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North Wraxall

Church of St. James, North Wraxall

Church of St. James, North Wraxall Date Photo Taken 2012
Uploaded 22/11/2012 16:17:04
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Map Latitude 51.47400415859478 : Longitude -2.263847440481186
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Tudor Style Churchyard Arch of 1844.

In the centre of North Wraxall is the Church of St James, built during the 1100s. It was dedicated to the son of Zebedee who was also known as 'the greater.' The first notable aspect of the churchyard is its two separate entrances, one build for pedestrians and another, in the west, built during the Tudor era for the family who would have possessed the Manor. The oldest part of the church is the south doorway, which has been dated back to the 12th Century, an era of the Normans, and it now stands as the only original part of the Church from original construction. The north windows of the chancel are believed to also date back to the Norman period, however this is uncertain. The rest of the church appears to have been rebuilt during the 13th century, this includes nave, chancel and western tower. Further renovation was done during the 18th and 19th centuries under the rule of the Methuen family; a mortuary chapel was built specifically for them, on the north side of the nave, which was erected, approximately, in 1793. This area possibly marks the position of the chantry chapel which existed here according to the return made to Henry VIII. This is also supported by the fact that John Aubrey, historian, continually talks of windows and monuments which do not occur in this chapel. Many of the windows bear the Methuen family coat of arms and those they had been allied with. The roof of this specific chapel is also adorned with the pattern of family shields and their connection with one another. Here there is also dedication to the Button family. From the exterior of the church it is possible to see the blocked up entrance that would have been used by the priest. However, the rising level of earth has obscured its height

The chancel arch is particularly fascinating for there are no imposts securing it to the wall; on either side of it remain the corbels that supported the rood loft. Consequently the wooden pulpit and tester dating from the time of James I cover the stairs and entrance which would have once taken you to this rood loft. Interestingly, the left side of the Chancel arch bearss drawings which would have dated from the medieval time frame.

A picture stands at the eastern end of the nave below the window and consumes the whole width of the triple lancets. The picture was donated in approximately 1846 by John Howell and was painted by an Italian artist. It represents the preaching of St. John the Baptist.

In the western end of the nave stands a doorway to the basement of the tower. The tower is square and the two lower stories are Early English. In 1840 the saddle roof was removed, a third storey was added and yet the buttresses weren't raised. This new storey was used as a belfry and unfortunately only one bell now remains. In 1553 the church possessed three bells; but the Lord Protector Somerset felt one was enough and thus proposed to take the other two away. It is likely that the three remained for Francis Harrison claimed that the Protector's head was cut off before this was done. It is probable that they were sold in order to pay for maintenance for the church.

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