Remains of Holy Rood Church, The Lawn, Old Town


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Remains of Holy Rood Church, The Lawn, Old Town
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Swindon (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 16051 83649

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.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Bird, D, The Story of Holy Rood Old Parish Church of Swindon, (1991)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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