St Nicholas’ Church, Winsley

Winsley, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


St Nicholas Church, Winsley


The church at Winsley was originally one of the chapels of the mother church of the large parish of Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon. The date of the first building here is unknown and the first surviving record of it seems to be from 1349, although there is mention of Bradford possessing unnamed chapels  in 1291. Unfortunately, the church was largely rebuilt and only the tower now remains from the medieval building and there is an octagonal font of the 14th or 15th centuries.

Winsley church before rebuildingThis drawing, by an unknown artist (perhaps W.W. Wheatley), shows St Nicholas in about 1800, before the major changes were made. The tower was at the west end of an aisleless nave. The tower is in the perpendicular style of the 15th century with a possibly later saddleback roof. The nave’s windows have flat tops, suggesting a date slightly later than those of the tower. It is battlemented with a curious higher section above the entrance from the south porch. The chancel is lower and seems to have a tall narrow pointed lancet window in its south wall, perhaps indicating that this is a remnant from a 13th century building. The other windows of the chancel have been inserted later. This drawing and another by John Buckler, in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, show steps leading up to a door at the eastern end of the nave, perhaps access to a former rood loft.

rebuilding Winsley churchJudged to be too small, the nave and chancel were demolished and a new building was erected to the north of the site of the old one in 1841, to result in room for 434 sittings. The rebuilding was recorded on a marble plaque which bears the names of the Bradford Vicar, Rev Henry Harvey and his Curate, Rev Charles Sylvanus Meech. Also, at the base, the Winsley Chapelwarden, James Baber, who was probably the man behind the work. Baber (c1791-1866), from a Bradford and Bath family, owned a lot of property in Winsley, including the Murhill stone quarries and had contacts in Bristol. It might have been because of him that Bristol architect Richard Shackleton Pope, a colleague of Isambard Kingdom Brunel,  is reputed to have done the design. The building work was carried out by Charles Jones of Bradford and the stone, presumably, came from the nearby Murhill Quarry. The Bath Chronicle of 8th July 1841 reported that the foundation stone had been laid by Mrs Ann Atwood of Turleigh Manor “to whose countenance and liberality, with that of her friend, J. Morris. Esq. the inhabitants of Winsley are chiefly indebted for this new house of God.” Medieval stone windows from the old church are said to have been reused in the big house in the village that is called Burghope.

A further rebuilding was proposed in 1888, to plans drawn up by the diocesan architect Charles Edwin Ponting, designer of the rebuilding of Holt church, but this was not carried out.  Conservation and restoration work was carried out on the church tower in 1979.


Clergy of Winsley

An ecclesiastical parish of Winsley with Limpley Stoke was created out of parts of the ancient parish of Bradford in 1846, under its own vicar. Prior to that the chapel of St Nicholas was served by a curate.  The parish was recombined with South Wraxall and Monkton Farleigh in 1964, to which was added Christchurch in Bradford in 2010 as the United Benefice of North Bradford on Avon and Villages and is now styled as a Rectory.

  • Charles Sylvanus Meech, Curate in 1841 (Curate of Monkton Farleigh in 1823)
  • Lewis Rew Cogan (died in 1862, buried in Bristol) first Vicar 1846-1862
  • Francis Stephen Forss (died in 1892, buried at Limpley Stoke) 1862-1892
  • Joseph Samuel Sandys MA, Curate 1889-1892
  • Reginald Walter A. Angelsmith 1892
  • Charles A. Sladen, curate 1893-1895, became Vicar of Burton, Cheshire
  • Thomas Francis Baker 1922-1959
  • Homer Hill 1961, died in post in 1973 age 66, buried in the churchyard
  • William A. (Bill) Matthews 1973, became Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon
  • David C. Ritchie 1981
  • Derek G. Smith 1984 -Vicar of Winsley, South Wraxall and Monkton Farleigh
  • Robert S. Green 1999
  • Howard K. Jameson 2005
  • Ann Keating -first Rector  2010-2023

Rev Angelsmith had a brief moment of national notoriety in September 1909, when he was summoned before Bradford magistrates for assaulting Winsley parish nurse Margaret Sperring. He apologised and the case was withdrawn.