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Church of St. John the Baptist, Brokenborough

Church of St. John the Baptist, Brokenborough Date Photo Taken 2006
Uploaded 27/07/2011 15:19:05
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Map Latitude 51.60231422878827 : Longitude -2.1207690238952637
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

St. John the Baptist church in Brokenborough was first built in the 12th century. Since this time there have been additions to the church in the 14th and 15th century. From 1341, or possibly earlier, it was a chapel of Westport church, up until 1879, at which point it was a chapel of Charlton church, up to 1984. In 1248 the church may have been served by Malmesbury abbey.

The church consists of a chancel, with north vestry, a nave with four north aisles, a porch and an east belfry. It is constructed from coursed rubble, with a limestone ashlars dressing.

Thomas Hobbes, father of the celebrated philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the early 17th century curate was not a resident of the parish, and the parishioners complained. They believed that not enough sermons were being preached. Prior to this, in 1556, the parishioners implied their desire of two Sunday services was not being met. These protests recommenced in 1650, with it being claimed that the church was not well served. Later it was claimed that in 1665 a Sunday service was not held by the vicar for twelve consecutive weeks. Normal service resumed in 1783, with a service being held every other Sunday by the vicar, along with communion being celebrated four times per year. In the early 20th century a service was held every Sunday in the church, along with communion being celebrated sixteen times in 1910, with the same number in 1953, compared to the 30 communions in 1939. The church was well used by the relatively small parish, with 61 attendants on Census Sunday in 1851.

Income for the church was funded by Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity, with the church receiving the £1 income from this investment per year. These funds were used to purchase Bibles, and prayer books for the church. Part of the one pound was used to supply books for Sunday school in 1904.

The Tudor-arched entrance to the church, through the north porch has since been replaced from the original, does still contain stone worked in original material. There is a plank door filling the doorway containing the original perpendicular arch. The north porch was essentially rebuilt in 1883, during the restoration of the church.

The nave is separated from the aisle by four semi-circular transitional Norman arches, upon round pillars. The nave was widened in the 15th century, when a new south wall was erected. The naves south doorway was renewed in the 14th century. The nave is small, with thick walls and was originally constructed with the rest of the church in the 12th century.

The square shaped chancel was constructed in the twelfth century, gaining additions throughout the years, especially in 1883, during the restoration. There was originally a cavity in the north wall of the chancel, which was blackened with fire. It had served the purpose of an oven, baking wafers for the host. During the restoration, this disappeared and was plastered over. A restored reading desk was added, which contained Jacobean panels which were dated back to 1641. On the south wall of the chancel are three 17th century tablets. It is possible the chancel arch was rebuilt in the twelfth century along with four bay arcade. New windows were added in the 14th century, in the east and south walls. The chancel has seen many changes since its construction.

The aisle, which contains a four bay arcade was built in the 12th century. It was rebuilt in the early 16th century, which was presumably to add greater width.

The interior also is home to Jacobean pulpit, an ancient font, and a prayer board on the north wall.

The restoration, which occurred in 1883, meant many changes to church. A majority of the exterior of the church was rebuilt, replacing the stone work. In addition to this the porch and the roof were replaced. The restoration also added a vestry to the church.

The exterior holds home to a three faced sundial, which is located at the eastern gable of the aisle. In addition there are also corbel heads, which have since been modernised from the original. There is also a wooden belfry at the peak of the church, which has accommodated different bells throughout the years. Originally there was a wheel of 18 small bells, which were rung at the Elevation of the Host. In 1553 it was home to two bells, and a Sanctus bell. These were later replaced in 1801, by John Rudhall, to a single bell. This bell has since been rehung in 1977 when the belfry was repaired.

The registers of baptisms and burials are complete from 1697 but marriage records exist only between 1718 and 1744 and from 1934 to the present. All registers, other than those in current use, are held at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

The church and some monuments surrounding it are all listed buildings. The church held the land of Brokenborough in 1086 at the Domesday survey since it paid geld for 50 hides in the time of King Edward.

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