St Mary’s Church at Little Washbourne

First and foremost, I would like to apologise for my lengthy absence. My love of history has been the last thing on my mind lately. However, onward and upward as they say! I’ve spent the last couple of days pottering about and you’ll all no doubt be extremely relieved to know that I found a nice church, and a couple of castles just lying about (more on those over the next couple of days!). But enough of that. On to the actual blog post!


Little Washbourne, located in Gloucestershire not far from Tewkesbury, is very aptly named. It is sparsely populated, with house spread over the surrounding countryside, and the small size of its church suggests that this has always been the case. The name means ‘stream in the swamp’, the stream being a tiny tributary of the Carrant Brook. It was sometimes referred to as Knight’s Washbourne, after the knightly family of the same name who owned the manor. While I find that Little Washbourne is a more charming, quintessentially English sounding village name, ‘stream in the swamp’ is by no means an inaccurate description. I could not find the graveyard sadly: partly due to me not wanting to go traipsing through bramble bushes and nettles (something I did at one of the castles anyway, so a somewhat redundant reason), but mostly because it contains only a single grave; that of a small boy who drowned and is said to mischievously haunt the nearby inn. Now the reason for this tiny church having a tinier graveyard is that the ground is just not suitable for burial on the scale that you would expect a parish church to have.

In 780 Offa, King of Mercia, is recorded as giving a parcel of land there to the monks of Worcester. Over time it passed through various hands, from the Sampsons during the reign of Henry II, then to the Washbournes, the first being Roger, mentioned in the year 1259. A later Roger was coroner for Worcester, though in 1347 the king had to order the appointment of a successor due to Roger being ‘so sick and broken by age.’ I know how he feels. The Washbournes and their descendants however would continue to own the manor until it was sold in the early 19th century.


The church itself, measuring a mere 41ft x 18ft (or 12.5 x 5.5m), can be found just off the road from Tewkesbury to Stow-on-the-Wold. Surrounded by orchards, it is perfectly situated to provide views of both the Cotswolds and Bredon Hill. A chapel or church is first mentioned in 1240. The building currently consists of a nave and chancel with a wooden bell-cote above. Dating primarily from the 12th century it was (unfortunately as far as I’m concerned) altered considerably in the 18th century.


The most exciting feature inside the church is easily the presence of wall paintings, especially on the south wall of the nave. Much detail has been lost through being painted over over, or having other schemes superimposed on each other one after another. However the earliest may date from the 13th or 14th century, with the remains of some black letter text appearing to date from around 1600.

I hope this will keep you all interested until I can write up and post the next two blog posts. I won’t give anything away but they are both related to specific castles and there will be pictures!


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