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Great Somerford

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Great Somerford

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Great Somerford Date Photo Taken 1809
Uploaded 20/01/2010 17:36:04
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Map Latitude 51.54675205009043 : Longitude -2.0529145002365112
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


The late 12th century church was completely rebuilt between the later 14th and 15th centuries. The first mention of it can be found in a taxation list of Pope Nicholas c.1290. The church has a north vestry, nave with a south aisle and south porch, and a west tower.

The church may have been dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels in the late 19th century, as is stated in Kelly's Directories pre c.1911. It was called St. Peter and St. Paul by the Reverend Manley in his article of 1900, but in the census entries for 1901 it was still being called St. Michael All Angels by the enumerator Ralph Neale, who was also the schoolmaster.

The aisle, four bayed arcade and chancel arch were built in the later 14th century/early 15th century.

The tower was built in the later15th century when the chancel was also rebuilt. More recently it has been used as the vestry. The tower was previously roughcast. It has diagonal buttresses and there are small two light Perpendicular style bell openings. There is a timber screen of 1903 situated in the tower. The chancel has a painted wagon roof of 1901 by F. C. Eden. There is also a piscina. The royal arms of King George III, dated 1814, are hung in the north wall of the church tower. The chancel's east window was made by Lavers and Barrand, 1865.

The south nave wall was rebuilt and had its windows renewed in the early 16th century. A porch was built and a rood stair was enclosed at the nave's outer south east corner. A stair turret was built between the nave and the tower. This semi octagonal stair turret lead to the rood loft and was not bonded to the walls. The steps had been destroyed by 1900 but the upper part of the newel still existed as did the doorway.
The nave has a collar-rafter roof.

The north gallery was erected in 1826 and the church was restored in 1865 under the direction on J. H. Hakewill who lowered the porch, removed some doors and replaced the old closed pews with oak seats. The restoration cost £900. The pulpit sounding board is Jacobean. It is placed over the more recent pulpit and is all that remains of the old oak. Two galleries were removed along with the stone screen that had stood across the chancel arch for thirty years.

Most of the glass in the windows was replaced (all that was left of the earlier glass can be found above the pulpit). The stained glass at the east end was the gift of Miss Mary Pyke. The glass in the north wall in the chancel window was a gift from the Reverend Demainbray. The glass in the south wall of the nave was the gift of William Edward Beak. The organ chamber was added to the church in 1880. The organ that was put in place was by W. Sweetland of Bath. There is a late 15th century Perpendicular octagonal font which has been restored.

The porch was rebuilt in 1905 to celebrate the Coronation of King Edward VII using old materials and it has an ashlar front. A broken holy water stoup can be found beside the church door.

In 1553 the Royal Commissioners took 2oz of church plate, leaving a chalice of 7oz. By the end of the 20th century a chalice hallmarked 1743 and a paten hallmarked 1735 could be found in the church.

One bell survives out of the four that were present in 1553. It was cast at Bristol in the 15th century. The others were replaced partly by bells cast in 1634 by T & W Wiseman and1731 by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester. One bell from the 19th century and the 1977 bell were both recast from redundant bells once used in Bristol churches. The old tenor bell of 1663 was recast in 1897. By the mid 20th century the bell frame had deteriorated to the extent that the peal was 'virtually unringable'. A bell frame was inserted in 1975 for the four bells there; two more were added in 1977 and 1984. There was a decline of bell ringers by 1989 leading to extra help being required from ringers of other parishes. An open night was held in 1990, leading to an increase in numbers.

The earliest parish register was destroyed when a fire broke out in 1707 at the house of John Cutts, the clerk, who kept it.

The churchyard was originally small but was enlarged in 1865 by means of a gift from the Birthill family. During the late 19th century another adjoining piece of land was purchased, extending the area down to the river. In 1900 the main entrance to the graveyard had a pair of piers with urns from Queen Anne's time on the top.

On the north wall of the sanctuary is a memorial tablet to the Rev Demainbray (1799-1854). Demainbray was Chaplain in Ordinary to George III and Superintendent of the Royal Observatory at Richmond, also known for establishing allotments in the parish. The Reverend Andrew, rector from 1854-87 has a sylised flower ceiling in the chancel dedicated to him. The altar rails in the chancel are dedicated to the Rev Canon Francis Hardwicke Manley, rector from 1887-1945. The Reverend Lutley had been a missionary in China before becoming rector from 1952-66. There is a memorial window in the chancel dedicated to him.

By the late 20th century the vicar serving Great Somerford was also responsible for the parishes of Little Somerford, Seagry, and Corston with Rosbourne. Lenten Lunches were provided at homes in the parish and Summer Fetes were held annually which included a tennis tournament and cross-country horse ride.

The parish registers from 1707, other than those currently in use in the church, are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.


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