Wednesday, 2 February 2011

ABC of Chippenham: Churches

A selection of Chippenham's churches. Clockwise from top left: St Andrew's, the Weslyan Methodist Hall, St Paul's and St Nicholas'.

I've selected just four of Chippenham's churches for today as they're the ones for which I have stories to tell. St Andrew's is the oldest (dating back to Norman times, though the site has evidence of building dating back to Saxon times) and stands in the centre of town just off the Market Place. It's main story is reserved for another time - it'll be well worth the wait! When I was taking the photograph a couple of weeks ago I was surprised to find the church has its own website. I felt it was strangely modern for so ancient an institution, but then we all have to move with the times don't we?

The Weslyan Methodist Hall stands on Monkton Hill just off the High Street. I usually pass by it on my way to town. It has a very steep garden (just off to the right of the photograph) which I've photographed a couple of times for Out on the Streets, but never got round to writing the article.

The garden's lovingly tended by volunteers, many of whom must find it quite hard to perch themselves on the steep slope. It often has some quite innovative planting, which I learnt when I stopped to speak to the gardeners one day is often due to them being reliant on donations of plants. One year there were masses of deliciously varied Dahlias dotted around the garden. These had arrived on the Hall's doorstep one day courtesy of the local milkman who'd come across a surplus of plants on his travels.

This church is also notable because it was built just over 100 years ago to mark the centenary of Methodism in Chippenham. I also believe it's built on the site of an old inn, which is quite ironic bearing in mind the Methodist views on the demon drink.

Many of you will be familiar with the work of the architect responsible for St Paul's which stands on the Malmesbury Road at the top of town, not far from the railway station (and Views From the Bike Shed). It's by the Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, who more famously was responsible for the design of the Albert Memorial and St Pancras Station in London.

Finally, St Nicholas Church is the one closest to where I live in Chippenham. When I drive into our estate, I can see it peeping out just above all the modern houses as it stands on the hilly part of Hardenhuish Lane. It's rather surreal to see something so classically elegant floating above so many box-like houses huddled together, but I smile every time I see it. I had to photograph it for English Heritage in 2000 when I took part in their Images of England Millennium project. It's a relatively tiny church but worth its listed* status as it was designed by John Wood, the architect responsible for The Circus and Prior Park in Bath.

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the third in my themed round of posts about Chippenham.

* = this previous ABC Wednesday post tells you lot more about the listing of our heritage buildings and my involvement with the Images of England project.

13 comments:

  1. Well I can almost see my house - and the bike shed!

    I like the Wesleyan hall best I think - must be the protestant in me.

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  2. What an interesting, and informative, post as I've always enjoyed looking at and round churches! Flighty xx

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  3. I like visiting churches myself.

    Visiting you from ABC Wednesday. I am already a follower of your blog. I hope you can do the same and please visit my entry too.
    C is for Crab Legs

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  4. Great shots and stories about these gorgeous old churches.

    Cheryl
    ABC Team

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  5. my area also has many churches. unfortunately, few have the architecture of yours! it seems 'storefront churches' are all the rage now.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this great architecture, where the garden is *not* an afterthought.

    Such a nice distraction from our record cold in New Mexico right now!

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  7. always informative.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

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  8. Wonderful photos of some wonderful places of worship. I love the architecture of the British churches and cathedrals. Hope you're having a good week.

    Leslie
    ABCW Team

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  9. I like the beauty of old churches. Reading about the milkman leaving bulbs he'd found on his route makes that church so much more personable. Thanks for a peek at those in your area.

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  10. Yes, I think churches are so important as visual treats - most of them! - in the landscape and also with attendant graveyards (!!) as open,spaces in built up areas.
    The Methodist building grabbed me most and because I am irreverent on the subject or religion to say the least, I did rather delight in it being built on the site of a pub!
    Thanks for this excellent coverage.
    Best Wishes
    R

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  11. Mark - that's my favourite too, because of the ladies I met when they were gardening

    Flighty - glad you enjoyed it :)

    Lulu Post - on my way...

    Cheryl - you can tell they weren't all taken on the same day ;)

    Petoskystone - what's a 'storefront church'?

    Desert Dweller - we've had record cold here too - brrrr! Stay warm!

    ROG - always to the point ;)

    Leslie - nice to see you again. It was a most exciting week thanks!

    Su-sieee Mac - I like that story too. I wonder how many other 'bulb fairies' there are in the town?

    Robert - the local Wildlife Trust has a massive project re church graveyards and their conservation and grren space value. Something that's oft overlooked I feel.

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  12. a storefront church is a small independent church whose attendees rent an empty store for services. seen most often in larger cities nestled in among pharamacies, hardware stores, & boutiques. some have a regrettable tendency to hook up amplifiers so that the sunday service & music blasts the neighborhood businesses.

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  13. Petoskystone - thanks. The picture I had in my head matches your description, though thankfully without the amplified sound!

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