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Cricklade was a famous town in old times, and is said to have been inhabited by learned monks, from whom it derived its name of Greeklade, corrupted into Creeklade – another fanciful invention of the poets;  and Drayton, following ancient historians, makes this town the predecessor of Oxford, where –

To Great Britain first the Sacred Muses sung.

It has two churches, dedicated to St Sampson and St Mary;  neither however, advance any pretensions to architectural grace or beauty.

They may not "advance any pretensions ..." - but that may be because they don't need to! They are both examples of architectural grace and beauty in their own ways.

Cricklade, Church of St Sampson, Anglican, 01793 750300

Now the Anglican parish church of the whole of Cricklade. The dedication is to St Sampson, who founded the abbey and bishopric of Dol in Brittany - it is one of only five churches dedicated to the saint. A stone church existed on the site in saxon times and, in the Domesday Survey of 1086 the church is recorded as being held by St Peter's, Westminster. Most of the present building was erected by the Normans between 1240 and 1280, although traces of the earlier building remain. The tower rising above the crossing is reputed to have been built by the Duke of Northumberland, father-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, between 1551 and 1553 - shortly before his beheading as a traitor.
A major restoration was carried out in 1864

1859: Mr & Mrs Hall, The Book of the Thames -

Its church tower is a “landmark” for many miles around. 

St Sampson’s Anglican Church, Cricklade

Both St Sampson’s and St Mary’s Churches were locked when I tried to visit -
St Sampson’s said it was open – Weekends and bank holidays in summer - but it wasn’t ...
St Mary’s lamented that it was closed, and it was ...

The two crosses still preserved in Cricklade are unusually fine specimens -

St Sampsons Cross Cricklade 1859        St Sampsons Cross Cricklade 2004
St Sampsons Cross Cricklade in 1859 and 2004

Cricklade Anglicans united into one parish with two churches in 1952.  In 1981 they ceased to use St Mary’s, and in 1984 it was transferred to the RomanCatholic Church.

St Mary's Cross Cricklade 1859        St Mary's Cross Cricklade 2004
1859        St Mary's Cross Cricklade       2004

Pause to look at the figures in the lantern which are just discernable and are thought to represent scenes from the life of Our Lady.

Cricklade, Church of St Mary, now Catholic 01285 712586

The church of St Mary's stands at the north end of the High Street close to the  Thames. The north edge of the churchyard, viewed from the High Street is noticeably higher than the modern street. This earth bank is the remains of the Saxon town wall and is the site of the north gate of the town.

St Mary, Cricklade

There have been three churches on the site -

The first was a Saxon chapel, built perhaps by the monks of Abingdon soon after 1008, or even earlier, as a gate chapel associated with the North Gate. The north chapel (where the pipe organ stands) is thought to be built on the foundations of this early chapel. Note that the chapel has a different alignment to the main body of the church. The existing walls and windows are probably mid 15th century.

The second church was built after the Norman conquest, perhaps to meet the needs of a growing community. It would have been a long rectangle more or less where the present chancel and nave now stand, but not extending so far to the east. The chancel arch is the most obvious surviving feature. It is early 12th century, with characteristic semicircular shape and 'dog tooth' or chevron carving on the west face. The tower and a south aisle were added to the church soon after.

Sometime in the mid thirteenth century the church was rebuilt for a third time, achieving its present form. The number of features that date to this period suggest that a major disaster may have struck the church which required complete reconstruction. The tower was increased in height and buttressed, the nave pillars were replaced on a slightly altered alignment, and a north aisle added.

The ground plan of the present day church therefore dates to the 13th century. In the 14th century the chancel was extended farther to the east, and linked to the north chapel. The 15th century saw the rebuilding of the north chapel, and the addition of a porch. 

By the mid 19th century the church was in need of restoration, its 'churchwarden gothic' style offended what contemporaries considered to be the 'present improved taste'. The restored church was rededicated at a service on the 7th January 1863.

The clock 1863 has its face on the exterior east wall of the nave. The  mechanism is in the tower and is connected to the face by a shaft running under the roof.

The sundial is an 1822 replacement of an earlier dial.
The font is thirteenth century
The altar is dated 1627.
The pulpit is Jacobean.

In 1553 there were 3 bells. They have had to be removed because they made the tower unsafe. The money from their sale was used for repairs to St Mary's. Now only the call bell of 1733 remains, inscribed:-

Come away, make no delay.

(The bell was installed on the centenary of George Herberts’ writing of ‘The Temple’ and the quotation is from Doomsday within that work) -


Come away,
Make no delay.
Summon all the dust to rise,
Till it stirr, and rub the eyes;
While this member jogs the other,
Each one whispring, "Live you brother?"

Come away,
Make this the day.
Dust, alas, no music feels,
But thy trumpet: then it kneels,
As peculiar notes and strains
Cure Tarantulas raging pains.

Come away,
O make no stay!
Let the graves make their confession,
Lest at length they plead possession:
Flesh's stubbornness may have
Read that lesson to the grave.

Come away,
Thy flock doth stray.
Some to winds their body lend,
And in them may drown a friend:
Some in noisome vapours grow
To a plague and public woe.

Come away,
Help our decay.
Man is out of order hurled,
Parcelled out to all the world.
Lord, thy broken consort raise,
And the music shall be praise.

There are two chest tombs which are listed ancient monuments.

St Mary, Cricklade, after John Buckler 1809
St Mary, Cricklade, after John Buckler 1809

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(Upstream to Thames Head)          (Upstream to Seven Springs)