Woolaston: Church

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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'Woolaston: Church', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, (London, 1972) pp. 115-117. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol10/pp115-117 [accessed 20 April 2024]


The church of Woolaston was recorded in the foundation grant by Walter de Clare to Tintern Abbey in 1131. (fn. 1) Following a dispute with Llanthony Priory, lords of Alvington manor, it was determined between 1146 and 1169 that Tintern should receive all parish dues from Woolaston, Aluredston, and Alvington except tithes of the demesne of Alvington, and that in return the abbey should serve the chapel of Alvington. (fn. 2) The abbey was licensed to appropriate the church of Woolaston with the chapelry of Alvington by William de Vere, Bishop of Hereford (1186-98), and the dependence of Alvington was confirmed in 1244; (fn. 3) Alvington remained a chapelry of Woolaston in 1969.

The appropriation of Woolaston church was questioned by later bishops. Although the abbots of Tintern normally presented vicars, the earliest named being Abraham c. 1200, (fn. 4) the bishop granted the living c. 1253 to William de Agathe as rector because the abbot had failed to present. William held the rectory for life, but at the next vacancy a vicar was instituted; (fn. 5) two 15th-century incumbents were also described as rectors. (fn. 6) Following the dissolution of Tintern Abbey the advowson and rectory were granted in 1537 to Henry, Earl of Worcester, (fn. 7) who held them at his death in 1549. (fn. 8) Henry, Lord Herbert, held the tithes of Woolaston in 1651, (fn. 9) although clergy were instituted as rectors in 1625 and 1692, (fn. 10) and in a tithe dispute in 1694 it was settled that the great tithes should be paid to the incumbent as rector. (fn. 11) The decision was apparently not accepted until Robert Griffith secured judgement in 1718 against two parishioners for failing to pay great tithes, on the evidence that he had been instituted as rector in 1711. (fn. 12) His successors were similarly instituted and the institutions themselves were apparently not challenged until c. 1844 when W. M. Noel of Alvington, with the aid of George Ormerod the antiquary, submitted evidence to the diocesan authorities, who agreed that at the next vacancy the matter should be investigated. (fn. 13) No inquiry seems to have been carried out, however, and later incumbents were called rectors. The advowson, which had descended with the manor, was sold in 1872 by Henry, Duke of Beaufort, to S. S. Marling. (fn. 14) Sir Percival Scrope Marling presented in 1931, and after his death in 1936 the right passed to the Diocesan Board of Patronage c. 1940. (fn. 15)

In 1261 the Archdeacon of Hereford, on a mandate from the bishop, made a visitation to induct Richard of Newnham, an action which was challenged by Tintern Abbey. Witnesses reported that although the archdeacon made an annual visitation no bishop had visited the church. (fn. 16) Richard de Swinfield in 1289 and John Trefnant in 1397, however, carried out episcopal visitations at Woolaston. (fn. 17)

In 1274 Tintern Abbey agreed that the vicar should receive 40s. and all altar dues, mortuaries, tithes of gardens and curtilages, and tithes of Aluredston mill, (fn. 18) and in 1535 the vicar was receiving a pension of £2 from the abbey. (fn. 19) The vicarage was worth £20 with £2 and a load of good straw from Woolaston Grange in 1584, and £25 in 1650, (fn. 20) and in 1705 it was stated that no augmentation had been made since 1660, although the great tithes were then being paid to the incumbent. (fn. 21) The valuation of the vicarage c. 1710 at £25 (fn. 22) probably excluded the tithes, for after Robert Griffith won his tithe case in 1718 the value of the benefice was greatly enhanced. The living was worth £120 in 1750, £150 in 1798, and £548 in 1856. (fn. 23) The benefice of Lancaut was annexed to Woolaston from 1711 until its transfer to Tidenham in 1932. (fn. 24) There were c. 5 a. of glebe until an additional 42 a. south of the church were allotted to the rector at inclosure in 1815. (fn. 25) All but 8 a. was sold c. 1908. (fn. 26) The parsonage house, which had an orchard attached, was rebuilt c. 1250, (fn. 27) and in 1705 and 1727 it was a small house of two bays, (fn. 28) which was in need of repair in 1739. (fn. 29) The rectory was rebuilt or remodelled in 1814. (fn. 30) It consists of a three-story central block with two semi-circular bay windows rising to the full height of the building, faced in rough-cast with cornice, parapet, and chamfered quoins. Two-story matching wings flank the central block, the west one added in 1820 and the east one in 1860. (fn. 31)

