The Coln Valley


Coln St. Dennis is a rural parish in the Cotswolds, 6 miles north-east of Cirencester and adjoining Northleach on the south-west. In shape the ancient parish formed roughly a diamond, 1,789 a. in area, and was bounded by the Foss Way on the north-west, the ancient Salt Way from Hailes to Ablington on part of the north-east, and the River Coln on the south-west. (fn. 1) The river gives the parish the first part of its name; the second part indicates its ownership in the Middle Ages, when for three and a half centuries it belonged to the abbey of St. Denis, Paris. The abbey acquired Coln St. Dennis as part of the estates of the Saxon monastery of Deerhurst, (fn. 2) whose possession of the parish accounts for its inclusion in Deerhurst hundred though remote from the rest of the hundred. The river separates Coln St. Dennis from Coln Rogers, which in 1935 was merged in the civil parish of Coln St. Dennis, to make a total area of 3,363 a. (fn. 3) The history of Coln Rogers, however, is reserved for inclusion in another volume.

The parish lies mainly on the Great and Inferior Oolite, through which the River Coln has cut a narrow valley. The valley crosses the parish at c. 375 ft.; at right-angles to it two tributary valleys run south-westward into it, but only the upper end of the more easterly of the two is in Coln St. Dennis parish. Above the relatively steep sides of the valleys the land rises gently to 550 ft. in the eastern corner of the parish, to 575 ft. on the north-east side at Crickley Barrow, (fn. 4) and to 650 ft. in the northern corner. (fn. 5) The soil is mainly light and stony, and there are several small disused quarries. (fn. 6) Along the banks of the river, however, the soil is a deep loam. The parish in 1964 was almost entirely mixed farming land, broken by only a few patches of woodland. A warren recorded in 1535 (fn. 7) survived as an inclosure called the Conigree. (fn. 8)

The village of Coln St. Dennis lies close beside the river not quite ½ mile downstream from the Foss Way. In 1964 it comprised the church, rectory, manor-house (all of which are described below), one large farm-house, two 20th-century houses, and only a few older cottages, of which two had been converted into a farm-house. It thus contained a large proportion of the more important buildings but a relatively small number of the households of the parish. The houses centre on the church and churchyard, where there stand the base and socket of an ancient stone cross, given a new shaft and finial in 1901. (fn. 9) The predominant building material of the village is rubble masonry, and there are two large rubble barns with pigeon-holes. Opposite the church Coln St. Dennis House was built in the 17th century, L-shaped on plan, and has a Cotswold stone roof with dormers, windows with mullions and dripmoulds, and a Victorian porch: like the other houses in the village it has been altered at various dates. The village, which stands on a bed of Fuller's Earth, (fn. 10) was presumably the primary settlement of the parish and throughout its history the main focus. From early on, however, it was smaller, in terms of the number of households, than the neighbouring hamlet of Calcot.

Calcot, which was recorded in 1086, (fn. 11) and in 1327 had 12 taxpayers compared with 8 at Coln St. Dennis village, (fn. 12) is ½ mile downstream and forms a compact village street running straight up the side of the valley. At the upper end is Calcot Farm, a small early 17th-century farm-house, perhaps on the site of the chief messuage of Calcot that was leased with half the demesne in 1537. (fn. 13) For the rest the village contains c. 20 cottages of various dates from the late 16th century. In several instances two or more have been knocked into one. All the cottages are of rubble with Cotswold stone roofs, though some of the farm buildings are thatched.

Fossebridge, at the western corner of the parish where the Foss Way crosses the River Coln, is a third group of houses. The hamlet appears to have developed in the 18th century, perhaps in connexion with increasing traffic along the Foss Way after it was turnpiked in 1755. (fn. 14) There are 9 cottages of the 18th and 19th centuries, forming a little street leading off the Foss Way, and 3 small houses of the mid-20th century. All are of stone.

