St John the Evangelist, Pauntley, Gloucestershire

The Parish of St John the Evangelist is made up of five hamlets, Brand Green, Pool Hill, Ketford, Compton Green and Payford, and lies between the market towns of Newent and Ledbury This is a farming area with a population of around 230, though nowadays the majority of working age residents work in nearby towns. There is a good Cof E Primary School at Pool Hill, and a Village Hall at Brand Green which is used for Church and village functions. 

The Church, which was built by the Normans nearly 900 years ago and seats about seventy in box pews, is set in the rich red farmland of the Leadon Vale, with its arable and pasture fields patched with woods of oak and lime and including remnants of large cherry orchards.  Many visitors from all around the world come to trace the legend of Dick Whittington to its source, research their ancestry or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of a beautiful church in delightful surroundings.

This was the Church of the Manor house of the Whittington family, and it was from their home, Pauntley Court, that Dick Whittington, immortalised in legend, set out as a lad to seek his fortune in the city of London. Historically, the Whittingtons came into possession of the Manor of Pauntley in 1311.  Whittington College records (authenticated by Richard himself) state that Richard Whittington was the son of Sir William and Dame Joan who was probably the daughter of William Mansell, Sheriff of Gloucester in 1313.  In the absence of a parish register at that time, it is thought that Richard Whittington, the Dick Whittington of the Nursery Rhyme, was born during the 1350’s and there is little doubt that he was baptised at Pauntley Parish Church. 

Oddly enough, another Nursery Rhyme character, Little Jack Horner, was also related to the Whittington family..

The Church, which is about a hundred yards from Pauntley Court, is reached by a single track road through open countryside, has a very pretty interior with many historic features and an ancient churchyard where sheep in winter, and cattle in summer, graze right up to the churchyard wall.

The Voluntary Controlled Pauntley Church of England Primary School is in Pool Hill and has 48 children on the roll in two classes.  An extension to the school was recently completed and the Grand Re-opening was conducted by the Bishop of Gloucester.  Incorporated into the new building work is an “all season out-door classroom” with photovoltaic panels to power LED lighting.

The Church itself is approached down a steep lane between open fields, with wide reaching views on either side.  To one side is the Manor House, Pauntley Court, to the other the buildings of what was once the Home Farm: in the valley behind the Church lies the Mill.  This was evidently the heart of a self-sufficient community in medieval times and is still an idyllic spot today, with cattle grazing right up to the churchyard wall, but whereas in past years parishioners would have made their way across the ancient fieldpaths to worship here,  nowadays the congregation arrives by car - except when we have heavy snow, when worshippers have to put on their boots and trudge across the fields as before! Not much has changed, though, and the Church is still at the heart of the local community.

This was once the Church of the Manor House of the Whittington family, and it was from here that Dick Whittington set out on his journey.  The original Manor has long since disappeared and the present house, Pauntley Court, dates mainly from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, however a half timbered wing which once served as a granary, is thought to have been built by the Whittingtons around 1500.  ( The Court is a private home and is not open to the public ).

Although we are a small and scattered Parish, part of the Leadon Vale group of nine Parishes, a service is held in the Church three times a month ( in addition, Joint Benefice services are held on the other Sundays ) and visitors are always welcome.

Events planned for 2020 include, on Saturday June 20th, a Concert in the Church with guest ' a capella group', Duodecima, followed by wine and canapés: the next day, Sunday 21st, will be our annual Garden Party, a chance to enjoy tea and cakes in the enchanting private gardens of Pauntley Court

Then comes Harvest Festival, and Harvest Supper held in the Village Hall, and the year is rounded off with Carol Singing around the Parish in December and a candle-lit Carol Service in the Church..

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