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The Parish Church of St. Mary
Alderbury and Whaddon

Part of the Clarendon Team of Churches

Lay Rectors of Alderbury





1608 - 1634

Richard Goldstone

1683 - 1722

Rev. Gabriel Thistlethwaite

1634 - 1640

Thomas Goldstone

1722 - 1740

Mrs Elizabeth Edmunds

1641 - 1645

Joanne Goldstone

1740 - 1758

Rev. Francis Edmunds

1645 - 1656

Jane and Eliz.Goldstone

1759 - 1770

Rev. Wright Hawes

1656 - 1660

Lay Rectorship in abeyance

(See text)

1770 - 1774

Mrs E Longford and

Mrs M Purefoy

1662 - 1677

Richard Goldstone

1774 - 1794

Tristram Huddlestone Jervoise

1677 - 1679

Francis Mercer

1794 - 1800

Rev. George HJP Jervoise

1679 - 1683

Sir Giles Hungerford

(See text)

Successive Earls of Radnor


Johannes Stayndrop, Johannes Produm, and Johannes Corbyn are the only incumbents at Alderbury included in Phillip’s Institutions which lists institutions (from the Bishops of Salisbury’s Registers) between 1297-1810.


George Otway’s cousin Humphrey was the father of Thomas Otway the dramatist (1652-85).


John Ely’s son James established the Ely Trust in 1692. John Ely may have continued as vicar for a number of years after 1650.


John Crouch. The only mention refers to his indictment at Quarter Sessions for unspecified offences..


John Foote. After his ministry at Alderbury he was Rector of West Grimstead for 38 years.


Thomas Reading. After 34 years as Vicar of Alderbury he was Rector at West Grimstead for a further 27 years. He was Warden of Farley Almshouses from 1703-40.


George Smith was also appointed Rector of Manningford Abbot’s (near Pewsey) in 1797 and Vicar of Urchfont (near Devizes) in 1802. From 1838 the simultaneous holding of two or more benefices was strictly controlled.


Newton Smart was responsible for instigating and building the new church in 1858, and, a year or two earlier, a new Vicarage House. He had been a curate at Alderbury 1830-2 and was Warden of Farley Almshouses 1833-55. He was Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury 1836-68. Louis de Bernière, the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a best-selling novel in 1997-8, is a direct descendant of Newton Smart by his second wife Frances de Bernière.


Robert Sparke Hutchings was born in Penang in 1819 in the last year of the reign of George III. His grand-daughter, whom he baptised at Alderbury in 1893, was still alive and active in 1988. He was Vicar of Alderbury, Pitton, and Farley until 1874 when Pitton and Farley became a separate parish. He then remained Vicar of Alderbury until his death, aged 90, in 1910.

The following is an extrac from "Alderbury & Whaddon A Millennium Mosaic of People Places and Progress"

Published by The Alderbury & Whaddon Local History Research Group

Reproduced under licence.

Figure 6.4: St Mary’s Church, Alderbury, 1991

A contemporary newspaper report contains a full account of the consecration ceremony and a description of the church which is briefly summarised below.

The church, built of flint with free-stone dressings and designed in the ‘Decorated’ style is elegant and well proportioned and is sited so as to command a singularly beautiful view over the Avon valley. The tower at the northwest is surmounted by a shingle spire, prominent and picturesque. The stonework of the south porch is framed with oak timber from the original church.

The interior of the church is imposing, peaceful, and pleasing. The roof is of open timber work, the seats are of stained wood, and the paving is of Staffordshire tiles. The arches of the nave and the archivolts of the doors and windows are ornamented with coloured brick arches of yellow, black, and red. The corbels which support the roof are beautifully carved with early floral designs. The pulpit is of Bath stone.

The numerous stained glass windows include one given by Mrs Smart, the wife of the vicar. It is inscribed to the memory of her father, Major-General HAC de Bernière, her mother, and her brother. Another, deserving of special mention, is in the south transept. It is probably by Hardman of Birmingham and is unique in that it has a green flying snake representing the devil.

