ST GEORGE’S CHURCH
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FALFIELD - Pale brown or fallow open land'. Old English fecal + field.
Taken from A Dictionary of Place-Names Oxford University Press, © A.D. Mills 1998.

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St George’s Church 150th Anniversary  1860 - 2010


Adjacent to the vicarage was a schoolmaster’s house and schoolroom.  


The vicarage continued to be the residence of the vicar until the late 1970s when a new and more economical vicarage was built in the grounds of the original.  The old vicarage with its vast corridor separating the domestic aspects of the house, including a butler’s pantry and long attic rooms, from the family accommodation at the front, was sold to a private buyer.  Now the new vicarage is also privately owned.


The 1861 census for Falfield shows the Curate of Falfield Church, Thomas Forrest, living with his wife, Emily, and one servant, Mary Clark, who was born in Falfield.


In 1863 Falfield finally became an independent parish with the Rev’d John Pilditch as its first incumbent.


Ernest Vilars Hoare the vicar in 1871 is shown on that year’s census as head of a household consisting of his wife, Georgina, daughter, Ethel, aged 3 (who was later killed by a horse and cart) and son, Percy, aged 13 months.  They had a nurse and a female servant, neither of whom was born locally.


The 1881 census reveals a very different picture of the occupants of Falfield Vicarage.

The head of the household and vicar is Edmund Whittaker who was born in Blackburn.  His daughter, Frances, gives her occupation as ‘Baronet’s daughter’.  Living with them is their daughter, Blanche, aged 17, living at home (Occupation: Clergyman’s daughter) together with a niece aged 20 (Occupation: Gentleman’s daughter) and a boarder aged 57 (Occupation: Honourable).  The domestic staff comprise: a cook, a lady’s maid, a house maid, a kitchen maid and a butler, ranging in age from 37 to 15.  Only the house maid was born in Falfield.


 James Targett’s residence at the vicarage in the 1891 census shows a household consisting, apart from his wife, Eliza, mainly of adult and teenage children.  There are four daughters ranging in age from 30 to 15, and one son, aged 20, who is an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge.  The domestic staff consists of a governess, a house maid and a cook, Kate Short, aged 17, who was born in Falfield.


By 1901 the vicarage seems to be doubling up as a school.  The vicar, Charles Ward, and his wife, Julia, have another clergyman lodging with them.  Possibly he was also a schoolteacher.  There are six boys lodging there also, one of whom is the vicar’s nephew.

The domestic staff consists of a cook, a house/parlour maid and a kitchen maid.   No-one in the household was born in the village.

This photograph, taken from the church spire in the late 1960s, shows clearly the location of the school with the adjacent schoolmaster’s house.  Behind and adjacent to them lies the vicarage.  To the left of the old schoolmaster’s house is the cream coloured building built during the war years and known as the BBC room which is now the benefice office.


The memorials around the walls of the church, its furniture and the windows tell the story of the Jenkinson family from the optimism of the first baptism to take place in the church of Robert Banks Jenkinson, youngest son of Sir George Samuel Jenkinson (11th Baronet) and his wife, Emily Sophia, in the font given by Anthony Lyster of Stillorgan Park, Dublin, (Lady Jenkinson’s father who also donated the silver chalice, paten and wine jug) through the death of that young man at the age of 21, which is commemorated in the window on the north side of the font, to the death of the heir, John Banks Jenkinson in 1914 and his father’s death in 1915 which brought about the sale of the Eastwood estate and the end of the Jenkinson link with Falfield.


Having lost her son and her husband, Sir George Banks Jenkinson (12th Baronet), Madeline, Lady Jenkinson went to live in Thornbury at a house which she named ‘Clouds’ because, it is alleged, she felt that her life had now been covered in doom-laden clouds.  One of her last gifts to the church was the oak screen which separates the nave from the chancel and has become a matter of much debate over the years.


[It is interesting to read the memorial tablet to John Banks Jenkinson, (son of the 12th Baronet, Sir George Banks Jenkinson) who was killed in the early months of the First World War.  Most of the memorial (22 lines) is taken up with details of his military prowess (12 lines) and this is followed by a brief reference to his marriage and family (4 lines) in which we are told that he had two children, a boy and a girl. The son and heir is named; the daughter is not.]

The church has had other benefactors during its history.  The Silverton family of Whitfield were responsible for the addition of a new vestry in the 1950s.  This superseded the very cramped original behind the organ and showed considerable far-sightedness by including a flush toilet – something which many churches still lack today.


From the outset St George’s was equipped with only one bell, which is now defunct, but after the Second World War Colonel and Mrs Murray of Whitfield House (now the Park Hotel) gave an electric carillon in memory of their son F/O Stanley Digby Murray R. A. F. who was killed in action.  Speakers were housed in the tower and recordings of bells were played on a gramophone situated in the vestry.  This gave sterling service over many years but St George’s is now without any bells at all.

