A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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A church had been built at Stroud by 1279. (fn. 1) It was a chapel of ease to Bisley and relations between the two churches were regulated by an agreement of 1304. The two portioners of Bisley rectory and the vicar of Bisley then agreed that there should be a resident chaplain at Stroud with the right to administer the sacraments and serve the vills of Over and Nether Lypiatt, Stroud, Paganhill, and Bourne. A piece of land in Stroud, formerly in the tenure of John de Pridie, was assigned to the inhabitants of the chapelry to hold from the portioners at a rent of 18d.; the inhabitants were to build a house for the chaplain on the land, contribute 15s. a year towards the chaplain's stipend, and maintain the chancel of the church. The chaplain was also to receive his customary stipend from the portioners and the stipend formerly paid to the chaplain of Paganhill. (fn. 2) Stroud church remained a chapel to Bisley, the serving ministers being usually designated curates, until the 1720s when augmentations of the living gave it the status of a perpetual curacy, (fn. 3) and from 1868 it was called a vicarage. (fn. 4)
In the early 14th century the portioners of Bisley rectory evidently appointed the chaplains of Stroud. (fn. 5) In 1583 the lessees of the rectory were said to be responsible for providing a priest at Stroud, (fn. 6) and a legal opinion sought in 1722 preferred the claim of the impropriator to nominate the curate above the claims of the bishop, the inhabitants in general, the Stroud feoffees, and the vicar of Bisley. (fn. 7) By the end of the 17th century, however, and apparently for many years previously, the curates were being chosen by the inhabitants of Stroud parish and nominated to the bishop to be licensed. (fn. 8) That system, which evidently arose from the fact that the curate was largely dependent for his support on contributions by the inhabitants, still obtained in 1722 but apparently ceased when the augmentations of the living placed the curate's income on a sounder footing. (fn. 9) In 1750 the bishop was said to be patron (fn. 10) and after 1774 he nominated all the perpetual curates, apparently without reference to the inhabitants. (fn. 11) The bishop remained patron in 1971.
The tithes of Stroud parish were retained by the impropriator and vicar of Bisley, (fn. 12) the curate of Stroud receiving only a payment of £10 from the impropriator. A lease of Bisley rectory in Queen Elizabeth's reign is said to have reserved that payment to the curate and it continued to be paid until 1835 or later. (fn. 13) The £10 and the 15s. paid under the agreement of 1304 by the Stroud feoffees as holders of Pridie's Acre remained the only stipendiary income of the curate in 1650, (fn. 14) although he was then, and until the Restoration, in receipt of an augmentation of £30 assigned out of the profits of Berkeley rectory by an order of 1646. (fn. 15) From 1653, however, the feoffees increased their contribution to £15, (fn. 16) and from 1677 the curate also received a rent-charge of £2 10s. paid from Badbrook Mill. (fn. 17) By the late 17th century he seems also to have been receiving the money given by Samuel Watts for a lecture, as he certainly was by 1715 when it added £4 9s. 3d. to his income. (fn. 18) Until 1722, however, the income remained very inadequate and the curates depended largely on contributions from the parishioners; (fn. 19) Francis Owen who was licensed by the bishop in 1686 against the wishes of the inhabitants and without the customary election was soon forced to resign the curacy through lack of such support. (fn. 20)
In 1722 two rival groups of inhabitants nominated candidates for the curacy, one of whom, Henry Bond, advanced the sum of £200 to secure an augmentation from Queen Anne's Bounty and on the strength of this was licensed by the bishop. In 1728 another £200, raised by Bond and his supporters in the parish, secured a further augmentation from the Bounty and by 1737 Roadway farm in Randwick had been acquired for the living and produced a rent of c. £30. (fn. 21) In the early 1730s two of Bond's opponents in the parish persuaded the Stroud feoffees to withhold their contribution of £15 on the grounds that no such use of their income was specified in their trust deeds. The dispute occasioned a Chancery suit which was resolved by a decree of 1741 ordering that the feoffees' contribution should be raised to £20. (fn. 22) In 1750 the income of the curacy, including the contributions by the impropriator and the feoffees, the payment from Badbrook Mill, and the profits of the two augmentations, was £100, (fn. 23) and the living was valued at £136 in 1856. (fn. 24) By 1835, in addition to the Roadway farm estate of 28 a., the curacy owned a 19-acre estate in Pitchcombe, the two contributing a rental of £89 to the value of the living. (fn. 25)
There is no evidence that a house for the chaplain was ever built on Pridie's Acre in accordance with the 1304 agreement, but the curates seem to have usually been allowed to occupy one of the feoffees' houses. William Woodwall, Walter Sweeper, and James Crump, successive curates during the first 40 years of the 17th century, occupied three different houses belonging to the feoffees, (fn. 26) and Francis Owen in the late 1680s and William Johns in the early 18th century occupied a house called the Minister's House, evidently at the Cross, paying the feoffees a rent of 30s. Henry Bond in his dispute with the feoffees claimed that this house had been given by the feoffees as the residence of the curates, but the decree of 1741 stipulated that, in the light of the increased contribution to his income, the curate should resign all claims to have one of the feoffees' houses. (fn. 27) There was then apparently no residence for the curate (fn. 28) until 1837 when a glebe house was built on the south side of Lansdown. (fn. 29) In 1912 the vicar Henry Proctor bought Rodney House by the church and it was later bought from him by the diocese for use as the vicarage. (fn. 30) The old vicarage was demolished c. 1967 to make way for an extension to the county library. (fn. 31)
The earliest incumbent who has been found recorded was William, the chaplain of Stroud, who claimed benefit of clergy before the eyre of 1306 when found guilty with others of robbing the chaplain of Frampton on Severn. (fn. 32) There were chaplains serving the church in 1400 and 1498 (fn. 33) and curates are regularly recorded from 1532. The poverty of the living is reflected by the fact that there were at least 10 curates between 1532 and 1572. (fn. 34) In 1540 Anthony Parsons, the curate, a former friar, was imprisoned at Gloucester and it was reported to Thomas Cromwell that he was accused of 'ill preaching'. (fn. 35) Matthew Glove, the curate in 1551, was found generally satisfactory in doctrinal knowledge. (fn. 36) Thomas Hodde alias Brinkworth, a former monk of Cirencester Abbey, was the curate in 1553. (fn. 37) The curate serving the parish in 1576 was cited for failure to teach the catechism, preach sermons, or make perambulations, and he possessed neither Bible nor Testament. The churchwardens at that time had Puritan sympathies, objecting to the surplice, crossing at Baptism, the use of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, and to 'idolatry' in the church windows and on tombs. (fn. 38) Humphrey Parker, the curate in 1593, was described as a sufficient scholar but no preacher. (fn. 39) William Woodwall, who held the living by 1599, (fn. 40) published a sermon in 1609 attacking the love of luxury among the rich and complaining of the hardship caused to the poor by the activities of speculators in corn. (fn. 41) From 1647 the living was held by Robert Pleydell (fn. 42) who was described as a constant preacher in 1650. (fn. 43) He subscribed at the Restoration (fn. 44) and remained curate until his death in 1679. (fn. 45) Shortly after the Restoration Lord Coventry, the impropriator of Bisley, withdrew his contribution of £10 towards the curate's income, apparently because of Pleydell's doctrinal affiliations, for when petitioning Lord Coventry for restoration of the payment in 1668 Pleydell proffered a testimonial from John Stephens of Over Lypiatt to the effect that he was 'an able, peaceable, orthodox minister, and no Presbyterian, as that term is used in opposition to Episcopal government.' (fn. 46)
Henry Bond, whose disputed nomination in 1722 and lawsuit with the Stroud feoffees are mentioned above, was praised by some of the parishioners in 1727 for his work in the cure, visiting the sick and preaching twice every Sunday; (fn. 47) Bond was also vicar of Coaley and maintained a curate at Stroud in 1737. (fn. 48) James Webster, curate 1764-1804, (fn. 49) who became archdeacon of Gloucester and rector of Dursley in 1774, (fn. 50) was non-resident from before 1772, (fn. 51) and his successor, John Seagram, who held the living until 1833, had leave of absence for the whole of his incumbency to serve as stipendiary curate at Wylye and later at Steeple Langford (both Wilts.). (fn. 52) During this period two active and popular assistant curates each served the cure for many years: William Ellis, who founded the Sunday schools, served from 1772 until his death in 1804, and John Williams served from 1805 until 1833, when on John Seagram's resignation of the perpetual curacy the parishioners petitioned the bishop for Williams to succeed him, raising once more their claim to the right of nomination. The petition was unsuccessful and shortly afterwards Williams was presented to Woodchester rectory. (fn. 53) In the 19th century the growth of Stroud town and the needs of the outlying areas of the parish were recognised by the building of the church of Holy Trinity at Stroud Hill in 1839, a church at Whiteshill in 1841, and the establishment of a mission church at Thrupp in 1880. (fn. 54) St. Alban's mission church in Parliament Street was built in 1915. (fn. 55)
