Religious History

(Victoria History of Gloucestershire XIII, draft text by John Juřica: © University of Lopnpond 2011)


Upleadon’s church dates from the late 11th or early 12th century.[1] It was presumably built after Upleadon became the property of Gloucester abbey[2] and, although it had a graveyard from the mid 12th century,[3] in the 13th century it was recorded as a chapel to the church on the abbey’s estate at Rudford.[4] By the 16th century it was served by its own curate supported from land and tithes in Upleadon and following an endowment in the mid 18th century[5] the separate benefice was styled a perpetual curacy.[6] Officially a vicarage from 1868,[7] it was united with Pauntley in 1955[8] and also with Oxenhall and Redmarley D’Abitot in 1977.[9] Other parishes were added to the united benefice from 1981.[10]


In the early 16th century Gloucester abbey chose a curate to serve the Upleadon chapel himself or by a deputy with the use of a house (the Parsonage), 18 a., and a third of the tithes in the parish.[11] Although in 1628 and 1641 the dean and chapter of Gloucester, the abbey’s successors, placed the obligation of providing the minister on their lessee in the rectory,[12] the final choice of curate presumably rested then, as it did later, with the bishop.[13]  The bishop retained a right in the patronage of the united benefice that included Upleadon in 2008.[14]

Under the dean and chapter of Gloucester, if not earlier, the curate received a stipend,[15] in 1603 the sum of £6.[16] In 1650, during the Interregnum, the curate had £20 a year.[17] Following the Restoration the dean and chapter set the stipend at half of the rectory’s value but in the early 18th century the curate received only £14 10s. and by 1767 the stipend was set at £16.[18] A grant from Queen Anne’s Bounty in 1755 to augment the curate’s income followed benefactions from George Dowdeswell and the trustees of Hugh Boulter (d. 1742), archbishop of Armagh,[19] and was used in 1758 to buy 43 a. in the parish.[20] The living was worth £82 in 1856[21] and later grants from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, owners of the rectorial tithes, included in 1869 rent charges totalling £33 11s. 5d. in lieu of the £16 stipend and another annual payment of £10 and in 1870 others totalling £164 14s. 11d. to fund the upkeep of the chancel. [22] The rectory estate had been discharged from payment of the stipend on its sale in 1862.[23]

In 1845 a house was built on the glebe on the west side of the parish beside the Gloucester road. Designed by William Railton,[24] it was partly paid for by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and in 1870 it was altered to designs by A.W. Maberly.[25] Retained on the sale of glebe in 1918,[26] it underwent improvements in 1963[27] and, becoming redundant on the union of benefices in 1977,[28]it was sold and given a classical-style porch in the late 20th century.

Religious Life

The Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period

Nothing is known about religious life in early medieval Upleadon. At the church an arch that was Saxon in style and framed a narrow opening between the nave and chancel was removed in the 1870s.[29] Surviving from the late 11th- or early 12th-century nave are two windows high in both its north and south walls and a north doorway with a tympanum bearing a carving of the Agnus Dei.[30] The church’s dedication to St Mary is not recorded until very much later.[31] Its timber-framed west tower, dating from the late 15th or early 16th century, has four stages and internally is open to the nave up to the belfry floor.[32]

            Among the earliest known curates serving Upleadon, William Smith in 1508 faced a charge of not being chaste. In the late 1530s Upleadon was on the itinerary of men from Staunton (Worcs.) who openly defied Church teachings, denying the doctrine of transubstantiation and the efficacy of Confession. At one evensong one of the men broke a vessel holding consecrated water and sprinkled its contents mockingly over a companion.[33] In 1550 William Keys, the leading parishioner, began his will with a profession of his faith as a true catholic man.[34] Roger Lowe, curate for more than 40 years until his death in 1578,[35] was in 1551 exceptionally ignorant,

unable to answer questions on the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.[36] For a time he used a chalice and wore a surplice, and read the gospels on perambulations, but in his last years, when blind, he preached little and was assisted by a reader and the singing was once described as ‘very unorderly’.[37] Lowe’s successor Roger Shoughe served the cure in 1576 and was classed in 1593 as a sufficient scholar but no preacher.[38] The church retains an old oak chest and a bible containing Old and New Testaments printed in 1613 and 1611 respectively.[39]

