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Wiltshire Community History

Church of St. Katherine and St. Peter, Winterbourne Bassett

The origins of the church of Winterbourne Bassett date back to the early 12th century when, in 1121, it was given to the Priory of St. Pancras, Lewes, by Reynold de Dunstanville. The church was not appropriated and, until the Dissolution, the rector of Winterbourne Bassett paid an annual pension to the priory. This was therefore granted to Thomas Cromwell in 1538, and reverted to the crown a year later. The patronage was exercised by a number of people of local eminence, including the Bishop of Salisbury, in 1322 and 1449, and John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, in the 1340s. Similarly, this advowson, the appointment of a member of the clergy to a benefice, was granted to Sir John Gage and Sir Edward Baynton in 1531. Sir William Wroughton is believed to have held this position in the 1550s. However, after the Dissolution the patronage was granted to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, by the crown in 1553. The advowson was held by the rector of Winterbourne Bassett, Revd. Richard Glass, having originally been obtained by his family in 1696. He then sold it in 1714 to Magdalen College, Oxford, which thus became sole patron of the united benefice of Winterbourne Bassett and Berwick Bassett, as established in 1929.

The rector of Winterbourne Bassett received an income well above that of the deanery of Avebury during the 13th century. This has been valued at £10 in 1291 and in the 1830s the rector received £634 per annum. In the 16th century, tithes from the whole parish were paid to the rector, and by the 17th century he also accepted half the tithes of Stanmore. In 1844 the tithes were replaced by a rent charge of £688. The glebe in 1564 consisted of 24 acres and enough pasture for 60 sheep. By 1662 this was increased by an additional 13 acres of pasture in the west field. In 1915 some 30 acres of this glebe were sold, and a further 20 acres shortly after.

In 1671 there was a rectory house which consisted of four bays, and in the 1830s the house is recorded to have had two storeys, a kitchen and a scullery. This was occupied by the curate, despite having been deemed unsuitable for residence. A new rectory house was built in 1850 and the church sold it in 1951. The valuable living of the rector attracted incumbents, many of whom were pluralist, such as Fulk Basset, rector from 1214 to 1239, and another pluralist in 1471.

From the mid 16th to the mid 17th centuries the furnishings, ornaments and service of the church were inadequate due to periods of disruption. Consequently, quarterly sermons were omitted in the 1550s and in 1662 communion was not celebrated correctly. However, pre-Reformation traditions appear to have prevailed in the parish; the clerk still invoked St. Catherine, patron saint of the parish, in the early 17th century. From 1726 until the mid 19th century the position of rector was primarily held by former fellows of Magdalen College. These pluralist incumbents appointed curates to serve the individual parishes. Members of the Goddard family, who were also curates and vicars of Clyffe Pypard, were appointed as curates of Winterbourne Bassett between 1783 and 1842. During this time, services on Sundays alternated with those at Clyffe Pypard, and communion was celebrated at the three chief festivals. In the mid 19th century morning and afternoon services were held each Sunday and it was recorded on Census Sunday, 1851 that 65 people attended in the morning, and 72 in the afternoon. After the 1860s, more frequent services and celebrations of communion were held and in the early 20th century services were held daily.

The church was dedicated to St. Catherine in the 16th century, although in 1848 it was known as St. Peter’s. Consequently in 1904, it was dedicated to St. Katherine and St. Peter.

In 1857 the church was renovated by Field and Hinton at the cost of £1,000; half of which was donated by the then rector, Rev. W. F. Harrison. He later died when he fell from his horse on the road to Broad Hinton and a stone at the roadside now marks the spot.

Registers of baptisms begin in 1681, although they are incomplete until 1722. Registers of burials begin in 1724 and of marriages in 1727. Registers from these dates, excluding the current registers, are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

The walls of the church of St. Katherine and St. Peter are built of roughly broken sarsen stones, of which there are plenty in the Winterbourne area. The stones of the north transept appear to be more roughly dressed than those of the rest of the building, as seen especially in its east wall, which therefore indicates that the north transept, or chapel, may have formed part of the original construction.

The tower is the only exception to the use of sarsens and can be dated back to c1450, although it is believed to have replaced a previous, less sturdy tower construction. The use of Corallian Limestone contrasts greatly to the fabric of the rest of the church and this tower can be seen as a splendid example of the late 15th century Wiltshire style. The western tower is four stages in height and is situated above an unusually deep base. It is believed to have been built by Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury from 1450 to 1481.

Within this church exists some of the most beautiful features of the rare ‘Decorated’ period, associated with the time of the three Edwards. This work is therefore of the time when the manor was held by Hugh le Despenser, the elder, who received it from the Bassetts, and began with the erection of the north transept, north aisle and the nave arcade.

