The gorgeous St Anne’s Church, Syston, Sth Gloucestershire on a sublime Sunday autumnal morning. Who would have believed that this place of tranquility and beauty was the site of Cromwell’s troops firing at the door?! The marks of which are still visible today …
The village of Syston – I am using the old spelling here, the modern day version is Siston although both are still used locally – lies just seven miles east of Bristol (the site of Bristol Castle). Yet deep in the Sth Glos countryside, it is classified by South Gloucestershire Council (1989, 2010) as a Conservation Area due to its natural beauty and historical buildings. It is also just a few miles from the famous Battle of Lansdown 1643 (a Snippet about that can be found here https://louisewyattsmusings.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/battle-of-lansdown-5th-july-1643-near-bath/), hence the reference to Cromwellian troops leaving their marks on the church door.
Local church information states that St Anne’s is built atop a hill, usually the indication of a much earlier pagan/Celtic place of worship. To strengthen this idea, there is an ancient well, aptly named St Anne’s, at the rear of this hill next to a stream (Siston Brook) and what would have been a large pond serving the manor house, Siston Court:
The peace of the graveyard can be disturbed by the baying of Llamas on a neighbouring farm but it is a very tranquil place to sit and think. Or take a load of photos like I did! There are mighty graves, there are ornate graves and there are very old graves:
Past members of manorial families
Village dwellers from the 1700’s
Once grand memorials surrounded by wrought iron designs now covered in ivy. Unable to identify who, where and why but the once-upon-a-time wealth is obvious.
Gate from Siston Lane, unfortunately a very busy lane during rush hour and school runs.
Entrance gate walking down from the sloping graveyard
This would have once been a rather dominating view
The church itself was built in the early 11th century with later additions. It has a lead font made in the time of King Rufus (1056-1100) and is one of only 38 in the country. Unfortunately, the church was locked and I couldn’t get inside to have a look at this or the more elaborate tombs of previous lords of the manor. The Domesday Book states that Syston had belonged to a Saxon named Anne but was in the hands of Roger de Berkeley after the Norman invasion. Could this be who the church and well are named after? The local church information page however, states the area is named after San-Tan, a pagan goddess of water, and this has come to be St Anne. Whilst researching the internet, I could find no San Tan but then, this is only one of my ‘snippets’; perhaps some further research and digging deeper in archives might lead to further information. If anyone knows of a pagan goddess with that name, feel free to let me know!
The church is wonderful and steeped in history. It reminded me of fairy-tales, with its’ hidden doors, higgledy-piggledy buildings and aura of peace amongst the busy outskirts of Bristol. A perfect place to step out of the rat-race and just … relax. You don’t have to be religious to feel the special atmosphere at these places, despite Cromwell’s attempts at ruination!
http://www.bafhs.org.uk/our-parishes/other-parishes/409-siston [accessed 1.10.15]
http://www.bristol.anglican.org/i/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Warmley-Syston-Bitton-Parish-Profile.pdf [accessed 1.101.5]
http://www.pucklechurch.org/html/siston_court_history.html [accessed 2.10.15]
http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Ask-Gerry/story-11288167-detail/story.html [accessed 2.101.5]
https://www.southglos.gov.uk/documents/pte100112.pdf [accessed 1.101.5]
And Wikipedia for basics!