From the Mid 17th Century

In 1650 the curate John Smith was not among the clergy described as preaching ministers.[40] About that time the church and its property probably fell into decay for on the renewal of his lease of the rectory in 1663 Edward Nourse undertook within a year to spend £10 on repairs to the chancel and rectory house (the Parsonage).[41]

            The succession of clergy serving Upleadon after the Restoration included Edward Jackson (d. 1678), rector of Rudford, in 1673,[42] and Richard Eaton, rector of Bromesberrow, in 1735 and until his death in 1745.[43] A longer service was that of William Mallet, curate in 1681 and probably until 1710.[44] After 1745 Upleadon was usually served with Oxenhall and Pauntley[45] and there was one Sunday service in church.[46] The church bells, of which there had been three in 1681,[47] comprise one cast by John Rudhall in 1800 and, as described later, a ‘parson’s bell’ made at the Rudhall foundry in 1759.[48] After the incumbency of schoolmaster Thomas Davies (1782–1823) Upleadon continued to be served with Pauntley[49] and in 1825, when the incumbent lived in Pauntley, the church had one Sunday service, held alternately in the morning and afternoon, and a communion service every other month, the latter attended by 5 to 8 parishioners. Many children went to the church Sunday school in Pauntley.[50]

            Andrew Sayers, perpetual curate from 1835, retained Upleadon after acquiring a living in Gloucester in 1841 and, having moved to the city from Pauntley, appointed a succession of curates at Upleadon. At first non-resident, the curates lived in the new parsonage from the mid 1840s.[51]  Sayers (d. 1874)[52] occupied the house and served in person from the late 1850s and was assisted by a curate in his last years.[53]

By mid 19th century the church was in a sorry state, its windows blocked and filled with ‘common casements’ and its fittings deemed unsuitable.[54] In work begun in 1847, and funded in part by a grant from a diocesan church building association,[55] the chancel floor was raised above the level of that of the aisle, the windows were restored, and new pews accommodating more people were installed, all to a plan by Francis Niblett completed by 1852. The south porch, which had been recently removed by one of Sayers’s curates, was replaced by a timber structure. Among the new fittings were an oak lectern and communion rail. The glass of the east window was designed by George Rogers of Worcester and is dated 1849.[56] Responsibility for the chancel, which was given a new roof during repairs in 1868, passed to the vicar in a deal with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1870.[57] At a restoration to designs by Ewan Christian between 1877 and 1879, during the incumbency of G.N.G. Lawson, the opening between the chancel and nave was replaced by a much wider and rounded arch, the nave was given additional north and south windows and its roof was ceiled, and the seating was rearranged. The pulpit, which is dated 1661, was rebuilt and a font was among the new fittings. A north vestry was added to the chancel in 1884.[58]

There is no evidence of religious nonconformity in Upleadon from the later 17th century[59] until a parishioner who was a member of the Society of Friends was distrained in 1816 and 1817 for non-payment of tithes; his house and some cows and corn were among property seized.[60] In 1828 a Wesleyan Methodist minister from Gloucester registered a house in Upleadon for worship[61] and in 1834 a room in a house there was registered as a dissenting meeting place.[62] Upleadon, where it was reckoned that in 1871 at least a fifth of the population was dissenters,[63] was on the Ledbury Wesleyan circuit plan in the late 1870s[64] and a Wesleyan chapel was built on the upper part of Forge Lane in 1886.[65]

