Touching Place

North Cerney, Gloucestershire

 

To many, the phrase ‘Gloucestershire church’ means a big town church like Cirencester, Northleach or Chipping Campden; North Cerney is something else. Head up the Churn valley from Cirencester, towards Cheltenham, and the church faces the village across the valley, opposite the Bathurst Arms.

The saddle-backed tower (partly Norman) is at the west end and the core of the church is Norman too; after a fire c.1450 it was given transepts. Before entry, search out the graffiti of a leopard and a manticore (a mythological monster) on the south wall. You will probably enter the church via the tower door; then go down the steps through the vestry, to be faced by an interior that is the embodiment of early twentieth century High Church good taste (but none the worse for that).

The churchwarden, William Iveson Croome, restored it in the first quarter of the twentieth century. His key move was to hire F.C. Eden as his architect, who reinstated the roodscreen and rood group; the figure of Christ (c.1600) was found in an Italian antique shop, but the loft and the other two figures were carved locally. Altars were reinstalled in the chapels, with three continental statues (St Martin, Our Lady and St Urban) in the south transept; the high altar has a medieval mensa.

The fifteenth century carved stone pulpit is original, but the sixteenth century Flemish lectern top turned up in a Gloucester junkyard! Some medieval glass remains. At North Cerney, Eden, Croome and the craftsmen created an interior that is a harmonious whole; even the eighteenth century west gallery and the more recent carved and painted Royal Arms of Elizabeth II ‘belong.’

Meditate upon Croome’s epitaph: ‘Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth’ [Ps. 26.8].

Pray for those responsible for maintaining and caring for churches on a day-to-day basis, churchwardens, key holders and cleaners.

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