Dating back to the 13th Century, it has, over the years, been adapted to reflect the needs of the community. I has however retained many of its most interesting elements, including the Rood Screen dating from the end of the fifteenth century.
What's on this page:
In south Somerset, as elsewhere, one effect of the Black Death was the change from arable farming to less labour-intensive sheep farming. By the end of the 14th century, Somerset was producing about a quarter of English woollens and it was a time of great prosperity. As the wool trade boomed during the 14th and 15th centuries, a religious zeal swept the country in the wake of the Black Death that was to last for some two hundred years. Also, local populations were tending to increase in size and so, flushed with the wealth of wool, began a phase of enlarging existing churches and St Stephens was no exception.
A village of Saxon origin, the manor was held by the Canons of Wells Cathedral by the time of Edward the Confessor (c.1003 - 1066). It was seized briefly by Harold II but reverted back to the Canons after the conquest.
Of the original church there is no trace but the present fabric, with the unusual form of nave and chancel separated by a central tower without transepts, is no doubt based on the Norman plan. At the beginning of the 13th century, the church and manor constituted a provostship of Wells with the provost having a house in Winsham. By 1234, because the Winsham lands were insufficient to maintain a provost, it was united with the provostship of Combe St Nicholas.
It was probably at this time that the chancel was extended to its present size - evidenced by the slim, pointed Early English Gothic lancet windows. Since the chancel was the responsibility of the church while the nave was the responsibility of the parish, it is unlikely that the nave was extended at the same time. The chancel continued to be altered throughout the 13th and early 14th centuries as can be seen by the elaborate tracery of two other windows in the Decorated Gothic style.
In 1348, plague, the "Black Death", reached England through Weymouth and recent research confirms that about a third of the population of the known world perished. 50% of beneficed clergy in Somerset died between October 1348 and April 1349. Overshadowing the second half of the 14th century, the aftermath of the Black Death saw little in the way of building works - not only had the country lost many of its skilled artisans and builders but the high cost of the remaining workforce was prohibitive for most recovering parishes.
The 15th century saw a remodelling of the church fabric in the Perpendicular Gothic style - showing today in the heightened central tower, the ornate wagon roof of the nave together with the large nave windows, the font and the almost unique tympanum panel depicting the Crucifixion.
The nave is entered through the south porch with a good 15th century wagon roof. The detached vestry was built in 1929. The west window of the nave is in the Curvilinear form of Decorated Gothic style with simple recurving tracery and probably dates the nave to the early- to mid-14th century. The other windows are later Perpendicular insertions of the 15th century. The west door has been made into a window recently. A tiny hagioscope, or squint, in the south pillar of the tower suggests a former south side altar in the nave. Above where this altar would have been, the blocked rood loft doorway is visible. The wagon roof, probably dating to the 15th century alterations, is ceiled with contrasting structural members and has some fine gilded bosses including a Tudor Rose and a portcullis. The Jacobean pulpit is octagonal with double Ionic columns at each angle with arabesque decoration to the panels. The font is Perpendicular with quatrefoil decoration, cusping below and panelling to the stem.
The internal base of the tower was probably heightened as part of the 15th century alterations when the present Perpendicular arches were inserted but the corbel heads in the chancel are much earlier. The tympanum panel is described above. The oak rood screen is just pre-Reformation and probably dates to the late 1520's or early 1530's and is similar in style to other early 16th century church carving in the district. It is constructed with four-light side sections with the central mullions extending to the apex. The lower panels are carved both sides with mainly foliage work but also included are a stag and a falcon on its nest of sticks. The latter was the heraldic badge of Henry VII’s sister-in-law, Katherine, the Countess of Devon. The screen has seen much restoration.
Remarkably off-set from the rest of the church, even for the "wry-neck" style, the chancel has simple Early English lancet windows of the 13th century and later Decorated style windows with simple tracery of the 14th century. The east window is Victorian (1880) as is the reredos by Hems of Exeter (1873). The displayed copy of Foxe’s "Book of Martyrs" would, in the late 16th century, have been chained to its desk.
The three stage tower is Perpendicular, although a lancet window to the east elevation of the second stage shows the earlier construction of the tower base. The tower is plain with a fine embattled parapet and a higher south-west octagonal stair turret, again embattled.
