A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 10. Originally published by Boydell & Brewer for Victoria County History, Woodbridge, 2010.
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CASTLE CARY'S religious history is dominated by the parish church. Despite some early recusancy and nonconformity, dissent did not flourish until the 19th century when it may have been encouraged by the growth of both working and middle classes. In 1851 over 1,150 attendances were recorded at the church and two chapels. (fn. 1) Of the major employers, Boyds were strong supporters of Zion chapel and Donnes of the parish church.
In the late 12th century Henry Lovel gave Cary church to Bath priory. (fn. 2) This is the earliest reference to the church but Walter of Douai was said already to have given half the tithes of Cary to the priory c. 1100. (fn. 3) By the early 13th century Cary had given its name to a deanery whose chapter met in the church in 1272. (fn. 4) The deanery covered a large area of south-east Somerset and included Bruton, Shepton Mallet and Wincanton. (fn. 5) A vicarage was ordained in 1269 and Castle Cary remained a sole vicarage until 1970 when it was united with Ansford rectory under an order of 1964. (fn. 6) The church had been dedicated to All Saints by 1504. (fn. 7)
Until the Dissolution the advowson belonged to Bath priory, later abbey, by gift of Henry Lovel confirmed by his son Richard in 1236. (fn. 8) In 1546 Thomas Clerk presented and in 1554 William Crowche presented as farmer of the rectory. (fn. 9) The bishop of Bath and Wells, to whom Edward VI had granted the rectory in 1548, presented in 1564 but thereafter his lessees (fn. 10) until 1767 when he excluded the advowson from his leases. (fn. 11) The bishop remained patron of the united benefice in 2002. (fn. 12)
Income and Property
The rectory, worth £13 6s. 8d. in 1291, (fn. 13) belonged to Bath priory until the Dissolution. (fn. 14) It consisted of a house, arable land and tithes. From 1548 until 1811 it belonged to the bishops of Bath and Wells (fn. 15) who let it for £12 a year to the Kirton and Lucy families, then resident in the parish. (fn. 16) In 1700 William Lucy sold the lease, charged with debts, to William Ettrick and it descended with their share of the manor to the Hoares. (fn. 17) In 1811 Sir Richard Colt Hoare purchased the rectory in fee and it descended with his manorial estate. (fn. 18)
In 1269 the vicar was allowed a house adjoining the prior's court house, offerings, hay and small tithes, except of the demesne, and tithes of two mills. The vicar was to reside and meet ordinary expenses except for the chancel. (fn. 19)
In 1426 a new agreement with the prior gave the vicar tithe of flax and hemp in gardens and up to 24 a. in the fields, the tithe of two additional mills, the lord's game in the park, gardens, and dovecot. The prior would receive church scot, tithes of sheaves, hay, lower mills, and the rest of the demesne, and 15 a. of arable formerly assigned to the vicar. (fn. 20) The prior's house was not mentioned but was possibly standing in the late 17th century near the site of the later vicarage. (fn. 21) It had gone by the late 18th century when the 89½ a. of land (fn. 22) was treated as part of Castle Cary manor and let out with several tenements. (fn. 23)
In 1498 and 1519 the vicarage was burdened with pensions of £4 to outgoing vicars, (fn. 24) probably as a result in 1537 the vicar let his vicarage for seven years at £4 rent. (fn. 25) In 1536 glebe lands were worth £2 6s. 8d., tithes of wool and lambs £2, and personal tithes and offerings £8 gross. (fn. 26) In 1606, in addition to small tithes and a modus for land in Cary moor, the vicar claimed the 15 a. of arable and all tithe hay despite an earlier claim by the farmer of the rectory that by composition they belonged to the parsonage as settled by a contract signed by eleven elderly men, since deceased. In 1626 no mention was made of the disputed items but the vicar had herbage of the churchyard. (fn. 27)
In 1646 Edward Kirton, farmer of the rectory, was offered a reduction in his composition fine if he settled £20 on the minister for a term of three lives. In 1649 £30 a year was agreed. (fn. 28) The value of the living was £34 gross in 1707 of which £26 was in tithes and £6 from glebe. (fn. 29) By 1810 he had 7 a. of glebe, partly garden, and in 1839 9½ a. but the rectory was valued at £550. (fn. 30) The vicar's living was worth £405 gross in 1835 and in 1839 the vicarial tithes were commuted for £378. The rectorial tithes were commuted in 1839 for £301 10s. and there was c. 65 a. of rectorial glebe. (fn. 31) The vicar's glebe was exchanged for 7½ a. of rectory land and release of tithes on Sir Hugh Hoare's land to build a new vicarage house. (fn. 32)
