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St Lawrence Church - in the 19th & 20th centuries

church today for photo quiz.jpg

A 21st century view of

St Lawrence Church, Stratford sub Castle

Date unknown, possible Edwardian.
Jukes were producing postcards before WWI

©Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

External changes made in the 19th & 20th centuries

  • The climbing ivy has gone

  • The gravestones west and south were cleared in 1962

  • A hedge has replaced the fence

  • New nave roof 1957

  • New clock face 2019

  • Central flagpole on tower

  • Metal spikes in tower pinnacles have gone

  • Trees on the north side have gone

  • No topiary model of the church

  • New Flashing on porch roof

  • Footpath east from porch door has gone

A 19th century view



  • the two sundials, one above the doorway and another on the buttress arch to its east with gnomons and their shadows;

  • the dormer window near the tower;

  • the lintel above the first window; 

  • the glass in the first window;

  • the roof overhang;

  • the two paths crossing the southern churchyard.

Image ©Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

Image ©Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

Stratford sub Castle Church. N.E. view. [E. End, Chancel, Nave, Tower.] S.W. view. [W. Tower, Nave, S. Porch, Chancel.] Buckler. Water cols. 1804. i. 30.” in Vol 1 No or page 30.  from THE BUCKLER COLLECTION OF WILTSHIRE DRAWINGS. 690 drawings of Wiltshire Churches, houses, and other ancient buildings, in ten volumes, “Collections for Wiltshire," by John Buckler,. acquired by Wiltshire Museum, Devizes in 1916. DZSWS: Book.15780.


Kerry O’Connor

May 2023

This article above supplies the answer to Question No. 58 in the website's

Local History Photo Quiz.

Click here to see all the questions.

The interior of St Lawrence Church in 1895

1895 interior of church (1).jpg

This photograph hangs in the Vestry, high up on the wall, so not many people will have seen it. It explains more graphically than words, why we have the unusual arrangement of pews. 

It was taken by H. Brown of 143 Castle Street and given to the Parish Church by Mrs Phyllis Coggan in 1956.


A plate on the back says it was taken in September 1895 at 3.35 pm (no date given), in good light, using an aperture of f32 and a 35 minute exposure (yes 35 minutes). For the technically minded the plate type, developer, printing process and toning bath are also recorded.

When some of us were measuring the pews for the new cushions, we found they were of different sizes, particularly on the right hand side, facing the altar. Looking at this picture there was clear method in the craftmen's minds 300 years ago. The pews are stepped carefully from the front to widen the aisle so that there is space to accommodate the Font by the time we reach the halfway point. It all makes perfect sense. Hence all the pews must have been individually made, not mass produced: they also had doors.

The best information we have is that the pews were installed around 1711 as part of the refurbishments paid for by 'Diamond' Pitt, William Pitt the Elder's grandfather. In 1904 the doors were removed. The rear pews have signs on them saying 'Free'. This implies that the other pews had been paid for by individual families who now regarded them as their property. The ''Free' could imply it costs nothing to use them, or, that they were available for anyone to use.

It is believed the Font was moved to its present position around 1904 when the floor of the nave was opened up and the grave spaces filled in. Close examination of the photo shows other changes since 1895:

Firstly the nave was lit by two oil lamp chandeliers, presumably until the installation of electricity after WW2. They certainly look more attractive than the mid-20th century lights we have today. Presumably there was another chandelier in the chancel as a chain can be seen.

The more eagle-eyed will notice that Queen Anne's Coat-of-Arms which now sits above the south door, was above the chancel arch.

The words on the altar are 'I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE''.

The hymn board appears to be the same one we use for Readings, without the cross on top and was raised and lowered by a pulley system.


The collection box is very familiar although on the left hand side of the aisle.

There is a carpet runner on the floor of the aisle and cross-aisle - they liked their luxuries in the 19C.

Some of us will remember the hour glass by the pulpit, slolen a few years ago.

Jim Platt


The Article above was first published in The Friends of St Lawrence Newsletter no. 24, Autumn 2015, and appears here with the kind permission of the author and of the Trustees.

The Friends of St Lawrence is a Registered Charity no. 1063271 which was set up to involve the community in fundraising to assist with the maintenance costs for the Grade 1 Listed St Lawrence Church.

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