Tell us a bit about St Michael’s Church, its history and its relationship with RAF Lyneham

It is difficult to date exactly when a church was established but documents from 1139 concerning Bradenstoke Abbey mention a church at Lyneham. Dating the current building is also difficult but roughly speaking the tower, north aisle and south porch are 14th and 15th century structures whereas the chancel, nave roof and much of the nave were completely re built in 1863.

One of the 6 bells is believed to be dedicated to Thomas Beckett and most likely cast for Bradenstoke Abbey at the time of the Dissolution. The Tower Screen dates from the Jacobean period was probably part of a private pew removed from the East end of the church during the 1863 rebuilding. The Font is undoubtedly Medieval and the screen is probably a remnant of a 15th century Root screen, perhaps carved at Bradenstoke Abbey. The North aisle has a rare housing bench. The two manual organ by Sweatband was installed in 1909 with the help of public subscription and a donation of £110 given by Andrew Carnegie (of Carnegie Hall, New York fame). During the 1863 rebuild the Chancel was completely redesigned and built by the great Victorian Architect William Butterfield. Outside the main South porch is a large Yew tree believed to be a 1000 years old and regarded as one of the finest examples in the UK.

RAF Lyneham was built during WWII and has been associated with Military Transport flying for most of its time until it closed in 2008. Its most famous resident is the C130 Hercules Tactical Transport aircraft which flew from Lyneham for nearly 50 years. During that time  took part in almost every British military overseas operation as well as many Humanitarian Relief Operations. For nearly 40 years the RAF Chaplain on the Base was also the Parish Priest and so St Michael’s became closely linked with the Station. That close link is very much in evidence today. The highlight is the RAF window which was unveiled by the late Queen in 1990 and is an eclectic mix of bits of aeroplane, radar screens, inflight refuelling probes as well as listed all the units that were based at Lyneham during its time. There is also the 47 squadron window which is a beautiful stained glass depiction of the world centred on Khartoum (where the Squadron was based for a time) and inspired by the Squadron Motto ‘Nili Nomen Roboris Omen’ meaning ‘The Nile is an omen of our Strength’ and the Biblical waters of life flowing from it.

There are 8 squadron standards laid to rest in the church along with an RAF altar and The Basra altar was built and presented to 47 Sqn, by the American CeeBees, after one of their aircraft was shot down in Iraq.

In the churchyard their over 40 military graves ( tended by the CWGC)associated with RAF Lyneham along with a Memorial Bench to XV193 flown by a 70 Sqn crew which crashed in Scotland during a training exercise. 

Of significance is a large Yew tree outside the main South entrance which is a 1000 years old and regarded as one of the finest examples in UK. 

Tell us a little bit about your role and how you came to be involved with St Michael’s Church

My wife’s family were at RAF Lyneham and were going to St Michael’s in the early 1970’s. We were then married in the church in 1981 and have been associated ever since. Our three daughters were Christened there and the eldest married there in 2013. Three of our parents ashes are interned in the churchyard. I have been on the PCC since the early 1990’s was churchwarden for 16 years. I am currently the secretary of the PCC. Over the years we have been to friends weddings and sadly said farewell to former colleagues.

Tell us what visitors can expect when they visit the church.

St Michael’s is open most days during the week and has a convenient car park next to the church hall. There is usually someone around and sometimes there is a coffee morning in the church hall.  Alternatively, refreshments can be found at the cafe situated in the REME Museum which is a short walk from the church. The church is set back from the road in a large well kept churchyard. As you walk up the path to the church to the left is the Memorial Hall and gardens(accessible from  the path and which is managed by Trustees from the Church)) which is a lovely place to sit and reflect. There are also a number of benches around the churchyard for sitting and enjoying the view. The large Yew tree dominates the entrance to the church. Along with the military items already mentioned we have tried to create a small tribute to RAF Lyneham with display boards highlighting its history along with model aircraft and uniforms

Where are your favourite places to visit in Wiltshire and why?

I enjoy visiting Lacock and Malmesbury Abbey. They are both lovely places to visit and walk around with interesting history, nice views with good places to stop and have a bite to eat.

Do you have any hidden Wiltshire gems that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think Wiltshire’s hidden gems are its countryside and ancient churches. My wife and I often go walking or cycling around our area. Walking routes are good and when cycling you can usually find quiet country lanes and stay off busy roads. Our local churches are interesting with varied histories and there are usually plenty of good pubs around when you have had enough exercise!




  1. charlestrevino
    I had the opportunity to pass here, it's ancient and full of nostalgia
  2. Stumblenel567
    I had the privilege of going through here; it is really old and brings up a lot of memories.
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