Warminster: Church

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Warminster: Church', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds, (London, 1965), pp. 117-124. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp117-124 [accessed 22 June 2024].

. "Warminster: Church", in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds, (London, 1965) 117-124. British History Online, accessed June 22, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp117-124.

. "Warminster: Church", A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds, (London, 1965). 117-124. British History Online. Web. 22 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp117-124.


The name Warminster first occurs in the early 10th century, when the church on the Were from which it is derived must already have existed. (fn. 1) It was no doubt one of those minster churches, often found on royal manors in Saxon times, which had the rule of a large area of surrounding country before many villages had churches of their own. (fn. 2) The only medieval church known to have been dependent on it is that of Corsley, which was regarded as a chapel to Warminster until the 15th century. (fn. 3) The former chantry chapel of St. Laurence in the centre of the town has been used as a chapel-of-ease to the parish church by permission of its feoffees since the 16th century. (fn. 4) In the 19th century a new church and parish of Christ Church were founded on the south of the town, and St. John's, Boreham Road, was built as a chapel-of-ease to the parish church. St. John's was separated from it in 1957 and is now held with Bishopstrow. (fn. 5)

The early history of the advowson of Warminster is one of dispute between the lords of the capital manor of Warminster and those of the manor of Furnax about which manor the church belonged to. The lords of Furnax claimed that it had been given by Henry I to Robert de Pirou, the original grantee of the manor. (fn. 6) His descendant Ralph Fitz William gave it in prebendam to Reynold Fitz Jocelin, Bishop of Bath and Wells, whose episcopate began in 1174, and Richard I confirmed the gift in 1189. (fn. 7) The church was reckoned part of the possessions of Wells in 1190, (fn. 8) and Richard I's charter was again confirmed between then and 1197. A dispute between the bishop and the incumbent of the church was settled by a quitclaim of the latter's right to the church of Wells. (fn. 9) The earliest evidence of opposition to the lords of Furnax disposing of the church is a plea between William Revell and the guardians of Thomas Mauduit, begun in 1194 and still undecided in 1199. (fn. 10) By 1199 Henry de Furneaux was associated with Revell in the case, and since they both claimed in right of their wives, it is clear that they were the husbands of two of the coheirs of Robert Fitz William, lord of Furnax. (fn. 11) The cause was left undecided at this time, apparently because of the minority of Thomas Mauduit, (fn. 12) but the right of presentation was again in dispute between the lords of the two manors in 1217. Then, however, Nicholas Avenel, lord of Furnax, disputed the Bishop of Bath and Wells's right to present, whereas Thomas Mauduit supported it. (fn. 13) An agreement which partially settled the dispute was made in 1235, when Richard Poore, Bishop of Durham, acted as arbitrator. The Bishop of Bath and Wells abandoned any claim to the church in return for the endowment of a prebend in his cathedral worth 30 marks issuing from land and tithes in Warminster and Corsley. (fn. 14) The question of the ownership of the advowson was left vague by this agreement. It was again the subject of litigation in 1243, when a jury said that the church had been included in the capital manor when it was given by Henry II to Robert Mauduit; (fn. 15) after that time the claim of the Mauduits was not disputed.

About twelve or fifteen years after this William Mauduit gave the advowson of Warminster to the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury. (fn. 16) This grant included the rectory, for in 1259 the chapter granted the patronage of the church to the Bishop of Salisbury, who in return appropriated the rectory to the chapter. (fn. 17) The rectory was charged with yearly obits for the then bishop, Giles of Bridport, and his predecessor, William of York; the charge still remained in the 16th century. (fn. 18) From 1259 until the present time (1962) the patronage of the vicarage of Warminster has been regularly exercised by the bishops of Salisbury. (fn. 19)

The rectory of Warminster was valued at £23 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 20) In 1341 it was apparently let at farm (fn. 21) and in 1580 it was said that the lessees of the rectory had been making certain underleases for at least a century. (fn. 22) The first surviving lease of the whole rectory, however, is of 1523 to Thomas Benett, Vicar of Warminster, at a rent of £33 6s. 8d. (fn. 23) The clear value of this rent to the chapter was £28 15s., the rest going in alms and the maintenance of the obits charged on the rectory. (fn. 24) Benett's lease evidently passed to his brother William Benett of Norton Bavant, who left it to his younger son John. (fn. 25) He sold his interest in the rectory to William Perry and others before his death in c. 1566; they sub- let the tithes of Boreham and Smallbrook separately for the proportionate rent of £13 13s. 4d. to the chapter. (fn. 26) The next lessee was William Blacker of Salisbury, whose lease in reversion of the previous one was granted in 1565 at the same rent. (fn. 27) It was probably after the termination of this estate that, in 1641, the first of a long series of leases to the Young family of Little Durnford was made. In 1655 parcels of the rectory were sold to Henry Wansey of Salisbury. (fn. 28) After the Restoration the leases to the Youngs were renewed, at the same rent of £33 6s. 8d., until 1783. Four years later the trustees of T. W. Young, the last of the line, sold the lease of the rectory to Lord Weymouth for £6,664. (fn. 29) In 1808 the rectory was reckoned worth about £670 a year. (fn. 30) Leases were renewed to the Marquesses of Bath until 1868, when the reversion of most of the land, and all the tithes, belonging to the rectory was conveyed (with the prebend of Luxfield) to the 4th Marquess. In return Lord Bath surrendered his interest in the remainder of the land and conveyed his freehold estate in the rectory of Imber to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 31)

