The circular shape of the church gates reflects the Norman arches of the church within. The hinges with the dragon motif are a reminder of our sister church of St James at Stoke Orchard, a gem amongst English churches; there the dragon motif is found in the borders of the 12th century wall paintings depicting the Life of St. James, and dragon heads are seen in the hinges of the 12th Century North door. The visitor can enjoy seeing a whole series of wall paintings, from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Viewing and understanding the cycle of paintings depicting St. James is enhanced by a series of photographs on view in the church. There are no wall paintings at Tredington church, but there may have been a time when its interior walls were plastered and painted.
Approaching the church, the first view is of the fine wooden tower. There are two pictures of the tower hung in the church, the earliest by the Perpetual Curate, the Revd F J Scott, a rather fine etching which dates before 1883; the second is a rather faded photograph dated 1905.
The low tower of Scott’s etching probably replaced an ancient bellcote. The etching shows a squat tower, built entirely of wood. It has the reputation as being known as ‘The Pigeons House’; this may have led to the doggerel:
“Dirty Tredington, wooden steeple; wicked parson, funny people.”
Another form of the doggerel speaks of “Funny parson and wicked people”.
The tower of the photograph, dated 1905, few will remember as the tower was damaged in 1935. The tower was altered in 1883 by John Surman and Elizabeth his wife who lived at Tredington Court. A wall plaque commemorating the new tower is found inside the nave of the church; it has the inscription, ‘To the Glory of God and in memory of his honoured parents, who rest within the walls of this church’. The parents referred to were Capt. John Surman (1756 – 1816) and Susannah Washer (1775 – c1825).
The weather-boarded tower was built with a pyramidal roof. The clock was given by Commander A B Mansell in affectionate remembrance of his uncle, John Surman, in 1890. The 1883 tower lasted fifty years, and was rebuilt after suffering damage during a violent storm on Easter Day in 1935.
Rebuilt in a style similar to the former it was rededicated in 1936. The artist, Arthur Bell RA, drew the redesigned tower; only recently has cladding been added (to prevent rain water infiltrating the church). Today’s tower is clad with horizontal planks.
Early inhabitants of Tredington (Gentlemen and Yeoman):
It is generally known that the leading families in Tredington in Elizabethan times and much later were the Bick, the Surman and the Cartwright families. It happens that the first entry both in the baptismal and burial sections of our earliest register are of Bicks,.in 1541 the burial of Thomas Bick and in 1549 the baptism of John Bick. There are more than fifty entries to the Bicks in the registers. Walter Bick held land in Tredington in 1367, and the family continued to live in the parish until the death of Elizabeth Bick in 1830, aged 87. Living at ‘Lower Farm’ (later known as ‘Mill Farm’) in the 19th century was Joseph Bick, a farmer and miller.
The first Surman entry is a burial in 1546. Thomas Surman, described as a ‘husbandman’ was living in the parish in 1543. ‘Yeoman’ and ‘Gentleman’ were terms applied to both Bick and Surman members of their families. There were several branches of the Surman family, some living at Manor Farm and Tredington House and Tredington Court. The Surmans continued in the parish until the death in 1889 of Lieut. Col. John Surman, who was a Justice of the Peace, a Deputy Lieutenant of the County; he lived at Tredington Court as many of his ancestors had done before him. Born in 1805 at Great Malvern; John Surman married Elizabeth Goodlake of Swindon Village in 1827 at Swindon Village. John was a churchwarden for many years; he died in 1841 and Elizabeth in 1892.
Not only was John Surman responsible for the new tower of 1883, in the 1860’s he built a new vicarage for the parish (now the Old Vicarage); and he built and ran a National School in Tredington in direct opposition to the Board School (the present Primary School). For thirteen years, from 1879 to 1892, Tredington had two schools. Though the National School closed on July 1st 1892, the parish benefited, for the schoolroom became the village hall.
Many of Tredington’s known earlier inhabitants are buried within the church; this honour and the memorials (floor ledgers) and wall tablets to them inside the church mark them as the well-to-do of the parish, the Bicks, the Cartwrights and the Surmans in particular. Within the sanctuary there are ledgers to the Surmans and the Cartwrights, and in the chancel and nave to the Surmans and the Bicks. The earliest memorials date the deaths of Prudence Bick in 1639, Ann Cartwright in 1694, and Hester Surman in 1727. There are more memorials to later members of these families.
The North Doorway:
Before entering the church by the south doorway the visitor may first see the north doorway, blocked during the renovations of 1883. The doorway has an early twelfth century sandstone tympanum above it. This is badly weathered though three figures can be seen. With his hands together at chest height the central figure holding a staff probably depicts Christ, while on either side two seated angels or evangelists, each clasping a book in both hands, are facing Christ. The carving may represent the adoration of Our Lord. If the central figure represents Christ it is unusual in having no halo.
