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English Church Architecture -



CHIPPENHAM, St. Margaret (TL 663 698)     (October 2004)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

A church has stood on this site since at least the twelfth century, its former existence witnessed today by the Norman shafts to be seen at the southeast and northeast angles of the chancel (the northeast angle is illustrated in the thumbnail below right) and by two blocked windows in the chancel N. wall, one visible outside, east of the vestry, and the other, much larger one, internally, in line with it.  Most of the rest of St. Margaret's may be ascribed to one or other of two phases of construction, the earlier in the thirteenth century, when the church was almost entirely rebuilt, and the later in the mid fifteenth, when extensive work was undertaken following a serious fire in 1446.  Early English features are now confined to the interior of the building and consist principally of the S. arcade above the springing and the whole of the N. arcade (shown below).  Built of clunch and now greatly eroded, it was probably the softness of the stone that led the thirteenth century masons to construct these in seven narrow bays instead of five or six of normal width.  They are formed of double-flat-chamfered arches, carried to the north on piers and responds that are alternately circular and octagonal.  The quatrefoil piers to the south with their curiously shapeless capitals are replacements of 1893 and presumably a response to the worrying condition of the originals.  However, one other surviving Early English feature of the church is the S. doorway (inside the porch), where the mouldings above include a roll with a fillet.


The post-fire period at St. Margaret's is represented above all by the tower, notwithstanding the reticulated tracery of the bell-openings.  It is diagonally buttressed and embattled, has a W. window consisting of three stepped lights without tracery, a W. doorway set in a square surround with traceried spandrels, and a tall arch to the nave, of two orders bearing wave mouldings, supported on semi-octagonal responds.  The windows to the rest of the church are roughly contemporary and mostly squat, untraceried and square-headed.  Many have been restored or renewed.  The nave clerestory consists of cinquefoil-cusped Y-traceried windows with quatrefoils in the eyelets.  The N. aisle is formed of two parts, the eastern section being wider and lit by a single window of three entirely plain rectangular lights externally, even though these have the same cusped arches inside.  The S. porch is also of this time and has two-light, square-headed side windows and an outer arch carried on large, worn, head label stops.  Other features to mention briefly are the N. vestry, chancel E. window, chancel arch, and two-bay arcade between the chancel and S. chapel, all of which date from 1885 and were constructed to the designs of Rattee & Kett of Cambridge.


The church contains few furnishings of significance but three things might be noticed.  In age order these are first, the wall painting in the N. aisle depicting St. Christopher carrying the Infant Christ across a river, second, the rood screen of five double-cusped divisions, and third, the wall monument on the N. side of the chancel, commemorating Sir Thomas Revett (d. 1582) and his two wives, Alice née Cotton and Griseld née Paget.  They kneel in effigy, facing each other over a prayer desk, beneath which are depicted in relief Sir Thomas's four daughters, three by Alice and one by Griseld.  Above is a big broken pediment, supported at the sides by columns with Corinthian capitals.  Sir Thomas was a former owner of Chippenham estate who was knighted by Elizabeth I when she visited in 1578.  A charity he established for the village poor is still extant.