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National School, Orcheston St. Mary

National School, Orcheston St. Mary Date Photo Taken 20004
Uploaded 17/12/2013 15:18:34
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Map Latitude 51.209694670540166 : Longitude -1.9161111116409302
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

There is a record of a church at Orcheston St. Mary as early as the 12th century. In 1297 the advowson or right to recommend a clergyman was claimed by Parnel de Bovill and may have passed to Nicholas of Rollestone in 1342 who was then patron. This right passed with the manor until the 17th century. From 1718 the advowson had been bought by Clare Hall, later Clare College of Cambridge. From 1993 this college was patron of the united benefice and its rights were transferred to the Salisbury Diocese patronage board in 1961.

In 1292 the living was below average and valued at £6 13s. 4d. and by 1535 it was about £13 13s. In 1830 the rector's income was £360. After the 12th century the rector received all the tithes and the glebe had 40 acres of arable land and pasture rights for 80 sheep in the 17th century. In 1827 the glebe lands amounted to 25 acres, falling to 21 acres by 1841 and all but three acres had been sold to the war department by 1912.

The original rectory house that stood in the 1530s was altered in the 18th century and by 1783 the brick and flint house was said to be too small for a family and fell out of use as the rectory by 1827. The northern half was re roofed and used as a barn and the southern section was used as a cottage. By the 20th century the whole was restored as a private residence. In 1827 a new rectory was built, a grander residence, three storey and square built of white and red brick with a slightly later northern wing. The gardens to the east were walled with a red brick and cob wall. This rectory was sold when the benefice united in 1933.

In the early 16th century the churchwardens held two acres and stock which included 2 cows and 35 sheep. In 1553 it was reported that there had never been a pulpit in the church or a carpet for the communion table. There are rectors listed there from 1575 to 1735 except the period from 1680-90. John Thornborough one of the rectors was later Bishop of Limerick, Bristol and Worcester. He was succeeded by his brother Giles and then his son Giles who was said to preach there every Sunday between 1637 and 1660. By 1783 the rector did not live there and the curate also served Shrewton and Maddington. In 1851 on Census Sunday there were 51 recorded in the afternoon congregation and in 1864 the average attendance was 50-60 people.

The building is constructed of rubble and flint with a Welsh slate roof, and has a nave with south aisle, a chancel, a south porch and a south west tower. The nave has thick south and east walls which probably survive from an earlier church. The aisle and tower were built in the 13th century and the staircase was made in the south tower in the 14th century. The square three stage tower has diagonal buttresses, single and two light lancets and a gilded clock face on the south side, all topped with a pitched roof.

The chancel was rebuilt and altered in the 16th century and in 1832 the north wall of the nave and the aisle walls were rebuilt and the timber porch was replaced with stone. This gabled porch c.1833 has diagonal buttresses leading to pinnacles with a Tudor arched door and pointed niche over. In 1860 the church received a new pulpit and prayer desk and in 1861 a stained glass window was placed in memory of Mrs. Mills, widow of Stephen Mills of Elston, by her daughter. In 1863 new communion rails were fixed and kneeling cushions made and in 1865 a new (second hand) organ was installed. Warm air heating by Haden Engineering of Trowbridge was installed in 1870 and in 1876 and as a parting gift, the rector paid for Minton tiles to be laid in the church. The porch was restored in 1896 and paid for by village contributions. The churchyard was extended in 1923.

In 1553 a chalice was retained but 2.5 ounces of plate was confiscated. By 1991 an early 16th century paten and late 16th century chalice, as well as a flagon dating from 1730, were still in the church. Also in the 1500s three bells hung, two of which were cast at Salisbury and remained at Orcheston St. Mary until 1914. A third bell had been replaced in 1715 but all three bells were destroyed by fire in 1914 as well as the clock. Three bells were then hung, cast by Taylor of Loughborough. The interior fittings including the altar and octagonal font and pulpit date from 1833 and the polychrome tiled floor and pews date from the 1860s. Incomplete registers survive; baptisms from 1688 and marriages and burials from 1691 and these can be viewed at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. A former rector of Orcheston St. Mary writes in 1889 that a former tenant of the Rookery burnt one of the parish registers in order to save his son from the Militia, his age therefore being difficult to prove. This had been relayed to him by a local woman who had knowledge of the fire and this may explain the missing parish register.

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