Church of Morgan’s Vale and Woodfalls

Morgan’s Vale, Redlynch SP5 2HU

Church of England
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St Birinus Church - History of the Church Building

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In an article in the Salisbury Diocesan Gazette of March 1896 Morgan’s Vale is described as a hamlet  of the parish of Downton. It was not until 1868 that the first documented steps were initiated to construct a permanent Anglican place of worship in Morgan’s Vale. 

On the 7th July 1868 an indenture was made between the Highway Board of the Salisbury District and the Vicar and Churchwardens of the parish of Downton conveying the land on which the school and subsequently the church came to be built. The land was purchased for £25.00 out of a fund: “amounting to 736 pounds 11 shillings and 2 pence which had been raised by public subscription with a view to providing such additional church and school accommodation in the district of Morgan’s Vale.

Although we do not now have detailed records of the construction of the school – chapel, contemporary records of the laying of the foundation stone and consecration service in 1894 and 1896 confirm that the school had been in existence and also used as a chapel for around 25 years.

The church was built with funds made available in accordance with a bequest of Rev. Edward Augustus Ferryman of Redlynch House who died in 1884 in memory of his wife’s uncle, Charles Theobald Maud the legacy to take effect after his wife’s death.

The foundation stone was laid on Thursday the 27th September 1894 by Lord Nelson (the Right Hon. Earl Nelson of Trafalgar). It was attended by a large number recorded as upwards of 500 persons in one account.  The service began in the school chapel at 4.30pm following which the foundation stone was laid with an inscribed silver trowel presented by the Architect C. W Ponting. The foundation stone apparently weighed 17cwt. A bottle was placed in a cavity below the stone containing details of the bequest and some current coins.

A contemporary report in the Salisbury Diocesan Gazette (March 1896) notes: The church bears the name of St Birinus who in 636 brought the Christian faith to our Wessex folk, with this special fact of local interest, that the new cathedral at Winchester consecrated in 648 was endowed at the same time with the Manor of Downton by King Cynewalc.

The records state that a public tea was provided and a large number of people partook of the repast, the tables being filled many times over. The church has maintained this tradition of hospitality to this day. The construction was completed and the new church was dedicated on Saturday the 1st February 1896 at 11.00am by the Bishop of Salisbury.

The building is described at the time in the report of the consecration as follows:
The church is a commodious and well built structure structure consisting of nave and chancel under a continuous roof with an organ chamber on the north of the chancel and baptistery at west end of the nave, on the south of which is the porch and on the north the vestry. The church was designed to admit as far as possible the use of local materials: the walls are of redbrick (inside and out) and the roof covered with tiles all manufactured in the parish. The style is that of the 14th century freely treated to adapt to the needs of a modern district church. The windows of nave and chancel are of Bath stone with tracery of “flowing type”: The west end of the baptistery has a large mullioned window of oak and the same is used in the vestry. The baptistery is separated from the nave by a lofty archway and above it rises a turret of oak framing covered with cleft oak shingles and containing one bell (space being provided for four more). The porch is a wide one framed of oak with plaster panels and is provided with a bench seat and umbrella stand. The chancel is divided from the nave by a wooden screen carried up to the roof painted green with the carving gilt. The east window of the chancel is of five lights three of which are filled with the memorial window removed from the old school chapel: there are two three light windows on the south side of the chancel and four similar windows on each side of the nave. The roof has a waggon head ceiling beneath it with wood ribs painted green the design being elaborated to distinguish the part over the chancel. The floors of the nave, baptistery and

St Birinus Church 1894
St Birinus Church
St Birinus Church
St Birinus Church
St Birinus Church
St Birinus Church
St Birinus Church
St Birinus Church

vestry are paved with wood blocks and the chancel and porch with tiles. The font is of Bath stone with an oak cover. The chancel has choir stalls and the nave is seated with chairs secured together in rows with kneeling boards – these like the rest of the church being stained with or painted green, the effect of which with the red brick is warm and pleasing and especially effective when the church is lighted up at night. The lamps are of wrought iron and copper and suspended from the ceiling. The church is warmed by a Musgrave stove. The vestry is fitted with cupboards and hooks for hanging surplices and cassocks. The side walls of the building are strengthened by deep buttresses one of which is carried up forming a niche for the figure in pottery modelled by Miss Palmer who has promised panels for the reredos. Every small detail about the church has been designed especially for it by the Architect (Mr C.E.Ponting F.S.A) down to the paving, lamps and other fittings. The church seats about 190 and has cost £1850. The work has been very conscientiously and well carried out by Mr C. Mitchell of Woodfalls.

At the time the church was completed, although an organ chamber was built, there were insufficient funds to provide an organ, however the congregation established a fund and in July 1900 estimates from five firms of organ builders were considered. The firm of Peter Conacher (Huddersfield) was selected and commissioned to erect a two manual organ for the sum of £185.

The organ was duly installed and a service of dedication was held on Wednesday the 19th December 1900 by the Bishop of Salisbury followed by sung evensong. The record notes that the sermon was preached by the Bishop who took as his text 2 Chronicles vs 11 and following verses taken from the account of the dedication of the Temple by King Solomon.

Visitors will see a stained glass window in the north wall of the church near the pulpit, the window was unveiled and dedicated on Tuesday August the 12th 1924.

There have of course been alterations made to the original fabric and fittings over the years, the four significant changes to the main body of the church since it was completed:

The removal of the lower part of the screen between the nave and the chancel, the addition of the timber panelling both sides of the nave, the removal of chairs and replacement with pews, the removal of the coal fire and the installation of electric lighting and heating.

The other change to the building fabric and a major improvement is the addition to the vestry to form the new community room and toilets.

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St Birinus Church Prayer

O God our Creator, whose love is for everyone, strengthen our commitment and desire to love and serve all in our community.

Help us to be obedient to your command to share the good news of your son Jesus Christ and his love for the entire world.

We pray for your promised Holy Spirit to give us courage, imagination and wisdom, so that we may be guided and equipped to do your will.

Amen.

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