CHURCH sleuths have shown they are more than a match for 007 after discovering the identity of a mystery figure in Bishopstone.

The wall monument in St John the Baptist Church has remained unknown for generations, being affectionately known by his church recording file number 007.

But now a crack team of 13 from the Sarum Decorative and Fine Arts Society (DFAS) has solved the puzzle.

The church recording team leader, Anne Stutchbury, said: “Important clues were a single date shown on the otherwise illegible memorial, 1612, the ruff shown around his neck that made him a religious figure and the symbolic images shown with his figure – a bird and serpent which connected directly with his family’s armorial identity, as confirmed by a leading expert.

“The team then linked him with the roll of rectors in the church and Abraham Conham was rector of St John The Baptist from 1584 to 1612. Initially he had been discounted as being a rector as he appeared to be a lawyer and too wealthy for the clergy.

“Further evidence confirmed that his widow, Hester, had later moved to Durrington, with her daughter who in turn had married Edward Poore at that location.

“In the chancel at All Saints’ Durrington there is a memorial to Hester Conham, also showing the same bird standing on a serpent – the identical elements as found on the Conham family arms.

“So, the mystery man is indeed Abraham Conham who was also a prebendary at Salisbury, Lincoln and Wells cathedrals as well as rector at Gussage St Michael. “We suspect that did not leave him a great deal of time to devote to pastoral care at Bishopstone. It was just so rewarding – the fact that we had done a lot of research this winter by really delving into the past, we managed to find out who he was.”

The SarumDFAS Church recording team is still occupied in its task to catalogue and collate all of church fabric, artefacts and possessions. The items are divided into nine sections - memorials, metalwork, stonework, woodwork, textiles, paintings, windows, library, miscellaneous, and they are all enhanced with photographs and line drawings.

Mrs Stutchbury said: “When the record is finally edited, it will be collated, published and presented to the Church. Further illustrated copies are issued to the V&A Museum, Historic England, the Churchcare Library and the Wiltshire County Record Office.

“The Church’s copy is invaluable for insurance purposes as a comprehensive inventory of all the items within the building.”