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Walks around Lechlade

A Fairford and Lechlade Walks Book is available to buy from the Lechlade Post Office or the Lechlade Newsagents (both in the High Street) at a cost of £4.95
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  • The Parish Church

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    Though it is known that a church previously occupied the site, the present church of St. Lawrence was built towards the end of the 15th century. Started in 1470, using local stone from a quarry at Taynton near Burford, and completed in 1476, the whole building is in one style of architecture, early Perpendicular. Prior to 1502 it was known as the church of St Mary, but Catherine of Aragon ordered that it be renamed St Lawrence, after a Spanish saint born in Aragon. Local wool merchants would probably have furnished money for the building.The church has the usual Perpendicular plan, with nave, aisles and chancel, and the exterior is very generously decorated with gargoyles and other grotesque sculptures. The fabric of the interior was plain with little decorative work. This served to show off the rich and beautiful woodwork of the screens in the chancel, choir and chapels. All this has now disappeared through various refurnishings of the interior over the years. An exception is the door leading from the chancel to the vestry. Among the details in the carvings on this four hundred year old door is a pomegranate, the badge of Catherine of Aragon. In 1882 the vicar and parishioners engaged in the task of clearing and reseating the whole interior. Box pews were replaced by the present open type ones, and the fabric of the church, the pillars and arches, were stripped of the remains of the 15th century shrines, canopies and carvings, and were revealed in their simple beauty.

    Traces on the stonework in the tower are probable evidence of a fire, which destroyed the roof and interior round about 1510. During the repairs, alterations were made to the building, clerestory windows were added, and a new, flattened lead roof built at a higher level. The pitch of the original roof can be seen high on the wall at the west end of the nave. The tower was strengthened and the spire added. The porch on the north side was also built about this time and it seems likely that stone from the Abbey, which had by this time fallen into disrepair, was used in its construction. The east end, with a new five light window, was also part of the rebuilding.

    One of the features of the interior is the roof of the choir with its bosses, which date from the 15th century, but which were repainted in 1938. Ten of the bosses represent angels bearing instruments of Our Lord’s Passion, while others depict more every day subjects.

    Two memorial brasses are to be found at the east end of the aisles. On the north side is one to John Townsend “merchant and woolman of this place who died in 1458, and Ellen his wife and boys (about 6) of the same.” The brass at the east end of the south aisle is probably that of John Twynyho who died in 1510, and who is said to have been founder of the chantry of St. Blaize, the patron saint of wool merchants. The pulpit has a modern top on an old base, which was found in the vicarage garden. The font is the reverse, having an octagonal 15th century bowl on a modern base. The niche on the pillar above the font, which is supposed to have held a statue, possibly of the Virgin Mary, was probably desecrated by Cromwellian soldiers. Two very old carved stones are embedded in the north wall of the nave. One was discovered under the plaster and, though its subject cannot be properly understood as it has been badly desecrated, it is evidently older than the church itself. The other panel, which apparently depicts the martyrdom of St Agatha was found in the wall of a nearby garden and has been recently installed. One of the prized possessions of the church is the large brass chandelier suspended over the centre aisle. This was made in London in 1730 and is “the gift of Mr Richard Ainge”. The tower holds a peal of six bells, their dates ranging from 1595 to 1911. In the spire is still the Angelus bell or “Ting Tang”, which rang a nightly curfew until 1850, and which is still used at some services.

    Many old headstones exist in the churchyard, the oldest decipherable date reading 1687, though it is obvious that burials took place before that date. On the wall of the house by the west door a plaque was affixed in 1968. It was to record the fact that in August 1815 the poet Shelley stayed at the New Inn and wrote “Stanzas in Lechlade Churchyard”.

    “Thou too, aereal Pile! Whose pinnacles
    Point from one shrine like pyramids of fire
    Obeyist in silence their sweet solemn spells,
    Clothing in hues of Heaven thy dim and distant spire
    Around whose lessening and invisible height
    Gather among the stars the clouds of night”.

    The path through the churchyard is still known as Shelley’s Walk.

    Visit the St Lawrence Church website

    The Clementson Trust – a local charity service the people of Lechlade, Eastleach and Soutrop
    Click here to download a .pdf

    Other places of worship in Lechlade are: The Baptist Church in Sherborne Street, built in 1817 by William Fox and the Methodist Chapel in High Street.

    For information on the Lechlade Baptist Church visit their website on: www.lechladebaptistchurch.org.uk

    Introduction to Lechlade Methodist Church

    For details of the Lechlade Catholic Community please visit the St Thomas website.