History of Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton


The church is cruciform in shape with a central tower and truncated spire. That there was a Norman church here is certain for in 1842, before the "restoration" of the church, there remained on the north side of the nave four Norman arches and, in the wall above, two small Norman windows, deeply recessed and splayed, and in the north wall of the chancel two windows similar to those in the nave were found walled up.

The other parts of the ancient church were of 14th century work, with a few alterations made in the 16th century. The chancel of the old church was considerably longer than the present one.

The so called “restoration" in 1842 consisted of the demolition of the ancient nave and chancel, which were rebuilt. The only old parts of the church are therefore the two transepts and the tower, which date from the 14th century.

This is early 14th century work, and was recovered from a garden where it was being used as a flower pot. lt was restored and an oak cover added in 1918 by Mr. & Mrs. Johnson in memory of their two sons killed in the war.

The area around the font has been cleared of pews so it gives an open space at the back of the church to focus on the font where we are baptised at the physical entrance to the church — the spiritual entrance to the Christian community — and a place to welcome people on a wide variety of occasions.

THE WEST WINDOW - over the entrance archway
This window shows the four Latin Doctors of the church, St. Ambrose, St, Jerome, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Gregory the Great; all are in full canonicals and St.Gregory wears the triple crown of the Papacy. This window was erected in 1899 and, together with those in the south aisle, was designed and made by Herbert Bryans, a brother of Edward Lonsdale Bryans, who was rector from 1896 until 1912. Each of his windows has in the bottom right hand comer his signature, a greyhound.

The nave dates from the 1842 restoration. The memorials in the clerestory (between the highest windows) are mainly of the Sheppard family who were Lords of the Manor from about 1665 until 1814 and who built Gatcombe Park, now the home of the Princess Royal. These memorials were originally in the old church. The coloured ceiling decorations are modern and were carried out by Campbell Smith of London in 1962.

The subject of these is the joyful mysteries of our Lady, starting from the east:

The Annunciation - notice the small inset of the Visitation with Minchinhampton tower in the background.

The Adoration of the Shepherds and Angels.

The Worship of the Wise Men.

The Presentation in the Temple.

On the arch leading into the south transept can be seen traces of the colouring which once adorned the whole church. They consist of the sacred monogram "IHS" and the crowned "M" from which it may be inferred that the transept was a Lady Chapel. This is the chief glory of the building; built about 1308, it is forty feet long, sixteen feet wide and forty feet in height.

Some of its features are almost unique. The roof is most singular, of high pitch, formed of stone slabs covered with stone tiles and supported by a succession of stone ribs, each adorned with pierced work. The immense weight of the roof seems to have no wall space to support it, the succession of deep narrow buttresses outside bear the thrust of the roof.

The screen is a memorial to the men of the town who were killed in the Great War 1914-1918. It was designed by F. C. Eden who intended that it should be painted, but the parish would not agree to this.

The Rood above the screen, the crucifix flanked by statues of Jesus’ Mother, The Blessed Virgin Mary, and his beloved disciple, St. John, is a memorial to Lieut. Harold Courtenay Woolcombe-Boyce, the commander of H.M.S. Ghurka which was sunk after striking an enemy mine off Dungeness on 7th February 1917.

Originally a spire which proved too heavy for the arches which supported it. From references in the churchwardens accounts in the 16th century, the tower had evidently been in a dangerous condition for some time. In 1563 the spire was taken down halfway and finished with the corona and pinnacles which give it so unusual an appearance.

The carved bosses on the ceiling beneath the tower do not seem to have been the subject of study by antiquarians, but the three central ones may represent the Holy Trinity. The boss on the north side appears to be a queen, possibly Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, who gave the manor of Hampton to the Convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen in Normandy. The remaining boss is a bishop and may be Walter de Maydenstone, Bishop of Worcester, who consecrated the "great altar” in July 1315.

The Chancel and Sanctuary contain a number of memorials to past rectors and people connected with the parish.

The altar rails commemorate Hylda Elton, the mother of Lord Elton. She was a devout church woman and an energetic worker for the overseas church. Note her likeness and that of St. Hilda carved on the gates. The rails are the work of local craftsmen having been designed by Thomas Falconer of Amberley and made by Peter Van der Waals of Chalford. The medallions of Hylda Elton and St. Hilda were carved by Mr. Miller of Chipping Campden.

The east window dates from 1865 and was erected in memory of Mary Ann Playne who was killed in a carriage accident. The upper lights show Our Lord reigning in glory and those below, his suffering with his church on earth.

To the left of the Chancel screen is the pulpit with statues of St. Peter, St. John and St. Paul, and above the pulpit there is an African Crucifix, a sign of our link with and a gift from the Diocese of Masasi in the south of Tanzania.

The theme for these is the "Te Deum" starting from the west end:

“The glorious company of the Apostles". The call of Peter and Andrew. This window was designed and made in 1961 by Edward Payne, a local artist and craftsman and a member of our congregation.

"The goodly fellowship of the Prophets”. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. This is by an unknown artist.

"The noble army of Martyrs". St. Christopher, St. Agnes and St. Stephen.

"The Holy Church throughout the world”.  St. Aidan, St. Hilda and the Venerable Bede.