Moreton Valence: Church

Pages 213-215

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 surviving fabric shows the church to have been built in the early 12th century, (fn. 1) and Roger Little's gift of the church to Hereford cathedral was in the period 1148-54. (fn. 2) As a result of the gift the rectory formed part of the endowment of the prebend of Moreton and Whaddon, (fn. 3) and Whaddon church, which may not originally have been in any way dependent on Moreton, came to be regarded as a chapel of Moreton. (fn. 4) That link was broken in 1840 when Whaddon was united with Brookthorpe. (fn. 5) Epney was transferred from Moreton to the new ecclesiastical parish of Framilode in in 1855. (fn. 6)

No vicarage was established for Moreton, and in the Middle Ages the parish was served by stipendiary chaplains. (fn. 7) In 1535 the Vicar of Standish, not the Prebendary of Moreton and Whaddon, was said to find a chaplain for Moreton; (fn. 8) if it was not a mistake the statement represented a temporary arrangement. By 1735 there was thought to be a perpetual curacy; (fn. 9) it may in fact have been stipendiary, but because the obligation of paying the curate had for long been imposed on the lessees of the prebendal estate (fn. 10) the curacy had at least the superficial characteristics of a perpetual curacy, a status which it anyway acquired in 1770 on being endowed out of Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 11) Though called a vicarage in the later 19th century (fn. 12) the living retained the title of a perpetual curacy. (fn. 13) The right to nominate curates was exercised by the lessees of the prebendal estate until 1830 (fn. 14) and afterwards by the Bishop of Gloucester. (fn. 15) In 1961 Moreton Valence was united with Whitminster, with which it had been held since 1953; the bishop had the right of alternate presentation. (fn. 16)

In 1603 the curate's stipend was £10. (fn. 17) By 1705 it had risen to £25, (fn. 18) but was soon after reduced to £12. (fn. 19) Between 1770 and 1814 the curacy was augmented with £1,000 from Queen Anne's Bounty and £400 from two private benefactors. (fn. 20) It was further augmented in 1843 and 1877, (fn. 21) and in 1889 was worth £161 a year net. (fn. 22) In 1877 the curacy also received a grant of £1,500 for building a parsonage house ; (fn. 23) previously there had been no house for the curate in the parish, (fn. 24) and most curates seem to have lived in other parishes. John Day, curate in 1570 (fn. 25) and 1576, (fn. 26) was an exception, being the lessee of the prebendal estate, (fn. 27) but was on bad terms with some parishioners: in 1574 he was concerned in a lawsuit about the parishioners' use of the butts, (fn. 28) and in 1576 was said to be 'no peacemaker, of late a weaver, ... a drunkard and an unruly man', who put his pigs into the churchyard. (fn. 29) Feeling against him (fn. 30) may have been behind the refusal of two parishioners to go to church except when there was a sermon. (fn. 31) Anthony Collier, ejected in 1662 from Moreton Valence and Whitminster, was said to have preached at both every Sunday. (fn. 32) John Jones, curate 1764-82, was buried at Moreton, which he was said to have served with the greatest assiduity. (fn. 33) Benjamin Jones, curate 1784-1830, lived at first at Moreton, later in neighbouring parishes and finally in Guernsey, (fn. 34) the parish being served from 1815 by. a succession of stipendiary curates, one of whom, John Fowell Jones, became perpetual curate in 1830 and lived at Frampton on Severn. (fn. 35) His successor, appointed in 1877, (fn. 36) lived at Whitminster, but the new parsonage house had been built by 1889 and remained the glebe house for Moreton and Whitminster in 1967. (fn. 37)

The church of ST. STEPHEN (fn. 38) is built of ashlar with a Cotswold stone roof and comprises chancel, nave, north porch, west tower, and south aisle running the full length of chancel and nave. The nave and chancel were built in the early 12th century, and on the capital on the south side of the chancel arch is a defaced and incomplete inscription apparently of the early 12th century, in mixed Roman and Lombardic letters, of which some have a Saxon character. It reads:






The last line appears to suggest what is indicated by other evidence, that the patron was a member of the Little family. (fn. 39)

The chancel arch has rectangular capitals with chamfered and moulded lower edges. On the nave side the arch has an outer order of a bold rollmoulding, supported on attached angle-shafts with cushion capitals and bases carved with zigzags. The chancel retains a small 12th-century light in the north wall, with deep splays. Across the inside of the east wall, c. 5 ft. above the floor, is a projecting course of stones carved with diaper ornament. The east walls of both the chancel and the nave have external string-courses at eaves level, with large animal corbel-heads at the angles. (fn. 40) The north doorway has an early-12th-century arch similar to the chancel arch in having a bold roll on the outer order, with attached shafts, cushion capitals, and chamfered abacus. It contains a well preserved tympanum carved with a representation thought to be of St. Michael fighting Satan. (fn. 41) The porch was apparently built afterwards, though in the 12th century or early 13th; it has stone benching and a deeply splayed small rectangular light on each side, and a defaced corbel-head at the north-west angle; the timber-framed gable-end, with an arch-braced collar, is of the 15th or 16th century and has a bracket perhaps for an image.

In the 14th century the chancel was given a new east window, of which the external hoodmould has carved but decayed shields in the stops; the tracery has been renewed. There is a small, plain piscina with a segmental-headed, chamfered arch. The trussed rafter roof of the nave, which has a coved plater ceiling, may also have been built in the 14th century. The embattled west tower of three stages, stepped back at each stage and supported on the east by buttresses built out from the nave wall and on the west by diagonal buttresses, was added in the 15th century. It has a two-light west window above a doorway, small rectangular openings to the second stage, two-light louvred belfry windows, an internal stair-vice, and four large gargoyles. Possibly at the same time as the tower a rood-loft was built, the upper doorway to which survives. A rectangular window of four lights with cinquefoil heads high in the north wall of the nave may have been to light the rood-loft.

In the 15th or 16th century, after the tower had been built, a long south aisle was added, its ends flush with the east wall of the chancel and the west wall of the nave. The tracery of the three-light east window is largely filled with 15th-century coloured glass. The three south windows and the west window are alike, having three lights with cinquefoil heads and tracery. Although the south aisle is a continuous structure, its increased width where it adjoins the chancel, making up the difference in width between the chancel and nave and giving the aisle an asymmetrical east gable, lends the east end the appearance of a chapel, which is the more marked partly because the east end is separated by a late-19th-century wooden screen and partly because it has a plinth for an altar; the plinth was formerly railed, and the south wall has indications of a piscina. The arcade of two wide bays from the nave and the opening from the chancel are alike, having semi-octagonal pilasters with hollowed sides, boldly projecting capitals, and arches of two hollowed orders. The south doorway has a four-centred arch with carved spandrels.

The roof was reslated in 1723. (fn. 42) The church was comprehensively restored in 1880-4; (fn. 43) the work included panelling the ceilings of the chancel and the east end of the aisle, and raising the floor to the level of the churchyard. (fn. 44) Land for the maintenance of the church, known as the Jernegan (i.e. Jerningham) trust, was apparently given in the 16th century; (fn. 45) it produced £2 a year in the early 18th century, £6 c. 1775, £13 in 1870, and £20 in 1967. E. H. Daniels (d. 1952) by will gave to the church £500 which was invested in stock. (fn. 46)

The 19th-century font bowl stands on a pedestal of c. 1700. (fn. 47) There is also a 12th-century tubshaped piscina or stoup, designed to stand against a wall. (fn. 48) Two chests with the initials or names of the churchwardens bear the dates 1682 and 1716. The monuments include some unsophisticated floorslabs of the 17th century and mural tablets to members of the Willey family. There were four bells c. 1703, (fn. 49) presumably the four surviving bells of 1696 by Abraham Rudhall, and another Abraham Rudhall cast a further bell in 1739. The bells were increased to six in 1840; (fn. 50) one was recast in 1899. (fn. 51) The organ is dated 1849. The plate includes a chalice of 1569 with a paten-cover. (fn. 52) The registers begin in 1681, but are defective. (fn. 53)


