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Monkton Farleigh

Church of St. Peter, Monkton Farleigh

Church of St. Peter, Monkton Farleigh Date Photo Taken 2008
Uploaded 13/11/2008 17:05:58
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The advowson of Monkton Farleigh was annexed to the Manor and was held by the Priory of Farleigh. During the 14th century, when the property of alien priories was often in the hands of the King, owing to the French wars, the rights of patronage were usually exercised by the Crown. The advowson was granted with the Manor in 1536 to Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp, and passed from him to the Bishop of Salisbury. The king presented in 1639 and 1641. This may have been due to the fact that John Davenant, Bishop of Salisbury (1621-1641) fell into disgrace in 1631 owing to his Calvinism. When the lessee of the Manor was granted in 1661, the patronage was reserved for the bishop who thereafter always presented.

In 1291 the value of the Church of Farleigh was stated to be £5. In 1341 the Rector held a messuage and garden and 26 acres of glebe land and pasture worth 26s. 8d. In 1428 the church was valued at 100s. In 1535 the value was £8. 1s. 2d of which 1s. was paid annually to the Prior of Farleigh and 9s. 11d. in dues to the archdeacon.

By 1608 the glebe land consisted of 16 acres of pasture and 8 acres of arable land, in addition to the Rectory house and grounds. According to the terrier of 1625 the glebe then included 16 acres and 15 yardlands. In 1705 the glebe was estimated at 29 acres and the Rector was said to have the right to pasture of 16 sheep in one of the common fields and 30 in the other when the fields lay fallow. The greater part of the parish was the bishop's land and none of his demesnes paid tithe to the Rector, but only an annual rent to the Bishop. Tithe was commuted in 1847, when the glebe acreage was found to be 25 acres.

St. Peter's church consists of a chancel, nave, west tower, north porch and vestry. Though the monastery was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene the church which the monks built soon after the foundation of the priory, is dedicated to the same saint as the House at Cluny, St. Peter. The earliest part of the church is the late 12th century Norman door, which is round headed and decorated with zigzag moulding. The doorway corresponds in its circular ornamentation, its shafts and capitals, with the fragments in existence at the Priory Church. The inner order of the arch has been cut away, probably in the restoration in 1874. The square tower is probably 13th century and has a saddle back roof. There is also a Norman font.

Apart from these features the church was rebuilt in successive stages in 1844 and 1874. On the south side of the chancel there is a one storey rectangular addition, built as a Sunday school in 1829 and now used as a vestry. On either side of the tower arch there is a dado of 16th century linenfold panelling. The Jacobean octagonal pulpit is of carved oak and mounted on a modern stone stem. The late 17th century altar table has turned legs and carved top rails. There are a number of 18th century wall memorials, as well as one of the 16th century to William Bromfield (d. 1582), and one of the 17th century to Sarah Grant (d. 1602). The east window was put up in memory of Rev. E. Brown, Rector who died in 1863. The centre figure is St. Mary Magdalene, while on the left is St. Edward the Confessor. One of the windows on the south side of the nave is also filled with some very fine stained glass containing the figures of Christ and Mary, in illustration of the text "Mary hath chosen that good part." It is in memory of Mary, widow of the Rev. E. Brown, Rector, who died on July 31, 1865.

The approximate expenditure of rebuilding was £626. 17s., including the outer walls and roof, £300, the chancel, desk and lecterns, £212. 0s. 8d., 75 free seats at the west end, £105. Of this sum the Revd. E. Brown, the Rector gave £317. 8s. 3d and Rector Cozens £30. In 1874 a series of high family pews still stood in unsightly contrast with 75 free seats, the seats in the chancel were ill placed and rickety and the pavement throughout the church was old and imperfect. A second faculty was therefore obtained. The nave was now furnished throughout with open seats of oak of a uniform pattern, and the pavement made of encaustic tiles. The chancel was raised two feet and the altar one foot higher still. Oak stalls were put up for the choir, while the reading desk is in the chancel. The cost of the 1874 restoration was £540, and while Mr. Tooke, the Rector, met the expenditure of the chancel, the principal parishioners covered the cost of the remainder.

The material throughout the building is in the freestone of the locality. It is clear that the present building is on the same site as the foundation, and that the material is the stone work of the original church.

The parish registers date from 1570 (christenings and marriages) and 1597 (burials). Apart from the registers still in current use these are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

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