History of St. Michael and All Angels Poole Keynes

Phot of St. Michael and All angel's Church Poole Keynes


There has been a church in Poole Keynes for over 700 years.

The majority of the present church, which had been first consecrated in 1399, was rebuilt in 1775 – this date appearing on a stone in the tower & on one of the trusses.  Much of the western tower however, though extensively repaired in 1845, is part of the original building.


It is one of 42 churches under the Patronage of the Duchy of Lancaster.

13th century

The living of Poole Keynes, in the gift of the Duchy of Lancaster, was until the beginning of this century, derived from 218 acres of Glebe land.



The church was built on this site at the time of the crusades. These were military expeditions organised to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims. Knights were sent by their landlords as a duty to the King. Someone from Poole Keynes may have been involved and we know that Humphrey de Bohun was sent from Oaksey.

The first Rector of Poole Keynes is recorded as William Beneyt.

14th century

During the 1300s the Black Death devastated England. Up to 50% of many communities were killed. This had a devastating effect on Poole Keynes, and the cry of “Bring out your dead” was heard daily.

Amidst such grief the Christian Gospel, based on the promise of Jesus Christ, was a beacon and hope: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

Though trade and towns were growing steadily during this period, most people in Poole Keynes still lived off the land. Christian monasteries could be found even in the wildest parts of the country, organising schools and hospitals and helping the poor. The monks were also skilled farmers and ran some of the best farms in Britain.

15th century

William Caxton established his printing press in 1476. Until this time all books in Britain were copied by hand in monasteries.

During the 1400s John Wycliffe and his followers translated the first complete Bible into English. A renewed understanding of the gospel drove them to translate the Bible for ordinary people.

16th century

King Henry 8th ruled England from 1509 – 1547, changing the nature of religion in England forever. He broke away from many Catholic traditions and set himself up as head of the Church in England in order to divorce Katharine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. In his desperation to secure a male heir Henry married 6 times, divorcing 2 wives and beheading another 2!

In order to raise much needed funds and to establish himself as the head of the Church of England Henry closed down many monasteries and confiscated their goods and money.

Until this period Poole Keynes would have been a Catholic Church.

In 1526 Tyndale’s New Testament was published and in 1549 Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer – services were now conducted in English instead of the traditional Latin.

17th century

The 1600s saw the English Civil War, when the royalists and cavaliers fought on behalf of King Charles against Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads. Poole Keynes was on the side of Cromwell as Charles 1 had imported wool, which had affected the income of the Cotswolds. The Manor house was burnt down during this period.

Oliver Cromwell ruled the country with a stern, Puritan dictatorship. Puritans dressed as they lived and worshipped God – simply. They wore black and starched white linen. They believed that pleasure was wicked. They banned theatres, betting and dancing. They also publicly banned books they did not approve of. Even Christmas could not be celebrated with parties.

In 1611 the King James 1 Authorised version of the Bible was printed, which was a landmark in the history of English speaking Christianity.

Also during this century were the Great plague and the Fire of London, which had far reaching consequences…

18th century

George Green was rector of the parish during the 18th century. Church services were held at 11am and 2.30pm on alternate Sundays. Only 4-5 people attended the church.

The following notes are extracts from his letter to Bishop Sarum, the Bishop of Salisbury. We must remember that at this time Poole Keynes was in the county of Wiltshire.

‘No children have been confirmed recently due to most of the children being poor and there is no school to teach them and there is no teacher’

‘The church has just been rebuilt from the foundations. The rector paid for the chancel and the parish paid for the church.

‘No money is received by the church so no money can be disposed of’

 The church as we see it today was largely rebuilt in 1770.

With the Cotswolds largely depending on wool for their income, the invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1764 by James Hargreaves would have been an important even. Initially mill workers were suspicious and riots were not uncommon.

Also during the 18th century the agricultural revolution was underway – the strip field system of farming was being replaced and the quality of sheep and cattle were being scientifically improved. Hedges were planted in Poole Keynes in about 1750, which created fields instead of large open communal spaces. The fields were given names, which are still in use today.

In 1731 the seed drill was introduced making the cultivation of crops much simpler. Farmers began to grow crops of turnips and swedes to feed to their livestock in winter. This improved their quality and the average weight of cattle doubled.

At the end of the 17th century the Napoleonic wars  began between the English and the French. Napoleon was finally defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

19th century

The railway at Kemble was built in 1838 transforming the lives of many parishioners and it is still an important part of our lives today.

Poole Keynes National School opened its doors for the first time in 1847, with between 20 and 30 children from Poole Keynes, Oaksey and Eastcourt.  The funds for the school came from the sale of some Glebe land given by the Rector – Rev. Charles Avery-Moore and various subscriptions including the Duchy of Lancaster and the Bishop of Gloucester.

If the weather was bad the numbers were low; this was also true at haymaking, harvest time, the potato harvest, the mop fair ….!! One child was absent from school for 8 weeks – scaring birds!

The children attended church on Wednesday and Friday mornings during Lent and every morning during Holy Week.

In 1864 a report by Her Majesty’s Inspector said, ‘This is an excellent little village school. The children were remarkably neat and well behaved and passed a very creditable examination’.

20th century

The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 plunged the whole country into deep mourning – most people could not remember a time when she was not the Queen.

The First World War – the war to end all wars – raged from 1914 – 1918 with men young and old going off to serve their country. The plaque in our church commemorates the 7 men who gave their lives for king and country.

About this time tractors were beginning to replace horses on the land. Gradually machines were introduced to farming which meant that less  man power was needed on the farm.

There was a general store in Poole Keynes owned by George Medlicott.

The school in Poole Keynes closed in 1922. The numbers by this time had dropped to 20 children. These children were taken to Kemble School in a horse drawn wagon.

The living of Poole Keynes amalgamated with Kemble in 1937.

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Photo © Elaine Kemp

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