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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North Petherton church was probably a minster of royal foundation. Chedzoy, Pawlett, and probably St. Michaelchurch were in origin dependent upon it. (fn. 1) Peter, the king's clerk, afterwards bishop of Chester, held the church in 1066, and his nephew Ranulph succeeded to the income from the church on Peter's death c. 1084. (fn. 2) King Stephen gave a church that was either North or South Petherton to Wells cathedral, (fn. 3) but William of Erleigh included the church in his foundation grant to Buckland priory. (fn. 4) Vicars seem to have been appointed before 1186, and a vicarage was endowed probably by the end of the century. (fn. 5) The ecclesiastical parish, which in 1186 included five dependent chapelries, (fn. 6) was reduced in the 19th century by the formation of the parishes of North Newton and Moorland; the livings of North Petherton and Moorland were united in 1976. (fn. 7)
The advowson belonged to the Hospitallers by virtue of the grant to Buckland priory until the Dissolution and then to the Crown. Richard Ware presented in 1546. By 1557 the patron was William Lacey of Hartrow in Stogumber, possibly as a Crown lessee. Robert and John Musgrave and Alexander Popham presented in 1598 and the Crown in 1613. (fn. 8) In 1618 the advowson was held by Edward Popham, owner of the rectory. (fn. 9) The Laceys, however, apparently acquired it by 1624 (fn. 10) and it descended with Hartrow manor until the late 18th century. (fn. 11) Peter Hoskins, possibly a trustee or lessee, presented in 1662 and the bishop by lapse in 1715. In 1780 the patron was Betty Wood who presented John Wood, possibly her husband. (fn. 12) After 1797 the vicar, Joseph Aldridge, acquired the advowson (fn. 13) which passed by purchase or descent to successive vicars or their relatives until the 1890s. (fn. 14) In 1906 the patronage was held by A. M. Hertzberg, rector of Ashton-on-Mersey (Ches.), in 1914 by Mrs. Boyd, and from 1919 by the Pascoe family. (fn. 15) From 1931 the patronage was vested in Miss Pascoe's trustees, and from 1984 in Dr. John Addy. (fn. 16)
In the late 12th century the vicar received £39 2s. a year, out of which he owed a pension of £3 6s. 8d. to Buckland priory and presumably had to find two chaplains at the mother church and at two dependent chapels. (fn. 17) The living was valued at £7 in 1291, £3 6s. 8d. in 1295, (fn. 18) more than £27 net in 1535, less than £22 in 1547, (fn. 19) c. £80 in 1668, (fn. 20) and £520 in 1804. (fn. 21) In the late 12th century the vicar received all offerings due to the parish church and its chapels, all small tithes, and an allowance of hay from Buckland priory. (fn. 22) In 1804 the vicar took some tithes in kind. (fn. 23) In 1838 his tithes were commuted for £893 16s. 3d. and the lay impropriators of grain and hay tithes received £1,179 3s. 1d. between them. The total tithe rent charge on the parish was £2,146 6s. 10d. (fn. 24)
Early in the 13th century the vicar had an inn (hospicium) called Caldocum, a garden, and a vineyard. (fn. 25) The vicarage house was mentioned in 1606. (fn. 26) In 1613 it included a hall, parlour, kitchen, and buttery, with two outhouses and 1 a. of garden. (fn. 27) A few years later it was described as a mansion with 5 upper chambers and 2 studies, a brewhouse, and a stable. (fn. 28) In the late 18th century many alterations were made to the house and in 1797 a new parlour was completed 'at great expense'. (fn. 29) In 1804, however, the house was described as ruinous and the vicar's income was said to be insufficient to repair it. It was sold in the same year. (fn. 30) The Old Vicarage south of the church is a late 16th- or early 17th-century house reconstructed and enlarged in Gothick style in the 19th century. There are remains of a framed ceiling at the north end. (fn. 31) A large house in Fore Street that replaced the vicarage was described in 1804 as newly built on the site of three dwellings. (fn. 32) In 1834 it was enlarged and improved, (fn. 33) and was sold c. 1965. It lies on the north side of Fore Street opposite the Swan inn and is a four-bayed, late 18th-century house with a front to the road of the 1830s. The Dower House adjoining the Old Vicarage became the vicar's residence c. 1965. (fn. 34)
There were two anniversary chaplains in 1450, probably serving the chantries. (fn. 35) A chantry of St. Mary within the parish church had been established by 1356. (fn. 36) Sir William Paulet was patron in 1461, which suggests a link with Melcombe Paulet manor. Its altar may have been in the south or Melcombe aisle. (fn. 37) In 1535 the priest's stipend was £6 (fn. 38) and when the chantry was dissolved in 1549 its land in the parish was let for c. £7 a year. (fn. 39)
A second chantry in the parish church may have been dedicated to All Souls and seems to have been established by Buckland priory in memory of Henry of Erleigh (d. 1272). In 1526 the sisters at Buckland allowed the chaplain £5 6s. 8d., a house, 4s. for bread and wax, a linen gown, 2 loads of fuel, and the lease of an orchard. In 1535 the income was £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 40) The chantry seems to have survived until c. 1542. (fn. 41)
There was a guildhall in 1392, possibly connected with the parish fraternity and perhaps a predecessor of the church house. (fn. 42) The church house in 1570 was north of a house in Hammet Street. (fn. 43) It may have been the house called 'the Church' probably held in trust for the poor in 1641. (fn. 44) It probably became the parish poorhouse although the name church house survived c. 1770. (fn. 45)
John Harrow, vicar 1476-1523, was fined for his involvement in the Cornish rebellion. (fn. 46) In the 1530s there was a fraternity known as Our Lady store. (fn. 47) There were two principal altars besides the high altar, and by 1541 a light before the high cross was endowed with a rent charge, perhaps that on lands at Rydon recorded from the 13th century. (fn. 48) Emery Tuckfield, vicar 1543- 6, was chaplain to Henry VIII, (fn. 49) and John Rose (also known as Wyllie or Williams) was deprived in 1554 as a married priest. (fn. 50) Richard Edon, vicar 1554-6, was a former Cistercian monk from Hailes (Glos.), who joined the restored monastery at Westminster. (fn. 51) John Rose, restored in 1558, died in 1576 in possession of medical and theological books. (fn. 52) John Tanner, vicar 1598- 1613, became bishop of Derry. (fn. 53) Under John Morley, appointed vicar in 1615 and deprived before 1646, (fn. 54) the altar was railed in 1635, but the rails were removed in 1642 and an organ installed by 1625 was removed c. 1645. (fn. 55) Morley was restored in 1660 and died two years later. (fn. 56) There were said to have been eight or nine ministers during the Interregnum. (fn. 57) In 1672 a new organ was bought and a salaried organist was employed, (fn. 58) and in 1716 seats were put in the gallery for singers. (fn. 59) Another new organ was built in 1752. (fn. 60)
William George, vicar 1801-35, was resident and held two services every Sunday in 1815; he also served St. Michaelchurch and North Newton. (fn. 61) James Toogood, vicar 1835-51, tried to revive the choir which had once been 'very celebrated', and in 1840 introduced daily services and monthly communions, abolishing an arrangement whereby rich and poor received communion on different Sundays. (fn. 62) In 1843, in addition to daily services, there were two or three sermons every Sunday. (fn. 63) By 1880 communion was celebrated weekly and morning prayers were held daily. (fn. 64) In 1896 cottage services were held at Somerset Bridge. (fn. 65)
The church of ST. MARY, so dedicated by 1086, (fn. 66) comprises a chancel with east sacristy and north and south chapels, an aisled and clerestoried nave with north and south porches, and a west tower. The north aisle was known in the 17th century as Mr. Popham's, later the Huntworth aisle, and the south as the Melcombe aisle. (fn. 67) A late 13th-century recess in the south wall of the nave, the 14th-century font, and a brass indent of Eleanor Paulet (d. 1413) in the south aisle are all that remain from before the rebuilding of nave, chancel, and aisles in rubble in the 15th century. The tower, of lias with Ham stone dressings, apart from the battlements added in 1704, belongs to the first decade of the 16th century, (fn. 68) and the sacristy is slightly later. New seating was added in the late 16th and earlier 17th century, (fn. 69) and some of the bench ends still survive in the nave and in the tower gallery. A gallery connecting with the upper floor of the south porch was built in 1623 and was used by the Wroth family under an agreement of 1627. (fn. 70) Sir Hugh Acland still owned the gallery and chamber in 1724. (fn. 71) There was an organ loft by 1631 and a gallery at the west end of the nave by 1632. (fn. 72) Work on the fabric in the 18th century included the ceiling of the nave in 1752. (fn. 73) Galleries at the west ends of the aisles, approached by corner turrets, were removed and the tower arch was reopened in 1838-9, and the church was repewed, using some old bench ends in a restoration by Richard Carver. (fn. 74) There were further extensive repairs in the 1880s, when a rood loft stairway door was uncovered, and again in the early 20th century. (fn. 75) The carved wooden pulpit is of the 15th century, there are brasses of a priest in the sacristy and of Katharine Morley (d. 1652) in the nave, glass by C. E. Kempe (1896) and Sir Henry Holiday (1911- 18), and a screen of 1909 topped by a later rood. The brass chandelier is of 1984.
