A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The church of 'Istrat Hafren', recorded in dubious charters of c. 700 and c. 880, has been identified with Tidenham: according to the first charter Morgan ap Athrwys, King of Glywyssing, granted the church to the bishopric of Llandaff with an uncia of land between the sea and 'Podum Ceuid', identified with Lancaut, and the second charter records a confirmation of the grant following lay encroachment. (fn. 1) No later record has been found of a connexion between the parish and Llandaff. The church of Tidenham with the tithes and ½ hide of land was granted to Lire Abbey by William FitzOsbern c. 1070. (fn. 2) A vicarage had been ordained by the early 13th century, (fn. 3) and the living has remained a vicarage.
Because Lire Abbey was an alien house the advowson of the church was usually exercised in the 14th century by the Crown. (fn. 4) Henry V took full possession of the rectory and advowson under the Act of 1414 and granted them to his new foundation, the Priory of Sheen; (fn. 5) Sheen retained them until the Dissolution. (fn. 6) The Crown exercised the advowson in 1540 and 1554, but in 1561 and 1570 Francis Shakerley presented by virtue of a lease from Sheen Priory. (fn. 7) The advowson was granted with the rectory to Thomas James in 1607; (fn. 8) his son Alexander presented in 1628, the later Alexander James in 1709, and Hester James with Anne and William Jones in 1731. (fn. 9) The advowson was bought c. 1767 by James Davis of Chepstow (fn. 10) who presented in 1769, (fn. 11) and it evidently descended with the Tutshill Farm estate to Mary Burr, whose eldest son Daniel Higford Daval Burr, later of Aldermaston (Berks.), exercised it from 1839. (fn. 12) The advowson had passed by 1889 to Higford Higford, and by 1910 to the Bishop of Gloucester (fn. 13) who remained patron in 1969.
The church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. in 1291 with the vicar's portion at £6 13s. 4d.; there were three other portions in the tithes, £3 6s. 8d. owned by Tintern Abbey, £1 by Striguil Priory, and 4s. by the Rector of Lancaut. (fn. 14) Tintern Abbey's portion was apparently connected with the assarts made by the abbey on the north-eastern boundary of Tidenham from which its Ashwell Grange estate was formed; (fn. 15) the matter is obscure, however, for under two recorded agreements, one also of 1291, the tithes of the abbey's lands in the parish were to be received by Tidenham church rather than by the abbey. By the first agreement, which concluded a dispute between the Vicar of Tidenham and Tintern Abbey in the early 13th century, the abbey agreed to pay one mark annually to Tidenham church for the tithes of its cultivated land, assarts, and parkland in the parish, and to pay tithes for any land it might acquire there in the future; (fn. 16) by the second in 1291 Tintern Abbey agreed with Lire Abbey's proctor in England to give to Lire Abbey the tithes of lands they had inclosed at 'Hathoneshall' (probably Ashwell), and also to grant ½ a. of land to Lire instead of disputed tithes in a meadow in Tidenham. (fn. 17) Tintern Abbey's portion in the tithes of Tidenham was apparently represented by the tithes of certain woods which in 1704 were said to be payable to Ashwell Grange, (fn. 18) and perhaps by those claimed by the Duke of Beaufort in 1844. (fn. 19) Striguil Priory's portion was leased by the Crown in 1546 (fn. 20) and may have been represented by the annual payment of 18s. which the vicar owed to the Crown in 1704. (fn. 21) In 1704 the vicarage included c. 5 a. of glebe, the small tithes, and part of the hay tithe; cash payments were being made for orchards, agistments, milch cows, and calves, while the other small tithes were paid in kind. (fn. 22) Under the inclosure award of 1815 the vicar received 104 a. on Tidenham Chase, later known as Parson's Allotment, in place of his tithes from the land inclosed. (fn. 23) In 1843 the vicar's remaining tithes were commuted for a corn-rent of £395. (fn. 24) Commutation was opposed by the incumbent James Burr who believed it to be sacrilegious and contrary to scriptural teaching, and also regarded it as unjust that the rent-charge should be pegged to the price of corn since the tithes it replaced had come almost entirely from pasture land. (fn. 25) The vicarage was valued at £8 5s. 9d. in 1535 (fn. 26) and at £40 in 1650; (fn. 27) it was worth £60 in 1750, (fn. 28) and £466 in 1856. (fn. 29)
There was a vicarage house containing three bays of building in 1704. (fn. 30) The vicar, Somerset Jones, who apparently lived at Stroat House, (fn. 31) had allowed the vicarage to fall into disrepair by 1768, in spite of the remonstrances of the patron James Davis. (fn. 32) The vicarage was rebuilt by James Burr in 1842; (fn. 33) it is a stone house with Gothic and Tudor details having gables with decorative bargboards.
