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Wiltshire Community History

Church of St. Paul, Staverton

The first mention of the Chapel of Ease, situated on the site of the current church, was in the 13th century. Staverton, with Trowbridge, became a peculiar in 1322, known as the 'Honour of Trowbridge', meaning that the churches were exempt from the jurisdiction of Salisbury Diocese. The main church, therefore, would have been St. James' in Trowbridge. The distance required to travel would have made the chapel at Staverton more popular for local people. In 1535 one of the curates from Trowbridge became the perpetual curate at Staverton. By the end of the 16th century the chapel building had been improved, with a tiled roof replacing the original thatch and larger windows installed. Early curates include John Pelling in the 1620s and Richard Randall. In 1658 an inhabitant of Devizes deposed at the Quarter sessions said that one 'Bayly of Staverton had told him, about 12 months before he became churchwarden, that there had long been no prayers said in the church because Staverton belonged to another place: that the pulpit cloth was in one man's hand, the communion table cloth in another's, the silver bowls in another's and that the bell was to be sold.' Items of value had been hidden away to prevent Cromwell's new order confiscating them but they were returned safely once the monarchy had been restored in 1660. By the late 1600s tombs and headstones were being established in the churchyard, poor boxes installed in the church and rewards given for the catching of vermin, a public health hazard at the time.

The early 18th century saw the front pews occupied by the Bytheseas, Bayleys, Grants and Smiths, the wealthiest families at the time. The church vestry, as well as being responsible for the poor of the parish, also appointed a waywarden to look after the roads of the parish and the fabric of the church. In 1798 the chapel warden complained that the roof 'was much out of repair' and the walls needed repointing. Subsequently a sum of thirteen guineas was raised to pay for the repairs.

George Crabbe the famous poet and vicar of St. James in Trowbridge had preached at Staverton during his time in the area and there are fragments of his sermons recorded in the church records. John Cooper, the mill owner became chapel warden in 1821, and began making plans to rebuild the chapel. St. Paul's was rebuilt and enlarged with the help of a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Fund and a village rate of 6d. in the pound.

The original church building was built of local stone with stone roof tiles and a small bell cote at the west end of the roof. A rectangular nave had a square chancel at the east end, a doorway in the south wall of the chancel and long narrow slit windows. The east window was arch shaped with a central column and elaborate carved stonework at the top and a stained glass window was given by the Hargreaves family, owners of the mill, in memory of their daughter Mary in 1887. The porch, with a pitch roof, was on the south west corner with an arch shaped doorway and stable type door. A further window in the south wall had a simple carved stone design at the top. The interior had about twelve rows of pews seating 60. The font was close to the back wall and the pulpit was against the east wall of the nave.

The church was completely rebuilt and enlarged in 1826 adding 120 extra seats and consisting of nave and chancel with the porch added later in 1861. Some of the original stonework was retained, as was the font. New gates were installed in 1829 and extra seating in 1836 which included tiered pews in the south west corner.

Some of the church plate is Elizabethan, and includes a cup hallmarked 1577, as well as a paten hallmarked 1855, and a plated flagon and chalice, dated 1932-3, given by Mrs. Julia Blease. One is a copy of the 1577 version. One bell is from the neighbouring factory c.1820. The parish records date back to 1685 and include mention of the Bythesea family including the burial of John Bythesea of Wick House and reference to George Crabbe.

The first vicar, when Staverton became a separate parish in 1839 was the Reverend J.R. Prityman. The living was £100 in 1844 but the incumbent had to live in Trowbridge until a new vicarage costing £1,150 was built in 1860. The church struggled financially as the expected influx of people due to the mill employment prospects, did not happen. Staverton had also lost some of its land to the newly formed parish of St. Thomas's in Trowbridge as the town expanded in a northerly direction. The closure and uncertainty of the future of the cloth mill didn't help and so St. Paul,s Staverton began the 20th century facing financial hardship. By 1903 extra land was required for burial sites and this was achieved by the new vicar, Reverend Albert Isherwood. A new organ was also purchased and gas lighting was installed in 1910 later to be replaced by electric light in 1938. Seven men from Staverton died in the First World War and their names are inscribed on the eagle lectern which became the war memorial. The three who died in the Second World War had their names added too.

St. Paul's amalgamated with St. Mary Magdalene in Hilperton in 1954, a church which had been built by the Wyke family in 1899, and they became known jointly as the Staverton Churches. In 1970 the death was recorded of the last resident vicar of Staverton, Reverend Maunder. The parish then joined with St. Michael's in Hilperton and the vicarage was sold and converted to a care home for the elderly. The church suffered more financial instability in the 1980s and the support of the village was essential for it to remain open. However the closure of St. Paul's was announced in 2010.

Church Search Results

There were 5 items found.

Church of St. Paul, Staverton
Church of St. Paul, Staverton

Image Date: 2011
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Paul, Staverton
Church of St. Paul, Staverton

Image Date: 2011
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Paul, Staverton
Church of St. Paul, Staverton

Image Date: 2011
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Paul, Staverton
Church of St. Paul, Staverton

Image Date: 2011
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Church of St. Paul, Staverton
Church of St. Paul, Staverton

Image Date: 2011
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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