The vicar's house in the early 17th century had a detached kitchen, barn, stable, garden, and orchard covering 1 a. (fn. 33) The barn was used for recasting the bells in 1648. The vicarage was last recorded in 1699 (fn. 34) and probably lay south of the church where land known as the vicarage garden belonged to the glebe in 1839. A large new house of local stone was completed in 1846 to conventional Tudor designs by James Davis on rectory land nearby. It comprised drawing room, dining room, library, study, eight bedrooms, and three dressing rooms. It is now known as the Old Vicarage. (fn. 35)
PASTORAL CARE AND PARISH LIFE
Castle Cary appears to have been an active parish with a brotherhood and church house in the early 16th century when it also had a reformist vicar. The church had an organ and salaried organist in the early 17th century and thereafter was rarely without an instrument or singers.
Until the early 17th Century
Henry, clerk of Cary, who hanged himself in his house c. 1243 may have served the parish. (fn. 36) The first vicar was Henry of Risedon, instituted 1269. (fn. 37) A resident curate was recorded in 1464. (fn. 38) In 1515 William Bayly or Rawlyns, born in Castle Cary, gave money to found an obit for 15 years on Passion Sunday and the following Monday for his parents. Another obit was founded for Henry Russ in 1544, endowed with 10s. charged on a leasehold. The family were parish benefactors. A brotherhood and a high cross light were recorded in the 1540s. (fn. 39) John Knight, who was granted a corrody by the prior of Bath in 1336, was in 1343 allowed to have divine service celebrated in his oratory in Cary for one year; (fn. 40) there was also an early 16th-century oratory or chapel at Lower Cockhill farm. (fn. 41)
A church house was building in 1545, partly paid for by Robert Bayly. (fn. 42) It was probably the parish house let to sell drink on Whit Tuesday in 1629 (fn. 43) and recorded in 1682–3. (fn. 44) In 1544 Henry Stephens gave his residuary estate for the maintenance of the church. (fn. 45) The gift had been lost or spent by 1628 when the church had only the interest on £2 given by John Francis and a beast leaze in Cary Moor. (fn. 46)
Henry Kensyke, vicar 1519–46, had two assistant clergy c. 1530 and in 1537 let his vicarage although he remained in the area. He was said to have had reforming tendencies and was invited to preach at Wincanton. (fn. 47) His successor, Ambrose Marshall was deprived for marriage in 1554 but recovered the living before 1562–3. He was resident, like his successors, but of mediocre learning and not licensed to preach. (fn. 48) The registers date from 1564 and the first, a copy, is bound in a fragment of a late medieval missal. (fn. 49) Visiting clergy sometimes served; in 1633 a preacher was provided with food by the churchwardens and in 1640 the credentials of one minister were checked at Wells. (fn. 50)
From 1554 there were complaints that the chancel needed repair and by 1594 was greatly decayed. (fn. 51) The parish spent a great deal on the church in Charles I's reign, possibly setting right some earlier damage. A clock was installed before 1628, when the parish also paid a man to sweep the church and whip the dogs, and by 1633 there was a salaried organist. In 1634 communion rails were installed, the ten commandments were written up, a new bible was bought from London. The tower was repaired in the 1630s and a new brass weathercock made. The bier house was repaired and the churchyard was fenced with a high dyke or bank and a hedge. (fn. 52) The church has a silver chalice of 1640 by 'I.G.' (fn. 53) The church was said to have been damaged early in the Civil War and in 1643 the churchwardens put new locks on the vestry and tower doors and paid for setting up pieces of the organ. A surplice and a pulpit cloth, both new, were stolen, the latter from the rectory. However, claims of extensive damage to the church at this period may be exaggerated; Gerard in 1633 said that coats of arms, presumably stained glass, had been beaten out of the church windows since he first went there. (fn. 54)
Mid 17th to mid 19th Century
Although the clergy at this period were often pluralist and there was no clergy house in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the church was not left unserved.
