History of Holy Trinity Church

The following is an extract from the excellent history of Holy Trinity written by My Tony Clack.

The year 2001 marked the 150th Anniversary of Holy Trinity Church Watermoor.

In 1841 the population of Cirencester was only about 6000, and the Parish Church was only able to minister to "880 persons which could be accommodated in enclosed pews, 188 in open benches in the passages and 450 school children in the distant gallery". The then Vicar of Cirencester the Rev. (later Canon) William Powell, found a solution to this inadequate accommodation for worship. He was a devotee of the Oxford Movement known in those days as the Tractarian Movement and along with Sir George Gilbert Scott planned the Church along the Neo Gothic Style so popular in those days. It was his intention to make it possible for at least half the local population, rather than just under a third, to be able to worship by the addition of a new church, erected as a Chapel-of-Ease. This would be located on the wooded piece of land opposite to Watermoor House in "the suburb of Watermoor". In those days the borough boundary was drawn at the Mill crossroads on Lewis Lane and so, one can see that the Church was first built on the outskirts of the town where, in 1851, there were very few houses at the time.

Land offered
When this scheme was suggested, Henry George the 4th Earl Bathurst came forward with an offer of the site of an acre and a half, which Canon Powell had in mind. The grant of this land to the Church was given with the glad consent of Mr. Joseph Randolph Mullings, who was the lessee of the land and the owner of Watermoor House. One condition applied and that was that there should be no burials in the churchyard, this was most likely because of the high water table. It is of note also that, unlike most Churches that are were built with East/West orientation, the Holy Trinity Watermoor was built with North/South orientation.

£6,000 raised
Public subscriptions were then invited and 'collecting books' were issued to some of the leading Church folk. The inscription within the covers of these books makes fascinating reading:
'You are requested to have this collecting book ready, and whenever an opportunity offers, to obtain contributions of any amount among your friends and generally. While donations even of only a penny from any well disposed poor person will be most welcome, it is hoped that you will be careful in requesting a small contribution not to give the donor to understand that he can escape with a cheap offering that costs nothing'.

'God loves a cheerful giver', and it would be injurious to anyone to congratulate himself on saving or to give chiefly because you are importunate. The object is to show the privilege and the duty of giving to others and to possess yourself with a feeling that you are collecting in God's service for a pious purpose."
It is from these books that we learn where the money came from, necessary for the building of a Church at Watermoor. In all £6000 was raised, and of that £1200 was invested in the purchase of the field (now termed the Paddock), to the west side of the site together with the building and cottage, the latter serving until 1899 as a residence for the priest-in-charge, and being known to this day as the Old Parsonage.

Building the Church
Foundations laid
The foundations of the church were laid up to the ground line by 1847 and on St Marks Day, the foundation stone was laid (more of this in Part 2). It is believed this was laid by Canon Powell though not verified as such.
Walking the stones

What is known, however, is that he arranged for the children of the Yellow School and Blue School, (who sang the hymns at the Consecration Service some 4 years later), walk over the stones in turn to impress the Mother Church upon their memories. They were later given a tea party.

The act of walking over the foundation stones was like the ritual of 'The Beating of the Bounds'. This is a procedure whereby elders or members of a congregation would process around the boundaries of their Church (or city or land) beating the boundaries or walls at strategic places, using 'wands' or sticks symbolically claiming their plot! It is hoped to re-enact this ritual, and perhaps display some of the old Blue and Yellow uniforms during the Anniversary Week in November 2001. (More of this in a later report.)

The foundations of the tower were laid with huge blocks of stone concreted together, because of the ingress of water, which was a continual source of annoyance to the workmen, and had to be constantly pumped away. During the preparation of the site many male skeletons were found near the wall by the main entrance gate thought to be the mortal remains of men killed in the civil wars. A block of stone was also found which was thought to belong to a Roman Villa.

The Church, which was designed and supervised in its construction by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was built by Mr. Bridges, a local builder of that time. The style is Gothic revival. The stone used for the outside came from a quarry in the London Road, while Bath stone was used for the inside. Bremen Oak form the roof timbers, these are darker than one would expect of this type of wood as the timber contained honeydew from the lime trees under which they lay for a long period. There is a well in the churchyard of which many people are curious. It appears to have been dug out for gravel and then left open to receive surface water from the roof.

Spire added 1852
The Church cost about £5000 and took four years to build, but by the time of its Consecration had neither a spire nor a complete south side. The spire was added in 1852 at the sole expense of the Hon. William Lennox Bathurst, while the latter, which reached only three-quarters of the building, was extended to its whole length in November 1860 at a cost of £900. This was raised by public subscriptions.

Contact details

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

Tel: 01285 659317
E-mail: enquiries@cirenparish.co.uk

The magazine for the Parish of Cirencester, 'Parish Life' is on sale every month priced 50p.

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