Westbury-on-Severn: 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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'Westbury-on-Severn: Church', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, (London, 1972) pp. 98-101. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol10/pp98-101 [accessed 20 April 2024]


The church at Westbury, recorded from 1100, (fn. 1) was probably an early foundation as it formerly also served Newnham and Minsterworth; both those places had chapels of ease by 1261, which had become parish churches by 1309. (fn. 2) Westbury church was a rectory in the patronage of the lords of Westbury manor, (fn. 3) but by 1291 a portion of the profits had been assigned to a vicarage (fn. 4) to which the rectors presented. (fn. 5) In the early 15th century, however, the rectory with the right of presentation to the vicarage was appropriated by the Vicars Choral of Hereford Cathedral. (fn. 6)

The advowson of the rectory was evidently included in Henry II's grant of Westbury manor to Roger de Mynors. (fn. 7) After the death of Henry de Mynors a joint presentation was apparently made c. 1220 by his three daughters and their husbands, (fn. 8) but it was later agreed that Isabel, Elizabeth, and Basile, and their heirs or assigns, should present in turn. In practice, however, Isabel's assigns, members of the Bath family, made all the presentations until 1320, usurping the turns of the other partners. (fn. 9) Basile granted her share in the advowson c. 1260 to the Bishop of Hereford, (fn. 10) and it descended to his successors, one of whom successfully presented to the rectory in 1355 (fn. 11) although challenged by Richard Talbot. (fn. 12) In 1383 the bishop granted that share to three clerks, William Knight, John Earl, and Edmund Field, who already had the Talbots' right in Isabel's share by virtue of a grant from Gilbert Talbot in 1371. Philip de Aune, the other partner in Isabel's share, presented to the rectory c. 1380. (fn. 13) The share of Elizabeth was divided among the heirs of Nicholas de Gamage after 1349, but in 1369 it became re-united in the possession of the Bishop of Hereford and other assignees, (fn. 14) the survivor of whom, Thomas Bushbury, granted it in 1387 to the three clerks, Knight, Earl, and Field. (fn. 15) When a vacancy in the rectory occurred later that year the right to present was disputed between the clerks and Philip de Aune and the clerks were successful. (fn. 16) In 1395 Philip joined with Edmund Field, presumably the survivor of the three clerks, and Thomas Bushbury in a grant of the advowson to the Vicars Choral of Hereford Cathedral. (fn. 17) The latter presented John Saunders in 1408 and, having been licensed to do so in 1411, appropriated the rectory on his death or resignation before 1442; (fn. 18) the vicars choral retained the advowson of the vicarage (fn. 19) until c. 1943 when their right was assumed by the Dean and Chapter of Hereford. (fn. 20)

In 1291 the rectory including the chapels of Newnham and Minsterworth was valued at £53 6s. 8d. and the vicar's portion at £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 21) The rector's portion evidently included the glebe, which was retained by the Vicars Choral of Hereford after the appropriation; it comprised 27 a. in 1839. (fn. 22) The vicars choral were awarded a corn-rent of £628 for the great tithes in 1839. The small tithes belonged to the vicarage; (fn. 23) tithable produce included honey, fish, cider, plums, cherries, and walnuts. (fn. 24) In the early 18th century the vicar received cash for the tithes of most produce, (fn. 25) although the only established moduses were apparently those for gardens, milk, and cider, the validity of which the parishioners successfully asserted in a legal action against the vicar in 1736-7. (fn. 26) At that period some parishioners made agreements for terms of a few years to pay a fixed annual sum for all their tithes, (fn. 27) and in 1801 that system was apparently extended to all the tithepayers. (fn. 28) The small tithes were commuted for a cornrent of £291 in 1839. (fn. 29) The vicarage was valued at £20 2s. 10d. in 1535, (fn. 30) £55 in 1650, (fn. 31) £120 in 1750, (fn. 32) £206 in 1809, (fn. 33) and £296 in 1856. (fn. 34)

The vicarage house, south of Court Farm in Westbury village, is apparently on the site of the house of the medieval rectors, since it was owned by the Vicars Choral of Hereford in 1839; (fn. 35) they had presumably been allowed to retain it at the appropriation because the vicar then possessed his own house granted in 1352. (fn. 36) The house owned by the vicars choral was included in their lease of the rectory to Maynard Colchester in 1746, (fn. 37) but it was evidently occupied by at least one vicar before 1777 when it was called the vicarage, (fn. 38) and it was presumably that house which the vicar Richard Wetherall declared was too small for his family of 11 children in 1819. (fn. 39) It is a two-storied sashwindowed house of stone partly faced in rough-cast, and apparently dates from a rebuilding in the earlier 19th century.

In the late 12th century Westbury rectory was one of a number of preferments held by Walter Map, the writer and satirist. (fn. 40) Thomas Foliot the rector in 1226 was licensed to hold an additional benefice. (fn. 41) Edmund of Bath, evidently a relation of the patron Nicholas of Bath, was licensed to study for three years in Paris in the late 1270s. (fn. 42) In 1281 he held two other benefices and was a canon of St. Paul's, London. (fn. 43) William of Kingscote, then Chancellor of Oxford, was instituted to the rectory in 1288, (fn. 44) and in 1309 he was a doctor of canon law and also held the deanery of Exeter and prebends at Exeter, Hereford, and Wells. (fn. 45) The rector John Talbot had leave of absence for study in 1312 as did his successor William Talbot in the following year; (fn. 46) William Hodynet who had similar leave in 1319 (fn. 47) was accused in the same year of hunting illegally in the Earl of Pembroke's park at Painswick. (fn. 48) Nicholas Butler, the vicar, complained c. 1400 that members of the Staure family had forcibly taken the profits of the vicarage and that he dared not perform services in the church or reside in his vicarage house for fear of them. (fn. 49) In 1518 the vicar, William Bayse, was cited to answer charges of nonresidence and other deficiencies. (fn. 50) Richard Sheriff, vicar from 1537 to 1558, (fn. 51) was pronounced to be barely satisfactorily in doctrine in 1551. (fn. 52) Thomas Yatton was non-resident in 1563. (fn. 53) Henry Mynde (1566-80) was found in 1570 not to have preached or caused sermons to be preached for three years or given alms to the poor for two years, (fn. 54) and he was non-resident, serving the parish by a curate, in 1576. (fn. 55) His successor John White was a minor canon of Hereford and resided there. (fn. 56) John Osgood, instituted in 1627, (fn. 57) was described as a preaching minister in 1650. (fn. 58) Thomas Carpenter (1739-63) was also Vicar of Sandhurst from 1753, (fn. 59) and John Kidley (1765-98) was residing at Fownhope (Herefs.) in 1790. (fn. 60) Richard Wetherell was instituted in 1798 and remained vicar for 60 years but was non-resident from 1819 to 1835 or later; (fn. 61) from 1810 he also held the rectory of Notgrove. (fn. 62)

The great size of Westbury parish, which may have been a reason for having incumbent rectors and vicars in the Middle Ages, continued to be a problem. (fn. 63) In the mid 16th century the need for a chantry-priest as an assistant to the vicar was stressed. (fn. 64) In the late 1840s it was said that the parish needed three new churches with the requisite clergy. (fn. 65) Christopher Jay Jones, instituted as vicar in 1858, gave Sunday afternoon lectures in the remoter parts of the parish. (fn. 66) In 1885 services were being held at Chaxhill House, the home of J. R. Bennett (fn. 67) who in 1894 gave a site by the main road at Chaxhill for a mission chapel; the chapel, a brick building in the Gothic style, was completed in the same year and dedicated to St. Luke. (fn. 68) Services were held in a loft at Frocester House at Northwood from 1903 until 1916 when a small chapel was built at Northwood Green. (fn. 69) Another mission chapel, of corrugated iron, was built at Rodley in 1908. (fn. 70) A buildino put up at Elton in 1891 and described as a lecture room (fn. 71) later served as a village hall, but services were held there for a time in the 1950s. (fn. 72) In 1969 the chapels at Northwood, Rodley, and Chaxhill were each used for at least one service a month, although Chaxhill chapel was threatened with demolition for road-widening. (fn. 73)