The benefice was frequently exchanged in the 14th and early 15th centuries; the parish had at least eight vicars between 1391 and 1395. (fn. 34) Between 1517 and 1526 the vicar David ap Howell kept a mistress by whom he had several children. (fn. 35) William Living, presented in 1540, evidently had Protestant sympathies: in 1548 he was reported to have broken windows in the church and thrown down a churchyard cross, while one of the churchwardens had sold a censer and crucifix to raise money for church repairs. Living was deprived, presumably for being married, in 1554. (fn. 36) Edmund Arundel, described in 1584 as neither a graduate nor a preacher, (fn. 37) was charged in 1576 with omitting perambulations, and with preaching only two sermons and reading the commination only once during the year. (fn. 38) Somerset Jones (1731-69) was also Rector of Woolaston from 1745. (fn. 39) His successor William Seys, who gained a local reputation as a sportsman, was also Vicar of Chepstow and perpetual curate of St. Arvans (Mon.) at his death in 1802. (fn. 40) John Armstrong, who was later Bishop of Grahamstown, held the living from 1845 to 1854 (fn. 41) and introduced Oxford Movement reforms arousing the opposition of some parishioners. (fn. 42)
In the 19th century places of worship were provided for parishioners living at a distance from the church. In 1833 a chapel dedicated to St. John was built at Beachley; (fn. 43) it is a Gothic stone building, cruciform in plan, with a plainly furnished interior. The cost of the chapel was borne largely by James Jenkins, owner of Beachley manor, while there were also other subscribers and a grant from the Church Building Society. (fn. 44) It was founded as a chapel of ease to the parish church, but it had a separate income from an endowment made by James Jenkins and from surplice fees and pew rents; it had its own burial ground (fn. 45) and was licensed for marriages in 1839. (fn. 46) In 1850 the chapel was constituted a perpetual curacy and assigned a separate ecclesiastical district. (fn. 47) The right of nomination was vested in the Vicar of Tidenham but in 1865 passed to the bishop. (fn. 48) The income, to which had apparently been added tithe rent-charges given up by the Vicar of Tidenham, (fn. 49) was only £50 in 1856. (fn. 50) The cure was served from 1833 to c. 1853 by Charles Henry Morgan of Tidenham House; (fn. 51) it then remained vacant for a year or more owing to difficulties in acquiring a house for the living, (fn. 52) but from 1855 there were resident perpetual curates. From 1905, however, the living was held by the Vicar of Tidenham, (fn. 53) and in 1932 the two benefices were united. (fn. 54) The residence for the curates, acquired in 1855, stood north of the ferry pier; it was sold in 1920 (fn. 55) and in 1969 was the Old Ferry Hotel.
in 1853 the needs of the growing population of the Tutshill and Woodcroft area of the parish were recognized by the building of a chapel on the road between the two hamlets; (fn. 56) services had been held in the school there since 1849. (fn. 57) The chapel, dedicated to St. Luke, is a Gothic stone building comprising a nave with a bellcot at the south-eastern corner, a chancel, and a north aisle added in 1872. (fn. 58) In 1850 the school at Tidenham Chase was licensed for services, (fn. 59) and in 1888 the chapel of St. Michael, comprising nave and chancel in Gothic style, was built on the chase; it was financed by the Revd. Fielding Palmer of Eastcliff who had officiated at the services in the schoolroom for several years previously. (fn. 60) In the late 19th and early 20th centuries services were also held at the halls built by the Morgan family at Woodcroft and Stroat. (fn. 61) In 1969 the chapels at Beachley, Tutshill, and the Chase were still in regular use for services.