Thomas Aylesbury (d. 1661), vicar from 1650, was an author, and supporter of penitential confession and critic of Calvin who had been deprived of livings elsewhere for his support of the clubmen, a neutral movement in the west, and the book of common prayer. He was imprisoned after 1645 and on his release came with his large family to Somerset where Sir George Horner and others supported him and secured for him the vicarage of Castle Cary. His other benefices were restored a few months before his death. Two sons were ordained but William was ejected from East Pennard, Somerset, for scandalous behaviour in 1681. (fn. 55) Aylesbury's successor held a three-day procession held in 1674, probably a perambulation. (fn. 56)
John Creed, vicar 1664–1720, was also curate of Ansford. (fn. 57) In Castle Cary there were usually resident curates who found their own accommodation. (fn. 58) The diarist James Woodforde, son of the vicar Samuel Woodforde (1721–71), was curate between 1765 and 1773 and served both Castle Cary and Babcary. (fn. 59) Thomas Wickham, vicar 1771 to 1786, was rector of Shepton Mallet and prebendary of Combe, but his curate Benjamin Thomas was resident and in 1775 was left a £10 annuity during his curacy by Cary Creed the elder. Creed also left an annuity to the sexton who may have been a poor relation. (fn. 60) Charles Moss, 1791–1801, was later bishop of Oxford. (fn. 61)
Fine linen was given to the church; a 1714 napkin was still in use in 1858. A silver flagon by John Robins was purchased in 1783 and a 1788 paten was given in 1790 when communion was celebrated four times a year. (fn. 62) The church was repewed in 1757 at a cost of £125, (fn. 63) and in the 1780s the clustered piers of the arcade had been painted to resemble Sienna marble. A carved screen, painted blue, still divided the nave from the chancel but was taken down shortly afterwards although a fragment was used to make a gate to the chancel. On the chancel arch were painted the Royal Arms facing the nave and a Crucifixion scene on the chancel side, painted in 1710. An old carved pulpit and communion rails were also painted blue. In 1784 major work on the chancel included the installation of altar steps and a ceiling decorated with roses, dentils, and Corinthian modillions. (fn. 64) Parson Woodforde described the church in 1789 as greatly improved. (fn. 65) In 1792 the vestry room, recorded in 1633 and glazed in 1683, was demolished and rebuilt by John Bulgin north-east of the chancel. A chandelier was bought in 1806 and an altarpiece painted in 1808 by a Mr Armstrong. (fn. 66)
In 1811 the curate Thomas Woodforde began Sunday evening lectures. (fn. 67) He lived at Ansford, also served South Barrow, and only held one service in 1815. By 1827 the resident curate served no other church and held two Sunday services. (fn. 68) The church needed repair and was probably too small. In 1815 John Pinch of Bath drew up plans, never executed, to rebuild the church with a spire of Bath or Doulting ashlar. After the churchwardens had been fined the tower was finally repaired by Mr Savery of Taunton in 1819. (fn. 69) In 1829 the north and south galleries were replaced by a full length north gallery and a short south gallery accessed by open staircases from the churchyard. The re-allocation of seating according to subscription toward the cost was the subject of protracted litigation. (fn. 70) A lunatic smashed most of the windows and unsuccessfully tried to set fire to the church in 1836. In 1840 there were said to be two very good sermons at the Sunday services and communion was celebrated six times a year but the parish refused to pay for the consecration of a churchyard extension. (fn. 71)