The balusters of the choir stalls are said to be early eighteenth century and probably came from the old church: the communion rails are made of wrought-iron panels composed from Scott’s screen, removed from Salisbury Cathedral in 1959.

In 1911 there were several changes of note; the move of the organ from the rear of the church to the south of the chancel, the construction of an entry to the vestry from the chancel, the move of the font to the extreme west of the church, and the conversion of the space beneath the tower to a choir vestry. In recent years the north transept has been walled off from the main body of the church to form an additional vestry and the font placed near its doorway entrance.

When the new church was built many of the tombstones removed from the graveyard were used to pave the floor. One fragment reads:

Wife of John.....

Who died Oct y

Aged 116 (or 110) al.......

In age and weakness.....

The Church Choir

Mr H Stevens, vicar of Alderbury 1813-43, stated that ‘The singing gallery without a Prewett is like plum pudding without suet’. Thus, he implied that there was, at that time, an established choir with George Prewitt (the Clerk of the Parish Council) leading the gallery singers. Another member of the Prewitt family, Stephen, was the leader of the village band which supplied music for the church, although there was, at some time, also a barrel organ. The large Prewitt family all sang or played for church services for many years.

At the consecration of the rebuilt church in 1858, it was several members of the choir of Salisbury Cathedral who sang, but by the end of the century, there was a thriving choir taught by Mr Freestone with Miss Hutchings, daughter of the vicar, playing the organ. The Alderbury parish magazines of 1901 refer to a choir supper, a choir concert, and arol singing by the choir at Christmas. There is a report on the Festival Service for All Saints Day on 3 November, which states that ‘the orchestra assisted with great effort in the Psalms [and] beautiful All Saints Hymns, “The Saints of God” being especially well rendered by both choir and orchestra. Miss Hutchings presided at the organ and Mr Freestone conducted. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were also very well sung by the choir’.

The present organ was installed by Sweetland of Bath in 1889 and restored by Bishop and White in 1984. In 1911, the organ was moved from the rear of the church to its present position in the south of the chancel.

Mr John Carr, sometime headmaster of Alderbury School, was organist from 1945-74 and many school children sang in the church choir during that period. By 1969, Mr Carr was unfortunately rather deaf and had poor eyesight. Mary Dean ‘had her children in the church choir join the Alderbury Singers for a carol service’, implying that she had been taking choir practices.

In 1971, Mary Wharton became choir mistress. Starting with only 6 choristers the numbers grew steadily to 30, being greatly encouraged by the vicar, Christopher Pooley, who sang with them whenever he could. At first, only anthems for female voices were possible; nevertheless, the choir twice won the Church Choirs entry at the Devizes Festival, in 1976 and 1977. With a bass joining the choir and with Mr Pooley singing tenor, four-part music became possible from 1979. A special tribute should be paid to Miss Hazel Argar, who has sung with the choir for over 40 years and is still its mainstay.

When Canon Andrew became Rector in 1982, he decreed that all children should go to the Sunday School held in Whaddon, so the choir dwindled as the remaining choristers grew up and left the village, until only six adults were left. Even so, anthems were sung regularly and the choir joined in the Diocesan Church Choirs’ Festival held in Salisbury Cathedral every summer, when it was possible to sing more complicated pieces.

Since 1972, the choir has sung special music on Good Friday and at the annual carol services, with fund-raising concerts for local efforts such as the swimming pool at the old school, the building of the new church school and the induction loop system for those hard of hearing.

The tradition of an annual social gathering continued. Mr Pooley took the choir for a picnic lunch each year and started the tradition of apples being given to the choir as they left the Harvest Festival Service. Later, Mr Carrick Smith (a member of the congregation) took the choir either to the pantomime or out to supper. More recently, there has been an annual supper at Mrs Wharton’s house and the choir have received Christmas presents and Easter eggs.

For many years, the Earl and Countess of Radnor have invited the choir to Longford Castle to sing carols around the tree on Christmas Eve and this has always been much enjoyed.

