NESTLED on the side of Selsley Common is a building that epitomises everything about a movement that took the Victorian design world by storm and sent echoes down the decades which still has an influence today. Sam Bond speaks to Liz Gardiner about arts and crafts gem All Saints' Church, its rich history and promising future.

THE first thing that hits you about Selsley's All Saints' Church is its striking tower. Visible for miles around, the unusual church forgoes the traditional Cotswold spire or squat, Norman towers familiar in the villages of the Five Valleys.

Instead it goes for a steep pitched roof immediately marking it out as something special. "It was Sir Samuel Marling who had it built," said Liz Gardiner, one time church warden and stalwart member of the parochial church council.

"He had tuberculosis and his doctor told him the best place for him was the Austrian Alps. "He went out to a tiny village called Marling and eventually recovered but not before falling in love with the little church out there."

On his return Sir Samuel had his friend George Frederick Bodley, the architect of Ebley Mill, to draw up plans for a church in the same style.

"It's unique to have a Tyrolean church in the middle of the Cotswolds," said Mrs Gardiner. "It's incredible really.

"Once the church was built he thought 'now what shall I do with the windows'. "At the time William Morris had just started up his company, they were only young boys of around 20 and it was the first commission for the company."

So the church, built upon the whim of a country gent grateful to God for his recovery from illness, can be seen as the foundation upon which the highly influential Arts and Crafts movement was built.

The windows really are quite beautiful in their elegant simplicity attracting design buffs and art fans from all over the country and even further afield.

And it is not just the stained glass that has been touched by greatness. "The whole church is Arts and Craft," said Mrs Gardiner.

"As well as the work by William Morris there are windows by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Maddox Brown and Edward Burne-Jones."

Burne-Jones drew up the overall design for the windows and many of the saints and angels are modelled on friends and family of the artists.

Despite the church's obvious beauty there are still those who do not give it the respect it so clearly commands.

"We had vandals in and they smashed Gabriel's face," she said.

"The glass was sent off to be repaired and we had it back with the 'W' from William Morris' initials turned upside down.

"The restorers thought it was supposed to be an 'M' as all the others were. "Of course we sent it back, saying thanks, but we'd like it how it was please."

Despite the occasional trouble with vandals, the church council believe it is such a gem it should be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

While the Arts and Crafts design may bring in the visitors, All Saints' is no museum and is home to one of the best-attended annual religious events of the district.

"On Good Friday an old wooden cross is lugged up here from Cainscross and everyone including the dogs and kids come in here for a service and a hot crossed bun," said Mrs Gardiner.

"Then we all walk it up to the top of Selsley Common where it stays over Easter." Though steeped in history and with a heritage most cathedrals would be proud of the church still has its eye firmly on the future.

"This is very much a living worshipful community with a loyal congregation. We are very proud of our church," said Mrs Gardiner.

"We've got a Selsley Appeal Fund we started in the early 80s and we make sure we raise a few thousand every year.

"Over the past year we've built toilets, a shed and a wonderful kitchen and met all the necessary disabled requirements.

The bill for the vital work came in at over £40,000 and, said Mrs Gardiner, it would not have been possible without the generosity of the church's supporters. "We obviously get some money from the collection box," she said.

"But it is not just the congregation that supports us. "The church has many friends and we rely on gifts and legacies just to keep everything in good shape."

The church was the star of the show during the Cotswold Arts & Crafts Church Trail, part of this year's Stroud 700 celebrations and there will be a talk at All Saints' at 3pm on Monday, December 13.