St George's is a small country church adjacent to Marlborough College, a short walk from the centre of Marlborough and near the village of Manton with the river Kennet running just behind the church.
The parish of Preshute is very old, going back to times before the Norman Conquest, and there was thought to be a Saxon church on the St George's site from before 1066 serving the now vanished settlement of Preshute. The riverside was a good place for a priest to live hence the name Preshute which is derived from "the priests ciet or cottage". The parish still extends some 5 miles to the North West to Hackpen and originally perhaps as far West as Fyfield and to Mildenhall in the East. To the East the settlement of Merleberg grew up with a number of churches and is mentioned in the Doomsday book, but even in the 15th Century after passing eastwards through Marlborough a traveller would re-enter the parish of Preshute. In the 12th or 13th century the boundary between Preshute and Marlborough was immediately west of Marlborough Castle and the parish included the villages of Manton and Clatford. In 1925 an eastern section, including Preshute church, was transferred to Marlborough and in 1934 the Marlborough boundary moved further west to include Manton.
Interestingly, there is no mention of a church at the current site in the Doomsday Book, but it also fails to mention a number of other things in the area which are known to have existed at that time. The first document containing the name Preshute dates to 1185, although it is believed to be referred to in the original endowment of the Canons of the Cathedral of Old Sarum in 1091. The nearby village of Manton is listed in the Doomsday Book, the name means hamlet (ton) near the common fields.
A Norman church was known to have existed in the 12th century and the dedication to St. George is first mentioned in 1232. In the 12th century the church had a chancel, a nave with south aisle and a west tower and then in the 14th century the south aisle and chancel were rebuilt while the tower was rebuilt in the 15th century. Then in 1726 the Earl of Hertford built a west gallery as a family pew, which from 1783 was reserved for guests staying at the Castle Inn.
The church as we see it today dates mainly from the Victorian era. The tower remains as a well proportioned example of 14th century style, but the rest of the church with its distinctive flint and squared stone, was rebuilt by T.H.Wyatt in 1854. His plans for the interior were sympathetic to the design of the former church, as can be seen in drawings of the old building in the Devizes Museum.
Inside there is a particularly large 12th century font of black Tounia (stone from Belgium and called "touchstone" by Camden) which is used for only 7 other fonts in the country, most of which are square such as the one in Winchester Cathedral. The font is believed to have come from the old chapel of St. Nicholas in Marlborough Castle when the castle fell into disrepair in the 14th century, and legend has it that King John was baptised at this font.
Some of the memorials from the earlier church were re-incorporated into the 1854 rebuild. On the floor of the south aisle is a brass of 1518 which depicts John Bailey, a local farmer, and his wife and ten children. Another memorial, on the north wall of the nave, commemorates Jeffrey Daniell and his son William, both MPs for Marlborough in the 17th Century.
St. George was born in what is now Turkey, became an officer in the Roman army and was executed in 303 AD for protesting against the persecution of Christians by Diocletian. As you would expect for a church named in honour of St. George, he is represented in the banner in the south aisle, made by the children of Preshute Primary School in the 1970s, and by a wooden carving beside the pulpit, made by David Rawlings in 1973.
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