Welcome to St Peter Ad Vincula
Close to Hackpen Hill and the White Horse lies the largest of the villages of the Upper Kennet Benefice. St Peter Ad Vincula church is rich in architectural history and as you enter you will be greeted by an angel.
Mr Rod Palfrey
St Peter ad Vincula means “St Peter in Chains” and this is one of the very few churches called by this name, the most famous is the Chapel Royal in the Tower of London. Broad Hinton is listed in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086 (as “Hinton” – “hill town”) and there is evidence, such as Saxon window-heads, that there was a church here in Saxon times, although the list of vicars of St Peter ad Vincula before 1299 has been lost. The stone coffin in the porch may be Saxon.
On approaching the church porch, look out for a small tombstone on the right, just past the east end of the church. It reads:
“As thou art now, so once was I
In health and strength, though here I lie.
As I am now so shalt thou be
Prepare for death and follow me”
This verse is not unique – other churchyards have variants. There is a well known retort:
“To follow you I’ll not consent
Until I know which way you went”
The small Squint Window behind the font (on your left as you enter the church) contains Victorian glass. Originally it would not have done so and may have been a leper’s window in early medieval times. Lepers would gather outside the church during the service and after the consecration the Eucharist would be placed on a slab within arms-length of the lepers. Centuries later, masons failed to take account of the presence of this window until after the majority of the porch had been constructed. At which point someone halted the proceedings and ordered a niche to be made to avoid obscuring the window completely.
Turning left as you enter the church, the fifteenth century tower has a peal of six bells, the oldest three being dated 1664. Prior to 1930, the bells were rung from a loft half way up the 61 feet tower. This position was adapted in 2007 when the choir vestry was moved to the ground floor of the tower to facilitate the introduction of a lavatory, and the bellringers were given a new platform above the vestry.
The tower was repaired in the 1870s, when the pinnacles were added, but in 1928 the south pier of the tower arch was found to be bulging inwards and giving way. The tower was shored up with timber while new foundations were laid and survived a gale while standing on only three legs.
Walking up the nave towards the altar, on your right is the Sir Thomas Wroughton monument from 1597. The monument reflects the legend that he came home from hunting to find his wife, Anne, reading the Bible instead of cooking his supper. He flung the Bible in the fire and she badly burned her hands retrieving it. His blasphemous behaviour caused his hands to wither away, as well as those of his children. Anne holds a partly burned Bible. Sir Thomas was Sheriff of Wiltshire, yet is listed among poachers of the King’s deer in the records of the Wardens of Savernake Forest!
The sixteenth century was a bad time for this church. In 1553 parishioners refused to receive communion for fear of falling masonry. The broken stones allowed so many birds into the then chancel that the minister couldn’t stand by the communion table and there was no seat whilst reading the psalms. John Batewell, a vicar appointed in 1576, was officially censured for his inability to preach, neglect of catechizing and failure to wear the prescribed dress.
However, a water colour of the church, painted in 1795 has text underneath which says that the church was “new built in the year 1634; brought to perfection in the year 1635; finished and beautified in the year 1636; a new pulpit erected in the year 1672; the first loft in the tower was boarded in 1676; the belfry and church porch paved in 1677”. The wonderful tie and hammer beam roof of the nave belongs to the 1634 rebuilding.
In the top left corner of the nave is a flight of stone steps which shows there was once a medieval rood screen to screen the chancel off from the laity, probably with a figure of Christ on the cross above. Next to the stone steps are George III’s Royal Arms, painted in 1763 and cleaned in 2008 – note the fleur de lys in the shield.
The chancel contains some interesting monuments to the Glanville family. Sir John was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1640. He burned his own Manor House rather than let it be used by Cromwell’s troops. A famous lawyer, he spent three years in the Tower of London after the Civil War for holding illegal Assizes and later served Charles II, as he had Charles I, as Sergeant-at-Law.
Lt. Colonel Francis Glanville, killed fighting for Charles I in 1645 at the battle of Bridgewater in the Civil War, has his helmet, gauntlets and a replica of his sword (the original is in the Royal Armoury) displayed above him. The Latin inscription ends “A greater hero England never saw, happily she did oft produce his equal”. The small reclining figure of a woman in her shroud at the bottom of this monument (usually hidden behind a bench seat) appears in Pevsner’s guide to Wiltshire:“her agonised features are not easily forgotten”.
A panel from the Duke of Wellington’s funeral carriage (1851) hangs in the chancel in a glass case because the victor of Waterloo owned land locally.
The Sir William Wroughton monument on the right in the chancel describes Elizabeth I as Queen of England and France although Mary, her predecessor, had lost Calais, the last remaining English possession in France in 1558 and Elizabeth renounced her claim to Calais in 1559.
On the left hand side of the Altar you will find the tomb of a 13th century Abbess. The slab bears evidence of an attempt to destroy it, probably during the reformation. The tomb was moved from elsewhere in the church during Victorian changes to the chancel area. As the lands at the north of the Benefice were under the control and ownership of Glastonbury Abbey, at which there was a Nunnery, it is entirely possible this Abbess was a significant figure. The tomb slab is remarkable and a very rare example of a slab tomb that is both etched and carved with a face.
Broad Hinton is rich in pilgrim markings, carvings and graffiti. As you approach the Porch Door you will notice carved Palm leaves – the first sign that St Peter ad Vincula was a Pilgrim Church. Although it is unlikely that the church was used to accommodate overnight pilgrims, there is evidence to suggest that it was a passing through place for pilgrims to the Holy Land and a pilgrimage site in its own right, as the church may have been a repository for a Relic of a Saint in the 12th Century. These carvings are likely to date from the 13th and 14th century.
The crosses found on the walls and lintels of windows, and at the rear of the church building are further evidence that the church was a destination for Pilgrims. Many have been defaced during times of puritan revival or lost beneath restoration work or plastering. Crosses were made by sharp daggers and took one of three forms – the Jerusalem cross: a series of holes carefully spaced showing the outline of the cross, a plain etched pilgrims cross, or a T shaped cross of the Franciscans.
An excellent example of a Cosmic Map of Christian Theology, etched into the wall at the rear of the church, reveals much about early understanding of the Incarnation, with rings representing the spiritual, physical, metaphysical and Heavenly worlds and humanity’s place within it. Although not as fine an example as that found at Winterbourne Bassett, it is of significance as it confirms rich patrons unable or unwilling to make the journey themselves paying penance. Upon their return Pilgrims showed a Palm leaf as evidence that they had completed their mission.
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more details about the school can be found on their website.
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it’s an excellent alternative to expensive hotels and conference centres.
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