There were several small chapels at Tidenham in the Middle Ages. That found earliest recorded stood on a shelf of rock in the Severn at the south end of the Beachley peninsula and was accessible only at low tide. Its dedication, which appears in varying forms in medieval references, is open to doubt but the attribution to the Welsh saint Twrog seems most likely to be the correct one. (fn. 62) The chapel presumably originated as an anchorite's cell, (fn. 63) and its occupant may have maintained a navigation light. The chapel may have been occupied by 'the recluse of St. Nicholas' who received corn as alms from Tidenham manor in 1270 and by 'Patrick, the chaplain of St. Nicholas' who received the same alms in 1273, (fn. 64) but the earliest direct reference to the chapel that has been found was in 1290 when a Benedictine monk was licensed to celebrate in 'the chapel of St. Tryak of Beachley' when he happened to visit it. (fn. 65) By the late 14th century the chapel had become institutionalized although no cure attached to it: (fn. 66) incumbents, sometimes described as wardens, were regularly presented and instituted and received certain profits. In 1416 the Vicar of Tidenham claimed that a portion of the profits of the chapel, worth 40s., belonged to his vicarage from antiquity. (fn. 67) Alms were sought for the conservation of the chapel in 1405. (fn. 68) The patronage of the chapel was exercised by the lords of Tidenham manor between 1394 and 1407, (fn. 69) but in the later 15th century John ap Thomlyn, lord of Beachley, presented; (fn. 70) the last recorded presentation, however, was made by the Earl of Worcester, lord of Tidenham, in 1519. (fn. 71) In 1535 the chapel was returned as being worth nothing 'because it stands in the sea'. (fn. 72) It was in ruins by the early 18th century, (fn. 73) and in 1750 a proposal to rebuild it made by Ralph Allen of Prior Park was frustrated by the Lewis family who owned the site. (fn. 74) In 1969 a small portion of a wall with a roundheaded arch remained. (fn. 75)
There was at least one other medieval chapel at Beachley, presumably originally built for the use of travellers using the passage. A burgess of Bristol who left money for a priest to celebrate for him in the chapel of Beachley in 1398 may possibly have been referring to St. Twrog's chapel, but in 1471 another testator left money for obits in the chapel of St. Margaret at Beachley and also a silver bowl for use as a chalice there; (fn. 76) that chapel may have been the private oratory for which the inhabitants of the hamlet were given licence in 1446. (fn. 77) John Hopkins left land and rent to the chapel of Beachley by his will dated 1504. (fn. 78) In 1573 there was a chapel standing near the passage house; (fn. 79) it had been demolished by 1779 when it was said to have been dedicated to St. Ewen. (fn. 80)
Another medieval chapel in Tidenham parish stood on the west side of the road leading down to Chepstow Bridge. (fn. 81) It may have been the house for the sick next Striguil (i.e. Chepstow) which was said to have assarted 12 a. in Tidenham before 1282, (fn. 82) for in 1306 the warden of the Hospital of St. David held 28 a. of waste land in Tidenham manor (fn. 83) and in the next year the chantry chapel of St. David near Chepstow Bridge was recorded among the possessions of the late Earl of Norfolk. (fn. 84) Later the chapel passed to Striguil Priory, which made a lease of it with a house and lands belonging in 1530. (fn. 85)
The parish church of Tidenham, dedicated to ST. MARY, (fn. 86) comprises nave, chancel, north aisle, south porch, and west tower. Of the church that stood on the site in the 11th century only the font survives, and the oldest part of the fabric is the base of the tower which probably dates from the early 13th century. The two lower stages of the tower have massive clasping buttresses, that at the south-west corner containing a stair-turret with an external entrance. At the head of the south-east buttress is a small carved figure. The windows are small lancets, widely splayed internally. The top stage of the tower, which is without battlements, dates from the 15th or early 16th century.
