Pawlett: Church

Pages 276-277

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 chapelry of North Petherton minster: payments to the mother church were made at Easter in the 13th century and a pension was paid to Buckland priory as appropriators of North Petherton until the Dissolution. (fn. 1) Pawlett evidently achieved virtual independence in the 12th century and Robert FitzHarding (d. 1171) gave the church to St. Augustine's abbey, Bristol, probably at its foundation c. 1140. Robert's son, also Robert, gave lands in the parish at the dedication of the abbey church in 1146. (fn. 2) The abbey did not formally appropriate the church until c. 1257, though a vicarage had been established by c. 1240. (fn. 3) The patronage remained with the abbey until its dissolution in 1539 and thereafter remained with the Crown. From 1974 the vicarage was held with Puriton, with which it was united in 1978, the Lord Chancellor exercising the Crown's patronage at every third vacancy. (fn. 4)

The vicarage was valued at nearly £11 net in 1535. (fn. 5) It was worth c. £50 in 1668, (fn. 6) and £264 net on average c. 1831. (fn. 7) About 1241 the vicar received oblations, small tithes, hay tithes, and all tithes of the abbey's demesne farm. (fn. 8) In 1535 the vicar's tithes amounted to £7 9s. 8d. (fn. 9) There was a dispute over modus payments c. 1711 (fn. 10) and by 1838 tithes on gardens, orchards, meadows, milk, and pasture were paid by modus. The vicarial tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £200. (fn. 11)

The glebe c. 1241 comprised 1 a. of arable, on which the vicarage house stood, and 7½ a. of meadow, part of the former priest's holding. (fn. 12) In 1637 there were an orchard and garden, together with herbage, lopping, and topping in the churchyard. (fn. 13) The glebe amounted to 10 a. in 1838. (fn. 14) Some was exchanged in 1850 and sold c. 1926. (fn. 15) In 1637 the vicarage house had four lower and five upper rooms, a small barn, and a cowstall. (fn. 16) In 1806 a new house was built on the same site, south of the church. (fn. 17) Partly demolished c. 1954, it was sold in 1977. (fn. 18)

There was a stipendiary priest as well as a vicar c. 1535. (fn. 19) Thomas Sprint, vicar 1537-42, was attacked several times by one of his parishioners for declaring that laws made contrary to God's law were void and he was disciplined for demanding excessive tithe. (fn. 20) A fraternity had its own priest in 1544 and there was an endowed light in 1543. (fn. 21) The vicar was deprived for marriage in 1554. (fn. 22) A reader was paid for occasional services in 1575. (fn. 23) There were three services each Sunday in the 1630s. (fn. 24) Henry Ball, appointed vicar in 1648, remained in office until his death in 1667. (fn. 25) Most vicars were resident in the later 17th and the 18th century. (fn. 26) An Easter church ale survived until the mid 18th century, evidently providing income for the parish clerk. (fn. 27) There were 12 communicants c. 1776. (fn. 28) In 1815 the vicar also served Chedzoy but preached every Sunday at Pawlett; his successor in 1827 preached alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 29) Two services with sermons were held each Sunday by 1840. (fn. 30) Psalms were sung by that same year, and in the late 1850s the band was replaced by an organ. (fn. 31) Communion was celebrated six times a year by 1870, (fn. 32) but more frequently in the early 20th century. (fn. 33)

The church house, part of Pawlett Gaunts manor, was let to a tenant in 1632, against the wishes of the churchwardens. (fn. 34)

