Wanborough - a village with more churches than pubs, of which we've had nine!
It has been said in times past, that there have been as many as thirty-two churches in the parish of Wanborough. These places of worship accommodated many different religious beliefs and included two locations for Sunday Schools. Of these the only church remaining, that is still in use as a place of worship, is that of St Andrew's, the parish church. One other still remains, The Wesleyan Church built in 1818, is now a private house and can be found in Chapel Lane.
There are historical references to two large chapels and one other church attached to larger the houses in the parish, St Katherine at Cold Court, St Ambrose at Hall Place and St Margaret Church near to Lovell House. Other places of worship were located within rooms inside residential homes either set up as temporary meeting places or as permanent family chapels for private use.
St Andrew's Church
Wanborough Parish Church has been located at its current site, in one form or another, since at least the 11th century. It is positioned on an elevated piece of land in upper Wanborough, overlooking Swindon in the North and Liddington to the west. St Andrew's Church is a local landmark, for it is one of only three churches in Britain that have both a Tower and a Spire or Steeple, the others being St Mary's Purton and Ormskirk Parish Church. Its location means that it can be seen as you approach the village from below to the north or if you look down on the village from Wanborough Plain and The Ridgeway in the south. The main entrance is located on the North side, and is accessed from Church Road via the wooden Lynch Gate.
The Church was built using chalk stone rubble, it has stone roof tiles and a lead roof on the tower and ridge above the main aisle. The lead roof has a history of its own as the original was stolen several centuries ago. A piece of it was discovered in 2018, hidden under the floor of a house in Bath. This piece was returned and now resides inside to the rear of the church. Graffiti left by the roofers when the replacement was put in can still be seen from the top of the tower.
From outside the building you will see four possible entry points and if you know where to look the entrance to the crypt.
- The main entrance, which is located on the north side, has a porch which is thought to have originally been located at St Katherine's and moved to St Andrew's when St Katherine's was demolished.
- The door at the base of the Tower in the West, is often used by newly wedded couples to exit after their marriage ceremony,
- A second small closed porch and door on the south side, directly opposite the main entrance is permanently locked and used as a store cupboard within which our bat family roost
- The small doorway on the south side near to the Altar is the "back door" and it is near here the crypt entrance lies.
As you stroll around the building look for the location of the Stick Dial, a sundial carved into the stone which is on the south wall to between the two southern doorways. This ancient clock was used by the bell ringers to time the chiming of the service bell for the parishioners in times past. As the name suggests a stick was used to help tell the time. Its shadow indicating the time against the marks below.
The square tower, build in the 1400s, stands to the west end of the church and houses the church bells, nine in all, an eight-peel set and a service bell. All are accessed via a narrow spiral staircase in the south west corner which leads first to the ringing floor where the bell ringers stand to play these wonderful instruments. The stairs continue to the bell floor where the bells are hung around the walls of the room. From here there is a narrow ladder to the roof. Public access to the roof is no longer permitted due to safety reasons however there is a fine view from the top.
The spire sits atop an octagonal tower located to the east of the nave. It used to house a lantern which could be seen from great distances. A beacon in the landscape, the lantern and was used to guide shepherds down from the plains in bad weather.
Inside the church you will see many pieces of the parish art collection
, and can view the beautiful colours in the stained-glass windows
The church houses a ring of eight bells, which are hung for change ringing, and a separate service bell. They were last restored and rehung in 2019 having been renovated by the last bell foundry in the UK, John Taylor & Co of Loughborough. In order of age the bells were cast as follows;
- The 6th, in 1662 by William Purdue III
- The 4th, in 1730 by John Cor, is considered to be a fine example of a bell from this era
- The service bell, in 1783 by Robert Wells II
- The 3rd 7th and 8th in 1949 by John Taylor & Co
- The 5th, in 1950 by John Taylor & Co
- The 1st and 2nd, in 1997 by John Taylor & Co
The team of bell ringers practices each week and plays for the Sunday morning service, at weddings and other local, national and international days including Remembrance Sunday, Royal events, the church Saint's day and ringing in the new year etc. If you would like to try bell ringing please contact the Tower Captain