  • 1. See below.
  • 2. See p. 208.
  • 3. See p. 211; Cal. Inq. p.m. i, p. 18.
  • 4. e.g. Reg. Cobham, 232.
  • 5. Order in Council, 22 May 1840, penes Diocesan Registrar; not found in Lond. Gaz.
  • 6. See p. 167.
  • 7. C 115/L/A 4 f. 39; Hockaday Abs. xxii, 1498 visit. f. 9.
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 411.
  • 9. Hockaday Abs. cclxxxix.
  • 10. Ibid. xxviii, 1540 stipendiaries, f. 6; G.D.R. vol. 381A, f. 38.
  • 11. C. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty (1845), p. cclxxxv.
  • 12. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 602.
  • 13. Crockford (1965-6), p. 1649.
  • 14. G.D.R. vol. 381A, f. 38; Hockaday Abs. cclxxxix, 1830.
  • 15. G.D.R. vol. 384, f. 146.
  • 16. Ex inf. Diocesan Registry; Crockford (1955-6), 330, s.v. Drysdale; (1965-6), 1649.
  • 17. B.M. Harl. MS. 594, f. 226.
  • 18. G.D.R. Moreton Valence terrier, 1704/5.
  • 19. Bodl. MS. Top. Glouc. C.3, f. 218v.
  • 20. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty, p. cclxxxv.
  • 21. Lond. Gaz. 3 Oct. 1843 (p. 3216); 31 Aug. 1877 (p. 5053).
  • 22. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1889), 845.
  • 23. Lond. Gaz. 3 Apr. 1877 (p. 2401).
  • 24. Hockaday Abs. cclxxxix, 1831, 1838.
  • 25. Ibid. 1570.
  • 26. G.D.R. vol. 40, f. 9.
  • 27. G.D.R. Moreton Valence terrier, 1575.
  • 28. Trans. B.G.A.S. lix. 137.
  • 29. G.D.R. vol. 40, f. 9.
  • 30. Hockaday Abs. cclxxxix, 1569-70.
  • 31. Ibid. 1572.
  • 32. Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 127.
  • 33. Bigland, Glos. ii. 234.
  • 34. G.D.R. vols. 382, f. 27; 383, no. clix.
  • 35. Hockaday Abs. cclxxxix.
  • 36. G.D.R. vol. 385, f. 152.
  • 37. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885 and later edns.); Miss LeonardWilley remembers the house being built.
  • 38. A 12th-century inscription, mentioned below, records a dedication to the Virgin and St. Stephen. The church was called St. Stephen's in 1735: G.D.R. vol. 285B (1), f. 25. The name St. Michael's in Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1879), 707, is perhaps associated with the tympanum over the N. door: see below.
  • 39. The help of Mr. S. E. Rigold, of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, in reading the inscription is gratefully acknowledged.
  • 40. The corbel-head from the SE. angle of the nave lies in the S. aisle.
  • 41. Memorials of Old Glos. 154; cf. above, plate facing p. 206.
  • 42. Par. rec., overseers' acct. bk. 1756-85 (includes some churchwardens' accts.).
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1897), 243.
  • 44. Par. rec., vestry min. bk. 1826-86, entry for 1879.
  • 45. Ibid. misc. papers B, nos. 5-6.
  • 46. G.D.R. Moreton Valence terrier, 1704/5; Rudder, Glos. 559; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 602; ex inf. Mr. L. Sealey, of Putloe Court.
  • 47. Trans. B.G.A.S. xlviii. 99.
  • 48. Ibid. 145-6, 162.
  • 49. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 153v.
  • 50. Glos. Ch. Bells, 56.
  • 51. Trans. B.G.A.S. xlii. 176.
  • 52. Glos. Ch. Plate, 151. The churchwardens exchanged their flagon in 1719: par. rec., overseers' acct. bk. 1756-85 (includes some churchwardens' accts.).
  • 53. G.D.R. contains bishop's transcripts from 1569.