This church is thought to be the church of the abbey dissolved in 1177. It is cruciform in shape, having a chancel, central tower, a north transept with an east chapel, a south transept and a clerestoried nave with the south aisle.

The nave is of the earlier 12th century and is generally plain; east of it the crossing, transepts and chancel were built in the early 13th century. At its north-west corner, the nave is joined to the early 13th century remains of what was evidently a gatehouse, probably a south-west gate of the priory, and a lean-to passage against the outside of the north wall of the nave apparently linked the north transept and gatehouse.

In the 13th century, the north transept had two east chapels. The east part of the southern and smaller one had a door to the chancel and served as a chancel vestry: in the 14th century the chapel was demolished and the doorway replaced by a four-light window. At the same time, a window of similar size was inserted at the centre of the south wall of the chancel. The south transept also had an east chapel in the 13th century.

In the late 15th century the chapel was rebuilt and, possibly slightly earlier, the nave aisle was built: the south wall of the chapel was aligned with that of the aisle. Also in the late 15th century much of the church was re-roofed and a new east window and a new west window were inserted.

In 1721, when a new doorway and two new windows were inserted in it, the south wall of the south transept may have been completely rebuilt: the transept’s chapel had been demolished by 1803.

Present thought suggests that this building has always been the parish church, its use was shared with the priory, and it could be on the site of the earlier Saxon abbey.

The generous proportions of its nave may be due to the secular importance of Amesbury as a royal manor from Saxon times until the 13th century. The similar generous scale of the eastern part may be due to the priory, as patron.

The existence of transeptual chapels, with one surviving, and evidence of substantial building along the north of the nave and chancel suggests a special status for this building.

The church’s position at the edge of the priory site would allow it to serve both the canons, who might have lived on the north side and the townspeople to the south.

Next Page

The church through time