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Church of St. George, Semington

Church of St. George, Semington Date Photo Taken 2009
Uploaded 12/03/2009 10:56:05
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Map Latitude 51.34347414032145 : Longitude -2.14583158493042
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

For most of its history Semington was a chapelry within the ecclesiastical parish of Steeple Ashton. A chaplain was serving Semington by 1370. In 1470 a dispute was in progress between the vicar of Steeple Ashton and the inhabitants of Semington and Littleton about the cost of services there; as a result the bishop decreed that the vicar, or a suitable chaplain, should celebrate mass and vespers at Semington every Sunday and feast day. The inhabitants would pay 20 shillings per year to pay all the corresponding expenses, with the exception of the bread and wine. An annual payment of £6.10 was recorded in 1535 for the chaplain at Semington. In 1783 the vicar of Steeple Ashton lived in Surrey owing, it was reported, to ill-health; the curate lived in the village and held a service in Semington at 1.30 p.m. on Sundays. In 1831, the average net income of the vicar of Steeple Ashton was £852 per year, of which £100 was paid to the curate at Semington.

The first mention of the dedication to St. George of the chapel at Semington dates from 1470. The chapel nave and porch were built in the 15th century, the chancel in the early 16th century. A tower was built, probably in the 18th century, but was removed in 1860 when the east and west walls were rebuilt, a small bell-turret was added and the interior was completely remodelled. The roof was also replaced and a new font installed. The bell at the west end of the chapel was recast in c.1850 from a pre-Reformation bell said to derive from the chapel at Bulkington. The vestry was added in 1870.

A number of charitable bequests have been made for the church and its activities in Semington: A conveyance of 1597 relating to a house and eight acres of land in Semington by Arthur Swayne provided for the profits to be used to maintain the chapel and to relieve the poor of the chapelry. In 1704 a room in the house was reserved for the use of the curate. Surpluses of funds were used for charitable purposes such as apprenticing children and assisting emigrants. In approximately 1800 part of the land was sold to the Kennet & Avon Canal Co. and the proceeds of the sale invested. The profits from the land and investment were sufficient to render a church rate unnecessary. In 1833 the house, described as an "old thatched dwelling" was leased to the overseers of the poor; in 1859 the house was provided for the use of a school and in 1861 some stock was sold to fund the restoration of the chapel.

Bequests for the benefit of the chapel and the poor in Semington also included £100 left by Thomas Milsom for the benefit of the Sunday School and to supply coal to poor people and £100 left by William Bruges for the supply of coal to the poor of Semington at Christmas. A £1 charge is also levied on land named the Crofts and paid to the Vicar of Steeple Ashton for a sermon to be preached on Good Friday. Benefits to parishioners of a less tangible kind were offered by an inscription on a stone at the side of the church door, written in Norman French and translated as, "Whoever shall say a Pater Noster and an Ave-Maria for the souls, for Philippa de Salcest, and Christians, shall have 40 days of pardon". The name may refer to the Sauser family who were landholders in Steeple Ashton parish in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The well-worn stone remains in place today.
After centuries of existence as a chapelry within Steeple Ashton parish, Semington became an ecclesiastical parish in its own right in the year 2000 and the hitherto chapel of St. George a parish church. By this time, following the establishment of St. George's Joint Parochial Church Council in 1981, the church was being used for both Anglican and Methodist services. Joint use and administration of the church by Anglicans and Methodists continues today.

Parish registers for Semington are held by Wiltshire and Swindon Archives in the History Centre at Chippenham and date from 1586.

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