Away from the village and its two hamlets some scattered houses had been built along the river by the end of the 17th century; they included Coln (or Fossebridge) Mill, Winson Mill Farm, which is a large modernized house in the southern corner of the parish, and the Pigeon House. The Pigeon House, formerly Grove House, is on the edge of Coln Rogers village but within the ancient boundaries of Coln St. Dennis parish, where in the late 18th century a member of the Howse family began, but never finished, the enlargement of a small rubble house apparently of the early 17th century; it was later turned into cottages, and became a single house again in 1930. The name of the Pigeon House came from a pair of cottages that once stood nearby and may have incorporated a dovecot. (fn. 15) In the early 19th century, following a Parliamentary inclosure of 1798 which completed a process begun in the early 18th century, (fn. 16) two farm-houses with cottages, and several isolated barns, were built on the north-east side of the parish. Several small houses were built in the mid-20th century away from the village and hamlets, three of them bordering the Foss Way. During the Second World War a group of temporary military huts, derelict in 1964, was put up along the Foss Way near the northern corner of the parish, where by 1964 a petrol station had been opened.

The population appears to have declined between 1327, when there were 20 taxpayers, (fn. 17) and 1551 when there were 41 communicants. (fn. 18) Thereafter it remained fairly stable until the end of the 17th century, with 37 communicants in 1603, (fn. 19) 17 families in 1650, (fn. 20) and a population of c. 80 in 16 families at the end of the century. (fn. 21) Too little is known about the early 18thcentury inclosure to judge whether it is likely to have stimulated a rise in population, but there were said to be c. 100 people in 1735, (fn. 22) 112 in 26 families c. 1775, (fn. 23) and 163 in 34 families by 1801. The population rose steadily to 229 in 1851, and had fallen to 149 by 1901. It remained fairly constant up to 1931, after which the combined population of Coln St. Dennis and Coln Rogers showed a further decline. (fn. 24)

Apart from the Foss Way and the Salt Way on its boundaries, a road runs from Fossebridge through Coln St. Dennis village and Calcot to Winson, and other roads run from Coln St. Dennis and Calcot respectively towards Northleach. Those roads were all specified by the inclosure award of 1798. (fn. 25) The Foss Bridge, which was out of repair in 1710 when the parish constable was ordered to mend it, (fn. 26) was rebuilt later in the 18th century, perhaps by the turnpike trustees. It comprises a causeway with stone parapets linking bridges of one and two rounded arches with keystones. Pincross Bridge, which was ordered to be repaired by the constable and surveyors two years later, (fn. 27) may be the bridge crossing the Coln from Coln St. Dennis church towards Pindrup and Coln Rogers, which has two segmental stone arches with keystones and stone parapets.

In 1795 a friendly society was meeting at the Royal Oak Inn, Coln St. Dennis. (fn. 28) The inn may have been the public house near the Foss Bridge recorded in 1798. (fn. 29) The friendly society numbered 63 parishioners among its members in 1803, and 123 in 1815. (fn. 30)

Bartholomew Price (1818–98), Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, was born at Coln St. Dennis, the son of the rector. (fn. 31) Professor David Talbot Rice, of Edinburgh University, lived at the Pigeon House in 1964, and Colonel Robert Henriques, the author and agriculturalist, at Winson Mill Farm. Eminent men who were lords of the manor are mentioned below.

Manor and Other Estates.

