Fragments of church history

Many of England’s parish churches have dominated our towns and villages for centuries. We know their outer shape in our local landscape and may well be familiar with their internal features too. But these large buildings were constructed from smaller components, often hidden from view.

St Mary’s Church stands very close to Market Lavington Museum and, from time to time, during alterations and repairs or when new graves are being dug in the churchyard, fragments come to light and sometimes make their way into our museum collection. We change many of our displays every year or two but, at present, have many such bits and pieces out on view.

Here we can see a collection of eight hand made nails dating from the 19th century, which were brought down during work on the roof in 2000. The key was dug up in the churchyard in 2002 and is thought to be a box key, dating from the 19th century. We hope it didn’t cause too much inconvenience when it went missing.

On the right of the shelf, there are various bits of coloured glass and associated leadwork, which would have formed part of a stained glass window.

Over the years lead from the roof has been removed and replaced. It is fascinating to see that the roofers signed and sometimes dated the lead, a soft metal, easy to inscribe. On the left, the graffiti reads, ‘A Whiting 1952.’ Alan Whiting worked at Gye’s Yard at the time. In the centre, the lead, which was taken down in 2000, had been inscribed by James, who worked for the Gyes in 1862. The lead on the right of the display, merely reads RM.

Almost out of sight, on the extreme right of our photo is a framed collection of coins. They were donations posted into a wall safe inside the church. Unfortunately, the key to this was mislaid and, by the time the box was opened, British currency had changed from £.s.d to decimal pounds and pence! The coppers were mounted in a frame and given to the museum.

The last item in our display is a piece of carved stone, dug up in the churchyard in 2000. Who knows what other interesting items are tucked away waiting to be found on this historic site.

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