If all goes according to plan Compton Bassett readers will have received with the March edition of "The Villages", two leaflets, one entitled "St Swithin's - An Introduction,History and Appeal". This leaflet has been produced and printed on behalf of the Parochial Church Council at no cost at all to the Parish. We are most grateful for the help we have received.
The leaflet, which gives a brief and, we hope, informative introduction to and histor of our beautiful village church, also explains why we need financial help from the wider community. Malcolm Seymour's lovely photographs evoke the church's serenity and show some of the architectural features, which make it so special.
If you haven't already visited St Swithin's, please do. The door is unlocked, though a little stiff at this time of year ... turn the handle and give it a good shove! We would be really grateful if you would take time to read both leaflets and support St Swithin's as a much-loved village landmark and resource, if you possibly can .Jennie Brooks - on behalf of the Compton Bassett Parochial Church Council
The Church Visitor's book is a record of those seeking solace in times of grief and sadness, memories of family and friends and the observations of visitors inspired by the building itself. With accounts of alien abductions and police checks, all life is there!
A place of worship has been sited on the hill overlooking our village for at least one thousand years. Many Anglo Saxon Churches were built on pre-Christian sites of religious signifcance. We know St Swithin's has been part of village life since the end of the 11th century. To this day it continues to be a place of regular worship and pilgrimage, as well as holding special services for weddings, christenings and funerals. The graveyard has been a tranquil resting place for many centuries.
When it was built, St Swithin's would have been at the centre or village life, with perhaps a Sunday livestock market in the churchyard. The walls would have been plastered inside and out, with vividly painted inner walls. There were no pews! Pulpits and pews were installed in most churches during the Tudor period, when sermons lasting as long as 4 hours became fashionable.
Today St Swithin's remains as an architectural monument (Grade 1 listed) and record of our community's history and development. Like so many churches it has been rebuilt. repaired and adapted and reflects the centuries during which it has stood
Notable features include
ST. SWITHIN'S chuch, so called in 1763, was built of rubble and freestone and has an aisled chancel with a north vestry, an aisled and clerestoried nave with north porch, and a west tower. Of the 12th-century nave, part of the west wall survives. The north aisle was added to the nave in the late 12th century, the south aisle in the early 13th; the chancel, partly rebuilt in the early 13th century, remained small. The walls of the aisles were rebuilt, probably on their original lines, in the 15th century; that of the south aisle may have been rebuilt again in the 18th. Also in the 15th century the tower and the clerestory were built, the chancel arch was enlarged, and an ornate stone screen with rood loft and integrated pulpit was erected. A medieval north porch was rebuilt apparently in the 18th century and again in the later 19th. In 1865-6 the chancel aisles and vestry were replaced by one designed by Henry Woodyer. Three bells were hung in the church in 1553 including one believed to have been cast by John Walgrave around 1420. Further bells were added in around 1620 by the Purdue family and the ring was increased to six in 1983 by the addition of a bell cast in the same year by John Taylor & Co from Loughborough. In 1983 the rectory was united to the benefice of Oldbury to form a new Oldbury benefice.
A former Bishop of Winchester born in 800 AD, St Swithin was renowned for his charitable deeds and commitment to building churches. Before his death in 862 AD, he requested a simple grave outside the cathedral, exposed to the footsteps of the people and the rain. His remains were moved and buried in a tomb inside the cathedral a century later. The terrible storm that ensued was thought to be the expression of his displeasure and the origin of the St Swithin's Day superstition.
Palaeography (ancient writing) has recently been discovered in Salisbury Cathedral behind a 1660 memorial, it is believed that it could be the earliest known example of written English in a Church and it is thought to predate the Reformation. At that time scholars had their heads chopped off if they dared to translate the Bible into English.
We at St. Swithin's know a little of how exciting the find must have been at the Cathedral because in February 2004, after extensive restoration, plaster fell off the wall of the north aisle and revealed floral patterns in red ochre which experts date as fifteenth century. The design seems as fresh as when they were first applied to the wall with confident flowing brush strokes by some long forgotten Banksy, of perhaps by a group of travelling church decorators.
It would be interesting to know which came first, St. Swithin's or the Cathedral???
Registers of marriages and of burials survive from 1558 and of baptisms from 1563. All of which are complete.
Compton Bassett church was standing in the late 12th century and it was given then to Bicester priory, which received an income from it until the Dissolution. Inhabitants of Compton Bassett may have been buried at Calne before Compton Bassett church was built, and a claim to oblations on the burial of parishioners of Compton Bassett was only given up by the owner of the revenues of Calne church in 1228. Presumably because Bicester priory took some of the church's revenues, the rectory was among the poorer livings of the Avebury deanery in 1291, when it was valued at £5. But by 1830 the rectory was valued at £497 and had become one of the wealthier livings in the diocese. The rector's income was then drawn from the tithes of up to 2,500 acres of the parish. The rectory house was said to be in a poor state of repair in 1783 and in 1842 a large new house, incorporating part of the old, was built of stone in a 16th century style. It was sold into private ownership in 1968.
In 1680 William Weld, the lord of Compton Bassett manor, was a papist. The rector was ejected for nonconformity in 1662, and in 1676 there were 21 protestant nonconformists in Compton Bassett. Most were probably members of the two Quaker families recorded in the parish between 1660 and 1675; another Quaker who lived in Compton Bassett died in 1777. By 1783 there was said to be no dissenters in the parish. In 1823 a meeting house was licensed for Independent Methodists, in 1834 another meeting house was licensed, and in 1838 a further one was licensed for Primitive Methodists. By 1864 there were no places of worship in the parish for nonconformists.
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