Church of All SaintsGloucester
Almshouse Road
Gloucestershire GL16 8NL
 

 

It is the ancient Church of All Saint that attracts most visitors to the charming west Gloucestershire village of Newland in the Forest of Dean. So impressive is this church that it is known locally as the “Cathedral of the Forest”.

Newland Village
Newland Village itself clusters around the church, showing no sign of the mining heritage that characterises so many of the Dean’s villages and towns. It is situated on a low flat-topped hill, on the east side of the River Wye and 3 miles (4.8 km) south-west of the Welsh town of Monmouth.
 
The Parish
At Newland, a parish was created and a church erected long before a village was built. In the early Middle Ages a small area of Royal woodland was grubbed out to provide a clearing for a church. The formation of the parish was well underway by the start of the 13th century; by the 14th century isolated communities from all over the Forest of Dean were being brought under the umbrella of the newly created parish.
 
Gradually houses joined the church in the clearing to form the settlement of “Woodend”. The settlement was later renamed Newland.
 
All Saints, Newland
Now we know the parish history it is easy to understand why this tiny village has such a large and impressive church. All Saints was probably quite small when it was begun in the early 1200s. As the parish expanded over the next two hundred years, the church increased in size and shape.
 
A small west tower was added in the late 13th century, and embellished with upper stages in the late 14th or early 15th century.
 
A major restoration in the 1860s widened the chancel arch and slightly raised the roof of the nave.
 
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History
Upon entering through the 14th century south porch, the visitor is met with an imposing interior. There is a large nave with aisles and arcades, and a south chapel. At the east end is the Sanctuary and the chancel with side chapels.
 
In a community, the early churches had a dual purpose. They were ‘public’ buildings as well as ‘holy’ places. It is hard to imagine now, but there were no seats of any sort within the nave or aisles. The base of the tower was used to store scythes and ladders etc., and fire-fighting equipment.
 
The 'holy' part of any church started at the chancel steps. In this church the ordinary services took place in one of the side chapels or in the chancel.
 
The chancel, the chapel south of it, the arcades and aisles, and the south porch are mainly 14th century features, and the north and east chapels were added in the 15th century.
 
These days, the church is full of ancient tombs spanning the centuries, curious brasses, wall monuments, colourful stained glass and the most wonderful ecclesiastical needlework by renowned artist, Beryl Dean.
 
The medieval manorial families, who built the chapels and paid for the clergy to say masses for their souls, lie atop splendid tombs dressed in their latest finery and armour. These tombs are a vivid record of fashion through the centuries.
 
But not all the figures are Lords and Ladies - at the west end of the south aisle, near the old font, is the effigy of Jenkin (John) Wyrall, dated 1457. John Wyrall held an important position in the government of the Forest of Dean because he was a 'Forester at Fee'. This effigy was brought in from the churchyard in the 1950s to prevent further damage and erosion. His simple clothes and hairstyle tell us a lot about the clothes of the period.
 
Over 800 years of history and social change are crammed into this wonderful building. A few of its treasures are detailed below:
 
- The Priests
The first rather interesting thing is the kind of people who provided pastoral care to such a large parish. King John appointed Robert of Wakering as first Rector in 1216 but the actual pastoral care would have been done by other clergy. Each chapel had its own staff of priests to say masses. As the parish grew, the Rector appointed vicars to serve the outlying settlements but records only go back as far as 1279!
 
During the Commonwealth of the 17th century, 'lecturers' were appointed to replace the local vicars. In the case of Newland this post was attached to the William Jones Almshouses.
 
After a relatively short period of Protectorate government, the monarchy was restored with Charles II being crowned King. It would appear that both vicar and lecturer existed in apparent harmony — some, in later centuries, becoming the Vicar.
 
- The South Aisle
The main entrance leads the visitor into the south aisle. Here there are many wall monuments to local families, most notably the metalworking Coster Family.
 
- The Font
At the entrance to the church is the font (1661), the place of Baptism, traditionally and symbolically placed near the entrance. This is largely a replacement for the one destroyed during the early 17th century by the Puritans.
 
- The Joce Tomb
Near the Coster monuments, and at the entrance to the St Edward Chapel, lies the free-standing table-tomb of Sir John Joce and his wife. He was the owner of Clearwell Castle and lands, which he gave to his son-in-law, Robert Greyndour.
 
Sir John is dressed in armour, his head resting on his helmet which is surmounted by a bearded Saracen's head. His wife rests beside him, her head resting on two tasselled pillows supported by two mutilated angels. The effigies’ feet rest on recumbent lions.
 
- The Chapel of St Edward
This small chapel is dedicated to St Edward the Confessor. Originally the priests employed to say the Masses were paid for by the Welsh Bishop of Llandaff. The walls are now decorated with many fine monuments to the Probyn Family and it was sometimes called the ‘Probyn Chapel’. The most magnificent of the memorials is to Sir Edmund Probyn who became Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1741.
 
The Probyns were maritime merchants whose crest featured an ostrich with a key in its mouth. An ostrich figurehead adorned the prows of their ships and nowadays is the name of the local pub.
 
Close by the St Edward Chapel and the Joce tomb is an unusual and interesting item:
 
- The Brickdale Window
Although there are many beautiful stained glass windows in All Saints, one of the most unusual is the window in memory of Charles John Brickdale, a naval officer from a Newland family.
 
