Little of this church remains today

WILTON IN WILTSHIRE was capital of Wessex between the 9th and 11th centuries (AD). Today, it is famous for its carpet manufacturing and the wonderful Wilton House, which has been home to the Earls of Pembroke since 1544, when King Henry VIII gave it to them after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The House, which contains a fabulous collection of paintings by the great masters, was built on the site of Wilton Abbey (established in 871 AD).

St Mary’s church in the centre of Wilton was originally the first Anglo-Saxon church in the town. It was first built in the 9th century, and then rebuilt in the 12th century. The newer church was further modified in the 15th century. However, by the 18th century it was becoming dilapidated. In 1751, the surving part of the church became used as a mortuary chapel for the Earls of Pembroke. This situation remained unchanged until 1848, when the construction of the large Italianate church of St Mary and St Nicholas was completed in nearby West Street. Then, the old St Mary’s was demolished except for the chancel and the first bay of the nave (than next to the chancel). This survivor is rarely used for services and is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, which looks after historic churches of interest that have become redundant. Outside the preserved part of St Mary’s there are a few gothic arches, remains of the previously much larger church.

We have visited Wilton several times, to see both Wilton House and the Italianate church, as well as to partake of refreshments in the town’s cafés, but it was only today (7th of October 2022) that I first noticed the remains of St Mary’s. This only goes to show that revisiting a place often can be rewarding.

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