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Wiltshire Community History

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Church of the Holy Cross, Hankerton

Church of the Holy Cross, Hankerton Date Photo Taken 2010
Uploaded 23/12/2010 12:05:12
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Map Latitude 51.61570493258947 : Longitude -2.041316628456116
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The church of Holy Cross goes back at least 800 years as the north arcade dates from around the 12th century. It is thought it was first built as a chapel of Crudwell church. However as early as 1222 there was a vicarage in place at Hankerton. In the church there is a small chancel, a nave with a north aisle and south porch, as well as a west tower made of ashlar. The original chancel was demolished in around 1531 and was not re-built until 1904.The north aisle is of the late 13th century and the porch has 13th century elements. This includes a carving of dragons. The font dates from the 15th century and is carved with decorative flowers. Within the church is a monument to the sculptor Giles Earle who died in 1746. The church dedication was first recorded as Holy Cross in 1763. There are two impressive arches facing one another; the larger of the two reaches all the way to the roof. The windows of the church were replaced throughout the 15th and early 16th centuries.

In his study of Wiltshire churches of 1939 Arthur Mee wrote: "It has a row of grinning apes and men looking down on it from the battlements of its 15th century tower, yet even these the ancient craftsmen thought were not enough to drive evil spirits from this quiet place."

Only three bells now exist from the four in place in 1553. The oldest bell dates from the 14th century. The registers from 1699 (complete apart from the years 1719-1721), other than those in current use are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

The church remained dependent upon Crudwell church for certain matters until 1445 when a graveyard at Hankerton was first licensed. During the 20th century the church became linked with others in the local area; in 1954 it was united with Charlton and in 1987 a new benefice was formed with the parish churches of Crudwell and Oaksey, as well as Long Newnton and Ashley. These last two are in the county of Gloucestershire. The church is now part of the Braydon Brook group of churches and is united with Ashley, Crudwell, Oaksey, Minety and Charlton. The name "Braydon Brook" comes from the brook which runs across the parish of Charlton.

In 1706 Lady Frances Winchcombe organised rent from some land in Hankerton to go towards paying for Bibles and prayer books for poor children in the local parishes. The share which Hankerton received was £1 a year in the 19th century.

Up until the time of the reformation the presentation of vicars at Hankerton was by those at Crudwell. This advowson went to the lord of the manor at Hankerton towards the end of the 16th century. It is likely that before this the rector at Crudwell would have been allowed all the tithes from Hankerton. In the 18th century the vicar of Hankerton was also the vicar of Crudwell. The vicarage, on Church Lane at the heart of the village, was worth £45 in 1650. It was later called Hankerton Priory and sold along with six acres of land in 1903. In 1830 the house was extended. A new house was built in 1905 and was sold in 1954.

Today the church is very much at the heart of this community. The north aisle has been converted into a meeting room that can be used by local groups as there is no village hall. Garden produce, books and other items are also sold in the church with proceeds going to church funds and charities.

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