Newsletter 1


Friends of St Mary's Church, Cricklade, Wiltshire, U.K.


Chairman: Hugh Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Secretary: Gerry Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Treasurer: Tony Barratt, 13 Boundary Close, Stratton, SWINDON, SN2 7TF


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Newsletter No. 1


January 1999

Dear Friends,

Thank you for taking an interest in the welfare of St. Mary's Church and welcome to the "Friends". Some of you will have joined at the launch in October, others as a result of our information leaflet and some by persuasion. Whatever the route, we share a common purpose to care for and maintain St. Mary's Church, Cricklade.

Those who were present at the launch and blessing on 10th October 1998 will bear testimony to its success. The congregation comprised past and present/worshippers at St. Mary's, and many of our Anglican brethren provided a touch of personal history to add to that of our historical researchers. It was a warm and friendly occasion much enjoyed by all.

The upkeep of ancient buildings is a costly business. The bell tower needs re- pointing and there is subsidence work to be carried out along the north wall. Repairs to ancient buildings have to be executed in materials appropriate to the age of the fabric, and by craftsmen skilled in this type of work. Such expensive work is beyond our means without recourse to grants from English Heritage and/or the Lottery. We are preparing our case.

I expect you know that the target for our appeal is 35,000. This represents a tidy sum for such a small community. Since October we have already raised 3,355 which consists of money from the collection at the launch, donations, membership of "Friends", an Italian supper evening and a share of the sponsor money raised by the bicycle ride in aid of "The Historic Churches of Wiltshire".

We have plans for Coffee Mornings, a Fete, an Auction and allowing the church to be used for other events e.g. recitals. As the organ needs an overhaul and we require abetter form of heating, money must be spent in order to raise money. We hope to be able to place our plans and estimates for the heating before the Diocesan Committee in March. As we expect the heating to cost more than twice the sum already raised, any other suggestions for fund raising will be much appreciated.

Those of you who regularly worship at St. Mary's will be aware that the kneelers have been padded and covered as a boost to comfort. This improvement is the first fruit of the Friends of St. Mary's Church. We hope it will encourage more parishioners to join our cause.

At the last committee meeting, it was decided that the accounting year will run from 2nd February, the Feast of Candlemas. Those of you who joined us so promptly will benefit from a few extra months free membership.

Finally, we look forward to a long and happy association with you all, and to seeing you at our fund raising events, details of which follow. The next newsletter will be issued in July.

Bernadette Yarnold


23 January 1999

Coffee Morning and Bring and Buy, at The Old Forge House, Marston Meysey, at 10. 30 a. m.

Courtesy of Manus and Maureen Moran.

5 June 1999

Garden Fete at Brook House, Cricklade, at 2 p.m.

Courtesy of Seymour and Louise Aitken.


Autumn ( date to be announced)

Grand Auction of small antique items and collectibles.

Please contact Fr. Richard or Geny Dudley if you have any items for donation.



When was St Mary's founded? This seems like an obvious point to start any history of St Mary's, but the answer is far from simple. The traditional sources that can help us to establish turning points in history - documents, pictures, commentaries by contemporaries - are all, unfortunately, lost to us or are silent on the subject of St Mary's in its earliest centuries. The architecture of the building we see today can give us enough clues to say that a substantial stone building was on the site by the end of the 11th century. The semicircular chancel arch with chevron or 'dog-tooth' carving is characteristic of the first great wave of medieval church building that swept through the country following the Norman conquest. In a modest way, the chancel at St Mary's recalls the style of some of the great cathedrals of the period - Westminster Abbey and Durham Cathedral, for example. However, we know that Cricklade itself dates back to the late 9th century when it was established by King Alfred. So does St Mary's also date from the Saxon period? To answer this question we must rely on the evidence of archaeology.

