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St Peter’s Church, Monkton Farleigh

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Monkton Farleigh St Peter church

Although the parish church of St Peter at Monkton Farleigh was largely rebuilt in the 19th century, it retains some features of the 12th century -the tower and the north door. This early building was possibly connected to the foundation of the Cluniac Priory in the same village in about 1120-30. 

Today it has an aisleless nave and chancel in 13th century style, built of local limestone, under a considerable quantity of stone tiles on the roof. Despite being so close to the source of some of the best building stone in the country, the whole church, apart from some dressings, is made of rubble stone. It is listed, Grade II* for the old parts.

Monkton Farleigh church tower

The west tower is 12th century Norman romanesque with twin round-headed windows with roll mouldings on each face of the bell chamber. Short buttresses at the base, the parapet and saddleback roof were added later. The tall arch into the nave is from a Victorian “restoration”.

The other medieval survival is the porch on the north side of the nave, which protects a typical Norman round-arched doorway with chevron decoration into which a Tudor doorway had been inserted and retains its wooden door of that time.

The Diocese of Salisbury issued a faculty in 1843 allowing the taking down of the north and south walls and rebuilding them with five windows instead of three to provide more light, the roof and the chancel too being replaced, all at a cost of £626 17s. It was rebuilt on the old plan and probably with much of the old material, possibly including some windows. The designer is said to have been Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880), who was the diocesan architect, although John Hicks, architect of the Rectory next door, might have had a hand in it.

A watercolour painting of the north side of the church by John Buckler in 1808 in the Wiltshire Museum shows a three-light square-head perpendicular style nave window instead of  the two-light pointed pattern that was employed all round in the C19 rebuilding.

More work was done later, in 1874, with new oak stalls and a polychrome tiled floor (another £540). In October 1888 the Bath Chronicle newspaper announced “The renovation is now complete. The tower has been restored, and the old gallery removed”. The gallery, which was at the tower end of the nave, had survived the 1840s work.

Sir Charles Parry Hobhouse said, in his paper on Monkton Farleigh in 1882, that an old parishoner recalled that there had been a butter or market cross in the churchyard where goods could be sold, attracting customers from Bradford.