Newsletter 2


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. 2


July 1999

Dear Friends,

Since the inaugural Newsletter in January much has happened to increase public awareness of our aspirations for St Mary's. A number of our activities and projects have been reported in the local press, and the resultant interest has generated a few donations and a 25% increase in membership.

Way back in January, the Coffee Morning and Bring and Buy raised 479. It was a most enjoyable and successful event, and we look forward to similar functions. Then, on the Feast of Candlemas, 2nd February, a sung Tridentine Mass was celebrated in St Mary's. The retiring collection was most generously donated to the "Friends". After this, most of our energies were channelled into preparations for the Garden Fete.

I recently came across an article in a back number of The Wilts and Gloucester Standard recording that on 31 July 1915 a Garden Party was held at Brook House for St Mary's Church when the sum of 7 was raised. Carrying on a long tradition of support for St Mary's, Seymour and Louise Aitken kindly allowed us to use the gardens of Brook House. Intercessions with The Almighty did not keep the rain away, but the loyal public squelched around the stalls buying books, cakes, plants and Bric-a-Brac, and participating in many of the games dreamt up for their entertainment. Finally they refreshed themselves on tea and cakes in the pouring rain under their umbrellas. All this effort and discomfort was rewarded with the magnificent sum of 1435.69.

Now that our coffers hold 9500, we are able to be more constructive with regard to the ever growing list of maintenance and refurbishment. An application for a Lottery grant towards the cost of correcting the subsidence is in preparation and due to be submitted in September, and we have asked the Wayland Trust for a grant to repair the floor in the bell tower and refurbish the chiming mechanism of the clock. We hope that the people of Cricklade may once again enjoy the striking of the hours.

In the last Newsletter, I appealed for help to repair the altar frontal embroidered by Cicely Miller at the beginning of the century. I am pleased to report that a number of volunteers have come forward (more will always be welcome) and Louise Aitken has most kindly offered the use of her home for our needlework.

Thank you for your support over the past six months, it has been so encouraging. We hope you will find something of interest in our future activities. May I commend to your diary the programme of events below.

Bernadette Yarnold


15th August

Evening Prayers at St Mary's, our patronal feast of the Assumption at 3 p.m.

This is a United Service.

28th August

St Mary's Church will hold an open day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Come and listen to the organ and enjoy a guided tour. Light refreshments will be available.


A musical evening in St Mary's with Mr Tony Frewer and his String Quartet.

More details to follow.

23rd October (viewing 22nd - p.m.)

Grand Auction of small antique items and collectibles at Cricklade Town Hall.

We would be pleased to receive suitable items - china, jewellery, books, small items of furniture, ornaments etc.

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



In the last issue of the Friends newsletter, I suggested that the first church of St Mary's was founded around 1008AD by the monks from Abingdon abbey. In this item, in the run up to the millennium celebrations, I thought it would be appropriate to consider briefly the history of time as recorded at St Mary's for almost all of the last 1000 years.

The first time keepers at St Mary's would have been the Benedictine monks who, quite possibly were responsible for the construction of the first church on the site. The famous 'Rule of St Benedict' governed the lives of these monks. Their mother house at Abingdon had been established for more than 300 years before they first took possession of the lands at Cricklade at the start of the millennium. Throughout that time, the Rule under which they lived prescribed the pace and timetable for their days, punctuated with prayers and ceremony. Knowing the right time of day would have been important to them in their religious observance. Unfortunately the church itself retains no evidence for how they would have marked the passing of time. Certainly the use of graduated candles, hour glasses and perhaps water clocks was not unknown in the period, though whether the monks at a relatively remote outpost of their order would have had access to such devices is a matter of speculation. Perhaps they simply marked the passage of the Sun and the evening and early morning stars, which are still just about discernible from Cricklade through the glare of the modern streetlights.

The tower at St Mary's was built in the 13th century. This would have contained at least one bell, probably serving as an Angelus bell, marking the time for mid-day prayer in the growing community of the town. No details of this early bell (or possibly bells) survive however.

The first measure of time at St Mary's which we have record of comes from the 14th century - the century marked by the Black Death. This was a 'scratch-dial', an early form of sun dial which used to hang on the south wall of the chancel, which had been extended to project into the line of the High Street, probably during the 13th century. The scratch dial can still be seen in the Cricklade Museum.