Musical Tradition Men from Bruton and Evercreech sang at Castle Cary in 1678. In 1695 a new gallery was completed and seats were given to those who contributed but it was later used by singers. (fn. 72) In 1768–9 a dispute over use of the gallery, occupied by 30 singers but with 80 seats, divided the parish. In the 1780s the front bore paintings of King David, a coat of arms, and two carved antique but 'disgustful' figures. Wings were added in 1810. (fn. 73) The organ was moved there before being sold in 1809. A new organ by Holland of Bath was bought for £280 in 1812 but some parishioners were unhappy about paying for it and for candles for evening service as ordered by the vestry. In 1820 it was agreed the organ should not be repaired out of church rates. (fn. 74) The Castle Cary singers had been male in 1768 and 1772 (fn. 75) but there was a mixed choir in the early 19th century encouraged by the curate Mr Phabayne, 1836–45, who installed a new organ and had a singing class. By 1855 full choral services were held and the Daniel family from Frome were organists from 1841 until 1881 or later. (fn. 76) The mid 19th-century instrument was replaced in 1891 by an organ installed in a purpose-built chamber south of the chancel in memory of Thomas Salisbury Donne and his wife Hannah. (fn. 77)
Since the mid 19th Century
Richard John Meade, vicar 1845–80, canon (1863) and precentor (1868) of Wells, was probably the first resident vicar since the 17th century, provided a clergy house and rebuilt much of the church. On Census Sunday 1851 attendance at morning services was 307 including 108 Sunday schoolchildren, at the afternoon service 366 including 106 schoolchildren, and in the evening 164. The figures were said to be below average. (fn. 78) Despite the presence of two popular nonconformist chapels the church was well supported and this probably led the parish to agree to major rebuilding, which would provide a larger church in keeping with Castle Cary's importance as a growing textile town. The upkeep of the church and churchyard was endowed with bequests by John Stephens Donne (1907), W. T. Poole (1943), Adela Gifford (1945), Thomas Salisbury Donne (1953) and others. All except the Poole bequest had ceased to exist by 1991. The gift of John Stephens Donne was used to provide gas burners and a new chimney, (fn. 79) and the eagle lectern was given in 1908 in his memory. (fn. 80)
By 1870 both vicar and curate were resident, although the curate was incumbent of Durston, there were three Sunday services, and communion was celebrated monthly at midday. (fn. 81) The 1788 paten was lost after 1897 and a replacement with a silver bread box and a gold chalice and paten in the style of the medieval Nettlecombe plate were given in 1902 by Richard Corner, manager of Stuckey's Bank. Previously a tin box had been provided to carry bread to the church. In 1967 the church was given a pair of silver cruets and a wafer box. The first half of the 20th century saw many generous gifts to the church including electric lighting, clergy vestry, furniture and altar brass. (fn. 82) There are sets of 20th-century wrought iron gates north and south of the churchyard.
A resident Church Army mission nurse in the 1890s was paid by Frances Catherine Meade, daughter of Canon Meade. (fn. 83) In 1910 the rooms of the disbanded Young Men's Society next to the Liberal club in Woodcock Street were reopened as a church institute providing games and lectures, but for men only. (fn. 84) In 1933 a new church room was built opposite the church on the site of six tiny cottages known as Knackers hole. (fn. 85) During the early 20th century there were three Sunday and some weekday services. There were 36 Easter communicants in 1917, 199 in 1933, and 241 in 1941. In 1926 the Church Army held services at the Town Hall and in the open air at Cumnock Road every Sunday. Rogation processions were held in the 1930s and mystery plays were performed on the vicarage lawn and in the town hall. During the Second World War united services were held regularly in the Methodist and Congregational churches. (fn. 86) In 1949 the Castle Cary Fraternal was set up for local Anglican clergy who met with the Methodist minister for theological discussions during the 1950s. (fn. 87) In the early 21st century the church has one Sunday morning service, and two on the 2nd Sunday of the month and on Easter Sunday.
