St. Mary's: the Church and its History

On this page you will find

Tour of the Church

Our church dates back over 800 years. These pictures show some of the interesting features you can see if you visit.

The original church consisted of a nave (14 feet shorter than it is now), short transepts, chancel, and small central tower. In 2008 some pews were removed from both the east and west ends of the nave to create more space.

The font is an original tub-shaped font, possibly 12th century and then recut in the 14th century.

In the background is a modern Madonna and Child, sculpted in 2000 to celebrate the new millenium and to commemorate the church's dedication to St Mary.

During the 13th century, the south transept was extended and raised so that there could be a Chantry for masses, with a room above for a resident priest. This Chantry is now St David's Chapel.

This ancient alms chest may go back to 1190, when such chests were ordered for collecting money towards the Third Crusade. It is a solid log of wood, with a very small cavity for coins, and once had iron bands and locks. Formerly in St David's Chapel, it can now be found at the east end of the north transept.

Moving from the chapel towards the chancel, we pass the brass lectern, given when the church was remodelled in 1877/8.

The chancel gates, and also the screens to the north and south aisles, were given by Sir Frederick Dixon Hartland and his wife early last century.

View of the chancel and altar. The chancel arches are sharply pointed and without capitals.
If the floor were some 2ft 6ins lower (as it once was) they would be even more impressive.

In the chancel there is an ancient piscina, once used for washing communion vessels.

This stained glass window in the chancel is extremely unusual, in that it was given by Japanese naval officers. It is in memory of Robert Podmore, who died in 1907. He was the young son of a director of the firm which had recently built warships for the Japanese Navy.

If you look up as you leave the chancel, you will see the bell-hole by which bells are lifted to the ringing chamber, and then to the bell chamber. It dates from about 1390.

Next on our tour of the church, we pass the pulpit, dating from 1877-8. It was designed by John Middleton, the architect responsible for the church's remodelling at the time.

Ahead of us, high on the north wall, is the magnificent Royal Arms measuring 8ft by 8ft, which was acquired in 1660 to celebrate the Restoration of Charles II. Charlton Kings was strongly royalist during the civil war. This is one of the oldest Royal Arms in the country. It was slightly altered in the reigns of William III and George II, and restored in 1988 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of George III's visit to Charlton Kings.

Turning back towards the west end of the nave, you will see our wonderful rose window,
originally installed in 1824. Try to visit at sunset on a sunny day for a truly awesome sight.

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Church History

St Mary’s was dedicated in 1190 by William Bishop of Hereford as a chapel of ease to St Mary’s Cheltenham which at that time belonged to the Augustinian Abbey of Cirencester. It originally consisted of a nave, a chancel, two short transepts and, it is believed, a small bell tower at the crossing.

Towards the end of the 13th century the south transept was adapted to become a chantry chapel and was dedicated, like the high altar, to Our Lady. A room was created above this to accommodate a visiting, or resident chantry priest.

In the late 14th/early 15th century the tower was rebuilt with a very high chancel arch. A south aisle was added at a similar or slightly later time.

In 1629 an agreement was made with Jesus College, Oxford whereby they would nominate three celibate, graduate members of the college from whom the patron of St Mary’s would select one to serve in Charlton Kings for a maximum of 6 years. Soon after this pews and, very possibly, the 3-decker pulpit (removed in the 1860s) were installed.

At the beginning of the 18th century the south porch was rebuilt and around this time the church clock was installed.

The early 19th century saw the first major building alterations for 400 years. At around 1800 a south gallery with an external staircase was built and between 1822-24 the north aisle was built and the church was repewed. The Rose Window was installed at the west end between two new 3-light windows.

In 1832 the 200-year-old agreement with Jesus College ended and so St Mary’s was able to have married clergy and they in turn were able to hold the living for longer than 6 years.

In 1875 The Revd. Charles Leslie Dundas (1875-1883) was appointed and almost immediately set in motion a major restoration project. He appointed John Middleton as architect and in 1877 the work began. The galleries were removed, the floor raised and repewed, the nave was extended by 14ft and alternate round and octagonal pillars were built. Sadly the 12th century west door was removed, but the Rose Window was retained.

On 25th April 1878 the church was reopened by the Bishop and it was on this occasion that the choir, which would now consist of boys as well as men, robed for the first time in cassocks and surplices.

The next alteration to the building was in 1884 when the north transept was lengthened to accommodate a small box like building as vestry for the choirboys, this was removed in 1898-9 when the clergy vestry was enlarged and a new choir vestry was built. In1901 a reredos of pink marble with alabaster figures was carved by a member of the congregation, W. H. Fry.

In July 1904 The Revd. Thomas Hodson (1892-1906) introduced a Daily Communion service, a practice which continued until the start of the interregnum in September 2002.

In 1911 the south transept was adapted to become a chapel and was dedicated to St David. On Easter Day 1914 the servers robed for the first time in scarlet cassocks and lace cottas. Similarly on Easter Day 1915 the vicar The Revd Edgar Neale (1906-1936) began to wear vestments for Sung Eucharists and processions.

In 1917 the choir vestry was enlarged and in 1920 the Rood Beam, designed by a member of the congregation George Ryland, was erected and together with a tablet, containing the names of those from the church who had fallen, became the church’s War Memorial. At the same time the Lych Gate was built as a ‘Thank Offering for Peace’. These were dedicated by the Bishop at our Dedication Festival, 3rd October 1920.

In 1938 the south west corner of the church was adapted to form a Baptistry in memory of the Revd. Edgar Neale and in the same year a reredos for St David’s chapel was carved by Alfred George Washbourne Hailing.

No further structural changes were made until 1988 when both the vestries were enlarged. On our 800th anniversary in 1990 a coloured glass depiction of the church was included in the plain glass window of the North Transept and in 2000 a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus was commissioned, for the Millennium, and installed in the Baptistry.

In 2007 two rows of pews were removed at the West end of the nave, and one row from the East end. The additional space provides room to include drama in services and for the congregation to move around the church more easily.

Much of this brief outline of the history and development of St Mary’s
is based on and acknowledges the research carried out by Mrs Mary Paget M.A.
and published in the book “A History of Charlton Kings”.
We are grateful to Mrs Paget for giving permission for us to draw upon it.
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