In 1086 Coln St. Dennis and Calcot, assessed as 5 hides, were part of a group of estates (fn. 32) that had formerly belonged to the monastery of Deerhurst and had been granted to the abbey of St. Denis, Paris. (fn. 33) They were later known as the manor of COLN ST. DENNIS AND CALCOT, (fn. 34) though sometimes they were described as though they were two separate manors. (fn. 35) With the rest of the possessions of Deerhurst Priory the manor passed in 1467 to Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 36) At the Dissolution the abbey was leasing the manor, in two separate portions, to Hugh Westwood (fn. 37) of Chedworth, the founder of Northleach grammar school and of the almshouses at Bibury. (fn. 38) In 1542 the Crown granted the freehold to William Sharington, (fn. 39) who sold the manor to Hugh Westwood the next year. (fn. 40) On Hugh Westwood's death in 1559 the manor passed to his nephew, Robert Westwood, (fn. 41) who in 1593 sold it to Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey (Wilts.). (fn. 42) Sir John died the next year, (fn. 43) and his son and heir Sir Charles was executed for treason in 1601. Sir Charles's younger brother Henry was, however, declared heir in 1603, and was later created Lord Danvers and Earl of Danby. (fn. 44) In 1607 Lord Danvers sold Coln St. Dennis and Calcot to John Mortimer of Cirencester, (fn. 45) who settled the manor on his son John and the son's wife, Joyce, (fn. 46) and died between 1627 (fn. 47) and 1631. The son survived his father and died in 1631. His wife Joyce and son Edmund (fn. 48) in 1637 together sold the manor to Sir William Master of Cirencester and others. (fn. 49) The manor descended to Sir William's son Thomas (d. 1680), Thomas's son Thomas (d. 1710), and that Thomas's son Thomas, (fn. 50) who in 1742 sold it to Robert Darell of Richmond (Surr.). Robert Darell died in 1777 and was succeeded by his son Edward, who died unmarried in 1814 and was succeeded by his sister Elizabeth, wife of the Revd. John Jeffreys of Barnes (Surr.). (fn. 51) In 1856 Mrs. Jeffreys was said to be lady of the manor, and by 1863 she had been succeeded by Edmund Richard Jeffreys, presumably her son, then a colonel (fn. 52) and later a general. On the general's death in 1889 (fn. 53) the manor passed to his son Capt. (later Admiral) Edmund Frederick Jeffreys, R.N., who in 1909 sold it to the rector of the parish, Lewis Bythesea Bubb. (fn. 54) After Bubb's death in 1927 (fn. 55) the lord of the manor was said to be Henry Thomas Beak, (fn. 56) but the estate which Beak put up for sale in 1949 did not include the land held by Bubb and his predecessors. (fn. 57) The manor farm passed to Thomas Mercer de Cliffe Vigors, the former tenant of the manor-house, (fn. 58) and after his death in 1952 to Lt.-Col. Atherton Henry HayhurstFrance, who sold the estate c. 1963 to the tenant, Mr. William H. Pratley, and Miss Pratley. (fn. 59) In the late 19th century the manor comprised c. 800 a., just under half the parish; in the early 18th century it had been over 900 a., and had also included the quitrents of two freehold estates. (fn. 60) The manor-house, called Manor Farm, (fn. 61) is an L-shaped building of rubble with stone mullioned windows and quoins, moulded and fluted chimney-stacks, and a Cotswold stone roof. It appears to be of the early 17th century and is likely to have been built by the Mortimer family, the only lords of the manor before the 20th century to live in the parish. (fn. 62) It is presumably the house that had six hearths and was occupied by Charles Turk in 1672. (fn. 63)

In 1587 the lord of the manor sold a freehold estate to Luke Garnons (fn. 64) of Gloucester, who before his death settled a house and 660 a. in Coln St. Dennis on his son Peter and the son's wife Anne. Peter died in 1622, and his daughter Magdalen in the same year; she had married William Vaughan and left a son to whom, in 1627, the manor was to revert after the death of his grandmother, Anne Garnons. (fn. 65) In 1712 Garnons Vaughan was the lessee of Calcot farm, (fn. 66) and in 1714 William Vaughan was described as of Calcot, gentleman. (fn. 67) In 1717 conveyances of land in the parish were made both by William Vaughan (fn. 68) and by his widow Sarah. (fn. 69) By 1798 Calcot farm (315 a.) belonged to Charles D'Oyley, (fn. 70) who was one of two owners of substantial freehold estates in the parish mentioned in 1803. The other estate belonged to the Howse family, and it seems that John Howse, (fn. 71) a tenant farmer in 1798, had acquired the 214 a. that John Millington had then owned. (fn. 72) In 1806 D'Oyley's heirs put Calcot farm up for sale; (fn. 73) half of it was bought by Stephen Eeles, whose son and heir Henry conveyed 137 a. to John Howse Millington in 1824. (fn. 74) In 1853, after Millington's death, part of the land was sold, (fn. 75) and the rest was held by members of the Howse family, being put up for sale in 1898. Part of the estate was bought by Henry Thomas Beak, who between 1912 and 1949 owned a large proportion of the parish. (fn. 76)

Economic History.

