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FONTHILL BISHOP & BERWICK ST LEONARD

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Fonthill Bishop is a small village just south of the A303. All Saints' Church is an Early English 13th century church with a crossing tower which was restored by Thomas Henry Wyatt in 1879. The tower has bell-openings. Fonthill Bishop shares a village school, the Chilmark and Fonthill Bishop Church of England Aided Primary School, which is in neighbouring Chilmark.

ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH

Churchwarden

Hon Mary Morrison 01747 820231


Please see the Team
Rota page for details of services.

The Arch
FONTHILL ESTATE
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History

In 874 the manor of Fonthill Bishop, 15 miles west of Salisbury, was granted to the Bishops of Winchester. The church, which is cruciform in shape, was built around 1240, although there was a previous Norman church on the site. The tower dates from 1240 and is an excellent example of 13th century work. The south door, the west window and the small window in the tower date from the late 14th century In the south transept there is an early 14th century tomb recess and a leger stone with the date 1632. Originally there were two mediaeval wall paintings below the west window, but these were obliterated in 1879 when the church was restored by the then Rector, the Reverend R W Sheldon. He also rebuilt the chancel in 1861, which had survived on the sane site.Formerly the church was filled with Jacobean pews, but now only two, early 17th century, have survived the 19th century restorations.

Above the pulpit is an interesting piece of 13th century carving. In the vestry is a carved stone head of a 13th century priest, which was unti1 1861 on the founder's tomb in the chancel. Unfortunately, the tomb was destroyed in that year; but the head suggests that the founder of the church was a priest. Sir Christopher Wren's father, Dr Wren, was Rector of Fohthill Bishop from 1620‑1628, when he was also appointed Rector of East Knoyle. Dr Wren married Mary, the daughter of Robert Cox, Churchwarden at Fonthill Bishop, whose yeoman family had lived in the parish since the 13th century. By the south corner of the west wall in the church-yard is a tombstone inscribed, "Here lies the body of Julius Plutsy, Gent., a native of Dalmatia, who was brought into England by the Lord Fitz-James in the reign of James II and died 6th Dec., 1745". This Lord Fitz-James was an illegitimate son of James II and Mary Churchill. After James had been deposed Lord Fitz-James joined the French Army and was know as The Marshal, Duke of Berwick.

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Visitors to the village should see the famous arch near the church across the road near the river, which it is said Inigo Jones built for Lord Cottington in the reign of Charles I. Lord Cottington purchased the estate from the Castlehaven family around 1640. The Castlehavens were notorious for sexual scandal in the 1620/30s which resulted in a trial in London of the 3rd Lord Castlehaven, a guilty verdict being returned and his subsequent beheading was on Tower Hill. There is, incidentally, a very good Van Dyck portrait of his much-wronged wife at Wilton. The Cottingtons held the estate until 1750 when it was sold to William Beckford Sr. The house, then called Fonthill Redivivus by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in his History of Modern Wiltshire, was probably on the north side of the road, between the hill beside the Arch and the lane to Stop St. It burnt down in 1755, when Beckford immediately built Fonthill Splendens on the flat ground behind the cricket ground on the other side of the lane towards the stables. This is all in other Parishes, however. The Arch is in the parish of Berwick St Leonard, and the parish boundary with Fonthill Gifford is about 50 yards inside the Arch. The Parish boundary between Fonthill Bishop and Berwick St Leonard runs betwen the lake and the Arch, and then over the B3089 by the bridge.
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BERWICK ST LEONARD

From the fourteenth century an annual Sheep Fair was held on St Leonard's day, November 6th on the downs to the north of Berwick. It was held close to the old trackways and ox droves that led to London. Bonfires were lit along the drove ways to guide the shepherds from the West Country, and also the horse traders who had travelled from Ireland, to the fair. Inn keepers from the many hostelries in Hindon did a good trade with their barrels of beer up on Berwick Down. St Leonard's sheep fair was the highlight of the villager's year right up until 1867 when more modern methods for moving livestock became common.

Berwick is a Saxon named meaning the outskirts of an estate or village where the pigs are kept. Its location by a stream is also typically Saxon. The earliest references to Berwick are in the early twelfth century, when the manor of Berwick was granted to Robert of Berwick and his wife Gode by the Abbess of Shaftesbury. There is no mention of Berwick in the Domesday Book.

The church, lying hidden by a grove of trees from the Fonthill Bishop to Hindon road, is the oldest building in the village. The nave and the chancel were built in the twelfth century. It was made of flint and limestone rubble and dressed with ashlar. The porch and the tower were added in the fourteenth century. In 1861 the chancel was rebuilt by Alfred Morrison, the owner of the Fonthill Estste, at his own expense and new roofs, windows and interior fittings were added. There are however signs of the original building, a blocked Norman doorway on the north side of the church and on the inside above the blocked doorway a 12th century Agnus Dei in a beaded circle. The simple, unadorned font is also Norman. The church was closed in 1966 and declared redundant in 1973. It was placed in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust in 1976. At present a service is held in the church once a year.

In the early 18th century the rectory was replaced by a manor house built south west of the church. By the 1820s this building had deteriorated and was being used as a barn and towards the end of the century was in use as a hen house. About 1900 the newly married Lady Mary Morrison took a liking to the remains of the old manor and had it removed stone by stone to Ridge, 3 miles away, where it became the nucleus of a new Fonthill house. This in turn was demolished in 1972. The other buildings in Berwick St Leonard consisted of an 18th century farm house west of the church , that still survives along with a few 19th and early 20th century cottages. The current population is about 43 and has fluctuated over the centuries from 33 to 79 in 1921.

The most illustrious visitor to Berwick was William of Orange in 1688. On his journey from Torbay he stopped at The Lamb in Hindon for an important meeting with Lord Clarendon and from there went to lodge for the night at the Manor House in Berwick St Leonard, before resuming his journey to London to claim the throne. From this time onwards the manor house was always called The King's House. The route he took towards London can also be picked out on the ordinance survey map as a trackway and marked as 'The Monarch's Way'.

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