The south Gloucestershire parish of Tortworth is bounded by the old parishes of Berkeley (Alkington tithing), Charfield, Cromhall and Thornbury. Unlike most parishes, which have their main village, dwelling and public buildings are distantly spread out all over the rural parish. Avening Green, the small hamlet is in the north east, and the landscaped Tortworth Park with its arboretum in the south west.
The manor of Tortworth (then Torteword) was mentioned in Domesday Book of 1086. The name means ‘Tortha's homestead', but no records appear to exist before the Norman Conquest. The manor passed through a series of owners – the families of DE KYNGESTON, DE VEEL, THROCKMORTON, and DUCIE.
By the 16th century, the manor of Tortworth was in possession of the THROCKMORTON family. The ivy covered ruins, which may be seen behind the churchyard wall, are all that remain of their manor house, whilst two of their magnificent tombs can be seen in the church. In 1631 Sir Robert DUCIE, Lord Mayor of London, bought the manor, and it has remained in the family's ownership ever since. His granddaughter Elizabeth, the sole heiress in 1703, married into the MORETON family, hence the occurrence of both names.
The parish church of St Leonard's was originally built between 1460 and 1490 but the oldest tombs date back to the time of the THROCKMORTONS. Both are dedicated to Thomas, one of whom died in 1568 and the other in 1607. The latter memorial, an alabaster reclining effigy was probably carved by Garret JOHNSON, who also sculpted Shakespeare's portrait bust in Stratford-on-Avon.
The stained glass above the tombs is also very also probably dating back to 1472, when Lady Alicia DE VEEL was lady of the manor. She was rumoured to have been one of the King's three mistresses.
The font, with its Jacobean cover, is Norman. The tower houses six bells, one of which is engraved with a crusader's ship and the mark of John GOSSELIN, "Bellyetter and Burgher" of Bristol 1420-1450.
In 1872, considerable restoration work was carried out in the church, the entire costs the gift of the Earl of Ducie and the work carried out under his direction. The DUCIE monuments provide an interesting record of the DUCIE family and the history of Tortworth.
The parish register (from 1592) and records are kept at Gloucestershire Record Office.
Francis Reynolds MORETON succeeded to the title Baron Moreton in 1785, inheriting from his elder brother who died childless. He had established himself in a naval career, and is usually known as Captain REYNOLDS. He obtained considerable fame in the wars with France and America in the West Indies. On his memorial plaque in the church, he is particularly remembered for his part in the action against the Comte de Grasse in 1782, which ended the war. He maintained his interest in the navy and served on the board of the Admiralty. It was at this time Ducie Island in the Pacific was named after him. On the death of his brother, he had to resign his commission and take up the Ducie estates. He order a thorough survey of the land and farms with a view to bringing them up to an acceptable state of repair and to provide employment for the day labourers residing on his property in Tortworth, Cromhall and Wickwar. Tortworth farms at that period were well known for the excellent Gloucester cheese produced. Among records of improvement to the farms of this time are frequent references to the ‘cheese room'. The farms were mostly pasture land. There was little acreage under the plough. There was also great stress laid on orchards adjacent to each farmhouse, usually extending to two or three acres. His brother's widow had become greatly interested in the Sunday School movement, started by Robert RAIKES in Gloucester, recognising the deprivation of the rural poor was as great as that of children in the city slums. Her work must have inspired her brother-in-law and no doubt influenced him to set up a school at Tortworth to improve life for the people of the parish. The Ducies, through succeeding generations, maintained their interest and oversight of the school, which has expanded on the same and present site.