In History

By Emma Kirkup

I was given the opportunity to join The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) on a tour of the beautiful Wylye Valley – the area between Warminster and Salisbury which is noted for its pretty villages and quite frankly stunning countryside.

I was greeted at Warminster train station by Sara and Linden from the CCT and was welcomed aboard the small coach to join the tour. The tour was to explore the Wylye region and some of the churches under the care of the CCT – these are churches that no longer have regular services but are considered to be of historic and religious importance and the CCT now manage and promote.

Our first stop was a visit to the village of Fisherton Delamere where there’s St Nicholas' Church. Our guide for the day, Neil Rushdon – who’s the Conservation Manager for the West Region of the CCT joined us at the church.

Neil is an archaeologist by trade and has a particular interest in medieval churches. His first step was to explain to us why the Wylye valley was so important to the development of the three churches we were visiting today. In times gone by the river was much more navigable than it is today and these churches resembled those of north Hampshire rather than others in Wiltshire – probably because of this important trade link.

St Nicholas church dates earliest from around the mid-12th Century but the exterior that you can see today mainly dates from the 14th Century, aside from the tower which would have been a later addition to replace the original wooden tower. There are examples of the different styles of architecture which reflected the different fashions in churches. Neil also showed us a mass dial which was used in the days before clocks to tell the vicar the times of mass.

One thing that I thought was a particularly nice touch in this church was that the villagers of Fisherton Delamere are still very proud of their church. They not only open it up every day but because they knew of our visit had left some juice and biscuits for us to enjoy and also had placed small posies of flowers around the church.

Next up, we made a lunch stop at a nearby village pub and enjoyed relaxing views from the riverside garden before journeying on to the next church at Sutton Veny.

St Leonard church at Sutton Veny was different to the other two in that it’s mainly in ruin aside from the chantry. In the 1860s the church was left to ruin as a larger church opened up in the village but the chancel was left intact as a morning chapel. When the chancel is unlocked you can go in and see the medieval wall paintings and the memorials outside of these times you can walk among the ruins and see the 12th century arches.

The final stop for the afternoon was probably my favourite church of the day – St Mary at Old Dilton. This church had a belfry instead of a tower – this one dating from the 15th century. When they did some drainage work here a couple of years ago they discovered evidence of 10th century pottery from Verwood, Dorset. Again, this implied that the trade links along the Wylye were strong.

Neil explained the history and the architecture of this church and told us that we’d be impressed by the different interior that this church had to offer. As I went in I was surprised to see box pews here, these dating from the 18th century. There were still older touches though like the 15th century font and a medieval wall painting still present. This church also doubled up as a school room and we had the opportunity to climb up the steep staircase to see where the children would have studied away from the congregation.

Our tour ended after this church with a quick journey back on the coach to Warminster. A fascinating day and everyone on the tour seemed to have enjoyed the day. Quite a lot of the CCT churches in Wiltshire are open to the general public (some have restricted times). Find out more here.

Related

The Churches Conservation Trust
Church/Chapel
Idmiston All Saints

The Churches Conservation Trust protects and cares for 21 historic churches across Wiltshire. The unique collection of churches includes irreplaceable examples of architecture, archaeology and art from 1,000 years of history.

6 Comments

Comments

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