The demesne land of the manor was not extensive in the Middle Ages: it amounted to 1½ plough-land c. 1270 (fn. 77) and 1 ploughland in 1291. (fn. 78) In 1341 the Prior of Deerhurst was liable for only 1/10 of the village's tax assessment. (fn. 79) The demesne had evidently increased in extent by 1621, when it was said to be 7½ yardlands, (fn. 80) but in the late 17th century a potential purchaser of the manor complained that the demesnes were small. (fn. 81) In the Middle Ages other estates in the parish held in fee were also small: one of 1 yardland was recorded in 1244 and 1245, (fn. 82) one of 2 yardlands in 1410. (fn. 83) Copyhold estates, to which no reference earlier than the 16th century has been found, appear to have averaged about 1 yardland in 1539. (fn. 84) The late 16th century, which is likely to have been the period when much of the copyhold land was enfranchised, appears also to have seen the amalgamation of small estates into larger holdings. In 1621 the manor included three copyholds, one of 3½ yardlands, one of 3, and one of a mill and ½ yardland. (fn. 85) The yardland was c. 24 statute acres, if the 2 yardlands of glebe (fn. 86) measuring 48 a. (fn. 87) were typical. By the mid-18th century, when the land held of the manor by copy, by lease, and at rack-rent amounted to 930 a., there were still two copyholds, one of a mill and 24 a., the other of 210 a. The copyholds were subject to a widow's right of freebench and were held for terms of lives; one paid heriots in cash, the other in kind. The largest holding was a leasehold of 323 a., the lessee of which held another 290 a. at rack-rent. The lord of the manor apparently had no land in hand, and the remainder of the parish was largely accounted for by the two substantial freeholds mentioned above. (fn. 88)

Although the land beside the river was meadow, partly and perhaps mostly held in severalty in the 17th century, (fn. 89) most of the parish was open-field arable land until the early 18th. In 1593 an estate of 660 a. included 500 a. of arable. (fn. 90) In 1674 the glebe land, which had apparently increased in extent since the beginning of the century, included 107 pieces in the open fields, of which only a quarter were pieces of more than a single acre or half-acre. There were two large fields, the North field and the East field, each containing twenty or more furlongs; the fields were separated by hedges. (fn. 91) North field, along the edge of which the Foss Way ran, was later called Foss field, and East field became Barrow field. (fn. 92)

Although there was no large extent of permanent pasture, considerable numbers of sheep were kept in the parish. If one of the two fields was left fallow each year stubble and fallow would have provided adequate pasture. A shepherd was listed among the inhabitants in 1608. (fn. 93) In 1647 the sheep-commons were rated at 60 for each yardland, and two sheeptellers were appointed in the manor court. The sheeptellers were still appointed in 1720, (fn. 94) after the partial inclosure of the open fields.

It was perhaps because of failures in the organization of open-field husbandry (fn. 95) that the inclosure, effected by private agreement, was made. In 1712 the number of sheep-commons was abated because of inclosures, and again in 1718. (fn. 96) In 1714 landowners were exchanging land that had been marked out for inclosure, (fn. 97) and in 1717 meadow-land that was marked out for fencing was conveyed. (fn. 98) On the assumption that little land was inclosed either before the inclosure or between it and Parliamentary inclosure in 1798, between a half and a third of the parish was inclosed c. 1712–18. There is no evidence of extensive conversion from arable to permanent grass-land. Over half of the manorial estate of 930 a. remained uninclosed c. 1742 (fn. 99) and the glebe was apparently unaffected by the early 18th-century inclosure. Under an Act of 1797 (fn. 100) the 637 a. that remained open were inclosed the following year. Apart from small allotments to the churchwardens and overseers and for stone- and gravel-pits for roadmaking, only three landowners received allotments: 398 a. to the lord of the manor, 166 a. to John Millington, and 70 a. to the rector for glebe. Tithes were commuted for corn-rents charged on 25 separate estates, of which only 11 were 10 a. or more and 5 were over 30 a. (fn. 101)

The inclosure of 1798 did not bring any great changes either in the division of the land for farming or in the nature of its produce. In 1831 there were 5 agricultural occupiers, all employing labour, (fn. 102) and the number of farms was 5 in 1863, and 4 from 1897 to 1939. (fn. 103) Manor farm, a mixed farm of 725 a., was much the largest in the 19th century, (fn. 104) but the others also were of considerable size. The inclosure of 1798 was said to have increased by one-fifth the acreage sown with each kind of grain, (fn. 105) but in 1801 not quite half the area of the parish was returned as sown to crops. The acreage of turnips was then unusually large. (fn. 106) The proportion of arable land was high in the 19th century — 7/8 of Calcot farm in 1853, (fn. 107) 9/10 of Manor farm in 1884 (fn. 108) — but appears to have fallen at the end of the century. (fn. 109) Before and after the Second World War about half the parish was arable land, mainly the higher, flatter parts. (fn. 110) In 1964 the farming was mixed, with a high proportion of arable on the high ground. There were five farms, of which two were in the hands of Mr. Oscar Colburn of Crickley Barrow Farm, Northleach, who specialized in breeding a new type of sheep. (fn. 111) At Calcot farm in 1948 Professor Talbot Rice introduced the poll variety of Hereford cattle to Britain. (fn. 112)

