by Peter Badham, May 2013
Perhaps the most significant early artefact relating to ap Adam history is the coat of arms in the window of the south aisle of St Mary's church at Tidenham. This parish was once part of the Marcher lordship of Striguil based on Chepstow. The form of the coat of arms is recorded in the roll of arms of those taking part at the Battle of Falkirk which took place in 1298. The bearer of these arms at the battle was Sir John ap Adam, Lord of Beverstone across the Severn near Tetbury and of Betesley or Beachley in the above lordship.
A look at the window as it is now suggests that it has not survived in it's original form and this is confirmed by the writings of local antiquarian George Ormerod who, in Strigulensia printed in 1861 p.101 says:
An ancient shield of the Arms attributed to Ap Adam ... remains in a window.. along with a monogram and some rich foliage of the same period and other fragments. The window is probably of later date than the peer above mentioned [ie Sir John ap Adam] ; but, as it was necessary to fill up a chasm of the mutilated fragment, the writer of this, who directed the reparation of it, performed this by introducing the date of his decease, "Johannes ap Adam, MCCCX."
Ormerod was wrong about the year of his death which was actually 1311 but there was a clear need for reparation and we are indebted to other notes made by him dated 21 August 1837 which survive on microfilm at Gloucestershire Archives (MF 357/1). The original material (ref. D 726) is said to have been removed by the family and the whereabouts unknown. There is a sketch plan and description of the interior of the church. The microfilm is very difficult to read but here is an attempt to transcribe it:
The church of Tidenham is seated on elevated ground, commanding a fine view of the Severn, but below the level of higher grounds to the North on which the antient Grange of the[....] of Bath seems to have been placed, to which it was an appendage.
It [consists of?] a massive Tower containing Bells, a Nave, Chancel and north side-aisle the latter of which was probably the original Church.
The side aisle has a baptistry containing the antient font at the west end is lighted by 3 [....] windows with trefoil heads on the north side, and is separated from the nave by 4 pointed arches seating on [electioned?] pillars with[out?] capitals which were probably substituted for the original south wall of it. It is separated from the Chancel by a wide arch and probably terminated with an apse originally but has been prolonged by a square chancel at the present east end appropriated by faculty to the Sedbury Park Estate.
There has been a rood loft approached by an arch and between the Spandrils ...[illegible phrase] the arcade separating this side aisle from the body of the Church.
The comparatively modern part or nave is separated from the side aisle by the arches before mentioned has an early English doorway with a flamboyant window to the west of it and two others to the east of which the easternmost is in perpendicular style, has been filled in with painted glass and has, still the arms and monogram of one of the ab Adam family, and a pane representing a pillory and other allusions to manorial rights.
If this part was occupied by the Day House pew and the pulpit it is probable that there was an aisle or Chancel of the ab Adams of Bettesley and Badamscourt.
Beyond this is the Chancel some of the windows of which are of the time of Edw [II or III?] and the East window is clumsily formed after the arrangement of the west window of Tintern, so far as distribution of the unsightly compartments go.
This portion was separated from the nave by a screen removed in or about 1810 and from the side aisle by a pointed arch shorter and wider than the others, resting on plain capitals and of different stone with the [intervention?] of a [niche?] in between it and the rest of the dividing arches against which the [roots?]of the screen are visible on each side.
The chancel has an entrance door with nearly half circular head and above it[...man?] mouldings closely resembling those of the east window of Llancaut which was probably brought from some other part and awkwardly put together.
We see from paragraph 5 that there has been considerable change since 1837 as the 'pillory and other allusions to manorial rights' have disappeared. The head of the window currently looks like the picture below but also on the microfilm is a drawing which seems to have been meticulously done probably by Ormerod's talented daughter Sarah. If you examine the filigree in the background in the detail of the two lights in the drawings and the pictures you will see why they could be considered meticulous.
A clue to the date of the changes or perhaps more accurately the damage to the window is probably to be found in the date of 1858 found on the cast iron hoppers of the guttering.
The implication of this is that the monogram and arms probably belong together as part of the original window but that the other fragments of medieval glass may have been brought in from other windows. One can imagine Ormerod arriving at the church one day to find a scene of destruction requiring 'direction of the reparation' which probably involved a lot of redirected anger! It looks as if we may have him to thank for anything surviving at all and that his antiquarian activities led him to make these surviving notes.
Peter Badham, May 2013