The History of St John the Baptist Church Gastard

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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