A description of St. Peters Church in 1874 by Harold Lewis from his book:"The Church Rambler"


My intention being to attend service in the curious weather-beaten little church of Limpley Stoke, I arrived in that village at a quarter before eleven on Sunday morning. I heard no bell, but as I believed the little campanile to be tenantless I took no note of that. I saw the people going forth to public worship, I saw a chapel with doors invitingly open, and I passed on up the lane to the church to find-a padlock on the gate. On inquiry I learned that the living being a small one is conjoined with Winsley, and the incumbent holds one service here in the afternoon. He is at present without a curate, and as the living does not admit. a large stipend the vacancy is not likely to be quickly filled, for it is not easy to keep heart and soul together now-a- days, much less to be
Passing rich on forty pounds a year.
The patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Bristol, promised the present Vicar that the livings should be separated and Limpley Stoke re-endowed. Twelve years have passed, but it has not been done. The Book of Common Prayer prescribes, " The order for morning prayer daily throughout the year," and though this is not always practicable the custom of many parishes, where an earnest religious spirit pre- vails, of keeping the church doors continually open is a commendable one. But if this is a matter of sentiment the services of the Lord's day are not, .and their omission is a grave and serious scandal, not only on account of the villagers in this case, but also the well-to-do population who inhabit the villas springing up around it, or visit the hydro- pathic establishment which is carried on in its midst. The essential principle of the Establish ment is that it shall maintain the worship of God in every parish, and the fact of the church being closed and the chapel open is a stronger argument for the severance of Church and State than a year's work on the part of the Liberation Society. Surely if the voluntary effort of Dissenters can , erect and maintain a chapel in a parish there is sufficient. zeal among the Churchmen of the district, if appealed to, to provide adequate ministry for the parish church. Surely the religion of Churchmen is as real and earnest as that of their Nonconforming brethren. Surely it ,is not to be said that our church is only maintained by the pious provision of our ancestors, that among Dissenters alone is religious effort to be found to-day; that our Christianity is but a tradition and a memory by which we hold church property and that the living reality of an active faith is to be found outside our ranks! Surely we are wealthy enough and earnest enough to remove the padlock from the church gate. Had I been anything but a Church Rambler I should have turned back to the chapel thankful that any body of Christians had taken up the sacred work which my own church had forsaken. As it was, I hastened down the lane and reached the Church of S. Peter, Freshford, in sufficient time for service. With scarcely an exception it is surprising how small were the churches in the neighbourhood of Bath prior to the Reformation. Freshford Church is one of these small edifices, as up to the period of the Georges it only consisted of a small western tower, nave and chancel. The little church of S. Thomas a Becket, Widcombe, with which most of my readers are probably acquainted, is a far more considerable structure. The church now has the addition of a side aisle to the north, but the less we say about that the better, although, as it must have been added fully 125 years ago, I run no danger of offending those who built it. I strongly advise the descendants of those who perper trated the enormity to remove their reproach. The nave and sentry box porch, with the old sundial hoisted above the roof, were built about the same time in the Strawberry Hill Gothic, rendered famous,by its originator, Horace Walpole. The chancel about twelve. years since was rebuilt, slightly widened and lengthened. The east window is four centred of three lights, the label ;moulding of which on the exterior has heads of ecclesiastics as bosses, with the head of our Saviour at the apex. The other windows are remarkably small, of three and two lights, each square-headed, well foliated and with re markably large cusps. Three out of four of these windows may be original. they seem far too smalJ, but they are numerous the chancel does not lack light. The roof is entirely new open arched timbered, of the style of the remainder of the chancel, late Perpendicular. The chancel arch is of no style at all, and there is one to match it in the north aisle, the two resting on a solid wall of masonry about four feet wide, which is pierced with two holes to allow persons in the nave to see the chancel. The arches between the aisle and nave rest on clustered freestone columns with plain capitals f in the chancel the column is of limestone with foliated capitals. The roof of the nave is flat ceiled, the north aisle has an arched ceiling, except when it is continued next the chancel, where it is again a flat ceiling. The windows too, in this portion of the building, are ogee headed in two lights. At least it can be said that the features of the church are not brought down to " a dead level of uniformity." I should not forget the font ,which is plain octagonal of the Decorated style. A pretty little western tower of three stories is the chief ornament of the building and anyone who wishes to carry away a pleasing recollection of the church should go and view it from the Tyning some other point where that only comes into view. It has very plain battlements, with angular buttresses pinnacled on their face and a singular arrangement of turret stairs at the