Tithe Barn and Chapel
Continuing our Hartpury Exploration
The tithe barn is a 14th century Grade II listed building, now privately owned was built by the Abbey of Gloucester, once belonging to Hartpury Manor it was used to store all the produce for the manor. At one end of the roof it has a Welsh dragon as a finial (looking towards England) and an English lion (looking towards Wales) on the other. It measures one hundred and sixty one feet by thirty six feet and is one of the largest in the country, supported largely by modern buttresses although some original two stage buttresses remain on the south side. During the 18th century, the barn, until then used for its original purpose of storing and threshing crops, was altered and the five smaller doors added. Later in the 19th century an earlier slate roof was replaced by one of red tile, with elaborate diamond and triangular patterns, the building was adapted to take forty cattle with an area for feed preparation at one end. A large yard on the south side completed the 19th century alterations. The roof was restored in 1981 following major damage in the winter gales of 1976/77.
The most significant addition to the group of buildings that surround the church was the construction of the Chapel for the Dominican nuns in 1829. Account books for the period show that Robert Canning, the Lord of the Manor erected the shell of the building and the Nuns were then responsible for the internal fittings. A small cottage consisting of two rooms on the ground floor and two above was built adjoining the chapel. The ground floor room to the north had a connecting door was probably used as a vestry. The room to the south appears to have no connection with the rest of the Cottage, merely a door to the Court and was therefore only a store. On the first floor the Nuns' priest no doubt occupied the two rooms
The Nuns employed local carpenters and during 1829 paid for work, timber, lath and nails. One entry in their accounts for May 1830 shows a payment to Mr. Wingate for measuring and valuing work; Mrs. Bruorton had been paid sixty seven pounds, five shillings and zero pence for the pulpit and work to the choir. The decoration at that time is not now known, but behind the altar was a painted figure of Christ in Ascension, flanked by three figures, presumably disciples.
After the Nuns left the Court was let to tenant farmers. Robert Canning, the catholic Lord of the Manor moved to Foxcote, Warwickshire, which he had inherited. His daughter Maria Gordon-Canning, a devout catholic, occupied Hartpury House. By 1883 Hartpury Court, the Abbots' Old Manor House, had been demolished and a replacement farmhouse built leaving the chapel quite detached. Services became very irregular following the death of Maria in 1887, its condition deteriorated and the building became derelict and no longer watertight.
On two occasions in the early 20th century, the wealth of Welsh industrialists supported the Hartpury Estate. Clara Gordon-Canning, wife of Maria's second son and daughter of the ironmaster Crawshay Bailey, acquired the estate, which had been divided between various heirs. In 1934 she sold the chapel to her sister-in-law another Maria, a daughter of the Gordon-Canning family and widow of coalmine owner and Brecon MP James Gwynne Holford. The chapel was partly endowed by Clara and refurbished by Maria Gwynne Holford. She blocked the two niches in the north wall beside the altar and added much of the ornate plaster-work further destroying the original paintings. She also fitted out the small Lady Chapel under the gallery. The chapel was re-dedicated to St Dominic by Fr. Bernard Delaney, O.P., Prior Provincial, on the 1st of January 1936. Gloucester priests were responsible for three masses in the Chapel each week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday.
It continued to be used for services until 1947 when Mrs Gwynne-Holford died. By her Will, she gave the Chapel and its contents to St Peter's Roman Catholic Mission at Gloucester, but St Peter's felt unable to accept the responsibility for maintaining it. The contents were stripped and in 1952 the capital endowment set aside Clara Gordon-Canning for its maintenance was nearly used to pay for its demolition. The irony of this was not lost on the Trustees. Ultimately the building was sold for one hundred and fifty pounds to Lady Dorothy Lygon of Maidres Field Court, who was then farming Hartpury Court and the chapel became a chicken deep-litter shed.
In 1997 the Old Chapel was in very poor repair. The roof, in places open to the elements, threatened total collapse, taking with it the ornamental plaster ceiling. The walls however were still structurally sound. A pair of large metal sliding doors, fitted when when the building had been adapted for agricultural use, defaced the west front. The stained glass and internal plasterwork required urgent attention and the cottage attached to the east side was derelict. In September the Parochial Church Council considered the possibility of launching an appeal to restore it as a community hall. Planning Consent was obtained and the cost of restoration was estimated as being at least one hundred and sixty five thousand pounds.
An appeal was launched and in March 1998 a charity, Hartpury Historic Buildings Trust, was formed and purchased the derelict chapel later that year. The spring of 1999 was a worrying time following the refusal of the first application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the failure of a main roof timber and the loss of much of the ornate plaster.
Emergency scaffolding was fitted, but the sideways pressure from the failed timbers was forcing the walls apart, putting the entire building at risk. With help from Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and the Pilgrim Trust, the roof repairs were completed by March 2000 and the eventual success of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid meant that the full restoration could start. The problems were just beginning.
It was found in September 2000 that the Government's GCHQ development in Cheltenham had sucked up all spare capacity in the building trade and costs had increased well beyond expectation. Amazingly the contractors were managing to keep to time despite floods and the wettest winter on record. Then came the disastrous outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The site had to be closed to prevent risk of spreading infection. The restored building was eventually completed and was reopened in September 2001 by Mrs Mary Redvers, great, great granddaughter of Robert Canning, who had originally built it.
The total cost - nearly three hundred thousand pounds
ALL IN ALL A DELIGHT TO LEARN ABOUT