The ghost church

IMG_6830bYesterday I went on a church hunt.

I set myself a route, planned in advance for once, to take in seven Churches Conservation Trust churches in Wiltshire as part of my Fifty before Fifty challenge.

And the big surprise of the day? People.

I saw other people visiting the churches. Now St Giles’ Church at Imber (the ghost church of the title) was packed to the rafters but I could understand that. The church is in the middle of a Ministry of Defence training zone and only open to the public on certain days of the year – see yesterday’s post for details.

But I also ran into a photographer at the ruins of St Leonard’s Church in Sutton Veny and then two couples at St Mary’s at Maddington (well actually, I ran into them outside St Mary’s Church in Shrewton because all five of us were in the wrong place but a very nice couple directed us to the correct location).

I was nice to see other people taking interest in these redundant churches.

But I digress (as usual).

IMG_6839bThis is St Giles Church hidden away in the lost viillage of Imber in the middle of Salisbury Plain. And it is pictured in the afternoon sunlight just before those rain clouds in the distance started leaking on me.

It’s a strangely sad place, mainly because it sits in the middle of the village commandeered by the military in 1943 and never returned to the villagers but also because the interior of the church has almost been stripped out – almost, but not quite.

There are no pews, the font has gone and so have the effigy tombs (a trip to Edington Priory where they were removed to is now on the cards).

But although at first glance it looks empty, there is actually still plenty to see.

An original church was built in the 12th century. This one was begun with the nave in the 13th century. The 14th century saw the addition of the north and south aisles, the north porch and the tower. This photo is of the south side.

The old chancel was replaced in 1849 and a vestry added. The vestry was closed yesterday but I couldn’t resist pulling back the curtains …

IMG_6846b… and taking a very quick snap of the two medieval heads that have been relocated there.

But there was also lots to see that wasn’t behind curtains.

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Starting in the south porch you can see the chequerboard style of masonry that is so common in churches in Wiltshire. It’s a combination of stone and flint.

You can see a stoup to the right which would have contained holy water and above that a carved rose. The shield on the opposite side of the arch bears the coat of arms of the First Lord of Hungerford, Lord of the Manor in the 15th century.

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The porch also contains these… late 17th century graffiti. I’m sorry, but I’m still a fan of graffiti – I find it interesting and expressive. This must have taken some time. I wonder if the culprits then cleansed themselves with the holy water in the stoup afterwards. Maybe graffiti wasn’t frowned upon in the 17th century – I have no idea.

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This was near the west tower door. I couldn’t find out anything about this one though.

IMG_6837bAlso in the tower is this. It’s not a logarithm table, its the plain changes on the five bells for perfect pealing. The bells aren’t at St Giles anymore, they were taken away in 1950. One bell is still in existence and is part of the ring of ten bells at Edington.

IMG_6843bThis is a memorial to another Lord of the Manor John Wadman from 1745. The vestry is now directly behind this wall but you can see there was a window there once.

On the walls of the north aisle there are the remains of 15th century wall paintings.

IMG_6827bThis one is the best preserved.

This represents avarice. There’s a man holding a bag of money in each hand standing between two devils.

IMG_6826bEvidence of painting is on the nave arches too.

As usual, I would have loved to have seen the church in its heyday.

IMG_6831bAnd in the floor of the nave there are these ledger stones. These commemorate Sarah Harris (1663) and John Wadman (1688) predecessor, I presume, of the other John Wadman.

At the other end of the nave and at the top of the building rather than the bottom, you can see this.

IMG_6849bIt’s the carved head of a bishop and this wooden boss is at the apex of the nave roof, just above the last tie beam. Always remember to look up and down.

I am so glad I took the time to see this little church. It is inaccessible for most of the year and although a lot of the inside has been removed, there was still plenty to see.

I am, however, now going to have to try and track down the treasures (mainly the tombs) that have been removed and relocated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 comments
  1. Be careful pulling back curtains… You might find The great and powerful Oz. lol. :) xxx

  2. Fascinatng Dory — so much beauty and history still there, which can’t be obliterated. The sadness of it makes my heart ache… and I loved the shot of the church sinking into the golden grasses… beautiful

    • Thank you Valerie. It was a melancholy place. That’s my favourite shot too. The light before the rain set in was lovely :)

    • Yes. I’m glad they still open the village a couple of times a year :)

  3. What wonderful old details you’ve uncovered with your camera. I love the layers of history revealed in this post.

  4. Anny said:

    How absolutely fantastic – so much of interest, seeing a method written out like that would be very rare in any church – I expect someone in the ringing community will have more info – and I agree about the graffiti, it’s a brilliant way to get into the mindset of our ancestors. The spiral stairs to our ringing chamber were once the access to a now defunct gallery, and have some excellent bits of graffiti. Thanks for such a brilliant post.

    • Thank you so much :) I enjoyed my visit there very much, so interesting

  5. Could that mark be a Mason’s Mark, by any chance?

    Also… *love* the eavesdropping Bishop! :)

    • Lol. Ooh it could be. Hadn’t thought of that :)

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