Philip Cliffield and William Cliff, who were both Dean of Bangor, exchanged the living twice in 1396 and 1397. (fn. 32) Cliffield was careless about forms of worship and on one occasion was absent for five to six weeks when no services were held. (fn. 33) Perhaps for that reason Tintern Abbey withheld his portion in 1385. (fn. 34) Cliff was non-resident in 1397, having obtained a licence to study at Rome for five years. (fn. 35) Three Lollard sympathizers were recorded in Woolaston in 1472 and 1509. (fn. 36) Roger Wynter, vicar 1537-57, resided at Staunton which he also held. Although he was presented in 1548 for failing to declare the Ave Maria he was conservative in outlook and in 1551 was required to acknowledge Protestant beliefs. (fn. 37) His curate at Woolaston, John Mathew, was regarded as very nearly satisfactory in doctrine. (fn. 38) John Ball, vicar 1562-4, was chaplain to the Countess of Worcester and neither resided nor provided a curate, so that the parish hired a curate to say services, and Ball was deprived in 1564. (fn. 39) His successor Henry Elkstone (1564-c. 1579) failed to preach sermons and instruct in the catechism in 1576, and administered the sacrament only at Christmas. (fn. 40) There was no minister in 1650, (fn. 41) but in 1653 Nicholas Cary took the living and still held it four years later. (fn. 42) Robert Griffith (1711-37) published his sermons; (fn. 43) Robert Penny (1769-82) compiled antiquarian notes used later by George Ormerod, (fn. 44) and John Price (1782-1813) was Bodley's Librarian and resided occasionally. Price received the living through his friendship with Henry, Duke of Beaufort (d. 1803), (fn. 45) and of the following rectors. Charles Bryan (1813-59) was related to Thomas Bryan of Badminton (fn. 46) and William Somerset (1859- 1902) was the son of Lord William Somerset and a cousin of Henry, Duke of Beaufort (d. 1899). (fn. 47) He was a noted sportsman who had the shooting rights over the Beaufort estate, (fn. 48) but his financial difficulties left his successor W. F. A. Lambert unable to claim any sum for dilapidations in 1902. (fn. 49) Somerset held the degree of LL.B. and, like a later rector W. L. P. Gould (1931-69), practised as a doctor. (fn. 50) In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the church was served by a succession of parish clerks from the same family, Samuel Smith, his son Samuel, and Charles Smith. (fn. 51) In 1851 morning and afternoon services were held, attended by congregations of 100 and 200 respectively, and there were 73 Sunday school children. (fn. 52)

At Aluredston c. 1255 Roger de Derneford, who held the manor from Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, obtained licence for a priest to celebrate in the chapel of Aluredston, (fn. 53) and Roger Bigod's presentation of Thomas Lenebant to the living of Woolaston in 1257 may have been connected with the chapel. (fn. 54) By 1289 there was apparently a graveyard attached to the chapel, and repairs to the roof were carried out in 1291-3. (fn. 55) No record of it has been discovered after the acquisition of the manor by Tintern Abbey in 1302. The medieval chapel at Woolaston Grange has been mentioned above. (fn. 56)

The church of ST. ANDREW (fn. 57) is of Old Red Sandstone and comprises chancel, nave, south aisle, north tower, and south porch. Before the 19th century it appears to have been a cruciform building of 12th-century origin with an aisleless nave, the north transept forming the base of the tower. The south aisle was formed in 1829 when its western half was built to fill the space between the south transept and the south porch; both the former transept and the extension retain their separate roofs with gable-ends to the south. The church was extensively restored in 1859 and few ancient features have survived. (fn. 58)

The 12th-century south porch was rebuilt in the 19th century, probably in 1859. Its original outer doorway had a wide depressed semi-circular arch supported on shafts with scalloped capitals, features which were closely imitated in the 19thcentury rebuilding. Above it were two small square two-light windows, and traces of either a niche or third window. (fn. 59) The inner doorway, also renewed or much restored, has similar shafts and a depressed semi-circular arch of two orders ornamented with a billet moulding. The only original window in the church is that at the west end of the nave which is of three lights and contains cusped interlacing tracery of c. 1300. Elsewhere the windows are of 14thcentury design except in the rebuilt north wall of the nave where they consist of two-light lancets. The north tower, of three low stages, was rebuilt entirely or in part early in the 19th century, (fn. 60) to replace a low tower, perhaps of the 13th century, with a short wooden steeple; (fn. 61) the battlements were added after 1844. (fn. 62) The trussed rafter roof of the nave may date from the 14th century, as may the plain octagonal font bowl. (fn. 63) There are a few 19th-century wall monuments in the church, chiefly to members of the Hammond and Woodroffe families. Outside the south porch is the base and broken shaft of the medieval churchyard cross.