The single two-light bell openings, in the Perpendicular Gothic style are louvered.
The tower has a peal of eight bells, re-hung in 1894 when five of the bells were new. The fifth dates from 1875, the seventh from 1720. The 13cwt tenor dates to 1583.
The Tympanum or Rood Screen is displayed within the tower base-cum-ringing chamber. The following plaques are displayed below:
The paper entitled ‘The Tympanum or the Rood Screen, as surviving at Winsham Church’, was presented to the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society’s visit to Chard in 1903, by Mr F.Bligh Bond, F.R.I.B.A, and was recorded in the Society’s Proceedings. It came to my notice when a relative gave my wife a copy of the year’s proceedings in bound form, which he had found in a second hand bookshop for a few pence. It was the practice of the Society to select each year a different Somersetshire town in which to hold their annual meeting, and then stay for a few days to visit the local sites of interest. It is recorded that the Annual meeting was held in the Assembly Room of the George Hotel and well attended. Afterwards the gathering was entertained to luncheon at the Corn Exchange, nicely decorated for the occasion, by the Mayor and Corporation of Chard. The gathering numbered some 150.
On the third day, so the account goes, "as the weather was favourable, and the number large", at 9.30 am they set out, passing through Forton to Leigh House, described as the beautiful Elizabethan residence of Mrs Savile, and belonging to Col. Henley. An interesting account of the visit was given, but I will not record the details here. The next stop was Winsham Church, where the Rev. D. H. Spencer acted as cicerone, and Mr Bligh Bond read the paper which is recorded here. Their further attention was drawn by the beautiful Chalice and the ‘Solemn Protestation’ in one of the register books.
After that it was off to Cricket St. Thomas and "luncheon was most hospitably provided at the Mansion by the President and Mrs Fry, who, with their daughter, Miss Norah L. Fry, extended a hearty welcome to every one". After lunch the members looked around the gardens and the returned to the house for tea and a short meeting to wind up the visit to Chard and the surrounding area. A group photograph was then taken on the front terrace. In closing, the meeting expressed the view that the trip they had enjoyed was one of the most successful ever organised.
The Proceedings are an interesting record of more leisurely times, and an interesting example of lay scholarship.
by F. Bligh Bond, F.R.I.B.A (1903)
The remarkable panel preserved in this church dates from a period not long anterior to the Reformation. The detail in the costume of the figures would indicate a date towards the close of the fifteenth century.
The original position of the panel was at one time a subject of speculation, but comparison with other works of similar character which have come to light leads to the conclusion that this was without doubt the partition or 'Tympanum' which formerly surmounted the Rood-screed and divided Nave from Sanctuary.
Until the restoration of the church in 1876, there was a ringers' gallery under the tower, with a floor at or near the level of the head of the screen, forming an unsightly obstruction in the church.
The painted panel was used as a back to this gallery, and being disguised by accumulated coats of whitewash, the Vicar had it removed with other obstructions.
But upon evidence of the existence of painting coming to light, it was carefully preserved, and is now secured to the north wall of the church under the tower, the screen being removed to the eastward.
The panel has attracted the notice of local antiquaries, and a drawing was made of it some years ago, which was reproduced in Volume xxxvii of these Proceedings. More recently a fine facsimile copy in colour has been executed for Mr. F. F. Fox, Past President of the Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, who has devoted a good deal of attention to the subject in his very valuable Presidential Address on Roods and Rood-Lofts (Vol. xxiiii of their Transactions); and a photographic copy was given, which, by Mr. Fox's courtesy, I have the privilege of reproducing here. Readers are referred to Mr. Fox's paper for the expert artist's opinion on the painting and its condition.
The Tympanum is the medieval substitute in the Western Church for the Veil of the Sanctuary, which the primitive church adopted from the Hebrew ritual. It has been shewn by Bingham and others that the tripartite division of the Temple was reproduced and perpetuated in the Christian Church, and it is known that it persisted in the west until a comparatively late date, whilst in the east it still forms an important adjunct to the ritual of the Armenian and Ethiopian churches.
Durandus the monk, who wrote in the thirteenth century, has recorded that the use was maintained in his day, and he mentions that a veil or wall was the customary division, and this was prescribed in an Anglo-Saxon Pontifical from which he quotes. Elsewhere he alludes to a triple series of veils. St. Jerome is also recorded to have commanded the use of veils.
