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Wiltshire Community History

Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

Bishopstone church is a fine example of 14th century architecture and has attracted the attention of authorities on the subject. Numerous articles have been written and published in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine. The church was built between the 13th and the 15th centuries, mainly of Chilmark stone, the same stone that was used for Salisbury Cathedral. It is cruciform in shape, with a nave, chancel and north and south transepts. A short tower rises from the middle. The chancel and transepts are of the finest work of their period and there are very few churches in Wiltshire built at this time. In comparison, the nave is inferior in design and was re-built at a slightly later date. The marked contrast between the nave and the rest of the church suggests that this church was built more for its priests than the congregation.

The rubble walls of the nave are evidence of a 12th century building that had become cruciform by the late 13th century, the date of the crossing arches. In the mid 14th century the church was extensively re-built. The chancel, vestry and south transept were all re-built in ashlar and given vaulted ceilings. Both transepts were built as chapels, shown by the large double tomb recess in the north wall and an external tomb with canopied shelter on the south wall. The walls of the nave were heightened and new windows and buttresses added. The tower was built c.1406 and carried a wooden spire that was still there in 1567. The final addition to the church was the 15th century two storey porch.

The north and south windows in the nave date from the 15th century, as does the west door. In the 19th century this door was closed and an organ was built across the west end, replacing a gallery. In 1884 the disused south door was reopened and the south porch was rebuilt.

The transepts were built as chantry chapels, the positions of the altars being marked by piscinas and niches for statues on the east walls. The north transept, known as the Farmers' Aisle, because the farmers paying tithes to the church used to sit there, has at its end a large segmental arch marking what is believed to be the Founder's Tomb (the name is not known). The coat of arms on the west wall is that of the Vaughan family who owned Faulstone Manor, one of the manors of Bishopstone, in the reign of Elizabeth I. The south transept has a fine vaulted ceiling. Here is the tomb (designed by Pugin) of the Rev. Montgomery who died in 1843.

The pulpit, reading desk and font are on a platform under the tower, which is one step above the nave. The pulpit and reading desk are made of fragments of continental carvings that were collected by the Rev. Montgomery. The font is ancient.

The tower has just three bells, cast in the 16th and 17th centuries. The earliest bells date from before 1553. Of added interest is the unusual method of access to the bells. A staircase leads from the vestry to the north-west angle of the chancel roof, inside which it is necessary to crawl along to reach the central tower, where a ladder leads to the bells.

The chancel is large and grand, measuring 53 feet long; this is unusual for a simple, country church. It has many fine examples of the craft of the medieval masons including the triple sedilia, the seats in the sanctuary intended originally for the priest, deacon and sub-deacon. The richly carved oak reredos is probably Spanish and was brought to the church by the Rev. Montgomery.

George Augustus Montgomery came to Bishopstone in 1821 at the age of 26, remaining here until he died 21 years later. Both his church and his parishioners were important to him. He made extensive renovations to the church, including gifts of the pulpit, lectern and choir stalls. The school was built by him, and he left money in his will for village charities. Montgomery's death was a tragedy; he died when a wall in the church at East Grafton collapsed on him.

Some restoration work was carried out in the church in 1830. By the 1850s the church was too small and further work was required. A new floor and new pews were fitted, and the organ, font and reading desk were all moved. The cost was £255 and Montgomery's money was used. In 1884 a new porch was built, and oak seats and brass standards were placed in the chancel. In 1895 the roof was re-leaded and in 1899 a new east window was placed in the chancel.

The 20th century saw the usual additions of heating and electric light. More recently, extensive repairs to the windows were carried out in 1974.

The parish registers dating from 1636, apart from those currently in use at the church, can be seen at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

Church Search Results

There were 20 items found.

Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone
Church of St. John the Baptist, Bishopstone

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


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