The impressive tower of the Church of St Sampsons dominates the Saxon town of Cricklade in Wiltshire. Even the most cursory inspection inspection would lead the casual visitor to acknowledge that the town must have long held considerable significance in the history of the area. Yet in 1821 William Cobbett (in his rural rides) said:
“I passed through that villainous hole Cricklade about two hours ago, and certainly a more rascally looking place I never set my eyes on. The labourers look very poor; dwellings little better than pigbeds and their food nearly equal to that of a pig”
Well this traveller may beg to differ, whatever penury might have impacted Cricklade in the early 19'th century is not reflected in its current state or its long past. Described elsewhere as “the most intact example of a late Saxon town in Britain” Cricklades history extends back into prehistory. Its fortuitous position on a dry gravelly bank made it an early site for track-ways to cross the infant Thames, a fact later reflected by the Roman Ermin Way and evidence of Romano British dwellings in the area. The current street plan and layout follows the lines of a Saxon Town. Today the High Street boasts many fine buildings from the 18''th and 19'th century.
It is known that a stone church existed in 973 on the site of St Sampsons, though there is strong evidence that a church existed here at least as early as AD 890. The current building was started around 1080, with some surviving stonework in the west wall of the knave. The extant structure owes more to a rebuilding in the 12'th century with the addition of the side aisles occurring in the 13'th century. The chancel, which is appreciably skewed from the alignment of the building, was built between 1350 and 1370. Originally there was a short Norman tower, but this was replaced in the early to mid 16'th century by the current impressive tower. The Hungerford chapel, to the south of the chancel was built in the 15'th century. Like many churches it has “benefited” by a significant Victorian restoration.
Photographed in May 2011 by Nick Temple-Fry for theChurchPhotographer