"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on September 9, 2017 by Sioux under General
2 Comments

 

On one of the days I had to go into the nearby village of Bromham, I took the opportunity of exploring a bit and visited the lovely parish church and the local cemetery. The building of St Nicholas as it is today began between 1086 and 1094 during the latter years of the reign of William the Conquer and the early years of his son William II. It has been extensively added to and altered over the centuries. However, there are still considerable areas of the original Norman and medieval building; as well as later 17th, 18th and 19th century alterations and re-construction. The steeple was added in 1510.

There are a number of beautiful B&B’s in the area I was working in, one of them being “Sandridge Tower”, a late 19th century folly. A folly tower is one that was built for ornamental rather than practical reasons. Folly towers are common in Britain, and often do have some practical value as landmarks, or as viewpoints. 

The church is considered to be one of the finest parish churches in Wiltshire and sits on a prominent site in the centre of the parish village overlooking the Avon valley. The 15th century chantry chapel is the most important feature of the church, and many historians have written of its architectural splendour and the richness of its decoration.

 

The tombs and memorials in the chapel are both numerous and splendid for a parish church. It is likely that the first bells were installed in the church around 1378-79. Today the church has a peal of six bells that were recast in 1875 and the clock was installed as part of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in 1887. 

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IMG_1221 LR (1 of 1) tomb of lady elizabeth tocotes 1409-1491.
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The Irish poet and lyricist, Thomas Moore, lived in Wiltshire from 1818 until his death in 1852. He is buried in the Bromham churchyard and this memorial of Ballinasloe limestone was erected in 1906.

 

The 5.5m high Celtic cross is inscribed in Gaelic –

 

Dear harp of my country, in darkness I found thee 

The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long

When proudly, mine own island harp, I unbound thee

And gave all thy chords to light, freedom and song. 

The old parish lock-up, known locally as

“The Blind House” cost £16 when it was erected in 1809. The 18th century cobble stone paving was rescued from a demolished stable-yard in Bromham Downs and the horse & cattle trough was added in 1950. 

Tomb of Lady Elizabeth Tocotes 1409-1491. 

Tomb of Sir Edward Bayntun 1517-1593

The tomb of Sir Roger Tocotes, Lady Elizabeth’s second husband, is situated in the centre of the chapel and is the only full length, life-sized effigy, sculptured in alabaster and in contemporary armour with the Lancastrian collar, that can be seen in any of the Wiltshire churches, apart from those in Salisbury Cathedral.

Sandridge Tower is octagonal, with four storeys and one window on alternate sides. There is also a battlemented parapet on the roof. It was converted to a residential house, used as a nursing home and is now a privately owned B&B. 

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The town of Melksham, a medium sized town with a long history, wasn’t too far from where I was working and as I went into town at least once a week, I took some time to have a wander around. Originally a ford across the river Avon and a Saxon settlement, it is believed the name was derived from Meolcham. “Meolc” being the old English name for milk and “ham” the old name for a village.

The area has long been associated with dairy farming and                       pasture. It remained a village for many years during which it                    had its fair share of royal property owners, villains and                   entrepreneurs. At the time of the Norman Conquest                       Melksham was part of a royal estate.

 

                In 1086, William the 1st instigated the survey now                           known as the famous Domesday Book. In it Melksham                  was described as having 8 mills, 130 acres of water                       meadows and 8 leagues of pasture in length and                             breadth. There were 189 landowners, 19 ploughmen and              35 serfs included in a population of several hundred.  

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The local Freemasons building,                             Chaloner Lodge, was consecrated in 1897. The original expenditure of £50 must have been well worthwhile, as the building will now be worth a small fortune! 

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In 1219 Melksham was considered important enough to be granted a Charter to hold a market every Friday and a fair on Michaelmas Day. The market was changed to Tuesdays during the 1400’s and continued until the advent of World War II. Melksham is well known to many members of the Royal Air Force who learnt their trade at RAF Melksham, which at its peak accommodated over ten thousand personnel.

 

The official title of the station from when it opened in 1940 until it closed in 1965 was No.12 School of Technical Training. Many locals remember seeing aircraft on display at the annual open days, but it was never an operational flying base because it had no runway. The aircraft were used for training purposes for ground crew and technicians and were dismantled before arrival and departure.

Melksham remains a bustling and friendly place true to its proud trading traditions.

The original core alongside the ancient parish church of St Michael still survives as

a corner of quiet charm.

 

In 1086 Romuld was the priest of Melksham but there is no evidence indicating the

presence of a Saxon church, although this could well have been a wooden building,

however no trace has been found. The foundation of the present church dates from

the Norman period with the earliest part of the fabric to be found in the chancel walls. There is a peal of 8 bells, which were recast in 1924 and on a south east buttress is a medieval sundial or sratch dial. In the church yard is a good selection of late 18th and early 19th century chest tombs. 

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The Melksham Peace Cairn commenced on 4 August 2014 at a vigil for peace and reconciliation to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of WW1. It is being built as a prayer for peace.

 

The stones and rocks come from homes, gardens, holiday destinations or favourite places of local residents and visitor are encouraged to say a prayer for peace and add a rock of their own. The cairn will remain in place until 11 November 2018, when all the rocks and stones will be used in the building of a permanent pathway in the churchyard – “The path for Peace”. 

 

2 responses to “New faces, new places part 2 – exploration time!”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    It is just so lovely to see all these old, well preserved churches, houses, etc.. Not like here where historical buildings are torn apart for their windows, timber and bricks and no-body does anything about it .. So sad

  2. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Very interesting and good pics of the beautiful churches “Path of Peace” 11th November will always be a very special date for Rhodesia!

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