John Carr resigned as organist in 1974 and Philip Sibthorpe played for a year before being succeeded by Miss Alison Malcolm (now Mrs Hogg), who stayed until 1980. Ian Simpson played for the next year until Mrs Wharton succeeded at Easter 1981.

On Advent Sunday 1998, the choirs of the seven parishes in the Alderbury Team Ministry joined together in St Mary’s Church for a special Advent service. This was the first such venture, with 47 singers, Richard Godfrey at the organ and Mary Wharton conducting. It was so favourably received by the large congregation packed into the church that a repeat was planned for Whiteparish Church in the autumn of that year.

Figure 6.3: St Mary’s Church, Alderbury, from a painting by John Buckler, 1805

In 1856 a faculty petition for the rebuilding of the church, to increase seating from 247 to 436, was approved. The specification, by SS Teulon, the architect, indicates that the new church was to be built on the existing foundations, extended as necessary. Stone and timber, if suitable, were to be re-used. Some nearby tombstones would need to be removed and remains re-interred.

The estimated cost of the new building was £2,500. Viscount Folkestone provided £500, there were grants from the Incorporated and Diocesan Church. The sum of £1,640, raised by private subscription, included a donation by Mr Fort of Alderbury House and £500 donated by Sir Frederick Hervey Bathurst in consideration of which 50 seats were set apart for the use of the people of Clarendon. The vicar, the Rev. Newton Smart, undertook to provide the balance of the sum required.

The church was completed in 1858 and consecrated by Bishop Kerr, the Bishop of Salisbury on 24 June. A recent drawing of the church is at Figure 6.4, and a plan at Figure 6.5 shows the layout of both the present church and the one it replaced.

The Vicarage House

Where the early vicars of Alderbury lived is something of a mystery. It is known that there was once a Vicarage House on a site immediately south of the church, now part of the graveyard. In 1852 it was described as being a very old and dilapidated building now occupied by a labourer’s family, quite unsuited for the purpose of a Vicarage.... It was pulled down within a few years.

From time to time it would have been occupied by vicars, but at other times vicars lived elsewhere. Some held other appointments concurrently with their appointments at Alderbury, and may have chosen to reside in their vicinity, as did the two vicars who were also wardens at the Farley Almshouses. And it is more than likely that from time to time vicars resided at the Parsonage, or Rectory Manor House, as sub-tenants of Lay Rectors.

A new vicarage house, now known as Greenset House, was built about 450 yards SSE of the church and occupied by the vicar, Newton Smart, in 1855. The building was sold and a new vicarage house, now Woodlynne House, built in Lights Lane in 1937. From 1982 incumbents (now designated rectors) have resided in a rectory house, first at Twyneham Gardens, and since 1985, in The Copse. Both houses are located in modern developments in the populated part of Alderbury village.

The Parish church

St Mary’s Church, Alderbury dates from 1858, but from the time of the Norman Conquest, Alderbury church has been mentioned often enough to suggest that there has been a church at Alderbury continuously since that time. A little is known about the church that was there before the present one but nothing about earlier churches. It has been suggested, however, that the Saxon church must have been of an appreciable size as Alderbury was the mother church of an extensive forest parish with a number of dependent chapels

The previous mediaeval church, demolished in 1857, was a plain roughcast building with perpendicular windows in the chancel, and a post-Restoration south porch. The building is described as having had a nave, possibly mediaeval, 45 feet by 20 feet three inches, and a chancel 26 feet by fifteen and a half feet. There was also a belfry at the west end with a wooden turret. Outside the building stood the old yew tree, already referred to. A plan, by Colt-Hoare, is incorporated into Figure 6.4. The overall length is seen to have been the same as that of the present church.

There is a watercolour painting of the old church, executed by John Buckler in 1805, in the library of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society at Devizes. A faithful reproduction, presented in 1958 by the Dowager Countess of Radnor, hangs in the church. A drawing is reproduced at Figure 6.3. A painting, by W Shepherd, dated 1797, is also held at Devizes. It shows that at that time the turret was 50% higher than that shown on the Buckler painting.


