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Coombe Bissett

Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Coombe Bissett

Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Coombe Bissett Date Photo Taken 2012
Uploaded 22/09/2012 15:27:46
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Map Latitude 51.03605256369883 : Longitude -1.847253441810608
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


The church is probably situated on the site of a previous wooden Saxon church. At the taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1291 the church was rated for £8.

The present nave holds two old corbel heads from the original roof, indicating that it was probably thatched. The oldest parts of the existing church include the two western bays of the fifth arcade of the nave and a Norman column, both mid to late 12th century. The present chancel was built between 1250 and 1300; the piscina also dates from the 13th century. A 13th century priest's door can still be seen but has probably been rebuilt. The chancel and tower date from the 14th century and the nave and north transept are of a 15th century date. The mid 15th century saw the construction of the Perpendicular north aisle and south transept. The gabled porch was built in the mid 19th century. A blocked up doorway leads from the inside of the tower to the turret stairway. There was once a rood loft.

The font was originally situated at the western end of the nave but was moved during the re-seating and repairs of 1845 to the south aisle. It dates from the 13th century and has a cylindrical base with four shafts. It is unusual in the fact that it has been made from a single block of stone. Traces of the lockable wooden cover can still be found. There are 16th century windows in the south side of the south aisle and the nave clerestory. The east window of the chancel contains some good examples of stained glass from 1901.

The brick wall on the north side of the churchyard was built in 1845 and yew trees were planted by the Parish Clerk, Thomas Kimber, at the same time. The churchyard was extended in 1899.

The church was restored in 1845 by T. H. Wyatt and was closed between August 1844 and September 1845 for this 'extensive' reconstruction to be carried out. The oak pews were installed; 178 out of the 190 seats were 'made free'. October 1870 saw the clock put into place (the old clock constantly needed repairs). A subscription was set up to pay for the new clock; there were 21 names on the list with each person giving 10 shillings. Lord Radnor donated £20, Winchester College and the two churchwardens £5 each. A new floor was put into the belfry at the same time, made by Churchill of Downton. The organ was put into place in 1899. The chancel screen was removed in the 19th century and part of it is now in use as an altar Communion rail. The pulpit is thought to have been made in 1845; a pulpit once stood on the south side of the nave. In 1961 a decision was made to remove the Victorian additions in the chancel.

In 1896 the events held in aid of the church bells included a rummage sale, and Mrs Corbin's quilt sale. A lantern entertainment in 1898 raised £1.10s. 0d for the treble bell fund. By the mid 20th century the church had six bells, dated 1898, 1896, 1758, 1586, 1589 and 1617, the oldest being made by John Wallis of Salisbury. In 1896 the bells were taken down and a new oak frame built, given by the Earl of Radnor.

In 1553 'Combissate' held a chalice weighing seventeen and a half ounces. The plate weighing four and a half ounces was reserved for the king.

An extract from the parish register from June 19th, 1790 reads "Agreed by Vestery to have 6 of the poore persens of the Parish of Coombe at 3 shillings per head to be nockelheaded by Rose". To be 'nockleheaded' was to be inoculated. Rose was a doctor living in the house by the bridge, on the north side. 24th June 1790 sees a further entry "Agreed by Vestery to have all the poore of the parish of Coombe to have the smallpox at the loest terms as posabel by Rose".

The Vicar H. Beach had taken the Covenant but was reported to the Falstone Committee (the Wiltshire Parliamentary Committee met at Falstone, South of Wilton) in September 1645 as having spoken to the "Clubman" against Parliament. He lost his place as vicar, but by the time he died in 1668 he had been reinstated. The church survey of Wiltshire, 1649-50, noted that the Coombe Bissett parsonage and glebe lands were worth £120 per annum, and the vicarage was worth £40. The minister Mr Hector Carpender 'preaches twice every Lords daye'.

The vicar of Coombe Bissett was also responsible for the services at West Harnham from 1836 until 1881.

The parish registers, other than those in current use, from 1636, with gaps in the 17th and 18th centuries, are held in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.


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