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Dauntsey

Church of St. James, Dauntsey

Church of St. James, Dauntsey Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 29/09/2011 14:46:35
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Map Latitude 51.54111886209219 : Longitude -2.0305341482162476
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


Danby coat of arms on the west tower

The original church standing at Dauntsey was initially dedicated to St. Mary, but this was changed to the apostle St. James in the 12th or 13th century. The church is found to the east of the parish near to Dauntsey House and is a Grade I listed building with several grade II listed monuments in the churchyard. St. Mary's was a Norman church built during the reign of Henry I possibly c1120. By 1177 the church was controlled by Malmesbury Abbey but given up by them c1263 and this been could be the reason that the dedication was changed to St. James.

The advowson was held by the lords of the manor until the 19th century and sold by the trustees of Charles, the Earl of Peterborough in 1831. The living at Dauntsey rectory was a good one. In 1291 it was assessed at £13 6s. and the 17th century tithes from the whole parish, apart from the manor, were due to the vicar, so he would have been fairly well off.

Much of the remaining original church is in Early English style, consisting of a nave, chancel with chapel, a tower and north and south porches. Windows in the chancel hold 15th century glass, while the chancel itself dates from the 14thcentury. There is an old monument in the chancel possibly dating from the 1300s and it is thought that within lies Joan Dauntsey and her third husband John Dewale. On the top of the slab one can just make out engravings of them with Dewale depicted in full armour. There is a central beam within the church with flying angels depicted upon it and this is thought to be a 14th century construction.

In the 17th century much of the church was re-built by Sir Henry Danvers, the 1st Earl of Danby, who was born at Dauntsey. This re-building included the west tower, built in 1630 which has gargoyles upon it, angled so they are looking towards the manor house. There are two sundials on the tower and a clock face in place by 1783, when it was repaired by a William Sealy. This also faces Dauntsey House. Sir Henry also added the north chapel, where he was buried after his death in 1643. There is also a monument to him within St. James's and the Danvers' coat of arms is found in the centre of the tower-arch. He installed a brass memorial plate in the floor near to the north chapel, dedicated to Acton Drake, his servant and squire. The rood screen separating the chancel and the nave was reconstructed during the 17th century and the lower portion of the screen is based on a pattern designed by Archbishop Laud of Canterbury. The choir stalls were renovated in this period and some date from the 15th century.

There is a tomb holding Sir John Danvers; Henry Danvers' father. It is found to the north of the chancel under a window and his wife, Dame Ann Danvers, was buried in a tomb in a recess just off the altar.

From 1876 until the start of the 20th century further work was done in the church and during this period services were held in the south aisle while the rest of the building was worked on. The pews were removed and lowered, although some were not reinstated due to the installation of a new heating system. The roof of the nave was replaced and the organ was installed in the church at the very end of the 19th century, to the north of the chancel. Within the north chapel there is a monument and memorial to the Reverend George Bisset, who died in 1828.

An interesting painting is the 'Dauntsey Doom', sited near the altar above some wooden figures of monks, a bishop and a priest. The 'doom' is a 14th century doom board, a faded picture showing a heavenly scene as well as the 'doomed' non-believers falling down to hell. The most dramatic part of the painting is a red dragon or devil figure at the bottom right, depicted as a fearsome beast.

In 1553 the existing three bells in the church tower were removed and five new bells were installed during the Earl of Danby's restoration of the church. Number one bell, the treble, was cast in 1637 and the 4th and 5th bells also date from the 17th century. Two of these bells were re-cast in 1848 at a cost of £87 5s 0d. There were several bell ringers in the mid-19th century and they were paid partly with beer.

A list of rectors at the church is complete from the year 1297, apart from two short periods between 1584 - 1591 and 1597 - 1598. On Census Sunday in 1851, 146 people attended the morning service. The church was insured against risk of destruction or damage by fire in 1882. The parish registers which date from 1653, other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.


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