A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1992.
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The existence of a rural deanery of Spaxton in the later 12th century (fn. 1) suggests that the church may have begun as a minster, and the building appears to be of the 11th century. The benefice remained a rectory and in 1957 was united with Charlinch (fn. 2) and in 1981 with Enmore and Goathurst. (fn. 3)
By 1329 the advowson was owned by the lords of Spaxton manor. (fn. 4) The Crown granted out the patronage during a minority in 1531 (fn. 5) and presented in 1576 by lapse. (fn. 6) Throughout the 17th and the early 18th century the advowson was let by the Waldegraves (fn. 7) but had passed from James Smith (fn. 8) before 1773 to James Yorke and Edward Leave Yeo. (fn. 9) Yorke's representatives held it until 1817 when it was put up for sale (fn. 10) and was acquired by the next rector, William Gordon. (fn. 11) Successive rectors held the patronage until c. 1900. From then it was vested in the Church Trust Fund, (fn. 12) which from 1957 appointed on alternate vacancies. Since 1981 the patronage of the united benefice has been exercised jointly by the bishop, the fund, and the Martyrs Memorial Trust. (fn. 13)
The church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. in 1291, (fn. 14) at £25 gross in 1535, (fn. 15) and at £120 c. 1668. (fn. 16) In 1803 the living was thought to be worth at least £800 a year. (fn. 17) The average net income 1829-31 was £594. (fn. 18) Tithes were valued at £21 13s. 4d. in 1535. (fn. 19) In 1838 the tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £663. (fn. 20)
The church had 2 a. of land in 1250 (fn. 21) and by 1535 the glebe was valued at 66s. 8d. (fn. 22) By 1636 it comprised the parsonage house, 39 a. of land, a second house, and Blindwell, 22 a. with a house. (fn. 23) In 1670 there were 3 houses and 62 a. (fn. 24) and in 1838 the glebe was nearly 65 a. (fn. 25) Exchanges of land between the rector and the owners of Spaxton farm in 1883 reduced the size of the glebe considerably, (fn. 26) and land at North Street had been sold by 1928. (fn. 27) In 1956 the glebe comprised the rectory house, the parish room, 2 cottages, and 37 a., (fn. 28) of which 29½ a. remaining in 1976 were sold c. 1982. (fn. 29)
The rectory house may have been repaired c. 1470 when the rector purchased 5,000 lath nails. (fn. 30) In 1638 it was described as a mansion and its outbuildings and grounds included a malthouse, pigeon house, stables, two courts, two gardens, a woodyard, and a barn. (fn. 31) In 1954 it was divided into four dwellings, one of which was for the rector. (fn. 32) In 1967 the house, later Peart Hall, was sold. The central range, which has a south front of five bays with central doorway, was built in the 18th century, perhaps incorporating some walls from an earlier house. Early in the 19th century, probably in 1803 and in the 1830s, (fn. 33) it was refitted and enlarged to the west, north, and east. The eastern extension, in the form of a cross wing, provided a new entrance front of five bays whose central doorway was protected by a trellis-work porch, since removed. Later in the 19th century a conservatory was added to the south end of the east wing, additional bedrooms were provided on the west and detached stables and a coach house were built beyond them. A new house was built for the rector in 1967.
