Parish Church history

The Parish Church of St John Baptist

Church Measurements

Internal Length  48m ( 158 ft)
External length  55m (180 feet)
Max Width         32m (104 ft)
Height of Nave  17m (57 ft)
Height of tower 49m (162 feet)

Gloucestershire's largest parish church looks southward across the market place, hub of the historic town's prosperity. To the north of the church is the walled precinct of the former Augustinian monastery founded by Henry I in 1117. There are few documents to help interpret its building history, and to answer questions such as 'When was it begun?' we must look at its structure.

It is probable that after the abbey had been founded, partly on the site of a Saxon church, a new parish church was commenced, a relic of which exists in the form of a late Norman doorway in the north wall of the Lady Chapel. There is evidence of an early 13th-century rebuilding of the chancel and the nave, but the most substantial part of the church dates from the 15th and 16th centuries.

 Cirencester, along with other 'wool churches' is thus a
  building of mainly late medieval design. No one is
  certain who paid for the church or why it was so large
  in a town of only 2,500 people. There were ten wool
  merchants in mid 14th-century Cirencester and the
  abbey had extensive flocks of sheep. The coats of arms
  in the nave are mainly of nobles and of the abbey,
  whose arms appear above the doorway into the tower.
  This is just a flavour of the history available in the
  guides which can be bought from the Church shop in
  the North west corner of the Church.

  St John Baptist has had a set of bells in the church tower since around 1499. The full complement of 12 bells was installed in 1722 and the church was amongst the first to have such. During 1984-85 the bell frame was replaced and a new bell added. The clock dates from 1870. Its carillon sounds every three hours with the hymn tune 'O Faith of England.'

Facing on to the market place and built above the porch is the Town Hall, an historic building in continual use today for choir practice, music groups and children's activities. It was refurbished in 1994 and contains four Benefaction Boards that record perpetual gifts made to the church. The carving on the front of the Town Hall, the stone pinnacles and crenellated effect make the Town Hall fascia particularly interesting and noteworthy.

During 2010 and 2011 the South Porch facade has been cleaned and renovated.

Some of the many features to see are the Trinity Chapel, the Catherine Chapel and the Garstang Chapel. Near the Garstang chapel is the famous Ann Boleyn Cup. There is a rare Stuart coat-of-arms and the 14th Century font, newly re-sited near the South Porch entrance.
Complete restoration under Sir George Gilbert Scott. 1965-87
 Major restoration of roofs and fabric 2005 Restoration of altar platform in the sanctuary - first stage of extensive programme for church re-ordering.


c.300:         First church on Roman town of Corinium
577:           Church and town burned by Saxons
c.700:         Saxon church built on site
1117:          Henry I founded Abbey of St Mary, earlier Saxon church demolished. 
                  Norman church built on present site
1235-50:    Nave rebuilt. Chancel extended. Lady Chapel built
1400:         Work on tower began around this time
1500:         Town Hall built on south side of church
1515-30:    Nave rebuilt
1539-40:    Abbey dissolved and demolished
1865-67:    Complete restoration under Sir George Gilbert Scott
1965-87:    Major restoration of roofs and fabric
2005-12:    Restoration of altar area in the sanctuary, Nave floor,
                  Fr Willis organ, Town Hall and South Porch

Cat and Mouse

The cat and mouse
carving to be seen
in the Parish Church

Contact details

The Parish Centre, Gosditch Street, Cirencester, Glos. GL7 2AG

Tel: 01285 659317

Need a document copied? Call in at the Parish Office and we can help. Very low cost.

Website by SearchPath