Over Stowey: Church

Pages 168-170

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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There was a church at Over Stowey in the time of Ralph, whose grandson Hugh de Bonville between c. 1155 and 1189 endowed it, and before 1181 gave it to Stogursey priory. (fn. 1) In 1239 the priory surrendered the church to Jocelin, bishop of Bath and Wells, in return for an annuity. (fn. 2) In 1326 Bishop John Droxford exchanged the rectory with St. Mark's hospital, Bristol, but retained the advowson and the following year ordained a vicarage. (fn. 3) Successive bishops exercised the patronage of the living until 1865 when it was transferred to Henry Labouchere, Baron Taunton. On his death in 1869 the patronage passed to his daughter Mary (d. 1920), wife of E. J. Stanley, and on her death was vested in the Martyrs Memorial Patronage Trust. (fn. 4) The benefice was held with Aisholt from 1919 and united with it in 1921, having the same patron. (fn. 5) In 1973 the two livings were disunited, Over Stowey becoming part of the united benefice of Nether Stowey with Over Stowey. The Martyrs Memorial and Church of England Trust nominates on alternate vacancies. (fn. 6)

In 1291 the church was valued at £8 13s. 4d. (fn. 7) but in 1326 it was said to be worth only £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 8) The vicarage was assessed at £9 1s. 4d. in 1535 (fn. 9) including a pension of 13s. 4d. paid by the rectors under the terms of the 1327 ordination. (fn. 10) The living was augmented in 1828 with £200 by the vicar, W. B. Buller, and by Mrs. Horner's trustees. (fn. 11) The average income of the benefice c. 1831 was £165. (fn. 12) The vicarage was endowed with all the small tithes in 1327 (fn. 13) and tithes and oblations were valued at £8 15s. in 1535. (fn. 14) By 1625 the vicar also had the great tithes of Plainsfield and of several fields at Radlet, Halsey Cross, and Bincombe which had possibly belonged to Plainsfield manor. Moduses for meadow had been introduced by 1678 and the vicar then received 20s. in lieu of tithes in Friarn wood. (fn. 15) In the late 18th century the vicar refused to accept a modus for the 1,000-a. estate of the earls of Egmont and demanded tithe in kind. (fn. 16) William Holland, vicar 1779-1819, collected his tithes in kind, but the farmers of the rectory tried to withhold tithe, claiming that the 13s. 4d. paid by Bristol corporation was in lieu of tithe. (fn. 17) In 1838 the vicar was awarded a rent charge of £165 1s. in lieu of small tithe, the great tithe of Higher and Lower Plainsfield tithings within the parish and Hare close at Bincombe, meadow moduses, and the 13s. 4d. from the rectory. (fn. 18)

In 1327 the vicar was given a croft adjoining his house and the right to pasture his animals with those of the rector. (fn. 19) The vicarial glebe was worth 3s. in 1535 (fn. 20) and in 1625 measured 2 a. (fn. 21) In 1838 the vicar also rented the rectory land. (fn. 22) The vicar was assigned a house in 1327. (fn. 23) In 1713 the vicarage house comprised a hall, kitchen, parlour, buttery, and three chambers. (fn. 24) It lies south-west of the church and was rebuilt before 1744 with a south-east main front of three bays facing a formal garden, and a short back wing, incorporating service rooms and a staircase. (fn. 25) Early in the 19th century bays were added to the ground-floor front and the rooms were refitted. Later in the 19th century a block was added on the south-west side and the gabled dormers were rebuilt. The house ceased to be used as a vicarage and was sold c. 1973.

