Guide - Friends of Holy Cross

The Friends of Holy Cross
Go to content


Holy Cross
The church is set on a hillside above a steep sided valley. The small stream running through the valley is a tributary of the River Cole which eventually flows into the Thames.
The main Swindon - Marlborough road which skirts the eastern edge of the village is Roman in origin. Leading from it is part of an even older road, the Icknield Way, which winds down through the village passing close by the east end of the church. Thatched cottages opposite the church are the oldest in the village, with deeds naming occupants back as far as 1500 AD.
Looking at the church from the road, the antiquity of the churchyard is indicated by the height of the ground above road level. To the left, in the angle between the churchyard wall and back of the farmhouse, stood the stocks. Here, offenders would be in full view of parishioners on their way to church.
The gate into the churchyard is dedicated to the memory of members of the Walker family who lived in Parsonage Farm for many years. An earlier farmer stood at the church door each Sunday morning to pay his labourers their wages as they went in - a good way of making sure they attended.
At the east end is a chapel dedicated to the memory of William Lawrence Waugh, vicar of Chiseldon from 1901 - 1933 who married Edith Mary Calley. He became the first vicar of the United Benefice of Chiseldon and Draycot Foliat. The altar and screen were dedicated in 1935.
The Chancel

The chancel presented a very different appearance before 1892. Due to the flat roof, the side walls were higher, and the gable of the east wall lowered, to the extent that the top of the window was obscured. The floor was higher, with five steps up from the nave because of the vaults that had been built underneath. The architect obtained permission to lower the roof of the vaults and the steps were rearranged. The chancel roof was rebuilt to its original pitch. Details of the east window frame, which had been hidden by plaster, were restored and a new window built into the north wall.
The choir stalls are of Spanish chestnut and incorporate 16th centuary carved panels, said to be from the Calley family pew. The Calleys purchased the manor in the early 17th centuary, their predecessors were the Stephens. Initials of both families can be seen among the carved panels. Presumably the Calleys took over the pews with the manor!
A large altar tomb on the north side of the sanctuary is said to belong to one of the Redfern family who were at one time Lords of the Manor of Badbury. In the floor to the south of the sanctuary is a brass commemorating Francis Rutland and his wife, the daughter of Thomas Stephens of Burderop Park. Francis was a courtier to Elizabeth I and died during one of her progresses around the country.
There are many more memorials and memorial windows in the church worth studying. Each of them tells us a little about people from the past who lived in the parish and worshipped in our church.
The soil level around the church had to be lowered and adequate drainage put in before restoration began. The wall of the south aisle was rebuilt on proper foundations and the north aisle and tower underpinned. The most hazardous operation, repairing the nave arcade, involved dismantling the clerestory from the roof down to the apex of the arches. Heavy wooden timbers were forced under the arches to take the weight, then the pillars were screw-jacked into position, the centres filled with liquid cement and underpinned. The clerestory and roof were then rebuilt using as much of the original material as possible, and the nave floor levelled and sealed with a six-inch slab of concrete over the vaults.
The chancel roof was restored to its original pitch and the floor lowered by reducing the height of vaults beneath. This allowed a better arrangement of the chancel steps. Foundations for a new organ chamber and vestry were laid and connecting arches to the chancel and east end of the north aisle were erected. All building work was carried out by Mr H Hoskings of Hungerford.
Funds were insufficient to complete the vestry or to restore the upper part of the tower. The cost of all the work completed during 1892 - 1893 amounted to £2,113 and the parish finally paid off the outstanding debt in 1897. During restoration all services including marriages were held in the National School in the High Street. The church was re-opened on Saturday, 11 March 1893.
The Calley family, who have been patrons of the church since the 17th centuary, donated funds for the completion of the organ chamber and vestry in 1895, in memory of Captain John Digby Calley who died at Lucknow in Bengal. The tower was finally restored in 1914.
In 1892 the total population of the parish was 1,173, the majority being agricultural labourers. Owing to the agricultural distress of that time an appeal was put out in local newspapers for donations to the restoration fund, but the bulk of the finance was raised by the parish. Even the children contributed by providing money for the new stone base of the font. Every conceivable form of fund- raising took place and it is thanks to the efforts of our predecessors in the parish that we still have our church.
The Nave, East End
The carved early 17th centuary pulpit was cleaned and restored to its original condition in 1892 and set up on a new stone base. In 1650 there was a dispute about the pulpit when Puritan parishioners wanted to move it to a central position and rearrange the seating round it. Opposition was led by the Calley family.
Behind the pulpit is the doorway and beginning of a spiral stairway rediscovered during restoration. The rest of the stairs which once led up to the Rood Loft were destroyed during earlier alterations. The outline of the doorway which gave access onto the loft for the priest, can be seen to the north of the chancel arch.
The wooden beam above the chancel arch is all that is left of the medieval Rood Screen. The beam supported the Rood or Cross above the loft or gallery which projected from the screen. Notches at the top of the first two pillars of the nave show where the outer edge of the loft rested. Above the first arch on the south side is a recess which may have been an aumbry, a cupboard for storing sacred items.
The remains of a painting of the Last Judgement were found above the chancel arch during restoration, but could not be kept because of the need to rebuild the wall. In medieval times all the walls would have been decorated with brightly coloured scenes from the Bible and lives of the saints. There would have been no seating except for a stone bench against the wall for the elderly and infirm. This was the origin of the saying 'the weakest to the wall'.
Standing at the foot of the chancel steps and facing the nave, one can see a Green Man directly overhead, carved into the centre of the first cross beam of the roof. Originally a pagan symbol of fertility and rebirth, in Christian imagery the Green Man became a symbol of Easter and the Resurrection.

