CASTLE COMBE, WILTSHIRE

Grid Ref: ST 842 772
10 June 2005

Butter Cross spacer Market Cross
Butter Cross & Market Cross       The Market Cross
Court House   Water Street
The Court House   View up Water Street to the Market Cross
Water Lane   Manor House
Pack Horse Bridge & Weavers' Cottages, Water Lane   The Manor House, now an hotel
St. Andrew's   Tomb
The tower of St. Andrews   The tomb of Sir Walter de Dunstanville who died in 1270
Nave   Nave
The Nave with window above the chancel arch   View from the west end of the nave to the south door

 

William the Conqueror gave Castle Combe together with other manors to Humphrey de L'Isle. His heiress married Reginald de Dunstanville. During the period from 1135-1154, when the English Crown was disputed by Stephen and the Empress Maud, Reginald de Dunstanville became first Baron of Combe then Earl of Cornwall. He built the castle which gave the village its name. Following three generations of Dunstanvilles other families held the manor, including Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere who ended up on the wrong side in the struggle between Edward II and Thomas of Lancaster. Lord Baldesmere was hung drawn and quartered after the Battle of Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire on 16 March 1322. Sir John Fastolf, on whom Shakespeare based Sir John Falstaff, lived from about 1378-1459. He was at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and the Battle of Herrings in 1429. He was eventually defeated by the army of Joan of Arc at Patay and later imprisoned in the Tower of London for contributing to failures in France.

The village now is largely a product of the wealth that accrued from wool in the Cotswolds in the 15th century, with few later additions. At the centre of the village is the Butter Cross marking the site of the 15th century market hall which was raised on pillars with a space beneath for stalls. It was demolished in 1840. The right to hold a weekly market was granted by Henry VI in 1440. Behind the Butter Cross stands the Market Cross, known to have existed in 1590 and behind again is the Castle Inn. Thi inn was originally called The Salutation and monks passing from Malmesbury to Glastonbury stayed there. Across the street is the half-timbered court house and (not shown) the White Hart.

The manor house dates from the 14th century but was greatly altered in the 1664 and again in the middle of the 19th century. It is now an hotel set in 26 acres.

The parish church of St. Andrew is not easy to photograph in its entirety because of the size of the churchyard and the presence of substantial trees. Although it appears to be a mediaeval church it was extensively rebuilt in the 19th century. The church was founded in the 13th century with initially just the chancel. The nave was added in the 14th century and the tower, begun in 1435 was not completed until the next century. However, in the 1850s serious structural weakness was evident and the entire church with the exception of the tower was rebuilt at a cost of £3,000. The new church is a copy of the old. The font is mid 15th century and over the door the royal arms, just visible in my photograph, are those of Charles II.

The oldest monument in the church is the fine effigy of Sir Walter de Dunstanville with his feet on a lion, his hand on a drawn sord indicating death in battle and legs crossed at the knees symbolising that the went on two crusades. Sir Walter was the lord of the manor and died in 1270. Around the base are figures in various poses including on the extreme left a woman spinning. In 1270, near the end of the reign of Henry III, Prince Edward took 200 knights on crusade.

Above the tomb is a stained glass window with the arms of the Scrope family, which held the manor for over 400 years. The east window, shown in my photograph has four lancet windows with a quatrefoil opening above. This is in the Early English style of the 13th century. At the base of the tower, in a glass fronted but dark cupboard is an ancient clock that is believed to date from 1380.

When I started to take pictures of Castle Combe I soon realised that there were no power lines, telephone cables or television aeriels in sight. They were removed in 1966 for the filming of Dr. Dolittle and underground cables were laid. The village has been used as a film set many times, including for "Dick Turpin" and an episode of Agatha Christie's "Poirot"

Sources:

Castle Combe, An Illustrated Walk through History, by Paul Snowdon, published by Reardon of Cheltenham, 2nd Edition, 2004, ISBN 1 873877 30 7. This booklet has drawings by the author and a few colour photographs by Philip Pierce of Provincial Pictures, Bath.

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