Gloucestershire Places of Worship

St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (1) (40k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (2) (29k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (3) (45k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (4) (48k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (5) (30k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (6) (33k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (7) (29k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (8) (26k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (9) (29k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (10) (35k) St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford (11) (44k) Above Photograph(s)
Copyright of Rosemary Lockie
St Mary the Virgin's Church, Fairford
St Mary the Virgin's Church,
High Street,
Fairford, Gloucestershire.


This Church has (or had) a graveyard.

Note: any church within an urban environment may have had its graveyard closed after the Burial Act of 1853. Any new church built after that is unlikely to have had a graveyard at all.

Church History

This Place of Worship was founded in the 13th century, and we understand it is still open.

The following information about the Church has been provided to accompany the photographs on the right. A list of people who have supplied the information is included in the Acknowledgements, below.

[Image 1] St Mary the Virgin's Church in Fairford's presence alone in the town is enough to get it noticed, but it also contains the only surviving complete collection of medieval glass in the country. It is directly opposite the old Magistrate's Court building.[1]

[Image 2] The central part of the church, underneath the tower dates from its rebuilding in the early 15th century. The oldest traces of masonry in the church are some 13th century foundations in the north east corner. Shadows of medieval wall paintings can still be seen high up on the walls inside the tower structure - but you have to know they're there to be able to spot them! In 1920, when Oscar Farmer wrote a guide book, they were still clear enough for him to describe. One on the north east pillar shows a figure dressed as a bishop with a staff in his hand, identified by Farmer as Thomas Becket. The south east pillar shows a saint being tortured, with 2 yellow angels hovering over his head, who Farmer thought was St Edmund. The south west pillar appears to have a pelican, a symbol of piety, and on the north west pillar is a figure in a yellow robe, accompanied by 2 dark figures, possibly angels.[1]

[Image 3] The statue niche above the south porch contains an effigy of St Mary the Virgin, to whom the church is dedicated. The main part of the building, in late Perpendicular style dates from the late 15th century. It was built to this lavish design under the direction of John TAME, a Cirencester wool merchant, and remains virtually unchanged to this day.[1]

[Image 4] The Guide Book says the Chancel Stalls probably came from Cirencester Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1540), and were possibly carved about 1300, during the reign of Edward I.

The space between the stalls is narrow, and the carvings are not easy to photograph, and even in situ are difficult to decipher. However the Guide Book tells us they are:

(1) Woman belabouring her husband (8) Dog stealing as his mistress spins*
(2) A Drunkard (9) A youth teasing a girl
(3) Wheatsheaf and Reapers (10) A grotesque head
(4) Two men still hungry (11) Man and woman draining a barrel
(5) Man with two dogs (12) Two geese fighting
(6) Two wyverns (13) An Angel
(7) Women plucking pigeon (14) A Fox and goose

(* the one nearest the camera on this photograph)

At a time when standing was mandatory during services, the ledges above the carvings offered brief respite for the clergy, as they could be tilted forwards to be used as (very narrow) seats.[1]

[Image 5] The tomb on the left in the Lady Chapel, with full size effigies, is a memorial to Katherine LYGON and her third husband Roger. She was the widow of the grandson of John TAME, the founder of the church, and Lady of the Manor of Fairford. She died in 1584.

The altar was designed by Geoffrey Webb, and given to the church in 1913 by Earl Beauchamp, a descendant of Roger Lygon.[1]

[Image 6] Here is a glimpse of just 3 out of a large number of beautifully embroidered decorative kneelers. They have been hand-embroidered - each is a unique design - by members of St Mary the Virgin's Church during the last 20 years (since 1989).[1]

[Image 7] Looking towards the south west corner of the church, showing a few out of a total of 28 windows in the church, illustrating teachings of the Bible for a medieval congregation, and thus performing a similar function to wall paintings, in pre-Reformation churches.The Guide Book of St Mary's Church tells us the glass was made between 1500 and 1517 to the direction of King Henry VII's Glazier, Barnard Flower, mainly in workshops in Westminster, and that a number of the glaziers and glass painters came from The Netherlands.[1]

[Image 8] Looking westwards down the North Aisle from the Lady Chapel.[1]

[Image 9] The High Altar was designed by Sir J. Ninian Cooper and installed in 1920.[1]

[Image 10] In constrast with the West Window, this window, in the Corpus Christi Chapel is predominantly blue.[1]

[Image 11] This is the window which everyone's eye is drawn to when first entering the church. Its most remarkable feature is the predominance of red in the bottom right hand corner, where the harrowing of hell is depicted. The Devil in the corner wears a breast-plate with two eyes. He of course has a tail and holds what looks like a mace in his right hand. We were told by our guide that the rich red colour of the glass owes its presence to gold dust being added in its creation.[1]


Now or formerly Church of England.

If more than one congregation has worshipped here, or its congregation has united with others, in most cases this will record its original dedication.


This Church is located at OS grid reference SP1515501175. You can see this on various mapping systems. Note all links open in a new window:


I have found many websites of use whilst compiling the information for this database. Here are some which deserve mention as being of special interest for Fairford, and perhaps to Local History and Places of Worship as a whole.

The above links were selected and reviewed at the time I prepared the information, but please be aware their content may vary, or disappear entirely. These factors are outside my control.


A special thanks to the following people who have contributed information for this web page:

1. Information provided by Rosemary Lockie.

Information last updated on 26 May 2011 at 17:50.

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This Report was created 24 Sep 2021 - 22:47:10 BST from information held in the Gloucestershire section of the Places of Worship Database. This was last updated on 27 Mar 2021 at 10:54.

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