St Michael and All Angels parish church, Atworth

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire




What is now the parish church of Atworth is strangely situated on the western edge of the village, so the church’s main, west, door faced away from it. It was originally a chapel of the mother church of the large ancient parish of Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon. A chapel existed here from late in the 11th century when it was held by the Edwin, the priest of Holy Trinity. A new building was erected in 1451. A watercolour painting of it by John Buckler in c1808 (in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes) shows it had the western tower over the entrance door and a narrow nave and chancel without aisles and a stair turret at the east end of the nave, probably once to access a rood loft.

The present church was built in 1832, after the old one, parallel and a few metres to the north, had become considered to be too small and was in poor condition. The 15th century tower was retained and connected by a short passage when the rest had been demolished. The new church was designed with gothic revival style features, with multi-cusped traceried pointed windows, pinnacles, buttresses and some exotic Lombard friezes, but these are really decorations to a plain Georgian hall-chapel, rather than a gothic church.  A major change was turning the building around, so that the entrance is now from the east and so facing towards the village and liturgical east is now west. The architect was Henry Edmund Goodridge (1797-1864), the Bath architect of Beckford Tower, The Corridor, Downside Abbey, Cleveland Bridge and many Italianate villas in Bath. He was probably engaged because of the Hale family of Cottles Park, where he was responsible for designing an extension to the house.


The interior is a rectangular box with a gallery that is supported on cast iron stanchions, rather like a nonconformist chapel. A few monuments were transferred from the old building. The wooden pews were made by local carpenter F. Titt in 1881 (this was probably actually Lewin Titt II (1836-1900), cousin of John Wallis Titt, the well-known engineer and wind-pump maker in Warminster) as part of a refit.

When first separated from Bradford it was part of the combined ecclesiastical parish of Atworth and South Wraxall, but the church is now served by the United Benefice of Atworth and Shaw & Whitley (in Melksham Without).