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Church of St. Margaret, Leigh Delamere

Church of St. Margaret, Leigh Delamere Date Photo Taken 2010
Uploaded 21/09/2010 16:50:27
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Map Latitude 51.51212953343718 : Longitude -2.1677908301353455
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The church was demolished in 1846 and the chancel, with its arch, reredos and unusual bell turret re-erected at Sevington, the village of Leigh Delamere parish. Canon Jackson says that this church had been built around 1190, being Early English in style with some Norman features; the chancel had been altered in the Perpendicular style. He thought it most likely that the original church had been built by the Delameres. The first recorded incumbent he found was in 1301 when the patron of the living was John de la Mare.

Initially, the benefice of Leigh Delamere with Sevington had been in the Sarum Diocese, but came under the wing of the Gloucester Diocese in 1846, and by 1927 was in the Bristol Diocese. However, by 1846, according to a report commissioned by Joseph Neeld, the existing building was so dilapidated a report said it would be cheaper to re-build rather than repair. Neeld, owner of the Grittleton estate, re-built the church in 1846/7, and the architect was James Thomson. Thomson is said to have marked the individual stones removed from the old church in order that they could be re-used building the school at Sevington.

An entry in the Church Book for 1851 states some small alms had been put into the stone (Alms Chest) box about the time of the building of the new church " but the workmen, helped by a crooked wire, contrived to extract it. A mushroom shaped guard was then set in the bottom of the box to prevent extraction. The Rev. Jackson also tells oft a young woman from Colerne calling at the rectory around 1850, wishing to be married at Leigh Delamere Church. Being asked her reason she said there was a report that some money was in the Alms Box of Leigh Delamere Church and that the first girl that should be married there was to have it. Being assured that there was no truth in the report, she no longer expressed any wish to be married.

The main cost of the upkeep of the church had been funded by the Neeld family, who seem to have considered it their semi-private family chapel. Joseph Neeld, the builder of the church, was the first internment in the family vault in the church crypt. During 1865 the carved stone screen was removed from the church and installed into the church in Grittleton. This was thought to be a great improvement to Leigh Delamere church by the locals. In 1892 the stone pulpit was removed to Grittleton. 1891 marked the end of an era when Cannon Jackson, who had been at Leigh Delamere for 46 years retired.

Lych Gate of the Mid 19th Century

The church plate consisted of a silver chalice with lid, dated 1577, and candlesticks dated 1848. A new organ was installed in 1896, donated by Lady Neeld, but the church was still illuminated by oil lamps. Electricity was installed in the church in 1949.

During World War 2 no repairs were carried out to the church building, and the condition of the fabric gradually deteriorated. By 1945 the attendance at services was usually 3 or 4 persons, who could not possibly fund the cost of upkeep, so movements were initiated for the closure of the church. In his application for the closure of the church, the incumbent provided a document listing the residents of the parish together with the frequency of their attendance at services. The church was closed as a regular place of worship in 1992, though occasional services are still held there.

The parish registers from 1711 (christenings), 1735 (marriages) and 1734 (burials), other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre.

Canon J.E. Jackson (1805 " 1891) was a leading antiquary and topographer, was the first secretary of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society and the first editor of its magazine. A likeable and entertaining man he had very wide interests including Local history, heraldry and genealogy; he had a life-long interest in the Hungerford family. Jackson was rector of Leigh Delamere with Sevington from 1845 through a very active life until his death in 1891.

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