St Peter’s Church

On the 7th of May, 1813, the foundation stone of the new Church was laid by William Pinkney, a churchwarden and occupier of Lower House Farm, and the removal of the old one commenced on the 2nd June. Built in the Gothic style of Bath stone, its architect was one John Morlidge of London.  The site selected was midway between East and West EverLeigh, and the cost, including the building of the present Rectory came to £14,000.
This was defrayed in its entirety by Francis Dugdale Astley, who thus carried out what his predecessor had intended doing more than forty years before.  Finished in October 1814, the Church was consecrated on the 26th by John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury. Not quite so large as its forerunner, the nave is 41 feet 6 inches long, by 26 feet wide, and the chancel 16 feet long by 14 feet wide. The tower is over 11 feet square.
The Church contains a number of marble tablets and several smaller brass ones, taken from the old Church, most of them to the memory of former Rectors. The gem of this group is the narrow oblong brass affixed to the north wall of the sanctuary, and inscribed in Latin, a free translation of which runs: “Here lies Sir John Neet, once Rector of the Church of Everley, who died on the 5th day of the month of July A.D. 1429, on whose soul, God have mercy. Amen.
Immediately over this is a memorial to the Rev. John Wallis, another incumbent who died on January 12th, 1735. A Professor of Arabic at Oxford, he was evidently a man of some considerable reputation, as a scholar, outside his own parish. Just behind the reading desk, and affixed to the pillar of the chancel arch, is a brass tablet in memory of Susanna Tesdale, wife of the Rev. Christoper Tesdale, a 17th century Rector. This is worthy of attention because of the lovely little verse it contains. Miss Edith Sitwell included it in her “Anthology” and is reported to have said that she considered it one of the most beautiful epitaphs in English.
On the south wall of the nave and near the pulpit hangs a small painted coat of arms. These are the arms of the Rev. John Barnestone, Rector from 1598 to 1645. A similar coat hangs in Salisbury Cathedral.
Facing the main south door, and occupying nearbly one-third of the north wall of the nave a huge marble monument hails Francis Dugdale Astley Esq. as “the Founder, Building and Donor of this Church, and of all the ecclesiastical buildings appertaining to it.” It goes on to trace his family lineage and after extolling his good qualities, records his burial on May 1818 in the vault beneath the Church he had finished only three and a half years earlier.  The hatchments, or funeral escutcheons, which hang high on the walls of the nave all belong to various members of the Astley family, and are mostly of eighteenth century date. Other memorials include a marble tablet on the north wall of the chancel to the memory of the Rev. Anthony Aylmer Astley who was Rector from 1877 to 1917, and who was the last member of the family to live permanently in the parish. A small tablet on the north wall of the nave commemorates William Pinkney, a former churchwarden who laid the foundation stone as mentioned earlier. He occupied Lower House Farm for forty years.
The large east window was filled witn stalned glass in 1873 by the then baronet in memory of his parents, Sir Francis and Lady Astley, who are interred in the churchyard. This window is considered to be an excellent example of the glazier’s art.
At the west end of the nave is a large gallery which at one time contained an ancient barrel organ. This was superseded in 1879 however by a new manual organ which was placed in the vestry at the east end, an opening being cut in the south chancel wall for this purpose. It is probable that in the early years of the Church the barrel organ was supplemented by a band of musicians similar to those described by Thomas Hardy in “Under the Greenwood Tree.”  In 1903 the restoration of the nave was undertaken, and the high box pews which up till then had remained as originally fixed, were cut down and converted to the present ones. The carved oak choir stalls were also presented at this time by Canon Blundell, Rector of Walsall, in memory of his wife who was a daughter of Sir Francis Astley. An inscription recording the restoration and to the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Sir J. D. Astley is shown on the marble shelf at the base of the founder’s monument. A canon ball mounted on a pedestal immediately in front of this, as a relic of the Battle of the Alma in the Crimean War, where the aforementioned Sir John was wounded, has since been romoved. Its pedestal was the font which was in use from 1814 until 1911 when the ancient Norman font from the old Church, was restored to its rightful place. This very old font is now mounted on a modern base, and its whereabouts during the years mentioned is something of a mystery.
On the south wall near the door is a marble tablet commemorating the names of Everleigh men who fell in the First World War 1914-18, and in the south porch is a Roll of Honour containing the names of all who served during the same conflict.  Central heating was installed in 1929, this being the gift of the late Mr. Ernest Scott who at that time was temporarily resident at the Crown Hotel. Originally fired by solid fuel this was converted in 1962 to an oil-fired installation.
In 1949 the old method of lighting by oil lamps was succeeded by the provision of electric lighting, and this was paid for by public subscription as a memorial to the men of the parish who gave their lives in the Second World War 1939-45. A small bronze plaque comemorating their names is fixed to the south wall of the nave near the pulpit, and was dedicated by the Right Rev. W. L. Anderson, Lord Bishop of Salisbury, on March 3rd, 1950. The brass candelabra in the chancel was also converted to electricity at about the same time by Captain Bullock in memory of the late Misses Alma and Ada Bullock of Pewsey, who worshipped here for many years. A further step in the electrification programme was taken in 1951, when an electric blower was purchased, chiefly by means of an anonymous donation, to replace the hand blower on the organ and used for the first time on August 5th of that year. Most of the silver Communion plate bears the date 1814 and was presented by the founder. Exceptions are the flagon which was given by William Sweatman in 1754 and the Chalice by Anne Astley in 1813, Also presented by the founder was the ring of six bells, cast at Aldboume, Wilts., by James Wells in 1814 the tenor weighing 14cwts. They were re-hung in ball bearings in the original wooden frame in 1933 by Messrs. Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel. The following inscription appears on the treble “My cheerful note I’ll therefore raise; To sound my benefactors praise.
Due to the commanding position in which the Church is built, extensive views of the countryside to the South and West can be obtained from its immediate vicinity. From the main road just south of the, church, the tall spire of Salisbury Cathedral the Mother Church of the Diocese, can be seen on a clear day, pointing its stone finger to Heaven and distant some sixteen miles.  On a change in the incumbency in 1960 it was decided to sell the old Rectory as being too large for present day needs, and a new and smaller building was erected on part of the Glebe immediately adjacent. The remainder of the Glebe land, some sixteen acres, was sold with the old, Rectory, which is now a private residence. The new building was occupied in October 1963. In 1966, due to the severe shortage of clergy, the Rector of Everleigh was appointed priest-in-charge of the parishes of Manningford Abbas and Manningford Bruce in the Peusey Vale, and in due course it is intended to combine the three benefices under one Rector. This is a most interesting development and a case 0f history repeating itself, albeit in reverse. In 1830 the then Rector of Manningford Abbas, the Rev. Francis Bickley Astley, was instituted t0 the living of Everleigh, which he held in plurality with Manningford until his death in 1856. After his induction to Everleigh he continued to live at Manningford where he had then been Rector since 1811, and employed a resident curate at Everleigh.