Church Architecture and History
The Parishes of Ampney St Peter and Ampney St Mary have been united since 1877. Both Churches date from the 12th century. St Peter’s Church was in the possession of St Peter’s Abbey in Gloucester and St Mary’s was part of Cirencester Abbey until the Reformation.
The original St Mary’s Village (half a mile towards Cirencester) was evacuated in about 1350 at the time of the Black Death. The villagers moved to higher ground about half a mile northwards. When the two parishes became united in 1877, St Mary’s Church ceased to be used and overtime was covered in ivy. In 1913, the church was rediscovered under this coat of ivy and brought back into use. Hence it became known as the ‘Ivy Church’. It has remained virtually unchanged since Norman/Saxon Times.
The original Church of Ampney St Peter was very small with a Nave and a Tower only. There was no Chancel and the Altar stood at the East end of the Nave. The Piscina, where the holy vessels were washed, can still be seen on the South wall of the Nave, close to the Pulpit. The Chancel and its Arch were built sometime later in the 12th century; and the Font dates from that time. Built into the wall by the Font is a “Sheila-na-gig”. These are rare in English Churches, being grotesque little female figures, carved by Romanesque sculptors to represent some form of pre-Christian fertility cult (see Shell Country Alphabet 1966).
The carved alabaster Reredos (behind the Altar) dates from 1887. The Royal Figure with crown and orb, on a window-still to the North of the Altar, is something of a mystery. It is thought to have been discovered when Iveson Place, the house opposite the Church, was rebuilt in 1908. It is not thought to be particularly old.
In the Churchyard is a Stone Cross. The steps, base and shaft are 14th century, but the head has been restored.
In 1877, at the behest of the then incumbent (The Rev’d Daubeney), Sir Gilbert Scott restored and enlarged the Church. The Porch, North Aisle and Organ area were added. A rough path was created across the fields to help the Villagers of Ampney St Mary to walk the half-mile to Church.
During most of the 19th Century, the Daubeney family were both Squires and Parsons of this Parish alone, living at Eastington House. The Daubeneys built a new Rectory in about 1900 for their son, whom they hoped would become the Parson. That (now former) Rectory is just north of Iveson Place. There are Daubeney graves in the South East corner of the Churchyard.
The Parish of Ampney St Peter with Ampney St Mary is now part of the South Cotswolds Team Ministry, which stretches from Lechlade to Ampney Crucis. This Parish, along with four others – Ampney Crucis, Down Ampney, Driffield with Harnhill and Poulton, is cared for by The Reverend John Swanton, Team Vicar, who lives in Ampney Crucis.