The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST evidently kept its patronal festival on the feast of the Decollation of St. John (29 Aug.) by the mid 13th century. (fn. 35) The building comprises a chancel with north vestry, a nave with north and south transepts and south porch, and a west tower. The roof has decorative lead guttering, probably of the 19th century. The nave is of the 12th century and retains a south doorway of three orders with carved voussoirs, the outermost including beak-head ornament. The transepts were added in the later 13th century and probably at the same time the chancel was rebuilt. The north doorway of the nave and the window west of it were renewed and the south porch was added in the 14th century. The south windows of the nave were enlarged and the tower was added in the 15th or early 16th century. The chancel arch was also enlarged at that time and was provided with a richly carved rood screen. Some 17th-century mural painting survives beside the tower arch. The nave roof is said to have been ceiled in 1728 and the chancel roof was given a curved plaster ceiling with ornamental borders in 1779. (fn. 36) A singing gallery was built across the west end of the nave in 1781 (fn. 37) and was said to have been removed in 1873. (fn. 38) The font was reconstituted from one of the 12th century and an octagonal font cover with lockable doors was provided in the 17th century. A new altar table was made in 1678 and the contemporary altar rails, which have turned balusters and enclose the altar on three sides, survive. Box pews in the chancel appear to have been made out of mid 17th-century panelling and the 17thcentury pulpit was reset when the reader's desk was made out of panelling from box pews before 1915. (fn. 39)

The plate includes a chalice and paten of 1637 by 'R.W.' and a paten of 1707, possibly by Elston of Exeter and presented in 1827. (fn. 40) The five bells include one by either Roger or Richard Purdue of 1625 and three of the 18th century. (fn. 41) The registers date from 1667 and are complete. (fn. 42)


  • 1. S.R.S. ix, p. 239; xxv, p. 7; V.C.H. Som. ii. 148; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 211-12; H.M.C. Wells, i. 389.
  • 2. Accts. of St. Augustine's, p. 190; J. C. Dickinson, 'Origins of St. Augustine's, Bristol', Essays in Bristol & Glos. Hist. ed. P. McGrath & J. Cannon (1976), 119-20.
  • 3. H.M.C. Wells, i. 139, 389.
  • 4. Som. Incumbents, ed. Weaver, 159; Dioc. Dir.
  • 5. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 212.
  • 6. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 24.
  • 7. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 148-9.
  • 8. H.M.C. Wells, i. 389.
  • 9. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 212.
  • 10. Wimborne St. Giles, Shaftesbury MSS., E/T 61.
  • 11. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 12. H.M.C. Wells, i. 389.
  • 13. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 202.
  • 14. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 15. Ibid. D/P/pawl 3/3/1; inf. from Dioc. Office.
  • 16. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 202.
  • 17. Ibid. D/D/Bbm 17.
  • 18. Ibid. DD/WBF 2; Dioc. Dir.
  • 19. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 20.
  • 20. S.R.S. lv, pp. 98, 165; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1500-40; P.R.O., STAC 2/31/120.
  • 21. P.R.O., STAC 2/31/120; S.R.S. ii, pp. 63, 246; xl. 78.
  • 22. V.C.H. Som. ii. 66.
  • 23. S.D.N.Q. xiv. 170.
  • 24. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 297.
  • 25. L.J. x. 380; S.R.O., D/P/pawl 2/1/1.
  • 26. S.R.O., D/P/pawl 2/1/1.
  • 27. Ibid. 4/1/1.
  • 28. Ibid. D/D/Vc 88.
  • 29. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815, 1827.
  • 30. Ibid. D/D/Va 1840.
  • 31. Ibid. D/P/pawl 4/1/2.
  • 32. Ibid. D/D/Va 1870.
  • 33. Ibid. D/P/pawl 2/5/1.
  • 34. Wimborne St. Giles, Shaftesbury MSS., E/S 219; S.R.O., D/D/Ca 314A.
  • 35. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 115; S.R.S. xl. 236; above, econ. hist. (fairs).
  • 36. Plaque in ch.; S.R.O., D/D/Cf 1921/53; Wimborne St. Giles, Shaftesbury MSS., E/A 92.
  • 37. S.R.O., D/P/pawl 4/1/1.
  • 38. Ch. guide.
  • 39. S.R.O., DD/X/COR 3.
  • 40. Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xlvii. 172-3; S.R.O., D/P/pawl 5/2/1.
  • 41. S.R.O., DD/SAS CH 16/2.
  • 42. Ibid. D/P/pawl 2/1/1-8.