Several photographs of paintings of the two old Chitterne churches, and one said to be of St Andrew’s Chapel have come my way recently. They are all new to me, as is the artist Robert Kemm, and I thought this worth sharing with you in three parts.
The paintings are annotated with typewritten notes which state that they date from 1865-1867. I was a little taken aback by this. How could that statement be correct when both our old churches were mostly demolished by 1861 in order to build the new church? So I set about researching Robert Kemm. Again, the notes on the last photo of the so-called St Andrew’s Chapel, also sent my eyebrows skyward, as we now think the chapel to have been sited behind the building in this painting.
Robert Kemm was born in 1837 in Salisbury, the son of William Kemm, a gilder and carver born in Netheravon, but living in Salisbury with his wife Jane by the time Robert was born. Robert showed early promise as an artist and was producing paintings by the time he was fourteen years old in 1851. In fact he produced two series of 256 watercolours of Wiltshire churches in his youth. So there is the answer to my query, these paintings were painted well before 1865, when the old churches were still standing in all their glory.
Building on the site of St Andrews Chapel
This building dating from the 15th century, which still exists, may have been built on the site of, or near the St Andrew’s Chapel that certainly existed in 1142, when it was given by Walter of Salisbury to his newly founded Priory of Bradenstoke near Lyneham, Wiltshire. But the monks of Bradenstoke did not benefit from it for long as Walter’s grandson, Patrick Earl of Salisbury, took it back into his own possession before he died in 1168, swapping it for some land he owned at Wilcot. The chapel remained in the hands of the Earls of Salisbury until 1236 when William Longespee II, Earl of Salisbury, gave all his holdings in Chitterne to the Abbey his mother founded at Lacock. For the next 300 years, from 1236 until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539, the chapel became the property of the nuns of Lacock. In 1447 a disaster occurred, the bell and bell turret of the chapel were struck by lightning and destroyed. The present building pictured above must date from after this disaster, as the 15th century style windows and door attest, but is it sited in the same place as the original chapel? We may never know for certain.
The paintings are stored in the Salisbury Museum and can be seen by arrangement with the Curator. I am grateful to RE for the photographs and to MS for sending them to me.