Context 172 - June 2022

42 C O N T E X T 1 7 2 : J U N E 2 0 2 2 ANTHEA JONES The history of a simple church On a fine day, with north and south doors open and clear glass in the large perpendicularstyle west window, the simple church of Shipton Sollars St Mary is flooded with light. The shortest way into the village of Shipton is to turn east at the junction of the Oxford and Gloucester roads; it is a narrow lane and runs downhill to the stream which flows into the river Coln a short distance away. After crossing the stream, the road turns through a right angle and soon you are in a village; Shipton Oliffe church, St Oswald’s, with its distinctive double bellcote, stands beside the road. On the way down the hill, you may not have noticed the church of St Mary, Shipton Sollars, on the bank above you. The modern parish is called ‘The Shiptons’; the civil parish of Shipton contains Hampen, a little to the north, Shipton Oliffe and Shipton Sollars, which were all within the two ancient parishes of Shipton Oliffe and Shipton Sollars. Push open the gate, climb a few steps and go up a steep path to the north door. A plaque records that the church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. On a fine day, with north and south doors open and clear glass in the large perpendicular-style west window, the church is flooded with light. It is simple and uncluttered, a two-cell church of nave and chancel, no aisles, no tower, no transepts. There are traces of wall paintings, some memorial slabs on the walls and the floor of the nave, and a Jacobean pulpit with an old hourglass at the side. This squire did not want a longer sermon than one hour.The large old south door leads into the churchyard which has never been consecrated. There is a small gate into a field. Down the east side of the churchyard is a long, low old barn, and beyond it Shipton Sollars Manor house. In the 800-year history of St Mary, Shipton Sollars, the radical restoration of 1929 has determined much that the visitor sees today. Ernest Francis Fieldhouse, the owner of Shipton Sollars Manor, found the church disused, although a rector in the later 19th century had repaired and re-opened it for services. Some of that work probably did not seem tasteful or appropriate to Mr Fieldhouse. In 1927, he had become sole Shipton Sollars St Mary from the east. It stands in a square churchyard which is not consecrated.