The Nave, West End
The 14th centuary font was moved to its present position in 1892. Before that it was at the west end of the north aisle, and earlier still it was in the traditional position near the south door.
There used to be a harmonium where the font is now, with choir stalls on either side. The harmonium was purchased in 1868 to replace the old organ. There was once a singing gallery, but it was removed around 1848. Such galleries were usually located at the west end.
Two of the old box pews have been kept and placed below the west window. Behind them, the 19th centuary painted wooden panels depicting saints, were rescued from Mount Tabor convent in Wingrave, Buckinghamshire, which was being demolished. They were brought here in the 1970s by a churchwarden who was related to one of the nuns.
High on the south wall is an early 18th centuary memorial to Edward Mellish, which shows him with his wife and eight of his children. The ninth was born posthumously. The double pillar on the south side has the head of a Saxon window embedded about one third of the way up, on the north side.

The North Aisle
Also known as the Draycot aisle, the north aisle was rebuilt and extended in the 16th centuary using material from the little church at Draycot Foliat, demolished in 1572. Truncated beam ends, which project into the aisle from above the pillars of the nave, are the remains of timbers which supported an earlier roof to the aisle.
The choir vestry at the west end has several choir photographs on the window ledges, the earliest dated 1897. The only fragment of medieval glass to survive in the church is in the top right of the west window. The north window replaced the north door in 1892. Next to the window is a large memorial dedicated to William Ruddle Browne, a prominent member of the Freemasons as shown by the roundel below the plaque.
Further memorials to the Browne family are ranged along the north wall. The most interesting is to William's eldest daughter Ann, who died in Italy. The figure in flowing draperies is carved by Randolph Rogers, a noted sculptor of the time.
The central window commemorates William Nash, parish clerk for 42 years in the 19th centuary. Near this window is a very large memorial to generations of the Stone family, Lords of the Manor of Badbury.
At the top of the tower, there are gargoyles at each corner and a man's head high above the door. At head height on the buttress to the right of the door is a scratch or Mass dial. There would have been a stick in the central hole and its shadow thrown onto the hours marked by the scratched lines would have told parishioners when it was time for Mass. A clock for the tower was proposed in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. It was pointed out that the tower would first have to be repaired and the bells rehung at a cost of £200, with a further cost of £150 for buying and putting up the clock. The idea was abandoned, though the church used to have a clock in the 18th and earlier part of the 19th centuary.
At the east end of the church, below the window, is a badly weather-worn roundel which once depicted a crucifixion scene. It is dated at 1230 and may have been a dedication stone. The ends of the moulding around the window are in the shape of faces.
The vestry on the north side of the chancel has two gargoyles of its own, male and female, looking like figureheads on a ship, with a rather benign Green Man between.
On the north side of the church, a change in ground level halfway across the churchyard marks the original boundary. The outer wall defines the extension of 1849. In the 19th centuary the church possessed a shelter box. This was like a portable sentry box, designed to protect the vicar from the elements when conducting a burial service.
