Westwood, Wiltshire, St Mary's Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 16th-century 'Westwood Imp' demon carving over the font
The chancel windows boast very colourful 15th century stained glass. The central panel of the large east window has something unique; it shows the Crucifixion, but the figure of Christ is surrounded by lilies, symbolising the Incarnation of Christ. This combination of lilies and the Crucifixion is rarely seen, and the Westwood east window is thought to be one of only 7 such instances in existence. The side panels show angels holding shields. By contrast with the chancel, the nave windows hold only a few fragments of medieval glass.
EAST WINDOW STAINED GLASS
On an angle of the west nave wall, immediately over the font, is a grotesque carving of a strange beast; a winged demon with its mouth open in a snarl, looking very much like a dragon. This figure is commonly known as 'The Old Lad of Westwood', 'The Westwood Imp', or 'The Devil of Limpley Stoke'. It is thought to have been carved in the 16th century. Immediately under the figure is a faded inscription 'Resist me and I will flee'. But why is the demon hovering above the font?
Tradition suggests that it is gnashig its teet at every child who is baptised into Christianity in the font, and the inscription simply means that if you resist the demon's evil intent and a child enters the church, it will be forced to flee. One wonders how many infants have been frightened by the grinning demon hovering over their baptism - or did they even notice?
THE OLD LAD OF WESTWOOD (THE IMP)
There are several interesting memorials, including one to John Painter (d. 1728), with an inscription topped by symbols of mortality; a skull with wings, crossed bones, and an hourglass. Nearby is a monument to John Farwell (d. 1642). On the south wall of the nave is an oval plaque to Richard Cox (d. 1789). In the chapel is a very nice stone tablet to Charles Franklin, carved with heraldic symbols. There is no apparent date, and Nikolaus Pevsner's voluminous 'Buildings of England, Wiltshire' information for the church seems unsure. For me the finest memorial is to William Bushe )bor 1446), with elaborate scrolls and hearaldic symbols.
There are two squints through the angle of the chancel arch, allowing people seated in the north chapel to see the altar.
Ghostly Goings On
There are several tales of ghosts associated with the church. The figure of a cowled monk has been spotted on a footpath near the church, and the figure of a medieval soldier has been reported; he is dressed for battle, approaches the church, and throws a spear at the door.
We popped into the church after a visit to Westwood Manor, on a hot summer day when the only thought on my daughter's mind was where to find the nearest ice cream. I don't know about her, but I was really glad we had taken the time to explore the church. The 'Old Lad' carving is very striking, and the stained glass is excellent. I would not have realised how rare the east window glass is if the very friendly and chatty volunteer guide hadn't told me. I'm happy to report that no ghosts appeared during our visit, and we left happily, the only trauma provided by the Westwood Imp carving and the lack of ice cream!
Address: Farleigh Lane, Lower Westwood, Westwood, Wiltshire, England, BA15 2AF
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: On the minor road from Lower Westwood to Farleigh Hungerford. Parking across the road as for Westwood Manor. Usually open daylight hours.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Westwood Manor - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
Peto Garden at Iford Manor - 0.8 miles (Garden)
Farleigh Hungerford Castle - 1 miles (Castle)
Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn - 1.2 miles (Historic Building)
Bradford-on-Avon, St Laurence Church - 1.4 miles (Historic Church)
The Courts Garden - 3.4 miles (Garden)
American Museum and Gardens - 3.7 miles (Museum)
Great Chalfield Manor - 4 miles (Historic Building)
Nearest Accommodation to Westwood: