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Church of the Holy Cross, Sherston

Church of the Holy Cross, Sherston Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 21/07/2011 14:03:29
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Map Latitude 51.57294880008451 : Longitude -2.2123396396636963
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

14th century tomb recess and mutilated figure

In 1086 the Abbey of St. Wandrille held the church and 3 virgates of land at Sherston. This would have been a stone Saxon church, which could have been built in the 9th century. It is most likely to have been on the site of the nave and tower of the present church and it is believed that the south wall of the nave contains pieces of Saxon masonry. The Norman church was built around 1170 and the remains of this can be seen in the arcade, the corresponding south arch to the present vestry and a sculpture of an owl's head that was reset in the tower in the 18th century. The church expanded in the 13th century with the north aisle, transept and the tower erected in the Early English style. The font was carved in the early 13th century, while later in that century a new chancel was built. The dedication of the church at this period is unknown but the fact that a fair was granted in 1248 on the celebration of the festival of St. Cyrus could indicate that this was the church's saint.The dedication of a chapel to St. Cyr in the 15th century might provide the clue as to when the dedication was changed to the Holy Cross.

In the early 14th century a sacristy, off the north wall of the chancel was constructed, but this was demolished in the late 18th or early 19th century. The south east chapel, dedicated to St. Cyr and St. Julietta but now known as the Lady Chapel, was built and an embattled south transept and a porch rebuilt in the 15th century. There is a holy water stoup built into the nave wall on the east side of the doorway. A little later a processional way between the chancel and the north transept was cut through the north-eastern pier of the tower. By the early 18th century the tower was in a state of collapse and was taken down to the height of the nave, and rebuilt by Thomas Sumsion of Colerne from 1730-3. He was one of the last of the architect/masons of the medieval tradition and provided a Gothic design with some Georgian elements, such as rusticated quoins.

The 19th century restoration took place in 1876-7 and was by the ubiquitous T.H. Wyatt. He concentrated mainly on the eastern end of the church with an extensive restoration of the chancel but also removed the wooden galleries from the nave and re-roofed the north transept and north aisle. In 1977-9 the 5 bells were retuned and rehung and a new sixth bell cast. In the junction on the exterior eastern wall of the porch with the nave is the figure of what was once thought to be the Saxon warrior Rattlebone; sadly it is now known to represent a priest holding a book. The 17th century lych gate was altered and repaired in 1920 and now contains the village war memorial. The parish registers from 1653, other than those in current use are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

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