The tithes of corn, hay, and mills were kept in hand by the Rector of Warminster when he instituted a vicar to the church c. 1250. (fn. 32) In 1341 the tithes of hay were worth £9 5s. and of mills 30s. 4d. (fn. 33) In 1649 the whole of the rectorial tithe was worth about £250 a year. (fn. 34) When Warminster was inclosed in 1784 most of the tithes were commuted either for allotments of land or for a fixed rent charge. Beside allotments, the lessee under the chapter received at the inclosure a rent charge of £36 3s. 4½d. and the still-uncommuted great tithes of 200 a., which in 1808 were let at £27 a year. (fn. 35) These remaining tithes were commuted in 1840 for £28. (fn. 36) The lessee also had the tithes of 76 a. of land in Upton Scudamore, which were commuted for £20. (fn. 37) All three rent-charges were conveyed to the Marquess of Bath with the chapter estate in 1868. The tithes of certain lands in Warminster belonged to the Prebendary of Luxfield and their history is dealt with above. (fn. 38)

William Mauduit's original gift to the chapter included 4 a. of his demesne land. (fn. 39) This was probably an addition to land already belonging to the church, for in 1341 the rectory estate included 40 a. of land, and meadow and pasture worth 30s., in demesne, beside other property producing 33s. 4d. in rent. (fn. 40) A small piece of land in Boreham was added to the chapter estate in 1392. (fn. 41) In 1649, however, the rectorial glebe only amounted to 25½ a. (fn. 42) At the inclosure in 1784 the chapter was allotted 19 a. in lieu of the open-field glebe in addition to 6½ a. of old inclosures. In lieu of tithes commuted by allotments of land it received over 600 a. more, (fn. 43) making a farm estimated to be worth £606 a year in 1808. (fn. 44) All but 71 a. of this land was sold to Lord Bath in 1868; the remainder has been sold in the present century. (fn. 45)

No formal ordination of a vicarage in Warminster has survived, although c. 1250 the rector endowed an individual vicar with the small tithes, (fn. 46) and in 1259 the endowment of a competent vicarage was specified when the rectory was granted to the chapter. (fn. 47) The vicarage was valued at £5 a year in 1291, (fn. 48) at £18 clear in 1535, (fn. 49) and at £50 in 1649. (fn. 50) An augmentation of £50, later reduced to £20, was allowed by the Commonwealth authorities, and a further £22, payable out of the rectory, in 1656. (fn. 51) These must have ceased at the Restoration. In 1665 the incumbent derived £89 from the living, (fn. 52) and in 1745 it was said to be worth £80 a year. (fn. 53) The vicarial tithes were largely commuted for land at the inclosure, and it may have been this that raised the value of the benefice to a net figure of £324 in 1831, of which half was paid to a curate. (fn. 54) An endowment of glebe in 1850 (see below) helped to bring the value up to £450 a year in 1864, (fn. 55) and in 1865 a further £120 a year was allotted from the common fund. (fn. 56)

Little is known about the small tithes with which the vicarage was endowed until 1671. They then consisted of the usual small tithes with the tithes of 16 coppices in Norridge Wood and of 100 sheep from Seaman's Farm in Upton Scudamore, because part of its sheep pasture lay in Warminster. The impropriator took, unjustly as the vicar believed, the tithes of 'great parcels' of ground occupied by gardeners and of grounds summerfed with unprofitable cattle. (fn. 57) At about this time the tithes were taken largely by composition. (fn. 58) In 1784 the vicar's tithes were commuted in the same way as the impropriator's, leaving him, beside allotments of land, the small tithes of 200 a. and a rent-charge of £22 6s. 4d. (fn. 59) In 1840 the remaining tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £40. (fn. 60)

In the mid-13th century the vicar's glebe only consisted of the house and small meadows adjoining it. (fn. 61) It was probably the same as the 1 a. of glebe about the house mentioned in 17th and 18th century-terriers. (fn. 62) At the inclosure in 1784, however, the vicar was allotted some 20 a. of old inclosed land and 99 a. of commonable land in lieu of the small tithes. A piece of about 10 a. was sold, so that he retained 109 a. (fn. 63) An endowment of about 14 a. was made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1850, (fn. 64) and another small addition was made in 1869. (fn. 65) In 1887 the glebe was worth £403 a year. (fn. 66) In 1919 117 a. of the vicarial glebe was offered for sale; the 102 a. sold realized £4,760. (fn. 67)

An annual payment of a pondus of cheese or 10s. was reserved by the rector when he gave the vicarage to Stephen the chaplain c. 1250. (fn. 68) The vicars still paid 10s. to the dean and chapter in the 19th century, when the memory of its origin remained. (fn. 69) The history of the 26s. 8d. paid yearly by the rectors of Corsley to the vicars of Warminster is dealt with above. (fn. 70)

There is no record of the endowment of any permanent chantry in the church. In 1388 Thomas Laffull's feoffees regranted his lands in Warminster to him charged with 5s. a year to provide two torches on Good Friday, (fn. 71) and in 1493 John Hewett, parson of Winterbourne Monkton (Dors.), charged a cottage in 'Newport Street' and 8 a. of land with the provision of a 2 lb. taper on festival days before the altar of Our Lady and a yearly distribution of 2s. to poor men. (fn. 72) In the same year John Chaffyn of Salisbury charged property in Warminster with the provision of paschal and font tapers as his ancestors had provided them, and to found an obit for himself. The poor were to receive 20d. yearly and the residue of the profit was to go to the church funds. (fn. 73) Other lights were endowed at unknown dates by Richard Fytor, John Shepherd, and Ellen Hildewe. (fn. 74) The property supporting these lights seems to have become part of the property of St. Laurence's Chapel. (fn. 75)

William Benett, Vicar of Warminster, was deprived in 1554, no doubt for his Protestant sympathies. (fn. 76) In 1556 two parishioners were alleged to have sold the church goods and kept the money. (fn. 77) Benett was restored at the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign, (fn. 78) no doubt on the deprivation of Peter Weaver who had replaced him. He held the Prebend of Warminster, and may not have served the vicarage himself, for the burial of a parish curate is recorded in 1564. (fn. 79) His successor, Lewis Evans, may have been the man of that name who, having been formerly a staunch Romanist, and written a book against heretics, later became a violent partisan and prolific controversialist in favour of the Anglican church. (fn. 80) In 1585 it was alleged that he had churched harlots and let them go unpunished, and did not say service in the appointed place. (fn. 81) Nothing more is known of the views of the vicars or their conduct of their cure until 1642, when William Maxwell, the then vicar, was among 17 men appointed by the Commons to preach at Warminster. (fn. 82) This official approval may have been given because he agreed with the Presbyterianism of some of the others then named, (fn. 83) but by 1646 he had been sequestered by the County Committee. One Webb then obtained the support of a company of factious men and women in the town, who hoped to have him admitted in spite of his not being a minister because he had the spirit and the word was revealed to him. (fn. 84) He failed in this and William Woodward was appointed by the Committee of Plundered Ministers in 1647. (fn. 85) Woodward's presence evidently caused violent controversy among his parishioners; some objected to his doctrine and his being a pluralist, but others, led by Francis Bennett of Smallbrook, wished for his continuance. (fn. 86) He was still at Warminster in 1649, but at least two others held the living between then and 1660. (fn. 87)

Paul Latham, who was admitted in 1660, was presented in the following year for not reading Common Prayer according to law. (fn. 88) He was author of a theological work and a preacher of considerable note. (fn. 89) Both he and his successor Edward Chubb, were canons of Salisbury, (fn. 90) and Chubb held the living of Brixton Deverill in plurality from 1710, (fn. 91) but both appear to have resided regularly at Warminster. Chubb was succeeded in both livings by James Legertwood, who is said to have been the first master of Lord Weymouth's school. (fn. 92) The next vicar, John Rogers, employed a number of curates; among them was Richard Hart, curate 1753-8, described as an earnest preacher of evangelical truth, whose sympathy with Methodism earned him some persecution. His preaching converted John Pearce of Meeting House Lane, who held Sunday evening service in his house, supported by a few members of the established church, for nearly 50 years; they were for much of that time the only services held in the town at that hour. (fn. 93)

Millington Massey (later Massey-Jackson) held the living of Kingston Deverill in plurality, (fn. 94) and although he lived in the vicarage at Warminster, seems to have performed few of his duties personally. The preaching of Dacre Youngson, curate under him, attracted such overflowing congregations that a public meeting was called to propose the enlargement of the church. (fn. 95) After Youngson's early death in 1783, William Elliott became curate. In his time services were held in the parish church twice on Sundays, each with a sermon, and on Wednesdays and Fridays and holidays in St. Laurence's Chapel. The sacrament was administered at the three major festivals and once a month besides, and between 40 and 50 people usually received it. (fn. 96) A third curate under Massey was Robert Herbert, who for over 40 years did nearly all the duties of the parish for £80 a year, and spent a 'handsome' fortune on relieving the poor. (fn. 97) William Dalby, vicar 1825-41, was an active preacher who began to hold services at the workhouse on Sunday evenings for the people of Warminster Common, and a weekday evening service with sermon at St. Laurence's Chapel. (fn. 98) He was instrumental in building Christ Church in the face of considerable opposition from the vestry. (fn. 99) His successor, Arthur Fane, was talented and zealous, and made great efforts to reduce dissent. (fn. 100) Among his activities were the foundation of the Reformatory School, (fn. 101) and preaching to the navvies employed on the railway works. (fn. 102)

Outstanding among 19th-century vicars was Sir James Erasmus Philipps, Bt., who held the living from 1859 to 1897. Apart from founding St. Boniface's College and St. Denys's Home, (fn. 103) he was instrumental in the rebuilding of the parish church and the foundation of St. John's Church and schools, the cottage hospital, the orphanages of pity, and a school for girls. The cost of these projects was well over £30,000, most of which he raised himself. In doctrine he was a high-churchman (fn. 104) and met with some opposition, especially for his practices at St. John's. (fn. 105) Early in his incumbency services had been increased to three each Sunday at the parish church and one at St. Laurence's, each with sermon, and one daily at one of these churches in the week. An average of 1,400 people attended the Sunday evening service. Holy Communion was administered each Sunday, and about 400 parishioners received it. Four curates assisted Philipps in 1864, (fn. 106) and three in 1896. (fn. 107) By 1903 communion was celebrated at St. Laurence's Chapel each Thursday and on saints' days. (fn. 108)

Late in Philipps's incumbency began a series of lawsuits which attained some national celebrity as the Warminster Pew Case. From the 17th century it had been the custom for the churchwardens to grant space in the church on which pews could be erected, which could then be the subject of lease, conveyance, or bequest by the families which occupied them. This kind of traffic, not unique to Warminster, seems to have reached here an uncommon intensity, perhaps because of the limited church accommodation. (fn. 109) In the late 18th century the vestry tried to limit the tenure of pews to leasehold for 3 lives, but in the 1830's 4 pews were regarded as freehold, belonging to the manor houses of Portway, Smallbrook, and Boreham, and to the house in East Street formerly belonging to the manor of Warminster Scudamore, but held since the 17th century by the Halliday family. (fn. 110) It was the Halliday pew which caused the trouble. At the restoration of the church Philipps had it removed; J. E. Halliday, who was a dissenter, began an action against the vicar for the pew to be replaced, which he won in the House of Lords in 1891. The pew was not put back in the church until 1897, when some friends of Halliday wished to attend a service. Halliday was very unpopular in the town, and the pew was soon removed from the church by night, smashed and partially burnt. It was, however, roughly repaired and put back under police escort, fixed to the floor by a blacksmith, and it remained on its site in the south chancel aisle until after its owner's death in 1913, when it was finally surrendered. (fn. 111)

