Church of St Cosmas & St Damian Sherrington

Church of St Cosmas & St Damian Sherrington

The Parish of Sherrington has a population of about 60 (49 adults and 11 children aged 5-14 years old) but church membership is just 3, all of whom are over 80 years old.  Two of these are Churchwardens (one for 27 years because no one else in this tiny community is keen to volunteer).  The PCC comprises these 3 members plus the Treasurer, a Roman Catholic who has a home in the village but helps in this important area. There are six services a year that cover the main church festivals, a Matins and an Evensong.  Attendance is around 30; 6-8 from the village, with the balance being visitors from nearby villages.  Morning Prayer is said in the church once a week by one of the Team clergy, but no parishioners attend.

The Church fabric, repairs, insurance and electrical costs are covered by the ‘Friends of Sherrington Church’ most of whom are not church members. The building is available for Village Meetings thus providing a raison d’être for the Friends who have a charming Grade 1 listed church with historic painted wall-texts and some very antique glass to cherish.

Sherrington is built around spring-fed old water cress beds overlooked by thatched cottages; it is the jewel in the Wylye Valley crown.  The mix of residents is very varied - retired, working from home or commuting elsewhere. Several have homes elsewhere so it is a week-end paradise for some.  A thatched cottage plus annexe overlooking the cress-beds is for sale at £999, 950.

The history of the church is quite interesting.

We know that there was a minister here in the 12th century, a man named Odo of Cerintonia, who was also known as a writer of fables. The earliest part of the current church, however, dates to the 13th century. The dedication to St Cosmas and St Damian is rare in England; there are just 5 churches in the country bearing this dedication. Cosmas and Damian were Syrian brothers, and the patron saints of travellers and healing.The earliest feature of the church is the font, but there is more to the font than meets the eye. Behind the font, leading under the church towards the moat surrounding the castle motte is a channel, or drain. In 1959 restoration revealed a skeleton in the drain channel. An odd place for a burial indeed, but perhaps the skeleton predated the church and was that of a murdered man thrown into the ditch. We simply don't know but it adds a bit of mystery!

The church was rebuilt in 1624, and the interior is like a time-capsule of Jacobean style, with a waggon roof, carved bench ends, and communion rails. When the church was restored in 1959 a skeleton was found in a hollow under the organ. This was probably the remains of a Tudor rector named John Carter (d. 1554) whose will asked that he be buried 'in the Chauncell of Cosme and Damian'.

The pulpit is late 17th century, and if you open the door you can see, set into the interior wall, tablet with the initials G.I. and the date 1614. There is an amusing storey attached to the pulpit; apparently the door had to be widened because it was too narrow for a rector named Mason Anderson. He must have been a large man, for he had a hole made in the floor of the nearby rectory so that he could be winched up to bed each evening, seated in a chair.

On the walls are a series of Jacobean texts, surrounded by pillar and scroll decoration. These texts were used in Tudor and Jacobean churches as a form of religious education, replacing the imagery of medieval paintings. Sherrington church possesses an unusually complete version of the Jacobean text.Entering the chancel the two westernmost windows hae lovely 14th century glass, gathered here from around the church. You can make out a figure of St John the Evangelist among the fragments. Elsewhere are 5 panels of medieval glass brought from the European continent. One roundel behind the altar shows St Rosalie of Palermo, with an inscription describing her as 'Patroness against the Plague', a reminder of how big a role the deadly plague played in medieval life.

Among the historic monuments in the chancel is a grave slab, obscured by the altar table, to William Hobbs, who died in 1670. There is a royal coat of arms to Queen Anne, and a 17th century needlework cross of Spanish workmanship.

Over the south porch is an heraldic shield to Thomas Lambert of Boyton, who owned the estate from 1608.

Credit: Editor David Ross

Sherrington has continued to mark the major seasons of the Church. In Lent (March 20th) we had an Evensong, led by Katherine Venning, with 12 people. At Easter Jane Shaw held a children's activity on Holy Saturday, making an Easter Garden to display at the Easter service, and also decorating Easter cards. The Easter Day Eucharist, also conducted by Jane, was well attended (20) and the church looked lovely, with masses of daffodils. Ascension Day was marked with a Team service in the evening, led by Ali Morley and the choir, and the service was followed by sparkling wine and nibbles, to complete the festive atmosphere. An account of this service appeared in the "Warminster Journal".

The church is regularly used, with Morning Prayer said every Thursday, and it is open every day for private prayer. Some of the window glass is very old, and advice has been sought from Salisbury Cathedral glass workshop on  cleaning and protecting it.

Welcome to Sherrington.  It provides a spiritual challenge whilst watching Kingfishers, our resident pair of Mute Swans and outside the church, a communal roost in the evening of up to twelve Little Egrets; a pair of Water Rails lurk in the reeds.

Address and Contact Information:Church of St Cosmas & St Damian
Church Lane
BA12 0SN

Churchwardens: Betty and Nigel Lewis 01985 850496

Betty & Nigel Lewis
Betty & Nigel Lewis

Photographs of Church of St Cosmas & St Damian Sherrington (click an image for a slideshow of larger images)