            In 1888 C.R. Greaves, the new vicar, built a mission church next to the parsonage on the Gloucester road.[66] More convenient than the parish church for most parishioners the wooden building was used for winter evening services in 1912.[67] The parish church, particularly its tower, required further repairs in the early 20th century[68] and became seldom used, holding only summer Sunday evensongs in the early 1930s. The parish has several items of plate dating from the 1930s.[69] Despite work on the tower in the early 1930s the church continued to fall into disrepair, largely as a result of settlement,[70] and in 1966 it was declared unsafe and closed. It reopened in 1969 after its foundations and fabric had been strengthened and other restoration work carried out under the architect David Stratton Davis. New pews were installed and the organ, a chamber instrument dating probably from the late 18th century, was rebuilt.[71] Following the reopening the mission church was sold[72] and demolished. The Methodist chapel, which had a dozen members in 1950,[73] closed in 1969[74] and was demolished not long afterwards.[75]

[1]           Verey and Brooks, Glos. II, 787.

[2]           See above, manor.

[3]           Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. I, pp. 375–6.

[4]           Tax. Eccl. 161, where the name is spelt Witledene. See Reg. Lacy, 70;

Reg. Foxe, 367; Hockaday Abs. cccxxvii, Rudford, passim.

[5]           Below (patronage and endowment).

[6]           Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxiv; GDR vol. 384, f. 206.

[7]           District Church Tithes Act Amendment Act, 31 & 32 Vic. C. 117; see

Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1870), 664.

[8]           B. and G. Par. Rec. 280; Glouc. Dioc. Year Book (1955–6), 30–1.

[9]           GDR, V 15/1/110; Glouc. Dioc. Year Book (1978), 22.

[10]          Dioc. of Glouc. Dir. (1989), 52; (2001–2), 24–5.

[11]         Glouc. Cath. Libr., Reg. Abb. Malvern, II, ff. 69v.–70; see Cal. Pat.

1578–80, p. 233; TNA, C 66/1193, mm. 1–13. For the Parsonage,

above, introd. (settlement and bldgs.).

[12]          GA, D 936/E 12/2, ff. 161v.–162v., 414–15; see above, manor (other

estates: Upleadon rectory).

[13]          Bp. Benson’s Surv. of Dioc. of Glouc. 1735–50, 19; Fosbrooke, Glos. II,

216.The statement in Bigland, Glos. III, no 282, that the Crown

appointed in 1782 by reason of lapse is incorrect: see Hockaday Abs.


[14]          Dioc. of Glouc. Dir. (2008–9), 56.

[15]          Rog. Lowe (d. 1578), curate for over 40 years, was described as a

Stipendiary priest: TNA, E 134/28 Eliz. I Hil./10; REQ 2/73, no 92.

[16]         Eccl. Misc. 101.

[17]          C.R. Elrington, ‘The Survey of Church Livings in Gloucestershire,

1650’, Trans. BGAS 83 (1964), 98.

[18]         GA, D 936/E 112; Atkyns, Glos. 792; GDR, V 5/320t 6–7.

[19]         Hodgson, Queen Anne’s Bounty (1826), 170, 325; for Hugh Boulter,

Oxford DNB.

[20]         GA, P 346/IN 3/2; GDR, V 5/320t 6.

[21]          GDR vol. 384, f. 206.

[22]         GA, P 346/SC 1; London Gazette, 10 Dec. 1869, p. 6992; 6 Dec. 1870,

p. 5663.

[23]         GA, D 936/T 20.

[24]          Verey and Brooks, Glos. II, 788; OS Map 6”, Glos. XVII.SE (1884 edn).

[25]          GA, P 346/IN 3/4; London Gazette, 3 Oct. 1845, pp. 2886–7, 2990.

[26]         GA, D 2299/1618; P 349/CW 3/1.

[27]         Ibid. DA 30/100/31, p. 273; D 3867/II/61.

[28]          GDR, V 15/1/110.

[29]          Ibid. F 1/1/1877/9; below (religious life). Sir Stephen Glynne’s record of

his visit in 1857 makes no mention of the arch: Glos. Ch. Notes, 106–7.

[30]          Verey and Brooks, Glos. II, 787.

[31]          See Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1885), 610.

