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 church was a dependent chapel of North Petherton and was given with the mother church to Buckland priory on its foundation c. 1166. (fn. 1) Temporary burial rights were granted to the chapel, probably during the civil war in the 1140s. (fn. 2) The church had achieved independence by the early 13th century, (fn. 3) and was a sole rectory until 1978. It was held with St. John the Baptist's, Bridgwater, between 1978 and 1984 and thereafter with Weston Zoyland. (fn. 4)
A dispute over patronage between the bishop of Bath, Buckland priory, and the lord of Chedzoy manor was settled in 1280 in favour of the lord, Simon de Montagu, (fn. 5) and the advowson descended with the manor until 1678 or later. (fn. 6) It was acquired by John Coney (d. c. 1713), (fn. 7) and remained in his family, several members of which were rectors, until Thomas Coney, rector 1835-40, sold it to Richard Luscombe, vicar of Moorlinch. (fn. 8) By 1861 George Mullens, rector 1855-91, had acquired the patronage and his nephew and successor, George Richard Mullens, held it from 1897 until 1940. (fn. 9) He was succeeded as patron by Mrs. S. A. Rowlands, but since 1960 the bishop of Bath and Wells has held the advowson. (fn. 10)
The church was valued at £20 in 1291, (fn. 11) £38 16s. 8½d. net in 1535, (fn. 12) and c. £300 in 1668. (fn. 13) Average income had fallen to £111 in 1829-31. (fn. 14) Tithes and offerings were worth over £37 in 1535 (fn. 15) paid, it was later claimed, in the form of moduses. (fn. 16) Rectorial tithes were commuted for £385 5s. in 1840; tithes on Fowler's or Vowle's Mead, inclosed under Act of 1797 and worth then £2, were due to the bishop. (fn. 17) In the mid 12th century 3 a. of land appear to have been given to the church, (fn. 18) and the rector held a cottage by 1353. (fn. 19) In 1535 the glebe was valued at £2 3s. 6d. a year; (fn. 20) in 1626 it comprised 32¼ a. in the open fields. (fn. 21) It was assessed at 29 a. in 1840 (fn. 22) and remained church property in 1978. (fn. 23) A rectory house stood with two barns and other buildings in 1626. (fn. 24) The house had been recently repaired in 1815 (fn. 25) but was substantially rebuilt later. (fn. 26) In 1848 Charles Knowles designed additions in the Gothic style. (fn. 27) The house was replaced c. 1957 by a new building to the north, which itself was sold in 1978. (fn. 28)
The value of the living and the prominence of the patrons attracted distinguished and absentee rectors including Godfrey Giffard, rector in the mid 13th century and later bishop of Worcester 1268-1302, (fn. 29) and Thomas de Montagu, rector by 1391 and until 1394 or later and during that time dean of Salisbury. (fn. 30) John Welles, rector from 1415, died at the council of Constance in 1417; (fn. 31) Nicholas Upton, rector 1427-34, wrote a book on heraldry and knighthood; (fn. 32) Thomas Northwich, rector 1470-87, was also prior of Eye (Suff.). Northwich's immediate successors were Christopher Urswick, rector 1487-8, a scholar, courtier, and diplomat, (fn. 33) and Richard Nykke, rector 1489-1501, bishop of Norwich 1501-36. (fn. 34) The parish was served by a chaplain in 1450 and 1463 and by two in 1468 and c. 1535. (fn. 35) The church had endowed lights, some probably established by 1406, (fn. 36) and c. 1510 the churchwardens maintained a rood light and a fund called Our Lady's service. (fn. 37) A chantry dissolved in 1548 had land in the parish and in Bridgwater, Axbridge, and Crediton (Devon). (fn. 38) A house called Our Lady house, mentioned in the early 16th century, may have been the predecessor of the five-bayed church house which was also used for holding manor courts in the 1570s. (fn. 39) It was being maintained by the churchwardens in the later 17th century (fn. 40) but the overseers paid for repairs in 1740. (fn. 41) A piece of land at Dunwear in Bridgwater was owned by the church by 1529 and continues to be let by candle auction. (fn. 42)
Nicholas Mason, rector from 1547, was deprived in 1554 but would not leave (fn. 43) and John Cotterell, rector 1558-72, was a considerable pluralist. (fn. 44) George Montgomery spent some time in Ireland from 1609 where he was bishop of Clogher and of Meath. (fn. 45) The rectory house was plundered during the Civil War and Walter Raleigh, rector 1620-46 and dean of Wells 1642- 6, was imprisoned there. (fn. 46) There were usually 12 communicants in the 1770s. (fn. 47) In 1827 there were two services each Sunday (fn. 48) and by the early 1840s celebrations of communion were held eight times a year for 30 communicants. (fn. 49) Monthly communion was celebrated by a resident rector in 1870. (fn. 50)
The church of ST. MARY, so dedicated by 1343, (fn. 51) is built of coursed lias and comprises a chancel with north vestry, clerestoried nave with north and south transepts and aisles, a south porch, and a west tower. The arcades and the north aisle are of the earlier 13th century but the south aisle was widened in the early 14th century, aligning it with a chapel built on the south side of the chancel when that was restored and altered in the later 13th century. The tower (fn. 52) was added in the earlier 16th century together with the porch, the clerestory, the arch into the north transept, and windows in the north aisle. The south chapel may have been demolished at the same time. A gallery in the north transept was removed c. 1845 (fn. 53) and the chancel was rebuilt in 1884. (fn. 54)
The font is of the 13th century and among the furnishings are a pulpit and bench ends of the 16th century. The former reading desk (1620) is part of the organ screen, and the altar rails (1637) are under the tower arch. The screen of the 1880s incorporates part of the late medieval screen and rood loft which were removed c. 1841. (fn. 55) There is a memorial brass, probably of Richard Sydenham (d. 1499). (fn. 56)
The church plate includes a cup and cover of 1573 and a flagon of 1758. (fn. 57) Two bells, the great bell and the Lady bell, were recorded c. 1508-9 (fn. 58) but the oldest surviving bell in a peal of six is of the late 16th century by Roger Semson. (fn. 59) The registers date from 1559 and are virtually complete. (fn. 60)