Visit to Cotswold Churches with Tim Bridges – September 2021
There was an air of excited anticipation as members of the Civic Society set off towards Gloucestershire on a bright and sunny Autumn morning. This was our first outing for nearly two years – Covid 19 having caused postponement of all visits in 2020 and in most of 2021.
Our Guide Tim Bridges explained, during the journey towards Cirencester, the existence of Cotswold limestone surfacing millions of years ago as an escarpment, its colour varying in geographical areas with the resulting landscape of rivers, grassland, trees and stone, and sheep grazing peacefully as we drove by.
Our first Cotswold church, St Mary’s in Fairford, (consecrated in 1497) is rich in mediaeval glass, C1500, every window displaying biblical figures telling the story from Adam and Eve to Christ’s Ascension, the most striking being the Great West Window, ‘Justice and Mercy’.
After refreshment we proceeded to All Saints, Down Ampney, a church built by the Knights Templar and consecrated in 1265 – the village was the birthplace of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams whose music to ‘Come Down O Love Divine’ is Down Ampney. 13th century painted red flowers on the underside of the arches, and more recent knitted red flowers were wrapped around the ancient carved woodwork inside the church, apparently symbolic of the Black Death, the plague of long ago, which caused a skin rash – ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’. Of the windows in this church, one is a memorial to the battle of Arnhem, 18th September 1944, the RAF flying many troops and dropping them on Arnhem.
Our last church in North Cerney, also called All Saints, once Saxon, then Norman – but badly damaged by fire around 1460 and afterwards heavily restored. We saw wonderful old oak furniture and very fine doors. Again, striking mediaeval glass, and 18th century monuments.
Our thanks to Susan Ellis for her excellent planning, and to Tim Bridges who shared so much of his knowledge.