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Church of All Saints, Chitterne

Church of All Saints, Chitterne Date Photo Taken 2012
Uploaded 26/03/2015 17:03:45
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Map Latitude 51.19816113088423 : Longitude -2.013722062110901
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Original Media Location: Helen Taylor

Church graveyard.

The modern church of All Saints & St Mary's was built in 1861. Prior to this there were two churches in the village. The earliest known document regarding a church on this site dates back to 1270. The old All Saints church that was demolished in 1861 was built c.1450. The church was situated in the middle of All Saints graveyard, lying diagonally across the plot in a south-west/north-easterly orientation. The exact spot can be pin-pointed today by the tablet marking the Michell family vault.

All Saints was visited by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1824. His brief description of the church is as follows: -

'The Church of Chitterne All Saints stands on the North side of the village, and is a small neat structure. It has a low but well-proportioned turret at the West end; no side aisles, but a small chantry chapel on the North; and the Michells have lately (viz. 1775) made an addition on this side to serve the double purpose of a pew and mausoleum. The font is ancient and plain; the chancel is separated from the nave by a plain pointed arch without columns.'

The Michells were an important family in the parish, having bought 1,400 acres of land soon after the dissolution. The family, who lived at Chitterne House, had a family vault housed in a tomb within their large elevated pew in the body of the church. When the church was demolished in 1861 the eleven coffins were all relocated underground and the position marked by a tablet.

Colt Hoare included in his book floor plans for both Chitterne churches; they were very similar in size and shape. The nave at All Saints measured 46 feet 6 inches long and 18 feet wide. The chancel was 18 feet 6 inches long and 16 feet 2 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; it was soon discovered that the ground surrounding the present church was too wet.

The chancel at All Saints was retained until 1877. The maintenance of both mortuary chapels was the responsibility of each parish, and the chapel at All Saints was falling into disrepair. The parishioners were aware that the burial ground was only 300 yards from the new church; it was therefore easy to hold a service in the new church and the committal in the original burial ground. The decision was taken to move all the monuments in All Saints to the walls of the entrance to All Saints with St Mary's; the mortuary chapel was demolished.

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