The church of ST. DENYS stands at the northwestern extremity of the town, about ½ mile from the Market Place. The dedication is mentioned in the 12th century. (fn. 112) The present church was almost entirely rebuilt in 1887-9. The oldest work which survived in the old building was a small window, thought to be of the 11th century, which was found blocked in the east wall of the south transept. (fn. 113) The church was apparently largely remodelled or rebuilt in the 14th century, as a cruciform building with central tower and nave of four bays. (fn. 114) Provision was made for an octagonal spire, but there is no evidence that it was ever built. Aisles which extended the whole length of both sides of the nave and were as wide as the length of the transepts were also either included in the original plan, or added before the end of the Middle Ages. In the late 15th or earlier 16th century an aisle was added to the south of the chancel, to which it was connected by two arches, while another panelled arch was made into the south transept. Square-headed transomed windows in the transepts and similar smaller ones in the nave aisles probably dated from about the same time. A south porch was also added. Another addition was probably the turret rising from the rood-loft openings in the east wall of the north transept nearly to the top of the tower; the stairway in it then joins one in the diagonal turret at the north-east corner of the tower, but the reason for this awkward arrangement is not clear.

In 1583 the chancel was out of repair, (fn. 115) and by 1626 the whole building was in decay; the church 'weeps many a fresh tear for her decayed house, especially when the wind is in the west', wrote the vicar. Extensive repairs were made in 1626-9, and in 1638 the tower was repaired. In 1650 the building was again 'mightily in decay', so that the people dared not assemble there. (fn. 116) A gallery was built under the tower in 1660 and, probably at this time, a plaster ceiling in the form of vaulting was made under it. In 1723-4 the arcade of the nave and the clerestory were demolished and rebuilt. The clerestory was given four round-headed Georgian windows on each side, and the walls of the aisles were raised and small circular windows inserted above the old ones to light the galleries. In 1745 the galleries were extended to the whole length of the aisles of the nave, and a gallery was made in the south aisle of the chancel in 1813. In 1745 a Grecian altar piece was erected by subscription; its 'beautification' in 1760 involved the blocking-up of the east window. (fn. 117)

The building which was the result of these, and many other, minor alterations was sufficiently in accord with contemporary taste to receive at least conventional approval. In 1798 it was described as handsome, and the 'praise-worthy exertions' of the inhabitants in enriching its interior were commended, (fn. 118) and in 1831 it was 'handsome and spacious'. (fn. 119) Six years later, however, a visitor complained of the disparity of the styles of architecture in the church, and of the interior being crowded with pews. (fn. 120) Some improvements in the interior were made. In 1846 the reading-desk was re-sited and the pulpit altered, and two years later new stalls were fitted in the chancel; in 1852 the whole church was re-seated. The east window was reopened in 1842, (fn. 121) but little could be done to make the exterior of the building conform with newer ideas of ecclesiastical architecture, and Daniell, who had been curate there, considered that it was probably the ugliest church in the diocese, It was largely rebuilt by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1887-9; the central tower, the south aisle of the chancel, inner parts of the transepts, the south aisle wall, and the south porch were kept from the old church, and the nave was extended to the west and a porch added there. (fn. 122) Blomfield's work is in his favourite Perpendicular style. Many monuments dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries were retained from the old church. (fn. 123)

There was an organ in the church in 1630; in 1639 the angel on top of it was newly gilded, but in 1643 the pipes had to be hidden to escape destruction by soldiers. (fn. 124) The organ loft was repaired in 1676, but the organ was out of repair in 1683, (fn. 125) and it may have been at this time that it was replaced by 'an orchestra of wind and other musical mechanisms'. An organ gallery was built in 1770, perhaps to house a new instrument. In 1792, however, the parish raised 400 guineas to buy an organ which had been built for Salisbury Cathedral by G.P. England, a celebrated organ builder of London, but had proved of insufficient power. (fn. 126) This organ was repaired and modernized c. 1903, (fn. 127) and in 1962 was still in use. There was a choir in the church in 1770. (fn. 128) In 1820 Elizabeth Townsend left £3 a year to be distributed to the vicar, organist, clerk, and a choir of ten voices, on condition that they should sing on the Sunday before Midsummer Day an anthem on the 150th psalm which had been composed by Roger Townsend of Warminster (d. 1730), her husband's grandfather. The choir had 'fallen to decay' by 1832 and been replaced by the charity children, who were not competent to sing the anthem, so it was discontinued and the endowment added to the other charity founded by Mrs. Townsend. (fn. 129) The anthem was sung in 1871 with the music altered. (fn. 130)

There were five bells and a sanctus bell in the church in 1553. Two of these bells survived until the 19th century, the old 3rd and 5th of the peal of six, which remained until 1881; one had an inscription naming it Giles, and the other, cast in London c. 1410, was called Gabriel. The remainder were variously recast in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Lotts of Warminster and other founders. (fn. 131) In 1879 the peal had not been used for many years; it contained two medieval bells, both cracked, three 18th-century bells, one of them broken, and one bell of 1805. All except the last were recast in 1881, and two new bells, given by G. J. Vicary, added to the peal.

In 1553 Warminster parish had the second largest quantity of plate in the county; 60 oz. were taken and a cup of 12½ oz. left. This chalice or its Elizabethan successor was probably replaced by the one of 1682, still remaining in 1962. Another was obtained in 1750, which also survives. The two patens are of 1706, the gift of Edward Chubb, Vicar of Warminster, and 1761. Two alms-plates, dated 1766 and 1789, were remade into alms bowls in 1844. A silver flagon is hall-marked 1710. (fn. 132) The parish registers begin in 1558 and are complete.