The tympanum is framed by stones with rather worn dragon heads at each end.
The Meeting Cross:
On the south side of the church is a Meeting or Preaching Cross, topped with an Iona Cross. It is not as old as the 14th century tall, elegant shaft, a single piece of stone, upon which the cross rests. When the Revd F J Scott drew the church the shaft was without its cross, but it is seen in the later photograph of 1905.
The South Porch:
Not to be missed are two reptiles! The fine Norman South doorway has a decorative design of a carved reptile, rather worn, above shafts of spirals and zigzags, and in the floor of the porch are fossil bones. They are not easily identifiable, though one could imagine them to be Saurian bones of a marine reptile of the Jurassic Period and even, with a lot of imagination, those of an Ichthyosaur. Simply as fossil bones they are a million years old, and certainly older than the porch which bears a dated stone of 1624. It is possible that the stone for the porch came from a quarry at Boddington, a few miles away. Perhaps the fossil bones came from the same source, but whatever the source, the fossilised remains are a unique and valued adornment. The dated stone also bears the initials CB; this may refer to Charles Bick.
On the large wooden supports for the tower are several small wooden shields displaying the Coats of Arms of families and institutions connected with the past history of the parish. They were hung in 1962 by the Revd D. Fourdrinier; the descriptions of the shields are mainly his.
A. Viewed from the east: (left to right)
1. Llanthony Priory in Gloucester held the advowson, the right to choose and present to the bishop the choice of who should be the incumbent of the parish. (This right at Tredington ceased to exist from 1860 when the advowson passed to the Bishop of Gloucester.) Though the Revd Fourdrinier makes the connection with Llanthony Priory in the City of Gloucester, others question this patronage. The first of two small roundels representing St. John the Baptist in whose honour the church is dedicated.
2. Surman Family, who settled here before 1546 and who remained until the death in 1892 of the last member of the family to live in the parish, Colonel John Surman.
3. De Clare Family in the 13th Century held the Manor of Tredington, part of the feudal Honour of Tewkesbury.
4. Cartwright Family, a family settled at Tredington before 1599 until 1764.
5. The See of Gloucester; the Bishop has held the advowson, the right to choose the incumbent of the parish, since 1860.
B. Viewed from the West; (left to right)
There is no shield on the far left post; the coat of arms of the Bick Family, who lived in Tredington for nearly five hundred years, may once have been on this post.
1. De Clare (see above) holding the Manor of Tredington in the 13th Century. (Strange that the De Clare Family’s coat of arms is repeated)
2. Warwick Family. The Honour of holding the Manor of Tredington passed by descent and marriage from the Clare family, through the Despensers and Beauchamps, to the Neville Earls of Warwick.
3. Henry VII. The Manor of Tredington came to the Crown by the Fine which Ann, the widow of ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’, was compelled to levy to Henry when he came to the throne after the Wars of the Roses and the Battle of Tewkesbury.
C. On the West Wall: (left to right)
1. Fortesque family. The Manor of Tewkesbury, with other neighbouring manors, was granted by Queen Mary, in the fifth year of her reign, to Anne, the widow of Sir Adrian Fortesque. Sir Adrian was the Lord Chief Justice of England. Anne, the daughter of Sir William Rede, married as her second husband, Sir Thomas Parry, Comptroller to Queen Elizabeth’s household.
2. Tewkesbury Abbey. From time to time, Tredington has been a Chapelry of Tewkesbury Abbey.
3. Craven family. Sir Adrian Fortesque’s grandson, also called Sir Adrian, conveyed the Manor by fine in 1620 (including the advowson) to the widow of Sir William Craven, Lord Mayor of London 1610 and 1618 in a junior branch of whose family it remained until 1860, Henry Augustus Berkeley Craven, having succeeded to the family’s Gloucestershire estates on the death of his father in 1828.
A ring of five bells was made by the Rudhall Foundry, Gloucester in 1700; earlier the church may have had just two bells in a simple bellcote. The smallest bell, number 1, is called the Treble Bell. The No.2 is thought to be the earliest bell cast by Abraham Rudhall the Second. Having cracked, it was taken down and later in 1981 was rehung after being welded by ‘Soundweld’.
The largest bell, tenor bell, No. 6, was recast in 1883, the same year as when the tower was rebuilt, at the expense of John Surman and Elizabeth his wife.
