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St John the Baptist, Harescombe, Gloucestershire

(51°47′28″N, 2°14′15″W)
SO 837 103
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Gloucestershire
now Gloucestershire
medieval Worcester
now Gloucester
  • Rita Wood
  • Rita Wood
5 August 2019

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Harescombe is a cluster of farms at the foot of the Cotswold escarpment about five miles south of Gloucester. The church is small, with chancel and N vestry, nave and S porch. Verey & Brooks say it is a 13th-century church, citing the mostly trefoil-headed lancets (Verey & Brooks 2002). There was a restoration by Francis Niblett in 1871.

The Romanesque remains are the blocked round-headed N doorway and a font, 'exceptionally beautiful in its simplicity' (Verey, 1976, 268).


The present church was consecrated by the bishop of Worcester in July 1315; this date would fit with the existing fabric (Hall 1885--86, 102; Verey & Brooks 2002). A deed of settlement printed in translation by Hall in 1885--86 from an unspecified source establishes that the church was in existence by 1181 (the deed is printed in translation in Hall 1885--86, 88--89). The deed records a detailed settlement between Roger, prior of Lanthony, and the knight, Roger fitz Alan, concerning the chapel of Harescombe. The deed reveals that the chapel had been founded by Roger's father, Alan fitz Main, who is known to have been active in the 1130s and 1140s and who was an important figure in the following of the earls of Hereford (Walker 1964). According to the settlement, the chapel was subject to the authority of the matrix ecclesia of Haresfield, which belonged to the canons of Lanthony. The settlement conceded to the chaplain of Harescombe certain specified tithes and other privileges. These privileges included, firstly, the right of Roger's wife---or any free woman in his household---to be churched (that is, blessed after giving child birth) in the chapel of Harescombe and, secondly, the right of Roger and his family to be buried in the chapel if they so willed. In 1291 the benefice of the chapel was valued at less than 10 marks (Astle, Ayscough, & Caley 1802, 240).


Exterior Features





There is a tradition, maintained at the church, that the font was ‘rescued from a ditch’, but the reliability of this tradition remains unclear.

Fryer says that the font is transitional and ‘constructed out of one block of Minchinhampton stone. The bowl is supported on thirteen clustered pillars having plain capitals with no necks, approaching the bell form of the Early English period, and resting on a circular plinth. This cluster of capitals gives the appearance of a frill encircling the bottom of the bowl’ (Fryer, 1914, 112).

Verey and Brooks (2002) describe the font as Transitional Norman or EE (as did Verey 1979, 268).


T. Astle, S. Ayscough, J. Carey, Taxatio ecclesiastica Angliae et Walliae, Record Commission, London, 1802.

  1. A. C. Fryer, ‘Gloucestershire Fonts’ Part 6 Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 1914, Vol. 37, 107-133.

J. M. Hall ‘Harescombe-Fragments of Local History’,Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1885-86, Vol. 10, 67-132.

D. Verey, Gloucestershire, Harmondsworth, 1976.

D. Verey and A. Brooks Gloucestershire 1: the Cotswolds. 3rd edn extensively revised. New Haven 2002, 402.

D. Walker, 'Charters of the Earls of Hereford, 1095--1291', Camden Miscellany XXII, Camden Society, 4th ser. 1, London, 1964.