There was a chapel of St. Laurence in the Market Place of Warminster in the first half of the 13th century. (fn. 133) It was traditionally said to have been endowed by two maiden sisters called Hewett, and members of a family of that name may have been benefactors in the 14th century. (fn. 134) John Langton, parochial chaplain of Warminster in the mid-14th century, was apparently connected with the chapel, (fn. 135) and there was certainly a chaplain of St. Laurence in 1500. (fn. 136) By the middle of the 16th century two houses and about 30 a. of land had been given for the support of the priest of St. Laurence. In addition several other small properties and rents, which had been given for the maintenance of lights and obits in the parish church, (fn. 137) had been converted to the support of the chapel. Because of its convenient position in the heart of the town, the inhabitants met the remaining charges out of their own purses. At the dissolution of chantries they endeavoured to have the chapel continued because of this, (fn. 138) and also petitioned for the continuance of a school which the priest had been teaching. (fn. 139) In spite of this the foundation was dissolved, and in 1550 the chapel and priest's chamber were granted to Richard Roberts of London, the Crown reserving the bells and lead. (fn. 140) Roberts immediately sold them to John Hartgill of Kilmington, and they passed from him to John Eyre of Warminster and thence to John Warder of Warminster in 1562. (fn. 141)

The inhabitants of the town had apparently intended to re-establish some foundation such as the chapel as early as 1570, for then Thomas Hewett of Erlestoke conveyed to four feoffees the freehold of a cottage and 8 a. in Warminster, which had been charged with a payment to a light in the parish church before the Dissolution. In 1574 they bought the chapel from Thomas Warder of Trowbridge, son of the last purchaser, and by 1592 had acquired a small meadow, a curtilage, and a cottage in Boreham. (fn. 142) The purpose of the foundation was said to be for the repair of the chapel and the parish church, the relief of the poor and the maintenance of a school, (fn. 143) but there is no evidence that any of these objects except the maintenance of the chapel has ever been provided for. This was indeed said to be the principal object of the foundation, and in the early 17th century prayers were said there three times a week and there was a sermon on most Saturdays. (fn. 144) In the reign of James I a chancery suit alleging misappropriation of the property was brought against the feoffees by some of the other inhabitants, who claimed that no payments to the poor or the parish church were made. (fn. 145) The next appointment of new feoffees, in 1651, limited their obligation to keeping the chapel, bell, and clock in repair and causing the bell to be rung at 8 p.m. each day for a curfew and at 9 a.m. on Sundays to call the people to the parish church. (fn. 146) A further bell at 4 a.m. each day was ordered in 1694, and continued to be rung until c. 1800; (fn. 147) the evening bell is still rung. Successive groups of feoffees have allowed the chapel to be used by the vicars of Warminster, without stipend but at no cost, both for various services (fn. 148) and for baptisms. The estate was little altered except for changes brought about by the inclosure, until the early part of the present century, when it was sold and the proceeds invested. (fn. 149) In the 19th century three bequests of money were made to the feoffees, by W. F. Seagram (£100 in 1865), Susannah Seagram (£500 in 1872), and Charles Bleeck (£100 in 1878). In 1903 the income from these sums was about £15, and from the property £37. (fn. 150) In 1950 the income of the feoffees from stock was about £80 a year. (fn. 151)

The chapel of ST. LAURENCE consists of a nave and an eastern tower with a spirelet at one corner. Although a chapel on the site existed in the 13th century, the present one contains little medieval work owing to successive rebuildings and repairs. Some building is thought to have been done in the reign of Henry VII, and the lower stage of the tower appears to be of that time. (fn. 152) The upper stage of the tower was rebuilt in 1642, and in 1725 the nave also, in 'a miserable bastard Grecian . . . with four round-headed windows, and lofty and unsightly pews'. The architect was William Leigh. (fn. 153) Further piecemeal repairs and alterations followed; in 1829 the spirelet was rebuilt and the interior redecorated and reseated, (fn. 154) but by the middle of the century the chapel was again in a bad state. It was restored in 1855-6 by the efforts of Arthur Fane, the then vicar. A new roof with parapet was added to the nave and battlements to the tower, and the windows were remade in the Decorated style. At the same time six houses, which had been built on the old graveyard between the chapel and the High Street as early as 1651, (fn. 155) were demolished. In 1897 the spirelet was damaged by lightning and rebuilt. (fn. 156)

There was one bell in the chapel in the 16th century, called the town bell, which, having been retained by the Crown when the chapel was sold, was discovered under a patent for concealed lands and sold by the patentee to Thomas Warder in 1574. (fn. 157) From him it passed with the chapel to the feoffees. It was recast by John Lott, the Warminster founder, in 1657; many people threw silver coins into the metal, which was said to account for its silvery tone. (fn. 158) There was a clock in the tower in 1651; a later one bore the inscription 'God made Cockey and Cockey made me 1723'. (fn. 159) A new one made by Thomas Rudd was placed there in 1765, (fn. 160) and was restored in 1949. (fn. 161) The quarter bells were cast by Thomas Rudhall of Gloucester. (fn. 162) A set of altar plate bought in 1856, proved to be of base metal and unsatisfactory, and in 1879 a set which belonged to the vicar personally was in use at the chapel. (fn. 163)