northern angle. The ".. western window is partially walled up and the western doorway is converted into a window. How the devout dread fresh air. The church is fitted with pews with doors and high backs: how is it that these bear the impress of the latter half of this century. I had thought that pews ceased to be re-established much longer since. Inquiry elicited the reply that at the time this church was cleansed money would only be given on one condition-pews. The lamentable part of the church however is the wide galleries, painted white and supported on iron pillars, running the whole length of the north aisle and continued half way along the western wall. Under the tower is the organ gallery wherein also the choir is placed. This being erected under the tower does not project into the church; close beside it is the western gallery projecting its whole width. It is all galleries-the utile without the'dulce. Higgledy-piggledy is the best description of the arrangements of the seats, back to back, face to face, or shoulder to shoulder. .A seat has been long reserved, and is still curtained blue at the east end of the gallery, for a family famous in the times that are past as clothiers, but this will shortly disappear, as a search among the records of Wells has failed to prove the assertion that it is private property. The commandments, the creed and the Lord's prayer in gold letters upon black boards are the only adornment in the chancel. There are no stained windows, nor are any likely to be added under the present incumbent. The pulpit and read ing desk stand against the north wall, on the west side of the centre-I can scarcely call it the chancel- arch. On the reading desk the books for the minister attracted my attention for they were bound in calf with red labels and looked just like account books. The church is lighted in the evening by lamps and as the bowls were of plain white glass the yellow oil could be seen through them; it would be much more pleasing to have coloured ones. The chains by which the lamps hung from the brackets not being long enough they were ingeniously pieced out with string. Externally, the character of the church is on a par with its interior. Access is obtained to the gallery by a block of steps similar in character to but on a larger sca]e than those at Box. The vestry has been built as a ]ean-to against the side of the tower, in a very simple fashion. The service was conducted throughout by the Rector, the Rev. Thomas Whitehouse, M.A., of Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge, in a very plain and simple manner, but with great earnest- ness. I was pleased that in the Litany he introduced a petition for the Prince of Wales, now on his way to India.. The hymn book used was the " Hymnal Companion," edited by the Rev. E. H. Bickersteth, who I notice follows the custom which I wish was general, of giving the names of the authors of all the hymns. The first hymn was Montgomery's, To thy temple I repair. After which the precommunion service was readily the Rector. Drydeli's fine hymn Creator spirit by whose aid The world's foundations first were laid. was then sung, while the Rector repaired to the vestry and then ascended the pulpit to preach in his Geneva gown. His text was Titus ii. 13, "Looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and one Saviour Jesus- Christ." In these days, he said, while some denied our Lord and others were asking where was the promise of his second coming, this verse described the attitude of the sincere believer. He described what this was that they were looking for, and said it must be preceded by a series of events before which all the pageants of this world would grow pale. At some length he impressed upon his bearers that they knew not when that sacond coming might be and he urged them earnestly to be prepared for it ere it was too late for them to repent of their sins. The congrega tion was very numerous and most attentive to the service; and despite the discomforts and short- comings of the church, the general tone of the service was sincere and earnest. At the close of the sermon an incident occurred which would not have happened if clergy, choir and organ, were in their right position. The nector, who seemed far from well, made a mistake in giving out the number of the closing hymn. He said 381, " 318" came from the organ gallery in a whisper, audible all over the church, as he was beginning to read the first verse. " Three hundred and eighteen is it 1" he responded, and gave out the hymn O worship the king, All glorious above. The choir consisted of three or four female voices in the gallery, who did their work well, but no more fulfil my ideal of what a church choir should be than such an incident as I have described accords with my notion of the service of the Church of England. In accordance with the general character of the church there are no monuments in it of any great antiquity or interest. There is but one preserved of older date than the last century and that has a lengthy but interesting inscription to the memory of a member of the Ashe family, which with that of Ford, owned the greater part of the property in the parish in the last century. The inscription I refer to is graven on a black stone and is as follows :-
MARY ASHE, THE MOST SORROWFUL RELICT OF EDWARD ASHE, GENT.
HATH PUT THESE VERSES IN ENGLISH TO THE PERPETUAL MEMORY
OF HER DEAR HUSBAND, WHO DECEASED DEC. 31, 1661, AND OF AGE 26.
If all my vows and prayers had prevailed,
From death's arest you doubtless had been bail'd,
And you had mourned for me at death's cave,
As I do mourn at your untimely grave ;
But sith the just and righteous God's decree
Was not to heare my prayers, as I see ;
You goe to rest before me, whiles mine eyes,
Fitted for mourning, drop out elegies.
