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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The minster church mentioned in 681 (fn. 1) is not otherwise recorded, but there was presumably a church at Tetbury in 1086 when a priest was recorded on the manor. (fn. 2) Reynold de St. Valery granted Tetbury church to Eynsham Abbey c. 1160. (fn. 3) In 1273 the living was a rectory in the patronage of the abbey, (fn. 4) which appropriated the benefice in 1332; a vicarage was created then (fn. 5) and the living has remained a vicarage, forming a united benefice with Beverstone from 1951. (fn. 6)
Eynsham Abbey held the rectory and the advowson of the vicarage until the Dissolution, and in 1546 the Crown granted them to the dean and chapter of Oxford cathedral, (fn. 7) who remained owners of the rectory, usually leasing it. (fn. 8) The advowson was exercised by assignees of the abbey at the first two vacancies after the Dissolution, and at the third, in 1556, by Richard Archdale under assignment from the dean and chapter. (fn. 9) In 1561 the dean and chapter granted the advowson to Lord Berkeley in settlement of a dispute over the rectory of Wotton under Edge, (fn. 10) and it was sold to the townspeople in 1633. (fn. 11) From that date the town feoffees exercised it, a vote among the feoffees deciding the candidate for presentation. (fn. 12) The feoffees sold the advowson in 1840 to John Stanton, (fn. 13) whose son Charles owned it in 1856. By 1885 it belonged to the incumbent George Horwood, passing to his successor William Thompson, who sold it c. 1930 to Sir Walter Reuben Preston, M.P., of Hillsome Farm (fn. 14) (d. 1946). Sir Walter's widow Ella (fn. 15) sold it c. 1964 to Maj. J. E. B. Pope of Upton Grove, who shared the advowson of the united benefice with the Crown. (fn. 16)
In 1291 the rectory was valued at £24 over and above a portion of £2 paid to Eynsham Abbey. (fn. 17) Payment of a portion to Oseney Abbey in respect of tithes settled by Robert Doyley on the chapel in Oxford castle had apparently lapsed by then, although Oseney still laid claim to a portion of the tithes in 1389. (fn. 18) After the appropriation of the rectory Eynsham Abbey-apparently made difficulties over payment of a portion to the vicar; it owed him £50 in 1334, (fn. 19) and in 1340 the vicar tried to enforce his claim to £100 by using violence against the abbey's property in the town. (fn. 20) In 1374, however, a generous portion was confirmed to the vicar: he was to have the small tithes, the hay tithes, 12 quarters of corn as church-scot, rents from houses in the town, 90 a. of arable land, 4 a. of meadow, pasture for 6 bulls, and the use of the former rectory house and its buildings except for two barns which the abbey was to retain for its tithes. (fn. 21)
In 1572 the vicar's glebe was extended at 80 a. of arable and c. 5 a. of meadow and he owned the vicarage house and a burgage in the town; (fn. 22) in 1635, however, several tenements in the town belonged to the vicar. In the early 17th century and later his share of the tithes included all the small tithes, the corn tithes from Doughton, and all the hay tithes, although a composition of 5s. 1d. was fixed for the hay of Upton. (fn. 23) The Grange estate, formerly Kingswood Abbey's, was tithe free, (fn. 24) and its exemption was presumably the underlying cause of disputes between its owners, the Gastrells, and the parish over parochial rights during the 17th century. (fn. 25) The vicar was awarded a corn-rent charge of £800 for his tithes in 1838, compared with £240 awarded for the rectory tithes. (fn. 26) The vicarage was said to be worth 40 marks in 1374 (fn. 27) and £35 1s. 3d. in 1535. (fn. 28) It was valued at £60 in 1650, (fn. 29) rising to £200 by 1750 (fn. 30) and £903 by 1856. (fn. 31)
The vicarage house, standing north of the church, incorporates in its service range what may be a fragment of a 16th-century house. In 1771 John Wight (fn. 32) remodelled that range and added new principal rooms to create a south front. The house was again extended shortly before 1839. (fn. 33) In the mid 19th century it was occupied by one of the curates, while the vicar John Frampton lived at his own house, the Priory. (fn. 34)
Gregory of Caerwent, rector of Tetbury, died at the papal court in 1279 and his successor was presented by the archbishop of Canterbury by delegation of the Pope. (fn. 35) A later rector, Simon de Prewes, incurred numerous debts (fn. 36) and in 1303 was said to neglect the cure, squandering the profits on his own pleasures. (fn. 37) In 1306 he was instructed to put his church to farm for 5 years to pay his debts. (fn. 38) The vicar Richard Brill surrendered himself to the Fleet prison over a debt in 1372. (fn. 39) Thomas Holford, vicar in 1498, was assisted by five stipendiary chaplains, two or three of whom were probably the chantry priests. (fn. 40) Thomas Powell held the living together with Minchinhampton in the 1540s, (fn. 41) and his successor Thomas Bolt was also vicar of Dunchurch (Warws.); (fn. 42) Bolt was found satisfactory at the visitation of 1551 as was his curate William Lightfoot, (fn. 43) a former friar. (fn. 44) Humphrey Horton, instituted in 1556, (fn. 45) held the vicarage together with the rectories of Rendcomb and Colesbourne in 1576. (fn. 46) William Edwards became vicar in 1614 (fn. 47) and held the living until at least 1650; (fn. 48) he signed the Gloucestershire Ministers' Testimony in 1648. (fn. 49) Daniel Norris, who was instituted in 1658, subscribed and remained vicar until his death in 1687. (fn. 50)
Miles Gastrell, vicar 1728-39, was from a leading local family. His successor, John Turner, also vicar of Somerford Keynes, died in 1742 (fn. 51) when John Wight (d. 1777), chief promoter of the rebuilding of the church, became vicar. Wight was succeeded by Thomas Croome Wickes (d. 1786), (fn. 52) who was a member of a leading Tetbury family, (fn. 53) as was Samuel Paul Paul, vicar 1825-8. During the incumbency of Paul's successor, John Frampton, (fn. 54) a chapel of ease dedicated to St. Saviour was built on the west side of the town, partly financed by the sale of the advowson. (fn. 55) Consecrated in 1848 (fn. 56) and designed by S. W. Daukes and J. R. Hamilton, (fn. 57) it is in Decorated Gothic style and comprises sanctuary and aisled nave. It was declared redundant in 1974. (fn. 58)
A chantry dedicated to St. Mary was founded in Tetbury church in 1363 when trustees, apparently acting for Thomas de Breuse, granted it 24 houses and 60 a. of land. (fn. 59) The priests were presented by the proctors of the goods and fabric of the church. (fn. 60) Thomas Gilmyn (d. c. 1457) left lands in remainder for the foundation of a chantry of Holy Trinity, (fn. 61) and it was apparently in pursuance of that grant that property was conveyed for the foundation of a chantry of Holy Trinity and St. Thomas and St. George in 1480. (fn. 62) In 1490 another Thomas Gilmyn and four other men gave a total of 13 houses and 39¼ a. land to the chantry, (fn. 63) and Thomas Whittington of Lypiatt left property in the town to the two chantries in Tetbury church at his death in 1491. (fn. 64) Later a third chantry, dedicated to St. George, was founded by Thomas Herne. At the dissolution of the chantries each of the three had its separate priest with an income of £9-14 from property, (fn. 65) which included a large proportion of the houses in the town. Thomas Estcourt of Shipton Moyne bought the former property of St. Mary's chantry in 1582 (fn. 66) and his son, Sir Thomas, that of Holy Trinity in 1609, (fn. 67) and it was retained by the family until the 19th century. (fn. 68) The property of the third chantry was retained by the Crown until the mid 17th century or later. (fn. 69)
Sir William Romney's trust provided for a salary of £6 (raised to £10 in 1622) for a lecturer. (fn. 70) The tripartite deed of 1633 assigned the choice of the lecturer to the feoffees. The vicar William Edwards undertook to perform the duty, a lecture each Thursday, without payment while the purchase price of the manor was being met. (fn. 71) By 1691 and until the late 18th century the duty and the salary were shared each year by five neighbouring clergy. (fn. 72) The decline of the trust revenues led to the suspension of the lecture in 1800 (fn. 73) and it was not resumed until 1837 when the feoffees put into effect a provision of the Scheme of 1830 for a lecturer to preach each Sunday between April and September; they reduced the salary the Scheme assigned from £30 to £22 10s. The revived lectureship met with obstruction from the vicar John Frampton who was unwilling to let the lecturer use the pulpit and claimed a voice in his appointment. A local clergyman was appointed to the post each year (fn. 74) but continuing friction between the feoffees and Frampton and his successor had the result that the lectureship lapsed in the early 1880s, and it was apparently not revived until the 1920s. (fn. 75) Later the duty was usually performed by the curate (fn. 76) but in 1974 the vicar received the salary and preached sermons for it. (fn. 77)
Charities founded by Sir Thomas Estcourt, John Veizey, Charles Elton, Jonathan Shipton, John Avery, Thomas Talboys, and Gilbert Gastrell in the 17th and early 18th centuries provided for payments for annual sermons, and the vicar received a total of £5 10s. for preaching them. (fn. 78) The payments were reserved to him at the amalgamation of the charities in 1970. (fn. 79) He also had a guinea for a sermon under the will of Thomas Alexander dated 1805; Alexander's will also provided bibles for couples married in the church, who were given prayer books under the will of Mary Summers dated 1826. (fn. 80)