Twelfth-century clergy included Robert, probably later archdeacon of Wells c. 1155-69. (fn. 26) By the early 14th century the rector may have been regularly absent, as a chaplain was resident with his own house. (fn. 27) In 1321 the rector was given leave of absence because of his slender income and the licence was renewed in 1323, possibly to study canon law. (fn. 28) In 1554 the church lacked service books. (fn. 29) The vicars were normally resident in the 16th century but during their absence the rector of Aisholt was paid to take to take Sunday and Friday services. (fn. 30) Richard Penny was resident vicar for nearly 40 years from 1568 (fn. 31) but towards the end of his incumbency the church was served by a curate who lived in the parish. (fn. 32) Richard Floyd was deprived in 1649 and restored in 1660. (fn. 33) Caradoc Butler, vicar 1671-1713, (fn. 34) bought extensive lands and royalties but later sold or mortgaged them. (fn. 35) At his death his goods were valued at less than £20. (fn. 36) From 1722 to 1763 the parish was served by Thomas Coney and his son John who also succeeded each other as prebendaries of Buckland Dinham. Thomas was a pluralist and author of 25 published sermons. (fn. 37) There were at most 16 communicants c. 1778. (fn. 38) William Holland, vicar 1779-1819, lived in the parish between 1779 and 1792 and again from 1798 until his death in 1819. His diary survives for the years 1799 to 1818. He held one Sunday service at Over Stowey and regularly served neighbouring churches. Services were then accompanied by a fiddler and other musicians. (fn. 39) Holland was succeeded by William Beadon Buller (1819-56) who, like most of his predecessors, was a pluralist, but he lived in Over Stowey. (fn. 40) By 1840 two services were held on Sunday and communion was celebrated three times a year. Buller was then assisted, and in 1856 succeeded by, his son William Edmund Buller who served the parish until 1878. By the 1870s communion was celebrated weekly. (fn. 41)

By 1393 an acre of land at Bincombe, probably given to the parish by the Nowlibbe family, was charged with an annuity of 4d. for obits for members of the family in the church. (fn. 42) By 1440 the land was known as Peter's Acre. (fn. 43) The land passed to John Verney in 1451 and probably descended with Fairfield. (fn. 44) The annuity was lost but the name Church Acre was recorded in the late 18th century (fn. 45) and in 1838 one acre of land, probably the same, was said to belong to the parish overseers. (fn. 46) By 1872 the land had been absorbed by the Fairfield estate but was said to belong to the poor. (fn. 47)

In 1535 vats, a barrel, and other vessels were given to the church, possibly for use in the church house. (fn. 48) In 1636 the church house was said to be decayed and ruinous. (fn. 49) It may have become the poorhouse, later used for the Sunday school.

The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL, so dedicated by 1532, (fn. 50) had been dedicated to St. Peter alone in the 12th century. (fn. 51) It is built of rubble with freestone dressings and has a chancel with north chapel and vestry, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. The short, narrow nave may be of 12thcentury origin but its earliest feature is a 14th-century window in the south wall. The chancel was probably rebuilt in the 14th century (fn. 52) and the north aisle and tower were added in the 15th or early 16th century. In 1750 a window was inserted to give light to the pulpit. (fn. 53) In 1800 there was a gallery which was taken down probably in 1840. The tower was roughcast and whitewashed in 1806. (fn. 54)

In 1840 the church was restored by Richard Carver; the north vestry and south porch may then have been added, and new windows were inserted in the south wall. (fn. 55) The chancel was restored by C. E. Giles in 1857 (fn. 56) and was extended in 1902. (fn. 57) Some bench ends are in the Perpendicular style and the brass chandelier of 1775 is by Street and Pyke of Bridgwater. (fn. 58) There is glass by Hardman of Birmingham dated 1857 and 1902 in the chancel, and by Morris and Co. in the north aisle (in memory of Lord Taunton 1870 and 1874) and elsewhere. A large monument to Thomas and James Rich by H. Wood of Bristol, dated 1815, bears carvings of farm implements.

There are six bells including two from the medieval foundry at Exeter and one dated 1714 by Thomas Wroth. (fn. 59) The church plate includes a cup and cover of 1574 by J. Ions of Exeter and a small 18th-century paten. (fn. 60) The registers date from 1558 but the years 1654-86 are missing and there are no burial records 1753-78. (fn. 61)

A churchyard cross was recorded in 1535; (fn. 62) the present one was dedicated in 1902. (fn. 63)

The chapel of Our Lady at Adscombe, so dedicated by 1534, (fn. 64) was built possibly in the late 13th century. Much of the west end was standing in the late 19th century (fn. 65) but little remained in 1986 except the wall footings and the bases of two buttresses at the western corners.