The Anglo-Saxon Church always preserved very scrupulously an effective division between nave and sanctuary, and in some of our unspoilt early churches the solidity of the barrier is very marked, the chancel opening being extremely narrow.
At St. Lawrence, Bradford-on-Avon, it is contracted to the dimensions of a mere doorway, whilst the height gives a vast flat space above, retaining traces of sculpture.
The continuity of the idea is shewn in such examples as that at Sandridge, Herts, where there is a complete wall of separation, pierced with central doorway and side-lights. A similar, and probably later, example might have been seen at Cerne Abbas, Dorset, until the 'restoration', when it was opened up by the insertion of a chancel arch. It formerly presented the appearance of a solid wall over the screen to the roof.
In other churches the chancel arch is subdivided, forming a sort of constructional screen, as at Stebbing, and Great Bardfield, in Essex.
In later days, a screen of traceried wood or stone became of frequent, and lastly of universal, occurrence; and, coincidently, the necessity for a chancel arch of limited proportions disappeared. But though amplified in dimensions in later days, the chancel arch persisted as the most distinctive feature of the English Church, and it is often to be found built so low in comparison with the height of the nave, that a large space of wall remains above it. Such wall space seems to have been frequently utilised for the display of religious paintings. Where the rood-loft balcony was of sufficient height, as at Avebury, to mask the chancel arch altogether, all the balance of space over would naturally be available for fresco, and the wall would form a complete barrier; but it often happened that there would be a lofty archway, rising clear of the rood-loft, and this would be filled with a close boarded tympanum, which would not only render the division more perfect, but would furnish a more convenient means of support for the display of religious emblems or pictures, which would otherwise be relegated to too great a height in some churches, whilst in others there would be insufficient wall space to receive them. At St. Michael's Church, St. Albans, the painting was partly on the wall, and partly on a panel.
Several examples of these tympanums survive, bearing ancient paintings. The Last Judgment is the subject usually represented, and it would appear that the Crucifixion, as represented at Winsham, is unusual. The west side of the screen was assigned to subjects of this character for the following reason.
The screen was symbolic of Death, the barrier between time and eternity, between the church militant and the church triumphant. Thus the terrors of death to the impenitent, and the consolations of the last hour of the just, were aptly exemplified by a conspicuous rendering of the Doom in this position, and the Rood with its attendant images crowning the screen, conveyed the teaching of the divine conquest of death, and the intercessory powers of the saints. The "snares of death" were also represented by grotesque figures of dragons and other demoniac monsters carved on the western side of the screen, such as may still be seen at Sheringham, in Norfolk, on the spandrels of the beam of the rood-loft.
On the east side of the tympanum the Resurrection was appropriately depicted, and nothing of a grotesque or evil nature is ever observed eastward of the screen. The Rood and attendant figures surmounting the screen were generally carved, and were occasionally attached to the painted panel behind them, as was the case at Wenhaston and Poslingford in Suffolk, and at Stratford-on-Avon, in the chapel of the Guild of the Holy Cross; whilst there are indications of a similar arrangement in the surviving instance at Dauntsey.
Perhaps Winsham and St. Albans are the only instances which can be recorded of a painting of the Crucifixion upon the tympanum, and the latter has unfortunately perished, with the exception of the lower portion painted on panel - though a drawing is preserved in the library of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
In this connection I may briefly mention that in the little mountain church of Llanelieu, Brecknock, there stands a double screen, supporting a boarded tympanum covered with a painted groundwork of plain dark colour, powdered with minute stars or flowers, whilst in the centre, above the rood beam, is a painted Rood, doubtless substituted for an earlier wooden one, the socket for which can be seen in the beam.
An illustration of this is given in my paper on 'Devonshire Screens and Rood Lofts' in the Transactions of the Devon Association for 1902. A feature of note in it is the series of holes pierced in the boarding to enable the occupants of the loft to view the sanctuary.
The Wenhaston Tympanum, of which I give an illustration, is fortunately well preserved. It was discovered in 1892 under the whitewash of centuries, and is thought to have been painted about 1480, and covered up in 1549, in obedience to the edict of that date. Upon it the outline of the cross and figures formerly attached is clearly discernible. The whole of the intervening space is occupied by a representation in distemper colours of the Doom. In the upper part our Lord is shown seated on the rainbow, with kneeling figures of St. Mary and St. John Baptist. In the lower part we see the weighing of souls, in which St. Michael and Satan are taking part, whilst to the right St. Peter receives the souls of the righteous, and they pass into the Heavenly Mansions, and to the left the mouth of Hell receives the doomed.
