LOCAL HISTORY OCTOBER 2021: Eight centuries of Manegoddesfelde
St James Church in Mangotsfield celebrates its 800th anniversary next year. Mangotsfield Residents Association member David Blackmore looks at its history.
MANGOTSFIELD'S parish church traces its roots back to Sir William de Putot, who was born in Bitton around 1178.
His ancestors were Normans from Putot in Calvados, who had fought for William the Conqueror in the invasion of England in 1066 and were granted lands in Gloucestershire.
In 1206 Sir William married Petronilla d'Amneville, whose father Robert granted him the land known as Chulhenerull – now Charnhill – in the manor of Manegoddesfelde, in return for a rent of “one pair of white gloves”.
Sir William fought for King John at the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 and later for John's son, Henry III, in Gascony.
He built a manor house and chapel of ease in Mangotsfield, having been granted land by Henry on the edge of his Royal Forest as the king created common land under his Charter of Disafforestation.
Almost 400 years later, a map of 1610 would show the church still “on the outskirts of the great stretch of wooded country in which Kings had hunted and outlaws taken refuge”.
The manor house stood on what is now the cemetery on the north side of St James Church and had its own way into the church, via a flight of steps in the north west corner.
Sir William entered service with the king in 1232 and would become the Constable of the Castle of Bristowe (Bristol) and Sheriff of Gloucestershire, which also made him governor of Henry's forest, then became Mayor of Bristol in 1241.
In 1362 mention was made of a chapel of ease in "Magnusfelde" belonging to the church of St Peter's, now a ruin in Castle Park.
Before 1438, all the dead of the parish were buried at St James Priory in the Horsefair, whose prior was effectively the 'parson' of Mangotsfield, but after this the authorities at Tewkesbury Abbey gave permission for burials to take place in the village, on the condition that parishioners regularly attended Mangotsfield Church for Holy Communion and paid the church 2lb of wax per year for life – perhaps for making church candles.
The next mention of the church is of the baptism of Simon Blount, on the day of his birth in 1472. As was the custom, an inquest was later held to establish Simon's age, at which Thomas Stanley recalled carrying a silver salt cellar to the font, because in those days it was customary to put salt into a child's mouth during baptism.
Sir Thomas Berkeley, 5th Lord Berkeley who died at Rodway Hill House in 1532, was initially buried at Mangotsfield in accordance with his will, which stated that he be laid to rest where he used to kneel in the church, under the partition between the choir and his own chapel. Within three months he would be re-interred in the Abbey of St Augustine, now Bristol Cathedral.
Sir Thomas bequeathed £8 per year for ten years to his godson Thomas Harcourt, a priest, to sing and pray for his soul, and an additional £8 to buy vestments for Mangotsfield church.
The church avoided the excesses of the Reformation in the 16th century, which saw altars, shrines, statues, and stained glass windows destroyed and religious wall paintings whitewashed over across the country.
In the next century it would gain a peal of six bells and a clock from churchwarden Jonathan Tucker of Moorend, whose name was cut in large capitals in the framework of the belfry, along with the date of the work, 1687.
The clock also had “Jonathan Tucker's free gift” inscribed on its face, and struck the number 4 bell.
Bell number 6 was later recast with the names of churchwardens Croome and Peterson, while in the 19th century bell number 4 was recast and bore the names of George Alford – the vicar from 1881 – and churchwardens George Lane and Thomas Burnett.
In 1921 the bells were recast into a peal of eight, acquiring the nickname of the “Mangotsfield Buckets”. They were recast once again in 1992.
The rest of the church building has been reworked extensively since 1811, when the roof was replaced and the north wall taken down, with its pillars and arches removed altogether, at a cost of £520 (the equivalent of £42,278 today).
In 1843-4 the exterior rough cast was removed and the stone work pointed, and in 1846 the old manor house built by William de Putot was bought for £160, along with neighbouring cottages, and demolished to make way for a new churchyard, which was consecrated five years later after the land had been levelled.
Other extensive alterations were carried out during 1851, including the removal of the old castellated porch on the western side, together with the old vestry, and the raising of the spire to its present height.
By this time, parish authorities had decided to erect another church to serve other areas of the parish, which included Moorend and Staple Hill. The foundation stone for Christ Church in Downend was laid in April 1830 by the Rev Charles Gray, the son of the Bishop of Bristol.
It was consecrated in 1831 as a chapel of ease but Christenings and weddings were not permitted until 1874, when an act of Parliament constituted Downend as a separate parish.
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 saw the renovation of the old St James clock tower.
Around the same time the medieval Bath stone figures of William du Putot’s descendant Edmund Blount and his wife Margaret were unearthed from under the chantry.
Having been in the Diocese of Gloucester between 1541 and 1897, the church became part of the Diocese of Bristol, and is currently part of the Kingswood & South Gloucestershire Deanery.
In January 1903 the Bishop of Bristol dedicated a three-light window at the east end of the church to the memory of the late David Charles Addington Cave, whose parents resided at nearby Rodway Hill House.
The Caves raised money for the church, including hosting at a two-day bazaar in 1907 which started a fund for a new organ and a fete opened by the Duchess of Beaufort 20 years later, in aid of the church restoration fund.
In 1933, during a visit by the Bishop of Bristol to dedicate a processional cross given by vicar's warden Mr E Churchill and his family, it was reported that the church had a much brighter appearance thanks to a newly-installed electric lighting system.
St James Church was made a Grade II Listed building in 1951.
Major refurbishments to the church from 2019 saw the building's interior renovated and refashioned, at a cost of more than £700,000, to create a space suitable for use by the local community as the church enters its ninth century.