Historic churches, particularly those no longer in regular use, are ideal places for the Slow Traveller to visit. There are no crowds, they are in mostly scenic rural locations, there is a deep and abiding feel of the past, and a sense of tranquility and peace within each one.
They make perfect stopping places on a walk or cycle ride, some with convenient benches for the weary. They are free to visit, yet any donation will contribute massively to the upkeep of these buildings which guard our religious and social history across the ages.
Here we look at ten churches, saved by the Churches Conservation Trust, all within easy reach of Salisbury. Most churches are regularly left open to visitors; alternatively the name and location of the keyholder is indicated in the porches or can be found on the websites.
St. Mary Old Church, Wilton
St Mary’s is a tiny church in the market place of Wilton 3 miles west of Salisbury. It is the site of an original Anglo-Saxon church, and from the 9th century was attached to one of the most important nunneries in southern England.
It was rebuilt in the 12th century, with some further rebuilding in the 15th and 18th centuries. It retains its 12th century chancel and the 15th century arches at each side. The church itself is surrounded by the ruins of the arcades and tower arches of the nunnery. This nunnery is particularly remembered for a row between Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII about the appointment of the Abbess of Wilton in 1528, which contributed directly to Wolsey’s fall from power in 1529.
There is a sad tombstone to two sisters Susannah and Mary Bignell who died within 6 weeks of each other in 1726. The inscription reads:
In the Spring and flower of my time