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Church of St. Peter, Poulshot

Church of St. Peter, Poulshot Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 18/05/2011 08:42:32
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Map Latitude 51.32832898755858 : Longitude -2.0525872707366943
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

There was a church recorded at Poulshot in 1200, when a church which had been given to the Abbey of Bec in Normandy after the Norman Conquest was given by William, Abbot of Bec, to the Bishop and Church of Old Sarum. In 1238 the church was valued at £10; in 1341 it was £7. 6s. 8d and in 1535 it was £7. 8s.8d. Later, by the 15th century, the church had been transferred to the monastery at Edington.

The church consists of a chancel, nave and aisles, south porch, tower and vestry. The oldest existing parts of the church date from the 13th century but many changes were made in the 15th century.

The aisles in the nave are quite narrow, and this is said to be because they were built on the foundations of the original Norman church. The nave was built in the 13th century and the aisles, built of rubble and ashlar, were added in the 14th. A window was built in each aisle in the 15th century and the porch, in an early Perpendicular style with a timbered roof and a stone seat on each side, had been added in 1400. The remnants of a holy water stoup (or bowl) are found in the inner doorway.

The chancel is thought to have been built in the 13th century. In the 15thh century a tripled lanceted window was removed and replaced by a square window. To the north of the chancel is a window in the Early English style; the top of the window opposite was cut away in the Restoration period and was replaced with a beam of wood. In the 16th century the chancel was lengthened; this resulted in the impression of the nave being relatively short.

On the floor of the chancel is a plate of brass dedicated to Samuel White and dated 1632. He is referred to as being as 'White in virtues as in name'. Another memorial on the floor of the chancel is to the Reverend Richard Sanderson and his wife who died at the end of the 18th century. He was rector at Poulshot for 17 years. On the north wall is a tablet commemorating the life of Daniel Bolwell, who died in 1763.

Much of the church was repaired in 1898 and the church did escape the reforming urge which many Victorians felt towards their religious buildings. The nave was damaged by fire in 1916 and the original, oak pulpit which dated from the beginning of the 17th century was destroyed. The pulpit today is a copy of the original and was donated to the church by Miss Stansfield.

In 1866 the barrel organ was replaced with a harmonium; this in turn was replaced by a new organ in 1972.

There are three bells in the church, all cast at the Bristol foundry. The first bell dates from 1540 and is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist; the second and third date from 1606. The tower itself was built in 1853 by former rector Canon William Fisher in memory of his wife who had died the year before. Before its construction, the three bells were rung from a wooden bell turret found at the western point of the nave. William Fisher himself died in 1874, after being the incumbent at Poulshot for 51 years. He was buried in the west of the churchyard.

Another well respected rector of Poulshot was Isaac Walton, the son of Isaac Walton senior, who was a noted angler and author of "The Compleat Angler". Isaac the rector was born in 1651, and his uncle was Thomas Ken, who is regarded as an important figure in recent clerical history and was the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Walton was educated at Cambridge and after becoming rector of Poulshot in 1680, remained in the post for 39 years. He is buried in Salisbury Cathedral after dying in 1719, possibly from smallpox.

The first rectory was built by the incumbent John de Hinton in the 1270s. A subsequent rectory was occupied by Isaac Walton. A brick rectory was built in 1781 but it is no longer inhabited by the vicar, who now lives at Worton.

There is a complete list of rectors from 1289 to the present day. Surviving parish registers, with a small number of gaps, date from 1627; they are held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

The churchyard contains many memorial stones, including one which faces the east window, bearing no inscription. It is said that the grave holds Edington monks who served the church in the 15th century, but there has never been any real corroboration that monks from Edington were ever at Poulshot, although the link with the priory means that it was possible. Near to the south porch are dole stones, which is where the church doles were once handed out to the poor of the parish.

Poulshot was united with the benefice of Rowde in 1984.

In 1953 a war memorial was built on an outside wall of the church to remember the two men from the parish who died in the Second World War and the 10 who died during the First World War.

In 1965 the tower was struck by lightning but the minor damage was repaired. The church roof fell into disrepair and had to be fixed in 1980, at a cost of £22,000, much of which had been raised by people in the parish.

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