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Christ Church, Bulkington

Christ Church, Bulkington Date Photo Taken 2014
Uploaded 30/07/2014 14:58:42
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Map Latitude 51.32458633510655 : Longitude -2.0867840945720673
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Original Media Location: Helen Taylor

The pulpit.

For 250 years, prior to the building of a church at Bulkington, the parishioners worshipped at either Keevil or Poulshot. The Keevil church was two miles away and services were frequently held in houses during the winter months. There were many occasions in the early 1800s when the Bulkington villagers thought about building their own church, not least because the combined population of Keevil and Bulkington was between 700 and 800 people; the church at Keevil had space for 335. In 1857 both the Keevil vicar and a group of Bulkington parishioners were keen to advance the project, but unfortunately they could not find a suitable piece of land. However, one of the parishioners, Daniel Watts, was determined not to give up. He wrote a letter to Sir Walter Long of Preshute House, whose family had held the manor during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He immediately agreed to give half an acre of land together with building materials and money. Dr. Gaisford, Dean of Christ Church Oxford, who also owned the Manor of Bulkington, gave £400. It is likely that the church at Bulkington was named Christ Church in recognition of his generosity.

The architect was Thomas Cundy and the builder was Mr. Mullings from Devizes. At first there was only enough money to build the nave. The present east window was placed in this first building. A chancel was soon added and the window was moved to its current position. Bulkington church was built as a chapel of ease to the mother church of Keevil. It measures 58' 2" long by 20' 6" wide and seats 140 people. The church was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury on Tuesday 25th September 1860. A large number of people attended and the occasion was reported in the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette. The villagers were extremely grateful to Sir Walter Long for his generosity.
Since 1860 the parishioners have taken great care of their church and any necessary repairs or improvements were funded by generous donations from clergy, gentry and villagers. In more recent years, local clubs and groups have also helped support the church.

In 1899 yew trees were planted at the end of the churchyard to mark part of its boundary. A stone wall was built along the eastern boundary. In 1910 a heating apparatus was installed and cathedral glass was placed in the windows to celebrate the church's 50th anniversary.

During the Second World War the church was notified that they had been given £200 by the late Rev. and Mrs. Seymour Audrey. The money was to be used to erect a carved oak screen to the chancel in their memory. It was not possible to proceed until after the war. At the same time an architectural survey reported that considerable repairs were required to the church fabric, including the under pinning of the east wall due to subsidence. Fund raising began in 1946. Other plans included re-decorating the church walls and ceiling, repairs to the church room, installing electric light in the church and church room, plus repairs to the organ. By February 1949 the sum of £327 8s 5d had been raised, which was enough to cover all the work, including the chancel screen.

The church had its own mission room from 1904-1965. This corrugated iron building was built on land to the west of the churchyard which was given by Mr. Puckeridge. In its early days it was regularly used for a Sunday school, and during marriage services it was used for the signing of the register. Travelling missionaries visited each year, staying for a few days. They used the room to show 'lantern slides', mostly of the Holy Land. In 1965 the room was sold and the site cleared.

Both clergymen and parishioners have played an important part in the life of Bulkington church. The Rev. William Chamberlaine (formerly Pooke) was vicar of Keevil from 1839 until his death in 1902, when he was reputed to be the oldest resident clergyman. He was responsible for reviving interest in the building of a church at Bulkington. The Rev. Frank Weller was vicar from 1914-1941. He was almost totally blind for many years, but with the help of his sister he served the parishes of Keevil and Bulkington faithfully until his retirement. He walked the two miles between the two villages each Sunday to take the service, feeling his way with the help of a walking stick. The Rev. Spencer Baron was in post 1946-1962. This was a crucial time, as the church was in need of serious repair after the war. Rev. Baron was responsible for raising the money that was needed.

Simon Wilkins was the first parish clerk and held the post for 50 years until his retirement in 1910. John Rose was churchwarden and organist for 25 years prior to his death in 1928. In more recent times, both Bill Breach and Jack Pickett served as churchwarden for over 40 years.

Bulkington remained in the care of the vicar of Keevil until 1971. The parish was then united with Seend. In 1995 these two parishes were joined by Poulshot. Since then, Bulkington has been part of the united benefice of Seend, Bulkington and Poulshot.

The parish registers, apart from those currently in use at the church, can be seen at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.

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