Shipton Solers-031 St Mary Consecration crosses painted in red lead survive in both nave and chancel
Descend from the high wolds near the remote villages of Guiting Power and Hawling, down towards Andoversford in the valley below. If you follow the old Gloucester road, rather than the busy A40 you will approach the twin villages as travellers have for hundreds of years. A ribbon of houses that skirts the margins of an infant River Coln, the waters of which glister over two fords and through many a clear pool between clumps of yellow flags, dividing the two villages.
Shipton or 'sheep farm' was divided into two parishes in the middle ages each with it's own small church, though they are barely a mile apart. Shipton Oliffe long in the ownership of the Oliffe family grew in importance and when the two parishes were united in 1766 St. Mary's Shipton Solers fell out of use. By 1883 St. Mary's was reduced to a cow byre and only the intervention of the rector Charles Pugh and his wife saved the church for future generations.
St. Oswald, Shipton Oliffe, a small Norman church with 13th century additions, stands below the level of the road. Once owned by the Abbey of St. Peter, Gloucester the church has a 13th century west bellcote with two bells above two gothic windows inserted by H. A. Prothero in 1903-4. A blocked Norman north door gives evidence of the church's early origins while the Early English chancel has retained many of it's original features including an east window with a shafted rere-arcade. The chancel has an Early Decorated south window, a stepped sedilia and a rare Late Decorated canopied piscina. A 13th century south chapel is separated from the nave by a two-bay arcade inserted by Prothero in 1904. The church has a Perpendicular octagonal font, a pulpit by W. Ellery Anderson 1937 and a plaster 19th century Royal Arms. There is an area of wall painting above the chancel arch which may be early 13th century and other texts of the 17th and 18th centuries. The east window has stained glass by Burlison and Grylls. In the churchyard are an interesting collection of tea-caddy tombs.
St. Mary, Shipton Solers was probably consecrated in 1212 as this date was inscribed over the chancel, a discovery made during the sympathetic 1929-30 restoration by W.E. Ellery Anderson. A simple 13th century church of nave and chancel with a west bell-cote added in 1884, lengthened in the Perpendicular period. Most of the windows reflect this 15th century refurbishment although a 13th century lancet survives in the chancel. North and south doors face each other across the nave, the south door appears to be late medieval. When passing through the Early English chancel arch you step down into the chancel, an unusual feature probably a consequence of the sloping ground. Perpendicular king-posts support a wagon roof with carved bosses. Consecration crosses painted in red lead survive in both nave and chancel, possibly late medieval in date, the nave walls have post-Reformation biblical texts. The altar is a 13th century stone mensa found buried beneath the floor during the restoration work carried out in 1929-30. An elaborate painted reredos was carved by Ellery Anderson in 1929, oak panelling was fitted at this time. The nave has a Jacobean pulpit with tester and a modern hourglass stand (the original was stolen) which dates from the 1660 Restoration when sermons were meant to last for over an hour. At the west end of the nave is an octagonal 15th century font. There are a few fragments of medieval glass as well as several attractive 1930s windows by Geoffrey Webb whose web signature can be seen beneath a depiction of the Madonna and Child. Two of the windows have rebus designs, one depicting a house amongst fields of corn commemorates Ernest Fieldhouse while the other shows a ship and tun representing Shipton. St. Mary's is now in the able custody of The Churches Conservation Trust.
The Shiptons are near Andoversford 7miles from Cheltenam, just over an hour from Stratford-upon-Avon.