Monday, 18 July 2011

Maskelyne Vault

A recent visit to Wiltshire gave me the opportunity to visit Purton where, since the sixteenth century, the Maskelyne family had been significant landowners and where Nevil’s father Edmund lived.  Though Nevil himself was born in London in 1732 and died at Greenwich in 1811, the family connection led to him being buried on the South side of the Parish Church of St Mary’s.

St Mary's Church, Purton, June 2011
Designated a Grade 1 listed building, St Mary’s is one of only three churches in England to have both a western tower and a central spire.

St Mary's Purton, Western Tower, June 2011

The central tower was built in c.1325 and the transepts were also added in the 14th century. The chapel on the southern side of the chancel is mid 14th century and the decorated piscina indicates that it was a chantry chapel.  In the 15th century the north and south aisles were rebuilt and the nave walls raised by about three feet. The west tower was built in the latter part of the 15th century and the building of this caused alterations to be made to the chancel.  In 1872 restoration was carried out and included rebuilding three walls of the chancel. During the work the walled up skeleton of a woman was found in a room or chapel in the north transept.  The reason she was there remains an unsolved mystery. In 1977 wall paintings were uncovered and the best of these being the Death of the Virgin on the south wall of the Lady Chapel.

Inside the Church is a memorial plaque to Maskelyne.

The inscription reads: In this cemetery of this Church are laid the remains of Nevil Maskelyne STPRSS and also Astronomer Royal, a man, whether you should look at simplicity of manners, kindness of heart or the usefulness of a most learned life, (was) outstanding and illustrious, deserving public lament, who in describing the laws of nature worshipped above all the great Creator: sincerely pious, he displayed his piety in doing his duty; finally trusting not in himself but in Christ he gave up his well lived life into the lap of the everlasting Father in sure hope of reward to come. On the 9th Feb. the year of the Lord 1811.
STP Sacrae Theologiae Professor - Doctor of Theology
RSS Regalis Societatis Sodalis - Fellow of the Royal Society

Maskelyne Vault, June 2011

Inscription to Sophie, Widow of Nevil Maskelyne

Inscription to Margaret, Daughter of Nevil and Sophie Maskelyne

In Madras in 1753 Maskelyne’s seventeen year old sister, Margaret, married Robert Clive who had been sent out to India ten years previously as a “writer” in the service of The East India Company.  Later better known as Clive of India he is credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown and together with Warren Hastings he was one of the key figures in the creation of British India.

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