Jilly Cooper OBE
Author and Journalist
- Place of Worship
- All Saints Church
- A church involved in the life of a picturesque Cotswold village through welcoming worship for everyone.
- Bisley, Gloucestershire GL6 7BB
- Church of England
Our lovely church.
My favourite church, All Saints, Bisley is built of grey and Labrador-yellow Cotswold stone. Its soaring spire, topped by a gold weathercock, can be seen for miles around, and was a landmark which guided the bomber pilots back home to Gloucestershire during the last war.
On the inside walls of All Saints are lists of parish priests dating back to the Domesday Book. Different features have been added over the years to the church’s mediaeval site, “growing up out of the past” according to the excellent guide book “A Mosaic of the Ages”. The real mover and shaker, however, was Thomas Keble, parish priest from 1827 to 1873. When he took over, the church was surrounded by ugly steep steps rising to eleven doors to allow the rich mill-owners and their families to ascend to the gallery and not have to mix with their riffraff workers below. Thomas Keble, opposed to such snobbery, whipped down the staircases and, when he wasn’t tirelessly raising money for the poor in his parish, supervised a wholesale rebuilding of the church.
Wandering round you will find a splendid 1200 font carved with fishes and a thirteen century effigy of a knight with a little whippet at his feet. Everywhere are beautiful carvings and glorious stained glass. My favourite window lights up the chapel on the right of the porch and depicts knights scrapping in the foreground and one of their horses, a savvy strawberry roan, craftily retreating into the bushes. Despite its beauty, this is very much a family church, with a magically colourful corner set aside for the children and a troupe of wonderful bell ringers who often celebrate 80th and 90th birthdays in the village. The immaculately kept churchyard, where towering limes and yews seem to hold up the sky, is flanked by Blue Coats, the village school and by several lovely houses all steeped in history. The oldest house gave birth to the legend of the Bisley Boy, who is alleged to have been switched with Queen Elizabeth 1st when she was a little girl and replaced her on the throne. Passing a graveyard, currently disappearing in a foaming sea of wild garlic and cow parsley, steep steps lead down on the left to the famous Bisley Wells. Carrying on another Thomas Keble innovation, children from Blue Coats, bless the Wells on Ascension Day every year by garlanding them with flowers.
No newcomer to Bisley need feel lonely, because all ages can join in the thriving social life generated by our lovely church.