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Church of St. Mary, Chitterne

Church of St. Mary, Chitterne Date Photo Taken 2012
Uploaded 26/03/2015 16:56:25
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Map Latitude 51.1942355732431 : Longitude -2.0162808895111084
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Original Media Location: Helen Taylor

The chancel in the graveyard, seen from the south west.

The modern church of All Saints & St Mary's was built in 1861. Prior to this there were two churches in the village. St Mary's was in existence by at least 1319, which is the date of the first known vicar. The chancel was built c.1450.

St. Mary's was visited by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1824. His brief description of the church is as follows: - 'The Church of Chitterne St Mary is an ancient small building, with a low turret over the south porch. This edifice is almost concealed by an old barn which stands before it; but it offers nothing in its architecture which calls for remark. It has no aisles, but a small Chantry Chapel on the north side. The chancel is separated from the nave by a low arch, having open Gothic screen-work and quatrefoils on each side of it. The font is ancient and plain. North of the altar is a tomb, under an arch, but without figure or inscription.'

Colt Hoare included in his book floor plans for both Chitterne churches; they were very similar in size and shape. The nave at St. Mary's measured 43 feet long and 16 feet 8 inches wide. The chancel was 20 feet 3 inches long and 16 feet 10 inches wide. The two churches between them could only accommodate 268 people and in 1851 the total population of Chitterne was 691. The two parishes had been united under one vicar since 1819 and services were held alternately in each church every Sunday. By the mid 19th century there was concern over the condition of the naves of both churches, although the chancels were sound.

In 1861 the decision was taken to build a new church in the middle of the village. At the same time it was decided that both chancels should be retained and fitted out as mortuary chapels for their respective burial grounds. These burial sites are still in use today as the ground surrounding the present church is too wet.

The chancel at St Mary's is built of chequered limestone and flint with a tiled roof. The interior is simple, with rendered walls and a flagstone floor. Some fragments of medieval stained glass from the old All Saints church have been incorporated into the windows. The canopied tomb mentioned by Colt Hoare is still there. Two memorial tablets are on the west wall and there are two graves in the floor.

The Ecclesiastical Commissioners keep St Mary's chancel in good repair and receive the tithes from St Mary's parish. Occasionally services are held here.

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