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St Giles' Church, Great Wishford, Wiltshire

 
St Giles' Church in 1804
 
The earliest known record of our church refers to a chapel existing in Wishford in 1208.  By 1386 there was a church large enough to accommodate four altars in addition to the high altar in the chancel.   Before 1698 the roof of the chancel had been raised, most probably to accommodate the monument to Sir Richard Grobham, who died in 1629.
 
St Giles' Church in 1974 showing the changes made in 1863/64
 
In 1863/4 the church was largely rebuilt by TH Wyatt who was the architect for Wilton parish church and who was a relative of James Wyatt who restored Salisbury Cathedral.  The nave and aisles were completely reconstructed, the only parts left of the original church are most of the chancel, including the Early English triple lancet east window, and the lower stages of the tower.  Despite this, there is still much of interest for the visitor to see, including a depiction of St. Giles with the hind in the west window under the tower.  The principal items of interest are listed below.

Font, the bowl of which is of the Early Norman period (1066-1140)

The Sidney Herbert Window in the north aisle, in memory of Lord Herbert of Lea, a friend of Florence Nightingale.

Parish Fire Engine, of wooden construction, a horse-drawn four wheel type for manual operation, patented by Richard Newsham in 1725 and bought by the Church wardens in 1728 (six years before New York purchased a similar machine) for the sum of 33 pounds & 3 shillings. 

Armada Chest said to have been taken from a wreck, but more likely to be of English workmanship of about 1600.

Royal Arms of Queen Anne (north aisle), prior to 1707. These are unusual in being carved and painted on both sides. 

Bonham Monuments commemorating Nicholas de Bonham who died in 1386, and his wife Edith.  (These are below the Arms of Queen Anne) and close by, under a mat, are the remains of Memorial Brasses to Thomas and Edith Bonham, who died in 1473, and 1469 respectively, and their nine children which are said to have included septuplets.

The Grobham Monument in the chancel in memory of Sir Richard Grobham who died in 1629 and his wife Margaret, who subsequently remarried. Opposite hang the sword and helmet carried at this funeral, and a copy of the original banner.  In the window opposite the monument are the Bonham and Grobham Arms in the glass – on  the left an 18th century depiction of the lion of Grobham and on the right, a medieval medallion with the three crosses of Bonham.

The Organ was originally in a house as a Victorian chamber organ.  It was bought for the church in 1855 and enlarged in 1864.

Behind the organ is the

Emblem of the Oak Apple Club which was formed in 1892 to defend the villagers’ right in Grovely Wood which had existed since before 1189.

The Bier was made in about 1922 by Mr William Mundy, grandfather of the present village builder, and was last used in 2004.

In the tower is a Peal of six bells, the oldest of which was cast in 1718 and four others in 1751.

 

OUTSIDE

On the east end of the church is an east-facing sundial which could be seen from the Old Rectory opposite.  It may date from 1712.

On the north-east corner of the churchyard wall are the ‘Breadstones’.  See below for a description and the history and details of these unusual records.

THE BREADSTONES

What price the staff of life?

Where would you expect to find the cost of bread recorded?  The “Grocer Price List”, of course, carries this valuable information, when updating speciality lines.  But the most unusual place must surely be that revealed in our picture.  It shows a series of stone tablets, set in the wall of a churchyard in deepest Wiltshire.  Believe it or not, it chronicles the cost of the staff of life from the Napoleonic wars to 2000!

Do you remember old money prices? Here’s what the inscriptions say, to save you reaching for a magnifying glass:  1800 bread was 3s 4d per gallon; 1801 bread was 3s 10d per gallon; 1904 bread was 10d per gallon; 1920 bread was 2s 8d per gallon after the Great War; 1946-48 bread was rationed – subsidised price 2s 1d per gallon; 1963 bread was 5s 4d per gallon; 1971 bread was 8s per gallon – decimal currency; 1984 bread was £1.80 per gallon.

The usage of gallon in this context is the dry volume of the ingredients:  there were four quartern loaves to a gallon, which would have weighed about two pounds each (varying slightly with the moisture content).

The history behind the stones is an interesting one, going back to the turn of the 19th century, when the country was blockaded by the French.  With no imported wheat readily available, prices rocketed.

 
The Breadstones at Great Wishford near salisbury
 
The parish of Wishford was particularly hard hit:  the villagers were being asked 8d more for their bread than Newbury folk, 4 1/2d more than the people of Basingstoke and 4d more than the population of Winchester.  In a bid to reassure villagers that the asking price was genuine, the local baker posted his price, in stone, in the churchyard.

The practice was fairly widespread, by all accounts, but this is the only example where the tablets have been grouped together – and persisted for such a long period.  The present stones are 20th century replacements for worn and barely legible originals.

Retired local builder and stone carver Alec Moulding carved three of them during his career.  “The original tablets were carved in local Hurdcott stone, which is very friable, like green sandstone”, he told a colleague. 

“The second stone, which now reads 1801, I think started as 1811,when the blockade was at its height.  The first 1 of 11 had been scratched out, not carved, as though someone had scooped it out,” he observed.

The following year, 1812, Napolean’s empire collapsed, the blockade crumbled and corn started arriving at our ports again.

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