Upper Kennet Churches
THE CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS
CHURCHWARDEN TREASURER SECRETARY SERVICES
FUTURE SPECIAL SERVICES HISTORY OF CHURCH
Ms Vicky Evans Tel. 01672 861622 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr David Snape Tel. 01672 861267 Email email@example.com
Mrs Lynne Williams Tel. 01672 861511 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
A regular service is held in the church on:
First Sunday of the month: 8.00 am Prayer Book Communion.
On the third Sunday of the month a Benefice Communion Service is held at 10.30am in one of the Benefice churches on a rotational basis.
FUTURE SPECIAL SERVICES
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
This little church probably originated in the 12th century to serve an agricultural parish which has never had a population of more than 150. Most of the village, consisting largely of cottages, was destroyed in the 1930s to make way for the widening of the A4 main road to Bath, and the inhabitants rehoused in council houses on the skyline to the west; since that date there has been a good deal of infilling, especially around the church.
In 1066 a monk named Alsi held an estate of 5 hides at Fyfield from the Bishop of Winchester and in 1243 the manor passed to the prior of St Swithun's priory, Winchester. During the medieval period the benefice was that of Overton with Fyfield and Alton Priors and for most of the time until the Dissolution vicars were presented by the priors of St. Swithun's. The manor of Fyfield was seized in 1547 by the Crown, along with the other possessions of the priory and granted to Sir William Herbert, later Earl of Pembroke. His successors held it until the 1680s, but by 1697 the manor had been bought by Thomas Fowle, one of whose descendants, the Rev'd F. C. Fowle, sold the estate in 1812. Until quite recently the estate was farmed from Fyfield House, which lies between the church and the main road.
The civil parish of West Overton and Fyfield, with their two churches, now constitutes the eastern end of the Upper Kennet Benefice, which stretches up the Kennet Valley as far as Broad Hinton. Like its two neighbouring villages, the parish of Fyfield runs in a narrow stretch for about four miles north-south over the Kennet Valley, so that its agricultural land would have included a sheeprun on the downs, water meadows and woodland to the south.
The church was heavily restored in 1849, when the nave was rebuilt and the north aisle added with a two-bay arcade. The chancel, which has a decorated corbel table, dates from the 13th century, though the roof was rebuilt and three lancets provided in the new east wall where there had previously been only one small window. The tower remains much as it was when it was built in the 15th century. The handsome timber nave roof of low pitch with tie beams was reset in 1849 and at the same date the south wall had simple 14th century style windows inserted into it. The circular 12th century font, a prominent feature opposite the south door, has an interesting interlacing arcaded relief; most of the other fittings and decorations in the church are 19th century.
Baptisms, marriages and burials performed at Overton and Fyfield are recorded in the same register from 1682 to 1731. Thereafter the two churches kept separate registers, which are complete and are housed in the County Record Office At Chippenham. Anxiety about congregation numbers seems to have been a feature of the nineteenth century as much as of today: the Sarum Diocesan Visitation in 1851 was told by the churchwardens that Sunday morning congregations at Fyfield had averaged 150 and evening ones 250 and these figures were solemnly recorded. As the total population of the village did not exceed 150 and the church cannot hold more than 180, there was some wishful thinking here!