070618.Walcot, History of St. Swithin’s

June 18, 2007 at 12:52 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Cathedrals and churches, Conservation, cumulus clouds, Ionic Order, Jane Austen, Light and Shadow, somerset, Towers, Walcot | 19 Comments

060924.11.Somset.Bath.Walcot St.St Swithins.d John Palmer.1777-90

The former warden of the church, Des Brown and his wife Maureen, wrote the nice historical pamphlet “Parish Church of St. Swithin: Walcot, Bath,” which is available for free if you visit the church. It’s open for Sunday services at 6:30pm and for walk in visits on Wednesday. It also has a youth service at 8pm on the second Sunday of each month. The main part of the church has just been reopened and the crypt space should be ready by September.

Currently, the Parish of Walcot at St. Swithin’s is absorbing the congregation of St. Andrew’s.

History of the St. Swithin’s, Walcot (from the Brown pamphlet)–07013.17.SO.Bath07013.18.SO.Bath

1. Possibly a site of worship since the Roman times since Walcot and not Bath was the centre of the Roman settlement (Bath was the site of the hot springs and temples only)
2. The first St. Swithin’s Church was constructed on this site in 971, one of fifty churches around England dedicated to the Bishop of Winchester (852-862). The foundations for this church are still present in the crypt. It was very small (16 x 21 feet.)
3. Second church is constructed at some point during the medieval era while Walcot is still a hamlet far outside Bath’s city walls, but is included in the city when the boundary is extended in 1590.
4. 1739 Medieval church damaged during gales and a new church, designed by Churchwarden Robert Smith, was built in 1742. Smith was chosen after designed by John Wood the Elder were rejected! The foundations of this church are also visible in the crypt and the original size is marked by the inner columns. Nave was 40 x 30 feet and chancel was 14 by 20 feet.

5. Future City Architect and City Surveyor (and parishioner) John Palmer demolished the thirty-year-old church for a larger structure, utilizing the former structure’s foundation for the interior column supports. The new church was consecrated in 1777. Built to the same length as the Smith church but wider.

6. It was extended eastward (where it needed to shore up a steep slope) in 1788.

7. A spire was added in 1790.

8. It was THE parish church of Georgian Bath, and the only remaining one of the city.061002.101.Somset.Bath.St Swithins.d John Palmer.1777-90
9. During the nineteenth century, the parish was one of the largest parishes in the country, so it was broken up with the construction of three new parish churches: Holy Trinity (demolished in 1955(?) parish moved), St. Stephen’s (Lansdown Hill), and St. Saviour’s (Larkhall, yet to be posted).
10. An oriel window was inserted into the east end in 1841.
11. East end pews were removed for choir stalls (removed in 1985) in 1871 under the influence of the Evangelical Revival.
12. A landslide destroyed 175 horses opposite the church in 1881 (Bath is a very hilly place and has the most landslides in the country), thus creating Hedgemead Park. The damaged church was strengthened by tie-bars, and the galleries were cut back from the columns and new supports inserted (except where the organ was. See below.)
13. 1942: During the Blitz, the east window was shattered by bombing and a new window replaced it in 1958 (the new window is favored over the old).07013.27.SO.Bath
14. 1951 Communion table introduced
15. 2006-2007 a major refurbishment re-ordered the church interior and the crypt.

Notable parish Members

Rev. George Austen, (Jane Austen’s father)
Fanny Burney, novelist
Comte d’Arblay (Fanny’s husband)
William Wilberforce
John Palmer, City Architect and City Surveyor
Sir Edward Berry (fought with Nelson at Trafalgar)


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  1. I love the light inside the church.

    I think you are wise to avoid the sweet tobacco candy.

  2. You say Bath has the most landslides in the country.

    How many is this?

    One every year?

    One every 10 years?

    Two every 50 years?

    Does the rest of England simply not have landslides (or “landslips)?

    What’s the story?

  3. looking for parish record of marrige that tok place in st swithens in 1822,where can i find this please

  4. Would it be possible to purchase marriage cert copy for Samuel Rogers & Elizabeth Benjamin 19th April 1824 ST. Swithins.
    Many thanks,
    Sandra Bills October 2nd 2007.

  5. My Great-gandparents registered two girls baptised at Walcot Parish Church in 1865 and 1867 respectively. Is St Swithin’s the Parish Church of Walcot [I understand there are three churches in Walcot]?
    Is it possible to visit and see the parish records for those years?
    Many thanks.
    {Any chance you can show the answers to the above questions – they are all interesting.

