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The History of St Mary's, Littleton

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St Mary de Malmesbury

St Mary de Malmesbury is located on a hill above Littleton upon Severn, a small hamlet of 60 houses and 200 people, 3½ miles from the market town of Thornbury, 3 miles from St Helen’s church and 11 miles from the centre of Bristol.

The village community strongly supports the Church in many ways. There is a biennial Gardens Open Day supported by the whole village to raise money for the Church. The annual Carol and Christingle service is strongly supported by everyone with different families taking part. Flower and cleaning rotas are well supported by all members of the village. We have a very scenic Churchyard and is very much seen as an asset for the Church and the village.

We have an excellent Licensed Lay Reader and have enjoyed close and regular contact with the Incumbent and Lay Reader who are both based at St Helen's, Alveston. The community has benefited much from the support and pastoral care that has developed.

St Mary de Malmesbury

The two regular services each month are held in both traditional and simple ways, supported by a small regular congregation. Special services are held for Harvest and special occasions to celebrate baptisms and marriages, which fill the Church. At times of loss, the Church is a great support for the whole village.

A church in Littleton was first mentioned when the Abbot of Malmesbury held an annual Court Leet there under a licence granted to him by King Edward the Martyr (975-979). Malmesbury Abbey is one of the oldest in the country and dates from 680 AD. In the reign of Ethelrede Unrede (979-1013), half-brother of Edward, a grant was made to his thegn Wenoth of a parcel of land, valued at five hides, named Lytletun.

The document was signed by Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Oswald, Bishop of Worcester and many other bishops, earls and thegns. Its boundaries were delineated and are still recognisable today. A copy can be found in the British Museum and a translation by Dr. G.B. Grundy in “Saxon Charters and Field Names of Gloucestershire”.

St Mary de Malmesbury

In the Domesday Book compiled in Gloucester in 1085-1086, it states that the Church of St. Mary de Malmesbury, Littleton is in the Langley hundred, having a priest and thirty acres of meadow. By the 12th century the original wooden church was replaced with stone. The font and piscine near the altar date from that period. Around the font there are a number of heraldic encaustic tiles retrieved from the ruins of Thornbury Castle in 1521.

In 1875 some lads in the village fired a cannon at the church tower. The resultant damage encouraged the Victorians in 1878 to re-build the church, which is when some historic features were lost.

The overall fabric of this Grade 2 listed building and its graveyard is kept in good order by a dedicated and supportive village. In 2004-2006 the community worked together to raise enough money to re-roof the church. Five carved stone crosses on the roof and tower were also replaced.

When rebuilding the church wall in 2006 some fragments were discovered that had been discarded by the 16th century builders. The tiles illustrate symbols from Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham’s family. In 2012 remnants of a Medieval wall painting were identified.

St Mary de Malmesbury

There are two Rolls of Honour boards that record all villagers who took part in WW1 or WW2, unusually not just the names of those who perished.

Our Quinquennial review in March 2015 wrote “The premises are very well presented and diligently maintained by a small committed congregation. This delightful building stands on rising ground with far reaching views of the Severn estuary.”

For more information or to view the church please contact the Churchwarden Frank Walters on 01454 412531.

The photographs on this page were taken by RichMcD Photography and have been kindly provided by ex-Churchwarden Lyn Carnaby from the guide book she wrote.

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