Most recently the church gates were replaced in memory of two of its faithful servants: John Angell-James who was churchwarden for many years and Brian Barnes-Ceeney, priest and incumbent from 1966 – 1971


St George’s church windows contain some particularly fine Victorian stained glass, most of which has been given as memorials to events which had an impact on the village in the early part of the church’s history.


The east window shows the crucifixion with Mary, the mother of Christ, Mary Magdalene and St John at the foot of the cross.  At either side, in separate lancet frames, St George and St Michael are depicted as knights.



St Michael on the left is shown weighing souls whilst St George on the right holds a pennant bearing the red cross of England.

The west window shows the Transfiguration with the disciples cowering at the sight of Moses (on the left) and Elijah (on the right) with the transfigured Christ in the centre and the Holy Spirit above.  


In the bottom panels St George is shown with the slain dragon on the left and St Cecilia, the patron of music, on the right.  The centre panel has the Jenkinson coat of arms and motto: Pareo non servio (I obey, I do not serve).


This window is a memorial to Sir George Samuel Jenkinson who died on 19th January 1892 and his wife, Emily Sophia who died on 23rd February 1892, both of whom are buried in the vault at the west end of the churchyard.

Perhaps one of the most interesting is the window in the south wall, adjacent to the pulpit, depicting a prisoner being visited.  On a brass plaque nearby is a quotation from the parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 36 & 40:


“I WAS IN PRISON AND YOU CAME UNTO ME ……..
VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU IN AS MUCH AS YE HAVE
DONE IT UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE
MY BRETHREN YE HAVE DONE UNTO ME.”


It is unlikely that anyone then could have foreseen the time when a prison existed in the village, built on land formerly belonging to the Jenkinsons, or that members of the congregation would indeed visit its inmates.

The parish no longer has a full-time priest of its own; responsibility for the cure of souls in Falfield is shared with that of four other parishes as part of the united benefice of Cromhall, Tortworth, Tytherington, Falfield and Rockhampton.  At present this is being carried out by one part-time priest with the help of two lay readers and a local ministry team which is based in the benefice office near the village hall.  


The history of St George’s church reflects the changing social pattern of the last one hundred-and-fifty years.  No longer do the squire and the vicar hold centre stage in the village, nor does the church stand at the centre of village life as it once did.  The generosity of a past generation has left the present one with the burden of maintaining an historic building which is increasingly showing signs of age.  If it is to stand as a future witness to the heritage of our past, that responsibility is a heavy one.

The history of the parish church of St George, Falfield, is inextricably linked with the Jenkinson family who owned the Eastwood Park estate until 1916.


Sir George Samuel Jenkinson succeeded to the baronetcy and family estates which included Hawkesbury and Falfield in Gloucestershire, when his uncle, Sir Charles Jenkinson, the tenth baronet, died in Paris, in 1855 without a male heir.  At once Sir George embarked on improving the property, and gave the land for the building of the church, vicarage, and school, at Falfield. He also built the house at Eastwood where he lived for the remainder of his life, having first pulled down a portion of a house which the second Lord Liverpool had begun, but never completed.


When Sir George Jenkinson decided to make his home at Eastwood, he found that the village, most of which he also owned, had no church but only a chapel–of-ease.  This was a building where people could worship and funerals could take place but for sacraments of baptism or Holy Communion and for marriages they had to go to St Mary’s at Thornbury or to other adjacent parish churches e.g. Tortworth or Stone.  Indeed, Sir Stephen Glynne, a well-known antiquary and ecclesiologist, who visited the chapel-of-ease in 1849, reported it to be a small building with perpendicular features, consisting of a nave and chancel.  He added that it had one remarkable feature; it had no altar.

Building of the church began in 1859 and on 23rd April the corner-stone of the porch was laid.  The church was dedicated to St George, no doubt partly in honour of its temporal patron, and consecrated by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol on 31st July 1860.  As the service proceeded we are told that the day was bright and sunny, and flitting form rafter to rafter, occasionally uttering a chirp of gladness, was a small bird.  This reflected the words of the psalm used in the service of consecration:

‘The sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young.’  (Psalm 84)


The building work was carried out by Mr W B Burchell, a builder from Thornbury and was designed to accommodate 180 persons. [The board giving details of the seating accommodation, including how many seats were provided free and how many paid for, was to be found above the inside of the entrance porch but has disappeared in recent years.]

As part of the plan to make Falfield a parish in its own right, a vicarage was provided by converting a blacksmith’s house and forge which were nearby.  Reportedly, some of the materials of the old chapel-of-ease were incorporated in it, including oak beams and mullioned windows.


Amongst the number of events that took place to celebrate the 150th anniversary was a Flower Festival and an evening of Danish folk music performed by the Harold Haugaard Quartet

Click here to see pictures of the Flower Festival

Click here to see pictures of the the Danish Folk music evening

Page last updated: Saturday, January 24, 2015