History of Coombe Bissett Church
For over 900 years a church has stood on this site. The earliest mention was in the Domesday Book, AD 1086, where we read that ‘The King holds Cumbe …. Leuric a priest holds the church of this manor with half a hide, which is worth 20 shillings’. As Leuric is not a Norman name it is likely that there was a wooden Saxon church on this site although no traces of it remain today.
The family of Byset or Biset gave Cumbe its present name in the 13th century. The village did not escape the Black Death and work on the church in the 14th century was almost halted as the population was ravaged. Until 1847 Coombe Bissett and West Harnham was one of the parishes which were under the ‘Peculiar Jurisdiction’ of the Dean of Salisbury and not subject to the Bishop or Archdeacon. Today St Michael and All Angels Church is within the Chalke Valley Benefice.
There is a Record of Parish Priests dating from 1086: the oldest part of the church is c.1100 when it consisted of a nave, chancel and a chapel or tower to the south of the nave - the Font (c.1200-1300) is carved from a single block of stone. In 1326 an order was issued from Canterbury that all fonts should have a locked cover and traces of where this has been are still visible. A high doorway once led to the rood loft (the rood was a crucifix, raised on a rood screen between the nave and chancel). In 1552, on Edward VI's order, all the plate was taken to London, leaving one chalice and paten.
Over the south aisle and arcade are two Norman Arches(1150-1180); the arch by the Font has a perfect Norman Column with richly decorated capitals. The north arcade of the nave, north aisle and north transept are Perpendicular, c.1450. High up in the nave the old stone Corble Heads (roof supports) of the original, probably thatched, roof remain. The present roof is early 19th century, re-leaded in 2006.
The mid-19th century restoration closed the church for a year, giving a new Pulpit, Organ and Porch (although the South Doorway is Norman and much restored). Beside the organ is a Record of Benefactors:the income from these charities is used to relieve hardship in the parish.
During alterations in 1961, a Medieval Altar Slab (with some of the consecration crosses still visible) was found under the chancel floor, buried at the Reformation when wooden tables replaced stone altars. A Wooden Chest (c.1580) made of willow or alder, with iron bands and chains, was originally in the tower ringing chamber. The Tower, c.1450, has Scratch Dials on the south buttress and an old Sun Dial high on the south west buttress.There are 6 Bells dating from 1589, at least two of which were made by John Wallis of Salisbury. The bells were re-tuned and re-hung in 1979-80.
There is a record of all those (in Coombe Bissett, Homington, Stratford Tony and Dogdean and pupils at Coombe Bissett School) who served in The Great War. Near the Parish War Memorial the 1978 Memorial Gatescommemorate Denis Constanduros; the Lychgate was erected in 1989 in memory of Harold and Eileen Willis: beside it is the recently restored VillagePound.
The Donkey Field, north of the churchyard, is named after Jack and Jane, two donkeys owned by the Widow Rideout, the mid-19th-century village carrier who operated the Coombe Bissett Express to Salisbury. She is buried in the south-west part of the churchyard, but no headstone remains.
- Church Office
- URC Chapel, High Road,
- Broad Chalke
- SP5 5EH