Wiltshire Community History
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Old Church of St. Michael, Winterbourne Earls
The old church of St. Michael probably built in the 12th century, as portions of Norman architecture were still present in the 19th century. The church was first re-built c.1485 and further enlarged in 1553 when the north wall was moved farther out to widen the nave. When Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited this church in the 1830s he described it as 'a mean-looking church, with a wooden turret'. It was 69 feet long and 20 feet wide, consisting of a nave, chancel and small south porch. The alterations to the nave wall meant that the chancel was slightly narrower at 17 feet.
In June 1867, during the period of demolition, the Salisbury Journal reported that some interesting wall paintings had been discovered. Unlike those at Dauntsey, which were possibly 14th century and tell one story, the paintings at Earls were of different dates. The article describes four murals, one being on a Norman wall and possibly being from this period or soon after. The others were painted c1553.
The church wardens' presentments do not survive for the years immediately prior to re-building, so we do not know for sure why the decision was taken to demolish the two churches. A possible reason was that the existing buildings were in need of major repair, and it would be more economic to build one new church to serve the adjoined communities than repair the two old ones.
During this period the Bishop gave permission for services to be held in the school.