“ St Mary’s Berkeley is a large mediaeval church, with separate bell tower and extensive churchyard. It is next door to both Berkeley Castle and Dr Jenner’s House and Garden ”

Natalie Fenner, Churches Officer, Diocese of Gloucester

Architectural History

Berkeley’s minster dates from the Saxon era and was one of the wealthiest and most influential in Gloucestershire. Formed of a nave with aisles, north porch, chancel with north vestry and south chapel, the present St Mary's dates primarily to the 13th and 14th centuries, the church having been rebuilt after it was given to the Augustine Abbey in Bristol. The church was later restored twice in the 19th century. Firstly, by Popes & Bindon in 1862 , and then by George Gilbert Scott in 1864-6. It was Scott who discovered and restored the church’s remarkable medieval wall paintings that cover the inside of the church. Distinctive to St Mary is its detached bell tower, which was rebuilt in the18th century in the gothic style but retains a its 15th century plinth. It’s isolation from the main body of the church is said to be because it would offer less of a threat to Berkley castle, which St Mary’s overlooks at the southern end, should the church be captured in a siege.

Architectural Features

St Mary’s is a bit of a romanticist’s Gothic dream. Built of weather beaten sandstone and situated in a packed graveyard, the church looks down onto Berkley castle and the Severn estuary beyond. The imposing west front is the church’s best representation of its 13th century rebuild, filled with elongated lancet windows and blind recesses on either side of the doorway, and two monolithic buttresses. Inside is a combination of small details and big standout features. The nave is flanked on either side by a seven arch Early Gothic arcade with deeply cut stiff-leaf capitals. The restored medieval wall paintings cover most of the interior. These are mainly 13th century red patterns and red and white voussoirs, but there are larger images at different intervals around the church, including a Tudor rose in the rear of the south aisle, the remains of a Doom painting over the chancel arch and scrollwork and pelta ornamentation in the north arcade. The 15th century stone chancel screen is an extremely rare survival and is surmounted by an eye catching heraldic wooden cresting that runs along the top; added by Scott in the 19th century. To the south of the chancel is Berkeley chapel containing the alabaster effigies of successive Barons. A tiny and severely angled locked doorway creates the access between chancel and chapel, and a clear glazed opening between the two has been made in the south wall of the chancel.

Filming Attributes

The Grade 1 listed church has a striking and spacious interior, with considerable restoration of the mediaeval wall paintings. The churchyard contains the largest collection of ‘table’ or ‘chest’ memorial tombs in the county and has been used as a setting for nature, historical and drama filming.

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Special Considerations

  • Animals Allowed

Topography

Berkeley is ten minutes’ drive from the M5. The church and churchyard date back to Saxon times and are at the top of the low hill on which Berkeley is built. There are panoramic views from the churchyard to the South and to the West across the River Severn.

Crew and Relevant Links

Berkeley Castle

Contact

Email: nancy.sheridan@heritage4media.com

Phone: Heritage4Media: 07736 364722