Monday, April 28, 2008

Little Washbourne, Gloucestershire

Hidden among fruit trees in the low-lying country between the Cotswold escarpment and Tewkesbury, Little Washbourne is easy to miss. There’s not much here: a farm, a house, a roadside inn, and this tiny church, approached along a grass path through an orchard. But there’s more to this building than the passing motorist, speeding between Stow and Tewkesbury, might imagine.

Some details of masonry and a small window around the back shows us that this is a Norman church, but the big window to the right of the doorway tells a different story. It’s Georgian, and the 18th-century has left a lasting and wonderful imprint on this building, as we see immediately on opening the door.

Filling the nave is a complete set of 18th-century box pews, including four big family pews at the front and smaller ones behind, plus a two-decker pulpit (a piece of furniture fashionable in the 18th century, combining a pulpit for preaching and a desk for reading the lessons). Beyond, in the chancel, are matching altar rails and communion table. Candles provide the only artificial light. As Pevsner says, the whole lot doesn’t look as if it’s been touched since 1800.

These are not, let me make clear, the kind of furnishings I’d remove from a church to make it suitable for dance classes or village bean-feasts, although, as I’ve said in another post, I’m sometimes in favour of removing pews. No, the furnishings at Little Washbourne are in a special class and, as there’s no longer a congregation to use them regularly in this scattered community, the building is now vested in the Churches Conservation Trust. Thanks to their care, we can now visit this place and appreciate how a Norman building and Georgian interior can come together to create a unique atmosphere, taking us back to the time of Jane Austen and her predecessors.


Peter Ashley said...

Stunning, I'm revving-up the Bristol now.

Rachel W. said...

Oh, this is brilliant! I was wondering if Little Washbourne still existed, as that is where my acestors settled after William the Conqueror.

Philip Wilkinson said...

What a great place to have an an ancestral home! It's in a lovely position, near the Cotswolds, but with views across the flat lands towards the vale of the Severn. I don't know where in the world you are, but I hope you're able to visit it one day.

Rachel W. said...

I hope so as well. It looks so lovely. I'm in the U.S., but I'm determined to visit these places some day. Strange how the manor house is an inn now, though. That would be an interesting place to visit, I'm sure.

howard said...

Well i can confirm this is a quaint little church, with more to it than you first may realise. I was born just down the road at nearby Alderton, and my parents were married at St Mary's in Great Washbourne. I also worked at The Hobnails Inn, which until recently held the honour of being the longest public house which had been run by the same family( the Fletchers) since 1743. If you do visit the area you will find it very historical and satisfying