The church has Saxon origins, visible in the stonework of the south wall. A Saxon arch leads from the porch to the nave, with a Saxon sun dial over it. These are now inside the porch, which was added in the 15th century, along with the tower. The porch is entered through a Norman arch, which seems to have been moved from the west wall, when the tower was added.
In the 15th century, when the wool trade brought riches to the Cotswolds, the tower (image below) was added to the west end and the porch (image below) to the south side, thus ensuring that the sun no longer reached the Saxon sundial which is above the doorway. In 1850, the Rev. Raymond Barker rebuilt the Chancel and added the vestry and the north aisle. The bells date from 1720, when there were just two, and in 1877 and 1887 two more were installed.
The south door of the church (image below), with its plain arch and carved capitals is Saxon, as is the sundial (image below) above it. The latter consists of a stone square with a circular dial outlined by a raised roll-moulding. The hole for the gnomon is clearly visible, and the markings on the face are well preserved, no doubt because the dial has been protected by the porch. The beautifully carved oak door is, like the porch, nearly six hundred years old. The craftsman has had to adapt the gothic detailing to fit the round arch, which indicates that the door may have come from somewhere else. The outer archway to the porch is Saxon, and was probably originally the West doorway arch, and was moved and re-used when the tower was built. The west side of this doorway is a massive single stone, no easy task to move in the days before cranes and fork-lift trucks.
The original structure of the Nave changed with the addition of the north aisle in 1850. Prior to that, a cross wall in the middle divided the Nave in two, and, above this, there was an upper room over the western half, referred to as a loft, and mentioned in an inventory of 1677 as containing a carpet and a number of books, indicating that it was used as a dwelling or vestry by the priest. Below, there are photographs showing the nave as it currently is.
The altar (image below) was found when the cross wall was demolished in 1845 and is now a credence table set against the north Chancel wall. All this is shown in a picture (image below), which is hung in the porch and is dated 1868.
The Font, like the tower and the porch, dates from the 15th century. The face of the Green Man is hidden in the carved stone foliage under the overhang. He has been a symbol of health, harvest and fertility since pre-Christian days. The font cover, in three different varieties of oak, is by Paul Spriggs, which is a descendant of the Barnsley family, and is a modern gift to the church in the same tradition as the carved War Memorial, which shows leaves and flowers found locally, and was the work of one of the Sapperton school of craftsmen. The communion rails and gates are also local work in oak and date from the 18th century. In the south wall of the Nave, just by the pulpit, there is a stone corbel with the carved wooden head of a lady set into it.
The great treasures of the church, however, are the four 10th century Saxon sculptures, three of which were discovered when the chancel arch was rebuilt by Canon Barker in 1850. There is no record to show at what time these carvings were built into the chancel arch, or why they were so treated. They formed the vertical jambs of the arch, with the sculpted side hidden, facing inwards, and because of this all the figures have lost their toes.
The smallest stone (image below), which is now above the pulpit, is a Crucifixion. It used to be on the East gable end before it was brought inside for safety. The other three sculptures (images below) are in a single characteristic style, and are almost certainly the work of just one craftsman. It is hard to be precise about the date, but experts are satisfied that stylistically they can be considered pre-Conquest following the Syrian tradition and are of crude, though inspired, work.
The first subject, another Crucifixion, shows Christ bearded and with moustache, clad in a long tunic whose folds are sown below a girdle. The feet are not crossed and the lower part of the bodice has been shown as if transparent, so that the body of Christ shows through it. The cross has arms that widen towards the ends and Christ’s halo is decorated with a similar cross. On either side is a soldier, one holding a spear and the other a sponge on a reed and a jug of vinegar. In Saxon times artists did not like to think of Our Lord as subservient and crucified, so He is portrayed as a much larger and more dominant figure than the two soldiers who flank him. Tradition has it that the soldier who smote Christ with the spear’s name was Longinus or Longius, and the other is Stephaton.
The second sculpture is a Christ in Majesty with cruciform halo, seated on a simple chair with a single garment open at the neck, carried down to the ankles, and fastened by a band around the waist. He is portrayed with a beard and moustache, and holds a cross in His left hand, while He gives the benediction with His right.
The third panel, which corresponds in size with the other two, is a figure of St. Peter, similarly clothed, holding a book pressed against his breast in the left hand and a large square key in the right, which is no doubt the key of Heaven. According to Chrles Keyser, when these three sculptures were first discovered, they were set over the chanced arch, and it must be assumed that they were moved to their present position when the organ was installed in 1918. The importance and beauty of these four stones cannot be stresses enough, and they are of a similar quality and primitive beauty as those at York Minster which gave inspiration to Henry Moore, Eric Gill and other modern day sculptors.
The only stained glass in the Church is a representation of the Prince of Wales feathers in the West window under the tower. The present Prince of Wales is Lord of the Manor, but the glass records an earlier Prince, possibly Prince Hal, later Henry V, or Prince Arthur eldest son of Henry VII, who died in 1502.
The only remaining Saxon window can be seen outside the church, just west of the porch. It was blocked up when a larger window was inserted alongside in the 14th century. The small two-light Saxon window to the vestry (now almost hidden behind the oil tank) has been cut from a Roman altar, and part of the inscription, ‘Dae Matres’ apparently still remains. The stone is pre-Christian, pierced by the Saxons for use as the East window, and according to Antony West in the Gloucester Shell Guide of 1939, it was “dedicated by Junia to the genius of the place”, or alternatively, according to Essays in Bristol and Gloucestershire History, the inscription reads “’ma (trib)us et ge(nio l)oci’ – a dedication to the Mother Goddesses and to the Genious of the Place”. However, it has been impossible to find any inscription except RIP, which is upside down, and the stone was moved to its present position when the Chancel was rebuilt.
The churchyard has seven 17th and 18th century gravestones (image below). They are very worn but all carved with rather ‘grumpy’ looking cherubs on them, almost certainly by the same family of masons. There are two similar sarcophagi, one of which has cherubs and a skull on it. The remains of a mediaeval cross (image below) can be seen almost opposite the doorway. It has two heavy steps, on which is set a socket with a moulded fillet running around the base, and the shaft is square, having the angles chamfered, and is mortised into the socket. The whole is massive in character and weatherworn and is thought to be much the same age as the original church.
Acknowledgement & References:
Credit is due to the author/authors of the booklet ‘The Church of the Holy Rood’ (October, 2005), from which much of the above description is borrowed. The photographs, accompanying the narrative, were taken by Sonia Pritchard. The photographs in the header of this page were taken by Alasdair Ogilvie.
Studies in Church Dedications. F. Arnold-Foster, 1899.
Anglo-Saxon Architecture. H. M. Taylor & J. Taylor, 1965.
Old Crosses in Gloucestershire. Charles Pooley, 1868.
Shell Guide to Gloucestershire. A. West, 1939.
Daglingworth Church. Charles Keyser.
The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire I, The Cotswolds. D. Verey, 1979.
Gloucestershire I: The Cotswolds. D. Verey & A. Brooks, 1999.