About this church
St Mary's church is located about two miles from the centre of Ampney St Mary. It appears that when the Black Death struck the village around 1350, the entire population was evacuated with most villagers resettling on higher ground over a mile away.
The last few houses near the church fell into decay when the old coaching road near the church fell out of use in the 18th century. In 1877 the parish was united with nearby Ampney St Peter and St Mary's was allowed to decay.
The building became covered with a growth of ivy and when this was finally cleared from the church in 1913 it was dubbed 'The Ivy Church', a name that stuck.
In the churchyard is the worn base of a medieval cross. The first historical feature you see on approaching the church is the blocked north doorway, with a marvellously carved lintel stone depicting fearsome beasts. A lion representing Good, is defeating a two headed serpent, representing Evil, while a griffin faces the lion. It is believed to be only lintel of this kind in England.
The south porch contains a peculiar recess. It is believed that candles would have stood there during services, and worshippers would light their own candles from this, before returning home after a church service. The south door is 14th century and still retains its original handle.
The interior of the church is decorated with fragments of medieval murals. Dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, these were lost for centuries beneath layers of whitewash. The earliest painting on the north wall of the nave shows red roses and a wall. Also on the north wall is a large figure of St Christopher carrying the Christ child.
Other paintings include a figure of St George slaying the dragon. On the south wall scenes from daily life are depicted and show domestic implements as well as a wheelwright checking a wheel spoke for alignment.
The nave is separated from the 13th century chancel by a heavy 14th century stone screen, a relative rarity in a country church.