[32]          Verey and Brooks, Glos. II, 787–8.

[33]          Hockaday Abs. ccclxxiv.

[34]         GDR wills 1552/144. For the Keys fam., above, manor (manor:

Upleadon Court); social hist. (social structure).

[35]         TNA, E 134/28 Eliz. I Hil./10; REQ 2/73, no 92; GA, P 346/IN 1/1.

[36]          J. Gairdner, ‘Bishop Hooper’s Visitation of Gloucester’, EHR 19 (1904),


[37]         GDR vol. 40, f. 237v.

[38]          Hockaday Abs. xlvii, 1576 visit. f. 119; lii, state of clergy 1593, f. 7.

[39]         GA, P 346/CW 3/1.

[40]          Elrington, ‘Survey of Church Livings in Gloucestershire,’ 98.

[41]         GA, D 936/E 112; for Nourse and the rectory, above, manor (other


[42]          Hockaday Abs. cccxxvii, ccclxxxiv; GDR, V 1/255; Rudford and

Highleadon, religious hist. (religious life).

[43]          GA, P 346/IN 1/1; GDR, V 1/255; VCH Glos. XII, 120.

[44]          GDR, V 1/255; Atkyns, Glos. 792; Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxiv.

[45]         GDR, V 1/255; Hockaday Abs. cccviii, cccx, ccclxxiv.

[46]         Bp. Benson’s Surv. of Dioc. of Glouc. 1735–50, 19.

[47]         GDR, V 5/320t 2.

[48]          GA, P 346/SC 1; H.T. Ellacombe, Glos. Ch. Bells (1881), 68.

[49]         VCH Glos. XII, 300.

[50]         GDR vol. 383, no cxxxvi.

[51]          Hockaday Abs. ccclxxxiv, ccxvi; GDR vol. 384, ff. 104, 206.

[52]          Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, IV, 1260.

[53]          GA, P 346/IN 1/6; TNA, ED 7/35/339; Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1856), 380–1;

(1863), 367; GDR vol. 385, p. 213.

[54]          English Topography IV, 311–12.

[55]          GDR, F 3/2, pp. 9–10, 12–13, 25, 48.

[56]          GA, P 346/VE 2/1; English Topography IV, 311–12; Verey and Brooks,

            Glos. II, 788. For an undated plan by Niblett, GA D 2593/2/160.

[57]         GA, P 346/SC 1; London Gazette, 6 Dec. 1870, p. 5663.

[58]         GDR, F 1/1/1877/9; Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1879), 774; (1885), 610.

[59]          Compton Census, 544.

[60]         GA, D 2052.

[61]          Hockaday Abs. ccclccciv; for the minister, Marshall Claxton, see

Australian Dictionary of Biography 3 (Melbourne University Press

1969), 424–5.

[62]          Hockaday Abs. ccclccciv.

[63]         TNA, ED 21/6038.

[64]          GA, D 2689/1/2/4.

[65]          Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1889), 929; OS Map 6”, Glos. XVII.SE (1903 edn).

[66]          Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1889), 929; OS Map 6”, Glos. XVII.SE (1903 edn).

[67]          Glos. Chron. 26 Oct. 1912; GDR, V 15/1/110, rep. on mission ch. 1966.

[68]          Glos. Colln. (H)E, III, no 93.

[69]         GA, D 3028/1; P 346/CW 3/1.

[70]          See The Church of St Mary, Upleadon: an historical sketch and appeal

(1931: copy in Glos. Colln. R 320.1), 10, 13.

[71]         St Mary the Virgin, Upleadon (1998: church guide), 8; Verey and

Brooks, Glos. II, 788; H. Byard, ‘The Historic Organs of Bristol and

Gloucestershire’, Trans. BGAS 93 (1975), 177.

[72]         S. Martin, Upleadon: Memories of Times Past (1998: copy in GA, PA

364/4), 4.

[73]         Glos. Colln. JZ 4.10

[74]         Herefs. RO, AA 18/38.

[75]         GDR, V 15/1/110.