History

We are very blessed to worship in such a wonderful setting. Our large parish church of St Katharine's is in the lively and lovely village of Holt in Wiltshire. Our church is of considerable historical interest, records show that the Abbot of Shaftesbury, donated land for the church in Holt in the early twelfth century. The building, dedicated to St Katharine whose festival was celebrated here as far back as 1252, has since been extensively rebuilt. The last major work on the church took place early in the Victorian era. However, the oldest part - the fifteenth century belltower - remains, complete with six bells (one a rare chisel-tuned bell struck around 1450) that are still rung on a regular basis by the church’s flourishing team.

It is known that a chapel existed here in the early 12th century as the Abbess of Shaftesbury gave it land from the church at Bradford. It is also mentioned in 1288-9 and it would seem likely that the church was partially, or substantially rebuilt in the 13th century. Certainly the nave, that survived until 1891, was of that date. The tower was built in the 15th century and is in two stages, constucted of of dressed stone. It has a saddleback roof and there are five stone carvings representing the wheel of the martyred St. Katharine. The chuch would have continued with little alteration, but with necessary repairs, for some centuries providing a centre of worship for the people of Holt. There were both resident and absentee vicars but by the early 19th century, when the population was growing, vicars were living in the vicarage.

The existing church was quite small and a larger one was needed. In 1833 the nave was extended by 50% in length at the expense of the chancel, which was reduced to a recess eight feet deep. North and south aisles were added and there was a threefold increase in area. There was however no increase in height and the church looked rather strange, covering a large area but still being the height of the original small church. The churchyard was also extended in 1842.

In the 1880s it was found that there was a danger of the nave roof collapsing, partly because the extension work of 1833 had been poor and weak. In 1889 the diocesan architect, C.E. Ponting, began extensive work rebuilding the church, apart from the tower, in a 15th century style, contemporary with the building of the tower. He followed the plan of the earlier church but built a new spacious chancel, with a vestry and organ chamber on the north side. The nave was heightened to improve the proportions of the church and the work, which took 2 years to complete, cost over £2,000. Heating was provided by the central heating company, Hadens of Trowbridge. The new chancel, which contained an east window given by Mr and Mrs Alexander MacKay in memory of their daughter Edith who had died at the age of 16, was consecrated on 9th June 1891.

The churchyard was closed in 1894. Several improvements were made to the church during the 20th century, including the installation of electric lighting in 1930. The font is of the 12th century. The parish registers dating from 1580 (christenings) and 1568 (marriages and burials), other than those in current use, are held in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.