The parish church of St. Mary the Virgin in the Gloucestershire village of Kingswood is something of a rarity, being one of very few built during the reign of George I.
After the dissolution of the Cistercian Abbey in 1539 by order of Henry VIII, the people of Kingswood continued to worship in the Lady Chapel but by 1719 it had become ruinous and was unsafe. The present church was built in 1723, thus maintaining an unbroken thread of worship for almost 1,000 years. In the churchyard and nave are ancient tombs and monuments, some pre-dating the church.
The simple Georgian church of 1723 was greatly altered in the 19th century. It now has an entrance porch, plain Gothic windows, a transept with a wide Early English style arch and a choir vestry to the south.
The bell turret, with a hipped and sprocketted roof, houses a clock mechanism which pre-dates the church, and a bell inscribed “God Save our Queen (Anne) and Church.”, which was purchased from Samuel Oulender for £5 in 1706. The church originally had its single bell open to the elements above the west gable.This was subsequently enclosed by the present tile-hung bell tower. A set of eight tubular bells was hung in a frame within this tower, adjacent to the main bell. Each bell had its own sprung hammer, activated by a wire going down through the floor to the room below, which is above the stairs at the back of the church. Here the wires were gathered into a second frame and attached to levers. The carillon was played by one person sitting at the frame and firmly striking each lever as required.
Features inside the building include:
An early 18th century font
A fluted Doric column supporting a carved stone bowl decorated with acanthus leaves and ribboned swags, with an upper rim of leaves, knots and flowers
An oak table and Bible box inscribed H 1711 C
A baroque marble and slate tablet with heraldry, set up by his "obsequious" son to the memory of Thomas Webb (died 1674) and his wife Persis (died 1659)
A fine brass chandelier of 1723, "The gift of Richard Blinco Distiller in Bristol, whose family came from Kingswood. A very similar example hangs in Holy Trinity Wickwar, and also The Old North Church, Boston, Mass., which was also built in 1723
A Georgian Decalogue (Ten Commandments) with later restoration, topped by two finely carved flaming urns and a painted trompe l'oeil Pelican in her Piety
Mediaeval stained glass from Kingswood Abbey has been incorporated into the window above the south choir stalls. The fragments include a Tudor Rose; the arms of the Berkeley family, who gave the lands on which the Abbey was built; a portrait, possibly St. James, wearing a palmer’s hat, and stars and a sun over a burning bush.
The altar (ca. 1900) is by Reginald Thomas and Henry Harrison with carving by Harry Mould, a local baker
Two 17th century carved oak seats one dated 1677
The oak pulpit is dedicated "To the Glory of God In thankful Remembrance of His Goodness The gift of Mary Park 1906.”
A memorial to Captain Seymour Tubbs, killed at Ypres 22" August 1917
A George I armorial, signed W. Kendall and dated 1723, is a rare survival of artistic and historical significance
A Victorian two-manual piped organ of 1868 by the renowned maker, William Sweetland of Bath, that still has its original tracker action
A number of silver items from the 16th and 18th centuries belonging to St Mary's are housed In the treasuary at Gloucester Cathederal including an imposing set of two flagons, paten and cup, "The gift of Mr. Thos. Blagden Late of (Nind Mill) Wotton-under-Edge in ye County of Gloucester Clothier, to ye Parish Church of Kingswood in Wiltshire 1737".
A restoration project to ensure that St Mary's be maintained in a state of good repair and fit to serve the needs of both its church family and the wider community has been underway for a number of years and has raised over £100,000. Improvements have included: