Fiddington: Church

Pages 102-103

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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Fiddington church was first recorded in 1272. (fn. 1) The living was a sole rectory until 1964 and from that year it was held with Stogursey. Since 1976 the benefices have been united. (fn. 2)

The advowson probably belonged to the lords of Fiddington manor but in 1272 Henry of Fiddington's title was challenged by Richard FitzBernard of Bonson. (fn. 3) Henry gave the advowson to William of Edington, clerk, who granted it to John de Columbers and his wife Alice. She presented in 1316 but in 1319 the advowson was settled on her son Philip de Columbers and his heirs. (fn. 4) By 1340, however, it had been recovered against Philip de Columbers and Simon Furneaux by Geoffrey of Stawell who claimed that Alice de Columbers had given it to him and that he had secured a release from Philip. (fn. 5) It was later bought by Simon Farway who sold it to Robert Crosse, and Robert enfeoffed Sir Thomas Fichet c. 1383. (fn. 6) The advowson descended with Spaxton manor until 1756 or later. (fn. 7) By 1776 it was owned by William Yorke who later became rector. (fn. 8) Thereafter the advowson was held by successive incumbents or their relatives. (fn. 9) Since 1939 it has been held by the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 10)

The church was valued at £8 in 1414 (fn. 11) but at only £6 10s. 2½d. net in 1535. (fn. 12) By 1668 it was valued at c. £60 (fn. 13) and in 1765 at £90, (fn. 14) but by 1831 had risen to £215. (fn. 15) In 1837 tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £200. (fn. 16)

In the later 13th century Henry of Fiddington gave 4 a. of arable with the advowson to William of Edington. The land, later described as 14 a., was said to be the glebe but was let by the patron in the later 14th century. (fn. 17) It had probably been given to the rector before 1535 when the glebe was worth 43s. (fn. 18) In 1613 the glebe measured 35 a. (fn. 19) and in 1837 nearly 39 a. (fn. 20) The land remained church property in 1978. (fn. 21) The glebe house was recorded in 1613 and in 1815 it was said that it had not been occupied by the incumbent for a century. (fn. 22) It was described as unfit in 1835 and was let in 1837 but it had been repaired by 1840 when it was occupied by a curate. (fn. 23) The house, east of the village street, was sold in 1968 (fn. 24) and later demolished.

The first recorded incumbent, Richard Anselm, had licence to study in 1317 and to serve Philip de Columbers in 1319. (fn. 25) Matthew Cote, appointed in 1342, had only received the first tonsure. (fn. 26) Thomas Abendon, rector 1452-64, was an Augustinian canon and theologian and by 1463 had left the parish in the care of a chaplain. (fn. 27) Thomas Puffe, instituted in 1516, was charged with superstition for having used earth from the graveyard on his fields. (fn. 28) In 1557 the churchyard was insufficiently enclosed and the chalice had been taken out of the church. The church was still without a communion cup in 1576. (fn. 29) Richard Reeks was ejected from the rectory in 1642 but was restored in 1660. (fn. 30) Most rectors were non-resident in the 18th century and the parish was served by curates. Matthew Hole, rector 1709-11, was vicar of Stogursey and a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. (fn. 31) John Woolcott was rector for 53 years; his successor in 1765, Richard Lewis, lived at Honiton and failed to provide a curate. The one Sunday service was held at 1 p.m. which the parishioners described as 'unseasonable, improper and an inconvenient hour'. (fn. 32) There were between 10 and 15 communicants in 1776. (fn. 33) In 1815 the curate was living at Charlinch. In 1827 the rector lived at Staplegrove and the curate was vicar of Over Stowey; there was only one Sunday service, held alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 34) By 1840 a resident curate provided two Sunday services and celebrated communion at least three times a year. Celebrations had increased to six by 1870 when there was a resident incumbent. (fn. 35) In 1891 there was a bible class and a Sunday school besides two Sunday services. In 1951 there were three Sunday services and the average number of communicants was 5. (fn. 36)

The church house, probably called the parish house, had been let to the overseers by 1684. (fn. 37)

The church of ST. MARTIN, so dedicated by the early 14th century, (fn. 38) comprises a chancel with north vestry, nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. Despite a planned rebuilding of all except the tower in 1860 the church retains older fabric. The south walls of the nave and chancel appear to be medieval and include an area of possible herringbone masonry, the chancel arch is 14th century, and the roofs are probably 16th century. Much work was done between 1727 and 1732, partly as a result of storm damage in 1729. Coloured screens were placed under the chancel and tower arches. A door beside the pulpit was walled up and a new window was put in the south wall. (fn. 39) At the restoration in 1860, for which John Norton was the architect, a north aisle was added, the south porch was rebuilt, and most of the windows were renewed. A west gallery was removed and the south doorway into the chancel was reopened. (fn. 40) The tower was rendered and the church restored in 1977.

There is a sheela-na-gig in the external south wall. (fn. 41) Internal fittings include early 16th-century bench ends and a Jacobean pulpit. The shaft and base of an early 14th-century cross remain in the churchyard. Part of a figure survives in a canopied niche on the east side of the shaft.

The plate includes a cup of 1765 by 'J.F.' (fn. 42) There is a late medieval bell from the Bristol foundry. (fn. 43) The peal was increased from four to six in 1979. The registers date from 1706 but there are many gaps in the first volume. (fn. 44)


  • 1. Cal. Pat. 1266-72, 700.
  • 2. Dioc. Dir.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1266-72, 700.
  • 4. S.R.S. i. 111, 133; lxviii, p. 39.
  • 5. Ibid. x, pp. 441, 448-9; lxviii, p. 39.
  • 6. Ibid. lxviii, pp. 41-2.
  • 7. Ibid. extra ser. 315-16; below, Spaxton, manors.
  • 8. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 88.
  • 9. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 138-9; P.O. Dir. Som. (1866, 1875).
  • 10. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1939); Dioc. Dir.
  • 11. S.R.O., D/D/B misc. 1.
  • 12. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 215.
  • 13. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 24.
  • 14. Ibid. D/D/C pet.
  • 15. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 138-9.
  • 16. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 17. S.R.S. lxviii, pp. 16, 39, 41.
  • 18. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 215.
  • 19. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 270.
  • 20. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 21. Inf. from Dioc. Office.
  • 22. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 270; D/D/Rb 1815.
  • 23. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 138-9; S.R.O., tithe award; ibid. D/D/Va 1840.
  • 24. S.R.O., D/P/fid 3/4/6.
  • 25. S.R.S. i. 111, 133, 305.
  • 26. H.M.C. Wells, i. 250; S.R.S. x, p. 441.
  • 27. Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. to 1500; S.R.S. xlix, pp. 399, 420.
  • 28. S.R.S. lvi. 158.
  • 29. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 27, 57.
  • 30. Walker Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 318.
  • 31. D.N.B.
  • 32. S.R.O., D/D/C pet.
  • 33. Ibid. D/D/Vc 88.
  • 34. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815, 1827.
  • 35. Ibid. D/D/Va 1840, 1870.
  • 36. Ibid. D/P/fid 2/9/2, 6.
  • 37. Above, local. govt.
  • 38. S.R.S. lxviii, p. 39.
  • 39. S.R.O., D/P/fid 4/1/2.
  • 40. Ibid. D/P/fid 6/1/1; 8/3/1; D/D/Cf 1860/7.
  • 41. Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. cxxiii. 111-13.
  • 42. Ibid. xlvii. 165.
  • 43. S.R.O., DD/SAS CH 16/1; D/P/fid 4/1/2.
  • 44. Ibid. D/P/fid 2/1/1-4.