About the Church

The current church dates from the late 18th century, and replaced the medieval church which, with the exception of the tower and spire, was demolished in 1777. The replacement church was designed by Francis Hiorn of Warwick, and was opened in 1781. It is one of the earliest and best examples of Georgian Gothic churches in the country.

Sketch of the Medieval church

Since 1781, the church has undergone several changes, the most significant being in 1901 and 1993. This last restoration attempted to undo much of the "Victorianisation" and restore the interior, as far as possible and practictable, to its original Georgian plan. This work, together with essential exterior restoration and internal rewiring and heating, cost some £500,000 at the time.

Tower

When the church was built, the original tower and spire was retained. However, the tower started to slowly subside and was rebuilt in 1891 as an exact copy, using much of the original material.

The church clock and tower

The tower houses a ring of 8 bells, dating from 1722, cast by Rudhall of Gloucester. The ringing chamber, some 52 steps up the tower, is also home to a carillon which strikes at 3 hourly intervals during the day.

At ground level inside the tower, various memorials grace the walls, including one to the Pauls, who built Highgrove, the present home of HRH The Prince of Wales, and another to Hamilton Yatman, who also lived at Highgrove and financed the rebuilding of the tower.

Facing you as you enter the main body of the church from the tower is the mural depicting the Annunciation, especially commissioned during the 1990s restoration. It was created by Pat Panton and Peter McLennan of Bath.

 Mural depicting the Annunciation

Gallery

Inside the church, the gallery was extended to run along the north and south walls very soon after the church was built. An open area has been created under the gallery at the back of the church (which, among other things, houses the shop). There is no admission to the gallery in normal circumstances, for safety reasons. The organ, by Binns of Leeds, has been restored to its original and proper place in the west gallery, from where it was removed in 1901.

 The organ

There is a fine music tradition in Tetbury Parish Church, with a good choir and talented organists. The Tetbury Music Festival began in 2003 and has become established as an annual event.

Font

The font is located at the back of the church. It contains a polished metal bowl which can be carried and placed in a specially designed stand at the front of the church for conducting baptisms during the Eucharist service on a Sunday morning.

The font

Nave

Cased in wood, the columns are themselves wooden and support the fine plaster ceiling. They are incredibly slim. The large brass chandeliers which hand down over the central aisle are also contemporary with the church. Each carries 36 lights, and are still candled and lit at some weddings and at great festivals.

Chandalier above the Nave

The windows are of exceptional size, and led to the church having been described as a “lantern”. The stained glass is Victorian.

Worshippers have a love-hate relationship with the box-pews, which with their gothic fronts are original.

The Nave

Chancel and Sanctuary

The East Window, of the Last Supper, by Wailes of Newcastle, replaced the original window in 1867.

The East Window

The original plan of the church was completely changed in the 20th century. In 1901 the organ was removed from the gallery and placed in the South-east corner, where it reared up like a carbuncle, covering one of the fine windows and completely unbalancing Hiorns original plan. A false chancel, raised three steps above the nave, was created and choir stalls placed within it. The pulpit, which dominated the church, it being an auditory or preaching church, was replaced. The sanctuary, too, was raised, and iron altar rails replaced the original wooden ones. In 1917 a screen was also added, running the width of the church.

In 1953 the sanctuary was lowered slightly and a reredos, consisting of the early 17th century painting of the Holy Family, flanked by the Lord’s Prayer, the Belief and the Commandments, was erected covering the lower section of the window. There is evidence that they were originally in the sanctuary, although prior to the 1953 restoration they were to be found in the gallery. The painting now hangs over the side altar (where the organ used to be), and the panels are in the tower base, either side of the door as you leave the church.

The 1993 restoration returned the church to a feeling of space and light, as originally intended by Hiorn, and provided space which has made possible many more concerts to take advantage of the church’s unusually good acoustics. The altar rails have reverted to wood and are partly original.

The Chancel

The north wall contains a monument to Sir William Romney, a native and benefactor of Tetbury, who made his fortune in London, and, among other benefactions, founded a Grammar School.

 Sir William Romney monument

The new pulpit / lectern was designed by Kenneth Bulcock and executed by Michael Roberts. They were also responsible for the votive candle stand. Many visitors pause for a moment to light a candle.

Recent excavations uncovered several burial vaults, notably of the Talboys, and of John Wight the incumbent who inspired the building of this present church, but who died before it was opened. The ledger stones were covered by the Victorian chancel. John Wight was also responsible for the building of the Vicarage (directly opposite the church) which is still in use as the Vicarage of Tetbury.

In front of the pews in the south-east corner, footings of the medieval church were found, as was the monument, probably 13th century, believed to be to William de Braose. It was in very good condition. These have now been covered in such a way as to make further excavation possible. An engraving of the monument is in the British Museum.

William de Broase monument

Ambulatories

These are a peculiar feature of the church and almost completely enclose it. They provide the only means of entry into the outer blocks of side pews. Various effigies are to be found in the ambulatories, including part of that from a De Braose monument, which had been broken up during the Georgian rebuilding. The face was found some years ago. and the rest during the 1993 excavations. Other effigies, in the north ambulatory, are, at the east end, of the Gastrell family (c1586) and, at the west, of ancient flock masters.

North ambulatory

The south ambulatory is divided, with a choir and a clergy vestry at the east end. The west end contains an exhibition of the history of Tetbury.


All photographs on this page © Kay Adkins