St Lawrence C of E
The earliest evidence of a Christian presence on this site in Bourton-on-the-Water goes back as far as 709AD when a wooden church was built on land donated by the local king, centred to the Abbey of Evesham.
1110 AD saw the construction of the first stone church of Norman design. Since then there have been several changes of appearance. Under the chancel (the east end of the church), there is a twelfth-century crypt, said to be connected by a tunnel to the Old Manor House across the High Street.
The only visible part of the old church is the chancel, built in 1328 by Walter de Burhton. The church was then dedicated to St Lawrence, a fourth century Christian martyr; his story is recorded on a window-ledge near the organ.
A drawing of 1780 shows the church with a central tower, between the nave (where the congregation sit) and the chancel. It shows the ‘Clapton Aisle, where the present porch is located; this was for residents of Clapton on the Hill during the period when their own ancient church of St James’ was for a time derelict. However, in 1784, the Norman church was largely replaced with one in the neo-classical style, with a new heavy tower with clock and bells, still standing today.
Further change came in the 1870’s with the construction of the present nave, followed by the North Aisle and St George’s chapel, now containing memorials to the dead of the two world wars of the twentieth century. This Victorian legacy includes the nave roof, said to be one of Gloucestershire’s finest examples of a king-post roof.
The twentieth century also left its mark with a fine painted ceiling in the chancel, and the ornate oak screen, separating the cancel from the nave. A very fitting contribution from a local poet and artist was added to the west wall at the time of the Millennium.
Today the parish Church remains the focus of a lively worshipping community in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water, extending a warm welcome to visitors.
Times of Service visit, www.bourtonparishchurch.co.uk
Our Lady Help Of Christians RC Church
The Anglican church of Saint Laurence stands on the site of a Saxon Church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.In his History of Bourton-on-the-Water, Harry Clifford records that: Before the reformation this aisle was a chantry, dedicated to “Our Blessed Lady”, where Mass was sung daily for the soul of the founder. This aisle is known as the Clapton Aisle. Clifford continues “After the Dissolution, Bourton Church must have presented a sorry sight.”
Little then remained of the old Faith, but what there was, was held securely by some who were brave and resolute.
The Victoria History of Gloucestershire reports that in 1667 Bourton was clearly a known centre for papists, and figures for that year indicate that half the papists in Stow deanery were gathered there. When Charles Trinder, attorney-at-law and later Recorder of Gloucestershire purchased the Manor House at Bourton in 1662, he established there, despite the great peril and severe penalties incurred, a Catholic centre with resident priests. This mission, which lasted for 75 years, was served by chaplains who were mainly Benedictine monks.
Saint John Wall, the Franciscan Friar canonised as one of the Forty Martyrs, was almost certainly a visitor there as he was a close personal friend of Charles Trinder. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1679 simply for the offence of being a Catholic priest and remaining in England. On the upper floor of the large, rambling Manor House, during the nineteenth century, a secret room was discovered when a wall paper was being removed. It is believed that this had been used as a priest’s hiding place. It was apparently part of a suite of rooms, one of which was traditionally known as “The Chapel.”
In 1927, before he married Mary Underwood of Preston (Priests’ town), Henry James Barnes was received into the Church by Father van den Biesen, who was then living in retirement at Stow and helping George de Serionne in the parish. The couple settled at Bourton. With three other practising Catholic families there, they all had to walk, cycle or beg a lift to Stow or Chipping Campden for Sunday Mass. They hoped that one day there would be a Catholic church at Bourton but in the meantime the children, on whom the future depended, must be taught the Faith.
Encouraged by George de Serionne, Mary Barnes began to teach small groups at her house. George, a frequent visitor and adviser, became a life-long friend. Mary records that in 1938, six children were taken by coach to Saint Catharine’s church at Chipping Campden in order to make their First Communions.
During the second World War, with the building of the air force base at Little Rissington, and the evacuation of many people from the cities to the countryside, many Catholics came into the area.
So regular Masses began, at first in the Barnes’ home and later in the front room of Dr Liston’s house. The first Mass was said at Bourton at Easter, 1940 in the Barnes’ home.
In 1942, Father John O’Donnell, the newly appointed priest at Stow-on-the-Wold, determined that a Mass centre should be provided at Bourton. The Church of England hall was rented for Sunday Mass and at first Father O’Donnell cycled from Stow to Bourton until Mrs Liston provided him with a car. As the war progressed and more people came to Bourton, the need for a church became more pressing. At this time Father O’Donnell was saying Mass every Sunday in a Nissen hut on the airfield. Bingo, Dances, Jumble Sales, Fêtes and Bazaars were held to raise funds; and so the work went on.
By 1954 it was found necessary to have two classes for the growing number of children needing instruction.
At last, in 1957, land in Station Road was acquired and, when in the following year Father O’Callaghan came, Stow was granted parochial status. High priority was given to the building of a church at Bourton. On 24th May in 1960, building work began. This was the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians (to whom the church was dedicated).
On 9th October the first Mass was said in the new church and the following Thursday saw the official opening and dedication by the Bishop.
Times of Mass visit, www.stow-bourtoncatholic.net
Bourton Baptist Church
Bourton-on-the-Water Baptist Church came into being around the 1650s. The area was a nursery of non-conformism and Bourton’s 1200-odd inhabitants belonged to just about every denomination available. As time wore on, the various Baptist congregations moved closer together and eventually merged, building their own Meeting House in 1701 on the site now occupied by the cemetery. In 1740, a vacancy for the post of minister arose and the choice fell on a promising lad of only 23, Benjamin Beddome. So popular was Beddome that, even before he had accepted the post full-time, and even though he was still a young bachelor, his flock started collecting to build a grand new manse for him. They raised the huge sum of £217, enough to build a handsome double-fronted home, which he moved into when he married in 1749. The house was sold by the church in 1938 and today is the Old Manse Hotel in the centre of the village. Beddome stayed in the Church for 55 years, dying in the house on 3rd September 1795, aged 79. He was not only a well loved pastor and preacher, but had a growing reputation as a hymn writer. The current Baptist church was built in 1875 and continues to be a centre of Christian witness in Bourton-on-the-Water.
Times of Service visit, www.bourtonbaptist.co.uk