Welcome to St Michael and All Angels
West Overton church sits on top of a small hill overlooking the peaceful village. A church has existed on this site for hundreds of years and the present building is a Victorian reconstruction. Inside you will find some magnificent stained glass window and a magnificent raredos.
The villages of East Overton and West Overton were in existence in Anglo-Saxon times, the former, together with Fyfield and Alton Priors, was in the hands of the Bishop of Winchester. West Overton was held by the Abbess of Wilton. The estate which became Lockeridge was independent, and land in Kennett, together with land in Overton was held by Wulfswyth in 939 and by Alfeld in 972. West Overton contained a mill and was valued in 1086 at 100 shillings.
The church fell into a state of disrepair for many many years. From Mr W. Welburn, whose father was Vicar here when the present Church was rebuilt we learn the following about the old church.
“There was no road to the old church, it stood in the field with double white gates between the yews. The church had galleries around three sides and the body of the church was filled with deal pews. There was a three decker pulpit ornamented with tattered red cloth, great patches of damp on the walls and vaults under the whole of the Nave. The galleries were much favoured by the youths of the parish who used to take nuts up with them and spit the shells on those underneath. I fear that my father who was in those days an athletic and rather quick tempered man, sadly interfered with these delights”.
From other sources we learn that the Nave was 15th century, the chancel of early 14th century architecture, a western tower bearing the date 1697 opened into the nave by a poor archway. There was a fine early 13th century chancel arch. The whole structure was very unsound, the walls being of sarsen boulders strapped with iron and propped with buttresses of brickwork. The roof of the chancel was very crumbling, whilst that of the nave owed its watertight condition to the thin covering of copper for which the church was locally famous. An indication of the lamentable condition is shown by mention of the sexton very “busily endeavouring to hide the frogs under the floorboards”.
The Rev Welburn set about the daunting task of raising the money for the rebuilding. This was considerably helped when Lord Bruce M.P., a trustee for Sir Henry Meux paid a visit and reported back to Sir Henry the condition.
The new church was begun in 1877 with a handsome sum contributed by the Meux Trustees of £3,000. “The whole of the bricks used in the construction of the new church are being hauled from Totterdown by means of a Steam engine by a Mr. Washbourn of Wroughton, 3000 bricks being taken at every journey!”
The size of the workforce can be estimated by the speed at which the edifice was built, the opening taking place in September 1878, although the tower was not by then finished. The architect was Charles E. Ponting, the Agent and Architect of the Meux Estate who lived in the house next to the Estate Yard in Lockeridge. He was also the Architect for Avebury Church Lych Gate. He employed mostly men from the Estate and the sarsen, flint and bricks were all locally made.
September 1878 saw the re-opening “Wednesday was a day of unmitigated wet and gloom, but the highly esteemed Vicar had taken such precautions in the way of publicity that a failure was impossible. Morning Service was a bright and beautiful one, nearly every seat (293) was occupied, all classes in the Parish joined in the celebration. The labourers and their boys, the farmers and their families, the neighbouring clergy and gentry….. Luncheon was provided in a tent near the church. The repast was most creditable, served by Mrs Bailey of Overton, everybody expressed surprise that such a capital lunch could be provided in a small village like Overton…subsequently Mr Walton Mus.B. of Savernake gave an organ recital. At 4 O’clock the whole parish met and partook of tea in three batches. About 400 were present, the farmers not only giving their labourers a holiday but tickets for the tea… again the church was crowded at a harvest thanksgiving service at 6 O’clock”.
In the restoration the nave was rebuilt on the old foundations. The perpendicular windows in the nave and chancel, with the tracery that had been cut away restored, retain their former places in the south; the entrance door is still approached through a porch on the site of the old one; while the chancel arch and window occupy the same relative positions towards each other, but not being considered of sufficient for the enlarged chancel, they have been transferred to the chancel aisle or organ chamber.
The small window that was formerly in the same part of the south aisle wall which is now occupied by the vestry was removed to the west end of the side aisle of the nave. During the work of demolition there was found in the centre of the walls fragments of worked stone coeval with the early features preserved, including two early English Consecration Crosses, which are now inserted under the East window in the external wall of the chancel, and a portion of the stoup or piscine, now placed over the inside entrance doorway.
The foundations of the staircase to the rood loft of the early English church, which must have occupied the same site, were clearly traceable two feet above the floor level of the later structure, showing that only the upper part of the former had been rebuilt.
The interesting rood-loft doorway, which had been replaced at the time of this partial re-building (although not for use) is now preserved and retained in the position in which it was found.
The new tower was finished in 1883. Mr Ponting’s original design provided for battlements and pinnacles in more profusion than in the final form. These were objected to on the grounds that they might not stand the frost in such and exposed position.
The nave, vestry, and rood doors, the memorial lectern, and the panels of the pulpit were made from the oak beams from the roof of the old nave.
The Church works closely with the school which prides itself on the care and guidance it provides for its pupils with Christian values at the core of everything it does.
Rev Maria is a foundation governor providing a link between the school and the church.
if you would like to find out more about the school and its activities, please visit their website.
Little Angels is a church run toddler group which meets once a fortnight at Kennet Valley School. Bumps, babes and pre-schoolers are all welcome to come and join in with singing, craft and story time. There is no fee, just plenty of free tea and cake for grown ups and snack for little ones. This is a great opportunity to meet with other local parents/ carers and for children to come along and play, sing and learn.