Nympsfield - St Joseph

Tinkley Lane, Nympsfield, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10

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A small, aisleless stone church built in the 1920s using elements of a design prepared forty-five years earlier by Charles Hansom, and consequently old-fashioned for its date. The church is one of several examples in the village of the patronage of the sisters Blanche and Beatrice Leigh of Woodchester. Nicely detailed, it is set in a churchyard and makes a positive contribution to the character of the local conservation area. Furnishings of note include a medieval font and remains of a piscina and a fine east window by Edward Payne. 

The mission was begun by the Dominicans of Woodchester in 1847. They had come there at the behest of William Leigh who had bought the Woodchester estate in 1845 where he built the church and monastery. Mass in Nympsfield, which was part of the Woodchester estate, was said in Chapel House, the former Red Lion inn, to the west of the present church, where a school was also opened in the 1850s. Plans for a ‘Leigh Memorial Chapel’ were drawn up by Charles Hansom as early as 1878 but these were not implemented for lack of funds. In 1903 St Joseph’s school to the south of the present church was opened, funded by Blanche and Beatrice Leigh (granddaughters of William Leigh), who also funded the establishment of an orphanage. The school was rebuilt after the Second World War, again with funding from the Leigh Trust.

The present church was also founded by the Miss Leighs, with the foundation stone laid by Bishop Burton of Clifton on 2 August 1922. It opened on 25 July 1923. The architect was E. P. Dromgole of Stroud, who used in simplified form elements of the Hansom design of 1878. The church was built by employees from the Woodchester estate, led by Ernest Poulton. 

Care of the parish passed from the Dominicans to the diocese in 1932, and the church was consecrated on 19 October 1932. The congregation has included, at various times, the novelist Evelyn Waugh and, when staying at Berkeley Castle, the American ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy and his family. Today it is served from Dursley (qv).

The church was built in 1922-3 from designs by E. P. Dromgole of Stroud. It is in a modest Early English Gothic style, a simplified version of designs prepared in 1878 by Charles Hansom. It is built of limestone under a stone slate roof. On plan it consists of an aisleless nave, gabled transepts and chancel. The windows have variously lancets, Y-tracery and intersecting tracery (but a square-headed window on the north). There is a bellcote housing two bells at the junction of the nave and sanctuary (the latter is at a lower level than the nave).

The interior is plain, with a collar rafter roof and plastered and painted walls. Chamfered stone arches without capitals give onto the sanctuary and transepts.  Furnishings include a fifteenth-century octagonal font, which may have come from the old parish church in the village; the base is modern. In the south transept there is what may be the reused arches from a thirteenth-century double piscina. The sanctuary is traditionally furnished, with timber communion rail, high altar against the east wall, and no forward altar. The fine east window is by Edward Payne (1906-91), showing the Crucifixion and the arms of the Dominicans and the Miss Leighs.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: E. P. Dromgole of Stroud, using elements of an 1878 design by Charles Hansom

Original Date: 1923

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed