Horsley: Church

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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'Horsley: Church', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, (London, 1976) pp. 182-183. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol11/pp182-183 [accessed 12 April 2024]


A church had been established at Horsley before 1105 when Horsley's independence from Avening parish was confirmed. (fn. 1) The living was served by Horsley Priory (fn. 2) until a vicarage was ordained in 1380, (fn. 3) from which time it has remained a vicarage. The patronage was retained by Bruton Priory until the Dissolution and was subsequently owned by the Crown. Giles Bennett had received a grant of the next presentation after the Dissolution. (fn. 4) The Crown continued to appoint through the Lord Chancellor until the early 18th century (fn. 5) but by 1750 the bishop of Gloucester was patron (fn. 6) and remained so in 1972. (fn. 7)

The endowment of the vicarage assigned in 1380 comprised 12 marks a year and 4 cart-loads of wood, and the impropriators, Bruton Priory, were required to build a vicarage house. (fn. 8) In 1535 the living was worth £7 11s. 4d. yearly (fn. 9) and in 1563 the impropriator was charged with paying the incumbent a salary of £8. (fn. 10) The living was still worth £8 a year in the early 18th century (fn. 11) but in 1715 was granted £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty, which made a further grant of £200 to match an equal sum given in 1733 by Paul Castleman. (fn. 12) The interest from those sums in addition to the original benefaction, which included £2 yearly in lieu of the cart-loads of wood, gave the living an annual income of £40 in 1750. (fn. 13) Further grants were made by Queen Anne's Bounty: £200 in 1794, £800 in 1826, and £200 in 1833, the last being made to meet an annual grant of £15 from the rectory of Cam by the bishop of Gloucester. (fn. 14) The living was worth £180 yearly in 1856, (fn. 15) about which time part of the rectorial tithe rent-charge was settled on the vicarage. (fn. 16) The old vicarage house was sold in 1797 (fn. 17) and a new vicarage house purchased at Rockness. (fn. 18) The house was said to be an unsuitable residence in the early 19th century (fn. 19) and was later rebuilt in the Gothic style.

Little is known of the medieval vicars who served Horsley after 1380 but Ralph Bennett, instituted in 1425, may have been from a family closely connected with Horsley during the later Middle Ages. (fn. 20) Henry Woodhouse, vicar in 1532 and until 1555, was not learned. (fn. 21) The living was vacant in 1563 (fn. 22) and in 1603 was said to have been so for fifty years; (fn. 23) the next recorded institution was that of Samuel Craddock in 1609. (fn. 24) During the vacancy the parish was served by a number of assistant curates. (fn. 25) In the early 17th century Edward Norris, a Puritan cleric who went to America in 1639, is said to have served at Horsley. (fn. 26) Another Puritan, Samuel Hieron, was curate of Horsley in 1642 and until at least 1648 when he signed the Gloucestershire Ministers' Testimony. (fn. 27) A Mr. Ridler was recorded as minister in 1650. (fn. 28) Nathaniel Hall, admitted to the cure in 1657, conformed at the Restoration (fn. 29) and was succeeded by Henry Stubbs, a crypto-Presbyterian, who remained vicar until his death in 1678. (fn. 30) George Gwinnett, vicar from 1764, was granted a yearly pension of £10 for life by the parish when he resigned the living in 1774. (fn. 31) During the 18th century the parish was served by a number of assistant curates including, from 1794 until 1810, Thomas Dudley Fosbrooke, the author of a history of the county and other books; (fn. 32) he also took an active interest in the welfare of the parish, vaccinating over 600 persons at his own expense in 1810. (fn. 33) Anthony Keck, curate in 1812, owned an estate in the parish. (fn. 34)

A church recorded at Chavenage in the mid 13th century, (fn. 35) for which no later record has been found, presumably served the old village of Ledgemore, north of Chavenage Green; (fn. 36) the name Churchyard field and the tradition of a church were attached to a place in that area in the early 19th century. (fn. 37) A private chapel at Chavenage House was recorded from 1803 (fn. 38) and from 1819 it was used as a chapel of ease for that part of the parish. Chaplains were licensed by the bishop on the nomination of the occupant of the house with the vicar of Horsley's consent, and received a stipend raised by the lord of the manor and the tenants of the estate. (fn. 39) From c. 1860 the chapelry was served by the vicar, although it apparently retained a technically separate existence until the early years of the 20th century. (fn. 40)