Informal services, sanctioned by the church authorities but apparently conducted by laymen, were begun in houses at Warminster Common in the late 18th century. In 1826 the vicar, William Dalby, began to hold services for the people of the Common at the workhouse there, preaching to crowded congregations in spite of miserable accommodation. He conceived the idea of building a church there after the erection of the Methodist chapel in 1827, and displayed much energy in advancing the scheme. A public meeting held to sponsor it decided, in opposition to his wishes, that it should be at Sambourne. (fn. 164) Over £2,800 was raised by subscription, (fn. 165) and most of the rest of the cost was met by a grant of £1,676 by the Church Building Commissioners. (fn. 166) The church was called Christ Church and consecrated in 1831. It remained at first a chapel-of-ease to the parish church, although a perpetual curate was appointed from the beginning. In 1838 a district including the Common, Boreham, and part of the town was assigned to the church. (fn. 167) By subsequent Acts of Parliament it has become an ecclesiastical parish and the incumbent is styled a vicar. The advowson has remained with the Vicar of Warminster. (fn. 168) The benefice had an income of £100 at its foundation, (fn. 169) probably derived from pew-rents, offerings, and an allotment from the vicarial tithe. It was endowed with several sums through Queen Anne's Bounty between 1832 and 1840, owing much to the generosity of H. Walsh, the first curate, (fn. 170) and in 1841 with £21 a year from the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 171) In 1864 the income was £150, (fn. 172) to which £120 was added in the same year. (fn. 173) By 1879 it had risen to £300 a year gross. In 1920 William Hickman, a former vicar, left over £4,000 in further augmentation. (fn. 174)

CHRIST CHURCH occupies a dominant position at the top of the hill at Sambourne at the junction of Weymouth Street and Sambourne Road. The building of 1830-1, to the design of John Leachman, (fn. 175) consisted only of a nave and western tower with prominent pinnacles, in a simple 'Early English' style. The accommodation, augmented by a western gallery, was for over 800. Later in the century great efforts were made to transform the building from 'a huge, naked, oblong hall to the uses and character of an English church'. In 1871 a chancel was added by T. H. Wyatt, and stained glass was inserted both in the chancel windows and in those in the nave, where stone tracery was added. Carved oak doors and a pavement of encaustic tiles also helped to improve the building. (fn. 176) Ten years later slender arcades were built to divide the body of the church into nave and aisles, an open timbered roof replaced the old plaster ceiling, and the gallery was removed. It was probably at the same time that the western entrance was remodelled by building small porches flanking the tower to replace the former entrance under it. Rose windows at the west end also probably date from this second renovation, for which the architect was Mr. Vialls of London. (fn. 177)

An organ was provided in 1843, and replaced by the present one when the chancel was built in 1871. The peal of eight tubular bells dates from 1888. (fn. 178) The communion plate was partly given by the first curate.

By the 1860's there was great need to relieve again the strain on the accommodation provided by the parish church and to get rid of some of the galleries which crowded it. The foundation of a chapel-of-ease on the Boreham road owed much to the generosity of William Temple of Bishopstrow, who gave the land for it and started the building fund with £500. More than one set of plans were produced for his approval by G. E. Street, who was 'so much in fashion all over the country, with low as well as high, that it would be easier to get £2,000 for a church designed by him than £1,000 for a church designed by an inferior or less known architect'. (fn. 179) In the end designs for both a round tower with steeple and a square tower were rejected, and the present building, dedicated to ST. JOHN, erected. It consists of a nave with north aisle, chancel also with north aisle to contain the organ and a vestry, south porch, and bell-cote with one bell at the east end. The apsidal western baptistry was added after the First World War at the cost of Mrs. F. M. Rule, formerly Miss Temple. The whole church is in the Early English style. The interior is remarkable for a series of illustrations of scriptural scenes on the walls, designed by C. E. Ponting, and carried out in opus sectile by J. Powell of Whitefriars in the years before the First World War. (fn. 180)

Stock worth £100 to begin a repair fund was bought by subscription at the foundation of the church. Since then St. John's has received various bequests, some considerable, to provide for repairs and the payment of a curate and to keep the churchyard in repair. (fn. 181) In 1930 Mrs. F. M. Rule gave a house in Boreham Road to house the curate; it was sold when St. John's Church was united to the parish church of Bishopstrow in 1957. (fn. 182)

There was a chapel of St. Nicholas in the manor house of Warminster in the earlier 13th century. Thomas Mauduit (fl. c. 1204-44) endowed the chaplain serving it with a virgate of land which had formerly belonged to Roger his clerk, certain rents and pasture rights, and 6 cartloads of wood yearly. (fn. 183) At another time when granting the chapel to a priest he gave certain other lands, and granted him maintenance at his table. (fn. 184) One of the rents which supported the chaplain was later exchanged for another. (fn. 185) In 1269 a chaplain was appointed. (fn. 186) In the early 14th century the incumbent was called rector, (fn. 187) and the chapel the free chapel of St. Mary and St. Nicholas. (fn. 188) In 1400 Ralph Greene, the lord of the manor, let 'the chantry of Warminster', with the lands which had lately been held by chaplain, to a layman. (fn. 189) This probably marked the end of the use of the chapel for worship.


