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