A lectureship was instituted at Stroud before 1631 when Samuel Watts, a London merchant and native of Stroud, left £200 to the parish, half for the continuance of the lectureship and half for the poor. (fn. 56) The money was laid out on land in Colethrop c. 1634. (fn. 57) In 1662 a Mr. Britton, presumably the vicar of Bisley, was licensed to lecture on Fridays, (fn. 58) but by 1715 the lecturer's half of the proceeds, then £4 9s. 3d., was being paid to the curate by the Stroud feoffees (fn. 59) who administered the charity. The bequest was one of the matters in dispute between Henry Bond and the feoffees in the 1730s: Bond claimed to be entitled to the proceeds by virtue of preaching twice each Sunday and maintained that they had always been enjoyed by the curates; but his opponents said that at the time of Watts's bequest there had been a lecturer chosen by the inhabitants who preached in the church each Friday and that the lecture had usually been delivered by neighbouring clergy. The decree of 1741 confirmed the moiety of the charity to the Friday lecture. (fn. 60) In 1752 the assistant curate was paid for delivering the lecture, (fn. 61) but from the later 18th century the perpetual curates appear to have usually given it. The perpetual curate received £7 10s. for it in 1835, (fn. 62) and in the 1880s the vicar received between £12 and £16. (fn. 63) Under a bequest of Richard Aldridge in 1814 the curate also received 21s. for preaching a sermon on Trafalgar Day. (fn. 64)
There was a chapel at Paganhill, evidently a chapel of ease to Bisley, by 1287, (fn. 65) but in 1304 the income formerly paid to its chaplain was assigned to the chaplain of Stroud who was also to serve Paganhill. (fn. 66) A chantry at Paganhill mentioned in 1329 was presumably in the chapel. (fn. 67) The ancient chapel of Paganhill was apparently that dedicated to St. James which in 1553 adjoined Giles Field's manor-house at Field Place. Field was then accused of carrying away a chalice, ornaments, and vestments from it, but he claimed that the chapel was his own property and not a chapel of ease and that it was used for services only once or twice a year. (fn. 68) Field pulled down the chapel before 1576. (fn. 69) The chapel at Lypiatt Park, which appears to have never been more than a private chapel, is mentioned above. (fn. 70)
A chantry in Stroud church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was recorded from 1522, (fn. 71) and there was a chantry priest in the early 1530s. (fn. 72) In 1566 its lands were sold by the Crown; (fn. 73) two weeks later the purchasers sold the lands, comprising a house in Stroud and a close in Nether Lypiatt called Church Furlong, to Giles Payne of Rodborough, who sold them in the next year to the Stroud feoffees. (fn. 74)
The original church apparently comprised only nave and chancel. The 14th-century west tower with its broach spire was evidently an addition rather than a rebuilding, for there was a small bellturret with spire at the west end of the chancel. (fn. 77) The south aisle and porch were apparently added in or shortly after 1491 when Thomas Whittington, lord of Over Lypiatt, died leaving £40 to the parishioners to build a 'chapel' on the south side of the church; (fn. 78) c. 1703 tradition credited the Whittingtons with the building of the aisle (fn. 79) and their arms appeared on the south porch. (fn. 80) In the late 18th century the south aisle had three pointed windows, which had lost their tracery, and between the two easternmost windows was a small doorway with a square dripmould. (fn. 81) A north aisle divided from the nave by a row of Tuscan columns was added in 1759 by two local carpenters, John Carver and Edward Keen; it was paid for by 12 subscribers to whom the 28 new pews in the aisle were appropriated. (fn. 82) In 1787-8, at the expense of eight parishioners, the north aisle was extended to the east and the south aisle arcade replaced by matching columns, (fn. 83) and the chancel was rebuilt with a large round-headed east window c. 1790. (fn. 84) In 1806 a new vestry room was made over the porch with a window over the old entrance arch, (fn. 85) and repairs to the steeple were carried out in 1828. (fn. 86) Numerous galleries and seats were made in the church during the 17th and 18th centuries usually for local clothier families. (fn. 87) In the mid 19th century galleries filled both aisles, and one at the west end of the nave housed the organ (fn. 88) installed by John Avery of Westminster in 1798. (fn. 89) The fabric of the church was largely maintained out of the revenues of the Stroud feoffees, whose contributions included £250 given for the new chancel in 1790 and £130 for the work on the steeple in 1828. (fn. 90)
