St Mary’s church holds a very interesting past. The churchyard site was an ancient burial ground going back to Anglo-Saxon times, confirmed by the discovery of a buried Celtic cross, dating back to approximately 750AD, which now sits proudly in the entrance porch.
By 1080 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s Abbey, at Cormeilles, in Normandy, had arrived, establishing the first Norman church on site (part of the building we see today) and Newent was recorded in the Domesday Book.
The church was enlarged in 1260 and 1361 with the 65 ft. tower being added soon after. Not satisfied with the height, an 88 ft. steeple was also added. 300 years later a severe storm blew the spire over and it crashed to the ground.
Because of continued weather erosion the spire has had to be rebuilt several times since. In 1674 a heavy fall of snow resulted in the church roof also collapsing. Newent carpenter Edward Taylor, an understudy of Sir Christopher Wren, rebuilt it without the original centre pillars allowing Canon Wood to add the large wooden ceiling that you see today. The craftsmanship shouldn’t be underestimated as it still holds the record for being the largest unsupported wooden ceiling in the country!
The church also lays claim to having a church organ which is truly unique. Built by local craftsman Thomas Warne in 1737 it was credited as being “Sweet and compleat, and thought to be as good as any of that kind”. Quite an achievement considering he had no training, instruction or direction and it was the first one he’d ever built.
Every Thursday the local bell ringers practice with the church’s eight bells which are in demand regularly for weddings and special services. The church opens up the bell tower on occasion to give demonstrations. If you would like to see the photographic and documentary resource to our history, monuments and memorials please contact us. We hope to develop our site to give on-line access in due course.
If you would like to know more or arrange an organised visit for your group, please contact the church team on:
Tel: 01531 821 641
“The History of St. Mary’s”
An interview with Martin Brown, The Pete Wilson Programme, Sunday 16 April 2017, BBC Radio Gloucestershire
Version without original music
Building Restoration and Development
Have a look at what we’ve achieved so far and the challenges that remain
Friends of St Mary’s
The Friends of St Mary’s was formed in 1996 with the objective of helping to preserve the heritage of St. Mary’s Church and its churchyard for future generations.
Newent History Society
For further information about church and parish records, as well as the History Society itself, please contact them via their website.
Or their secretary Dood Pearce
Stones Discovered During Tower Restoration Project 2014
In 2014 St. Mary’s church tower was restored, and a number of early medieval stones were discovered. Further information concerning these stones and others associated with the church can be found in work by historian Richard Bryant.