Fretherne Church

A Brief Introduction

By Craig Barney

How the name of Fretherne came about

The first known reference to a settlement here is to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086, given as FRIDORNE.


The name has evolved over the centuries, becoming FRETHORNE c.1166 when the de Frethorne family became Mesne Lords (Lords of the Manor but not owners of it). The first known use of the current spelling was in 1380 when it is documented that James Clifford became Lord of the Manor of FRETHERNE.  


The derivation of the name is believed to be Old English, and probably means ‘thorn tree where sanctuary could be had.


The present church

The present church is the third church known to have occupied this site. In 1844 when the Rev William Lionel Darell was appointed rector, the second church was said to be in such a bad state of repair that he set out to provide his parishioners with a place of worship:


adequate in size for the needs of the population, and of such architectural merit as to be, though small, yet a stately shrine’.


The dedication of the new church took place on 21st October 1847, conducted by James Monck, Bishop of Gloucester.


Within 10 years the seating had become insufficient and the Rev. (now Sir) W L Darell, 4th Baronet. offered to defray all expenses himself of adding the south aisle and south porch and the enlargement of the vestry and organ chamber.


The architectural style of the church is ‘Late Decorated’, reminiscent of Gothic designs of c.1290-1350. It is a style many relate with Auguste Pugin, whose work was admired by the architect of this church, Francis Niblett of Haresfield.


The exterior is faced with Stinchcombe sandstone and Bath dressings. The three-stage tower has four crocketed corner pinnacles from which spring flying buttresses to support the equally richly crocketed spire.  


The interior walls are all faced ‘in ashlar’ of Bath stone, meaning that instead of using solid blocks of stone, the cavity between the exterior and interior walls has been in-filled with cheap materials, and only the visible facings are genuine Bath stone.


Often referred to as resembling a small cathedral with its lavish window tracery, buttresses, parapets and gables, ornate ceilings (repainted by Kit Williams of ‘Masquerade’ fame), stained glass work by esteemed craftsmen such as George Rogers, and heraldic hatchments, this little gem of a rural church is well worth a visit.


Visiting the church

In the porch are hand-held ‘paddles’ on which are flip-over pages providing visitors with details of the church’s interior and exterior features and history as they tour the site.


Generally, the church is open each Saturday and Sunday, 9.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m.  When closed, there is a notice in the porch, advising visitors of where to find a key holder.


‘St Mary the Virgin, Fretherne – A History by Craig Barney’ 

For further details please click on this link page_id__301.aspx.

This page was added by Iris Capps on 26/04/2010.

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