While looking around the town of Corsham in Wiltshire recently, we came upon St Bartholomew’s Church, next to Corsham Court.
Besides being a place of beauty and peace, it is also a source of historical interest.
It has been a place of Christian worship for over a thousand years. A Saxon church was on the site before the Normans came in 1066 A.D. William the Conqueror was said to have granted the church to the Abbey of St. Stephen at Caen in Normandy. Although the present building dates from the middle of the 12th century, there have been many changes and additions, with a major restoration in Victorian times.
The South Porch dates from the 15th century and had an annexe built in the 17th century in order to have a staircase, giving access to the gallery in the south aisle. Outside the porch are niches of St Paul with his keys; St Bartholomew (patron saint), and St Paul with sword and book.
In the South aisle if you look forward to the main doors there is a 15th century font panelled with Tudor roses. The royal coat of arms is on a board above the main doors with the initial ‘W’ and ‘M’. This is a render of when the country was ruled by two sovereigns, William III and Mary (1688 – 1702)
The fine barrel roof dates from the 15th century. The north transept was built by the Methuns of Corsham Court at the time of the Victorian restoration and constituted their family pew. At the rear is a monument of Alice Cobb who died in 1627. This originally stood in her home parish of Adderbury in Oxfordshire.
There is a late 17th century parish chest built of 6 solid planks of oak 4 inches thick and this would have had 3 locks originally – one for the priest and and one for each of the church wardens.
The Lady chapel was rebuilt between 1465 and 1480 by Thomas Tropenell and is entered through a stone screen. Tropenell’s great tomb dominates this chapel and would have originally been painted in red, blue and gold. He was steward for the great Hungerford family but worked hard and became a major landowner in his own right as well as MP for Bedwyn.
The Chancel was altered a lot and the east bay, a 15th century addition, was re-modelled in 1880 as a memorial to the then Lord Methun’s first wife and white marble angels are said to have been carved in her likeness.
Where the organ is now, in the South Chancel, was originally a chapel with a panelled ceiling. The chancel is divided from the from the south aisle by a stone screen, built in 1928 as a copy of the 15th century screen on the other side.
In 1874 the tower and spire were added to replace the old central tower.
St Bartholomew’s has many interesting tombs and is well worth a visit, especially if you can combine it with Corsham Court next door, and the Corsham Almshouses about 5 minutes walk away.
Unfortunately Corsham Court was closed so we could only get a glimpse of the frontage and a peacock who was strutting around the front lawn.
We did see the Corsham Almshouses which appeared to be empty, until we were met by a lady going inside one of them! They are a set of beautifully built 17th century buildings meant to provide housing for 6 poor people and education for 10 poor children but that is another story!