Somerford Keynes A Parish in the Cotswold Water Park
© Somerford Keynes Parish Council and contributors 2014-7
About All Saints Church Shorncote
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All Saints Church in Shorncote was made redundant in 1984, and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, which relies on charitable donations. The trust is running day tours of churches in their care in all regions of the country. You can find out more at the link above. The church is still consecrated and occasional services are held each year.

History

The (ecclesiastical) Parish of Shorncote contains only 485 acres. The population has varied between 40 and 13 over the last 1000 years and had a church because the Norman Lord of the Manor demanded his own church and his priest. The church is dedicated to All Saints and was built about 1170AD.   With such a small parish, the church was heavily dependant on the owner of the Manor for upkeep. William the Conqueror gave the Manor to Humphrey the Chamberlain but by 1221 it was included in the Honour of Gloucester of which the de Clares and, after 1314 the Despensers were lord.  In 1330 it passed to the Berkeleys of Beverston who are thought to have rebuilt the church. After 1458 the Manor reverted to the Crown and Mary Tudor sold it to speculators who lived in Essex. It was later bought by the Strange family of Cirencester who already owned the manors of Chesterton and Somerford Keynes. Descendants of Robert Strange sold the Manor to Richard Kemble, a London merchant and his descendants sold it to William Mill. The house and Manor lands had been let from 1652 to 1766 to the Hawkes family who have some memorials in the floor of the church and, subsequently to William Kimber. In 1820 William Mill died a very rich man and his charitable bequests are recorded on a board in the North Chapel. His son, Joseph Mill inherited the Manor and when he died in 1857, he left the Manor Farm House to his kinsman Thomas Skuse who is buried in a tomb next to the Mills on the East end of the churchyard.   The benefice of Shorncote was united with Somerford Keynes in 1881 and the church was partly restored in 1888 by William Butterfield. The last Vestry meeting was held in 1912 and the church subsequently treated as a chapel of ease with services once a month in the summer. In 1977 with Somerford Keynes, it became part of the Upper Thames Benefice together with Kemble and Poole Keynes. It was declared pastorally redundant in 1984 and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
All Saints Shorncote North Door The double bellcote at All Saints Shorncote Norman font Windowsill in Chancel All Saints Shorncote

The Church

This tiny church is a quaint place, walls and  arches at all angles, situated in a secluded country setting and still without electricity or heating. The church is late Norman, probably built about 1170. The nave was big enough to hold 100 people in the days when there were no pews or benches. There is a north doorway, now blocked. The Berkeleys acquired The Manor in 1331 and found the church much decayed and began a drastic restoration. The south wall was out of perpendicular but has remained stable. A porch was built at the south door with a sundial to tell the time. There are scratch dials either side of the door. Also constructed was a transeptal chapel on the north side of the nave, a narrow priests door was cut in the south wall of the chancel and a double bellcote built above the chancel arch. Decorated windows were inserted in the east and west walls and south wall of the nave. The whole church was re-roofed and that is still there today! As a reminder of this great work, the Berkeley coat of arms is incorporated in the glass of the east window. The Prayer desk contains pieces of Medieval woodwork and the pulpit with an unusual canopy  was made from panelling about 1660, probably by the local carpenter. Behind the pulpit are remains of stairs that accessed the rood screen that was removed at the Reformation. The Royal Arms above the chancel arch are those of George I or George II. The Norman font is probably the original In the Chancel, there is a blocked Norman window with a rare Easter Sepulchre probably constructed during the 14th century restoration. Some painted decorations from the 12th and 13th century may also be seen. The adjacent window has a sill formed from a stone slab similar to the coffin lids in the church at Somerford Keynes. In recent years the Churches Conservation Trust has produced a leaflet about the church with more details, available in the church for a donation.
All Saints Shorncote Sundial above porch Nave Easter Sepulchre All Saints Shorncote
Words and Pictures by Judy Monger
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