A western enlargement of the churchyard was apparently abandoned by the later 14th century. (fn. 76) An extension in the later 18th century probably took its boundary northwards to Fore Street. (fn. 77) The churchyard cross probably dates from the 15th century. All that remains is an octagonal socket on two steps. The alternate panels of the socket are decorated with quatrefoils and there were St. Andrew's crosses on the lower east and west faces of the shaft which survived into the 19th century. (fn. 78)
There are six bells of 1895 by Mears and Stainbank. (fn. 79) The plate includes a cup and cover by 'I.P.' dated 1573, a paten of 1630, (fn. 80) and a silver flagon given in 1631. (fn. 81) The registers date from 1558 and are complete except for marriages 1631-45. (fn. 82) During the Interregnum a parish registrar was appointed who kept a duplicate book. (fn. 83)
In 1186 there were dependent chapels at Huntworth, North Newton, West Newton, Shearston, and Woolmersdon. One of them may have been the chapel of St. Catherine, served by the vicar of North Petherton two days a week in the late 12th century. (fn. 84) There is no further record of the chapels of Huntworth and Woolmersdon.
The chapel at North Newton was granted in 1186 with the mother church of North Petherton to Buckland priory by William of Erleigh. (fn. 85) Under the will of his uncle William de Plessis (d. c. 1274) Sir Richard de Plessis established a chantry in the chapel, (fn. 86) to which as a perpetual chantry or as a free chapel he and his successors appointed chaplains until the Dissolution. (fn. 87) In 1547 the chaplain was pensioned and the chapel property was seized, (fn. 88) but the parishioners repaired the building and paid a chaplain; (fn. 89) in 1555 all services and sacraments except christenings and burials were provided there. (fn. 90) In 1592 the advowson was excepted from the sale of the chantry lands to Sir Thomas Wroth (fn. 91) and the chapel had gone out of use. (fn. 92) In the 1630s Sir Thomas's private chaplain served the chapelry and from 1637 the Wroths and their successors regarded the chaplaincy as a donative. (fn. 93) When the chaplaincy was endowed by Queen Anne's Bounty in 1742 it became a perpetual curacy, (fn. 94) and in 1880 a vicarage was established when North Newton became a separate ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 95) Sir Thomas Dyke Acland sold the advowson, probably c. 1880, to the Gibbs family of Tyntesfield, Wraxall. (fn. 96) After the death of Anthony Gibbs in 1907 (fn. 97) the advowson was held by trustees until c. 1960 when it was transferred to the bishop. (fn. 98) Boundary changes were made in 1961 (fn. 99) and in the following year the parish was united with St. Michaelchurch. North Newton has been held with Thurloxton from 1975 and with Durston from 1978. (fn. 100)
Sir Richard de Plessis endowed the chantry with all tithes of his demesne at Newton and the tithes of the park, which the parochial chaplain had formerly received, 35½ a. of land, and pasture rights. (fn. 101) The endowment was worth £5 a year in 1418 (fn. 102) and £5 3s. 2d. net in 1535. (fn. 103) During the 17th century the chaplain received an annual stipend of £20 or £30 from Sir Thomas Wroth who bound himself and his heirs to a minimum of £10, with £3 to the vicar of North Petherton to maintain the fabric. (fn. 104) In 1742 the chaplain received an endowment of £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty. A further £200 was given in 1760 to match a similar sum given by the assistant curate, Richard Abraham. In 1770 the endowment was used to buy land in Aisholt, later known as French's farm. (fn. 105) In 1827 the value of the living was said to be less than £40 a year of which £20 was paid to an assistant curate. (fn. 106) By then the Aclands were no longer paying the incumbent. (fn. 107) The average income of the benefice was assessed at £53 in 1835. (fn. 108) The endowment of the vicarage in 1880 amounted to £11 13s. 4d. and a yearly rent charge of £50 out of the vicarage of North Petherton. (fn. 109)
There was a chaplain's house at North Newton in the later 13th century. (fn. 110) It was still held by the priest in 1549. (fn. 111) No further reference to it has been found. In 1880 £1,000 was given to provide a vicarage house at North Newton (fn. 112) and a large house was built on the road to North Petherton. (fn. 113) The house, in 1984 known as Newton Grange, was sold c. 1976. (fn. 114)
