Church of St Mary
Gloucestershire GL7 5NR
The pretty Cotswold village of Bibury clusters around the ancient parish church of St Mary.
Saxon, Norman, Early English & Gothic Features
The church was built in the 8th century and remarkably retains many of its Saxon features. It must have been a very large and important church because it has Norman, Early English and Gothic additions. The changes were undertaken from 1130 when St Mary’s was a ‘peculiar’ church of Osney Abbey in Oxford.
The ancient history of the village is reflected throughout the church and its interesting churchyard. Look for the old ‘barrel and chest’ weavers’ tombs. A memorial stone on the north wall of the Chancel has a Celtic design and is said to have been carved by the Vikings.
Apparently, many of the pieces of original Saxon work were removed to the British Museum and today the replicas only are on view. However, above the south doorway is a genuine Saxon window.
The church itself is like a textbook of architecture: within a few yards you can see Saxon, Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular styles.
The Chancel arch is a mixture of Saxon and Early English. The Saxon piers have been preserved, with their capitals beautifully carved in an interlacing design and a graceful Early English arch added.
The Chancel is mainly 13th century work with typical pointed arches and slender round columns. Remarkably, there are 8 aumbries (cupboards for communion vessels and the reserved sacrament) and 2 piscinas (basins used for washing the vessels).
One of the windows in the south wall still retains its 13th century stained glass; black and white foliage is picked out in blue squares and red crescents. In another window is a little glass of the 14th century.
Reflecting the importance of wool to the medieval economy the lovely oak roof is supported on finely chiseled stone corbels depicting sheep’s heads. Standing on four legs is a delicately carved square font over 700 years old.
The north door with its ‘dog-tooth’ pattern and tympanum is a fine example of Norman work. In the tower is a very small coffin lid which may have covered a Saxon child, and near it is a Norman stone carved with a Maltese cross.
Also in the tower are two ‘skeleton’ memorial brasses. Eighteenth century brasses are quite unusual because they were going out of fashion by then. The one representing John Matthews (1707) has a skull, crossbones and an hourglass at his feet.
The other skeleton lying on a mattress represents little Mary Benning, only 13 weeks old (1717). Permission may be granted for enthusiasts to rub these brasses - always seek permission.
On a happier note there is a fine 20th century stained glass window in the north Chancel wall which may be recognised by philatelists. The window by Karl Parsons was chosen by the Royal Mail to be featured on its 1992 set of Christmas stamps.
While admiring the later stained glass look for the gaily painted scene of the coach in which Mr Rowland Cooper used to drive when he lived in Bibury Court!
This is a fascinating church to explore. Visitors staying near Bibury over weekends are more than welcome to attend Sunday service.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Booking.com here: External Link
Opening Times & Charges
The church is open during daylight hours and a steward is in attendance.
Admission is Free. Donations are, however, very welcome.
Guide books/notes, free parking.
For details of Service Times go to:
St Mary Church, Bibury External Link
The church has its own organ, permanent choir and local bell-ringers call the faithful to worship.
- By Car
Bibury is located almost equidistant between Cirencester (7 miles/ 11km) and Burford (9 miles/ 14.5km) on the B4425.
Google Map - Church of St Mary, Bibury