History & Architecture
The oldest part of the present building, consisting of the three western bays on the north side, dates back to 1150. The church was restored in 1648 and the south aisle was entirely rebuilt, the corresponding bays on this side are therefore copies of the originals with exception of a half capital at the west end. During this restoration the domestic style windows were inserted in the south aisle.
Joining the Norman bays are two lofty arches of the Transitional period, on the east side of which can be seen corbels which might have carried a Rood Beam, thus marking the entrance to the choir of the church in the second stage of its growth.
The last stages of development were the additions of the Early English transepts (13th Century) and decorated chancel, known as the Weeping Chancel (14th Century),
The visitor may wonder why so large a church was built in a place the size of Downton. Prior to the Reform Bill of 1832, Downton was a flourishing place, which sent two Members to Parliament annually, and held a weekly market until a much later date. Until the middle of the 19th Century there were no churches at Redlynch, Morgans Vale or Charlton, and so it was necessary to erect a building capable of accommodating congregations composed of people from a wide area. Until 1860, when the church went through another period of restoration, the chancel was shut off from the remainder of the church and access could be gained through a door in the centre of the enclosed chancel arch. This was once a separate chapel, and was originally used by the Bishops of Winchester, who were at one time lords of the Manor, when they stayed at their house 'Old Court' nearby.
The first rector of Downton was William de Hamelton, 1281, when the right of patronage belonged to the Bishop of Winchester. In 1385 the Warden of Scholars of Winchester College became the patrons of the living, and Nicholas de Alresfbrd, who was appointed to the living in 1383, became the first Vicar of Downton two years later. The Church Registers date back to 1599, when William Wilkes was Vicar and Richard Foldford and Ambrose Snelgar were Church Wardens. The present incumbent is the Reverend Frank Gimson who is also Team Rector for the Forest & Avon Team, formed in 2006.