WEST GRIMSTEAD CHURCH
We do not know who built St John's Church, West Grimstead, nor the date it was built, but local tradition has it that it was built during the reign of William Rufus, sometime between the years 1087-1100. We do know that the earliest known Rector of the Parish was Ricardus Brionne 1294.
St John's is a simple church, and it has been the focus of the faith of a small rural community for at least eight centuries. Today the building reflects the changes that have taken place throughout the centuries. The original door in the western end of the north wall was filled in early in the 18th century, at the time the tower was built. Inside, the north arcade is of two bays, the south has only one arch, all appear to be 13th Century, as is the chancel arch and the three-lighted east window of the chancel. Nave and aisle still retain evidence of their old 14th Century roofs. The piers are grey stone, the arches alternating biscuit-coloured and brown.
Registers of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials beginning in 1717are kept in the County Archives for greater security. They also have the Bishops Transcripts which fill in some of the gaps in the Parish Registers and provide names
from some earlier marriages. We owe a considerable debt to the Reverent E.B.Martin as he recorded a veritable mine of information gained from dilapidated earlier records, as well as the maintaining the records from his own period of office. He produced the record for the Parish Church of Rectors of West Grimstead from the year 1294. Many of the names show evidence of their Norman origin.
It was obvious that the Rev. Martin found a great deal needing doing to improve the condition of the interior of the church, and in 1866, just two years after his installation, he commissioned Mr. Thomas Hewitt, Architect, to examine and report on the condition. This report still exists. The whole church - walls, pillars, arches and beams - were covered with 'lime-white'. In addition to recommending the removal of this 'lime-white' he proposed that the floor of the church be raised by twelve inches, in an attempt to alleviate 'a green damp that was creeping up the walls and pillars'. When carried out, this must have been a great improvement. The Rev. Martin also decided to get rid of the old seating and replaced them with the good sound oak seats that are there today.
The tower was built at the beginning of the 18th Century in brick. The inscriptions on the presents bells, which are not the originals, are as follows;
CLEMENT TOZIER NEW SARUM 1712 C.T. CAST ME
JAMES WELLS ALDBOURNE, WILTS 1815
In 1994, on the 700th anniversary of the recording of the first Rector of West Grimstead, a beautiful new stained glass window was commissioned. Funded by the small profit made from these celebrations it was installed in December 1996 and dedicated at the village carol service that year. It is called The Tree of Life and can be seen in the south east aisle of the church.
In Edward Hutton's "Highways and Byways of Wiltshire" we find the words' At West Grimstead there is a little old church, very reverent and homely and still. The whole humble building is worth a close and loving inspection, and is a delight on a lonely road'
With acknowledgement to the West Grimstead Local History Group and their booklet 'WEST GRIMSTEAD a village history' from which extracts have been quoted on this page