St Mary’s, Steeple Ashton, one of the largest and finest churches in Wiltshire, dominates the surrounding countryside. The village was so named because until 1670 there was a spire on the four-staged tower at St Mary’s which resulted in a total height of 186 feet, and would have made the church even more imposing than it is today.
Much of what you now see dates to the late 15th/early 16th centuries when two wool merchants funded the building of the north and south aisles, and the congregation paid for a new nave, all of which were constructed in the Perpendicular style. The Early Gothic chancel that remained from the original church building was eventually replaced in the 1850s.
For an English parish church, the interior, having rib vaults throughout, is highly unusual, the aisles, chapels and chancel having stone lierne vaults. It would have been almost unique, had the wooden nave also been vaulted in stone – which appears to have been the original intention.
Carved heads and foliage abound: decorating corbels and roof bosses; carrying niches; and at the springers of the nave vault.
The porch to the south door has an upper story, or parvis, which houses the Hey Library, a collection of books amassed by a former Vicar.
The nave is used for principal services on a Sunday, while the Lady Chapel at the east end of the south aisle is used for the 8am celebration of Holy Communion.
We are currently reconsidering the interior space at St Mary’s with the intention of enhancing opportunities for our worship and prayer and gathering for a range of activities, and providing facilities such as a kitchenette and WC.