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Wiltshire Community History

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Church of St. Mary, Shrewton

Church of St. Mary, Shrewton Date Photo Taken 2004
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

A small church existed in 1236, when its tithes were given to the newly founded Lacock Abbey by Ela, Countess of Salisbury. The church lies to the east of the river Till, which formed the boundary between the manors and parishes of Shrewton and Maddington. An increase in population made it necessary to widen the aisles by the 15th century and increasing prosterity meant that a tower was built in the late 15th century. The dedication to St. Mary is known from 1488. There is the base of a preaching cross, pictured here, in the north-west corner of the churchyard. From the 16th to the 18th centuries there was often no resident vicar, with the church often served by a curate. Possibly because of this there seems to have been no major building work or extensions during this time, only small alterations and repairs.

In 1825 the church was described as, 'a melange of ancient and modern architecture'. At this time the chancel measured 26 feet 6 inches by 11 feet 2 inches and was separated from the nave by a broken pointed arch, springing from clustered slender columns, the capitals of which were decorated by well sculpted vine leaves. The nave was 29 feet 3 inches long and , including two small aisles, was 35 feet 10 inches wide. By this time the church was much too small as the village population increased dramatically in the early 19th century. The attendances on Census Sunday in 1851 were 70 in the morning and 200 in the afternoon. The church was also said to be much dilapidated at this time. In 1853 it was decided to largely rebuild the church, except for the tower and the western bays of the nave. Under the direction of T.H. Wyatt, the diocesan architect, the nave was extended eastwards by one bay, the arcades restored, the aisles rebuilt and a clerestory added. A new chancel, with organ chamber and side chapel, was built. The old piers of the chancel arch were rebuilt and a piscina and small window, also of the 13th century, were reset in the chancel.

The rebuilt church was consecrated on 5th September 1855. Apparently local people were well pleased with their new church and remarked that, "they now had a fine new Church, and a much larger one than they had before; but that it was Shrewton Church still". By this time Shrewton and Maddington villages had grown together and in 1869 the vicarages were united under one vicar. In 1923 Rollestone was added to the benefice and finally, in 1970 the three ecclesiastical parishes were united. From 1972 the benefice was just known as 'Shrewton', and in 1974 a new vicarage was built in Chapel Lane. The parish registers from 1557, other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office.

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