Beaufort Arms, Hawkesbury Upton, South Gloucestershire

The Wulfstan Bell - St Mary's Church, Hawkesbury.

Many thanks to Emmanuel Allenconi who took the photograph.

St Wulfstan, a former Hawkesbury Parish Priest, rose to become one of the most powerful Bishops in the land. He will always be remembered for being the first to try to abolish slavery in Bristol.

Primarily due to his life of great piety, Wulfstan was made the Patron Saint of Peasants and Vegetarians; he was the last ever Anglo-Saxon Bishop and was responsible for the Domesday Book in our area.

Born in 1008 in the Midlands he was a scholarly lad, finally ending up in the priesthood. He was a favourite of the then Bishop of Worcester, Brihteah, and was offered any diocese he fancied, but true to form he chose the rather poor and unfashionable parish of Hawkesbury.

Here he became something of a hero amongst the people, not charging for Baptisms or abusing his power in any way. It was also here that he had his epiphany, when the smell of a roasting goose drove him to an indiscretion; this led him to denounce his life of plenty and become a vegetarian.

He gave up his priesthood and returned to Worcester to become a lowly monk and lead a life of piety. Through various circumstances however, he rose up the hierarchy, finally becoming the Bishop of Worcester, albeit reluctantly as he had a strong sense of his unworthiness.

In his new exalted position, Wulfstan became Confessor to both King Harold and William the Conqueror, the latter using Wulfstan to legitimise his claim to the throne. As a trusted servant to William, the Bishop put down several local revolts and rebellions on his behalf.

The size of Bishop Wulfstan’s domain was huge. The see of Worcester ranged from Bristol in the south to Birmingham in the north, and in 1085 he assisted the Worcestershire commissioners in taking the survey for Domesday. The Bristol entry is strangely sparse, bearing in mind the significance of the place in those times, and the early slave traders seem to have added tax avoidance to their list of activities.

It was in Bristol that he achieved his greatest feat, he petitioned William to help cease the trade in English peasants to Ireland, personally preaching to the traders every Sunday to get it stopped.

The great man died in 1095 whilst engaged in his daily ritual of washing the feet of a dozen poor men. He was greatly mourned, firstly, according to local rumour, interred at Hawkesbury, and then moved to Worcester Cathedral, where a shrine was built in his honour.

St Wulfstn's Bell - St Mary's Church, Hawkesbury

Beaufort Arms, High Street, Hawkesbury Upton, South Gloucestershire GL9 1AU

Call 01454 238217 (primarily between 3pm & 5pm - other hours may present problems if we’re busy)

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