The History of St. Peter and St. Paul Long Compton

 

An early church on the present site was visited by St. Augustine when he came to England in 597 A.D.  A story told of his visit implies the existence here of a place of worship 150 years before, in the middle of the 5th Century of Celtic origin.

 

Although the earlier Church was made perhaps of wood with a thatched roof, the present building dates from the 13th Century.  The south porch is probably 14th Century and it has a pair of oak doors dated 1620.  In the inside of the porch on the west side of the inside doorway is a small scratched Mass dial, which must have been there before the porch was built.  Another one can be seen on the outside of the porch east of the doorway.  In the porch close to the east wall is set an ancient, badly worn, recumbent figure of a woman; believed to be 14th Century.  It may at one time have been inside the church itself, perhaps in the north aisle.

 

The north aisle was added in about 1300 and is separated from the nave by slim octagonal piers, supporting double-chamfered arches; the spacious chancel was added in the late 13th Century and was restored by Woodyer in 1862-3, including the addition of a tracery rood screen, between the Nave and the Chancel. To give more light in the enlarged building, the clerestory (high level window) was added in the first half of the 15th Century.  The east window in the chancel is of modern glass, set in a 14th Century design, and made before the Victorians had quite mastered the art.  The chancel roof was renewed in 1863. It was recovered in Cotswold tiles at a cost of £600, through a grant from the lay-rector, the Provost of Eton College.  The College has received revenues from the Rectory of Long Compton since 1547, arising from rents of several of its lands within the village.  

 

The 15th Century chantry chapel outside the south wall of the chancel, which can best be examined from outside, is a little gem. One can see on the southwest buttress a scratched half-round Mass dial with the stump of the iron gnomon (to protect the sun’s shadow)  still in position.  Above the east gable of the nave is a restored bell cote with a Sanctus bell still used on Sundays.  The roof of the nave is of five bays with moulded cambered tie beams, moulded braces and wall posts.  The trusses are carried on moulded capitals with concave sides and carved corbels, supporting the roof beams.  The second from the east on the north side starting from the rood screen is a mitred bishop’s head with a horseshoe, pincers, and smith’s hammer; opposite him on the south side is a man wearing a large scalloped headdress of c.1440.  A lady in a large horned headdress is next west of the bishop and opposite her a man in another form of headdress.  The westernmost south figure near the font is that of a priest with a chalice and book.

 

The massive west tower measures 12 feet north to south by 13 feet and is 81 feet high.  It is of three stages, the middle stage embracing two stories and the top stage is subdivided into two by a string course below the bell chamber windows and was probably added when the clerestory was added.  The walls are of small irregular rubble.  At the westernmost corners are 15th Century diagonal buttresses of ashlar with narrower and higher moulded plinths.  The tower was restored in 1930.  At the southwest corner of the tower is a stone staircase leading to the belfry and roof of the tower.  On the corners are tall octagonal pinnacles and on the north and south sides are gargoyles with animal heads acting as water outlets.  The saint in the small stained glass window in the west end of the tower is St. Peter, placed there in the 1920s.  The pointed archway from the Nave is carried on corbel-capitals carved with stiff-leaved foliage, the southern being of 13th century origin and the northern, showing a man’s face, a modern restoration.  There is a low oak screen across the entrance to the Vestry, donated as a memorial in 1931.  Long Compton Church has a fine peal of six bells; the treble and second date from 1652; the third, fifth and tenor from 1731; and the fourth from 1823.

 

The thatched Lych Gate, through which you enter the Churchyard, is a memorable feature of the village adjacent to the main road and has had a long and varied history.  It originally was the end of a row of cottages, most of which were demolished in the early part of the 20th Century.  In the 1920s and 1930s, it was a cobblers and an antiques shop.  It, together with the garden, is now Church property.  It was rebuilt and reroofed by a past resident, Mr George Latham, and given to the Church as a memorial to him by his wife Marion on 12th November 1964.  The room above the gate is now used by the local Compton District History Society for meetings and for storage of artefacts.  Members of the Garden Club care for the garden.

 

In 1998 there was a major flood in the village, which caused irreparable damage to

the church rooms in Vicarage Lane. The PCC decided to sell the rooms with

planning permission for a dwelling on the site. Plans were made to construct

replacement facilities in the west end of the church, including a meeting room, prayer

room, kitchen, disabled toilet and lobby. Faculty for the work was granted by a

consistory court hearing in the church. Further local fundraising and donations raised

funds of £160,000 and the new facilities were officially opened by the Bishop of

Coventry in 2004.

 

During the building, archaeologists from Warwick University helped identify several

stone relics from the reopening of the west door as being from an earlier building on the

site. Other stones were from door and window frames , dating from

between the 12th and 15th Centuries, some of which are now in Warwick

Museum. It was concluded these had been used to block the doorway during the

tenure of W Henry Lampsfield, Vicar from 1861 to 1873, when the major renovation

works were undertaken.

 

In August 2016 the church was struck by lightning, causing damage to the bell tower

with the subsequent debris causing further internal and external damage. While

much of the direct repair cost was covered by insurance, further repairs and

improvements were made while the scaffolding was present, with the FLCC

contributing £10,000.