About 634 Saxon England was converted to Christianity and there was possibly a place of worship near the site of the present church. Saxon remains were discovered when the nearby Tunnel Hill Road was constructed in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the yew tree that stands outside the church entrance may well have been associated with religious rites.

The early history of the Saxon church and its associated chapels and lands is inextricably linked with the history of the parish manors, and has been dealt with above. The present account is concerned with events from 1190 when the Alderbury benefice was established as a Peculiar under the Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. At that time Ivychurch Priory had been in existence for over 40 years, and chapels at Whaddon, Pitton, and Farley for twice that period

In 1341, Alderbury is mentioned as comprising a church and two chapels. It is probable that these chapels were those at Pitton and Farley (both built about 1100), for in 1649 a church survey recommended they be severed from Alderbury. This was not to come about until 1874.

By 1341, Whaddon chapel, which had had its own rectors (nominated by the Lord of the Manor of Whaddon and instituted by the Bishop of Salisbury), had been incorporated into the Manor of Ivychurch Priory. Worship continued at Whaddon for another 50 years and more, mass being said by the priors of Ivychurch. Between 1394 and 1536 the church at Whaddon fell into disuse, and Whaddon inhabitants worshipped at part of Ivychurch Priory set aside for that purpose.

In 1536 the monastery at Ivychurch was dissolved by the King but that part being used as a church, said to be in very good condition, escaped confiscation and continued to be used by parishioners. But there is no mention of it in a church survey dated 1548. Thereafter the Whaddon parishioners used Alderbury church, and the abandoned church at Whaddon gradually disappeared from sight. A note dated 1765 says There is reported to have been formerly a church at Whaddon, at Farmer Northeast’s and in 1815 the Vicar of Alderbury states vestiges remained until lately. The exact site of the old church is not known although it is known that Farmer Northeast farmed Whaddon Farm.

By an Order in Council dated 1846  Peculiars were abolished. Alderbury ceased to be a Peculiar. The Bishop re-assumed jurisdiction and became patron. A further Order in Council in 1874 separated the chapelries of Pitton and Farley from Alderbury.

Between these two dates, in 1858, a new church was built at Alderbury, on the site of the old one.

In 1963 Christopher Pooley was appointed Vicar of Alderbury: in 1964 he was, in addition, made Rector of West Grimstead. On 25 June 1971 it was confirmed that the parishes should be united as The Benefice of Alderbury and West Grimstead and should comprise the Parish of Alderbury and the Parish of West Grimstead which shall continue distinct. The combined benefice was styled Rectory, and in 1982 when the Rev. Canon WH Andrew became minister he was appointed as the first Rector of Alderbury and West Grimstead.

In 1985 members of St Mary’s Church and Whaddon Methodist Church covenanted to share worship whilst remaining loyal to their own denominations. A copy of the document is displayed in St Mary's Church. The declaration was ratified and signed at a service held in the church on Sunday, 20 January 1985.

On 21 May 1991 the Privy Council approved a pastoral scheme for a new benefice named  The Benefice of Alderbury (Team Ministry) and the establishment of a team ministry. This united the benefices of Alderbury and West Grimstead, Farley and Pitton, West Dean with East Grimstead, and Whiteparish. The area was to comprise the parishes of Alderbury, West Grimstead, Farley with Pitton, West Dean with East Grimstead, and Whiteparish. The separate identities of the parishes were not affected. The team ministry was to consist of a rector and two vicars. The first rector would be the Rev. Geoffrey Rowston, Rector of Alderbury and West Grimstead. Subsequent rectors would be presented by a Patronage Board, chaired by the Bishop of Salisbury. Vicars, licensed by the Bishop, would be selected by the Bishop and the Rector jointly. The first two vicars would be the Rev. Philip Bosher, West Dean, and the Rev. Brian Skelding, Whiteparish.