At the west end of the church, a small finial above the main window may mark the roof height before the clerestory was raised. These small, carved ornaments were often found at the apex of a gable. On the corner of the roof at the west end of the south aisle, there is another Green Man.
The Tower
The tower of three storeys, is unusual in that it is built on to the wall of the south aisle instead of being an integral part of the church. Most churches were built with the tower or belfry at the west end of the nave, or centrally above the chancel arch. The south door, usually the main entry into a church, was invariably protected by a porch. Our tower is also unusual in that it is both a porch and a belfry.
It may have been built on the site of an existing south porch because there was no further room at the west end due to the lie of the land. The stairs and gallery to the ringing loft were re-arranged in 1914, uncovering a niche above the inner door which may once have contained the statue of a saint. The Lord's Prayer on the east wall has the name of John Baldwyn, a church-warden in 1879 inscribed on the frame. This was once above the chancel arch. The inner doorway is 13th centuary and the massive door probably of the same date.
The South Aisle
Although rebuilt on various occasions, the south aisle is still on the original line. Early aisles were very narrow. Inset into the east wall are three fragments of medieval carved stone and below them is a 17th centuary tombstone. Tucked between the tombstone and the first arch of the nave is the pillar of a piscina, the basin used by priests to rinse holy vessels after mass. It is said to be 11th centuary and must have been re-used from the earlier church.
On the south wall are the 18th centuary commandment boards and Lord's Prayer re-assembled into a frame by Mr Tuck of Marlborough in 1825. These boards were originally kept in the chancel. The two carved panels below the commandments are 15th centuary and may have formed part of the Rood Screen, which divided the nave from the chancel in medieval times. A second set of Ten Commandments once placed above the chancel arch is reputed to have had eleven!
Opposite the door on a small table is the iron box purchased in 1813 for £5. This was to conform with a Parliamentary order for all parishes to keep their registers in iron chests. It superseded the much older wooden parish chest with its three locks, which stands on the other side of the nave. Just beyond the iron chest is a 17th centuary Bible Box sitting on a coffin stool. The box contains an 1845 Book of Common Prayer.
West of the door is the War Memorial and below it part of a 13th centuary coffin lid. Further along is a small painting dated 1842, which shows the font just inside the south door, old box pews and the commandment boards and coat-of-arms above the chancel arch. The coat-of arms, of George IV, is now on the west wall of the south aisle.
2000 Millennium Window
At the rear of the south aisle is the 2000 Millennium Window which commemorates the second Christian Millennium and the beginning of the third. Designed and made by Jude Tarrant of Sunrise Stained Glass, Southsea, Hampshire, the window is an exciting example of contemporary design in dramatic contrast with some of the existing Victorian traditional stained glass in the church.
The vertical axis of the window represents the life of Jesus Christ, and has four ‘icons’ representing his life and ministry. The horizontal axis represents the 2000-year history of the Church with eight ‘icons’ illustrating certain significant events of particular importance in the life and growth of the Christian Church. Take the time to enjoy the window and see if you can find all of the ‘icons’! A fact sheet with more details is available at the window to help you.
© FoHC 2019
Back to content