Of the others named in this category, those at Poslingford and Stratford have been destroyed.
That at Poslingford was discovered in 1881 under a plaster partition filling the chancel arch. Drawings were made, however, and an illustration is given in the Journal of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, viii, 242. A drawing of the Stratford Doom is preserved in the library of the Shakespeare Memorial Association.
For a knowledge of the remaining example, that at Dauntsey, N. Wilts, I am indebted to the Rev. F. H. Manley. I have been able to secure a sketch of it, which I here reproduce. The Doom is here depicted in the customary manner, but with some quaint and curious detail.
In the centre is Our Lord exalted, sitting on the rainbow whilst the angel sounds the trump. On the one hand are the heavenly mansions, with the souls of the blest ascending (some in their shrouds), and being received at the gate by Saint Peter, who holds the key. On the other side the lost souls are being driven out by an angel with a drawn sword, and the devil is seen prowling about for his victims. Below is the conventional mouth of Hell, with extended jaws, into which the condemned are being drawn by fiends.
The representation of the dead in their shrouds is very curious. A similar feature is noted by Mr. Keyser in the panels of the St. Albans Doom. One of the lower sections of the Dauntsey panel is missing, where indicated by an arrow in the sketch.
There are distinct marks of a framework having been at one time attached to the face, and I have no doubt this consisted of a Rood with the usual figures on either side.
Another very fine panel painting of the Doom is preserved in Gloucester Cathedral. It was discovered about the year 1741, at the east end of the Nave, on the wall of the Roodscreen, close to the old clergy seats, where it had been carefully covered up. The painting is of post-Reformation date, and may probably be referred to the later years of Henry VIII's reign, or that of Edward VI. The figure of the Virgin is omitted, and the labels are in English.
The illustration here reproduced is taken from a paper communicated to the Society of Antiquaries in 1856 by Mr. George Scharf, F.S.A., entitled "Some observations on a picture in Gloucester Cathedral."Yet another interesting example survives at Mitcheldean Church, Gloucestershire, in its original position, filling the space over the chancel screen. Its date is said to be about 1480. It consists of eight panels, the Doom occupying the upper four, and subjects from our Lord's life, the lower series. This is described by Mr. C. E. Keyser, F.S.A., in his monograph on the Wenhaston Doom.
He mentions one other such painting, brought to light when a portion of the plastering recently fell away, revealing figures of angels, no doubt forming part of a larger subject.
My notes on this subject cannot be considered complete without reference to the Post-Reformation variety of the chancel partition.
So closely was the idea of the separation of nave and sanctuary interwoven with the conception of a church in the minds of the sixteenth-century clergy, that the Reformation, with all its storms and drastic innovations, failed to dislodge this feature of the older worship, just as it did not attempt the destruction of screens (choir screens).
A reason for the retention of the Tympanum, and perhaps a cogent one, may also be found in the terms of the Order of 1604, which prescribed that the Commandments should be placed on the east wall of the church, and not, be it noted, in the chancel, for there they could not be seen by the congregation.
Hence the Tympanum would furnish the desired support. Pictures of The Doom, though their removal does not appear to have been expressly ordered (the fact of the Gloucester picture being post-Reformation points in the contrary direction) would doubtless have been largely destroyed or obliterated when the roods and their attendant images were required to be removed; and no doubt many of the later paintings were of a debased and superstitious nature, but the idea of the Tympanum held strongly, and examples may be found dating from various periods after the Reformation.
One may yet be seen in Somerset, of James I date, at Wyke Champflower, near Bruton. It has the Royal and Episcopal arms painted on the west side, while the east is covered with texts in Gothic lettering. There was a screen below, but this has disappeared. Another is still in situ at Parracombe, Devon. It retains the Royal Arms, commandments, creed, etc, all of Georgian date. Yet another finely painted figures of Moses and Aaron, was removed not many years ago from over the screen at Bridlestow, and is now in the possession of Mr. Simmonds, of Lydford, Devon.
