WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON IN THE NARTHEX?
Prior to the re-ordering of the church that was carried out during 2017 a significant amount of archaeological investigation was done and one of the conditions imposed by the Diocese when granting the Faculty was a requirement for archaeological oversight throughout the works. As a result we now have more information concerning the history of the church in Minchinhampton from the 12th century onwards than ever before. The illustrations included here are taken from the archaeologist, Chiz Harward’s extensive report on his findings.
The Medieval Church
Although there was probably an Anglo-Saxon church on the site, there is no record or physical evidence of it and the first priest was recorded in Minchinhampton in 1086. The earliest fabric of the present church dates from the early 14th century and during the re-ordering work, a quantity of material and artefacts were recovered which the archaeologist felt were worthy of permanent display.
Of particular interest are a number of pieces of a finely dressed stone slab inscribed with a mason’s working drawing showing the setting out for a cusped ogee arch bearing some similarity to the early fourteenth century side windows of the Lady Chapel. This may be of national significance.
An inscribed limestone ledger had been laid as a floor slab in the Lady Chapel, probably during work carried out in 1842. The passage of feet over many years has largely worn away the original inscription over the central part of the stone, but at the two ends the wording is clearly visible and includes the date of 1608. This slab has now been fixed vertically to the north wall of the narthex.
A stone cross slab dating from the 12th or 13th century, which has been lying in the churchyard for many years has been cleaned and fixed vertically to the south wall of the narthex beside another of similar age. This slab still has a relatively high moisture content and some black lichen growth, but as it dries out it is expected to lighten in colour and the carving on the surface will become more apparent.
During the building of the Porch Room in 1972/73, it was necessary to exhume a number of graves. Nine of them had brass plates attached to memorials and for almost 50 years these had been fixed to the retaining wall behind the kitchen. The plates have now been cleaned and waxed and, together with one from elsewhere in the churchyard, have been fixed to the south wall of the narthex. Some are finely engraved and there are a number family names that occur on other memorials already in the narthex.
A significant proportion of the cost of the re-ordering work was given by the David Thomas Trust and a new plate in memory of David Thomas has also been fixed to the south wall together with a stone plaque recording the dedication of the work by the Bishop of Gloucester in the presence of HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, on 27th April 2018.
Included below is an article written by the church archaeologist, Chiz Harward, giving us more information about Cross Slabs with particular reference to the Cross Slabs of Holy Trinity Church. Chiz will be writing a shorter version of his ‘Archaeological Post-excavation Assessment Report’ 2019 to help the reader appreciate the context of the archaeological discoveries from his excavations in the church. This will be published on the church website and in the magazine. So more to follow!