Sweet boanes Iy sort' the grave's a bed of trust;
: My boanes shall shortly mingle with the dust.
Here lies a peice of heav'n, and Christ one day
Will send his angels to Catch it away.
Heav'n hath his loui, the earth his corps doth hide,
Yet so that it shall not still heare abide;
His soul shall come with Christ, and at Christ's call,
Earth shall give Up her sh&re, and heav'n have aIl.
Olim umbrosa fuit quercus gratissima nymphis,
Fraxinus hic c&sa est sacra et am&t& Deo.
Concidit ante diem; sed germinat in p&radiso;
Corpore defuncto, f&ma perennis erit.

Leland says he came from Trowbridge to Bath, and by the way I rode over" Freshefore Bridge "of 2 or 3 faire new arches of stone." The Avon still dashes merrily on its way out of Wiltshire under Freshford bridge, and I think that the epithet " fresh" applied to its rapid current is the true meaning of the presence of that syllable in the name Freshford. In Domesday it is written Fescheford. The parish of Freshford lies on the border of the county of Somerset, and portions of it, the two hamlets of Shrub and Iford with Freshford mills and bridge are in Wiltshire, the river Avon being the boundary. The manor of Freshford when the Great Survey was made, was in two holdings each of half a hide. It is recorded under the possessions of Roger de Curcelle, " Alric holds of Roger Fescheford. Domne held " it in the time of King Edward. Robert holds " of Roger Fescheforde. Brismar held it in the time of King Edward." Iford, on the road to Farley, is mentioned in Domesday as Eford. Collinson mentions that within a few years of his writing the house here had a chapel and cloister, but the latter had been pulled down and the former converted into a greenhouse. Pipards, north of the village, take its name from the family which anciently possessed it, who were lords of the manor of Cold Ashton and others in Wiltshire through several generations, and whose estates passed by an heiress to the Botelers, Earls of Ormond. In 1332 however the whole was given to the abbey of Hinton, with which it remained until the Dissolution, after which it passed by purchase through various hands until in the beginning of the eighteenth century it was bought by Anthony Methuen, esq. Thomas Joyce, esq., is at present lord of the manor. The manor house, now called Freshford house, is re markable as the residence of Sir William F. P. Napier, whilst he wrote his " History of the Peninsular War." Around it therefore hang the memories of that noble and devoted wife who not only discharged all the duties that a large family imposed upon her, not only was a careful and sympathising companion to her husband but actually undertook and performed a task in the preparation of his history which he had abandoned as hopeless. When Wellington was told that she had deciphered the correspondence of Joseph Buonaparte without a key, he said, " I would " have given 20,000 to any man who could have "done that for me in the Peninsula." Adjoin ing Freshford was anciently another parish called Woodwick, or in Saxon days Unde- wiche. At the Conquest the manor belonged to the Abbey of S. Peter Bath, and is entered in Domesday book, " Ranulf holds of the church " Undewiche. A monk of the same monastery held " it in the time of King Edward." This Ranulf Flambard was also tenant of Corston and Charlton near Malmesbury , the property of the Abbey at that place. It would appear to have been alienated from them before the Dissolution. In the year 1448 the livings of Freshford and Woodwick were united, on account of their vicinity and the smallness of the income; this was effected with the consent of Thomas Halle, esq., of Bradford, the patron of both. It would appear from this time the church of Woodwick, which was not far distant from the church of S. Mary the Virgin Limpley Stoke, fell into decay, and village and church have alike been destroyed and the land has returned again under the plough. When Collinson wrote il; had long disappeared, though some tombstones and remains of a church had then recently been dug out in a field called Church Fields or Church Powels, in a district still called Woodward. The name often survives long after any trace of its origin has passed away. The rectory of Freshford has passed into the hands of the Trustees under the will of the late Rev.C. Simeon, who presented the present rector about two years since. Mr. Whitehouse had previously laboured for sixteen years as a missionary in India, and immediately prior to his acceptance of this living was for some years curate of the Bath Abbey, under the late Rector the Rev. Preb. Kemble, where his zealous labours and sincere piety won bim the esteem of all the congregation, who expressed their regard in tbe presentation of a handsome testimonial when he left. I may, therefore, be allowed to add that after such long labour in the vineyard, and with his weakened health, he may fairly pause at the stupendous task of rebuilding the church, for the present condition of which he can in no way be held responsible.