St Peters Church

There has been a Saxon church in Langley Burrell from the 9th century – the lower two feet of the wall at the corner of the present south wall of the nave and the porch is Saxon work. The nave was rebuilt in c.1185 when an aisle was added and the porch also dates from this time. In the porch are the remains of a holy water stoup and there is also a door into the adjoining tower. The chancel is c.1225-50 but the chancel arch dates from 1290 when the sedilia (priest’s seats) and small chancel windows were added.

In the 1260s the nave and aisle were altered and extended while c.1440 both were re-roofed with a wagon roof set on carved corbels. There are traces of medieval wall paintings below these corbels in the nave. The tower is early 14th century and contains four bells dated 1607, 1618 with two of 1628. On the tower wall are wooden panels displaying the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. In c.1460 Perpendicular windows were added to the church, a rood erected and the porch provided with roof vaulting with a central boss of the Risen Christ. The south chapel was built in c.1480 along with the arches into the tower and chancel. The chapel contains many Ashe family memorials and the table is probably a 17th century communion table.

Little seems to have been done to the church in the 16th century after the work of the previous century and, apart from the bells and former communion table the only 17th century feature is a superseded font near the pulpit. In the 18th century the balustraded communion rails and gate were erected and the fielded panelled pulpit built.

There were many alterations in the latter half of the 19th century and most took place after Robert Kilvert became Rector in 1855. His son Francis Kilvert, the diarist, was curate to his father in 1863-4 and again in 1872-6. The Victorian font dates from c.1860 and after the Bishop of Gloucester said that the church was choked with high pews and inconvenient for a confirmation (of Squire Ashe’s daughters) in 1871 work was undertaken in the interior of the church. The gallery was removed and a stove placed in the church and the old pews taken out and new ones built.

In 1796 the Rev. Samuel Ashe had presented the church with a bassoon but in Kilvert’s time Squire Ashe disliked any music in church other than the human voice. George Jefferies had led the singing for 40 years but in 1874 his voice began to crack Squire Ashe refused to pay him any more and the Kilvert family, with financial support from the village, bought and installed a harmonium despite initial disapproval from the Squire. This lasted until 1901 when it was replaced by a Positive organ, which in turn was replaced with an organ made by Roger Pulman of Suffolk in 1980.

Francis Kilvert died at the age of 39 as Vicar of Bredwardine and his father, Robert, died in 1882 at Langley Burrell. He and his wife Thermuthis are buried in Langley Burrell churchyard.

The church has been very fortunate in its 19th century restorers. Two of the best church architects working in Wiltshire were involved at the end of the century. In 1890 C.E. Ponting carefully restored the chancel and underpinned the tower, while in 1898 Harold Brakspear restored the nave and aisle. There were further repairs to the tower in 1926, electric lighting was installed in 1956 and a new heating system in 1964.

The church has a lovely setting and is mostly hidden from the Chippenham road so that few motorists realise that it is there.

or more information, please visit WWW.STPETERSLANGLEYBURRELL.CO.UK