A chantry dedicated to St. Mary was founded at Westbury church before 1407; (fn. 74) it was endowed with a tenement and land which gave its chaplain an income of £3 1s. 6d. in the 1540s. (fn. 75) The Crown made a lease of its property in 1563. (fn. 76) Another chantry, known as Fulcher's or St. Nicholas's chantry, was founded in 1458 when 10 messuages, 160 a. of land, and 5s. rent in the parish were acquired with money left for the purpose by Richard Fulcher. (fn. 77) In the 15th century chaplains were presented to Fulcher's chantry by the bishop. (fn. 78) At its dissolution the chaplain had an annual income of £8 2s. 2d.; (fn. 79) its lands were granted to Sir Nicholas Arnold in 1563 and they later descended with Boseley manor. (fn. 80)

The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL (fn. 81) is of Lias stone and comprises chancel, clerestoried nave, north and south aisles with porches, south vestry, and a detached tower and spire standing on the north-west. No part of the church which stood on the site by the 11th century (fn. 82) apparently survives; presumably it lacked a tower and the detached tower and spire were built in the late 13th century, the body of the church being rebuilt in the 14th century. (fn. 83)

The massive buttressed tower is of three stages and has a staircase turret on the north-west; the windows are plain or cusped lancets or two-light windows with single trefoils in the heads. The tall broach spire, which rises to a height of 153 ft., (fn. 84) is built entirely of wood and covered with wooden shingles; a row of lucarnes at the bottom was apparently removed in 1762. (fn. 85) The spire has undergone considerable restoration: in 1664 and again in 1680 it was repaired with the wood from large numbers of casks; (fn. 86) further repairs were ordered in 1793 and 1900, (fn. 87) and a thorough restoration was carried out in 1937. (fn. 88) A medieval chapel standing against the east face of the tower was demolished in 1862; (fn. 89) presumably it was the St. Mary's chapel mentioned in 1524 (fn. 90) and housed the chantry of that dedication. (fn. 91) Its windows were said to have been of the 14th century, (fn. 92) and the surviving doorway which led from it into the tower is of the 13th or 14th century; two weather-mouldings remain on the side of the tower, one apparently resulting from the reroofing of the chapel in 1779. (fn. 93)

The body of the church, which is long and high, appears to be basically of the 14th century although it has been much restored. The aisle arcades, each of seven bays with alternating octagonal and clustered piers, some of the aisle windows, and the west door date from that period, as did also the original south clerestory windows. The chancel had two tall 14th-century windows on each side, but one on the south was removed when the vestry was added. (fn. 94) The former west window of the nave was apparently added in the 15th or early 16th century. (fn. 95) A seat for the singers added c. 1710 (fn. 96) was probably the gallery at the west end of the church, which was altered c. 1723. (fn. 97) In 1776 it was decided to replace the lead on the church roof with tiles and to put in a ceiling. (fn. 98) In 1862 a major restoration was carried out under the firm of Medland and Maberley of Gloucester. A new chancel arch and east window were made, the clerestory windows were replaced with quatrefoils, and a vestry was built on the south side of the chancel; the ceiling was removed and the nave and chancel were reroofed, the gallery was taken out, new seats were made in the chancel, and the pulpit and readingdesk were re-sited. (fn. 99) In 1864 a new west window was put in, (fn. 100) and a further restoration in 1876-8 included the re-roofing of the aisles, the provision of a reredos, the replacement of the west window of the north aisle, and the restoration of the stonework of the other old windows. (fn. 101)