At Molland, the screen itself is late Georgian and above it is a plastered sympanum, supporting the usual tablets. The date 1808 appears on the panel containing the the Royal Arms, with the inscription "I.Mogridge, Churchwarden: Rowlands, Painter."
The eighteenth century ushered in an era of increasing apathy in church which resulted in entire neglect of the fabric of our churches, while matters of symbolism and details of church arrangement seem to have been despised.
Nevertheless, it was onlyin the nineteenth century, and with the growth of the evangelical movement, that the screens began to be viewed with positive dislike and suspicion, and there manifested itself a desire to sweep away all internal divisions, so that naught should remain to suggest or separation between the minister and his flock.
The church possesses a tower situated centrally between the nave and chancel. The bells are rung on the ground floor, which is very unusual and gives the congregation an opportunity to watch. The bells at Winsham have the unfortunate reputation of being extremely difficult to ring, mainly due to excessive unguided length of rope (but many people have learned to ring here successfully and have no fear to ring any where else).
As well as serving as a ringing chamber the area at the base of the tower also contains the choir stalls (which were made from the original old oak bell frames) that must be removed before ringing. On the south wall is an Ellacombe chiming apparatus from which any of the bells may be sounded and tunes can be played.
The bells were augmented from five to eight in 1894, when a former heavier tenor bell was scrapped and the ring remodelled using the old fourth bell as the tenor. The old second bell had to be recast to sharpen it by a semitone to keep the bells in tune in a major scale. Thus only three of the previous bells survive. The five new bells were cast and hung in 1894.
The church possesses a ring of eight bells all as follows:
|Diameter||28" (711mm)||29" (736mm)||30" (762mm)||32" (812mm)||34" (836mm)||37" (940mm)||39" (990mm)||43" (1092mm)|
|Weight cwts. qua. lbs||(236kg) 4-2-16||(276kg) 5-1-20||(308kg) 6-0-7||(364kg) 7-0-18||(400kg) 7-3-13||(433kg) 8-2-3||(535kg) 10-2-4||(691kg) 13-2-11|
|Founder||Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel||Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel||Meras & Stainbank, Whitechapel||Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel||Warner & Sons, London||Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel||Thomas Wroth, Wellington||William Cole, Mudford (possibly)|
|Inscription||E V WARE DEDIT ME||E A BILLING (N WARE) DEDIT ME||F J WARE (VERA S.S.S.M.) DEDIT ME||S A WARE DEDIT ME||CAST BY JOHN WARNER 1875 DH SPENCER VICAR W F SNELL AND J BRADFORD CHRUCHWARDENS||1753 RECAST 1894 T.R.B.F JOHN STUCKEY [AND] HILLARY WILLIS C.W. D H SPENCER VICAR R HARVEY [AND] F B FOWLER CHURCHWARDENS||1720 CHURCHWARDENS JEFFERY PYSING [AND] WILLIAM TUCKER||GAUDETE SEMPER IN DOMINO ANNO DOMINE 1583|
Dedication of Winsham Bells in 1894
From the Chard and Ilminster Gazette - 8th December 1894
The dedication of the Bells took place on Monday. The peal formerly consisted of five, but has now been increased to eight. The old Tenor, re-cast in 1803, was badly cracked through the old method of striking the bell with a rope attached to the clapper. The oldest bell in the tower, the fourth, bearing the date 1583, now becomes the Tenor. The former second has also been recast and turnd (sic.). The present fifth, formerly the Treble, was recast by Warner in 1876; the old third is now the seventh. The work was entrusted to Mr Thomas Blackbourne, Bellfounder of Salisbury, at a cost of about £230, and he has executed it to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. The cost of the work is the gift from the family of the Rev. George Ware MA, formerly vicar of this Parish. An Ellacombe chiming apparatus is being fixed through the generous kindness of the Rev. Henry Ware of Guilford, youngest son of the late Vicar.
