At the end of the 19th century it was felt that the old church of St Bartholomew’s on Chosen Hill, inaccessible as it was in bad weather and difficulty of access for the elderly or infirm, could no longer adequately serve the needs of the parish’s growing population. So, on St Andrew’s Day in 1901, the decision was taken to build a new church which would be a Chapel of Ease with St Bartholomew’s still remaining, at least for some time to come, the parish church.
The site chosen was the north-west corner of the Chapel Hay field near where a small chapel had perhaps once existed. The Churchdown Land Company, who owned the field, made a gift to the parish of the site for the new church. Initial, and subsequent, fundraising and donations enabled the project to go ahead and the design of the architect WB Wood was selected from six competing entries; the building was to be traditional in style and simple in proportion consisting of nave, central and side aisles, baptistry and chancel with raised sacristy.
It was envisaged that extensions might be built later as needed. AJ Dolman of Gloucester were awarded the building contract and the first sod was cut in 1903. On 15th July in that same year the Foundation Stone was laid by Sir John Dorington, Bart., the local Member of Parliament. Construction was completed in 1904 and the Dedication Service was held on 25th April with the Consecration Ceremony, conducted by the Rt Revd. KC Sumner Gibson, Bishop of Gloucester, taking place on 29th November, 1905.
Many of the furnishings were gifts by members of the parish, the sanctuary rails, for instance, being given by the schoolchildren of the parish and the chairs donated individually by the village people at a cost of three shillings each, old currency. (In recent years, after long usage the seating has needed replacement.)
The sanctuary chair, carved and given by a lady who lived locally, is a facsimile of the Abbot’s State Chair in the Bishop’s Palace, Wells. St. Andrew’s is very fortunate in having an ancient font which is 15th century and was given to the church by the Rector and churchwardens of Witcombe.
Sanctuary Chair and Font
The communion table was constructed by a local craftsman and presented by his son; it incorporates, as does the communion table at St Bartholomew’s, oak panels from the old church. The mural paintings behind the protective curtains at the back of the table were painted in remembrance of the vicar’s wife who died in 1905.
Aethelflaed, Bishop Hooper, William and Osric
Over the years St Andrew’s has been greatly enriched by furnishings and features donated by local people in memory of members of their families and the North Porch, dedicated in 1965, (it has inner glass doors engraved by EM Dinkel) and all the stained glass windows are such gifts.
The east window, depicting the call of St Andrew, was installed in memory of two young men killed in the First World War, and the lancet windows in the chancel and the three coloured nave windows all illustrate people and incidents from Churchdown’s past.
The lancet in the north wall portrays St Oswald and it was the canons from St Oswald’s Priory in Gloucester who served the parish in the office of priest during the Middle Ages.
Opposite him is Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and by local tradition owner of the Barony of Churchdown in Saxon times.
The 7th-century king, Osric, who ruled the territory of which Churchdown was part and who established the first monastery in Gloucester, is shown in the south nave window. In the north nave wall opposite, a local man, William, is seen being rescued from the collapsed trench in which he had become buried; those saving him were directed through prayers offered to the recently-martyred Archbishop Thomas of Canterbury.
Further to the east is the Hooper Window illustrating the death by burning of the Bishop and the seizure of the church valuables during the Reformation.
These three nave windows are the work of the late ER Payne, a well-known stained glass artist. There are insets of Art Nouveau’ glass in the remaining windows.
St. Andrew’s is now the parish church of what is designated the Parish of St Andrew and St Bartholomew, Churchdown.
The History and Guide to the two churches and The Story of Churchdown (ISBN 0904586049), by Gwen Waters provide further reading.