St Peter & St Paul, Heytesbury

St Peter and St Paul's Church HeytesburyThere was a Saxon church at Heytesbury at least as early as 1056, when it was held by Alward the Priest, and the present Grade 1 listed building, begun in the late 12th century, was probably built on the same site as, or developed over time from, the earlier Saxon structure. The original Saxon church had been given to Salisbury Cathedral in c.1115 by Henry I to form part of an ecclesiastical living and its value was soon augmented by other gifts of property, including one from the Empress Maud, daughter of Henry I, who also endowed land to pay for two chaplains of Heytesbury to serve her chapel at Tytherington. In c.1165 the Church was established, by a charter of the Bishop of Sarum, as collegiate, with a dean and four canon prebendaries, together with lesser clergy, amounting at one time to a staff of up to eighteen. A collegiate church was effectively a 'mother church' with resident priests whose tasks may have been partly educational as well as having a missionary element, to encourage new 'daughter churches' in the area.

Insode St Peter & St Paul HeytesburyIn the 13th century the holder of the deanery became the Dean of Salisbury, to whom the collegiate church at Heytesbury, together with its property, then belonged. Most parishes came under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, but because Heytesbury belonged to the Dean of Salisbury it was known as a ‘peculiar’. Its collegiate functions may not have continued much beyond the 13th century but it was known as such until the Cathedrals Act of 1840 dissolved the college nature of churches and abolished prebends. The Dean of Salisbury still sits in the Heytesbury stall in the Cathedral.The church itself is described in Collins’ ‘Guide to English Parish Churches’, edited by Sir John Betjeman, as ‘A noble cruciform fabric with a central tower, formerly collegiate. It was restored by Butterfield, who was less drastic than usual.’ The external view is dominated by its massive, square and rather squat, central Norman tower, typical of Norman church design. Most of the church dates from the late 12th, 13th and early 15th centuries, but, according to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, it may have been largely rebuilt in about 1404.

In 1967, a restoration project marked the centenary of the earlier restoration. The wagon roof of the nave was coloured pale blue and the 80 carved bosses, one at the end of each beam and the rest on the horizontal beams at its base, were picked out in white, blue, scarlet, yellow and green. The walls were lime washed white and most of the tiles cleaned. In 1983 the church was re-wired and wrought-iron pendant lights, which had previously hung in Salisbury Cathedral, were installed.

In 1997 Heytesbury church became part of the Upper Wylye Valley Team Ministry which includes nine other churches. The parish registers from 1653, apart from those still in use in the church, can be seen at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham.

The removal of the roof slates from the nave and aisles has begun, with scaffolding in place to reach the lower side aisles. It will then be extended to reach the nave roof. As part of the nave project, we are encouraging the Heytesbury community and beyond to sign a  new roof slate. The slates will be placed on the roof so that in the future when it needs to be repaired once again, future residents will discover who lived in Heytesbury in 2017.  A  book listing the names of all those who purchased a slate will be produced as a lasting record of the event.

The conservation work in the chancel has also begun with the initial investigations related to the deterioration of the tiles and stained glass windows completed.  Paint analysis has revealed the original colour of the walls as well subsequent layers of repaint.  Cleaning tests have been conducted to assess how easy it will be to remove the overlying paint from some of the Butterfield tiles which have been hidden for decades.  Finally, we will be commissioning a lighting designer to work with us to improve the lighting in the chancel and nave.

We are continuing to  seek funding for the replacement of the chancel roof tiles and repair to the masonry around the stained glass windows.  Finally, the bid for the re-ordering of the nave to include a kitchen, toilets and a meeting room at the west end and the improvement of the heating and lighting systems as well as redecoration of the nave will be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in March 2018.

The web site for the church is at this link: Heytesbury Church 

Address and Contact information:

Church of St Peter and St Paul
High Street
Heytesbury
Wiltshire
BA12 0EF

Churchwardens: Tina Sitwell 01985 840556

Photographs of St Peter & St Paul, Heytesbury (click an image for a slideshow of larger images)

General Photo Gallery