Thomas de l'Aleton, rector in 1317 and a pluralist, was given leave of absence provided that he visited Spaxton and maintained a chaplain. (fn. 34) Henry of Littleton, rector while still a subdeacon in 1329, had leave to study for three years and was not priested until 1332; in 1340 he was licensed to serve the prior of Merton (Surr.). (fn. 35) In 1423 five service books were bequeathed to the church. (fn. 36) Leonard Say, a relative of the patron, was probably under age when instituted in 1478, but in the following year, having attained his majority, was allowed to hold a second benefice. (fn. 37) His immediate successor appears to have been only a subdeacon when instituted in 1493. (fn. 38) There was an anniversary chaplain employed in 1450 and in the 1530s, (fn. 39) and until 1549 a light was maintained out of wax rents granted by 1359 and from land called Church Lands which may have been given for repairs. (fn. 40) Land given to maintain a light was sold to Crown grantees in 1575. (fn. 41)
The living was served by curates from the 1560s, (fn. 42) and among the non-resident rectors John Woolton, rector 1576-9, was bishop of Exeter 1579-94, (fn. 43) and Thomas Bartlett, rector until 1603, visited the parish occasionally and was a royal chaplain and archdeacon of Exeter. (fn. 44) Richard Powell, 1604-22, was the first of a long succession of resident rectors. His son Richard, rector from 1624, was deprived and died in prison, possibly by poison. Richard's son, also Richard, presented in 1645, was refused admission in favour of his brother-in-law John Carlisle. Carlisle died in 1668 and was succeeded by Joseph Cooke, who married Carlisle's widow. (fn. 45) Carlisle's son Henry succeeded Cooke as rector in 1709. He was followed by William Yorke, presented in 1713 by Mary Carlisle, probably Henry's daughter and later William's wife. (fn. 46) William Yorke died in 1772. (fn. 47) About 1788 there were 20 communicants. (fn. 48) A second William Yorke, rector 1803-17 and probably related to his namesake, also held Fiddington but lived at Spaxton. (fn. 49) Two Sunday services were held in 1815, (fn. 50) and between 1840 and 1843 celebration of communion was increased from at least three to twelve times a year. (fn. 51)
There was a church house in the 16th century which belonged to Spaxton manor. (fn. 52) It was badly damaged in the great storm of 1703 and was only partly rebuilt. (fn. 53) In 1731 an extension was added to the north, later rebuilt in two storeys. (fn. 54) The house was sold in 1833, (fn. 55) probably to the rector, who owned it in 1838. (fn. 56) It was later divided into two dwellings, known in 1987 as Glebe and St. Margaret's cottages. (fn. 57)
The church of ST. MARGARET, so named by 1742, (fn. 58) was dedicated in the Middle Ages and until 1536 or later to St. Mary. (fn. 59) It comprises a chancel with north vestry and south chapel, a nave with south aisle and south porch, and a west tower. The narrow nave and the herringbone masonry at the east end of the north wall suggest a date in the 11th century. The nave was later extended westwards and both nave and chancel were altered in the early 14th century. The tower was built or heightened probably in the 1430s. (fn. 60) North and south chancel chapels were formed in the later 15th century, the former evidently associated with the panelled and elaborately carved canopy over an earlier tomb. (fn. 61) The chapel was extended, probably twice: it was used as a vestry by 1606 (fn. 62) and was enlarged to take the organ in 1894. (fn. 63)
The south chancel chapel may have been extended from its original plan when the south aisle and two-storeyed porch were added, possibly c. 1536, the date of the pews. Bench ends in the nave are dated 1561. (fn. 64) Among them is one depicting a fuller or shearman with his clothfinishing tools. The date 1720 and the names of pew owners are to be found on several book rests. The pulpit includes panels of the late 16th or the 17th century.
There are a cup and almsdish of 1662 and a flagon dated 1708 and given in 1755. (fn. 65) There are six bells, the two oldest of the later 17th century. (fn. 66) Parts of the clock mechanism are said to date from c. 1600 (fn. 67) and the clock was recorded in 1655. (fn. 68) The registers date from 1558 but there is a gap between 1652 and 1668 and the first two registers are severely damaged. (fn. 69)
A building at Courtway, Merridge, probably earlier the Baptist chapel, was opened in 1876 as St. Andrew's chapel. (fn. 70) One service was held on Sundays during the earlier 20th century but by the 1960s numbers of communicants had fallen to c. 10 (fn. 71) and the chapel closed. The building, clad in corrugated iron, had quarters for a caretaker at the rear. (fn. 72) It was demolished in 1985. (fn. 73)