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Yatton Keynell

Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, Yatton Keynell

Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, Yatton Keynell Date Photo Taken 2008
Uploaded 21/06/2008 15:15:37
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Between 1247 and 1262 the Keynel family gave a substantial amount of land in Easton and Yatton Keynell to Stanley Abbey and Yatton became a grange of the abbey (which lay to the east of Chippenham).

Sir William Keynell had the original Church built around 1250 as an offering for his safe return from a Crusade. He dedicated it to St Margaret of Antioch. It was rebuilt between 1485 and 1500. There is a west tower, nave, north porch, south aisle and north vestry. The stone chancel screen, pictured here, is decorated with the printed arms of former lords of the Manor: Keynell, Keynes, Gore and Trupendell. It is one of only three in Wiltshire, the others situated at Hilmarton and Compton Bassett. The tower arch is 13th century and the 15th century tower has a panelled belfry which is rare in England. The design may have been copied or inspired from an earlier Perpendicular Tower at Westwood or from one in Somerset.

The old rood loft stairway cuts through the pier of one of the arches; the doorway was barely 18 inches wide and 5 foot high. The bell openings are of the Westwood and Nettleton type. The tenor and third bells date back to 1658. The second bell has an inscription 'MICHAEL DARBY MADE ME 1675 TW/RL/CW". The Church plate consists of a chalice and paten cover, 1576.

The Church was used as a school by the late 16th century. Aubrey's grandfather told him that "when [he] went to school in this church in the south window of the chancel were several escutheons….the window is now dammed up with stones". Aubrey himself attended the school where the Curate Mr Hart taught the oldest boys Virgil, Ovid, Cicero etc.. He remembers Old Missals from Malmesbury Abbey were destroyed by being used as book covers. They contained the order of Catholic Services for the year and would have been considered dangerous by the Reformed Church. When Aubrey revisited the school the sons of his old teacher, Mr Stumpe were "gunners and soldiers, and had scoured their guns with them" (the paper manuscripts). One of Aubrey's school 'fellows' was Thomas Stumpe, son of the Vicar of Yatton Keynell. Aubrey thought Stumpe was 'a boy of a most daring spirit [who] would climb towers and trees most dangerously; nay he would walke on the battlements of the towers there' (at Yatton). In 1633 when he was approximately 16 he went travelling with his Uncle and became stranded in Guyana. Savages seized them, 'killed and ate some of them. Thomas was saved by the intercession of their queen and lived with the natives until about 1637 when he escaped by swimming out to a passing Portuguese ship'. He finally made it home to Yatton Keynell where only the village carpenter recognised him!

In the 19th century the church held 98 acres of glebe land with the Rectory. The Rectory was situated by a pond in which medieval monks kept fish and the summerhouse was once a small oratory. The gable on the Rectory is 12th century and includes a bell turret. In 1881 the Rector had a governess and nanny for the children.

G. E. Street, an architect from London, restored the Church in 1868 at the cost of £1,672. It had seating for 200. In 1954 a faculty was obtained from the Diocese of Bristol to overhaul and renovate bell fittings and fit new staples, clappers and bell ropes to the bell tower. The parish registers from 1653, other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.


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