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Wiltshire Community History

Church of St. Mary, Dilton

There was probably a chapel here, attached to the church at Westbury, at an early date and one is believed to have been built around 1100. A chaplain is mentioned in c.1250 and as one of the two bells is thought to be 13th century it is possible that the chapel was rebuilt at this time. In 1362 there is mention of a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas with its own graveyard, and this was the early chapel. After 1380 a new church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was built opposite the old chapel and its graveyard and the old chapel demolished or allowed to decay. The present church dates from the 15th century but incorporates part of the earlier building, including the south porch, which was built about 100 years before. The plan is simple with a nave and north aisle and a chancel with the 14th century south porch. The construction is rubble with plaster rendering and a vestry was added in the early 18th century. Until 1631 burials took place at Westury but in that year the ground around the church was cleared and consecrated as a burial ground. The long communion table also dates from the 17th century.

Today the interior of the church is virtually as it was in the 18th century and is a good example of the liturgical arrangement of that time. There are galleries, a three decker pulpit and box pews. Here are two medieval benches and others have been used in the construction of the box pews. The vestry has a fireplace and there is another in the north gallery, which was used as a schoolroom. The clock on the front of the west gallery is by Edward Cockey of Warminster but its works and hands have been removed. By the 18th century the settlement at Dilton had been eclipsed in Importance by the new village of Dilton Marsh, where there were non-conformist meetings. As a new Anglican church was built there in 1843-4 and regular services then ceased at St. Mary's, the old church was ignored by Victorian restorers who only rendered the exterior stonework. A 19th century copy of a 15th century octagonal font was also provided.

The church closed in 1900 but after an anonymous donor gave £300 for repairs in 1911 it re-opened for a short time although after that was used only for Harvest festivals. The churchyard was still used for burials until 1921. The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was involved in the repair and maintainance of the church from the early 20th century, and in 1933 carried out extensive structural repairs. SPAB undertook a further programme of work in 1952-3 but in 1956 the pews were found to be unsafe and the church was closed for congregational use. Repairs were completed in 1958 and the church re-opened for occassional services. It remained ion the care of the parish until 1973 when it was declared pastorally redundant, and in 1974 was vested in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund, who have maintained it since then. The 13th century bell has been moved to Westbury church and the remaining one was cast in 1813 by James Wells of Aldbourne. The parish registers from 1585 (christenings and marriages) and 1588 (burials) are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Church Search Results

There were 5 items found.

Church of St. Mary, Dilton
Church of St. Mary, Dilton

Image Date: c.1905
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Church of St. Mary, Dilton
Church of St. Mary, Dilton

Image Date: 1968
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Church of St. Mary, Dilton
Church of St. Mary, Dilton

Image Date: 1964
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Church of St. Mary, Dilton
Church of St. Mary, Dilton

Image Date: 1964
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


Church of St. Mary, Dilton
Church of St. Mary, Dilton

Image Date: c2008
Image Location: YouTube


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