The north transept, which was possibly the family chapel of the Despensers, consists of a gabled wall, in which there is an exquisite three-light window. The mouldings, which are formed both inside and out, are of an unusual degree of elegance. Under this window is an arch, carrying stands for figures, or perhaps a crucifix. The arch is designed with ogee tracery below the arch and with a nodding ogee above. Within this feature is a recessed tomb, on the lid of which two figures are carved, believed to be Hugh le Despenser, the last justiciary, who was killed in 1265, and his wife Aliva, the heiress of Sir Philip Bassett of Wycombe who was buried at Stanley in 1271. Aliva, who was known as ‘The Countess Marshall’ held Winterbourne Bassett for life only. The dexter handclasp, demonstrated by the couple on the tomb lid, denotes an heiress.
The transept also possesses three 18th century wall monuments. One, in white marble, has a raised central panel with a cornice and ogee pediment, with angels standing on top. It has a purple marble gadrooned base and carved apron, and is to Mary Baskerville of Richardston, daughter of Richard Jones of Hanham, who died in 1724. Similarly, there is an aedicule with a segmental pediment and death’s head, as well as a putto below. The grey panel dedicates this wall monument to Margaret Baskerville, daughter of John Glanville of Broad Hinton, who died in 1696. The Baskervilles came from the borders of Wales and from an early time settled in Eardisley in Herefordshire. Another recorded monument, which can no longer be found in the church, commemorated Simon Baskerville, son of Sir Walter Baskerville of Eardisley, who married the widow of William Hutchins of Richardston in the mid 16th century. This therefore explains the connection of the Baskervilles with Winterbourne Bassett.

The north aisle presents an arcade of three pointed arches and a small pointed Perpendicular window. The north door consists of a four-centred arch with carved ball-flowers set in four leaves and over the door is a well-moulded label which appears to be coeval with the rest of the structure.

The nave displays no structural work from before the 14th century, and the south wall of the nave appears to have been altered greatly. The part to the east of the porch without a plinth is probably earlier than the rest, although the three-light window inserted here is of a late debased type. In contrast, the four-light pointed window to the west of the porch is a fine example of the craftsmanship of the mid 15th century. This part of the wall appears to have been rebuilt at the same time for it has a plinth and is faced with freestone, and thus explains the peculiarity of having such a large window so near to the west end. The south wall also boasts an elegant piscina, consisting of circular dishing in a square bowl, with an ogee arch and fine tracery. There is a similar feature in the north transept. The 14th century south door, with a four-centred arch and double hollow-chamfer mouldings, manifests architecture of the late English Gothic church style and does not boast the same refinement and beauty of areas such as the north transept. Above the door is cut ‘1611’ with the initials ‘GA.’

The font dates back to the early 13th century, exhibiting a Transitional-Norman design. This therefore indicates the original situation of a Norman Church, although no structural work remains from before the 14th century. The font itself consists of a circular drum with decoration of large foliage around the upper part. It is spurred round the base with foot ornaments at the angles of the square pedestal.

The chancel, with origins from the mid 13th century, was restored in 1610, when the roof was lowered, cutting off the tops of the windows; and again in 1857, when the roof was restored to its original level and the side windows were restored. Some fragments of glass from the 14th and 15th centuries remain in the head of the north-west window in the chancel. The east window is believed to have been inserted at a similar time and is an excellent copy of that of the decorated period. However, the glass of this east window dates from 1926. The two tall wall-shafts of the chancel arch, display moulded capitals supported on corbel heads of a queen in a crown and a bearded man. The chancel also contains three wall tablets to Elizabeth Tuckey, who died in 1809, Horatio Nelson Budd, a midshipman, who died in 1843, and John Tuckey Budd, who died in 1831.

The pulpit, which is made of oak, dates back to the 17th century, and exhibits fielded panelling and a frieze of an Anglo-Italian Renaissance style. This fitting was restored in the 19th century and the reader’s desk displays similar characteristics. The communion rails are of a similar age and are said to come from the tops of the old high pews during the 1857 restoration. The pews at the rear of the church are believed to be Jacobean. The church also contains furniture, such as the table in the transept and a chair with monocyclic ends, from the 17th century, as well as a plain oak chest inscribed ‘John Reeves Church : Warden 1699’. The church has an early 17th century silver chalice which was made by a recognised silversmith of the time. However, this chalice is no longer in use, and the current chalice was made in 2010 by silversmiths who live in the village.

The earliest reference to the bells of St. Katherine and St. Peter is made in 1552, although they were replaced shortly after. In this ‘inventory of Church goods’ there were three bells, and this unusually small number remains today. The bells of Winterbourne Bassett were recorded in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine between 1855 and 1857 as having inscriptions of ‘IW 1583’, ‘THR 1581’ and ‘Fear The Lord IW 1609’. All three were cast by John Wallis of Salisbury, although two of the bells have since been recast and the bells currently in the tower bear the inscriptions, ‘IW 1583’, ‘Cast by Warner & Sons London 1857’ and ‘Cast by Gillett & Co. Croydon 1883’. The oldest of the present bells is likely to have been rung to warn the village of the coming of the Spanish Armada, in 1588.

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