070618.Walcot, History of St. Swithin’sJune 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 | 17 Comments
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.
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.
7. A spire was added in 1790.
8. It was THE parish church of Georgian Bath, and the only remaining one of the city.
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).
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)
John Palmer, City Architect and City Surveyor
Sir Edward Berry (fought with Nelson at Trafalgar)