There were two water corn-mills in the parish, in addition to Winson Mill of which the buildings were partly in Coln St. Dennis. (fn. 113) The mill in Calcot was mentioned in 1327, (fn. 114) and during the 17th century was held as copyhold of the manor by members of the Howse family. (fn. 115) It was a freehold by 1798, but later references to it have not been found. The other mill recorded in 1798 (fn. 116) was presumably at Fossebridge, where a mill was marked on a map of 1824. (fn. 117) Fossebridge Mill, or Coln Mill, remained in use as a corn-mill at the end of the 19th century. (fn. 118) The buildings, which are mainly of the 18th century but include older parts, were afterwards converted into a private house.

In the early 19th century trade and industry provided a living for a quarter of the population or less. (fn. 119) References to occupations outside agriculture are not numerous: there was a carpenter in 1608 (fn. 120) and in 1707, (fn. 121) a cordwainer in 1726, (fn. 122) a blacksmith in 1745, (fn. 123) and a breeches-maker, with an apprentice, in 1788. (fn. 124) There were shoemakers in the village 1863–1931, shopkeepers 1870–1923, and builders and representatives of various building trades from 1870 onwards. (fn. 125) In 1964 building provided some employment for the inhabitants; few went outside the parish for work; and retired people formed a high proportion of the population. (fn. 126)

Local Government.

View of frankpledge in Coln St. Dennis belonged in the Middle Ages to the lords of the manor, who were also lords of the hundred. In 1535 two views a year were held in the parish. (fn. 127) Draft rolls of the manor court, with view of frankpledge, survive for a number of years from 1641 to 1844. After 1647 all the courts recorded were held in the autumn, suggesting that at most there was only one court each year. The rolls record little business in the court, though in 1710 the customs of the manor were set down; apart from the death of a copyholder in 1766, the only business recorded after 1756 was the appointment of a constable and (from 1763) a tithingman. A gap in the records and documents connected with the holding of the court suggest that the court lapsed from 1805 until it was revived c. 1825. (fn. 128)

Although there were two churchwardens in the 16th century, (fn. 129) there was only one in 1734, (fn. 130) in 1784, (fn. 131) and up to 1894. Until 1803 there was usually only one overseer of the poor, and in the 1770's and 1787 one man was both churchwarden and overseer. (fn. 132) In 1803 the parish rate was high compared with neighbouring parishes, and expenditure on poorrelief had risen seven-fold over the preceding 30 years. A small sum was spent on materials to provide the poor with work at home. (fn. 133) By 1815 both the expenditure and the number of people relieved had been reduced. (fn. 134) From the late 18th century until c. 1850 the dominant influence in vestry was that of the rector, and it may have been resentment at his assumption of the vestry's responsibilities that caused friction between him and some of the leading parishioners in the 1850's. (fn. 135)

Coln St. Dennis became part of the Northleach Poor Law Union in 1836 and of the Northleach highway district in 1863. (fn. 136) It remained in the Northleach Rural District in 1964. A parish council was established in 1948. (fn. 137)


Architectural evidence shows that there was a church at Coln St. Dennis by the early 12th century, and perhaps earlier. The Prior of Deerhurst was patron of the church c. 1270 (fn. 138) and made the first recorded presentation to the rectory in 1282. (fn. 139) The living remained a rectory; in 1915 it was united with that of Coln Rogers, the ecclesiastical parishes remaining distinct. (fn. 140) The patronage of the rectory, though often exercised by the Crown in the 14th century when the alien priories were in its hands because of war, (fn. 141) belonged to the lords of the manor until 1584 or later. (fn. 142) In 1586, however, George and Henry Lygon claimed the advowson as sons and executors of Roger Lygon, and they presented in 1587. (fn. 143) In 1597 a presentation was made by 'Mr. Smith, preacher of the word of God', (fn. 144) and Elizabeth Danvers, widow of Sir John, the lord of the manor, was patron in 1603. (fn. 145) Joyce Mortimer, who sold the manor in 1637, (fn. 146) presented in 1635 and 1646. (fn. 147) In 1661 Thomas Hughes became rector, and in 1675 his son John was instituted on his own petition as rector. (fn. 148) John Hughes made a settlement of the advowson in 1682, and his son Thomas, a mercer of Cirencester, later held it. (fn. 149) In 1727, 1738, 1742, 1754, and 1775 presentations were made by trustees of the Hughes family. (fn. 150) William Roberts, who presented in 1793 and 1797, was apparently acting in his own right, but by 1810 the advowson had passed to Pembroke College, Oxford. (fn. 151) After the union of the benefice with that of Coln Rogers alternate presentations belonged to the college and the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester until 1931, when the whole patronage passed to the dean and chapter. (fn. 152)