The first service was held at 2:30 p.m. and was conducted by the vicar, the Rev. D.H. Spencer. The first lesson was read by the Rev. C. R. Elmington of Chard; the second by the Rev. R. P. Billing, Vicar of Lopen. After the dedication of prayers a short peal was rung, followed by a sermon from the Rev. John Middleton Ware, Rector of Ullingswick. The musical part of the service was well rendered, a beautiful hymn being sung by the Rev. T. Childs Clarke, Vicar of Thorbiton. Mr. W. Northcombe presided at the organ, accompanied by Miss Traill and Miss Spencer on their violins. After the service a peal of double Norwich was rung, occupying three hours nine minutes, and consisting of 5,040 changes, by a ringing guild from Salisbury. A second service was held in the evening, when there was a crowded congregation. An eloquent sermon was preached by the Rev. H. Stuart King, Vicar of Tatworth. There was a collection at each service. The bells are hung on a massive framework of iron, and are rung from the floor of the church instead of a loft above as heretofore.
The ringers partook of an excellent dinner provided by host Forsey of the Bell Inn, by the kindness of Colonel Henley, and a supper at the Vicarage.
The article above refers to “Thomas Blackbourne, Bell founder”, whereas the earlier table credits Mears and Stainbank with the casting of the new bells .It is likely that the bells were cast by M&S, while Blackbourne constructed the supporting frames and carried out the bell hanging. The inscriptions on the current bells were examined and bells 1 to 4 and no. 6 do indeed bear the name “Mears and Stainbank”. Other inscriptions are listed in the bell table above.
The Ware family names are explained in the newspaper report. Presumably, Miss E A Ware had married Rev. Billing. The Rev. George Ware was Vicar of Winsham 1831-1870 and Daniel H Spencer was vicar from 1870 to 1920. "Dedit me” is Latin for “gave me” and “Gaudete Semper In Domino” can be translated as “Rejoice in the Lord always”. Regarding the no. 6 bell, Messrs. Stuckey and Willis were churchwardens in 1753 when the bell was originally cast, and the other names refer to 1894.
The Winsham churchwardens’ accounts give more information. In 1753/4 they show that £18 was paid to Mr. Rock for casting the new bell. In May 1719, approximately £16 was paid for the no.3 bell (now the 7th). In October 1772, it was agreed that Thomas Baily of Bridgewater, Bellfounders, should take down and recast the tenor bell, and in 1773/4 they (now spelt Bayley) were paid approximately £32. In January 1803 the same bell again needed attention. The old bell weighed 18 cwt 2 qtr 12 lbs and an estimate of £28 was agreed for the casting of the new bell. The founder, Isaac Kingstone of Bridgwater, was asked to aim for a weight of 20 cwt. The final payment for this work was made in January 1804.
The clock is located on the church tower and the mechanism can be found on the floor above the ringing chamber and below the bell chamber.
The clock is a late Victorian Turret Clock with a strike mechanism. It is driven by 2 weights and runs for 6 days, the clock is still wound by hand requiring the weight to be raised from the chamber floor to the roof level. The clock face on the tower is one floor above the actual clock and the hands are driven by a single rod which runs from the clock to gearing behind the dial. The strike, working through a series of wires and levers, operates a hammer on the largest bell to mark the hours.
Richard Rose was the clock caretaker for many years and after retiring the job in 2020, Keith Fowler and Sarah Love took over the responsibility.
In 2009, after some eight hundred years of being central to the whole community, physically, spiritually and socially, St. Stephen's perhaps finds itself as part of a paradox. Church attendances at Sunday services, generally, are not as big as they were a hundred or even fifty years ago. A shortage of vocations means that there are not so many clergy, necessitating the overworked team ministries, which do their best to tend their scattered flocks.
Does this mean that people are less religious minded than they were? It might at first seem so. But a century ago, certainly in the Church of England, vocations were fuelled by a totally different social order. Church attendance at Sunday Service, in rural areas such as Winsham, would have been reinforced by pressures from the land owners, who were for the most part the employers.
But in today's allegedly less spiritual world, nearly half of the £200,000 needed to replace St.Stephen's failing roof was raised from the local community within a couple of years or so. People pack St.Stephen's and the Chapel for the great Feasts of the Christian Church, and funerals often fill the church and chapel to overflowing. The children still love to visit the baby Jesus in his crib at Christmas. Clearly the role of St.Stephen's and the Chapel is still central to the village. It just manifests itself in different ways.
Below are a few examples of how St.Stephen's, at the end of the Twentieth Century and the start of the Twenty-first, conducts its Ministry, and how it interacts with the community at large.