A church had been built at Horsley by 1105 (fn. 41) and the dedication to ST. MARTIN (fn. 42) recalls the earliest monastic owners of Horsley. (fn. 43) The medieval church, rebuilt except for the tower in 1839, comprised chancel with north and south chapels, aisled nave with south porch, and west tower. (fn. 44) The chancel was built or rebuilt c. 1332 (fn. 45) by which time the nave and aisles had been built. The tower, of four storeys and incorporating an earlier west doorway, was built during the 15th century at which time the chapels were added. The north chapel, which was dedicated to St. George, (fn. 46) may once have housed a chantry; men described as the guardians of the chapel were required to repair a tenement in the village, belonging to it, in 1512. (fn. 47) By the end of the 15th century a rood-stair and loft had been inserted in the church. (fn. 48) The impropriator was blamed for the poor condition of the chancel in the later 16th century (fn. 49) and a titheowner was considered responsible for its fabric in 1812. (fn. 50) There was a gallery at the west end of the nave by 1768 (fn. 51) and one had been inserted in the south aisle before 1838. (fn. 52)

The church was felt to be inadequate in the early 19th century (fn. 53) and subscriptions were raised for building a new church, incorporating the west tower of the old building, to which many of the monuments of the old church were removed. The new church, comprising chancel with north and south vestries, north and south transepts, and broad nave, was built on to the tower to designs by Thomas Rickman and was consecrated in 1839. (fn. 54) In 1887 the church was restored and some internal fittings replaced. (fn. 55) The bells include two dated 1632, three cast during the 18th century by various members of the Rudhall family, and one, replacing an earlier bell, cast by Mears and Stainbank in 1871. (fn. 56) The ancient plate was melted down in 1876 and new vessels cast from the silver. (fn. 57) The registers begin in 1590 but there are some gaps during the 17th century. (fn. 58)


  • 1. Reg. Regum Anglo-Norm. ii, no. 719.
  • 2. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1359-1413, 63; Reg. Wakefeld, pp. 6-7.
  • 3. Reg. Wakefeld, p. 162.
  • 4. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi.
  • 5. Atkyns, Glos. 482.
  • 6. G.D.R. vol. 381A, f. 27.
  • 7. Glouc. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1972), 36.
  • 8. Reg. Wakefeld, p. 162.
  • 9. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 497.
  • 10. Cal. Pat. 1560-3, 125.
  • 11. Atkyns, Glos. 482.
  • 12. C. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty (1845), pp. cxlix, cclxxxiv, where Castleman's name is given wrongly as Peter; see Rudder, Glos. 502.
  • 13. G.D.R. vol. 381A, f. 27; V 5/167T 2.
  • 14. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty, pp. ccxix, cclxxxiv.
  • 15. G.D.R. vol. 384, f. 120.
  • 16. Rudkin, Horsley, 15.
  • 17. G.D.R., V 10/3.
  • 18. Ibid., V 5/167T 3.
  • 19. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi.
  • 20. Worc. Episc. Reg., Reg. Morgan, ii, f. 31.
  • 21. Hockaday Abs. xxv, 1532 visit. f. 16; ccxlvi; E.H.R. xix. 115.
  • 22. Bodl. MS. Rawl. C.790, f. 10v.
  • 23. B.L. Harl. MS. 594, f. 236v.
  • 24. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi.
  • 25. Ibid. xlvii, 1576 visit. f. 99; xlix, 1584 visit. f. 29.
  • 26. D.N.B.
  • 27. Hockaday Abs. lxiv, 1642 visit. f. 25; Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 255-6.
  • 28. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 92.
  • 29. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi; lxviii, 1661 visit. f. 16.
  • 30. D.N.B.
  • 31. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi; Glos. R.O., P 181/OV 2/2.
  • 32. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi; D.N.B.
  • 33. Glos. R.O., P 181/VE 2/2.
  • 34. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi; Glos. R.O., P 181/IN 1/5.
  • 35. J.I. 1/274 rot. 2d.
  • 36. See p. 176.
  • 37. Fosbrooke, Glos. i. 405-6.
  • 38. Rudge, Hist. of Glos. i. 339.
  • 39. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi; H.O. 129/338/7/2/8.
  • 40. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1863 and later edns.).
  • 41. Reg. Regum Anglo-Norm. ii, no. 719.
  • 42. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi, 1493; in ibid. 1839, the church was said to be dedicated to St. John the Evangelist but from 1851 the earlier dedication was again recorded: H.O. 129/338/7/2/9.
  • 43. V.C.H. Glos. ii. 91.
  • 44. Smith, Eccl. Edifices; see below.
  • 45. S.C. 6/855/3.
  • 46. Smith, Eccl. Edifices; Atkyns, Glos. 483.
  • 47. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 5; cf. ibid. D 1375/19A.
  • 48. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi, 1493.
  • 49. Ibid. 1563; G.D.R. vol. 40, f. 186v.
  • 50. Rudkin, Horsley, 21.
  • 51. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi.
  • 52. Smith, Eccl. Edifices.
  • 53. G.D.R. vol. 383, no. ccxxxi.
  • 54. Mons. in tower; Colvin, Biog. Dict. of Eng. Architects, 501; H.O. 129/338/7/2/9.
  • 55. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1897), 215; Verey, Glos. i. 276.
  • 56. Glos. Ch. Bells, 52.
  • 57. Glos. Ch. Plate, 124.
  • 58. B. & G. Par. Recs. 170.