NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DECORATIVE AND FINE ARTS PROJECT IN BISHOPSTONE CHURCH
The church of St John the Baptist, Bishopstone, like most parish churches, contains a wealth of memorials, stained glass and other decorative items. The National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts (NADFAS) has a national campaign to get all of these recorded for posterity. A group of 13 (including a photographer and an illustrator), working under the umbrella of the Sarum Society of NADFAS, has been meeting in our church twice a month since 2012, making detailed descriptions, measurements and dates of each item in the church and producing a comprehensive photographic record.
All memorials and items of metalwork, stonework, woodwork etc have to be researched and recorded by written description and photograph, and occasionally illustrated by line drawings. When the record is finally edited, it will be collated and published, and presented to the Church. Further illustrated copies of the report, and all the photographs, are given to the V&A Museum, Historic England, Churchcare Library and the County Record Office at Chippenham.
An indication of what is involved can be seen from our research to identify the subject of one of our oldest memorials (right), which is in the North Transept of the church. The tablet below the memorial is mostly illegible, apart from the date of 1612.
In January 2016 we had a huge breakthrough when a church historian and lecturer told us that the type of ruff the figure is wearing shows that he is a divine (religious man) and that it was very likely that he had been a rector.
We then linked him with the Roll of Rectors in the church and Abraham Conham was rector 1584-1612. We had previously discounted him being a Rector as he appeared to be a lawyer.
Next we discovered that Abraham’s widow, Hester Conham, had moved to Durrington with her daughter who had married Edward Poore there. In the chancel at All Saints’ Durrington there is a memorial to Hester Conham with the same bird standing on a serpent as on our memorial in Bishopstone.
So we consulted a Heraldry expert and found that the Conham arms consisted of a small bird standing on a serpent (which is depicted left of his head in the memorial), so we were then sure that this was our man!
He was also a Prebendary at Salisbury, Lincoln and Wells cathedrals as well as Rector at Gussage St Michael. Not sure how much pastoral care he devoted to Bishopstone!
Although detailed and exacting work, it is very rewarding and we have fun working on the project. We hope to finish this recording by the end of 2016 and I would like to thank all the recorders for their dedication, enthusiasm, and hopefully their enjoyment of this project.
The Church Recording Team: Mike Ash (photographer), James Bell, Colin Colston, Edith Colston, Valerie Everard, Jane Garnett (artist), Liz Hardman, Brenda Hunt, Jill Makepeace Warne, Robert Morgan, Alan Stutchbury, Anne Stutchbury (Group Leader), Angela Wheeler.
Anne Stutchbury January 2016