St Andrew’s, Elston

St Andrew’s Winterbourne

You’re probably asking, “Where’s that? I know about St Mary’s and St George’s, but I’ve never heard of a third church in Orcheston.”

And you’re probably correct, quite probably there is no third church in the village. But there is a tantalising possibility that there was once a chapel, or it may even have been just a chantry, called St Andrew’s somewhere in the tithing of Elston, which forms part of the former parish of Orcheston St George.

Orcheston, tythings map

Elston tything in green, Orcheston St Mary in orange and Orcheston St George in blue, shown on a 1911 Ordnance Survey map

Not long after the Norman Conquest medieval records record that the local landowner was Elias Giffard, who was closely related to William the Conqueror, and who owned estates across England, but mainly in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. He gave his name to Elston (‘Elias’s tun’, or homestead, from which we get the modern word ‘town’), which was then a tithing of the parish of Orcheston St George.

The first authoritative histories of the county were published between 1812 and 1844 by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, who lived at Stourhead and was a member of the Hoare banking family. He wrote the two volumes of Ancient Wiltshire and then contributed to the eleven volumes of Modern Wiltshire. In the latter, The History of Modern Wiltshire, he wrote about St George’s:

“The earliest account we have of this Church is from the Chronicles of the Abbey of Gloucester, quoted by Dugdale, volume 1, page 112, by which we learn that Elyas Giffard gave to the Church of St Peter at Gloucester, for the health of his own soul and that of Berta his wife, the Church of St George, of Orcheston, with the Chapel of St Andrew, of Winterbourne, which grant was confirmed by Walter his son in the time of Abbot Hamelinus; and that afterwards another Elyas Giffard, claiming the Church of Boyton as his right, Thomas Carbonel, then Abbot, pro bono pacis, yielded to him the Church of St George, with the Chapel of St Andrew, retaining the Church of Boyton which had been made part of the same grant. Not being able to affix precise dates to these transactions, I shall only observe that Abbot Hamelinus died in 1179, and Thomas Carbonel in 1205; it is therefore pretty evident that this Church was founded by the Giffards shortly after the Conquest. Of the Chapel of Winterbourne I can find nothing, but being dependent on the Church of St George, it was most probably situated in Winterbourne-Elyston.”

Later historians have suggested various answers to where the ‘missing chapel of Elston’ may have been located.

Some spoil sports want it to be in one of the several ‘Winterbournes’ in Gloucestershire.

Others suggest is was merely a chantry, in which case it could have formed part of a large house, but nothing in Elston really fits the bill.

There is a suggestion that The Cleeve, adjacent to what was once called Elston House but is now Appleford School, might have been built on the site of an original manor house, which could have contained such a chantry.

An even more remote possibility lies in the fact that the Roman-British village that sits on the edge of the Impact Area, north of Greenlands Camp, is known as ‘Church Pits.’ The name could suggest that it was the site of the chapel, but the origins of that name were lost when the Germans bombed the Ordnance Survey in Southampton in the second world war, so we shall probably never know. Unless, that is, the MOD allows it to be subject to an archaeological dig… a most unlikely possibility, but stranger things have happened!

And it’s an odd thing. If there really was a St Andrew’s in Elston cum Orcheston then that means that at one time there would have been three churches, chapels or chantries (in Chitterne, Elston and Rollestone) dedicated to him within our benefice. Which compares with four dedicated to St Mary (Chitterne, Maddington, Orcheston and Shrewton), and St George, St Thomas and All Saints, each with only one dedication each.

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