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Alderbury & Whaddon

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St Mary’s Church, Alderbury

 

The village church in Alderbury is dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, known to everyone as “St Mary’s”. The present church is Victorian, built at a time when the population of the village was increasing and the existing church was not considered to be large enough to offer facility to all of those seeking to attend services. There was a church recorded for Alderbury in Domesday, so it is reasonable to assume that Alderbury has had a place of worship continuously since at least that time. It has been suggested that there was once a Saxon Minster on or near the site of the present church. Evidence for this is generally based on the apparent status of the church in Alderbury in such sources as the Domesday Book, the Register of St Osmund, and the church’s endowments of land. However, there is a shortage of definitive documentary evidence in support of this and it may never be possible to establish its status as a Minster beyond question. You can read a detailed account in St Mary’s Church, Alderbury.

 

The present church was built in 1857, to meet the increased demand for accommodation as the population of the village grew. As the faculty of 1832 had shown, there was deemed to be a need for a larger place of worship in the early 1830s and a case for enlargement had been made by 1833. A new Petition for a Faculty to take down the church and chancel and the adjoining portions of the churchyard was made in 1856. This stated that the ancient parish church was inadequate for the people of the parish, and proposed that a substantial and durable church and chancel, together with a vestry room, be built in its place. The cost was estimated at £2,500, of which £1,640 had been realised by private subscription and a grant from the Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building and Repairing of Churches and Chapels (ICBS). A sum of £500 was to be provided by “the Impropriator of the Great Tithes” the Earl of Radnor, for the rebuilding of the chancel and chancel aisle and the Vicar had pledged to provide the remainder. The Reverend Newton Smart accordingly entered into a bond in March 1857 to perform the works required to take down the old church and rebuild a new church without making any rate or assessment on the parishioners.

 

Designed by the renowned architect Samuel Sanders Teulon, the church was consecrated in June 1858. It has stained glass by Holiday, Clayton and Bell, Heaton Butler and Bayne, and William Morris & Co.

 

In 2006, plans were formulated to make the church more versatile so that it could more readily address the wider needs of the community. Effectively located on the edge of the village, it was no longer the focus of village life, but had significant potential if it could adapt to a broader range of activities. Work was conducted over the winter of 2006 to build a toilet and disabled facilities in the choir vestry. Two pews at the east end of the nave were removed and the floor lowered to accommodate the music group, which played during family services each month but had always been cramped in the space in front of the lectern. Pews were also removed in the south transept to accommodate small worship activities. Pews were removed from the west end and plans laid to build cupboards to house tea and coffee facilities. Work was also carried out to extend the car park to the west of the church, as parking was a major problem on Tunnel Hill. The entrance to this is now adjacent to the civil parish burial ground. A service of Dedication of this work was held on 6 May 2007 by the Right Revd Dr David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury. Future work, subject to adequate funding, will include the removal of remaining pews in the nave, a lowering of the raised floor which the pews are on, and the provision of chairs. This will allow the nave to be cleared for other activities, increasing the flexibility of the building.

 

In the slightly longer term, it is hoped to install convector heating and move the altar to the middle of the chancel, to make additional space either side and reduce congestion. As with all churches, consideration will have to be given to the upkeep of the roof, the tower and other parts of the fabric, all of which will require some renovation work. This will make St Mary’s well placed to continue to serve the people of Alderbury as the new century reaches the end of its first decade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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St Mary’s in 1994

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The mediaeval church, painted by John buckler in 1805, showing a rough wooden turret