A history of St Mary the Virgin, Calstone Wellington

The building – listed Grade II (Historic England).

The church dates back to the early 15th century, when the structure was significantly rebuilt.  Origins of the church date back to the 13th century, but nothing remains of that structure.  The church today comprises Nave, Chancel, West Tower, North Porch (late 15th century) and South Vestry – the latter being added during the restoration of 1885 (Architect, Ewan Christian, RIBA President).  The church is in the Perpendicular architectural style.  Roofs are covered with stone “slates”.

The graffiti

The inside and outside walls have many inscribed graffiti images – some perhaps dating from soon after the building’s construction.  The highest concentration of images is inside the porch.  The graffiti was digitally recorded by the Wiltshire Medieval Graffiti Survey in 2019.  Their report can be viewed at https://hcommons.org/docs/st-mary-the-virgin-calstone-wellington-wiltshire-historical-graffiti-apotropaic-motifs/

The fixtures

The floors, pews, pulpit, priest’s desk, altar and rail in the Chancel and Nave remain from the 1885 restoration or before, except that the pews in the Tower have disappeared, as has the wall seat to the east of the priest’s desk.  A space heater was installed in the Tower in the 1960s.  The Allen digital organ was installed in 2017 and we can find no evidence that there was ever a pipe organ in this church.  There are three bells in the Tower, hung for full-circle ringing – two cast by John Taylor of Loughborough in 1885 and one cast by John Wallis in 1603.

The reredos or altar back dates from 1922 while the aumbury doors (next to the altar) date from the 1990s.  The altar has been constructed from reclaimed timbers from the old Chancel roof, which was replaced during the 19th century restoration works. Also, during this period, the upper section of the Tower was rebuilt.  The roofs over the Nave and the Porch retain their original trusses and rafters but the ceiling panels are much later.  Vault coverings in the Nave floor are dedicated to the Michell family and dated between 1637 and 1817.  The East Window is from 1889 but one of the south windows of the Chancel contains fragments of medieval glass.  In the Nave, up until 1885, there was a gallery with staircase in front of the Tower and up until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, there was a rood loft (galley) across the front of the Chancel arch.  Only outlines of the blocked-up doorways to the outside stairs are now visible beside the pulpit (moved from the south side in 1885).  The Royal Coat of Arms painted on the wall over the Chancel arch are those of Queen Anne and bear the date 1707, but they were altered (crudely) to those of George II in 1740 – restoration work was carried out on 2009.  The Nave walls were plastered but this was removed in the early 20th century.  The stone font dates from about 1740.

The fittings

These are of various dates – large wooden candlesticks (1935), pedestals (1977) and bowls (1981), Bishop’s chair (1926) and credence table (1909).  The large lectern and prie dieu are 1884 but Tower screen is 2006.  The hymn board and the hassocks are 20th century and the small lectern and bookcase are 21st century.

The churchyard

This has been described as “probably the most beautiful of England’s churchyards”*.  The earliest graves are unmarked but there are some fine Georgian memorials. The most important is the late 18th century Grade II listed Hughes monument in the form of a chest tomb just to the north of the Nave.  Above this there is an interesting Regency memorial plaque on the outside north wall of the Nave commemorating a stage coachman of the Rogers family – “While passengers of every Age /With care I (drove) from stage to stage,/Death’s sable (hearse) passed by unseen/ And stop’d the course of my machine.” 

* A comment by the film director Professor Christopher Miles.

The Rectors

14th Century                               15th Century                                16th Century

1301 Ade de Codeford1402 Johes Bertelot1511 Thomas Smyth
1302 Johnes de Cumpton1430 Rogerus Ywod1516 Johnes Halghton
1302 Thom de Cokelbergh1435 Willms Smyth1517 Rogerus Went
1330 Thomae Grauncourt1438 Willms Goinne1547 Thomas Gawby
1330 Nichs Scholake1444 Thomas Browne1563 Oliverus Boswike
1336 Thomam le Spens1448 Nicholas Reynold 
1337 Willu Colbat de Compton1453 Ricus Baldewyn 
1338 Thomam Grauntcourt1458 Willms Wykwyk 
1339 Robum de Mucheldevre1464 Ricdu Bernard 
1339 Johes de Splot  
1340 Robus Osgot  
1350 Thomas Gasselyn  
1361 Johannes Meles  
1361 Johem Sextayn  
1362 Robus Legat  
1392 Waltero Freysmerk  
1392 Johem Ledecombe  
1393 Willm Botemham  
1394 Wills Scherard  
1396 Gilbertus atte Mersh  

17th Century                               18th Century                                19th Century

1600 Georgius Ferrelre1701 Georgius Millard1802 George Mawson
1623 Henricus Jennings1740 Robert Rogers1804 Charles Townsend
1634 Richus Jennings1758 Thomas Heath1815 Charles Townsend
  1833 John Guthrie
  1836 Julian Charles Young
  1841 William M Macdonald
  1881 George Randolph Hadow

20th Century                               21st Century

1902 Oswald Addenbrooke Holden2002 Robert Hurley 
1907 August Fred’ J Danneman2007 Philip Bromiley 
1927 Edwin James Matthews2018 Matthew Earwicker 
1964 Charles Emery Willis  
1973 Graham Force-Jones  
1980 Robert Clifford Butler  
1994 Peter Saunt  

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