Alderbury Rectory

For 500 years or more, until 1982, incumbent ministers at Alderbury were appointed as vicars. But the manor within which the vicarage lay was = and still is - called the Rectory Manor of Alderbury. There have been Rectors of Alderbury from the earliest formation of the manor until tithes ceased to be exacted, in the nineteenth century. These rectors, however, did not minister to the spiritual welfare of the parishioners of Alderbury. Indeed many were not ordained ministers, and some were women (centuries before the ordination of women in the established Church). In modern times this has led to some misunderstanding. Some clarification is needed.

The rectory is often regarded as the house occupied by the rector, the incumbent minister. However, in earlier times the rectory referred, not to the house, but to the parish benefice, which included the church lands and buildings, the income from these lands, and the tithes of the whole parish. After the dissolution of the monasteries many rectories were sold or leased, with many or all of their rights, to lay persons (men or women) or groups of lay persons. They were known as Impropriate Rectors, or more commonly, Lay Rectors. In each case a vicar or curate was then appointed to minister to the spiritual needs of the parishioners. A vicar would be provided with a vicarage comprising accommodation, land, a proportion of the tithes, and sometimes a stipend. The Lay Rector would often have the right to nominate ministers. The common characteristic of all rectors was the right to receive the great tithes (corn, grain, hay, and wood) of the rectory. In modern times, following the abolition of tithes, only rectors holding office as ministers hold the title. Their appointment as parish priests with the title rector merely reflects the histories of their particular benefices and they no longer have duties, responsibilities, and rights differing from those of vicars.

From 1190 the Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral was both Rector and Lord of the Rectory Manor of Alderbury. It seems probable that until the Reformation successive Treasurers administered it and appointed and provided for ministers. From 1608 until 1801 (with a short gap during the Commonwealth), the manor and lordship were leased to lay rectors. The Treasurer retained and exercised the right to nominate vicars.

The extent of Alderbury Rectory is defined in a survey carried out in 1649. It included 86 acres of land, the rectory house (not the house where the vicar lived), tithes and payments in lieu of services. A further survey, made in 1765, contains plans, and details of land plots, their names, type, acreage, ownership, and occupancy. It shows the location of the rectory house referred to above. Known today as Court House, it stands adjacent to the south and east parts of the graveyard. Already old in the seventeenth century its south face is thought to have been rebuilt in the early eighteenth century. The survey also indicates the existence of a vicarage house immediately to the south of the church. A map at Figure 6.1 based on the 1765 survey map, shows the extent of the rectory.

In 1809 the Enclosure Award abolished the rectorial tithes. (The small tithes, payable to the vicar, continued until 1865 when they were commuted.) As Alderbury Rectory Manor with its lordship and lands had been sold in 1801 the abolition of the great tithes saw the end of the rectory. The Church retained its small vicarage holdings and the manor continued under its new ownership with its name unchanged.

The list of rectors given above may be nearly complete, for only after the Reformation (sixteenth century) was the Rectory leased to Lay Rectors.

Richard Goldstone, the first recorded lay rector of Alderbury lived at Witherington Farm, just outside the Parish of Alderbury. His wife Margaret, née Ryves, died in 1616 and he died in 1634. Both were buried in the chancel of Alderbury church, in which there is a painted stone shield of their arms annotated Anno Domi 1612, and bearing their initials. The shield had been housed in the previous church, which was replaced in 1858. It had probably been affixed to the exterior of a house at one time.

The Rectory was subsequently held by members of Richard Goldstone’s family until 1677 except for a short break during the Commonwealth, when the land, without the tithes, was sold by the state to Thomas Dove. The sale was subsequently rescinded and the land returned to the Cathedral Treasurer.

There is no evidence that the Goldstones occupied the Rectory House. It has been suggested that Goldstones lived in Alderbury House from early in the seventeenth century. The present Alderbury House, across the road from the church, was built in 1790 or 1791. There is evidence of an earlier house, in the same area in 1765. It was then owned by George Fort. Whether this house or another was that called Alderbury House is not known. Sir Giles Hungerford and all of the subsequent Lay Rectors up to 1800 were related by blood or marriage.