  • 1. P.N. Wilts. (E.P.N.S.), 157.
  • 2. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, 148.
  • 3. See p. 21.
  • 4. See p. 123.
  • 5. See pp 10-11.
  • 6. Hist. MSS. Com. Wells, i. 58; see above, p. 100.
  • 7. Archaeologia, 1. 356-9; but cf. Hist. MSS. Com. Wells, i. 59, where a William Fitz Reynold is mentioned as patron.
  • 8. Hist. MSS. Com. Wells, i. 435-6.
  • 9. Ibid. 58.
  • 10. Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 6; Rot. Cur. Reg. (Rec. Com.), i. 63, ii. 54.
  • 11. See p. 101.
  • 12. Cur. Reg. R. i. 42.
  • 13. Bracton's Note Bk. ed. Maitland, iii. 330.
  • 14. Hist. MSS. Com. Wells, i. 365-6. For the prebend, see above, p. 21.
  • 15. K.B. 26/128 rot. 11.
  • 16. Sar. Chart. and Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 329-30.
  • 17. Ibid. 330-1.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 78.
  • 19. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. passim.
  • 20. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 194.
  • 21. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 170; at least part of the estate was at farm in 1313: Longleat MS. 8989.
  • 22. C 2/Eliz. I M. 5/23.
  • 23. Ch. Com. 136777, f. 138.
  • 24. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 78.
  • 25. W.N. & Q. vi. 135; W.R.O. 413, Will of Wm. Benett.
  • 26. C 2/Eliz. I M. 5/23; C 3/21/10; C 3/137/17; C 3/179/ 57; Req. 2/62/10.
  • 27. Ch. Com. 67388.
  • 28. C 54/3886 no. 14.
  • 29. Ch. Com. 67390-5; Longleat MSS. Abstract of title of T. W. Young; for the family, see Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Amesbury, 125.
  • 30. Ch. Com. 66630.
  • 31. Ibid. 125663-5.
  • 32. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 319.
  • 33. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 170.
  • 34. W.A.M. xli. 116-8.
  • 35. Ch. Com. 66630.
  • 36. W.R.O. Tithe Award.
  • 37. Ibid. Upton Scudamore Tithe Award.
  • 38. See p. 21.
  • 39. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 329. A previous gift to Warminster church of land at Bapton is recorded (see above, p. 40), but nothing is known of this.
  • 40. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 170.
  • 41. Cal. Pat. 1391-6, 97.
  • 42. W.A.M. xli. 116-8; a largely illegible terrier of the 17th cent. in Sar. Dioc. R.O. mentions 18a. of arable land, and so must refer to the rectory.
  • 43. W.R.O. Inclosure Award.
  • 44. Ch. Com. 66630.
  • 45. W.A.S. Libr. Devizes, Sale Cat.
  • 46. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 319.
  • 47. Ibid. 332.
  • 48. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 194.
  • 49. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 103.
  • 50. W.A.M. xli. 116-8.
  • 51. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1656-7, 198.
  • 52. Halliday, Information, ff. 86-7.
  • 53. Clergyman's Intelligencer (1745), 181.
  • 54. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, H.C. 54, pp. 852-3 (1835), xxii.
  • 55. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Vis. Queries, 1864.
  • 56. Lond. Gaz. 1865, pp. 570, 3883.
  • 57. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Glebe Terrier, 1671.
  • 58. Daniell, Warminster, 172-3.
  • 59. W.R.O. Inclosure Award.
  • 60. Ibid. Tithe Award.
  • 61. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 319.
  • 62. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Glebe Terriers, 1609, 1671, 1705, 1783.
  • 63. W.R.O. Inclosure Award; U.D.C. Map of Vicarial Glebe, 1835.
  • 64. Lond. Gaz. 1850, p. 865.
  • 65. Lond. Gaz. 1869, p. 2014.
  • 66. Retn. of Glebe, H.C. 307, p. 167 (1887), lxiv, where the area is wrongly given as 228 a.
  • 67. W.A.S. Libr. Devizes, Sale Particular.
  • 68. Sar. Chart. & Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 319.
  • 69. Ch. Com. 66630; Daniell, Warminster, 151-2.
  • 70. See p. 21.
  • 71. B.M. Add. Ch. 40046.
  • 72. W.R.O. 61, Hewett to Gylwhyte; it is not clear whether this foundation is distinct from that mentioned by Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Warminster, 35 (erroneously dated 5 Hen. VI) and Daniell, Warminster, 155.
  • 73. W.A.M. xlix. 452.
  • 74. E 301/58 no. 131; Daniell, Warminster, 154-5.
  • 75. See p. 122.
  • 76. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. i. 216.
  • 77. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Ep. Vis. 1556.
  • 78. V.C.H. Wilts. iii. 33.
  • 79. Fasti Eccl. Sar. ed. Jones, ii. 428; Daniell, Warminster, 170.
  • 80. Daniell, Warminster, 170; the identification is not certain: Wood, Athenae Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 411.
  • 81. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Ep. Vis. 1585.
  • 82. C.J. ii. 559.
  • 83. W.A.M. xxxiv. 175f.
  • 84. Walker Revised, ed. Matthews, 377; Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. i. 111.
  • 85. Walker Revised, ed. Matthews, 300, 377.
  • 86. Humble Petition of Well-Affected Inhabitants of Warminster (1648) (Wilts. Tracts lii).
  • 87. W. A. Shaw, Hist. Eng. Ch. 1640-60, ii. 597; Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. i. 137.
  • 88. Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. i. 138.
  • 89. Daniell, Warminster, 171.
  • 90. Fasti Eccl. Sar. ed. Jones, ii. 358, 428.
  • 91. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. ii. 50.
  • 92. Daniell, Warminster, 171.
  • 93. Halliday, Information, ff. 38, 69 and inserted memoir of J. Draper; W. Daniell, Warminster Common, 18.
  • 94. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. ii. 85, 106.
  • 95. Halliday, Information, inserted memoir of J. Draper; Daniell, Warminster, 171-2, 191; Venn. Alumni Cantab. 2nd. ser. vi. 626; at the meeting the vicar was advised to preach more often to do away with the necessity of enlargement.
  • 96. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Vis. Queries, 1783.
  • 97. W. Daniell, Warminster Common, 20.
  • 98. Ibid. 120-2; Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 748.
