular and Decorated features. Alterations of 1897-8 included the replacement of the former low chancel by a lofty one designed by W. Planck and the addition of a vestry and south doorway. (fn. 95) A set of plate was given by the Daubeny family in 1836. (fn. 96)