ALL SAINTS CHURCH
Nothing of the 12th-century church survived the rebuilding in the 15th and 16th centuries and the demolition and reconstruction of the west end in the 19th century. It is a Perpendicular style building of Cary stone and blue limestone under roofs of Welsh slate and lead, and has a chancel with north vestry and transept and south organ chamber, nave with north and south aisles and porches, and west tower crowned with a spire. The earliest part is the later 15th-century clerestoried east end of the nave but the chancel may have predated it as in 1426 the prior of Bath undertook to build and repair it. (fn. 88) Work on the body of the church may have continued into the early 16th century as bequests of £1 were made to the church in 1504 and 1515. (fn. 89) The church had a carved timber roof with bosses, spandrels, and tracery, revealed when the ceiling was removed in 1843. (fn. 90) The crocketted pulpit and font with quatrefoil panels and traceried shaft were also Perpendicular. (fn. 91)
The west end of the church dates from 1853–4 when the medieval fabric of the tower and part of the nave was demolished and all furniture removed. (fn. 92) The nave was extended to five bays and a new tower was built with 62-ft spire. North and south porches and a north transept or chancel aisle were built, together with galleries linked by stair turrets. (fn. 93) The architect was Benjamin Ferrey. (fn. 94) He reroofed the whole church, provided ceilings, and furnishings with additional seating under the tower and in the chancel and its north aisle. New east and west windows were filled with glass by O'Connor and Powell and Sons respectively and a new reredos was painted by Hudson of London who also coloured the nave roof. Monuments and the medieval south door were replaced. (fn. 95) The chancel was paved with Minton encaustic tiles in 1881 and the altar was raised on a step of Belgian black marble in memory of Canon Meade, vicar 1845–80. (fn. 96) The pulpit was carved with figures of saints carved by William Halliday (d. 1899) (fn. 97) but incorporates fragments of older carving from a Perpendicular pulpit, which had been enlarged in 1802. (fn. 98) In 1891 the south wall of the chancel was rebuilt and an organ chamber created in the form of a transept re-using the windows. (fn. 99) In 1895 the plaster ceiling of the nave was removed and stained boards substituted to match the chancel. (fn. 100) By 1925 the north transept had been enclosed as part of the vestry using a screen incorporating old fragments, since transferred to the arch between the south aisle and organ chamber. (fn. 101) The galleries were removed completely in the 1950s but the doorways and stair turrets with large animal heads survive. In the 1970s pews were removed, the stalls were taken out of the chancel, and the altar was moved forwards. (fn. 102)
There are eight bells, (fn. 103) three of which have no inscription. (fn. 104) There were probably five in 1545. (fn. 105) Two were recast in the vicarage barn in 1648 by Robert Austen, another in 1653 at Compton Dundon. In 1662 Austen had to recast a bell he had cast in 1648, possibly the curfew bell rung at 8 p.m. in winter until the early 20th century. In 1686 Lewis Cockey of Frome and in 1703 Thomas Knight of Closworth recast the fourth bell. (fn. 106) In 1760 the five bells were recast as a peal of six by Thomas Bilbie of which the fifth and sixth survive. (fn. 107) In 1929 two bells were added to bring the peal to eight. (fn. 108)
A recusant was buried in 1634, (fn. 109) another was recorded in 1641, and a tanner was a papist in 1723. (fn. 110) Mary Longman (d. 1866) was a Roman Catholic schoolmistress two of whose sons became priests including Stephen who retired to Castle Cary to teach at his sister's private school and was said to have had a chapel in the house. (fn. 111) The Convent of the Visitation was established at Florida House by 1950 (fn. 112) with at least three nuns but in 1959 was replaced by six sisters of Jesus Crucified, an order of disabled nuns from France, who called the house St John's Priory. They kept a guesthouse and started a printing press. (fn. 113) In 1963 a permanent altar was installed in their chapel and public mass was celebrated, served from Wincanton, until the sisters left in 1996. Since then mass has been said at Ansford church. (fn. 114)
Castle Cary was represented on the Wells and Bruton Classis in the 1640s. (fn. 115) There were two dissenting teachers in 1669 when two local houses were used for unspecified meetings. (fn. 116) There were Quakers in the parish by 1675 and in 1743 a house was licensed for meetings. (fn. 117) Houses were licensed for unspecified congregations in 1706, 1708, and 1712, and for Presbyterians in 1732. (fn. 118) Neither Presbyterians nor Quakers were recorded later but the Mid Somerset Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends was held at the Boyd institute in 1896. (fn. 119)
John Wesley preached at Castle Cary several times between 1767 and 1790 but Methodists were not always welcome and fellow preacher Samuel Wells was thrown into the Horse Pond. (fn. 120) In 1785 a new preaching house with stable was given by John Horner for the use of Wesley and his appointees. (fn. 121) It stood in Horner's, later Pither's yard, south-east of High Street and, although the building of a new chapel was authorised in 1827, remained in use until 1839. Music was provided by violin and bass. A new Wesleyan chapel was built by Abraham Bryant further east in High Street in 1839 above a schoolroom, which was rented out in the 1840s. The old chapel was sold to a potato merchant. (fn. 122) By 1851 there was a resident Methodist minister and congregations on Census Sundays were 50 adults and 40 Sunday school children in the morning and 110 people in the evening. (fn. 123) The chapel was altered in 1874 and its gallery extended to accommodate a new organ in 1875. A vestry was added in 1889 and the chapel was extended in 1895. (fn. 124) A burial ground was recorded in 1918. (fn. 125) Ivy Cottage, later the Hollies, Florida Street, was purchased and furnished in 1878 to replace a rented manse. In 1898 it was sold and a new house, Wesley Villa, was built in Ansford Lane by Charles Thomas and Sons. (fn. 126) In 1905 the Castle Cary Circuit, formed in 1850 out of the Shepton Mallet circuit and comprising seven chapels, merged with the Glastonbury circuit to form the Mid Somerset Mission. (fn. 127) The chapel had a Sunday school and a choir of 20 in 1962 but services were poorly attended and membership had fallen to 47 by 1976. (fn. 128) In 2001 there were two Sunday services and a resident minister but both Wesley Villa, now Blackberry Hill, and the Hollies were residential care homes. (fn. 129)
The chapel is a two-storey building of Cary rubble with a three-bayed Doulting ashlar front and round headed windows under a slate roof. The gable has a worn, bell-shaped inscription panel on which the word Wesleyan can be seen. A Tuscan columned entrance porch with a 'fanciful' pediment has been removed. (fn. 130)
In 1800 William Paul's schoolroom at South Cary was licensed for Independent worship. (fn. 131) Services were held on Sunday and Thursday evenings until Zion chapel, built by John Whitemarsh of Cann (Dors.), opened in the Golden Lion Yard in October 1816. It was served from Galhampton until 1837 when Castle Cary had its first minister. In 1837–9 a schoolroom and a gallery were added and in 1839 the first marriage was celebrated. The cause was said to be low in 1845 but recovered a few years later. (fn. 132) In 1847 an Independent Minister obtained a licence for worship at his house in Dimmer but held his last service there in 1849. (fn. 133) Zion chapel had a choir by 1849 (fn. 134) and in 1851 attendance on Census Sunday was 70 adults and 30 Sunday school children in the morning and 180 people in the evening. The chapel seated 276. (fn. 135) The Revd James Grosvenor, minister and schoolteacher, left Castle Cary for South Africa and was first pastor of the Congregational church in Durban in the 1850s before returning to England. He served at Street and Curry Rivel before retiring to Castle Cary to teach and died in 1912 aged 92. (fn. 136)
The chapel was altered in 1869 and 1893 when the gallery was removed and an organ chamber built. Communicants averaged 60 c. 1900. (fn. 137) A mission room in Cumnock Road in 1905 and 1910 may have been connected with the chapel. (fn. 138) In 1920 a manse, later Park Lodge, was bought with two charitable bequests but in 1955 the last resident minister left and the house was let. (fn. 139) In 1971 the church declined to join the United Reformed Church and continued as a Congregational church with one Sunday evening service in 1974. It fell into disuse and closed and was converted for residential use c. 1983. (fn. 140)
The former chapel stands to the rear of Chapel Yard, South Cary. It was built of red brick and Cary stone with Y-traceried windows under a hipped slate roof with a two-storey Sunday school extension to the rear but the interior has been gutted.
The Gospel Hall in Cumnock Road, of corrugated iron, was built in 1923 to replace a temporary building in Ansford opened as a result of a local evangelist's mission in 1920. In 1974 there was one Sunday service and bible study on Wednesdays and in the 1980s there were two Sunday services. (fn. 141) By 1998 services had ceased but it was used as a Sunday school until c. 2000. (fn. 142)