The 6 bell frame was fitted in 1928 by Mears & Stainbank Founders of Whitechapel, London. Until 1997, there were only five bells (No 2 to No 6 with No 2 being the smallest and then known as the treble).
The bells and their dedications:
No 1 Treble (note F sharp) was added to the ring of five in 1997. It was cast in 1910 by JOHN WARNER & SONS 1910. The bell came from Bishopstoke, Hampshire. It was given to Tredington by a former vicar, John Homfray, in memory of his sister Barbara.
No 2 (note E) was cast by Abraham Rudhall II and is inscribed ‘ABRA RVDHALL IVNIOR 1700’
No 3 (note D) is inscribed ‘CHARLES BICK GENT A R 1700 / MR THO CARTWIGHT SENior’
No 4 (note c sharp) is inscribed WM SURMAN IVNior GENT 1700 A R
No 5 (note B) as WM CARTWRIGHT GENT 1700 WM SURMAN GENT
No 6 Tenor (note A) as ‘JOHN SURMAN THO CARTWRIGHT CHVRCHWARDENS 1700 A R / RECAST MDCCCLXXX111 JOHN AND ELIZABETH SURMAN / MEARS & STAINBANK FOUNDERS LONDON
The Hatchment on the West Wall:
A large lozenge-shaped board with a gold coloured frame on a black background shows the heraldic designs of the Goodlake and Surman families; each half of the hatchment shows a rampant lion. The hatchment would have been placed in the church after the death of Elizabeth Surman. She married John Hughes Goodlake of Letcombe Regis in 1807. The motto of the Surman family on the hatchment reads, “Yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Elizabeth Goodlake (nee Surman) was the only daughter of William Surman of Swindon Village and Tredington. A tablet at St. Lawrence’s church records her death as 26 November 1843, aged 59.
The Norman Church consists of a long nave and a long chapel. It retains many medieval features:
- the chancel arch, above which is an ancient rood beam still in place;
- an original lancet window in the chancel;
- the fine communion rail;
- along the north wall of the chancel the medieval stone bench;
- the coved nave roof, now ceiled and painted white;
- some of the nave windows;
- the font.
The pews are Elizabethan, the altar table and what remains of the pulpit (redesigned in the mid C19th) are Jacobean. There was substantial remedial work in the C17th and in the C19th. The timber framed belfry has thrice been modified. The early medieval chancel arch has been repaired over the years. In the 1970s the chancel arch was reinforced with concrete tie beams. The church was re-roofed in 2001.
The Rood Beam:
The beam above the chancel arch retains the sockets, which, with the masonry slotted above, once took a central crucifix. The crucifix was probably removed at the Reformation.
The Nave Bosses:
The covered medieval roof has five rows of multicoloured decorative bosses of cherubs, men in crossed bandoliers, roses, acorn with oak leaves, strawberry and raspberry plants, and fleur-de-lys each position indicating one purlin on each side of the roof. Originally white and unnoticed the bosses were only given their multicoloured appearance in 2001; painted by Tim Troughton they bring a smile to the face. There is a blond man in blue, and a brown-haired man in blue, and a brown-haired man in green; one can imagine they represent the Bick, Cartwright and Surman families. Which parishioners were the cherubs?
The Roll of Honour: Thirteen residents of Tredington are named on the Roll of Honour 1914-1918.
Only H L Hargraves named in 1939-45.
On the back of the Roll of Honour, written on brown paper we find the following:
“Leslie Hargraves was a clerk in Lloyds Bank Tewkesbury, and when Ivor Potter was a boy he and another pal used to accompany him when he went rabbiting, to give him a free arm.” Ivor said he was a nice fellow, but, “they should not have let him go”, not cut out to be a soldier, like so many others. He served in the tanks, and damaged himself in training; but he and his friends were sent to N. Africa for the Western Desert campaign. “They pushed him out into the desert, and they never saw him again.” They were all killed. Ivor felt he ought to do something for Leslie (no one else seemed to bother). This was written when Ivor was in his invalid chair in 1993.
The churchwarden’s staff or wand was given in memory of Charles Ireland (1931-2004) by his wife Myrtle c2005.
A 17th Century Epitaph:
A brown watercolour by Arthur Bell records a rubbing made by him of an oval-shaped table tomb brass of 1656 stolen from the graveyard in 1990. It records a quaint but delightful epitaph; the original epitaph was on a tomb opposite the porch. The Inscription reads:
“TO THE READER
If Teares of Friends may be a Pollincture To make my dust to after times endure Or hearts of Men are Tombs, and a good Name Makes Epitaphs and Pyramids of Fame What means this Pile. It stands yet Thou mai’st see Time’s hand now jogs ye Glasse that runs for thee Perfects thy loose Accounts and Coppy mine Thy few surviving dayes, so shall wee joyne In triumph over Death and Time, and bee Most happy Consorts of Eternitie.” “Vale”
(For ‘Vale’ read ‘Farewell’; a ‘pollintincture’ is a washing of a body for burial. Had the thief read the inscription he may have ‘perfected his loose accounts’, mending his ways.)