The passage of longer periods of time was marked at St Mary's from the 1680s. This was when the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials were started at the church, each year beginning a fresh list.

As mentioned above, bells have marked the Passage of time at St Mary's since at least the 13th century. However, it is not until the 16th century that we know for sure that there were three bells in the tower, and of those early bells again no trace remains. The church accounts for 1733 show that the church acquired a fourth bell, a small bell that still sits just inside the window in the south wall of the tower. This was a 'call bell', and bears the inscription 'Come away make no delay!' It would have been rung to let the parish know that a service is about to start, and is now rung before Sunday Mass.

The nineteenth century saw an increasing need for local communities to know the time of day. The earliest surviving in situ timepiece in Cricklade High Street is the sundial that was constructed on the south wall of the chancel, presumably replacing the 14th century scratch dial. Usefully, for those interested in the history of the building, the builders thought to date it - 1822.

Perhaps it is no surprise that it was the Victorians who brought timekeeping 'up to date' at St Mary's. The thorough restoration of the church in the 1860's was completed by the installation of a clock, with its face on the gable end of the nave, with the mechanism in a cabinet in the bell chamber in the tower. The clock face and mechanism are connected by a metal rod which runs the length of the nave just below the ridge of the roof - you can see it from the inside the church. The clock face is not easily visible from the High Street however, and it was perhaps for this reason that some thirty years later an 'Ellacombe's Chiming Apparatus' was installed in 1896. As originally designed the chiming mechanism used the largest of the three tower bells to strike the hours. This bell were removed earlier in this century, but the mechanism is still in place.

The clock installed one hundred and thirty years ago is in perfect working order, requiring only a weekly wind, and occasional maintenance. The Friends of St Mary's are hoping in the Autumn to restore the chiming mechanism to working order, using the small call bell to strike the hours, a fitting way to mark the passage of nearly one thousand years of time.


From Annie Nash - extracts from family records

Mr. H. C. (Bert) Nash is a "Friend of St Mary's Church" and has the good fortune to own a family history recorded by his Aunt Annie. The history chronicles the family's move from Tilshead, Imber and Chitteme to Wroughton, and finally Cricklade.

Annie writes:

"I remember reaching Cricklade in a snowy time, being November. I have to nurse my brother Percy in front of the fire while the moving was going on, my brother being rather delicate ..... I could not have been older than seven. " ( 1885).

"Dad took a shop at Cricklade belonging to the Three Horse Shoes. (Now 85 High St.). My father's time was taken up building his own business (blacksmith) which was a struggle for a time I should think, and being a cute musician he was not happy till he started teaching the men and working up the Cricklade Town Band which he continued to do till old age. He died when eighty eight. "

In 1891/92 Annie continues

"The work in the shop was increasing, father obtaining most of the work in the district, the Kennel, Down Ampney House and Estate, and the farms." Larger premises were necessary. As an interim measure "Dad used the blacksmith's shop below the premises belonging to the Pearce's next to St. Mary's Church", and later set up his business there. The forge was at the rear of the shop (later to become Hammonds, then Blackwells - and now new houses) and the Nash family lived in the two houses next to St. Mary's.

Annie Nash records the christening of her youngest sister Mary Margaret at St. Mary's and that of her brother Percy ( aged 7) having "been privately baptised - when an infant."

Daniel Nash, blacksmith and founder of the Cricklade Town Band, whom his grandson Bert recalls always occupied the pew directly below the pulpit, made the baptismal font cover in St. Mary's Church. It is of wood with wrought ironwork decoration and handle, an appropriate memorial to a blacksmith's family's connection with St. Mary's Church.

And Mrs Molly Viner writes:

I thought I would like to explain my connection with St Mary's Church, Cricklade, as I was unable to attend the open day. My maiden name was Cuss and my Grandfather farmed Abingdon Court where my Father was born.

The Cuss family had a pew in St Mary's for almost a century. My Father was christened there, I was married there by Rev. O.F. Bell, and my son Simon was christened there. Both my Father and Mother's funerals were held there, and as I am now 82 am sorry that mine cannot be there as well!

More letters please