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The Church of St. Giles, Imber

The Church of St. Giles, Imber Date Photo Taken 2002
Uploaded 27/05/2003 08:30:05
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Original Media Location: Trevor Porter

The present church dates from the late 13th and 14th centuries and is believed to have been built on the site of a much earlier Norman church. Its situation on higher ground to the south of the village as it was in 1943 set it apart from all other buildings in the village. This was also the case in 1773 when no through road went past the church and so it seems likely that the village was always set in the valley bottom or it moved away from the church before the latter part of the 18th century.

The church is built of dressed limestone with flint and the roof is tiled with coped verges. The nave has north and south aisles, the chancel has a north vestry, and there is a north porch and west tower. In the 15th century the aisle windows were widened to help lighten the interior of the church, while in the 18th century a leaded oeil de boeuf was inserted in the south wall. The Perpendicular tower is in two stages with a heavily moulded plinth and diagonal buttresses; there is a stair turret on the north side with chamfered arrow loops and the tower has a battlemented parapet and crocketed pinnacles.

The porch has fixed stone benches and leads to a 15th century Tudor-arched doorway with a 19th century door. There is a cusped stoup to the right. The nave has a three-bay late Medieval arch-braced collar rafter roof, while the three-bay north and south arcades are late 13th century with traces of red painted decoration on the arches and walls above. In the south aisle is a trefoil-headed piscina and a blocked doorway. On the north wall of the tower is an unusual painted bell-ringing mural dated 1692 on the west panel; there were originally seven panels for a peal of five bells, with red-painted figures.

The church was restored in 1849 when the chancel was rebuilt by the patron, Lord Bath. The lancet windows were replaced by Perpendicular style ones and the total cost of restoration was £630. 10 shillings. A further extensive restoration took place in 1895 when the seating capacity was increased to 200 at a cost of £1,000.

When the village was taken over by the military in 1943 all fittings were removed to Edington or other churches in the Salisbury diocese. The church and churchyard were protected by a high fence and it is the only building in the village to have remained virtually intact. It is opened for a service every year on or near St. Giles's Day in early September and is normally open at other times, mainly Easter and the period around Christmas and New Year's Day. In 2013 the attendance at the Christmas carol service had to be limited by ticket, so popular was the event. The number of visitors on open days has increased enormously since the first opening to the public in 1956.

The church is in the Devizes Deanery in the Diocese of Salisbury. The parish registers from 1709 -1942 (baptisms) and from 1709 - 1967 (burials) and from 1710 - 1943 (marriages) are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Burials of people born in the village still take place in the churchyard and have continued into the 21st century

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