Over 40 kneelers embroidered by local parishioners grace the Nave seats. Many are their designs, fish and rose, rabbit and bell, seaside view and matchstick characters, cross and mitre, fleur de lys and shield, crown and dove, with dedications equally as varied.
One larger kneeler, two embroidered grey doves with green tendrils in their beaks, is at the service of those who make their wedding vows in this church. Embroidered by Jennie Chatham, she has fittingly dedicated the kneeler to her daughter and her husband, the inscription reading, “Dedicated to Felicity and Paul Ball on their marriage on 5-9-98”.
The cross, made in the mid 20th Century was given to the church in memory of Hubert and Ann Harris and their four sons in 1937. Hubert was the churchwarden in 1901.
In white stone the reredos depicts the Last Supper. Jesus has his right raised in blessing; in his left hand is a loaf, while a goblet of wine is by his right hand. The left panel is of wheat and the right shows a vine; they symbolise the bread and wine of the Communion. Of the twelve disciples, two are seated on stools in front of the table; on the right Judas, holding a bag of money, appears to be turning away.
The reredos was designed and sculptured by W H Fry, assisted by Belgian refugees in its making. The funding for the reredos came from the estate of Edward Dowdeswell Darter, a Tredington saddler and harness maker, who died in 1911.
Norman lancet window:
A Norman lancet window graces the chancel as well as a 14th Century window with a king’s head wearing a jewelled and foliated crown. The king is unknown, but it may represent Edward II, who was murdered at Berkeley Castle in 1327 and who is buried at Gloucester Cathedral.
The Tapestry picture:
A copy of a 1545 painting by Daniele da Volterra, was given by Sally Hudson to the parish in 2012 in memory of her parents Howard Wilson Spiers (1910-1998) and Audrey Wallis Spiers (1913-1999).
The Wooden Armless Bust of Christ was carved at Easter 1977 and given to the parish by its carver JTK Martyn.
The Communion Cups and Flagon:
The original communion cup and cover was made in 1576; the maker unknown. Though not in the church for which it was given the Elizabethan communion cup can be seen in the Treasury of Gloucester Cathedral. The Stuart chalice of 1618 belonging to the Church of St James, Stoke Orchard is also on view in Gloucester Cathedral. (The parishes of St. John the Baptist, Tredington and St. James the Great, Stoke Orchard became one Parish in 1929.) A fine replica of Tredington’s Elizabethan chalice, which is in regular use, was made by George Hart of the Guild of Handicrafts and was presented by the Juckes brothers (Tom, Peter, Chris and Frank) in memory of their parents Richard (d.1981) and Dorothy (d. 1983) to whom the chalice is inscribed.
The flagon of 1886-7 (also in the Cathedral Treasury) was made in London by Cox, Buckley and Co. and is inscribed, “To the Glory of God and for the use of his church in her highest and most sacred service”. It was donated to the parish by John and Elizabeth Surman of Tredington Court in 1887.
The Parish Registers
The Parish Registers that are no longer in use are held at the County Records Office, Gloucester. In 1960 a transcript of the four registers was made by the late Revd Norman Fourdrinier. He undertook a mammoth task in deciphering these early registers, and, by comparing the registers with the Bishop’s Transcripts, greatly enlarged our knowledge of the life of the parish. It too can be viewed at the County Records Office. The Baptismal Register dates back to 1541, and with its first page missing, it may predate 1541.
From the Registers, we learn that there was an outbreak of plague in Tredington in the winter of 1610/11 when 23 people died (roughly, a quarter of the population). There was another outbreak in 1663/64 when again 23 people died, and a further 14 died when the parish was swept by a visitation in 1729
“Though this time not of plague but it was of the same nature as the one at Tewkesbury that year and as deadly, for people developed a sore throat and generally died within twenty-four hours. It sounds like the type of ‘influenza’ that played havoc in the country in 1918. Whatever its exact nature it carried off 14 people in Tredington in a very short period” (Revd Norman Fourdrinier).
Thanks are due to the Cheltenham branch of the ‘National Association of Decorative Fine Arts Societies’ who spent many hours researching and recording the furnishings of the church in 2016; these Notes make much use of their industry, to whom thanks are due.
Revd Chris Harrison 2017