The body of the church appears to have been largely rebuilt during the 13th and 14th centuries. The north aisle has three lancet windows with trefoil heads and an original doorway in its north wall, and the easternmost bay of the arcade has a 13th-century arch. The south doorway, which externally has attached shafts with stiff-leaf capitals and double-roll bases, is typical of the later 13th century. The four westernmost bays of the arcade and the tower arch, which have chamfered orders carried down to the jambs without the interruption of capitals, may have been reconstructed in the 14th century, but the bar and spur stops at their bases are more characteristic of 13th-century work. There is no chancel arch; the separation from the nave was formerly effected by a screen, removed c. 1810. (fn. 87) The south wall of the church has four 14th-century windows, two of them ogee-headed, and one 15th or early-16th-century window, although most of their tracery has been renewed, presumably at the mid-19th-century restoration. The east window, described in 1837 as a clumsy copy of the west window at Tintern, (fn. 88) has also evidently been renewed. The south chancel doorway, which has a three-centred moulded head, is apparently of a fairly late date. The aisle has a trussed rafter roof, perhaps dating from the 14th century; the stone corbels which supported an earlier roof still survive above the arcade. The chancel roof appears to have also been originally of the trussed rafter type, but later strengthened, possibly in the 19th century, by the insertion of arch-braced collar-beam trusses and curved wind-braces. The arch-braced collar-beam roof over the nave appears also to date from the 19th century, although it may be a copy of the original. The church had a south porch in 1815 (fn. 89) and it may, like the later porch, have had a room above, for in 1819 a contract was made for fitting up 'the vestry room'; (fn. 90) the porch appears to have been entirely rebuilt in the mid 19th century.
In 1798 a man was paid for rough-casting the church, (fn. 91) and in the mid 19th century the exterior walls were whitewashed, according to tradition to provide a mark for shipping. (fn. 92) In 1819 several proprietors were licensed to put up a gallery, and Sir Henry Cosby to build a seat, (fn. 93) presumably that at the east end of the aisle which later belonged to the owners of Sedbury Park; (fn. 94) both gallery and seat have since been removed. In 1857 plans for a restoration of the church under John Norton were considered by the vestry (fn. 95) and evidently carried out, for several rainwater heads bear the date 1858. The organ-chamber on the north side of the chancel and the considerable renewals to the fabric mentioned above presumably date from that time. A faculty for other alterations was granted in 1883, (fn. 96) but they were evidently never carried out. Minor alterations were made to the interior in 1901-2. (fn. 97)
The church has a Norman lead font, one of six Gloucestershire fonts from the same blocks, another of them being made for the neighbouring church of Lancaut. The bowl is ornately decorated in relief with an arcade of 12 bays containing alternately figures and scroll-work; (fn. 98) the base is modern. (fn. 99) In the east wall of the aisle there is a cusped piscina, and a rood-loft entrance survives between the first and second bays of the arcade. In the north wall of the chancel are what appear to be the remains of a tomb-recess. There are fragments of medieval stained glass, including the arms of the ap Adam family, in a window in the south wall of the nave. (fn. 100) The church had three bells c. 1703, (fn. 101) but there was a peal of six by 1779; (fn. 102) therefore the two dated respectively 1710 and 1763, and apparently made by Evan and William Evans of Chepstow, were presumably additions rather than recastings. Of the others one was recast in 1783, another by John Rudhall in 1826, and the remaining two by Jefferies and Price of Bristol in 1854. (fn. 103) Two of the bells were recast and the whole peal rehung in 1896. (fn. 104) In 1681 the church plate comprised a silver bowl and chalice and a pewter flagon. (fn. 105) A new silver chalice was acquired in 1828, (fn. 106) but the plate was replaced with a new set c. 1850. (fn. 107) Incomplete registers survive from 1708. (fn. 108) A stone set in the west wall of the churchyard records the building of the wall by William Tyler in 1787. (fn. 109)