St. Stephens was filled to capacity on Sunday 23rd December. An annual event, this year the Choir was augmented by some extra volunteers, who practised for weeks prior to the celebration. But it was not only the choir that was in good voice-the congregation joined with vigorous support for all the well known carols. The readers of the Lessons were all well known representatives of the various village and church organisations, and the lessons, as intended refreshed our memories of the full Christmas story.
A welcome addition to the event was the serving of mulled wine and mince pies at the end of the service, which gave everyone the opportunity to wish one and other their best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Many will be leaving the village to spend time with their families; others will be entertaining family and friends at home.
St. Stephen's have held popular popular concerts over many years, and play an important part in fund raising. Unfortunately photographs of many do not exist, but for some Programmes do...
There is a lot of history behind the Village Bier. Details from the Parish Council Summary and Minutes help tell the story.
In 1897 the proposal to buy a bier for the cemetery was postponed due to cost, eventually in 1925 the Parish council agreed to buy a bier with India rubber tyres at a cost of £27.10.6d and a small committee was appointed to find the best means of erecting a shed to house the bier at the back of the Jubilee Hall. It arrived in 1926 and the agreed charge for its use should be two shillings and six pence to parishioners and five shillings to others. By 1931 the shed for the bier had not been built and it was discussed storing the bier in the cemetery.
The bier is not mentioned again in the minutes until 1979 when the it was reported to the police as missing, but by the next meeting it had been found and was being repaired by Mr Ashman. He also kindly offered to transport the bier to Chard Museum.
In 1999 Chard Museum no longer had room to store the bier and returned it to the village. The minutes mention that Mrs Cameron and Mr Whiteleg had both agreed to store the bier on a temporary basis. It was felt that Mrs Cameron's garage in the centre of the village would be a more suitable store. By September the bier had moved again to a barn belonging to Mr Hammet protected by cloths and plastic sheets. Mr Jefferies had done some repairs but some more would be required at a later date.
At the end of 2000 Mrs Rose arranged for the bier to go into the church temporarily, however in April 2001, the PCC were divided 8 to 8 on whether the bier should remain in the Church and by May the bier had been moved into the Old Kings Arms where Sandy and Rod Wells kindly stored it in their house.
Below are images of the bier in the church and it being moved into the Old Kings Arms:
The news that St. Stephen's Church building was deteriorating to a serious extent came as no great surprise to the village. The ominous signs of damp on the ceiling of the nave had long been there for all to see. There were also fears that less obvious deprecations to the fabric of the church were also present.
All this was confirmed by the mandatory Diocesan Quinquennial Inspection that took place in 2006.
The mandatory Diocesan inspection carried out by our architect in May 2006 highlighted an overall deterioration in the fabric of the church. Some relatively minor jobs e.g. making safe internal monuments, checking leaning tombstones etc, could be rectified by specialists at PCC level. Indeed, it became important to prove that as a PCC we were willing to take the initiative and start making improvements ourselves. The inspection report acted as a challenge - view the report – to do nothing would have lead to eventual closure, something had to be done. Our architect, Philip Hughes, whose firm Philip Hughes Associates specialises in listed buildings, attended an extraordinary meeting of the PCC in early 2007 and outlined possible options. His report had already prioritised the work, and it had to be decided what was feasible in the short, medium and long term. Financial constraints would always be a key factor. Our funds were in a healthy state thanks to many years of careful stewardship by our late treasurer Roger Barrett, but they were not sufficient for a major restoration. The PCC decided;
The architect's report acts as a guide for further in-depth specialist surveys and reports. The following had to be commissioned:
An application was made to English Heritage for inclusion in their 2007/08 allocation of funds. Being Grade 2 listed building helped and our bid was accepted with a grant of £20,000 allocated for investigative works, and £91,000 allocated for the main task. A main condition of the grant was that the PCC should raise almost as much again through its own resources. An Appeal was launched in the church in September 2007, attended by Lord Ashdown. This proved successful, and was followed by many smaller events organised by the PCC Fund Raising Committee. It was our aim to hold a monthly event in the village, and this succeeded in giving the campaign a high profile. Events included film nights, car boot sales, book sales, concerts, a duck race, and safari suppers . We were actively supported in the village, and in particular significant amounts were raised in the Bell. It was realised, though, that this alone was unlikely to bridge the gap, and many requests were submitted to charities and award granting bodies. Because we were already being supported by English Heritage, which indicated our project was on a firm footing, we obtained a higher level of support than would otherwise have been likely. Apart from this, our benefactors were:
At the completion of the preliminary inspections the Project Manager put the work out to tender. Only EH approved firms could be considered, and the contract was awarded to Magenta Building Conservation Limited, based in Blandford, and with a well established track record of restoring listed buildings.
