Mildenhall (Minal), Wiltshire – St John the Baptist


We then drove a few miles to see the church of St John the Baptist, Mildenhall – SU210696 – the name is pronounced and often written as Minal. It is listed as one of Simon Jenkins England’s Thousand Best Churches – wouldn’t it be lovely if someone made an app out of that book. It is part of the Marlborough Team Ministry and has it own website – you can download the church leaflet too. It is beautiful from the outside – lovely surrounding, despire a very grey day (and it chucked it down while I was in the church). There are traces of a Saxon window in the tower, and I missed the sundial “said to be seven minutes ahead of Greenwich (as in Wiltshire it should be)” to quote Jenkins.

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october a 234In 804 AD the Abbot Glastonbury bought land here for a church, and in Domesday the Church holds Mildenhalle and Edward holds it from the Church. About 200 people lived in the village. Inside we will see that the six main arches in the nave, together with the stone columns, are pure Norman – the main stone building was started in the C11 and the tower arch dates from 1250. The earliest known Rector was Johannes de Knovyle in 1297. There are some wonderful carvings.

october a 262october a 241october a 260october a 267In a 1948 broadcast, Sir John Betjeman, who had studied at Marlborough School, said “You walk in to the church of a Jane Austen novel, into a feast of magnificent oak joinery”. John Piper, a year later, wrote “the colour as a whole is that of an old fiddle”. It is magnificent.

In 1816, twelve of the wealthier members of the parish – all land-owning farmers – realised that the church was decaying. Working with the Rector, Charles Francis, they decided to refurbish the interior. They employed a master carpenter and a stone carver to design and build the shoulder-high pew stalls, the matching pulpit and reading desk and the gallery. Gardner, a carver, was paid sixpence for every flower leaf he carved. The total cost was £2,000. The names of the twelve are recorded on a set of shields, now under the gallery. Let’s start at the west end by the font, then move east enjoying the wood.

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This portrait hangs in the NE corner of the church. It is of George Morley (1641) who went on from Minal to become the first Bishop of Worcester and later Bishop of Winchester. There are some lovely memorials.

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And finally, in the porch of this wonderful church there is a lovely stone plaque of the Lamb of St John the Baptist, commissioned from the sculptor Sebastian Brooke. It was installed on Millennium Eve 1999.

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3 Responses to Mildenhall (Minal), Wiltshire – St John the Baptist


    It was pleasing to see little Minal has been included in your tours – thank you. One or two suggestions:
    1: when you come again the medieval sundials (4) are on the South and West walls of the tower. One above is Victorian.
    2: Glastonbury Abbey cartularies apparently list the acquisition of land at Minal in an exchange with the Bp of Winchester in 804. There is no evidence that it was for the building of a church. Most likely, as with much of their land acquisitions it was land for cultivation and a mill for profit to maintain their works of mercy and their Abbey buildings. Soon after the monks arrived the area was devastated by the Danish invasions with the routing of King Alfred of Wessex in the Battle of Chippenham.
    3: highly doubtful that the initiative to repair the church came from the farmers. All were tenants of the Ailesbury Estate and when a new Earl (later 1st Marquis) took over in 1814 he became known as a church builder and repairer. Lord of the Manor of Minal the initiative most likely came from him. He was building a massive palace, Tottenham House at the time and workers may have come from there, hence the quality of the workmanship. The 1816 Faculty refers only to the nave. As you know the Chancel was the responsibilty of the Patron, the Pococks who had provided 3 members of their family as parsons before Charles Francis, a protege of Thomas Earl
    of Ailesbury took over in 1776. As well as being Rector of Minal he served as Mayor and Chief Magistrate of the pocket- Borough of Marlborough (in the Earl’s pocket) and
    held the living of Collingbourne Ducis and the post of Domestic Chaplain to the Earl.He
    progressed through three prebends, each increasing in value yet was a wealthy man, scion of the Lippiatt brewing family and exceedingly generous in his bequests which
    included a ‘Strawberry Hill Gothick’ School, the Protestant Free School, now a private house.
    4: George Morley was Canon of Christ Church and resided there, using Minal as a sinecure – he had exchanged it with Harting in Sussex, a less valuable living. Deprived
    by the Parliamentarians in the Civil Wars he went into exile with Charles II and for his
    loyalty was rewarded first with the bishopric of Worcester (1660) and the wealthier and more prestigious Winchester. The portrait shows him in the Garter robes of the
    Prelate of the Order
    I hope this may be of use.


    2nd Comment
    I’ve just noticed possibly a typo ?
    In Domesday Book William of Salisbury holds Mildenhalle, the Tenant-in-Chief is the Abbot of Glastonbury, not the other way round as in the main article.

  3. Kathy says:

    Yes, it is a beautiful church, I visited it in 2019, as my Grandfather grew up in Mildenhall Wiltshire, my Grandfathers brother is buried at St John The Baptist, we located his grave while we were there.

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