Although the ecclesiastical rectory ended in 1809 the Earl of Radnor’s lordship of the Alderbury Rectory Manor remained unaffected. Perhaps for sentimental or historic reasons, he continued to be referred to as the Lay Rector or Impropriator of the Great Tithes until the 1850s.

Although the Parsonage or Rectory House went with the rectory lands many of the lay rectors elected to live elsewhere and the house was often sub-let and sub-divided. Occupants are known to have included John Bungay in 1765, Thomas Prewett and Henry Rumbold in 1835, and Stephen Prewett, Henry Beaumont, and Thomas Light in 1851. Incumbent vicars may also have been tenants of the Rectory House from time to time. At one time the Rectory House was in use as the village Poor House. This should not be confused with the Alderbury Union Workhouse that was at East Harnham.

Vicars and other incumbents of Alderbury and Whaddon

There were Saxon priests at Alderbury both before the Norman Conquest and possibly until 1110, when the church came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Salisbury. He, and later the Treasurer of the Cathedral, would then have been responsible for appointing priests. It may well be that for a period after its foundation, sometime after 1139, the monastery at Ivychurch was called upon to provide the local priests,

Early priests were not called vicars, a title introduced generally about the time of King John (1199-1216). The first recorded vicars of Alderbury appear in the list of bishops appointments for 1403 and 1422. No explanation can be given as to why they should have been included in these listings when jurisdiction for Alderbury then rested with the Treasurer of the Cathedral.

There is no other mention of Alderbury in comprehensive listings of bishops appointments covering the period 1297-1810. Unfortunately, records of appointments by Treasurers are incomplete, as is the listing of incumbent ministers, compiled from a variety of sources, portrayed in St Mary’s Church. A copy is at Figure 6.2. Points of interest concerning some incumbents are given below.

Figure 6.5

Since 1606 details of burials have been entered in the Parish Register, but the locations of individual plots have not been recorded. Only one tombstone dated before the eighteenth century survives in the graveyard, which covers approximately one acre and surrounds the church. The location in the graveyard of many graves is not known. Surveys of graves have been made as follows:

1900. A Survey of all Tombstone Inscriptions. The survey is comprehensive and accurate but unfortunately there is no location map. The record is held at the Library of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society at Devizes.

1960. Faculty Petition to Remove Headstones. Names, dates, and a plan are included, but there are a number of errors. (The removal of ten headstones only was authorised).

1985. Graveyard Plan and Listing. All plots recognisable as graves are plotted, and the names of those buried or commemorated are listed. Graves shown total 447, of which 428 are identified. 730 names are given. Information obtained from the 1900 and 1960 surveys was incorporated by amendment in July 1988. Documents are held in the church vestry and at the Wiltshire County Record Office.

A copy of the graveyard plan is at Figure 6.5. Individual plots are not shown with the exception of the oldest, dated 1641. The inscription reads.... ‘Here lyeth Thomas Jones the elder who dyed on.....1641’. No mention is made of a Thomas Jones in the burial register for that date.

The plan shows zones, each annotated to show the date of the earliest known grave lying within it. There was no recognisable change in the shape of the graveyard in the hundred years prior to 1858. It then comprised zones A-F, the area shown on the plan lying within the thick line. Zones H and K formerly comprised the vicar's house and garden. At the consecration of the church in 1858 the additions to the graveyard at zones G and H (and probably zone J) were also consecrated. Zone G was the gift of Viscount Folkestone, and zone H that of the vicar, following the demolition of the old vicarage house. Zone L and zone K (probably) were consecrated in May 1899, and zone M was added in 1930.

The digging of new graves in the church graveyard had ceased by 1985. Burials in vacant spaces in multiple graves and the interment of cremated remains continue. Other burials now take place in the municipal graveyard to the west of the church.

Figure 6.1

A Short Church History