Wednesday, April 2, 2008

St.michael's Church Aldbourne - notes

Village pond in 1960s

Andrew and Dury Map, note Albourn,(Al Bourn)

nineteen century photo. If you look at this photo closely there is a circular nature to the village, follow the line of the fence surrounding the ricks in the centre and a bank/ditch can be seen, probably the original saxon settlement?

St.Michael church

Coloured print

which sits on a spur between two dry valleys feeding the perennial Ald stream flowing south to join the Kennet below Ramsbury. The spur overlooks to the west, the earliest, presumably pagan occupation site round manor farm, some mounds can still be seen in the pasture. At the centre of the modern village was at this period (pagan) a substantial pond or mini lake formed by a natural dam of sarsen debris washed down through the tributary valley...... so the old site was above winter flooding
Building of church; which by the way would have been wooden in the 7th/8th century(saxon presumably). Sarsen, hard cemented sandstone was available in quantity at the southern exit of the village, broken sarsen and flint were used in the rubble wall. Larger sarsen boulders provided a foundation layer, particularly for chalk walling...

Pevsner mentions the village situated around the village green with a pond at its centre, In the Domesday book, there is mention of four mills which would indicate that there was a lot of water around.

There are bronze age four barrows in the vicinity, see at the following link

It was stated that there was a well established church here in 966, which is most likely to have been a wooden one. In 1086 two hides of land belonged to the church, to support it and the priest. The early church was on the site of the present one, on higher ground, overlooking the village. By the mid-12th century there was a stone church with an aisled nave and, perhaps, a central tower; the south doorway and some masonry survive from this building. It is thought that a fire c.1220 damaged the church and it had to be rebuilt. The new church was cruciform in plan with a long chancel, a central tower and an aisled nave of 4 bays; the dedication was to St. Mary Magdalene.

The above comes from the Swindon records office, and there are finds of neolithic, bronze age and later of course Saxon. It follows a similar pattern to the Vale of Pewsey churches, and of course to Pewsey church, which also stands on higher ground above the river.

The fascinating thing about history is when you start to find patterns; we often study each particular time period without directly relating to the flow of settlement that occurs. Here at Aldbourne, there is neolithic, bronze age barrows in the surrounding area, and Saxon occupation. Much of this is because of the close proximity of the Ridgeway, early settlement in neolithic times round good water sources would start the process, the presence of sarsen drifts in the valley around Aldbourn, would predispose one to think of barrows and perhaps a circle being built. Stone was abundant in the area, nineteenth century maps record stones all round the village, and there is even a folklore tale to go along with one of the stones with a hole. Again called a 'blowing stone' similar to one but a few miles away, the tale having been imitated at Aldbourne.

But what is so interesting is the strong linking Saxon theme that is a part of the story round this area and around the rivers. Pewsey Vale is strongly marked by the old Pagan god, Woden, the two churches of Alton Priors and Alton Barnes within its valley, point to settlement by a river and streams, the 'holy' nature of the location is revered through a pagan period, but is then topped by a christian culture frightened of paganism and stamping its authority against the worship of 'natural' things whether they be stone or water.

The word Albourne on Andrew's and Dury's map, may point to a personal Saxon naming, Al, or Alfre stream, there are several namings on this map, Albourn Warren, Albourn Chace, Albourn South Wood. It may be an old parish boundary abounding the parish of Ogbourne St.George, another church that has pagan influences.

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