The History Of Chitterne

All Saints Church

The old All Saints Church, thought to have been built around 1450, was demolished in 1861 except for the chancel which was retained as a mortuary chapel until 1877 and then found to be unnecessary and demolished.

The Church was situated in the middle of All Saints graveyard, lying diagonally across the plot in a south-west/north-easterly orientation. The exact spot can be pin-pointed today, by the tablet marking the Michell family vault.

Hoare described the old church thus in 1824:

" The Church of Chitterne All Saints stands on the North side of the village, and is a small neat structure. It has a low but well- proportioned turret at the West end; no side aisles, but a small chantry chapel on the North; and the Michells have lately (viz. 1775) made an addition on this side to serve the double purpose of a pew and mausoleum. The font is ancient and plain; the chancel is separated from the nave by a plain pointed arch without columns."

All Saints Church was always considered superior to that of St Marys. All Saints was the larger parish, with grander houses and was once known as Upper Chitterne. A Church must have existed here way before 1450, because we know that Giles de Bridport, as Bishop of Sarum, acquired the right to Chitterne All Saints Church and 17 acres of glebe (land belonging to the Church) and gave it to his newly formed College de Vaux in 1270. It continued to belong to the College until the dissolution in the C16.

All Saints Vicarage stood on a square plot of land between the churchyard and the road. It was removed when the two Chitterne churches were combined under one Vicar and the materials used to repair and enlarge St Mary's vicarage. The plot of land was exchanged, with Walter Long, for one adjoining St Mary's vicarage. Walter Long then gave his newly acquired plot to Sir William Onslow, on condition that he in return gave a piece of land for the enlargement of the All Saints graveyard.

The Michell family have already been mentioned twice and this demonstrates their importance in connection with All Saints. They were an ancient family, descended from the Michells of Calne and Calston, who owned vast tracts of land (1400 acres) in All Saints parish, which they acquired soon after the dissolution, possibly from Millbourne and Flower. There were six hatchments and eight monuments to the family in the Church.

As Hoare states, in 1775 they had an addition built to the Church to house their pew and mausoleum. Canner describes it thus:

" The Michells...had a large pew in the body of the Church which was elevated about three inches above the floor of the Church. In this pew was a tomb above the ground and in which were deposited eleven coffins, each covered with crimson velvet."

He goes on to describe what happened to the tomb after the Church was demolished:

" When the old Church was removed a grave was made on the spot and all the coffins placed in it. But when this grave was being made it was noticed that the earth had been moved at some previous time, and about eleven feet below the surface was a cutting in the chalk, the shape of a man's body, and the bones of a very tall man in it. Over the top had apparently been a piece of oak about two inches thick. It was evidently a case of burial of earth to earth, but of course there is no record to denote who it was."

It is this vault which serves to mark the site of the old church today. It is very deep and the whereabouts of the steps leading down into it are known only to a few.