OUR VILLAGE

There are various types of English village: Ours nestled in a hollow.

The traveller first sees the wisp of smoke from the chimneys then as he descends the hill, the village unfolds itself like a book:

Cottages and houses, gardens, pond and pumps. How delightful it is to stroll along on a fine summer’s evening. There is a sense of quiet leisure in the soft evening air. The smell of new-mown grass, a garden bonfire, the cottage’s wood fire or the damp soil after a shower. The tidiness of the street and paths, kerbs and grass verges. The Cotswold stone, mullioned windows, a thatched cottage, a few terraced rows, the view of the church from the pond.

The church is set in a beautiful churchyard, in itself all so perfectly kept, as Wordsworth wrote in his poem “A Parsonage in Oxfordshire,” while as a guest of his college friend, Rev. Robert Jones, then the Rector of Souldern Parish:

Where Holy ground begins, unhallowed ends
Is marked by no distinguishable line:
The turf unites, the pathways intertwine,
And whereso’er the stealing footsteps tends
Garden, and that domain where kindred friends
And neighbours rest together, here confound
Their several features, mingled like sound
On many waters, or as evening blends
with shady night, soft airs from shrub and flower
waft fragrant greetings to each silent grave!
And while these lofty poplars gently wave
Their tops, between them comes and goes a skу
Bright as the glimpses of eternity
То saints accorded in their mortal hour.

At one Church Managers’ Meeting the matter of our churchyard having no wall was brought up and some thought it should have a wall to make things proper and stop any from coming in or out as shouldn’t, so after discussion and much thought, one said with due deliberation:

“Well, what I says is that them that be in can’t get out and them as ent in, ent going to try to get in. So why waste yer money for nowt?”

The overflow from the pond passes by in a gentle stream, never in a hurry, always at a moderate flow between church and chestnut trees. The poplars have long since gone. But in the Church of St. Mary we are told, in 1887, that the chancel is modern, the aisle windows are good, easily decorated. The nave has a clerestory and retains some ancient carved seats; these were removed in 1855 when the church was re-pewed. The Tower is early Norman, having walls of great thickness. A cornice of the church is engraved in Rickman to this the Tower and a massive western arch, both very much out of the perpendicular. The Font that stands by the south door is very ancient, of the simplest form, without any sculpture, and large – but whether Saxon or Norman has not been determined. It had been roughly used, and pieces the size of a man’s hand had been been knocked out of it.

Tһе Tower contains 5 bells in all, 4 large bells and a prayer bell, small. The dates range from A.D. 1631 Cum Uoc Jucundissima Preservor H.B. 3rd Bell, or Treble, Cantate Domino Cantecum Nonum, “Henry Bagle made me 1635.” 2nd Bell (inscription illegible) 4 Bell Tenor, “Vobiscum Coordo Deum Laudare.”

In September 1877, the Church was inspected by Arthur Hogson of Bloxham (Architect) who made the report – “The church of St. Mary, Souldern is very рісturesque and interesting in structure. It is at the time sadly in want of a thorough restoration and the Chancel is such a bad piece of modern work that it would be quite impossible to do anything but to pull it down and build a new one of the same size as the original, and, if possible, upon the foundations – at the same time turning the fine old arch again to its proper use.”

This work was done in the years 1772 and 1806 and was described as an act of vandalism, dismantling of the fair Medieval Chancel, destroying its arch and substituting the present monstrosity of a characterless window. The area of the present Chancel is at least 8 feet shorter in length and its breadth has been considerably diminished from the original one – thanks to Rev. Horseman, B.D. Fellow of St. John’s, Cambridge, Rector of Souldern for 34 years.

The list of vessels for Holy communion in August 1880 was as follows: 1 silver Flagon, given Christmas Day 1879 by J H Gough, Frederick Stanton and George Statton, 11 Silver Paten “A Thank offering” 1880, 111 an Electro Plate Cruet (Dr. Rotton). The Holy Vessels of white silver of former days are – 1 A Paten of 1634, 11 A Chalice dated 1654, an Altar Tomb of interest is said to be of the work of a Mason who made it with his own hands, believed to be the oldest John Neale. The inscription:

“In fսll and certain hope of the Second Coming resteth here the body of John Neale who departed this life the 7 day of June, 1662 and yeare of his age 51. Mary his beloved wife and widow lying buried within this grave departed this life Аug. 4 1795, in the yeare of her age 89.”

On the tombstone are engraved the Arms of the Masons company, granted by William Hancheston, Clarencieux King at Arms, in the year 1474 incorporated by letters patent of 29 Charles II, 17 Sept. 1677. Also a tomb, plain stone, inscribed in front thus:

“Here lyes interred the body of John King, Gent, who departed this life Dec.24 Anno Domini 1712, in the year cf his age 71.

On the second:

“Here lyes interred the body of Esther the wife of John King, who departed this life Nov.16, 1709 in the yeare of her age 78.”

The Bignells were landowners in Souldern for many years. One stone inscribed March 10. 1700, Elizabeth, wife of Rob. Bignell, died March 10, 1700. And others – on a slab over the south door in the church is this inscription:

“Underneath this aisle lie interred the remains of the Bignell family for many generations past, this stone is erected to record also the internment of Thomas, son of Thomas and Mary Bignell, who died April 7. 1796, aged 71 years and Sarah, his wife, who died March the 5 aged 72 years.”

The family of Bowers John D. 5 Oct. 1611, and many more till George S of Thos. and Elizabeth Dec. 26 1731 the Dodwell’s from John D. Feb. 3rd 1669, until William, April 6. 1723.

On a stone slab in the Tower are the following lines to the memory of Ferdinando Gough.

“Friend, here thou seest my body in earth,
And how my life is now cut off by death;
But know my soule is now at rest with Him
Who from everlasting death did it redeem.
T’will not be long before that thou must dye,
And then in grave thyself will lye;
Be wise now, therefore, while that thou hast tyme,
That grace and CHRIST and glory may be thine.
Thyself deceive not with a Christian name,
Unless thou also be in heart the same;
Love GOD in truth, believe in CHRIST His Sonne,
Bid farewell sin, let vague delight be gone.
To be for heaven now, while still thou can,
Set on the work, and then, O happy man! ”