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Church of St. Mary, Winterbourne Gunner

Church of St. Mary, Winterbourne Gunner Date Photo Taken 2008
Uploaded 28/03/2009 15:12:30
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Map Latitude 51.117225929010345 : Longitude -1.7434439063072205
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Like its sister churches in Winterbourne Earls and Winterbourne Dauntsey, the church of St. Mary at Winterbourne Gunner has its origins in the 12th century. Built into the north wall of the nave is the head of a blocked Norman window. The squat, unbuttressed west tower is probably also Norman. A south aisle once existed but was pulled down at an early date, leaving intact the arcade inside. What remains of the old walls of the chancel appears to be 14th century architecture.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited the Winterbournes in the 1830s. He described this church as 'small, and contains nothing of interest'. It was 45 feet long, 11 feet wide in the chancel and 17 feet wide in the nave.

The church wardens' presentments give a description of the condition of the building from the 16th century onwards. In 1810 the north wall of the chancel was re-built by the curate, the Rev. C.J. Colman, who also made a new south window. By 1864 the church was in bad repair. The Rector said it was necessary to rebuild the church or restore it. In 1867 an enquiry was held on the state of the church and it found that the nave was unsafe. In 1876 the church was closed, but it was not until 1882 that a second enquiry was held. It reported that 'the nave is in ruinous condition and totally unfit for the performance of Divine Service'. It is said that the chancel roof fell in.

Difficulties began to arise in the parish in 1873. The accounts show that the church windows had been broken many times. The rector had paid for 50 new panes himself. At the vestry meeting in 1874 the rate payers decided to use the church collection to pay for any future repairs. The rector strongly objected to this, stating that the offertory was solely for the relief of the poor. In 1876 the decision was made to seek two estimates for church repairs, one of which was for £200. A churchwarden proposed that this be accepted and voluntary contributions sought. No one would second this, and neither would they support a 2d rate for annual expenses. (One of the main difficulties seems to have been that the majority of rate payers were non-conformist). At this point it was reluctantly decided that there was no alternative than to close the church.

No documents concerning the re-building have survived. The church was re-opened on the 9th May 1886 and there was a brief report in the Salisbury Journal. Almost the entire nave was re-built; pictured here are the retained 14th cenury roof timbers. The majority of the money needed was raised from donations that came from outside the diocese.

Among the features of interest is a scratch dial visible on the east side of the porch, which was re-built after 1805. This is not in its original position as the sun could not reach it there all day. The font, pictured here, is 15th century or earlier. Originally there were three bells here but the 3rd is missing. This happened in the 1920s when in order to move the ropes away from the centre of the vestry, for the convenience of the clergy, it was taken down. Around 1950 the chancel pews were replaced by timber, reputedly from Imber church.

The church has been part of the Bourne Valley Team since 1973. The parish registers dating from 1560, other than those currently in use, can be seen at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.

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