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Wiltshire Community History

Church of St. Peter, Winterbourne Bassett

The parish church at Winterbourne Bassett has been dedicated to St. Katherine and St. Peter since 1904. It was dedicated to St. Catherine in the 16th century but was known as St. Peter’s in 1848. It is built mainly of roughly finished sarsen stone (sandstone). The church has a chancel, nave with north transeptal chapel, north aisle, south porch and a west tower. The earliest features are an early 13th century font and a late 13th century effigy slab in the north chapel.

The chancel and the nave were rebuilt in the mid 14th century, although the nave may follow an older plan. The north aisle and north transept also date from this time. The transept was probably the family chapel belonging to the Despensers who were lords of the manor in the early 1300s.

In the late 15th century the tower was added. Its faced blocks of Corallian stone present a strong contrast to the fabric of the rest of the church. At the same time the south-west corner of the nave, including a window and the south doorway, were rebuilt. New windows were made in the north aisle.

During the 17th century the chancel roof was lowered and this cut off the tops of the side windows. Further indications of alterations at this time are the south doorway with the initials G A and the date 1611, also a beam that was discovered in the chancel roof with the date 1610. Most of the fittings in the nave, including the pews, pulpit and font cover, also date from the 17th century.

The church has three bells, cast in 1583 and 1609. The treble is still in place but bells two and three were recast in 1857 and 1883.

A tithe barn stood on the east side of the churchyard until it was demolished in 1870.

The Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette carried a lengthy article describing the re-opening of the church after the restoration in 1857. The church had been in need of repair for some time. In 1856 the rector at the time, the Rev. William Harrison, generously donated £500, which was approximately half the amount needed. Donations were also received from Lord Holland and Magdalene College, Oxford; £200 was raised through the church rates. The project was overseen by the rector and the two churchwardens Mr Horsell and Mr Puckridge. The architects were Messrs Field and Hilton from London.

The faculty described the church as ‘out of repair’ and that the layout and seating provided insufficient accommodation for the parishioners. The population in 1851 was 289 people. The new church would be able to seat 193 and 131 of these seats were free. It was made clear that the church would remain open during the restoration and that the work would cause as little disruption as possible.

The planned work included a new roof, new east window and new flooring and seating. The windows and walls were to be repaired and restored. The pews and internal fittings were all retained but some of them were moved. Rev. Harris’s book dated 1868 describes the church as it is now. The early 13th century font stands in the tower near the west door. It was moved here from its original site opposite the south porch. The nave is 44’ 10” long by 17’ 7” wide. On the south side are two square headed mid-15th century windows, one on each side of the south porch. The north aisle has a small, pointed, perpendicular window near the west end and an ornamented doorway near the east end. This door was blocked up during the restoration. The north chapel has a fine 14th century window, beneath which is a recessed tomb. It contains a stone coffin lid with two slender figures carved on it, holding hands. They are possibly Hugh le Despenser (died 1265) and his wife. The chapel also contains memorials to the Baskerville family who owned the Richardson estate for several centuries. The chancel is 23’ 8” long by 17’ 4” wide. It dates from the 14th century and has undergone two restorations. Although the roof was lowered c.1610 it was raised again in 1857 and the tops of the side windows were restored. At the same time the fine east window was inserted. It is an excellent copy of a window of the Decorated period. (The glass dates from 1926). The woodwork in the communion rails date from the 17th century and were formed out of the tops of the old high pews in 1857.

20th century faculties include the building of a new vestry in 1925 to replace a corrugated iron structure. The following year the plain glass in the east window was replaced by a stained glass window given by the late Mr John Horton of Winterbourne Manor. At the same time the font was moved from the tower into the body of the church.

For centuries Winterbourne Bassett was a valuable living. It was valued at £10 in 1291 and at £18 9 shillings in 1535; this was well above the average for the Avebury deanery. In the 1830s the rector received £634 a year. Because of its value, it attracted pluralist incumbents. From 1726 until the mid 19th century the rectors, most of them former fellows of Magdalen College, were pluralists who appointed curates to serve the parish. Members of the Goddard family, who were also vicars and curates of Clyffe Pypard, were curates of Winterbourne Bassett between 1783 and 1842. This long period of plurality inevitably caused problems in the parish. In the mid 16th century and the mid 17th, following periods of disruption, the furnishings, ornaments and service of the church were inadequate; quarterly sermons were omitted in the 1550s and in 1662 communion was not celebrated properly because the minister was sick.

In 1783 the return to the bishop’s visitation queries stated that there was one service each Sunday. The times were alternately 10.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m, as the parish was served by its curate Edward Goddard who was also rector at Clyffe Pypard. Communion was celebrated three times a year at Easter, Whitsun and Christmas. There were only six communicants in the parish.

By the time of the 1864 visitation services had increased to two each Sunday. The times were 11.00 a.m. in the morning and 3.00 p.m. during the winter, 6.00 p.m. during the summer. The average congregation was 70. The Christmas Day attendance that year was over 80, while on Good Friday it was over 100. Communion was celebrated at Easter, Whitsun and Christmas, plus four other occasions in the year. The average number of communicants had risen to just 16.

One of the vivitation questions concerned schooling. The vicar noted that most children left at an early age. The girls stayed until they were about ten years old. Most boys, apparently, left at the age of five to work in the fields. There was a good attendance at the Sunday school for several years after leaving the day school.

The Rev. William Harrison was a generous man. Not only did he contribute to the cost of the restoration, he also built a new rectory in 1850. In the 1830s the rectory was described as unfit for residence, but it was still occupied by the curate. Sadly Harrison did not live long enough to enjoy the benefits of the restoration he had instigated. He suffered a fatal accident just two weeks before the planned re-opening of the church. A stone by the side of the main road is said to mark the spot where he was killed after falling from his horse. He died in October 1857; the re-opening service was postponed until the end of December, but the living was still vacant.

Harrison was succeeded by the Rev Henry Harris who was appointed in February 1858. He stayed at Winterbourne Bassett until 1897, when he was forced to resign owing to ill health. He died just three years later. His obituary in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine described him as ‘a scholar and a man of cultivated tastes…… his later life was passed entirely among his books and his poor people. By those who knew him much loved and respected’.

In 1904 the Rev. Henry Kendall was appointed and he stayed until 1924. He spent the whole of his spare time in the study and collection of flint implements, more especially those of the Eolithic and earlier Paleolithic periods, examples being found in the clays of Hackpen Hill and the gravels of Knowle Farm Pit, Savernake. He also began in the ditch of Windmill Hill, Avebury, on a small scale, the great work of excavation there that was later carried on by Alexander Keiller. The result of this concentration of his abilities on this particular brand of Prehistoric archaeology was that he came to be widely recognised as a specialist in early flints. Before leaving Winterbourne Bassett he had gathered a very large collection of flints, chiefly from Knowle, Hackpen, Windmill Hill and other locations in North Wiltshire. This collection is now at Devizes Museum.

In 1929 the parish of Winterbourne Bassett was united with Berwick Bassett. In 1952 there was a change and it was united with Broad Hinton. In 1975 Winterbourne became part of the Upper Kennet Team Ministry; the parishes were Avebury with Winterbourne Monkton and Berwick Bassett, Broad Hinton, Overton and Fyfield with East Kennet and Winterbourne Bassett.

The parish registers, apart from those currently in use at the church, are held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. They date from 1681 for baptisms, 1727 for marriages and 1724 for burials.

Church Search Results

There were 28 items found.

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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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

Image Date: 2012
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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