Reasons for Designation
A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.
Holy Rood Church contains archaeological remains both below and above ground.
Its associated graveyard survives well and both church and churchyard are
situtated within an area considered to contain the remains of a Saxon village.
The monument includes the remains of Holy Rood parish church set in a walled
graveyard in Old Town, Swindon. The church stands isolated on a level hilltop
within the grounds of The Lawn, a former mansion belonging to the Goddard
family, and now public parkland.
The surviving above ground remains of the church include the chancel, now used
as a chapel, and three pairs of piers which flank the nave. One complete arch
survives on each side of the nave, the flooring of which also survives. The
remainder of the church survives as below ground remains only. Early
references to the church suggest that it existed in 1154 although no trace of
this structure remains above ground. In the 13th century a chancel was built
and a small chapel was attached to the north side of this. The church was
remodelled during the 14th century, with the addition of the clerestory, and
in the 15th century when the south doorway was constructed from two shaped
stones. The north doorway also survives and forms the present entrance to the
chapel. Most of the parish church was demolished in 1852 but the original
chancel, which formed the east end of the church, today survives as the Chapel
of Unity. The Goddard family vault stands on the site of the north chapel.
The remains of the church are Listed Grade II.
The graveyard, now closed, is bounded by a wall, constructed during the 18th
century of rubble limestone with stone coping and topped with wrought iron
railings. The ground slopes down towards the south west and the wall here has
been strengthened with five large buttresses at some time before 1810. The
wall, which is Listed Grade II and is excluded from the scheduling.
All footpaths and the chapel, which continues in use, are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.