St Mary Magdelene, Adlestrop

Adlestrop church is a compact cruciform stone structure with a battlemented west tower set on a slight knoll with a large churchyard. It is set between the grounds of Adlestrop Park and overlooks the old rectory, now Adlestrop House. It now lies at the end of the village on its southern side where the old Coach Road starts, now a public bridleway on the Macmillan Way, which runs down to the cricket field and joins the A436.

The date of its origins are not known although a chapel was mentioned as being on the same spot in the twelfth century and it was for several centuries designated a chapelry of Broadwell.  However in the sixteenth century the rector of the two parishes had a house in Adlestrop and may have lived there rather than in Broadwell. Before 1580 the inhabitants of Adlestrop were buried at Broadwell but this ceased when one of the Leigh family donated the land for the present churchyard in 1590.

The tower and the chancel arch are fourteenth century – although heavily restored – the octagonal font is fifteenth century. The church was heavily restored twice in the eighteenth century and also again in the nineteenth century. At the west door is a semi-circular grooved stone, half a mill wheel, from an old mill which fell into disuse. Outside, by the south wall of the chancel is a railed enclosure marking the Leigh family vault and two graves probably of Theophilus Leigh and his wife and family. A fine ironwork gate opposite this in the churchyard opens into the grounds of Adlestrop Park. Theophilus Leigh donated a fine silver chalice, paten and flagon to the church which is now kept safe in a Gloucester vault.

Inside the church are many marble memorials to the Leigh family both on the walls and on the floor of the nave. There is also a memorial to the men in the village who perished in the First World War. On the north wall of the nave are some Leigh family hatchments showing their dynastic marriages to the Twisleton and Brydges family. There are five bells in the tower, four of which have been there since at least 1711, and were cast by the famous Rudhall bellfounding dynasty of Gloucester. The largest bell, the tenor, was recast in 1838 by Thomas Mears.

The tower has a clock on its north and east side which was added to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and the fine arch and lantern at the entrance to the churchyard were added on her Diamond Jubilee. The sundial in the churchyard marks Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

The church is part of the Diocese of Gloucester and one of the seven Evenlode Vale Churches. It has two services a month as well as special ones for Harvest Festival and a candlelit Christmas Carol service.

From Jane Austen and Adlestrop by Victoria Huxley