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Flaxley Church

Flaxley Church

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN, FLAXLEY

There have been three previous church buildings on the current site.

The original church acted as a gateway chapel of the Abbey of Flaxley.  The Cistercian Abbey was founded by Roger Fitzwalter in memory of his father, Milo Fitzwalter, the Earl of Hereford, who was killed while hunting in the Vale of Castiard on Christmas Eve, 1143.  The Abbey Church was dedicated to the Blessed Mary of Dene.

By 1536 the Abbey had only nine monks under the Abbot Thomas Were and was amongst the earliest small monasteries to be dissolved by Henry V111.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Abbey was given to Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London.  The Abbey remained in the the Kingston family until 1647.

It appears that a chapel was erected by the Kingstons in the second half of the 16th Century. This was a low, single-cell building with a wooden bell turret on the west of the building.  The first known curate of the chapel, Edward a Fowle, had been appointed in 1563, his stipend being paid by the owners of the Abbey.

(GPO and Ordinance Survey reference GL14  IJR / OS ref 689154)

In 1647 the Abbey was sold to two brothers, William and James Boevey, who were wealthy Dutch merchants.  In 1727 the Abbey and its estate passed to Thomas Crawley, grandson of Anne Boevey, younger sister of William and James Boevey.  It was a condition of his inheritance that he should take on the name of Boevey and so he became Thomas Crawley-Boevey.  The Abbey remained in the possession of the family until 1960.

In the 18th Century Catherine Boevey planned to build a new church and set aside money for that purpose, but she died before it was built.  Mary Pope, her executrix, carried out her wishes. The new church , erected between 1727 and 1730, was a plain building with a tower and spire, slightly larger that the previous church.  It was described as being in lenghth "fifty-nine foot, with a tower at the west end......And a chapel twelve foot square and a height of thirty-six foot".

In 1851 the church was said to have just 130 seats, all appropriated for the household and tenants of Sir Martin Crawley-Boevey.  To meet the need for a larger building, the eighteenth century church was replaced in 1856, a few yards to the west, by the present church.

This church, which is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, was designed by George Gilbert Scott in an early 14th century style.  It was commissioned and paid for by William Gibbs (of Tyntesfield, now in the care of the National Trust), brother-in-law of Sir Martin Crawley-Boevey, and built by Mr James Coleman of Chaxhill, Westbury on Severn.  It was consecrated on 16th September 1856 by Bishop Baring of Gloucester and Bristol, as recorded on a brass plaque beneath the west window.  The church is built of red gritstone with grey sandstone dressings and has a chancel (with organ chamber on the north side), a nave with north aisle, a north-west tower, a spire and a wooden south porch. The  font and pulpit are of Painswick stone with marble columns. The original east window - by Jarente - and the reredos in alabaster, carved by J Birnie  Philip (who carved the frieze on the podium of the Albert Memorial in London) were shown at the Paris Exhibition.

The organ, of 14 stops with couplers, was built for the church by Grey and Davision and enlarged in 1888 by Nicholsons of Worcester as a memorial to William Gibbs' widow, Matilda Blanche (d.1887).

The east window of the organ chamber contains medieval glass portraying the arms and badge of Llanthony Prior, Gloucester.  The church's original east window was replaced by the present one in memory of Sir Thomas Crawley-Boevey (son of Martin) following his death in 1912.  

The church contains some fittings from earlier churches, notably monuments to Abraham Clarke (d.1683), William Boevey (the younger, d. 1692) and Catherine Boevey (d.1727),  and a bell cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1727.

The smaller bell was cast in 1873 and the clock dates from 1874. 


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