The pews in the nave date from the 16th century and have linen-fold panelling on the ends. The pedestal of the font, carved with the royal arms and other devices, is dated 1583; the bowl is not original. (fn. 102) There is a calvary carved in relief in a 14th-century cinquefoil niche above the west door, and a piscina drain in the form of a rose in the sill of the south chancel window. Two 18th-century brass chandeliers hang in the chancel. (fn. 103) The church had five bells c. 1703; (fn. 104) they were recast by Abraham Rudhall in 1711, and a sixth was added by John Rudhall in 1825. (fn. 105) One bell was recast in 1886. (fn. 106) The plate includes an Elizabethan chalice, a dish of 1672 given in 1738 for use either as an alms-dish or as a paten, and a paten of 1719 apparently acquired in 1731. (fn. 107) The registers are virtually complete from 1538. (fn. 108)


  • 1. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. (Rolls Ser.), i. 251.
  • 2. Trans. B.G.A.S. xviii. 145-7.
  • 3. See below.
  • 4. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 161.
  • 5. e.g. Reg. Swinfield, 531; Reg. Gilbert, 115; Reg. Mascall, 171.
  • 6. See below.
  • 7. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 264.
  • 8. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxix, 1387, citing C.P. 40/507 rot. 307; cf. Cal. Papal Regs. i. 113. The account of the descent of the advowson to 1387 is based on the case quoted in the first source.
  • 9. Cf. Trans. B.G.A.S. xviii. 145-6; Reg. Swinfield, 528, 540-1; Reg. Orleton, 229-31. Richard Talbot claimed in 1356 that there had been no division of the advowson and that it had descended in entirety to Isabel: Reg. L. de Charltone, 17-21.
  • 10. Cf. Reg. Trilleck, 48. In 1408 Richard de la Mare and his wife Isabel, successors to Basile's share of Westbury manor, made an unsuccessful attempt to revive her claim to the advowson: Reg. Mascall, 172-3; Reg. Spofford, 357.
  • 11. Reg. Trilleck, 389; cf. Reg. Gilbert, 115.
  • 12. Reg. L. de Charltone, 17-21.
  • 13. It is not clear why Philip still had any claim to the advowson, as John de Aune had levied a fine of his right to Robert and Aline de Sapy in 1331: cf. C.P. 25(1)/77/ 58/72.
  • 14. Cf. Cal. Close, 1369-74, 89.
  • 15. Cf. Glos. Colln. deeds 328, 1387.
  • 16. Cf. Reg. Gilbert, 120.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1391-6, 661.
  • 18. Reg. Mascall, 77-81, 172; Reg. Spofford, 364. In 1419 it was said that Saunders had already resigned and that the rectory had been appropriated: Cal. Papal Regs. vii. 122; but Saunders presented a vicar in 1430: Reg. Spofford, 357.
  • 19. Assignees of the vicars choral presented in 1537 and 1558: Reg. Foxe, 378; Hockaday Abs. cccxc.
  • 20. Glouc. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1942-3), 18; (1943-4), 18.
  • 21. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 161.
  • 22. Glos. R.O., D 36/T 69; G.D.R. Westbury tithe award.
  • 23. G.D.R. Westbury tithe award.
  • 24. Glos. R.O., P 354/VE 1/1.
  • 25. Ibid. IN 3/1-5.
  • 26. Ibid. D 36/E 69.
  • 27. Ibid. P 354/IN 3/5.
  • 28. Ibid. CW 2/2.
  • 29. G.D.R. Westbury tithe award.
  • 30. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 500.
  • 31. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 97.
  • 32. G.D.R. vol. 381A, f. 9.
  • 33. Hockaday Abs. cccxc.
  • 34. G.D.R. vol. 384, f. 210.
  • 35. G.D.R. Westbury tithe award.
  • 36. Cal. Pat. 1350-4, 345.
  • 37. Glos. R.O., D 36/T 69.
  • 38. Taylor, Map of Glos. (1777).
  • 39. Hockaday Abs. cccxc.
  • 40. D.N.B.; Walter Map witnessed a Westbury deed in 1195: Flaxley Cart. pp. 162-3.
  • 41. Cal. Papal Regs. i. 113.
  • 42. Reg. Cantilupe, 45, 157.
  • 43. Cal. Close, 1279-88, 119.
