History

In common with many churches, there is no record of when Winterbourne church was founded but clues from what remains lead us to believe that there was a building here by the beginning of the 13th century.  Written evidence appears at the end of the century and Winterbourne comes into focus with the arrival of Thomas Bradeston as Lord of the Manor in 1328. 

Thomas seems to have risen from his position as tenant and comrade-in-arms of the Earls of Berkeley to high status, perhaps as a reward for help given to Edward III as he struggled to secure his position on the throne of England.  Evidence of Thomas’ rise to fame can be seen in the Great East window of Gloucester Cathedral where his coat of arms is displayed alongside those of other notables of the time.  The influence of Thomas on our parish church is clear to see - monumental effigies, wall paintings and an elegant brass to his wife, Agnes. 

 

After the 14th century, Winterbourne returned to obscurity once more although in the religious upheavals following the death of Henry VIII, it became the refuge of the first bishop of Bristol, Paul Bush.  The bishop had taken advantage of Henry’s reforms by marrying and the reign of the catholic Mary Tudor put him in an impossible position so that retirement to a quiet country parish was the safest option.

 

The 18th century saw the installation of 6 bells in the church tower.  Unlike many bells cast over the centuries, none of these bells have been replaced and they still ring out each Sunday to call people to worship. Each bell bears an inscription - the fifth bell telling us "We were all cast at Chepstow by Wm. Evans (1757).

 

The 19th century brought many changes to Winterbourne church in spite of growing poverty in the village.  The arcade between nave and aisle was rebuilt, the church reroofed.  In 1856 the East end of the chancel was rebuilt and a new reredos provided.  The skill of its young sculptor, called Farmer, was recognised by its display in the Medieval Court of the International Exhibition of 1862 in London.

 

The 20th century brought “mod cons” to the church in the form of electric lighting, a kitchen and a toilet but thought was also given to beauty with the installation of a new stained glass window designed by Alan Younger who also designed windows for Durham Cathedral and other important edifices. 

 

That is, of course, not the end; Winterbourne church is a living building and so never finished.  There will be further changes as we, like other generations before us, strive to make our church fit for its time.

 

 

“Winterbourne Parish Church - a Guide and History”, which contains more information and a walk-round guide, may be purchased from the Benefice Office (price £2 including UK postage).