Book reveals history of village landmark

This Is Wiltshire: St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne, is celebrating its first 1,000 years. This picture was taken in 2008 St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne, is celebrating its first 1,000 years. This picture was taken in 2008

St Michael’s Church in Aldbourne is celebrating its first 1,000 years.

To mark the occasion a book has been produced telling of the rich history of the village landmark.

The church is at the heart of the community, hosting many events and of particular significance at this time of the year is the Aldbourne Band’s carol performance on Christmas morning with the band touring each road in the village from 4am.

The early-morning festivities finish with a performance from the roof of the church tower at 6.30am.

The book has been produced by The Friends of St Michael’s Church which was founded in 2004 to facilitate community support and involvement in the use and maintenance of the building and profits from sales will be put back into the church.

Dating back to Saxon times, the church is the oldest and largest building in the village and appears to have been reconstructed on several occasions to match the latest fashions and reflect the religious and social views of those who have owned the building.

Early history of the church is based on speculation but it is thought that the first Christian missionary came from Ramsbury and built a wooden hut to serve both vicarage and church in either the 7th or 8th century.

It is accepted that by 966 there was a well-established church in the village which would have been a simple hall or nave with rubble walls of chalk, flint and sarsen and a thatched roof.

The Domesday Book in 1086 listed Aldbourne as a flourishing village, recording that the ‘Two hides belong to the Church of this Manor and consist of two plough lands. The priest of the church holds them and they are worth forty shillings.’

In the 11th century the stone nave was enlarged and the present building includes remains of the church at this time. The exact date of the installation of the first church clock is not known but there were church clocks from the 14th century and by 1716 the clock was on the outside of the church.

With the completion of the tower and the inclusion of a bell loft, the earliest bell was hung at the beginning of the 16th century and is still rung today.

Team Rector Simon Weeden said: “A history of any village church is interesting both for the church historian or visitor and for those with a wider interest in the village community itself.

“The two have become so interwoven over the generations that to understand one you have to know something about the other.”

Copies of St Michael’s Church Aldbourne, Celebrating a Thousand Years, are available from Aldbourne Post Office.

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