  • 1. Cart. St. Mark's Hosp., Bristol, pp. 159-60, 275.
  • 2. Ibid. pp. 162-3.
  • 3. H.M.C. Wells, i. 205, 402.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 10 Jan. 1865, 110; Dioc. Dir.
  • 5. S.R.O., D/P/o. sty 22/1.
  • 6. Dioc. Dir.
  • 7. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 198.
  • 8. Cal. Pat. 1324-7, 317.
  • 9. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 216.
  • 10. S.R.S. lxviii, p. 34.
  • 11. C. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty (1864), p. ccviii.
  • 12. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 148-9.
  • 13. S.R.S. lxviii, p. 34.
  • 14. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 216.
  • 15. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 281.
  • 16. Ibid. DD/TB 18/10; DD/HC (N/28).
  • 17. Ibid. T/PH/ay 1.
  • 18. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 19. S.R.S. lxviii, p. 34.
  • 20. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 216.
  • 21. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 281.
  • 22. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 23. S.R.S. lxviii, p. 34.
  • 24. S.R.O., DD/SP inventory, 1713.
  • 25. Ibid. DD/DHR, box 36, map 1744.
  • 26. Cart. St. Mark's Hosp., Bristol, p. 159; J. A. Robertson, Som. Hist. Essays (1921), 76.
  • 27. S.R.S. i. 270.
  • 28. Ibid. 306.
  • 29. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 22.
  • 30. S.D.N.Q. xiii. 271.
  • 31. Som. Incumbents, ed. Weaver, 450.
  • 32. S.R.O., D/P/o. sty 2/1/1.
  • 33. Walker Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 313.
  • 34. Som. Incumbents, ed. Weaver, 450.
  • 35. S.R.O., DD/BV 10; DD/PC 17.
  • 36. Ibid. DD/SP inventory, 1713.
  • 37. Ibid. DD/SAS PD 125; Le Neve, Fasti, 1541-1857, Bath and Wells, 27; Som. Incumbents, ed. Weaver, 450.
  • 38. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 88.
  • 39. Ibid. T/PH/ay 1. Extracts printed as Paupers and Pigkillers, ed. J. Ayres (Gloucester, 1984).
  • 40. S.R.O., D/D/Rb 1827.
  • 41. Ibid. D/D/Va 1840, 1870; D/P/o. sty 2/1/8.
  • 42. Ibid. DD/AH 65/8.
  • 43. Ibid. 65/7.
  • 44. Ibid. 65/4.
  • 45. Ibid. D/P/o. sty 4/1/1.
  • 46. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 47. Ibid. DD/AH 51/7.
  • 48. Wells Wills, ed. Weaver, 116.
  • 49. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 310.
  • 50. Wells Wills, ed. Weaver, 116.
  • 51. S.R.S. lxi, p. 19; S.R.O., DD/AH 65/7.
  • 52. Taunton Castle, Pigott colln., drawing by J. Buckler, 1836.
  • 53. S.R.O., D/P/o. sty 4/1/1.
  • 54. Ibid. T/PH/ay 1; ibid. D/P/o. sty 4/1/1.
  • 55. Ibid. D/D/Va 1840; Taunton Castle, Pigott colln., drawing by J. Buckler, 1836; ibid. Braikenridge colln., drawing by W. W. Wheatley, 1855; Church Com. Rec., file 21744/8.
  • 56. Taunton Courier, 10 June 1857.
  • 57. S.R.O., D/P/o. sty 4/1/2.
  • 58. Pevsner, S. & W. Som. 269.
  • 59. S.R.O., DD/SAS CH 16/2.
  • 60. Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xlvii. 168.
  • 61. S.R.O., D/P/o. sty 2/1/1-10.
  • 62. Wells Wills, ed. Weaver, 116.
  • 63. S.R.O., D/P/o. sty 4/1/2.
  • 64. Wells Wills, ed. Weaver, 116.
  • 65. S.D.N.Q. ii. 239.