The church of ST. MARY (fn. 81) comprises chancel, aisled nave with side passages or cloisters, and west tower and spire. Its medieval predecessor was a rambling building, apparently dating largely from the 14th century; (fn. 82) it was re-dedicated in 1315. (fn. 83) The nave had a tower and tall spire at the west end and had two aisles on the north side and one on the south. The south aisle, which had a groined vault, was named from and probably built by the Breuse family, (fn. 84) and it housed St. Mary's chantry chapel founded in 1363; (fn. 85) the outer north aisle, which was presumably really a private chapel, belonged to the Savage family in post-medieval times. (fn. 86) Shortly before 1467 the parishioners built a new chancel which was described as having St. Mary's chantry on the south and the 'old chancel' on the north, suggesting that the inner north aisle was the original nave. Eynsham Abbey accepted the new chancel as the principal one and undertook to keep it in repair, (fn. 87) and the old chancel appears to have later been used as a vestry. (fn. 88) Apart from the three chantries, (fn. 89) the church housed several other chapels: those dedicated to St. Thomas the Martyr, St. Nicholas, and Christ were mentioned in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. (fn. 90)
The church was badly damaged by a storm in 1662 and was repaired with a grant from the feoffees. (fn. 91) In 1729 its decayed condition prompted a group of townsfolk, led by the feoffees, to advocate rebuilding. A brief that was circulated produced a disappointing return and it was proposed to raise money by the sale of the advowson, but the scheme met much opposition and prolonged litigation followed. Repairs and alterations carried out on the chancel and Breuse's aisle in 1741 fuelled the controversy and when the architects retained by the rival parties failed to agree on the quality of the new work James Gibbs was called in to assess it. (fn. 92) Rebuilding plans were revived in 1753 by an accession of funds from the sale of church property and by the enthusiasm of the vicar John Wight, who gave a large sum from his private fortune. Further funds were added by subscription and an Act for rebuilding was obtained in 1765. (fn. 93) It was not until 1777 that work was started (fn. 94) and the new church was completed and consecrated in 1781. (fn. 95)
The tower and spire were kept and the body of the church was rebuilt in Gothick style to the designs of Francis Hiorn of Warwick. (fn. 96) The lofty nave and aisles are of equal height and have a plaster vault supported by slender columns and large windows occupying most of the wall space. On the outside of the aisles low side passages gave access by a series of doors to the proprietary pews. The contemporary interior fittings, including galleries and box-pews, are largely undisturbed, although some were removed in 1900 and a chancel screen was inserted in 1916. (fn. 97) The tower and spire were rebuilt between 1890 and 1893, paid for by Hamilton Yatman of Highgrove as a memorial to his son. (fn. 98)
A stone head in the cloisters is apparently all that survives from an effigy of one of the Breuse family which was in the south aisle of the old church. Also preserved in the cloisters are a tomb with effigies of a member of the Gastrell family and his wife, dated 1586, and a pair of weathered effigies in 15th-century costume, (fn. 99) formerly in the churchyard. (fn. 100) A monument in the chancel to Sir William Romney was put up at the wish of John Wight who chose the inscription with its appropriate warning to 'encourage no unnecessary suits at law among thy neighbours'. (fn. 101) The church organ, presumably acquired at the rebuilding, was replaced in 1805 when the organ from the concert hall in Ranelagh Gardens, Chelsea, was bought by subscription. A new organ was built for the church by Nicholson of Worcester in 1863 and rebuilt in 1912. (fn. 102) A pair of large brass chandeliers acquired at the rebuilding was restored and rehung in 1952 after being absent from the church for some years. (fn. 103) The bells were recast and their number increased to eight by Abraham Rudhall in 1722; the treble was recast by John Rudhall in 1803. (fn. 104) The bulk of the plate dates from 1769 when Mary Deacon of Elmestree gave a pair of chalices and patens and John Wight gave a pair of flagons. (fn. 105) The registers survive from 1631. (fn. 106)