St. Mary's Church

The only part of the ancient medieval church of Chitterne St Mary that remains is the chancel, on the extreme right in the drawing above. The rest of the church was demolished in 1861 when the two Chitterne churches were amalgamated. The building has been dated at about 1450 but there had presumably been a church here since at least 1319 which is the date of the first known vicar of Chitterne St Mary under the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury. One of the two bells of St Mary's, which now hang in the new church, was made by John Barbur of Salisbury whose will is dated 1403, so that also suggests an earlier date.

The chancel is now used as a mortuary chapel and occasionally for services. The old church had little architectural merit and was mostly hidden by an old tithe barn (where Birch Cottage now stands). However, the chancel in its own right is a pleasing, well proportioned structure of chequered limestone and flint with a tiled roof. On the east side there are three wall tablets of the late 18th or early 19th century to the Huntley and Wheeler families.

The interior of the chancel is simple, with rendered walls and flagstone floor. Some fragments of Medieval stained glass from the old All Saints Church have been incorporated into the windows. There is a 15th century canopied tomb, without effigy or inscription in the south-east window and two memorial tablets on the west wall. One, of stone with floral and scroll decoration and a marble inscription panel, is to Samuel Biggs (q.v.) and the other also of stone with reeded pillasters, to Ann Sanders. Two graves in the floor are of Johannes Dowland and Elizabeth Morris.

The churchyard surrounding the chancel, except for an extension at the eastern end given by Ushers Brewery in 1928, has been used for burials since medieval times and is still in use today. In 1972 a decision was made to tidy and level the churchyard for ease of maintenance, and move some of the existing headstones into lines. The headstones alongside the path leading to The Manor were moved from their original site at that time. For more information on burials in this graveyard go to the Graveyard Search page.

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