  • 99. W. Daniell, Warminster Common, 132-3, 157-9.
  • 100. Ibid. 256-7, 282.
  • 101. H. R. Whytehead, Minster and Ch. Life in Warminster, 17.
  • 102. Warminster Miscellany, Aug. 1854.
  • 103. See p. 133.
  • 104. W.A.M. xxxvii. 463-4; The Times, 22 Feb. 1912; V.C.H. Wilts. iii. 67-8.
  • 105. e.g. Warminster Herald, 18 Jan. 1868.
  • 106. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Vis. Queries, 1864.
  • 107. Crockford, 1896.
  • 108. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 765.
  • 109. Daniell, Warminster, 187-8.
  • 110. Halliday, Information, ff. 37, 40A.
  • 111. Wilts. Cuttings xvi. 136, 140-1; Report on the trial penes Mr. H. N. Dewey; Char. Com. File 92130.
  • 112. Hist. MSS. Com. Wells, 1. 59.
  • 113. W.A.M. xxvii. 197.
  • 114. The following account of the church before 1889 is based largely on Daniell, Warminster, 152f.; also consulted were W.A.M. xvii. 347-8; ibid. xlii. 302; Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Warminster, 15-16; prints in W.A.S. Libr. Devizes, and in the church.
  • 115. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Ep. Vis. 1585.
  • 116. Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. i. 122.
  • 117. Dates given in Halliday, Information, f. 40.
  • 118. Univ. Brit. Dir. (1798), iv. 680.
  • 119. Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1831), iv. 390.
  • 120. Notes by Sir S. Glynne, W.A.M. xlii. 302.
  • 121. The altarpiece of 1745 was given in 1845 for the chapel of Salisbury Infirmary, where it still remains in 1962: Daniell, Warminster, 189.
  • 122. W.A.M. xxxiii. 350; Wilts. Cuttings. xvi. 136.
  • 123. M.I.'s printed in Daniell, Warminster, 190-203; many churchyard M.I.'s are in Rambles in and Round Warminster (1883) (copy in Wilts. Tracts xc).
  • 124. Daniell, Warminster, 158-9, 165-6, on which this account is based.
  • 125. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Chwdns.' Pres. 1683.
  • 126. D.N.B.
  • 127. Wilts. Cuttings, xvi. 29.
  • 128. Daniell, Warminster, 187.
  • 129. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 739; Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Warminster, 16-17; see below, p. 135.
  • 130. Rambles in and round Warminster (Wilts. Tracts xc), 12.
  • 131. Full details of the various recastings are given in Daniell, Warminster, 159-61 and Walters, Wilts. Bells, 226-7, on which this paragraph is based; see also Soc. Antiq. Jackson MSS.
  • 132. Daniell, Warminster, 156-7; Nightingale, Wilts. Plate, 97-8.
  • 133. Longleat MS. 8966, a deed of Thos. Mauduit fl. c. 1204-c. 1244.
  • 134. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Warminster, 29, 34-6; Daniell, Warminster, 206-7; it is not possible to detect any particular benefaction from surviving deeds, and the tradition that they were benefactors may only have arisen because the later feoffees had from 1570 an estate which had belonged to them, and acquired some earlier deeds with it.
  • 135. B.M. Add. Ch. 26712; Hoare, op. cit. 34.
  • 136. S.C. 6/Hen. VII/958.
  • 137. For these, see p. 119.
  • 138. E 301/58 no. 131.
  • 139. W.A.M. x. 314.
  • 140. Cal. Pat. 1549-51, 5; Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Warminster, 30.
  • 141. C 54/616 no. 41; Hoare, op. cit. 30.
  • 142. Hoare, op. cit. 31-33; the acquisition of Hewett's property may have been coincidence or a further benefaction by the family. The feoffees did not regain an v of the chantry property.
  • 143. C 2/Jas. I/W. 24/22.
  • 144. Daniell, Warminster, 216.
  • 145. Ibid. 216-20; C 2/Jas. I/W. 24/22.
  • 146. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 745.
  • 147. Daniell, Warminster, 221.
  • 148. See p. 117.
  • 149. Char. Com. Corr. File and Accts. File G 36.
  • 150. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), pp. 764-5.
  • 151. Wilts. Times, 7 Jan. 1950.
  • 152. Daniell, Warminster, 225-8, on which this paragraph is chiefly based.
  • 153. H. M. Colvin, Biog. Dict. Eng. Architects, 361.
  • 154. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 748.
  • 155. Daniell, Warminster, 221.
  • 156. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 765.
  • 157. Hoare Mod. Wilts. Warminster 31-33.
  • 158. Daniell, Warminster 226; Walters (Wilts. Bells, 229) contradicts Daniell's assertion that it was again recast in 1783.
  • 159. Halliday, Information, f. 62.
  • 160. Daniell, op. cit. 220, 226.
  • 161. Wilts. Times, 7 Jan. 1950.
  • 162. Walters, Wilts. Bells, 229.
  • 163. Daniell, Warminster, 228.
  • 164. W. Daniell, Warminster Common, 120, 132-3, 157-9.
  • 165. Daniell, Warminster 229-34, on which the account of Christ Church is based unless otherwise stated.
  • 166. M. H. Port, Six Hundred New Churches, 164-5.
  • 167. Lond. Gaz. 1838, p. 2956.
  • 168. Crockford (1955-6).
  • 169. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, H.C. 54, pp. 852-3 (1835), xxii.
  • 170. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty (1845), pp. ccxxii, ccxxvii, cccxxxv.
  • 171. Lond. Gaz. 1841, p. 2590.
  • 172. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Vis. Queries, 1864.
  • 173. Lond. Gaz. 1864, p. 4213.
  • 174. Char. Com. File 100110.
  • 175. Port, Six Hundred New Churches, 164-5.
  • 176. Daniell, Warminster, 232.
  • 177. Rambles in and round Warminster (Wilts. Tracts xc), 99.
  • 178. Wilts. Times, 23 May 1888.
  • 179. W.R.O. 132, papers connected with the building; the opinion of Street is in a letter from the Vicar of Upton Scudamore.
  • 180. H. R. Whytehead, Minster and Ch. Life in Warminster, 35.
  • 181. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), pp. 772-3; Char. Com Files 50660, 104273, 112918, 132042, and Accts. File G 36.
  • 182. Char. Com. File 112918.
  • 183. Longleat MS. 8972.
  • 184. Ibid. 8968.
  • 185. Ibid. 8974.
  • 186. Ibid. 8971.
  • 187. Ibid. 8992, 9000, 9135.
  • 188. Soc. Antiq. Jackson MSS.
  • 189. Longleat MS. 9024.