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 parish church was probably a mother church, as suggested by the claim in 1377 that people from Otterhampton and the Marsh should normally be buried in Stockland churchyard and that the vicar was entitled to all offerings for requiems. (fn. 1) St. Mark's hospital, Bristol, had acquired the advowson by 1259, and in 1316 appropriated the rectory, (fn. 2) valued at £6 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 3) In 1317 the bishop ordained a vicarage, (fn. 4) the advowson of which was held with Stockland manor until 1971 when the bishop became patron on the union of Stockland with Otterhampton and Combwich. Since 1984 the living has been held with Cannington also. (fn. 5)
In 1317 the vicarage was endowed with tithes which in 1535 were valued at £4 5s. 3d. (fn. 6) It was augmented in 1454 with 28s. a year from the hospital. (fn. 7) Its gross value in 1535 was £6 9s. 3d., (fn. 8) in 1668 c. £30, (fn. 9) and the average 1829-31 was £161. (fn. 10) The income included the augmentation, paid by Bristol corporation in succession to St. Mark's hospital, although in 1819 payment was in arrears. (fn. 11) In 1864 the lay rector gave the vicar his annual tithe rent charge of £60 but the benefice continued to be known as a vicarage. (fn. 12)
The vicarial tithes were paid by composition in the 1640s. (fn. 13) In 1817 tenants complained to Bristol corporation that the vicar demanded 2s. in the pound from rack rents and had abandoned the composition for small tithes (fn. 14) which were commuted in 1837 for £153 18s. (fn. 15)
In 1633, as in 1317, the vicar had 20 a. of glebe; (fn. 16) some was exchanged with the lord of the manor in 1864 and 1883, (fn. 17) more land was bought, and in 1884 there was over 35 a., all of which had been sold by 1978. (fn. 18)
A house was assigned to the vicar in 1317. (fn. 19) In 1815 the vicarage house was said to be small and ruinous, a mere cottage, very old and thatched, with unceiled rooms, and in bad repair. (fn. 20) It had been demolished by 1822. An adjoining thatched timber barn was almost a ruin. About 1816 Bristol corporation contributed towards the cost of a new house, built near the road. It was of two storeys, three bays long, and two rooms deep. (fn. 21) This house was replaced on the same site in 1860-1 by a much larger one, later known as Stockland Manor. (fn. 22) In 1884, when Henry Daniel resigned the living, he built a new vicarage house nearer the church so that he might remain in occupation of his home. (fn. 23) The new vicarage remained part of the living until 1971. In 1989 it was a residential home known as the Old Vicarage.
In addition to the vicar there was a stipendiary priest c. 1535. (fn. 24) Robert Banks, vicar 1572-95, and his wife were very unpopular in the village (fn. 25) and in the early 17th century there were complaints against the vicar for insufficient preaching. (fn. 26) Richard Marlowe, vicar 1627-47, left a library worth £20. (fn. 27) In 1776 there were 15-20 communicants. (fn. 28) In 1815 the vicar was non-resident and there was only one Sunday service. (fn. 29) There were two Sunday services by 1840, with communion three times a year. (fn. 30) By 1870 celebrations had increased to eight a year. (fn. 31) Charles Whistler, vicar 1895-1909, was an antiquary and writer. (fn. 32)
The church house was let to the parishioners for 1d. in 1549 but was in decay in 1613. (fn. 33) It was still used by the parish in the 1650s and the overseers rented it in 1692, suggesting that by this date it was used as a poorhouse. (fn. 34)
The former church, dedicated to ALL SAINTS in 1316, (fn. 35) in the 19th century comprised a chancel, a nave with south transept, south porch, and north aisle, and a west tower. Most of the windows appear to have been of the 14th century. (fn. 36) In 1865-6 Thomas Daniel, lay rector and patron, rebuilt the church at his own expense. (fn. 37) The new church, on the site of the old and dedicated to ST. MARY MAGDALENE, was said to be by Mr. Arthur of Plymouth. It was built of lias in the early 14th-century style and comprises a chancel with south transept or organ chamber and north vestry, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. Original fittings from the earlier church include the 15th-century font and fragments of the screen. The screen was restored and considerably enlarged in 1920 by F. Bligh Bond. (fn. 38) The east window of 1867 is by Clayton and Bell. (fn. 39)
There are five bells only one of which, dated 1827, pre-dates the rebuilding of the church. (fn. 40) There is an Elizabethan cup and a salver and a flagon of 1750 and 1754 respectively, apparently given in 1755. (fn. 41) The registers date from 1538 and are complete. (fn. 42)
A chapel at Steart which had gone out of use by 1611 (fn. 43) was presumably the chapel in the parish described in 1613 as having no services because 'dissolved' and used to house pigs; (fn. 44) in 1756 it was used as a barn. (fn. 45)
The church of ST. ANDREW at Steart was built by the Revd. Henry Daniel in 1882 and endowed by him with over £1,000 on condition that at least one Church of England service was held there each Sunday. The brick building comprised an undivided chancel and nave with south porch and bell turret. In 1986 the turret was struck by lightning and the church was badly damaged by the ensuing fire. It was later restored, but without the bell turret. Henry Thomas Daniel gave a set of plate to the church in 1917. (fn. 46)