Ask an archaeologist to put a precise date on any significant event, and you are likely to be met with a nervous shuffling of the feet and talk of 'around', or 'possibly before' or 'at some time during'. It isn't just professional caution: archaeological evidence is simply like that. Often a significant point can turn on whether one muddy brown layer lies on top of another, implying that it must have been laid down later, or the other way round, implying that it must therefore be earlier. This is the case with the investigation of St Mary's. A 'dig' just outside the north wall of the nave in the 1960's made two significant discoveries. First there was a spread of soil that originally formed the earth rampart that was the town wall, which ran roughly east west along the north edge of the churchyard. Second there was evidence for a stone foundation beneath, and on a different alignment to the North chapel, where the organ now sits. The original excavator thought that the collapsed Saxon rampart lay on top of the old foundation, implying that there was an earlier stone building on the site before the Saxon wall collapsed. However, later authors have argued that the foundation may have in fact been dug into, and therefore be later than the collapsed wall. On this apparently minor detail revealed in a cramped trench thirty years ago rests the case for or against the Saxon origin of St Mary's.

Or does it? There is one hint in the documents that do survive from the court of King Ethelred almost exactly one thousand years ago. Ethelred made a land grant in 1008 to the Abingdon abbey near Oxford. Until recently, it had been assumed that this land was the Abingdon Court farm at the northwest corner of the town. However, it is now suggested that in fact the whole of the north end of the town (from Gas Lane northwards) was granted to the abbey. What makes this detail significant is the dedication of the abbey of Abingdon - it was St Mary's. What could be more natural than that the monks of Abingdon should dedicate a new chapel to serve the needs of the small community that they had acquired, and that they should dedicate it in honour of their patron saint? The defences of the town had just been restored by Ethelred a few years previously, and it may be that the land on which the church now stands, now no longer required for the defence of the inhabitants, was dedicated instead to the spiritual wellbeing of the community of Cricklade.

So, 1008AD, just before the end of the Saxon period is when St Mary's was founded - giving us nine years left to prepare for our very own millennium celebration. In future articles I hope to look at other aspects of the history of the church.

PERSONAL MEMORIES from Vera Holbrooke

E.xtracts from a letter written by Mrs Holbrooke to Fr Richard Barton, and reproduced here with her permission.

My grandparents, Elizabeth and James Robinson regularly worshipped at St. Mary's. My parents, Albert and Lillian Robinson were also regular worshippers. My father was Churchwarden for over 30 years.

I was born in 1909 and baptised at this Church. At 8 years old I became a member of the Choir. At 12 years was confirmed here. I was appointed organist at 16, a post held until the amalgamation (of St Mary's and St. Sampson's Anglican parishes) in 1952 ( except when my daughter was born). In 1939 I was married here and my husband became Churchwarden with my Father.

My brother, Sydney James Robinson, was baptised here, was Choirboy, Server, Sexton and was responsible for winding the Church clock.

My sister, Audrey Brock, was baptised here, joined the Choir at the age of 7, remained a member until the amalgamation, then transferred to St. Sampson's Choir, where she remains a member at the age of 81.

What a tremendous family history of commitment to St. Mary's.

We would welcome other recollections of St. Mary's past for inclusion in future newsletters. Contributions can be passed to any committee member. (see below)

AN APPEAL FOR HELP from Bernadette Yarnold

The altar frontal embroidered by Cicely Miller at the beginning of the century is in need of urgent repair. The silk background has rotted, probably due to the damp. We have been advised that we should cut the embroidery away from the silk and re-mount it on a suitable upholstery fabric. This requires:

A frame on which to mount the frontal (we have an offer to make one ).

A place to locate the frame whilst the work is undertaken.

A few volunteers to cut the design from the silk and sew the embroidery onto its new background (embroidery skills are not required).

The whole process may take a considerable time as the embroidery is extensive, and much cutting and sewing will be necessary .

If you can help please call me on 01285 861586.












....................... THE FRIENDS OF ST. MARY'S CHURCH

They are:         Fr. Richard Barton

Seymour Aitken                                        Anne Hayes, Publicity

Tim Cheesman, Chairman                      Edmund Lee, Grants

Tony Doyle, Treasurer                              Pat Prendergast

Gerry Dudley, Secretary                           Bernadette Yamold, Newsletter