The rectory was valued at £6 13s. 4d. a year in 1291 (fn. 153) and at £7 clear in 1535. (fn. 154) From £52 in 1650 (fn. 155) it rose to £190 in 1797 (the year of the Inclosure Act) and to £400 in 1815. (fn. 156) The rectory was endowed with glebe amounting to 48 a. in the 16th century, (fn. 157) and the glebe appears to have been enlarged during the 17th century. (fn. 158) At inclosure in 1798 the rector received an allotment of 70 a. for his glebe. (fn. 159) The glebe house, recorded in 1674, (fn. 160) was enlarged in 1810 by the builder Richard Pace of Lechlade, (fn. 161) and is a square, stuccoed building with a Welsh slate roof and wide eaves. In 1964 the rector retained 3 a. of glebe in addition to the house and garden. (fn. 162)

In 1294 the rector, John de la Grave, was a minor. He received sub-deacon's orders in 1295, (fn. 163) and deacon's orders in 1305. (fn. 164) In 1314, when he was commissioned to sequestrate the profits of Deerhurst Priory, he was rector, (fn. 165) and he retained the living until he exchanged it for another in 1328. (fn. 166) Many of the rectors later in the 14th century lasted much less time: in the years 1348–50 three rectors were presented, and there were five in the years 1386–90. (fn. 167) In 1551 the rector was also Rector of Coln Rogers, (fn. 168) but three years later he was deprived because he was married. His successor, John Williams, was chancellor of the diocese and a pluralist. Thomas Taylor, rector 1559–86, (fn. 169) had a bad reputation, (fn. 170) but he was resident in 1563 (fn. 171) and in 1576 was described as a perfect Latinist and of good religion. (fn. 172) In 1584 he was an old man, employing a curate to serve the parish. (fn. 173) From 1661 to 1793 the rectory was held by seven successive members of the Hughes family, which owned the advowson. William Price, instituted in 1810, held the living for 50 years; he was also Rector of Farnborough (Berks.) and served as curate of Coln Rogers, living at Coln St. Dennis. (fn. 174)

By the late 16th century the maintenance of the parish church had been endowed with lands and houses in the parish, yielding £2 a year in the late 17th century. (fn. 175) In the mid-19th century the administration of the Church Lands and of the income from them caused disputes in vestry. (fn. 176) Some of the land was sold in 1952 and 1954, and in 1955 the endowment was represented by land and £3,200 stock, the income being spent on the maintenance of the church. (fn. 177)

The church of ST. JAMES THE GREAT (fn. 178) was called St. Katherine's in the late 13th century, (fn. 179) St. Dennis's in the 18th, (fn. 180) and was thought to have once borne an invocation to St. Kenelm. (fn. 181) It is built of ashlar with lead and Cotswold stone roofs, and is unusual in retaining from the 12th century not only the ground-plan but also the walls and central tower. It comprises chancel and narrow nave; the chancel is of two compartments, the western compartment forming the base of the tower. The church has been altered by heightening and buttressing the tower, by adding a north porch and south vestry near the west end of the nave, and by inserting new windows.

The older features of the church are characteristic of the earlier 12th century. (fn. 182) The remains of billeted string-courses survive externally on the east and west walls, and internally in the nave. The chancel east of the tower had originally a vaulted roof supported on shafts with scalloped capitals which survive at the four angles. The eastern tower arch was supported on attached shafts with scalloped capitals; the shafts, two on each side facing the nave, one on each side facing the chancel, survive. The western tower arch was similar, with the same arrangement of shafts, and survives nearly complete but distorted. Above each tower arch, in the 12th-century belfry, is a plain, blocked semicircular-headed doorway. The north and south belfry windows were evidently of two semicircular-headed lights; the north one has been blocked and defaced, the south one altered. At ground level on the south side of the tower is a small blocked 12th-century doorway, and another 12th-century doorway opens from the chancel on a stair-turret leading to the second stage of the tower. In the nave are some corbel-heads which appear to have formed part of the 12th-century corbel-table of the chancel. There is one small semicircular-headed window recessed and deeply splayed. The south doorway of the nave, leading to a later vestry, and the rather more elaborate north doorway, have large billets on the chamfers of their hood-moulds.