In 1348 Robert Roser, chaplain of North Newton, was allowed to celebrate three days a week at St. Michaelchurch. (fn. 115) In 1418 the chaplain carried out parochial duties at Newton besides serving the chantry, (fn. 116) and in 1425 the living was said to be a cure with resident chaplain and parishioners. (fn. 117) Timothy Batt, appointed curate in 1637, had puritan views like his patron and became a Presbyterian after the Restoration. (fn. 118) In 1815 services were held once a fortnight by the vicar of North Petherton. (fn. 119) Neither the perpetual curate nor his assistant curate was resident in 1827. (fn. 120) Even after North Newton became a parish with a vicarage house, the church was normally left in the care of curates until the 1920s. (fn. 121)
The church of ST. PETER, so dedicated by the late 13th century, (fn. 122) comprises a chancel, nave with north vestry and south aisle, and a west tower. The tower, said variously to be Saxon, (fn. 123) of the 12th, (fn. 124) and of the 13th century, (fn. 125) was rebuilt in 1360. (fn. 126) Its lower parts are probably medieval and are in sandstone with limestone dressings. It was heightened and given new openings of Ham stone apparently c. 1635 and was substantially rebuilt after 1850. (fn. 127) The body of the church, perhaps partly dismantled when the vicars choral of Wells used some material for an alehouse and stables c. 1600, (fn. 128) was still standing in 1615. (fn. 129) It was rebuilt in 1635 and consecrated in 1637. (fn. 130) The south aisle was added in 1840. (fn. 131) The nave roof, said to have been remade in 1635 with older timbers, had a decorated plaster vault with an angel frieze. (fn. 132) By 1879 the church was out of repair and too small, and all but the tower was demolished and rebuilt on a much larger scale in local sandstone with freestone dressings in 1884. (fn. 133)
Surviving from before 1884 are an early 17thcentury wooden screen of five bays, carved with female figures, additional parts of which are incorporated in the 19th-century lectern, some 17th-century bench ends re-used as panelling in the sanctuary, re-used woodwork in the tower, a pulpit of the 1630s, and the vestry door, bearing carvings of the wise and foolish virgins, which was originally the west entrance door. (fn. 134)
In 1547 a gilt chalice was confiscated. (fn. 135) The plate includes a cup, paten, and two flagons of 1637, probably given by Sir Thomas Wroth. (fn. 136) In 1547 the single bell was sold. (fn. 137) In 1984 there were tubular bells. The registers date from 1778 and are complete except for marriages, which were registered at North Petherton. (fn. 138)
The chapel of West Newton was mentioned in 1186 and in the later 15th century. (fn. 139)
Shearston chapel was confirmed as a possession of Buckland priory by 1186. (fn. 140) By the 14th century it was sometimes called a perpetual chantry; the Reigny family, lords of Shearston manor, and their successors the Paulets presented chaplains until its dissolution in 1548. (fn. 141) In 1535 its lands were worth £3 10s. 5d., (fn. 142) and in 1546 its goods included a silver gilt chalice, two pairs of vestments, and a bell. (fn. 143)
The chapel site, south-west of Chapel Hill Farm on the boundary with Thurloxton, was retained by the lords of Shearston manor. (fn. 144) It was surrounded by a moat, and the remains of a bridge on the north side could be seen in 1963. (fn. 145)
A church built at Moorland or Northmoor Green at the instigation of the vicar, J. J. Toogood, to serve a community often cut off by flooding was consecrated in 1844 (fn. 146) and assigned a district chapelry in 1845. (fn. 147) It was served from North Petherton until 1852 when a perpetual curacy (later a vicarage) was endowed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; Queen Anne's Bounty further endowed it in 1865. The living was in the gift of the vicar of North Petherton. (fn. 148) From 1969 to 1976 it was held with Burrowbridge, and thereafter was united with North Petherton. (fn. 149) The vicarage house, later called Glebe House, is dated 1892.
In 1866 disturbances in the church and parish over the introduction of ritual and vestments led to the departure of the vicar, James Hunt, and curates served in his place until his unexpected return c. 1898. (fn. 150) In 1870 communion was celebrated monthly and there were two services with sermons each Sunday. (fn. 151)
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. JOHN, designed by Benjamin Ferrey, (fn. 152) has an undivided chancel and nave under a steeply pitched roof, with a south porch and western bell turret. The furnishings include a chest dated 1687, a much restored medieval wooden lectern from North Petherton church, and tall candlesticks made from balusters formerly in the corporation pew at St. Mary's, Bridgwater. (fn. 153) A large wood carving of St. Peter the fisherman by 'V.M.W.' was given by a former vicar.
There is one bell, dated 1844, and the registers date from the same year. (fn. 154)