The Parish Church of St. Mary
St. Mary's is a beautiful church built in 1872 of flint and red brick. It has a square tower with a striking shingled pyramid spire. Inside, the roof is of trussed timber divided into bays by brick arches; the nave and low narrow aisles have transverse red brick arches; the vestry has a wagon roof. The six bells from St. Mary's were re-hung at St. Nicholas' church in Chute in 1976.
The benefactor of St Mary's was the same Thomas Fowle who also financed much of the rebuilding of St. Nicholas' church in neighbouring Chute. Speculation has abounded over the years as to why he financed 2 churches in 2 years just 2 miles apart. One theory is that he had seriously fallen out with the first incumbent of St. Nicholas in Chute and so built another church of similar design even closer to his own home in Chute Forest.
St. Mary's closed in 1972 and is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting historic churches at risk. The church remains consecrated and one service is held annually. St. Mary's is only accessible on foot along an uneven farm track running the full length of a field; everyone is welcome to visit. St. Mary Church Gallery
This tiny parish, owned by the Crown until the late 17th Century, is made up almost entirely of woodland. In 1801 the population was 88, in 2001 it was 147.
There are no major roads across the forest, most are very narrow or one track. The 'village' is isolated and comprises about half a dozen farm houses and a dozen residential houses which are clustered close to Chute Lodge, a large palladian style mansion sitting in 300 acres of parkland and forest. A mansion house called Chute Lodge is known to have existed in 1652 and included a consecrated chapel.
A new Lodge was built in 1778 by John Freeman, who made his fortune through the West Indian sugar trade. During the 19th Century, the Lodge was the home of Thomas Fowle and his descendants. In the early 1940's it was used as a borstal and a school; it is now a residential property again.
Chute is an old English word for forest
Chute Forest belonged to the Lords Arundell of Wardour from 1691 until 1778
Chute Causeway is a section of an old Roman road running along the border between Wiltshire and Hampshire
In 1665, during the reign of King Charles II, the bubonic plague struck the neighbouring village of Vernham on the edge of Chute Causeway. The Rector of Vernham persuaded all villagers who had been in contact with the disease to move to an isolated camp at the top of a hillside on the Causeway. He promised he would take them regular supplies of food. This he did for a while, but became so frightened of catching the plague himself, that he deserted his flock. Those poor souls who did not die of the plague, starved to death. The Rector himself caught the disease and died. His grief stricken ghost is said to be seen climbing the hillside of Chute Causeway on clear nights, crying out to his parishioners for forgiveness.
People and Parish Notables
Census Returns Transcripts
County coroners were introduced in England in around 1194 once established other boroughs and liberties sought the right to have their own coroner. Often in Medieval times the coroner also assumed the role of the sheriff and his duties weren't limited to holding inquests on dead bodies although almost a full time post they were unpaid for the duties apart from those that were deemed murder or manslaughter when they would receive 13s. 4d. From the 24th June 1752 a law was passed allowing the coroner to claim £1 for every inquest they attended not held in a gaol and also to claim 9d per mile travel allowance from the place of residence. Inquests held in any gaol were performed at a rate totalling no more than £1. These costs were to be paid from the county rates. In cases of homicide the coroner also received the former fee of 13s. 4d. The coroners submitted their bills at the quarter session sittings for approval. Coroners Bills 1752-1796