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Churches in the Forest of Dean - Details by the Forest of Dean History Society
Churches described on this page
General Information about Churches in the Forest
The Forest of Dean area is not unusual in having a history involving many religious denominations, amongst them Roman Catholic, Baptists, Bible Christians, United Methodists, Congregationalists, Primitive Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists and Independents. A good number of chapels of those denominations still exist today, but in this article we concentrate on the places of worship of the Church of England.
There are some 42 churches in and around the Forest area. Those travelling around the area will notice that the churches located within the boundaries of the Royal Forest are not particularly old. The royal demesne land was originally kept as a hunting ground for the King, later it was used to produce timber for iron production and for building naval ships. It was not intended that common folk should live within the boundaries, so the royal land was extra parochial. However encroachment into the central Forest area led to houses and cottages being built, often many miles from the nearest church. Ultimately in the 19th century several churches were built within the boundaries of the Royal forest to serve the new communities and settlements.
Whilst there may not be churches of any great antiquity within the boundaries of the Royal Forest, there are however a number of considerably older churches in the surrounding areas. In the pages below we present a selection of brief descriptions of the newer churches of the Royal Forest, and also provide similar descriptions of the more notable older churches located in the surrounding area.
Christ Church - Berry Hill
The church you see today was built in 1815, when the original school chapel built in 1812 was incorporated into the new church as the north aisle. Later additions were the west tower ( 1819), and the chancel (1885). Restoration took place in 1913 when a vestry was added, and the gallery removed. A chancel screen was also erected at this time, but was subsequently removed in 1966.
Saint John the Evangelist - Cinderford
This church is sited on Cinderford Tump, north east of Cinderford Bridge. The church was designed by Blore in a 13th century style to include a nave, chancel with transepts, and small tower and spire. It was consecrated in 1844.
Cinderford town pages
Saint Stephen - Cinderford
The rapid growth of Cinderford in the late 19th century led to the building of a second church, this time near the centre of the town. The church was designed by Lingen Barker in an early 14th century style and was consecrated in 1890. It features an aisled nave and chancel with north vestry and organ chamber.
Cinderford town pages
Holy Trinity - Harrow Hill, Near Drybrook
This church is known locally as the Forest church. It was built in 1817 under the personal supervision of Henry Birkin, it's first minister. It is built of roughly coursed stone, with ashlar dressings and features a wide nave, short chancel and north and south porches. One of the three original galleries now remains. The church unusually has eight tubular bells installed as a memorial to the dead of World War I.
Drybrook village page
St Paul - Parkend
This is one of the more unusual churches built in the 1800's. It is beautifully situated on the edge of Parkend in a forest clearing. The shape provides the point of interest in being octagonal and cruciform, with the arms formed by the sanctuary, north and west transepts and west tower. It was built in 1822 by Henry Poole, a local priest, who raised most of the money for building it through public subscription.
Parkend village page
All Saints - Viney Hill
This church was designed by Ewan Christian in a late 13th century style and is built in local red sandstone. The building was paid for by Mary Bathurst and Reverend W.H. Bathurst in memory of Charles Bathurst, who died in 1863. The church was consecrated in 1867. It has an apsidal chancel, and a deep roof that extends over both nave and aisles, but with a break in the slope over the south aisle. It also feature a south porch and non- projecting transept.
All Saints - Newland
This church is known locally as the Cathedral of the Forest because of it's proportions, history and setting, and it is well worth a detour for visitors to the Dean. The church was first established by Robert de Wakering (1215-1237). All the early builders of the church were important men in the affairs of the State, and this may help to explain the unusual size of the church. Indeed in 1305 Edward I added a small chapel (adjoining the south porch) and founded the chantry of King Edwards Service. The church comprises a west tower, nave with five arches, adjoining very large north and south aisles, south porch and chapels. There are many interesting monuments within the church including an effigy of Jenkin Wyrall, Forester of Fee (d. 1457), which shows interesting details of hunting costumes of that period. Even more evocative is the Miners Brass' just one foot high, which depicts a helmet, crest and figure of a mediaeval miner of the Forest of Dean with a hod and pick in his hand and candlestick in his mouth.
Newland village page
St Michael - Abenhall
This is a small church, but included in this selection because it is the church where the Freeminers of the Forest of Dean hold services. Originally built as a chapel of ease, the church was expanded in the 14th century to include nave, south aisle and tower. The arms of the Freeminers can be seen on the south side of the tower and on the 18th century font. Abenhall church is 1.5 km south of Mitcheldean and is set in beautiful surroundings on the edge of the Forest.
St John the Baptist - Ruardean
The church of St John the Baptist is to be found at one of the highest parts of the Forest of Dean. Spectacular views are afforded from the church, which dates from 1110. The church comprises nave, chancel, south aisle and tower. The porch has a 13th century outer door leading to the inner door which is Norman in origin. Above the inner door is a remarkably preserved carved tympanum dating from around 1140, showing St George slaying the dragon.
Ruardean village page
St Mary - English Bicknor
This church is set within the outer courtyard of a Norman Motte and Bailey. The exterior walls, renewed in Victorian times, offer no clue to the Norman building work within. Only the exterior stonework of the 13th century west tower is original. Inside the church, the four bay north arcade and five bay south arcade are both Norman, but interestingly have different decoration around the capitals. The church may have had a central tower before the current west tower was built.
English Bicknor village page
St Mary - Lydney
The large tower and steepling spire of St Marys church are visible for a good distance from the town of Lydney. This large church is mostly Early English, with the tower, aisled nave and chancel dating from the 13th century. The east window and that in the south aisle contain Early English stained glass, whilst in contrast, in the north aisle is a modern window showing the Franz Joseph glacier in New Zealand. This was given in 1941 by Lord Bledisloe to commemorate his tour of duty as Governor of New Zealand.
Lydney town page
St Michael - Mitcheldean
The church of St Michael is located in the old market town of Mitcheldean. The church is remarkable for being very wide, consisting of nave, north aisle, outer north aisle and south aisle and tower which were built variously between the 13th and 15th century. The chancel and vestry were remodelled in the 19th century. The large tower and steeple conspire to dominate the town. Inside the church, above the sanctuary screen there is a 15th century painting depicting the Last Judgement'. There is also an enormous modern (1911) reredos with life sized white marble figures illustrating the text 'Come unto me'.
Mitcheldean town page
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