The rebuilding of the body of the church was begun in 1866 and completed in 1868. The new building, comprising clerestoried nave, north and south aisles and transepts, a chancel with a south chapel and north vestry and organ-chamber, and south porch, was designed by Wilson & Willcox of Bath in a variety of Romanesque and Gothic styles and built of local stone from Bisley and Painswick with Bath stone dressings. The cost, £10,000-11,000, was met by subscription and a grant of £1,000 from the Stroud feoffees. (fn. 91) The carving and ornamentation was carried out by Joshua Wall of Stroud who also made the pulpit, replacing a hexagonal oak pulpit of 1759, and the font, (fn. 92) replacing one made c. 1834. (fn. 93) An elaborate reredos with reliefs of Passion scenes was designed by George Gilbert Scott and installed in 1872. (fn. 94)
The church had six bells in 1629 when five of them were recast by Roger Purdue, (fn. 95) and c. 1775 the west tower contained eight bells; there were then said to have once been two others hanging under the smaller spire. (fn. 96) Two of the eight had been cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1713 and 1721 respectively and two by Thomas Rudhall in 1771. In 1815 two of the bells, which had been broken by a fall, were recast by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel and two more were added to the peal. (fn. 97) The most notable monument in the church is that to Thomas Stephens of Over Lypiatt (d. 1613), who appears in effigy wearing his attorney-general's robes; it is attributed to Samuel Baldwin of Stroud. (fn. 98) The monument, which stood at the east end of the south aisle in the old church, (fn. 99) was placed in the south transept at the rebuilding, but a monument to the Wyes in the south aisle did not survive the rebuilding, and another there to the Whittingtons had been removed by 1712. (fn. 100) An ornate wall tablet to Thomas Freame of Nether Lypiatt (d. 1664), formerly in the chancel, (fn. 101) was moved under the tower with other wall monuments at the rebuilding. Fixed to the outside of the north wall, and presumably taken from destroyed tombs, are many of the copper inscription plates which are a feature of the locality; they mostly date from the 18th century, but the tradition was continued in the earlier 19th century and tombs which remain in the churchyard have examples by the Stroud masons and engravers John Hamlett, James Freebury, and William Franklin. (fn. 102) The church plate includes two chalices acquired by the parish in 1625 and 1670. (fn. 103) The registers survive from 1624. (fn. 104)
The church of HOLY TRINITY at the eastern end of the town was begun in 1838 (fn. 105) and consecrated in 1839; the cost was borne by subscription and a grant from the Church Building Society. It remained a chapel of ease to the parish church (fn. 106) until 1879 when it was given an ecclesiastical district, which included the eastern part of the town, Thrupp, Bourne, and Nether Lypiatt; the living was then made a vicarage in the patronage of the bishop. (fn. 107) A vicarage house was given in 1885 by the Revd. G. T. B. Ormerod at whose expense parish rooms, opened in 1884, were built and endowed. (fn. 108) The church, designed by Thomas Foster in Early English style, (fn. 109) comprises a lofty nave with a polygonal apse and at the west end a pair of pinnacled turrets.
A room at Thrupp was fitted up as a mission church to Holy Trinity in 1880; (fn. 110) the National schoolroom there had been used for services by the Stroud clergy since 1852. (fn. 111) In 1889 a new mission church on the London road near Ham Mill was opened; built of corrugated iron with false buttresses and Gothic windows, it had the unusual feature of a roof thatched with heather. (fn. 112) It was closed in 1968 and was later used as a village hall. (fn. 113)
The church of ST. PAUL at Whiteshill was consecrated in 1841 as a chapel of ease to Stroud parish church; (fn. 114) the cost was met by subscriptions and private benefactions. (fn. 115) In 1844 the church was assigned an ecclesiastical district and the living endowed as a perpetual curacy to which the bishop nominated. (fn. 116) A glebe house, in Cotswold style, was built by subscription in 1845 (fn. 117) on the west side of the road at the Plain; it was replaced as the vicarage in the mid 20th century by a house further down the hill on the east side of the road. (fn. 118) The church, designed by Thomas Foster (fn. 119) in consistently Romanesque style, originally comprised tower, nave, and sanctuary with rounded apse; transepts were added in 1881. (fn. 120) Murals of the apostles in the sanctuary, painted by the Misses E. R. and R. E. Stanton of Upfield, Paganhill, were completed in 1905. (fn. 121) An iron mission chapel was built in Paganhill village c. 1897 at the cost of Fanny Holloway, whose relatives gave £1,000 stock for its maintenance after her death in 1910. (fn. 122)