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Church of All Saints and St. Mary

Church of All Saints and St. Mary Date Photo Taken 2012
Uploaded 26/03/2015 16:47:57
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Map Latitude 51.19558026777222 : Longitude -2.0128771662712097
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Original Media Location: Helen Taylor

The church from the south west.

The first stage in the unification of the benefices of All Saints and St Mary's took place in 1819. A deed was drawn up stating that when one of the parishes became vacant, the other vicar would take over responsibility for both. This happened in March 1848 when the Rev. William Wapshare died and William Macdonald became vicar of both parishes.

By the late 1850s both churches were in need of major repairs. They were also too small for the growing population. In 1851 the total population in both parishes was 691; each church could hold approximately 268 people. Another factor for the vicar to think about was deciding when and where services should take place. In July 1861 a faculty was drawn up for the building of a new and bigger church that would serve the whole village. Walter Long of Rood Ashton gave a piece of land in the centre of the village. The church measured 103 feet long and 53 feet wide. It cost £1,850 to build. It had room for 523 people, of which 240 seats were free. A further 157 seats were reserved for the use of the children who attended the daily and Sunday schools. In 1864 the average congregation was 300 adults and 200 children.

The new church was consecrated on 4th November 1862. It had been built by T.H. Wyatt of chequered flint and limestone with a tiled nave roof. The aisle roofs are Welsh slate. It has a three-stage west tower over the entrance, a nave with lean-to aisles, a chancel with a polygonal apse and a north vestry. Various items were saved from the old churches and used in the new building. The south aisle includes 14th and 15th century windows from St. Mary's. The north aisle has 14th and 15th century windows from All Saints. The 12th century cylindrical stone font and the 17th century carved, wooden polygonal pulpit both came from St. Mary's. There is an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century memorial tablets in the tower entrance. One is in memory of Commodore Matthew Michell who died in 1752 and has a relief-carved ship on its apron.

An unfortunate problem was soon encountered in that the land on which the church was built was rather damp, making it unsuitable for burials. It had already been decided to keep both chancels of the old churches in use as mortuary chapels, as they were both in good condition. Any monuments and memorial tablets that were in the old churches were removed to their respective chancel and the maintenance of each building was the responsibility of the respective parish. By 1877 the All Saints chancel had deteriorated and the decision was taken to demolish it. The monuments were moved to the tower of the new church. St. Mary's chancel is still there and continues to be maintained by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Occasionally services are held there. Burials continue to take place in both of the old graveyards. That of All Saints was enlarged in the 19th century after a gift of land by Sir William Onslow. St. Mary's graveyard was enlarged in 1928 when Ushers Brewery donated some land that was formerly part of the King's Head plot.

Chitterne continued as a single parish until 1969 when it joined with Tilshead and Orcheston. In 1998 it became part of the Wylye and Till Valley Team along with Shrewton. The parish registers dating from 1653, apart from those currently in use at the church, can be seen at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

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