The International Steam Pages


A Victorian Jerusalem, 2012

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:


This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2012 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.


Thomas Gambier Parry was an accomplished artist, musician and art collector. He was also sufficiently rich to be able to buy the Highnam Estate in 1840 and start to lay out the gardens which are described in the Bunch of Roses story. After the death of his first wife, he decided to construct Holy Innocents church nearby to a design by Henry Woodyer and from a distance it's just another rural church:

It was dedicated to her memory and also that of the four of their six children who had died before adulthood. Hence the stonework over the south entrance.

The area above the chancel arch and nave roof are highly decorated:

The true glory of the church are the frescos, painted by Parry himself, those along the north wall are the more accessible, showing the Palm Sunday procession, it is said that the little girl in the lowest picture was modelled on Parry's daughter. Hilda:

After the frescos the regular features seem quite ordinary in comparison, at least by Victorian standards...

Not surprisingly, it is very much a 'family' church. There is a bust to Isabella:

There are also brass plates for the good man himself, his first six children and also his second wife with whom he made the round dozen.

Isabella did not die in vain, look closely at the final name above. Hubert Parry inherited his father's talent for music, he grew up in Highnam where he was said to have played the organ. It must be unlikely that he  composed his most famous piece 'Jerusalem' here as it was first published in 1916 when it became an instant rallying call for the suffragettes and was later adopted by the Women's Institute as its unofficial anthem.

It's well worth a visit, especially if combined with a short walk to the adjacent gardens of Highnam Court on one of their open days. Being an isolated rural church, expect to find it locked for security reasons other than on Sundays. For more technical details consult its Grade 1 listing http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-134344-church-of-the-holy-innocents-highnam.


Comparisons are indeed odious and there can be few rural areas in England with two Grade 1 listed Victorian churches just 5 miles apart. While Highnam was described by Sir John Betjeman as 'the most complete Victorian Gothic church in this country', that at Huntley, built 10 years later, albeit with its earlier spire, is just as satisfying an experience.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk