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Wiltshire jewel

21 February 2014

David Godfrey's guide to Edington, in Wiltshire


Edington, in Wiltshire, is the home of the annual Festival of Music within the Liturgy. It is just below Salisbury Plain on the B3098, and about four miles from Westbury.


Edington Priory is one of the finest churches in the country, and the local farm-shop brews and sells its own excellent ale.

What to see

The former Bishop of Winchester William of Edington ensured that the priory, completed in 1361, looks more like a fortified cathedral-in-miniature than a country church. The masons who worked on it produced the quire at Gloucester, and went on to complete the nave at Winchester, which gives you an idea of the quality of the work.

The chancel functioned as the community's quire, and the nave as the parish church, making it as near a perfect example of a collegiate church as you will find.

Edington Priory belongs to that beguiling period in English church- building when the Decorated style was just beginning to experiment with the Perpendicular, and even successive iconoclasms failed to destroy the essential beauty of this place. The decapitated statues in their decorated vaulted niches in the chancel still speak with elegance and lightness of touch, and the small amount of medieval glass which survives is of very good quality.

Galleries, installed and removed, left monuments stranded high up the walls, and in the Laudian period a pink-and-white plaster ceiling was introduced, as well as a balled-and-spiked altar-rail. The great and the good introduced their own memorials, and that of Lady Anne Beauchamp is glorious, with her armour-clad husband, sword at the ready, their five children, and a plump little cherub swooping down with their heavenly crown. To make space for one of the finest monuments in the country, however, the Lady Anne had her stonemasons hack out what must have been one of the finest sets of late-Decorated sedila in England.

George Herbert, who was married at Edington, surveys all this from his niche in the reredos, lute in hand.

Where to eat and drink

In Edington, the old Lamb has been transformed into the Three Daggers gastropub. It has a large menu and a good beer from the farm-shop-cum-brewery next door. The farm shop sells a wide selection of local food and drink. The Bridge, in West Lavington, a few miles west of Edington, is worth a visit if only for its beer ice-cream. Westbury, a couple of miles to the east, has allthe amenities that you would expect from a large railway interchange.

Near by

With a car, Wells, Bath, Salisbury, and Stonehenge are all within easy reach. The abandoned village of Imber can be accessed on MoD "open days". For those in a more energetic mood, a walk up to the White Horse on the edge of the plain will reward you with far-reaching views across three counties.

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