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Winterbourne Monkton

Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Winterbourne Monkton

Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Winterbourne Monkton Date Photo Taken 2012
Uploaded 21/01/2013 09:47:54
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Map Latitude 51.446646311858856 : Longitude -1.8607248365879059
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Aumbry in Chancel.

Glastonbury Abbey acquired Winterbourne Monkton in 928 AD and their monks settled in the area and had a small building which formed the basis of the present church, although perhaps not on the same site.

The existing church building is thought to date back to 1133. The vicarage was ordained by Cirencester Abbey before 1229 and it was confirmed by 1335. In the 13th and 14th centuries it was described as an annexe to Avebury and in 1431 the Abbot of Cirencester petitioned, unsuccessfully, for the union of the two Vicarages. In 1658 Winterbourne Monkton and Berwick Bassett were united for a short period, and then separated at the time of the Restoration. Later Avebury and Winterbourne Monkton were united from 1747 until 1864. Then Winterbourne Monkton was united again with Berwick Bassett until 1929, when the united Avebury benefice was formed. Both parishes eventually united with Avebury in 1970 and by 1975 Winterbourne Monkton had become part of the Upper Kennet team ministry
The Abbot of Cirencester, therefore, oversaw Winterbourne Monkton until 1361 and at the time of the Dissolution it passed to the Crown and then to the Bishop of Salisbury by 1864.

The original building, now the chancel, was originally separate from the bell tower, and both structures were joined by the nave in the 14th century. The original bell tower was supported by four large tree trunks; two are still visible and quite unusual in contrast to the Victorian style that now exists. It housed three bells before 1553 and new bells were cast in 1617, 1641 and 1663.

Early parts of the church include the south porch and part of the south doorway, the north doorway and the lancet window in the chancel; all dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. The chancel arch and some of the glass in the lancet windows are also 13th century.

As with most churches, the earliest feature is the font, which is thought to be 12th century, and is circular in shape and decorated with unusual carvings in a trumpet scallop and zigzag design. It was painted during the medieval period and there are visible remnants of paint in blue, green, orange, red and black, caught amongst the carving.

The main building is of coarse sarsen rubble and consists of a chancel with a north vestry, connecting to the nave which has a south porch and then a timber-framed and boarded tower rising from the west end. There are cusped niches in the chancel as well as a small piscina. The east window is 15th century and the pulpit is Jacobean, although it no longer has its original canopy. In 1553 some of the church plate was confiscated, leaving a single chalice. The church was refitted in the 17th century and the communion table of 1678 still survives as well as a number of pews. In the 18th century a gallery was added at the west end, but this was removed in the restoration that took place in 1878, overseen by William Butterfield. The vestry was added at this point and the grand sum of £1,880 was spent on this restoration, a considerable amount of money at the time. A tall chimneystack and tiles in the chancel are typical of Butterfield.

Gifts in 1844 included a late 16th century chalice, an alms dish of 1683, and a chalice and a paten of 1723; there is also an hourglass holder made of iron dating from 1627. The dedication of the church to St. Mary Magdalene is thought to be mid eighteenth century and the parish registers date from 1656 but are incomplete between 1674 and 1719. They can be viewed at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

The endowment in 1268 was valued at twelve shilling a year; in 1535 it was £5 per year and in 1810 was £10 per year; it was always considered one of the poorest Wiltshire livings. A small number of tithes existed, including hay and oats from Avebury as well as wool and lambs in the 1670s. Corn tithes were also received and the Vicar held 25 acres of arable land, five acres of meadow and enough pasture to support thirty sheep. In 1815 the enclosure allotted him 61 acres in total.

A glebe house is mentioned in 1678, referring to a dilapidated cottage, demolished in 1852.

Tithes provided another ecclesiastical living in Winterbourne Monkton and in the late 15th century this was said to be attached to a chapel about one third of a mile from the church. A late 16th century endowment was meant to be for the provision of a priest, but nothing remains of this chapel.

The low value living might explain the lack of quarterly sermons in the 1580s and in 1636 a curate was appointed in place of a resident vicar. In the 17th century the vicars were Thomas Bannings and then Francis Hulbert in 1660 but he was 'ejected' by 1662 and later imprisoned, possible for non-conformist activity. From 1747 to 1865 the parish was served from Avebury. By the late 18th century a service was held with a sermon every other Sunday and communion was held only four times a year. Trivial excuses were given for poor church attendance, such as lack of suitable clothing, and the average number attending in 1864 was 65 people.

One of the stones of Millbarrow was used for the tombstone of Rev. John Brinsden in 1719; he had planted snowdrops in the shape of the letters of the alphabet in the churchyard, to encourage children to read. Snowdrops flowering in February are still a feature of the churchyard.

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