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Church of St. Mary and St. Melor, Amesbury

Church of St. Mary and St. Melor, Amesbury Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

There was a church at Amesbury from the foundation of the abbey in 979 and it is possible that there may have been a church before that. It is thought that the dedication of the church was to St. Mary and that it became a joint dedication when the relics of St. Melor were brought to the abbey. The abbey church itself would have been open to all inhabitants as there would not have been any other church. The abbey was dissolved in 1177 and the church was granted to Amesbury Priory which, by 1186, had built a new church. It is believed that the original abbey church then became the parish church although there has been disagreement over this. If you walk around the church today you certainly receive the impression that it has been more than a parish church in the past. This picture shows the roof lines of buildings once adjoining the church.

The nave is Norman of the early 12th century, although shorter now than when first built, and is the major remnant of the abbey's Norman church. Its north west corner is joined to an early 13th century gatehouse of the priory. The chancel and transepts were built in the early 13th century and the north transept had two east chapels, which were demolished in the 14th century, while the south transept had one east chapel, which was rebuilt in the 15th century but had been demolished by 1803. In the late 15th century much of the church was re-roofed, new east and west windows were inserted and the south aisle was built. Thus the church remained, except for a new doorway and two windows in the south wall in 1721, until the restoration of 1852-3.

This was by William Butterfield who intended to replace all features in the church later than c.1400. The east window was replaced by one in the 13th century style and a new steeply pitched roof was built over the chancel. In the south transept the early 18th century windows were replaced by 13th century style lancets. Nearly all the furnishings, including the west gallery, the 15th century rood screen and and an early 13th century font, were removed. In 1905 the church was structually restored under C.E. Ponting and Detmar Blow and in 1907 some of the furnishings removed in 1852-3, including the rood screen and font, were replaced. A Saxon cross was also recovered from under the chancel floor and this has been dated to the second half of the 10th century and so is contemporary with the founding of the abbey.

In 1983 the organ from the redundant Church of St. Edmund in Salisbury was rebuilt here. The parish registers dating from 1579 (christenings) and 1599 (marriages and burials), other than those in current use are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office.

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