On Sir Thomas Fowler’s death in the Boer War it was his resolute (somewhat eccentric) sister Jean who for many years managed Gastard House and estate. Whatever her strengths and shortcomings may have been, one action must stand as a lasting tribute: she made possible the erection of St John the Baptist Church, Gastard. Motivated by Christian zeal and a desire to build a memorial to her father, Sir Robert Nicholas, and her brother Sir Thomas, she and her family generously supplemented the nucleus of money obtained from fund raising efforts in the village.
She also donated the plot of land on which the church was erected. On Thursday, 11th July 1912, in the presence of a large company, the formal ceremony of laying the foundation stone took place. Miss Jean Fowler herself laid the cornerstone bearing the date 1912.
The dedication ceremony for the opening of the church took place almost a year later on Tuesday, 24th June 1913, a date set aside every year in the ecclesiastical calendar for the birth of St John the Baptist. Proceedings began at 2.00 pm at St Bartholomew’s Church, Corsham, when the combined choirs of the Parish Church and Hartham Church, accompanied by many clergy and the Bishop of Bristol, processed down the Park Avenue to the Parish Room located at the Lady Margaret Hungerford Almshouses, and thence to Gastard School by horse drawn carriages and traps. There the procession was reformed before proceeding to the church for the service of dedication.
Ever since that date St John the Baptist Church at Gastard has proved to be a true House of God, loved and cared for by all who have worshipped there. We pray that this can continue for many generations to come, given the wholehearted support of those who now live in the village.
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