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St Mary, Kempley, Gloucestershire

(51°57′50″N, 2°28′48″W)
SO 671 296
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Gloucestershire
now Gloucestershire
medieval Hereford
now Gloucester
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Ron Baxter
18 June 2009

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Kempley is a village in the N of the county, 13 miles NW of Gloucester and only half a mile from the Herefordshire border. The church has a short, barrel-vaulted chancel with and aisleless nave, both 12thc, a S porch and a 13thc W tower with a pyramid roof. A good deal of painted decoration survives on the interior odf the entire building from a height of approximately four feet upwards. This is 12thc in origin, and was whitewashed, probably at the Reformation, and rediscovered in 1872. The stone sculpture is a key monument of the Dymock School of sculpture, with work by the school on the W nave doorway, the chancel arch and E chancel window, and the S nave doorway. Dymock is just 2 miles away to the NE.


Kempley was held by Eadric and Leofric as 2 manors in 1066, and by Roger de Lacy in 1086, when it was assessed at 3 hides. Roger de Lacy rebelled against William Rufus, and his estates confiscated and transferred to his brother Hugh, who held them until his death in 1121. Hugh de Lacy might well have been the patron of the church, therefore. The manor probably remained in royal hands until c.1150 when it came into the hands of Hugh's nephew, Gilbert, who d.1163. It then passed to his son, another Hugh, and remained in the Lacy family until the male line failed in 1241.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

The W door has been dated by dendrochronology and a felling date of 1114-44 established. The felling date for the nave roof is 1120-50. This work was reported in 1999. Prior to this, Gethyn Jones had argued that there were two phases of Romanesque work here: a plain church, with the lancet windows of the nave and chancel and possibly the existing W doorway was built c.1090-1100 and the S doorway, chancel arch and a large E window were elaborated c.1110-25. The dendrochronology must disrupt this chronology but there could still have been two pases of work.


W. St C. Baddeley, "The History of Kempley Manor and Church, Gloucestershire", Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 36 (1913), 130-51.

J. Davies and T. Manning, Wall Painting Condition Audit, Kempley, St Mary’s Church, Gloucestershire. English Heritage Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report 64/97. 1997.

E. Gethyn-Jones, The Dymock School of Sculpture, London and Chichester, 1979, 31-37 and passim.

D. W. H. Miles, M. J. Worthington and C. Groves, Tree-ring analysis of the nave roof, west door, and parish chest from the church of St Mary, Kempley, Gloucestershire. English Heritage Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report 36/99. 1999.

Victoria County History: Gloucestershire 12, 2010.

D. Verey, The Buildings of England. Gloucestershire: the Vale and the Forest of Dean, London 1970 (2nd ed. 1976), 278-80.