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Wiltshire Community History

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Market Lavington

Church of St. Mary, Market Lavington

Church of St. Mary, Market Lavington Date Photo Taken c.1912
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


While there are traces of earlier Norman work in the present church it is thought that there could have been a Saxon church on this raised site. Stones with Norman carving have been used in the medieval walling of the aisles and in the later porch. The church we see today is built of ashlar and sarsen rubble and consists of a chancel with north and south vestries and a south organ chamber, an aisled and clerestoried nave with a south porch, and a west tower. The east and west windows of the nave are late 13th century and would indicate the period of rebuilding of the Norman church. It is likely that the nave was its present length and width at that time. The chancel is of c.1300, the north vestry c.1340, and the rest of the nave is 14th century. There is a 14th century piscina in the north aisle, and this indicates the position of an altar, probably for the chantry originally dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. The west tower was mainly built in the 15th century but could have been started in the late 14th century.

The church served both Market Lavington and Easterton until a church was built at Easterton in 1875. In the latter part of the 17th century, until 1718, the vicar was Thomas Tanner, father of Thomas Tanner who became Bishop of St. Asaph and a noted antiquarian and writer. In 1676 there were reputed to be 476 churchgoers from Market Lavington and Easterton. The younger Thomas Tanner left money to pay for an annual sermon on St. Paul's day (25th January) from 1735. This provided 13/4d (67p) for the preacher and small sums for the sexton, parish clerk and bellringers for their work on that day. This annual sermon is still given.

Large congregations continued into the 19th century and on Census Sunday in 1851 there were 300 people at morning service and 250 in the evening. The first major restoration of the church took place in 1864 under the architect Ewan Christian,. The nave and part of the aisle walls were rebuilt, buttresses were added to the south aisle and those of the chancel rebuilt, while window tracery was renewed and the chancel arch rebuilt. In 1910 the organ chamber and choir vestry were added to the south of the chancel while the chancel itself was restored, including the complete rebuilding of the east wall. There had been six bells by 1783 and these were all recast in 1876. The registers from 1673, other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office.


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