History of St Katharine's Church, Savernake

This beautiful church was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury on 24 September, 1861 as a chapel of ease to the mother church of Great Bedwyn. It was dedicated to St. Katharine by Maria Caroline, Marchioness of Ailesbury in memory of her Russian mother, Katharine Woronzoff, Dowager Countess of Pembroke. This devout and generous lady, who died in 1856, left a liberal sum for the construction of the church on her son-in-law's estate. He, in his turn, donated a fine peal of bells and, a few years later, built the nearby church school (St Katharine's CofE VC Primary School).

Subsequent generations of the Brudenell-Bruce family have made a major contribution to the repair and improvement of the church in which so many of their line have been buried or entombed. Other members of the local gentry, including Lord and Lady De Vesci, Lord Herbert of Lea, the Countess of Dunmore and Lady Selina Vernon, provided the pulpit, the font, stained glass windows, church plate and needlework altarcloths and frontals.

The architect T.H. Wyatt, who restored and built many churches in the diocese, the talented stonemason George Howitt of Devizes, the ironworker G. Somers and the builder Daniel Jones, both of Bradford-on-Avon, produced a light and spacious church. The use of warm Bath stone, the graceful vaulting and arches, the stone carving inside and out, the lovely use of marble and the glowing colours of the Minton tiles all offer the congregation and visitor many delights. The memorial tablet by A. Gilbert R.A. behind the lectern is particularly noteworthy: interesting too are the Beatitudes on tiles high above the nave.

Remote though the setting appears, St. Katharine's suffered bomb damage at the end of the second World War (7 July, 1945). This was caused by an accidental explosion in a nearby ammunition store. As well as extensive roof damage and dangerous weakening of the north wall, the stained glass once gracing every window was nearly all destroyed. By 1951 a Diocesan Committee suggested the demolition of the entire nave, retaining only the transepts. Through the perseverance of the Rev. Edward G. Courtman, Vicar of Minal (now Mildenhall) and the St. Katharine's Parochial Church Council (under its then Chairman, Noel Tilley) restoration work was put in hand and the church as we see it today was reopened, after six years of uncertainty, on Easter Day 1952.

For more pictures of the church, see the gallery