The peninsula of Lancaut apparently had a church from an early period; the Welsh name of the parish, meaning 'the church of St. Cewydd', (fn. 110) was presumably acquired well before 956 when Lancaut was in the hands of the English king as part of Tidenham manor. (fn. 111) Between 1297 and 1549 regular institutions were made to the church, which was a rectory in the patronage of the lords of Tidenham manor. (fn. 112) From the mid 16th century, however, there was doubt as to the status of the church: in 1535 and 1563 it was described as a chapel to Lydney, (fn. 113) although it still had a rector in the 1550s (fn. 114) and one was presented in 1629; (fn. 115) in 1661 and 1703 it was called a vicarage. (fn. 116) From 1711 the living was held in plurality with that of Woolaston, which was also in the patronage of the Duke of Beaufort, and Lancaut came to be regarded as a chapelry of Woolaston. (fn. 117) The living was held with Woolaston until 1932 when it was united with Tidenham. (fn. 118)
In 1584 it was said that certain lands had been assigned as glebe for the church by the Earl of Worcester's ancestors, but the parishioners were afraid to give details of the glebe before the earl had been consulted. (fn. 119) In 1517 the rector's tithes included those of salmon taken in the weirs of the parish. (fn. 120) In 1839 the Rector of Woolaston was awarded a cornrent of £36 12s. 6d. for the tithes of Lancaut; there were then 2 a. of glebe. (fn. 121) William, Abbot of Flaxley, was instituted rector in 1474. (fn. 122) William Wellington, the rector in 1551, was found unsatisfactory in doctrine. (fn. 123) There was no minister in 1563, (fn. 124) or in 1576 when the parish was being served by an unlicensed reader, no sermons or homilies were delivered and the statute for church attendance went unobserved. (fn. 125) Later in 1576 the Vicar of Tidenham was admitted to serve the cure for a year. (fn. 126) There was a vicar in 1661 (fn. 127) and in 1703, when the vicar, Richard Bedford, was also Vicar of Tidenham. (fn. 128) A curate was licensed in 1708. (fn. 129) In 1738 the church was found to have no bible or surplice and no churchwarden had been appointed. In 1750 one service was being held there each month (fn. 130) and services continued to be held at the same interval in the early 19th century. (fn. 131) Services were apparently discontinued c. 1865; by 1885 the church was in ruins (fn. 132) and in 1889 the parishioners were attending church at Tidenham. (fn. 133) Regular services were never revived, although one was held each year in the late 1930's, (fn. 134) and the church remained ruined and roofless in 1969.
The church of ST. JAMES, so called by the early 18th century, (fn. 135) stands on the south side of the Lancaut peninsula close to the Wye. It is a small building, c. 40 ft. in length, and comprises nave and chancel. The fabric appears to date mainly from the 12th century and early 13th, and structural evidence suggests that the nave and chancel were built or rebuilt at different times. (fn. 136) On the south where the site falls away steeply the base of the wall has an external batter to give extra support. The chancel is slightly narrower than the nave and is divided from it by a chancel arch which springs from plain jambs with chamfered abaci. The arch appears to have been formed at two periods; facing the nave it is of dressed stone and slightly pointed, but to the east it is roughly constructed and a different shape. The east window consists of a single light with a semicircular head, having a double roll-moulding externally and a single roll on the inside. In the south wall of the chancel is a late medieval piscina with a cinquefoil head, and in the opposite wall the remains of an aumbry. The segmental-headed south doorway in the nave and the two square-headed windows, one with a mullion, in the south wall are apparently post-medieval. High up in the west gable are two openings of unequal size with roughlypointed heads; they were apparently constructed to house bells, for c. 1703, although the church then had only one bell, it was said to hang in the west wall. (fn. 137) By the early 19th century, however, the church had a small bellcot over the west end. (fn. 138) In the south-west corner of the nave are the remains of a stone wall-seat.
In the early 19th century the nave was furnished with box pews and a tall pulpit. (fn. 139) The lead bowl of the Norman font was removed from the church before 1890 by the patron, Sir William Marling, who repaired it, and it remained in the possession of his family at Sedbury Park and later at Stanley Park until c. 1940 when it was given to Gloucester Cathedral; the bowl, which is identical with that at Tidenham except that it has ten bays instead of twelve, stood in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral in 1969 on the original stone base brought from Lancaut. (fn. 140) The single bell was removed from the church in the late 19th century for use at the school at Woolaston. (fn. 141) No parish registers are known to survive, but entries for Lancaut are included in the Woolaston registers. Fragments of the tombstones, which recorded burials in the small churchyard between the 16th and early 19th centuries, (fn. 142) are preserved inside the ruins. West of the church is the stone base of a churchyard cross.