A planning meeting was held in mid 2009 to finalise all details of the project, which was scheduled to take 16 working weeks. Scaffolding was erected both inside and outside the nave in late September, and work began in early October. A roof was erected above the scaffolding platforms to allow for work during bad weather, and this proved invaluable. The removal of the slates revealed to all the necessity of the work, and much rotten medieval timber and crumbling masonry was removed and replaced. Monthly progress meetings were held on site and we were able to watch all stages of the work. Early in 2010 we received a delivery of new Welsh slates, and these were fitted when all the underlying repair work had been completed. The interior of the nave was fully redecorated and the scaffolding removed. We then employed contract cleaners to deep clean the entire building. The project finished on schedule and in time for the congregation to celebrate Easter on 4 April 2010.The 'official' reopening and rededication by the Bishop followed later in the month
Many lessons were learned in undertaking a project of this magnitude. The importance of appointing a Project Manager is essential, and without the assistance from EH we would not have been able to start.
The support from the village has also been fundamental in achieving success, and it is quite clear that St Stephens Church is an important facet of village life. Our next Quinquennial Inspection will soon be announced, and in the current financial climate it will be interesting to find out if EH support will be forthcoming for Phase Two, work on the chancel and the tower
Following the closure of St. Stephen's during the winter of 2009 & 2010, the church reopened on April 17th with a party. On the following day, Sunday 18th, the Rededication of the church took place, conducted by Bishop Price, brother to the brother of the Bishop and Rector to our Team Ministry. The weather was very nice and a large group assembled for the service.
Altar - raised structure with a flat top on which the Eucharist is celebrated.
Battlement – parapet with a series of embrasures (indentations) and merlons (raised portions) between. Also called Crenelation.
Bench – seating in the nave for use of the congregation. Colloquially, but erroneously, called pews.
Canons – clergy in a secular (non-monastic) cathedral or collegiate church.
Chancel - the eastern part of the church in which the altar is placed.
Chancel arch - arch at the juncture of chancel and nave.
Corbel - a projection from the wall to carry weight not intended to rest directly upon the wall itself.
Cusp – spear shaped ornament, usually pierced. In tracery, the small pointed part between two lobes of a trefoil, quatrefoil, etc.
Embattled – with a battlement.
Font - basin for baptismal water.
Hagioscope – also known as a ‘squint’. An oblique opening in a wall to enable persons in the transepts to see the altar.
Lancet window – slender pointed-arched window.
Lights – vertical sections of a window or bell opening separated by mullions.
Mullion – vertical division in a window.
Nave - the main body of the church.
Parapet - low protective wall, often decorated with tracery or embattled. Often seen around the roof or tower.
Provost - the highest official in a cathedral or collegiate church.
Pulpit - a raised, enclosed platform from which the preacher delivers a sermon. Originally, sermons were delivered from in front of the altar or in the churchyard. By the start of the 17th century, each church had to have a pulpit by law.
Quatrefoil – four-leafed decoration in pierced or blind tracery.
Reredos - structure behind and above the altar.
Rood – a cross or crucifix.
Rood beam - a beam across the arch leading to the choir in the church.
Rood loft – singing gallery on top of the rood screen.
Rood screen - a carved wooden or stone screen dividing the choir from the nave.
Rood stairs – staircase giving access to the rood loft.
Scratch dial - a sundial 'scratched' into the south wall either to tell the time or to indicate times of service.
Squint – see hagioscope.
Tracery - pierced and decorated ornamental stonework often in the space above window lights or in parapets, etc.
Transepts - the projecting arms of a church built in the form of a cross.
Tympanum – a lath and plaster or boarded partition to fill the space between the chancel arch and the rood or chancel screen.
Vestry – a room where vestments and records are kept.
Wagon roof – roof where the appearance of the cloth tilt over a wagon is achieved with close set rafters and arched braces. Commonly found throughout south Somerset uncovered, panelled or plastered.