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All Hallows, South Cerney, Gloucestershire

(51°40′28″N, 1°55′44″W)
South Cerney
SU 050 973
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Gloucestershire
now Gloucestershire
  • Jean and Garry Gardiner
5, 6, 8, 10-12 June 1998

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The church sits on high ground above the Erewash canal. The 12thc fabric of the church includes the N and S doorways; late Romanesque jambs of the E and W central tower arches; a round-headed opening on the E nave wall above the tower arch, and the lower stage of the tower with lights N and S. The N doorway has a tympanum; the S doorway has a sculpted niche above.

Replicas of the head and foot of a wooden crucifix from the 12thc Rood (c. 1130) are displayed on the interior N wall of the tower. The original fragments are held by the British Museum.

A restoration in 1862 by J.P. St. Aubyn added the S aisle and reset the S doorway. The E tower arch is almost entirely 19thc.


DB records the manor of Cernei held by Walter Fitz Roger; and Roger from Ralph de Tosny. It had three mills. The manor passed to Miles of Gloucester, who, by 1139, had built a small castle close to the church. Earl Roger inherited the manor but had to defend his claim against that of Abingdon Abbey. After the dispute was settled in Earl Roger's favour, the grant of South Cerney to St Augustine's Abbey, Bristol, was overseen by Henry fitz Empress c. 1153 (Turnock, 2015, 86-87).


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches
Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration


The beakheads on the arch of the S doorway exhibit a feature, which I believe to be unique: the depiction of the lower jaw emerging from beneath the roll on which the heads rest.

The beaded tongues and the beakhead decoration of the S doorway bear a strong resemblance to those decorating the S doorway at Quenington. The Descent into Hades in the niche above the S doorway has iconographic similarities to the tympanum of the N nave doorway at nearby Quenington, particularly the rayed sun, although I can see no face in the South Cerney example.

The W tower arches are described by Pevsner and in information at the church, as Transitional, while the E or chancel arch is "almost all 19thc.". It would appear that the bases and a few stones of the shafts are the only Romanesque fabric remaining of the chancel arch. (Fieldworkers)

Turnock (2015, 92-93) associates South Cerney with at least ten other churches with sculpture attributable to the patronage of the earls of Hereford, including Barnsley, Great Barrington, Little Barrington, Windrush, English Bicknor, Quenington, Rendcomb, Elmore, and Siddington.

A foliate spray above one of the beakheads and the eight-petal flowers on the label of the S doorway have analogues at Medland, Loir-et-Cher, W. France (Zarnecki and Henry 1979, 24).


G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland eds., English Romanesque Art 1066-1200, London, 1984, cat. no. 115.

S. Lysons, A Collection of Gloucestershire Antiquities, London, 1804, pl.44.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: the Cotswolds, London, 1979, 407-9.

D. T. Rice, English Art, 871–1100, Oxford, 1952, 21, 79–80.

J.A. Turnock, Reconsidering the reign of King Stephen: a contextual study of sculpture created in Gloucestershire between 1135 and 1154, Durham University, unpublished MA thesis, 2015, 86-92. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/11024. Accessed March 2017.

Victoria County History, A History of the County of Gloucester, London, 1972, 10:217.

D. Verey and A. Brooks, The Buildings of England. Gloucestershire I: the Cotswolds, New Haven and London, 2002, 617-619.

J.K. West, ‘Architectural Sculpture in Parish Churches of the 11th- and 12th-Century West Midlands: Some Problems in Assessing the Evidence’, in J. Blair, ed., Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition, 950–1200, Oxford, 1988, 161, fn. 13, 166.

G. Zarnecki and F. Henry, 'Romanesque arches decorated with human and animal heads', in G. Zarnecki, Studies in Romanesque Sculpture, London, 1979, VI 24, 25, pl. 11, 3.