The church of St John the Baptist was founded in 1154 by Sir Robert de Vernon on a sloping hillside. We don't know what the area of Horningsham looked like then, but today the church looks acros glorious countryside to the stately home of Longleat House and park.
St Johns was created collegiate church, and Sir Humphrey de Bohun gave a house, land, and animals for a priest to serve the church. The earliest written record of the church comes in 1224. That first church was not officially dedicated and had no font for baptism. The churchyard was not enclosed, so animals wandered freely past the door.
By the time of a visitation in 1408 a font had been added, as had a graveyard and fence. However the inspectors found the fence broken, and decreed that the parishioners must repair it or pay a fine.
The parish bier
By the late 18th century the church was in very poor repair and the south wall had to be completely rebuilt. The chancel and north aisle were rebuilt in 1810, with the cost born by Lord Bath. The entire church was expanded in 1843, and what we see today is largely the result of this early Victorian restoration.
The tower is 15th century, but almost the entire remainder of the church dates to the 1843 rebuilding. At the west end of the nave is a carved stone royal coat of arms. A few medieval tiles have been preserved in the presbytery, and some memorials from the earlier church have been preserved, including a 1727 tablet with an indecipherable inscription. There is a very nice marble monument in classical style to Thomas Davis (1807) and another to William Crumbleholme (d. 1828).
The most striking feature is the timber roof of the chancel, which is decorated with extremely large wooden figures of angels projecting out over the centre. In fact I don't think I've eve seen such large carvings on any angel roof in Britain.
Horningsham's church is not replete with historical features, but it is an extremely good example of early Victorian taste, and the location is utterly wonderful, on a sloping hillside in glorious countryside.
The church was open we visited.
The angel roof of the chancel
Angel figure, chancel
Address: Church Lane,
England, BA12 7LW
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Information Centre ('as the crow flies')
Tourist Information Centre
Central Car Park
off Station Rd
Tel: 01985 218 548
Fax: 01985 846 154