In the 13th century two cusped lancets were inserted in the north and south faces of the lower stage of the tower, and in the 14th a two-light window, with a plain sedile in the sill, was put into the south side of the eastern part of the chancel. At the end of the 15th century, or perhaps later, two new windows were inserted at the east end and three in the nave, the roofs of chancel and nave were rebuilt, (fn. 183) and a third, embattled stage was added to the tower. Although the third stage is narrower than those below it, the extra weight thus placed on the lower stages distorted the tower arches. Though the western arch survived, the eastern arch was rebuilt as a four-centred arch of three orders with concave chamfers, the inner order lying within the responds of the original arch. It may have been the distortion of the tower that necessitated the rebuilding of the chancel roof. The corbel-heads that apparently came from the chancel were used to support the new flat, parapeted roof of the nave. Between the late 15th and early 17th century the north porch was built or rebuilt, and the south vestry may have been added at the same time: the outer door of the porch bears the date 1637. In 1904 money was raised for rebuilding the tower, and the whole church was restored by William Weir, architect to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. (fn. 184)

The font, which in 1891 was outside the church, (fn. 185) has a tub-shaped 12th-century bowl, chamfered into scallops to fit an octagonal pedestal. (fn. 186) In the chancel is the semi-circular head of a small 12th-century piscina, and a simple 15th-century piscina is cut into the wall near-by. The monuments include murals and floor-slabs for members of the Howse family, and murals for Joan Burton (d. 1631), Sir Benjamin Kemp, Bt. (d. 1777), and members of the Bridges, Howse, Kirrill, and Price families. There were four bells c. 1700; (fn. 187) they were replaced with five of 1734 by Abraham Rudhall, which survived in 1964. The plate includes an 18th-century chalice and almsdish, given by members of the Hughes family. The church was repewed in 1817, and in 1847 the floor was repaved and the pews lowered, but all the old pews were removed in the early 20th century. An ancient clock rebuilt in 1839 (fn. 188) by Bartholomew Price, the rector's son, with the help by a local blacksmith, was replaced in 1957 with an electric clock given by members of the Price family. (fn. 189) There is a small organ. A new burial ground was consecrated in 1933. (fn. 190) The registers begin in 1561 but have gaps 1642–79. (fn. 191)


Apart from references to five Baptists in the parish in 1735, 1743, and 1750, (fn. 192) no record of nonconformity has been found.


In 1818 Coln St. Dennis had a day school with 40 children and a Sunday school for 70, both schools taking the children of Coln Rogers also. The schools were supported by voluntary contributions and were under the supervision of the rector. (fn. 193) In 1833, when the day school had grown to 50 children and the Sunday school had shrunk to 13, they were paid for wholly by the rector except for £5 5s. a year from a charity for the children of Coln Rogers. (fn. 194) In 1846, when there were 47 children, in 1856, and in 1870 the parochial school was said to be supported by the rector. (fn. 195) In 1875, however, a new National school for the two parishes was built, and opened in 1876; its expenses were paid by voluntary contributions and school pence, and it had a certificated teacher. (fn. 196) Attendance was 90 in 1889, 45 in 1897, and 40 in 1914. (fn. 197) In 1904 it became a council school. (fn. 198) By 1938, when the older children went elsewhere to school, attendance had fallen to 20, (fn. 199) and in 1952 the school was closed. The school stood a little west of Calcot hamlet. The site and buildings belonged to the trustees of the Church Lands and included an old cottage called Amerdines adjoining the school and used as the teacher's house. After the school was closed the buildings were converted into a Cotswold-style house. (fn. 200)


Before 1683 Laurence Westmacott gave £4, the interest to be distributed among the poor of the parish. (fn. 201) This gift was recorded c. 1700, (fn. 202) but had evidently been lost by 1790. (fn. 203) Charlotte Turk by will proved 1870 gave £102 stock for the poor; (fn. 204) in 1963 the income was distributed in cash. (fn. 205)

Print | Sitemap
© Coln Valley Village Hall