Church Recording Project In Bishopstone Church

Over 2,000 hours of painstaking work by The Arts Society Sarum (previously the National Decorative and Fine Arts Society) has led to the completion of the comprehensive church record that formally records contents, artefacts and features of a local parish church. This officially recognised record of St John the Baptist, Bishopstone, includes photographs, notes and pen and ink drawings that collectively provide a complete picture of the church furnishings and assets, well over 400 separate items!

After presenting a specially bound volume of the record to the church other copies will reside in the County Record Office at Chippenham, Historic England, The Church Care Library in Westminster and The Victoria & Albert Museum, London. As well as providing an invaluable resource for archivists and academics the document is useful for insurance purposes, as the police can use the accurate descriptions and photos to identify stolen artefacts.

The Arts Society Sarum Church Recording team consisted of 13 specialist recorders, including a photographer and an illustrator and met twice a week over the last 5 years (apart from cold winter months when research took place at the County Record Office).

St John's, Bishopstone was built in the 13th century and has some beautiful stonework carvings, interesting woodwork and a large memorial monument by Pugin for the Reverend George Montgomery, who was a relative of the Earls of Pembroke.

An outstanding investigative success was to identify a large 17th century memorial in the North Transept. With extensive 'sleuthing' he was revealed as the Rector Abraham Conham. By chance in our catalogue numbering he was 007, not so secret anymore!

St John The Baptist Church, Bishopstone, Near Salisbury

Arts Society Sarum

A few months after finishing our Church Record in the summer of 2017, the Bishopstone village website was contacted by Martin, a student at Seville University studying for a PhD and investigating British people who visited Seville in the early 19th century. He had come across Reverend George Montgomery and his wife, and wondered whether there were any records in the village of his visit to Spain.

Martin was able to come over to England before Easter 2018 and was very interested to see all the woodwork in the church. We knew that Reverend George Montgomery (our Rector from 1821-1842) had acquired many panels of wood from Spain, but we didn’t have any firm dates. From the research by Martin in Seville, we now know that the Montgomerys were both there in 1838. He also produced some dated architectural drawings of churches and convents that Cecilia made during their visit (see below).

Meanwhile Reverend George Montgomery was busy acquiring many panels of wood from disused churches and convents in the Spanish city. These were brought back to England and have been transformed into the pulpit, reredos, lectern, vestry door and the backs to the chancel stalls (see photos below).

On his visit here, Martin made some sketches of the woodwork in the church, and also saw the rectory, which was built for the Montgomerys. He found it all very useful in his research studies. So it was nice to know that we were able to help him.

Whilst here he visited the Wiltshire archives at Chippenham and was able to read our Church Record which had been completed over a period of 5 years by the church recorders of Arts Society Sarum (NADFAS).

It was a wonderful moment for our church recording group to know that our work is of continuing benefit to future researchers – even internationally!