Ampney St Mary

The 12th century church stands alone and about a mile from the present village of Ampney St Mary.  

When the Black Death swept the country from 1348 to 1350, it is thought that the villagers either died or simply fled the site to build in a healthier position.

On the north, or main road side of the church, a blocked doorway can be seen.  The lintel or tympanum above the door is Norman.  The carved design is unique and shows the Lion of Righteousness striding triumphantly over two horrific agents of the devil.

 

The bellcote is 600 years old, while the bell itself is dated 1747 and is inscribed with the motto; 'Peace and Good Neighbourhood'.

At the entrance of the south porch on the right hand side is a late 15th century niche.  The elm door is itself ancient and as you open it, you will see the Norman Font with its band of chevron moulding round the edge.

 

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The Nave (the main body of the church) is 12th century. There are three windows : the large West window is decorated with beautiful tracery : the small window in the South wall is possibly pre-Norman and is pierced through a single block of stone, being rebated externally for a shutter and internally for a frame to perhaps carry a skin instead of costly glass : the window between the porch and chancel is late 15th century and has a piscina in the sill.

The wall paintings, though faded, remind us of the rich colourings by which medieval churches were made splendid.  Traces of paintings are everywhere, but the best preserved are between the porch and the chancel. "Keep Holy the Sabbath Day" and "Christ of the Trades" are suggested titles.  It will be seen that the crucified Lord is surrounded by various tools familiar to us.  To the left of the door a wheelwright trues a spoke by holding it to his eye, above to the left is a completed wheel.

The Chancel is a 13th century extension, but the East window, although based on medieval colour and design, is modern.  A rare survival is the stone screen separating the chancel from the nave, with the elbow of one 'return stall' still to be seen.

The communion rails and altar are Caroline and so, too is the church plate which consists of one chalice dated 1635.

Outside the church, baroque cherubs gaze from tombstones and, just beyond the churchyard 's south-west boundary there is a footbridge over the Ampney Brook.  During the period 1879-1913, St Mary's church became completely smothered by a forest of ivy; hence the much-used local name - 'The Ivy Church'.