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History of St Peter's Church

THE CHURCH OF ST. PETER – DUNTISBOURNE ABBOTS

A Saxon chieftain called Dunt gave his name to our stream.  The second part of the name was added after the Norman Conquest to differentiate between the land belonging to the Abbot of Gloucester and that of the next-door parish belonging to a Breton knight called le Rouge or Rous.  The hamlet of Duntisbourne Leer is now included in the parish of Duntisbourne Abbots.  It’s name came from the monastery of Notre Dame de Lyre in Normandy, to whom it was given after the Conquest.

There may have been a wooden church here in Saxon times, but the present building is thought to have been, begun early in the twelfth century.  The lower part of the Tower is of early Norman architecture, and the tower arch suggests that the church was built onto it at a latter date.  On the south side there is a small lancet window in a Norman embrasure, and the west window is late thirteenth century work.  In the upper part there are three interesting belfry lights with pierced quatrefoil in stone lattice working.

There are Three Bells – the Treble cast in 1979 from the former Second bell originally made by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester who cast the Tenor bell.  Edward Neale of Burford cast the Second bell in 1658.  All three were restored and re-hung in April 1979 in memory of Humphrey Carver 1903-1977.

The Nave and North Aisle is late Norman, with a two-bay arcade of Transitional work.  The North Aisle has Early English windows at the West and in the Northeast corner.  The Northwest window (opposite the door) was inserted at the restoration of 1872.  From the aumbry in the North wall we know that there was an altar in this aisle at one time.

The Chancel Arch was originally very low.  At the above-mentioned restoration, when sweeping changes were made to the interior of the church, this arch was raised on the present granite pillars.

At the same time the South Aisle and Organ Chamber were added; and the Early English Porch was taken down and rebuilt in its present position.  Note the small lancet pierced through a single stone on the East side.

The plans of the restoration show that an old pulpit was removed and the present one erected on the opposite side of the nave.  A gallery and stairs were taken down, and all the pews renewed.  There had been big windows on the South wall of the Chancel and Nave, and a door into the Chancel, but these were described as “un-ecclesiastical” by the architect, and were completely altered.

The walls were then stripped of their plaster, and heavily painted glass was inserted into the windows, which makes the church unnecessarily dark.  The interior is characterized by what the architect described as “plain work of a heavy substantial character”.

Note the seventeenth century lock and key and the beautiful closing ring on the Ancient Door.

The Font is a fine specimen of late Norman work, with trelobed ornamentation illustrating the Trinity.

The Stone Coffin, probably of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, was found built into the churchyard wall.  It was brought into the church at the beginning of this century.

In 1960 the Chancel was re-plastered and re-floored in memory of Sir John Birchall.   While this was been done, a recess behind the altar was discovered, which is thought to have contained a Relic.  At the same time the drainage system of the Norman piscine in the Southeast corner was exposed.  The altar rails were added in 1961 in memory of the Rev Phillip Brown.

Other memorials of interest include one of Dr. Matthew Baillie, a famous London physician who ended his days in this village.  The memorial plaque in the North aisle was designed in Chantrey, and in the Vestry on the other side of the wall is the entrance to a vault in which Dr. Baillie and his wife are buried.  Other members of his family are recorded in the 1872 windows.  In the Tower is a delightful memorial recalling the virtues of Ann Watson, and another (the oldest in the Church) in memory of Thomas Field and family of Duntisbourne Leer.  Here too are recorded the Village Charities.

Outside the Porch is a small memorial to Anthony Sly, Churchwarden in 1658.

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For further information about the history of this Parish, see the Story of Duntisbourne Abbots, obtainable from the Rector or Churchwardens.


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