  6. My Great-gandparents registered two girls baptised at Walcot Parish Church in 1865 and 1867 respectively. Is St Swithin’s the Parish Church of Walcot [I understand there are three churches in Walcot]?
    Is it possible to visit and see the parish records for those years?
    Many thanks.
    {Any chance you can show the answers to the above questions – they are all interesting.}




  8. It would be nice to see answers to question posed in these comments. In particular what is the answer to question:

  9. I am surprised that none of the questions have been answered.
    1. I don’t think that there would have been marriage certficates before 1837 (and maybe later.
    2. The parish registers are almost certainly in Taunton and it should be possible yo inspect them there.v.
    The plaques on the walls refer to tombs in the crypt – have they been removed ?

  10. I apologize for the delay in responding to these interesting questions and comments.
    I took I hiatus from the blog to finish up on some work and have not checked it regularly.
    1. I know little about where parish records might be found so I refer everyone to the previous comment of 080313 by David Coe.
    2. Otherwise, go to walcotchurch.org.uk for the websites of St. Swithin’s, St. Andrew’s, and Snow Hill Christian Centre. Comments concerning St. Swithin’s are best directed toward vergers Mr. and Mrs. Brown. The parish secretary is Sandy Goodling (tel: 789168 walcotchurchoffice@ukonline.co.uk), and the warden is Alastair Gibson (tel: 448092, alastair@charlcombeestates.co.uk)
    In response to questions on St. Swithin’s re-ordering, I believe the Rev. Austen was buried out in the churchyard. It was not uncommon to remove, relocate, or compile remains interred in either a crypt or consecrated ground multiple times without relocating the marker. What is for sure is that by this point he would have no remains left. The crypt re-ordering was carried out by George Chedburn, who I am sure would be happy to answer any questions on remains discovered. His website is here:

  11. My great-great-grandfather was baptized in this beautiful church in 1806, and many of his siblings were baptized there as well. I would like to visit Bath and tour the church. What days of the week and times might I be able to do that? Thank you.

  12. My father Bert Hawkins was born in 1898 at 7 Triniry Square, Walcot. Can you please tell me where abouts that was.

  13. 1838 12 Mar. My 2 x Gt. Grandparents were married in St. Swithins.
    John STREET to Ann GREEN.
    What denomination is St. Swithins.
    Their marriage certificate states ‘Established Church’.

    Thank you.

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  15. My ancestor Margaret Watson was born in 1804 at Walcot Bath. She married George Graham born 1784 Westminster London. He was an aeronaut (balloonist) and she joined him and if you google george and margaret Graham aeronauts up will pop the exploits of these two all over England. I cannot find where they married though. I have bible pages of Margaret’s family and baptisims of her many siblings. There are many articles about her and letters from her in The Times archives. Quite something for a girl of Walcot don’t you think?

    • Dear Pauline, You may be interested to know that in my biography of the first English aeronaut, James Sadler (‘King of all Balloons’, due to be published in November 2015) I include several references to George and Margaret Graham, and although I doubt that I can add any genealogical information to what you already know, I have become very interested in this remarkable couple, and would love to know if we can be of any mutual assistance. I do have 16th- and 17th- century Watson ancestors, co-incidentally, from Fife in Scotland. I hope to hear from you. Mark Davies, Oxford.

      • I have your book Mark………,Margaret Watson was born in Walcot Bath in 1804, one of several children. I have bilble pages and family papers. Have never found a marriage for Maragret and George in 1822-23 at st swithins or elswhere…..Have found siblings baptisms at st swithins in parish records.

  16. Hello Pauline – such a pleasant surprise to see your response after such a long gap! I’d dearly like to know what other biographical details you might be willing to share, and wonder if we might continue to correspond via e:mail, please? mark.oxhist@gmail.com. I mention Margaret often in my lectures, so I’d be very grateful, and the reason I’ve been drawn back to this blog is that I chanced to dioscover Daniel Harms’ book about the Grahams this week. I met him here in Oxford a while ago, and he has provided a lot of excellent extra information in the book, but doesn’t, I note, subscribe to the idea of Watson being Margaret’s maiden name. When I’ve finished reading it I shall ask him why, but perhaps you alrerady know?

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