In 1509 there were altars dedicated to St. Mary and King Henry in addition to the high altar. (fn. 64) The chancel was in need of repair in 1560 and lacked glazing in 1572. (fn. 65) The church was in tolerable condition in 1825 when it contained 400 sittings including free accommodation in a gallery. (fn. 66) In 1829, under the direction of John Briggs, the western extension of the south transept was built to form a south aisle, and two galleries, a pulpit, and a reading desk were erected. (fn. 67) The more extensive restoration of 1859 was initiated by Henry Morgan of Tidenham and carried out by J. W. Hugall of Hugall and Mayle of London. (fn. 68) The south arcade of four bays was then rebuilt, its plain stone piers being replaced by twin shafts of polished marble with foliated capitals. The stone chancel arch was given similar shafts, their design copied from the cloisters at Tongres (Belgium), not without contemporary criticism. (fn. 69) It was probably at the same time that the 14th century moulding of the priests' door in the south wall of the chancel was removed to the gateway in the churchyard wall leading to the parsonage. Repairs to the roof and bell-frame were necessary in 1903, when heating and an organ were provided; (fn. 70) the north vestry also dates from 1903. (fn. 71) The former south transept, which at one time contained the rectory pew, was converted into a Lady chapel in 1954, and an 18th-century wooden pulpit from Clay Coton (Northants.) replaced the stone Victorian one in 1966. Recent benefactions by the Revd. W. L. P. Gould and his family are recorded on plaques in the church, including gifts of glass in the north and south chancel windows in 1963 and of a 19thcentury screen formerly in the church of the Venerable Bede, Sunderland, in 1966. (fn. 72) The tower contained four bells c. 1703, and there were five in 1969, one of which is attributed to a Gloucester founder c. 1500. (fn. 73) The others are dated 1633, probably by John Palmer the elder of Gloucester. (fn. 74) 1696, 1774, and 1775, the last two cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester. (fn. 75) Owing to the weakness of the bell-frame only two have been rung since c. 1903. (fn. 76) A communion cup and cover of 1576 were exchanged in 1867 for a plated metal chalice, paten, and flagon. (fn. 77) The registers begin in 1688. (fn. 78)

Lands left for obits were valued at 2s. a year c. 1547. (fn. 79) The property consisted of 1 a. in Thornwell field and ½ a. in Clanna field and was granted in 1549 to William Sawle and William Brydges, with the rent reserved for the church. (fn. 80) In 1683 the first, known as Church Acre, was used for the repair of Woolaston church. (fn. 81) In 1828 the income was used for the school, together with that from the ½ a., in 1969 distinguished by merestones, which had formerly been devoted to the repair of Alvington church. (fn. 82) In 1969 the rent from Church Acre was devoted to the repair of Woolaston church. (fn. 83)


  • 1. Cal. Chart. R. 1300-26, 97.
  • 2. B.M. Arundel MS. 19, ff. 32v., 34v.
  • 3. Ibid. ff. 31, 32v.
  • 4. Ibid. f. 35.
  • 5. Cal. Papal Regs. i. 288.
  • 6. John Stacy (1431) and Robert Prince (1459): Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi.
  • 7. C 66/671 m. 14.
  • 8. C 142/90/113.
  • 9. C.P. 25 (2)/616/Mich. 1651/25.
  • 10. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi; E 331 (Index).
  • 11. G.D.R. Woolaston terriers, 1705, 1721.
  • 12. E 126/21 f. 199 and v.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., D 726/3, ff. 287-92.
  • 14. Badminton Mun. D Drawer 1, no. 3; Glos. R.O., D 262/T 29.
  • 15. Glouc. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1935-6 and later edns.).
  • 16. B.M. Arundel MS. 19, ff. 33v.-34v.
  • 17. Household expenses of Ric. de Swinfield (Camd. Soc. 1st ser. lix), 62; E.H.R. xliv. 449.
  • 18. B.M. Arundel MS. 19, f. 32 and v.
  • 19. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 371.
  • 20. G.D.R. Woolaston terrier, 1584; Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 97. The reported value of £100 per annum in 1603 is not substantiated by other evidence: B.M. Harl. MS. 594, f. 254.
  • 21. G.D.R. Woolaston terrier, 1705.
  • 22. Atkyns, Glos. 849.
  • 23. G.D.R. vols. 381A, f. 9; 382, f. 21; 384, f. 214.
  • 24. See p. 77.
  • 25. G.D.R. Woolaston terriers.
  • 26. Ex inf. the Revd. W. L. P. Gould.
  • 27. B.M. Arundel MS. 19, f. 34.
  • 28. G.D.R. Woolaston terriers.
  • 29. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi.
  • 30. Ibid.; G.D.R. Woolaston terrier, 1828.
  • 31. Ex inf. the Revd. W. L. P. Gould; cf. Verey, Glos. ii. 411.
  • 32. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi.
  • 33. E.H.R. xliv. 449.
  • 34. Reg. Gilbert, 89.
  • 35. Cal. Papal Regs. v. 21; E.H.R. xliv. 449.
  • 36. Reg. Stanbury, 125; Reg. Mayew, 109-10.
  • 37. Trans. B.G.A.S. lx. 99, 124, 133.
  • 38. E.H.R. xix. 121.
  • 39. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi, 1562-4.
  • 40. G.D.R. vol. 40, f. 261.
  • 41. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 97.
  • 42. Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 103.
  • 43. GIos. Colln. 3045(3); 15960.
  • 44. Glos. R.O., D 726/3, ff. 283-4.
  • 45. D.N.B.; G.D.R. vol. 382, f. 21.
  • 46. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi.
  • 47. Burke, Peerage (1959), 182.
  • 48. P. Marling, Rifleman and Hussar (1931), 8-9.
  • 49. Glos. R.O., D 262/T 29.
  • 50. Burke, Peerage (1959), 182; Glouc. Jnl. 14 Jan. 1868.
  • 51. Ex inf. the Revd. W. L. P. Gould.
  • 52. H.O. 129/576/3/1/1.
  • 53. B.M. Arundel MS. 19, f. 36v.; see above, pp. 107-8.
  • 54. B. M. Arundel MS. 19, f. 37.
  • 55. S.C. 6/850/4-6.
  • 56. See pp. 106-7.
  • 57. Rudge, Hist. of Glos. ii. 86. No early reference to the dedication of the church has been found. A near-by landmark on the Gloucester-Chepstow road is Peters Cross, first recorded in 1700 and known as St. Peter's Cross in 1755: N.L.W., Badminton MSS. 2494, 2594.
  • 58. The church before restoration is described in Glos. Ch. Notes, 48-49, and by G. Ormerod in 1844: Glos. R.O., D 726/3, f. 284v. G. & Sarah Ormerod made drawings in 1837 and 1844: Edinburgh Univ. Libr. Df. 1.446, Glos. drawings 26-28; cf. above, plate facing p. 113.
  • 59. Edinburgh Univ. Libr. Df. 1.446, Glos. drawings 26.
  • 60. Glos. R.O., D 726/3, f. 284v.
  • 61. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 128v.; Atkyns, Glos. 849; Rudge, Hist. of Glos. ii. 86.
  • 62. Edinburgh Univ. Libr. Df. 1.446, Glos. drawings 28.
  • 63. Trans. B.G.A.S. xxxix. 86.
  • 64. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi.
  • 65. Ibid.
  • 66. G.D.R. vol. 383, no. cxxxvii.
  • 67. Ex inf. the Secretary, Incorporated Church Building Soc.; churchwardens' acct. bk.; Colvin, Biog. Diet. of Eng. Architects, 98, gives the date as 1839.
  • 68. Vestry min. bk.; Verey, Glos. ii. 411.
  • 69. Ecclesiologist, xxi. 117.
  • 70. Glos. Colln. 11890.
  • 71. Verey, Glos. ii. 411.
  • 72. Ex inf. the Revd. W. L. P. Gould.
  • 73. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 128v.; Trans. B.G.A.S. xviii. 238.
  • 74. Trans. B.G.A.S. xxxiv. 117.
  • 75. Glos. Ch. Bells, 72.
  • 76. Glos. Colln. 11890; W.I. hist. of Woolaston.
  • 77. Ex inf. the Revd. W. L. P. Gould; Glos. Ch. Plate, 232.
  • 78. B. & G. Par. Recs. 298.
  • 79. E 301/23 no. 114.
  • 80. Cal. Pat. 1549-51, 99, 103.
  • 81. G.D.R. Woolaston terriers, charitable gifts, 1683.
  • 82. 19th Rep. Com. Char. 114.
  • 83. Ex inf. Mrs. P. Guest, of Plusterwine Farm.