Church of England Diocese of Bristol Frampton Cotterell

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History of the mediaeval church and tower

                        In 1087, the Domesday Book recorded a church in Frantone (or Frampton, the settlement on the Frome), not built until after the conquest.   Ibi ecclesia q(ui) n(on) fuit –Here is a church which was not ).

It was replaced in the early 14th century by a larger church in the Gothic style with a nave and south aisle and a tower with battlements and a pinnacle with niches for effigies of the saints. This fine tower survives to this day. The rector of the mediaeval church was appointed in 1303 and the high altar was dedicated by Walter de Maydenstone, Bishop of Worcester in 1315. 

The battlements on the tower, the arrow slits up the tower and the right-handed stairway reflect the period of insurrection. The walls at the base of the tower are four feet thick. The tower bears the arms of the Cotel family (hence Cotterell). The gargoyles and grotesques are relatively well-preserved, the heraldic escutcheons at the base of the tower less so. The shields at the base have a diagonal division. The early escutcheons of the Cotel family have either an ordinary gules or a bend gules which would denote a warrior. In the middle of the parapet there are niches for the stone effigies. The pinnacles are worn and some of the smaller ones have been removed. The great West door is oak, centuries old, supported on the church side by pitch pine. There are superficial signs of fire damage. 1315 was the first of the years of incessant rain, ruined harvests and “The Great Famine” in which one in four of the population died and from which the country took seven years to recover. In 1348, the Black Death broke out and killed between 30-45% of the population. In most villages, the lord of the manor, but usually the priests, organised help or disposal .

The Tower

The tower roof has been altered since it was first built. The gargoyles lie below the edge of the roof on all four sides suggesting a bi-pitched roof whereas the present roof is flat, covered by lead. It was rebuilt in 2007 with code 6 and code 5 lead supported by one-inch thick primed marine ply. There are two steps (and 3 falls). The circumferential internal gutters were covered by code 5 lead. The thick oak beams below the supporting timber were in good condition. Decking has been made of Siberian pine into which posts have been inserted with a rope balustrade to protect both the roof and visitors. The tower houses the ringing chamber, the clock room, an empty room and the belfry with trap doors between the intermediate chambers. The tower has diagonal buttresses and castellated parapets with niches retaining images. On the spirelet, there are grotesques unrelated to water drainage. At its top there is a cockerel weather vane.

The bells

The bells:  There were alterations to the upper part of the tower and the creation of a belfry in 1620. Part of the original bell frame is in the porch. In 1964, the bells were re-hung and in 2014 more than 50 quarter-peals were rung in addition to the ringing on Sunday mornings, weddings, and special occasions. The church has six bells, the tenor weighing three-quarters of a ton and the oldest was cast in 1627. There is training for old and new bellringers.

Victorian rebuild of church and chancel

In 1857, Dr. Charles Fox, a curate of the church was given a licence to rebuild the present church but incorporating the existing tower. The Ordnance Survey map of 1879-81 shows a generous plot of land close to the iron works, brick kiln and a saw pit.

There is a large nave, with five bays separated from the side aisles by an arcade of clustered columns enriched with carved capitals, also both south and north aisles and an elaborate chancel.  There was a clerestory of five windows on either side of the nave beneath the high roof. The texts on embossed stone scrolls on the spandrels are unusual. The pulpit is richly carved. ), The church was said to have seats for more than five hundred people!

The church is also built in perpendicular style to match the tower. The outside of the church shows diagonal buttresses and embattled parapets with grotesques and gargoyles. On the upper castellations are regularly-sited stone images of the heads of animals.

Chancel

On the south side of the chancel there is an elaborately carved triple sedilia. . A churchwarden at the turn of the 20th century, Dr. Eager, brought back several items from Italy, including the seven sanctuary lamps and the inlaid Florentine chair, which had once belonged to churches in Venice, and also a cope and other vestments, cruets and communion plate. The oaken altar rails date from the 1930s and there is an oak chancel screen with a rood beam above it.

Windows

A striking feature is the beautiful stained and enamelled glass windows, depicting the life of Christ in the body of the church  and the life of Peter in the chancel (installed from 1861 to 1883, the first by C.L. Burckhardt of München and the others by G.J. Baguley of Newcastle. There are ten ‘stained glass’ windows on the sidewalls of the body of the church and another, shorter, one showing the ascension of Christ. In the chancel, there is the great East Window.

On the North wall in the chancel are pictures of the life of St. Peter.

Music

The pipe organ was removed from Northwoods and given to the church by Dr. Fox. This can be played but the preferred organ for services is electronic, of high standard, previously owned by Dr. Heath our previous organist. David Chandler, our ‘new’ organist and choirmaster is a genius and a gem. There is also an electronic piano.

Historical items on view

The font was part of this church before the rebuilding in1857-8 but at unknown date. It is said to be Norman (but restored in 1857) A wheeled iron-covered wooden Dutch chest expert-assessed as early sixteenth century, with three locks that, at one time, would hold funds for the poor or parish documents. There is a sixteenth century oak linen chest . A chained book, in English, of Bishop Jewel’s“Apology for the Church of England retained in the church since the early seventeenth century (1609) copies of which are, according to Wikipedia, few. This sits next to the font in an oak display case. An old brass plaque, made in 1661, states that John Symes a royalist during the English Civil War (1642 et seq) and member of parliament took refuge in the church and, eventually, in the manor where his daughter married the lord of the manor. A book dating from the nineteenth century relates the activities and dispensations of the Superintendent of the Poor Laws. Two Venetian bishops’ chairs and seven ornate Venetian (probably Byzantine) sanctuary lamps.  A painting on the North wall has been recently restored and, despite the lack of an artist or date, has been assessed as Victorian.

In 2005 and 2016, the western end of the church has been re-ordered to open up a space for gathering and net-working, for a comfort room and kitchenette, a sound-proof room for children or small groups or both or neither. The font has been moved to be close to the entrance on the South side.

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Church Road
Frampton Cotterell
BS36 2AB

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