Pre-Raphaelites and the Church at Selsley

Rob Clucas-Tomlinson takes us up the hill to a breathtaking historical gem.

The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walked on at the wind’s will –
I sat now, for the wind was still.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The church of All Saints sits atop the hillside of Selsley, looking out across Stonehouse and down towards Stroud town centre. Known more commonly as Selsley church, it has been an iconic landmark of the local area since it was first built in the mid-1800s. Make time to take a look around – it’s almost always open – and you’ll discover here, not only its small and charming interior, but also the works of some of the Victorian era’s most celebrated artists!

The Pre-Raphaelite movement of artists and poets has long been romanticized. John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti et al, as well as living colourful lives, have left us with some the most famous works in British art history. By the time Selsley church had been erected the movement had all but disbanded, but its principles of creating beautiful works by returning to the simple detail of medieval art lived on in the hearts and minds of other disciples, not least William Morris and Ford Madox Brown.

And it was these two, as well as Edward Burne-Jones, who were asked to create All Saints’ stained glass windows. Even Dante Gabriel Rossetti was persuaded to make some of the windows himself and it is the only church in England where every window was designed by Morris and his firm Morris & Co. That’s quite a claim to fame!

If you love art, art history, history in general, or if you simply appreciate the joy of observing the sun streaming through a stained glass window, illuminating the pews, step into the church of All Saints and you’ll be stepping back into a much eulogised chapter of the Victorian period.