Charles was, born in 1819, and was killed in action in 1845. Whilst serving on board H.M.S. Comus, his ship was engaged in a battle off Point Obligado in the River Parana in South America. He was buried on the shores of the Parana. The window depicts in roundels, the names of 'Comus' and 'Parana' and an illustration of the battle.
 
- A Royal Bow-Bearer
Beneath the Brickdale window is a raised stone slab bearing an incised figure of a Jacobean bowman. Re-cut in the 19th century, this may represent a 17th century member of the Wyrall family wearing the symbols of office of 'Bow-Bearer' to the Crown (the King’s Chief Forester).
 
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Headmasters’ Board
On the wall can be seen the Headmasters’ Board of Bell's Grammar School which was founded in the village and is linked with the adjacent Chancel side-chapel of St John the Baptist and St Nicholas.
 
St John & St Nicholas aka ‘Clearwell’, ‘Greyndour’ Chapel
The importance of this chapel over the centuries explains the various names it has been called.
 
As the 'Clearwell Chapel' it reflected the fact that it was built by the owner of Clearwell, Sir John Joce, whose tomb is now situated in the south aisle.
 
After his death, his son-in-law, Sir Robert Greyndour, inherited Clearwell Castle and all its lands and the chapel became known as the ‘Greyndour Chapel’. Sir Robert founded a type of grammar school and the chantry’s priests were employed in teaching.
 
Memorial Brasses
On the floor is a slab with the remains of four memorial brasses. A 15th century man in armour and his wife in a horned head-dress represent Robert Greyndour and his wife Joan. This tomb was later inscribed with a third brass for Sir Christopher Baynham, a mid 16th century owner of Clearwell. There were many property transactions between the Greyndour and Baynham families in the 15th and 16th centuries.
 
There is also a fourth brass inserted into the slab depicting a medieval Forest of Dean miner. This is known as 'the miners brass'.
 
- The Miners Brass
This brass is very unusual because it is in relief rather than incised. It appears to be a heraldic crest – the sort of design that would adorn a gateway or entrance to a house.
 
It depicts a medieval Forest of Dean miner in work clothes, holding a pick and carrying a pack slung over his back. Sticking out of his mouth is what appears to be a spike with a lighted candle fixed to the end. Some authorities say the candle was probably held in place by sticking it into a lump of clay attached to his chin or cheek, or possibly gripped in his mouth. The miner stands on the top of a metal plate helmet.
 
The brass is reputed to be of a Forest of Dean Free Miner but its origins are unknown; apparently it was returned to the church in the early 19th century.
 
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The North Aisle
Across the Nave in the north aisle is an exhibition space. It is used for historical displays and exhibitions of contemporary art and craft relevant to the church and the area.
 
There is a permanent display of important Festal Vestments designed and made specifically for All Saints by the internationally renowned Beryl Dean — a major figure in the revival of ecclesiastical embroidery in the late twentieth century.
 
The north door in this aisle leads out into the area of the churchyard which, as in all early churchyards, was only used for the burial of the unbaptised and suicides.
 
In the 19th century ecclesiastical law was changed to allow other burials to take place in this area. The contrast between the meagre memorial stones in this section of the churchyard and those in other parts, which contain many fine table tombs, is very apparent.
 
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The Lady Chapel
At the north-east end of the church is a magnificent Perpendicular stained glass window. It is part of the fine 14th century Lady Chapel. As befits a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the furnishings are predominantly blue and once again, the work of Beryl Dean.
 
The Chinn family, who owned a nearby mansion called 'Highmeadow', are believed to have founded this chapel. Its purpose was to provide priests to conduct 'Morrow Mass'. Their job was to take the Sacraments and Scriptures, and comfort where necessary, to the small, scattered iron mines in the Forest. This service was later extended to the small coal mines as well.
 
In the south-west corner of this chapel is the remains of a spiral staircase which is one of the oldest sections of the church. Near this staircase is a magnificent late 14th century effigy of a priest in full Eucharistic vestments. The visitor will notice that despite the passage of 600 years and the formation of the Church of England, the modern vestments worn today have hardly changed.
 
Beryl Dean (1911-2001)
Beryl Dean was an artistic child who grew up in Bromley in Kent. When she was 18, her parents were persuaded to send her to the Royal School of Needlework to train. Although she swiftly became a skilled needlewoman, she found the course narrow and went on to study at Bromley School of Art, where she learnt millinery and dress design under the outstanding guidance of the school's head.
 
She was strongly influenced by Post-War modernism and abstraction, and became an important innovator in the field of 20th- century ecclesiastical embroidery as a practitioner, an inspirational teacher and as a writer.
 
She advanced public and professional awareness of the need for well-designed church textiles appropriate for contemporary use. Her style was figurative but powerful, using unconventional materials and techniques. All Saints is extremely lucky to have a number of her ecclesiastical works.
 
The church website has an extremely good article on the Beryl Dean textiles.
 
Facilities
Toilets Guides and cards for sale
Guided Tours with refreshments for pre-booked Groups
Services Every Sunday at 09:30
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   01594 835476 (Minister)
Telephone   01594 832660 (Associate minister)
 
Getting There 
- By Car
From Monmouth - Follow the A466 towards Chepstow for 2 miles (3 kms) and at the village of Redbrook, turn left on to the forest road signed 2 miles (3 kms) to Newland.
 
- By Car
From Chepstow - Follow the A466 towards Monmouth for 14 miles (23 kms) and at the village of Redbrook, turn right on to the forest road signed 2 miles (3 kms) to Newland.  
 

Google Maps - Church of All Saints, Newland