St Martin’s Church History

A History of the Barford St. Martin Church

The village of Barford St. Martin, situated on the river Nadder, probably takes its name from a shortening of Barley-ford and the dedication of the Church to St Martin. The river is shallow and fordable at this point and the route for travellers from the south of the church lay over the ford to the main drove road on top of the downs, where the original milestones may still be seen.

The Church and churchyard are built on an artificial mound supported by a stone wall 1.50m high. Most of the surrounding land would have been water meadow as are the meadows by the river now. The main door in the seventeenth century west front opens into a porch. The glazed inner west door leads to the nave which is perpendicular, the same style as the South Transept and upper part of the crossing and tower. Some of the original beams of the roof remain, but others were replaced in the restoration in 1967. Some excellent stonework was exposed when the old plaster was removed.

The organ dates from 1820 and was purchased and installed in 1967.

The font is simple with a plain, oak cover and may be contemporary with the church. In 1967 it was moved to its present position, which is the traditional place for a font and symbolises that baptism is the spiritual entry into the church.

Above the arch to the crossing is the royal coat of arms which symbolises the role of the crown as secular head of the Church of England.

The tower above the crossing contains six bells, four dated 1732, one 1757 and one 1905. Two of the oldest are inscribed ‘God preserve the church’ and ‘Peace be to this parish’. The bells are reached by a spiral staircase at the south east corner of the tower.

Brass panels in the crossing contain the names of those who served in the 1914-18 war and the one on the right of the high altar the names of the fallen. The names of the fallen of the 1939-45 war are on a stone panel in the nave.

The south transept was converted in 1981 into a chapel for private prayer and midweek communion. On the cast wall is a brass plate to Alis Walker 1584 with many children. There is a small window to allow worshippers in the transept to see the high altar.

The north transept was enlarged in 1841 and restored in 1996 to serve as a vestry and a room for meetings. On the west wall are details of the Nicholson Charity Foundation which still administers funds for the benefit of the school and of needy parishioners. There are two seventeenth century oak bishop’s chairs and a pair of coffin stools. The pews are nineteenth century but most of the furniture is modern.

The Chancel is the oldest part of the church, built about 1216 and is older than Salisbury Cathedral. The three windows are of this period but the stained glass is modern, dating from the 1920s. The right hand window at the cast end depicts St Martin in the uniform of a roman soldier.

In recent years the rotten roof timbers were renewed and the plaster repaired. The altar in the sanctuary is a carved oak chest, perhaps of Spanish origin. The panelling in the chancel is sixteenth century. On the south wall of the chancel there is an unusual sixteenth century monument of’ a tomb containing the painted effigy of’ a young woman in a shroud with a Latin inscription from the Book of Job.

On the North wall there is a small stone panel of a kneeling woman holding a basket of loaves. The steps in the chancel and crossing are stone but the floor between them is covered in nineteenth century tiles.

The historic church plate is no longer kept in the church because of the danger of vandalism. This consists of a silver gilt chalice dated 1553 with a pyramidal lid. The silver paten is dated 1710. There is a silver flagon and cover which may be earlier than the paten. The silver alms dish is dated 1683.

The living has been in the gift of All Souls College, Oxford from the earliest times until recent years, but All Souls still takes a keen interest and has helped financially.