Monday, July 18, 2016

Leaving no stone unturned

Sadly Swindon has a poor record for preserving its heritage. So many fine buildings have been lost over the years with the Mechanics' Institute and the Corn Exchange just about hanging on in there.

And it would seem that it was ever thus.

A church had stood on the site in the Lawn since 1154 and was dedicated to St Mary until the mid 16th century. It was partially restored in 1736 but by the mid 19th century was fast becoming too small for the town's growing population.

Christ Church, the new parish church in Old Town, was consecrated in 1851, leaving the old church of Holy Rood abandoned.

The Vestry, the seat of local government back in the day, met in March 1853 and after thanking the re-elected Churchwardens Robert Reynolds and Richard Read for their work during the previous year, it was announced that the old parish church would be demolished asap. Did they discuss an alternative use for the building? Did they consider preserving more than 700 years of history? Doesn't look like it.

It will be seen by an advertisement in this paper, that the building materials are to be disposed of by tender. An excellent opportunity will be afforded to persons about to build to procure a large quantity of well seasoned stone. A large quantity of well seasoned oak panelling will be sold as part of the materials reported the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette on Thursday 31 March 1853

The Chancel was to be left intact and the floor and steps were not included. Well thank goodness for that!

Prospective customers had to get in quickly. Notice of the Lots was published on March 29 and bids had to be in by April 11. Methinks maybe a deal had already been brokered.

So what was up for grabs. Well, pretty much everything.

All the internal fittings of the nave and aisles, including the galleries, with the iron pillars, and the doors of the building.

All the lead, lead-work, and solder on the roofs, and all the glass and lead of the windows, and all the water spouting and fixtures.
All the tiles on the roofs of the nave, aisles, tower and vestry room.
All the timber and joists of the nave, aisles, tower and vestry room and the floor of the latter.
All the stones of the north, south and west walls of the tower and vestry room.
All the stones of the north aisle, and of the walls and arches separating it from the nave; but not to include any part of the walls at the east and west ends of the nave.
All the stones of the south aisle, and of the walls and arches separating it from the nave, and also the stones of the west wall of the nave, separating it from the tower.

The walls were to be taken down to the level of the floor or pavement of the interior of the church, but no stone forming any part of the floor or pavement, and no stone steps to be removed.

If you live in Old Town and your house dates from the 1850s, who knows, you might have a piece of the old church in the foundations. It is believed that the ice house in the Lawn was built from reused church materials and pieces of stone were used in the farmhouse at Church Farm.

by J L Jefferies

by J C Buckler

Earliest known photo of Holy Rood taken by Nevil Story Maskelyne

Church Farm
Ice House, the Lawn

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