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Wiltshire Community History

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

The parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul was founded in the late 11th century. It was given to Salisbury Cathedral c.1115 by Henry I to form part of a living. The value of this church was soon increased by other gifts of property, and within a few years there were canons at Heytesbury. By c.1160 it was established as a collegiate church with a dean and four prebendaries, two each of priests and deacons. A collegiate church was effectively a 'mother church' with resident priests whose task it was to go out into the wider community as missionaries, with the aim of encouraging new 'daughter churches'.

In the 13th century the holder of the deanery became, and remained, the Dean of Salisbury. The college at Heytesbury and its property belonged to him. Most parishes came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese, but Heytesbury belonged to the Dean and was therefore known as a peculiar. The Cathedrals Act of 1840 dissolved the college and abolished the prebends.

The church itself is described by Pevsner as 'a large and impressive church, but an over-restored one'. The external view is dominated by its low, massive and square Norman tower in the centre. Most of the building dates from the late 12th, the 13th and the 15th centuries.

In the early 18th century the church was in a neglected state and the congregation was small. To save money the church was divided in half by building a solid wall from north to south in front of the transepts, making only the nave available. The pews were turned to face west and the pulpit, lectern, prayer desks and stalls were all at the west end. A small door under the nave arch gave worshippers access to the chancel for occasional communion.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited this church in the 1820s. It was cruciform in shape, consisting of a nave, north and south transepts, and chancel. It was 125 feet long. The church was probably still in reasonable condition at this time, as he does not indicate otherwise. The nave was separated from its two aisles by four pointed arches on each side. The pulpit was in the centre of the nave and the font towards the west end. Four more arches were at the entrance to each transept, the chancel and the nave. The north transept was the Hungerford Chantry.

Although the church has been restored, there are some early features remaining. The north and south arcades in the chancel date from c.1185. The south wall of the sanctuary has a 13th century piscina. The arches in the north and south chapels are 15th century and 13th century respectively. It is probable that these two chapels were chantry chapels. The north transept contained a chapel founded in 1421 by Walter, Lord Hungerford and the Hungerford family and their descendants were formerly buried here. Their remains were removed in 1867 to a new vault in the burial ground. The south chapel, dedicated to St Catherine and founded c1316, was restored in 1914.

The nave arcades date from the 14th century. They have been partly re-built and the bases renewed. The clerestory was added in the middle of the 15th century.

In 1865 the architect William Butterfield was employed to oversee the restoration of the church. All the galleries were removed. The chancel, which had been entirely shut off from the nave for many years, was opened up, as were the two transepts. The arches of the chancel aisles, which had been filled up, were re-opened and the aisles themselves re-built.

The church organ was re-built and enlarged at this time, costing £160. There are six bells in this church, the oldest is the tenor bell (number 6), which was cast c.1480. There are two memorial tablets of particular interest. One is to the memory of David Williams, founder of Sunday Schools and vicar of the parish 1795-1836. The other is to the memory of William Cunnington, the Wiltshire antiquarian, who died in 1810. He lived in Heytesbury from c. 1775.

The Warminster Journal devoted a whole page to the opening ceremony following the restoration, which took place on 10th September 1867. A service was held in the church at 12.30 p.m. Afterwards 350 people sat down to lunch at 4.00 p.m. Many of the guests attended the second, evening service. At 7.00 p.m. 400 of the labouring poor sat down to a supper provided by the church wardens.

In 1967 a restoration programme marked the centenary of the earlier restoration. The nave ceiling was coloured pale blue. The 80 carved bosses, one at the end of each beam, were picked out in white, blue, scarlet, yellow and green. The walls were lime washed white and most of the tiles cleaned. In 1983 the church was re-wired and wrought iron pendant lights, that had been in Salisbury Cathedral, were installed.

In the year 2000 Heytesbury church became part of the Upper Wylye Valley Team Ministry. This team includes ten churches. The parish registers from 1653, apart from those currently in use at the church, can been seen at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

Church Search Results

There were 15 items found.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Heytesbury

Image Date: 2009
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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