Parking/TOAL: 51.640909, -1.858546
There has been a church on this site since at least AD 890 - not surprising when you consider the age of Cricklade itself, which was a thriving town in the late Saxon era.
One of the finest parish churches in Wiltshire, St Sampson's is a superb medieval building with a striking Perpendicular tower that rises high over this ancient Saxon town.
The dedication to St Sampson is unusual; it is one of only five churches in England dedicated to Sampson, who was a 6th-century Welshman, an abbot of Caldey, and the first Bishop of Dol in Brittany.
At the time of the Domesday Book, the church was held by Westminster Abbey in London. It seems that the Abbey rebuilt the Saxon church around 1080. Remnants of this 11th-century construction can be seen in the lower section of the west wall of the nave.
Much of the current St Sampson's dates to a major rebuilding in the period 1240-1280, though the most striking feature - the central tower - was begun in the early 16th century and finished by the Duke of Northumberland in 1551-1553. Perhaps the tower acts as the Duke's legacy, as he was beheaded for treason shortly after it was completed. The chancel was rebuilt 1350-1370 and a large chapel was added by Sir Edmund Hungerford before his death in 1484.
Back to the tower; it is decorated with large octagonal turrets at each corner. These rise well above the battlemented top of the tower and are capped with striking spirelets. The tower facade is highly decorated with blind arcading and emphasizes just what an imposing and impressive structure it is.
There are remnants of the early Saxon church to be seen in the current building; over the north door (the main entrance) are pieces of a 10th-century cross shaft and part of a grave slab of similar age, both showing traditional Saxon interlace carving patterns.
A Saxon pilaster strip is built into the wall of the south aisle, composed of two carved stones are set high on the south aisle wall; the westernmost stone shows a pair of beasts, while the other stone shows two figures thought to be of Roman origin, but later recarved in the 11th century. Another possible Roman remain is incorporated in the font.
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Co-ordinates: 51.64056, -1.857997 • what3words: ///baseless.noticing.toffee