BRADFORD ON AVON, WILTSHIRE

1. The churches and the bridge
2. A Walk along Church Street
3. Barton Farm Country Park

19 April 2003, 4 & 8 June 2005

 

Saxon Church spacer Nave
The Saxon Church on a fine morning in April   The nave looking towards the chancel arch
Altar   Font
The altar   The font in the north porch
Christchurch   Holy Trinity
The spire of Christ Church   Holy Trinity
View over town   Stone cottages
Evening view over Holy Trinity, June 2005   Tory, a late Georgian Terrace, morning light, April 2003
Chapel on Bridge   Bridge
The Bridge and Old Chapel   Central Spans with Town Hall beyond
Abbey Mill   Westbury House
View from the bridge of Abbey Mill   Westbury House

 

Bradford on Avon has so much to offer that even my three pages of pictures do not cover all it has to offer. What a delight it is to find a substantial Saxon building - the most complete Saxon church in the country.  William of Malmesbury noted the church in the 1120s but he thought it was founded in the time of St. Aldhelm who died in 709. However, there is a charter from the time of King Aethelred which granted Bradford on Avon to the nuns of Shaftesbury in 1001, and it is thought that the design of the building is consistent with the early years of the 11th century. The building was lost from view until it was recognised as a Saxon building by Canon Jones, a vicar of Holy Trinity, in 1857. At that time adjacent buildings were pulled down to reveal the church..

The west wall, not shown, was rebuilt in the 18th century. There was probably a porch on the south wall, matching that on the north side, as indicated by the marks in the wall above the buttresses. The buttresses are modern and had to be built to support the south wall when the former schoolmaster's house against it was demolished. In the course of restoration carved stones found in the chancel were made into the current altar. A stone bowl that was found in the vicinity is now used as a font.

H. V. Morton visited Bradford on Avon and noted:

Here is a church just as it was a thousand years ago; a tiny yellow stone building with three-foot thick walls and a nave only twenty-six feet long. It was preserved by accident. The legend of it never quite died away, but the church itself became in the course of centuries smothered in buildings till an antiquarian vicar in 1857 looking down from a hill noticed a stone roof in the form of a cross. He had the building pulled down, and discovered in the heart of them this lovely unique building.

Holy Trinity, dating from about 1150 has a fine 15th century tower with eight bells which are the second heaviest set in the county. The church has a panel surviving from a 15th century rood loft and the doors to the stairway that gave access to the loft are still present. There is a 13th century sculpture of a lady wearing a wimple. The north aisle was rebuilt as part of a major restoration in 1864. There is a long squint giving a view of the high altar from the north aisle. A stained-glass window was installed in memory of Canon Jones, who rediscovered the Saxon church. The chancel was extended in the 13th century.

Christ Church is Victorian; it was built in 1841 by Manners and the chancel was extended by J. O. Scott in 1878. There are flying buttresses supporting the spire.

On the top of the hill to the north of the town is the row of late Georgian terraced houses called Tory. The name derives from the word Tor for hill. At the west end is a chapel, St. Mary Tory, formerly a hermitage. The east window dates from the 14th century. The rest of the chapel was rebuilt in the 19th century. It is now in the care of the Saxon Church Trust.

The old bridge of nine arches over the Avon was first built in the 13th century and two arches remain from this period. The bridge has much work from the 17th century and was widened in 1769. On the bridge is a medieval chapel. However, Pevsner notes its domed roof and bell finial are a 17th century feature. H. V. Morton states::

This little chapel, which stands leaning out over the water on a specially built pier of the bridge, dates from the Middle Ages. There are only four other chapels of the kind in the whole of England - at Wakefield, Rotherham, Derby, and St. Ives in Huntingdon. The recent history of Bradford's chapel is this; tool-house, ammunition store for the Territorials and lock-up. The weathervane on top of the chapel is in the form of a fish, which gave rise to the local saying that a man going to prison was going over the river under the fish.

Abbey Mill was built in 1857 by Richard Gane as a cloth factory. It was modified between 1968 and 1972 to form offices. Just south of the bridge is the early Georgian building, Westbury House.

Sources:

Welcome to Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon, a pamphlet by Canon Bill Matthews, available at the Tourist Information Office
The Church of St. Lawrence, Bradford on Avon, A Short Guide, by Jonathan Pitt, a pamphlet available at the church for 20 pence.
The Buildings of England, by Nikolaus Pevsner, revised by Bridge Cherry, first published 1963, 2nd edition extensively revised 1975, Penguin, ISBN 0 14 0710.26 4
Plaques erected by Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust.

 

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