Cricklade & St Sampson’s Church

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February, 2017

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We stopped for a break at Cricklade while en route to Coarse Lawn in the Cotswolds.

This is a small historic 9th century Saxon town near the busy A419 and is the only Wiltshire town situated on the banks of the River Thames. The town was built by the Romans to form a causeway across the flood plain.
As we walked along the street we saw a large clock, known as the Jubilee clock. This was erected in 1898 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It stands outside The Vale Hotel in the High Street, where the Town Cross once stood.
Cricklade was the home of a royal mint from 979 to 1100 and there are some Cricklade coins in the town museum..

We decided to visit St Sampson’s Church, not far from where we parked the car.

The church dates back to the 12th century and is dedicated to the 5th-century Welsh saint, Sampson of Dol. St Sampson is counted among the 7 founder saints of Brittany with Pol Aurelian His father was from Dyfed and his mother from Gwent ( daughter of King Meurig of Gwent). He became abbot of Caldey and preached all over the South West before eventually going to Brittany and becoming the first Bishop of Dol. Most of his remains are at the cathedral there, although some were brought to England by King Athelstan in the 10th century. One of the relics was given to the church and kept under the High Altar, but removed from there at the Reformation.

The present church was built on the remains of another Saxon church of AD 890 and the main part between 1240 and 1280.

If you walk towards the High Altar it is worth noting the Corbels (carved stone features supporting the roof arches). They were probably done like this to frighten evil spirits away.
The arches below were made when the church was widened in the 13th century to include the North and South aisles.
If you stop at the step at the end of the nave – on the left is a list of those who fell in the wars. There used to be an altar here until 1975. The holes in the walls are probably inside windows to let in light.
The ‘new,’ massive Tower was built in 1553 (took 50 years), at the expense of Robert Dudley, Earl of Northumberland. Above the arches of the tower, but below the windows there are lots of ‘Heraldic Emblems’ including the ‘Ragged Bear and Staff’ of Warwick, the arms of Oxford University and Westminster Abbey.
A church clock of 1658, made by Richard Hewse of Wootton Bassett, was originally in the belfry but is now at the rear of the south aisle. The octagonal font is 25th century in the late decorated style. Beyond the trapdoor in the belfry there are 6 bells and a Sanctus bell.

When you have finished looking around inside of the church, if you look across to the North east corner of the churchyard, you will see the Old Town cross.

As ‘ time ticks by’ the old Jubilee town clock will have seen many changes and it is good to reflect upon what the past can unveil to those who wish to seek out history.

Caroline Hutchings

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