  • 44. Reg. Swinfield, 528.
  • 45. Cal. Papal Regs. ii. 62.
  • 46. Reg. Swinfield, 540-1, 545-6.
  • 47. Reg. Orleton, 390.
  • 48. Cal. Pat. 1317-21, 364-5.
  • 49. Sel. Cases in Chanc. (Selden Soc. x), 66-67.
  • 50. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxix.
  • 51. Reg. Foxe, 378; Hockaday Abs. cccxc.
  • 52. E.H.R. xix. 121.
  • 53. Hockaday Abs. cccxc; Bodl. MS. Rawl. C.790, f. 27v.
  • 54. Hockaday Abs. cccxc.
  • 55. Ibid. xlvii, state of clergy 1576, f. 131.
  • 56. Ibid. xlix, state of clergy 1584, f. 45.
  • 57. Hockaday Abs. cccxc.
  • 58. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 97.
  • 59. Hockaday Abs cccxc.
  • 60. Ibid.; G.D.R. vol. 382, f. 18.
  • 61. Hockaday Abs. cccxc; G.D.R. vol. 384, f. 210.
  • 62. Hockaday Abs. cccxxiii, cccxc.
  • 63. A tradition that there had once been chapels of ease at Rodley and Ley was recorded c. 1703 but no supporting evidence has been found: Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 126v.
  • 64. Trans. B.G.A.S. viii. 295.
  • 65. Church School Inquiry, 1846-7, 18-19.
  • 66. G.D.R. vol. 384, f. 210; Glos. Colln. R 328.6.
  • 67. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885), 613.
  • 68. Ibid. (1897), 345.
  • 69. W.I. hist. of Westbury, 8; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1923), 357.
  • 70. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1914), 363.
  • 71. Ibid. (1897), 345.
  • 72. W.I. hist. of Westbury, 10.
  • 73. Ex inf. the vicar.
  • 74. Reg. Mascall, 173.
  • 75. Trans. B.G.A.S. viii. 295.
  • 76. E 309/Box 1/5 Eliz./24 no. 2.
  • 77. Cal. Pat. 1452-61, 362, 475.
  • 78. Reg. Stanbury, 175, 186.
  • 79. Trans. B.G.A.S. viii. 295.
  • 80. See p. 92.
  • 81. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxix, 1502, 1520.
  • 82. See above.
  • 83. The often-repeated theory, fallacious if only on architectural grounds, that the tower with its adjoining chapel represented the original church dedicated to St. Peter, and the body of the church a new one built in the early 16th century and dedicated to St. Mary, was apparently first recorded c. 1703: Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, ff. 126v., 128.
  • 84. L. Wilkinson, Westbury Church (Glouc. c. 1902), 6: Glos. Colln. R 328.2.
  • 85. Atkyns, Glos. plate at pp. 798-9; Glos. R.O., P 354/ CW 2/2.
  • 86. Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 2/1.
  • 87. Ibid. 2; CW 3/14.
  • 88. W.I. hist. of Westbury, 4.
  • 89. Atkyns, Glos. plate at pp. 798-9, reproduced above, facing p. 88; Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 3/3.
  • 90. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxix.
  • 91. See above.
  • 92. Glos. Ch. Notes, 51.
  • 93. Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 2/2, assuming that the school building referred to was the chapel: cf. p. 101.
  • 94. Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 3/5.
  • 95. Glos. Ch. Notes, 51.
  • 96. Hockaday Abs. cccxc, 1710.
  • 97. Ibid. 1724.
  • 98. Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 2/2; it was presumably for this work that the architect Anthony Keck was paid £150 in 1778: ibid.
  • 99. Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 3/3-5.
  • 100. Ibid. 6.
  • 101. Ibid. 3, 10.
  • 102. The bowl is said to have been destroyed before 1858 when the pedestal was removed to a garden at Flaxley where it remained until 1888: Trans. B.G.A.S. xlvii. 169- 171.
  • 103. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxi. 127.
  • 104. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 126v.
  • 105. Glos. Ch. Bells, 69.
  • 106. Glos. R.O., P 354/CW 3/12.
  • 107. Glos. Ch. Plate, 220-1; Glos. R.O., P 354/VE 2/1.
  • 108. B. & G. Par. Recs. 283.