Chippenham: Established Church by Dr Rosalind Johnson

A church may have been built in Chippenham by 853 when, according to Asser, Æthelwulf, king of the West Saxons and father of the future king Alfred, married his daughter to Burgred, king of Mercia, at his royal estate of Chippenham. By 1086 the manor of Chippenham, previously held by Edward the Confessor, was held by the king. The church of the manor was held by Osbern, bishop of Exeter from 1072, who had held it since the time of Edward the Confessor. The church had two hides of land, one of which was thane-land, the other belonging to the church. The whole was worth 55s. The Anglo-Saxon church at Chippenham may have been a minster church, serving a number of parochiae, later the medieval parishes.

The existence of a vicarage is recorded in the glebe terrier of 1608, when the vicar of Chippenham held a dwelling house with an orchard and garden, and a second house at Tytherton Lucas with a garden, barn, brewhouse or stable and a bakehouse. The glebe terrier made in 1704 recorded a vicarage house and walled garden in Chippenham, and a house and garden at Tytherton. In 1826 the vicarage house at Chippenham, then to the south of the churchyard, was exchanged for a house on the opposite side of St Mary Street, the property of Ebenezer Fuller Maitland, so that part of the garden of the vicarage house could be used as an extension to the churchyard. The vicarage house was valued at £675 and Mr Maitland’s property at £1,020. He was to be paid £300 for that part of the garden that was to be taken for the burial ground. Maitland’s former property in St Mary Street is now the Old Vicarage. Land in St Mary Street for a new vicarage was conveyed in 1964, and the present vicarage is a modern property at 54A St Mary Street.

St Paul

Workers on the railway line, which came to Chippenham in 1841, were accommodated to the north of line, around New Road. This site was distant from the parish church of St Andrew, and a new church was proposed to serve this part of the town. Revd Robert Ashe, rector and lord of the manor at Langley Burrell, gave land for the new church, and offered an annual donation of £50 towards the endowment. A further donation of £1,000 was given by Mr Strong, whose son Revd Thomas A. Strong, became the perpetual curate in 1854. The patronage of the living passed from Ashe to the Bishop of Bristol in 1855, and the perpetual curacy became a rectory in 1866. The new parish was created from parts of the existing parishes of Chippenham St Andrew, Hardenhuish, Kington St Michael and Langley Burrell.

This church was built in 1854-5 from a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott, in Gothic style. The nave has clerestory windows. Over the nave pillars are carved heads featuring the twelve apostles, with the figures of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph over the chancel arch. Owing to a lack of money the tower was originally built to a height of only 12 ft. It was completed in 1860, when a spire of 176 ft. was added. The tower is to the south of the south aisle and acts as a porch.

St Peter

The church of St Peter in Lowden opened in 1886 to serve the then-isolated area of Lowden, Sheldon Road and Parliament Street. The church was designed by Graham Awdry and built at a cost of £1,095. The first incumbent was Canon John Rich, the vicar of St Andrew’s, the church being a dependent of St Andrew’s. Full-time curates lived in the Church House in Sheldon Road from 1904-5 onwards, from which time regular services were held in the church. The population of the area expanded after the First World War with heavy residential development. A new church was opened in 1968 at the junction of Lords Mead and Frogwell. This building, designed by architects Kenneth Nealan, Tanner and Partners, is six-sided and built of brick and reconstituted stone, with a copper roof and fibre-glass spire. It has no internal supports, to allow the congregation a clear view of the altar. St Peter’s became a separate parish in 1969, with the Bishop of Bristol as patron. The Lowden church was sold and is now used by a congregation of the New Testament Church of God.