St. Michaelchurch: Church

Pages 317-318

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



The Domesday name Michelscerca (fn. 1) and parts of the present building (fn. 2) are evidence for an 11th-century church. It was probably part of the minster parish of North Petherton and linked with an independent, perhaps pre-Conquest, manor. By the 13th century it was described as a chapel when Henry of Erleigh (d. 1272) is said to have given it to Athelney abbey. (fn. 3) There is no further evidence for Athelney's possession, and by 1338 it was probably the 'little church' appropriated to Buckland priory. (fn. 4) Curates were paid by the priory until the Dissolution. (fn. 5) In 1541 the chapel acquired parochial status when a churchyard was made around it. (fn. 6) In 1628 it was known as a free chapel. (fn. 7) In the 18th and 19th centuries it was variously described as a vicarage, a rectory, a parish church, and a chapel with cure, and the incumbent was known as a perpetual curate. (fn. 8) The living was united with North Newton in 1962; it was held with Thurloxton from 1975, and a united benefice of North Newton with St. Michaelchurch, Thurloxton, and Durston was created in 1978. (fn. 9)

Successive owners of the chapel presumably appointed curates until the Dissolution and were probably followed by the owners of the rectory. Mrs. Anne Wyndham (d. 1748), heir to the estates of Sir Thomas Wroth, was patron in 1746, and was succeeded by her daughter Elizabeth, wife of Arthur Acland (d. 1771). (fn. 10) The patronage descended with Fairfield in Stogursey until 1883 (fn. 11) but from 1897 until 1902 it was held by Antony Gibbs of Tyntesfield, Wraxall. (fn. 12) Since 1906 the advowson has been held by the Slade family of Maunsel, who in 1984 held one turn in four. (fn. 13)

In 1535 the tithes and offerings of St. Michaelchurch and Buckland together were worth only 12s. 5d. (fn. 14) The curate received a stipend of 106s. 8d., paid by the Crown after the Dissolution and charged to the grantees of the rectory in 1544. (fn. 15) In 1575 the curate was paid £6. (fn. 16) By the mid 18th century the curate had acquired the tithes, worth 8s. a year. (fn. 17) The living was augmented between 1740 and 1790 with £800 from Queen Anne's Bounty, (fn. 18) with which was bought 22 a. of land at Ham in Creech St. Michael. (fn. 19) In 1829-31 the average income was said to be £80 a year (fn. 20) and in 1839 the rent charge was £22. (fn. 21) There were nearly 21 a. of glebe in 1978. (fn. 22) No reference to a curate's house has been found.

During a vacancy in 1349 the chaplain of North Newton was allowed to celebrate at St. Michaelchurch on three days a week. (fn. 23) In 1603 a layman usually read the sermon (fn. 24) but in 1613 there was said to have been no sermon for three years. (fn. 25) The curate also served Lyng from 1689. (fn. 26) In 1815 an afternoon service was held on alternate Sundays but by 1827 there was a service every Sunday with communion on great festivals. (fn. 27) There was said to be only one resident parishioner in 1840 although a service was held every Sunday, alternately morning and afternoon, with communion three times a year but no catechizing. (fn. 28) During the early 19th century the parish was usually served by assistant curates from North Petherton and Bridgwater. (fn. 29) William Jeffreys Allen served the cure in the early 1850s when he lived at Maunsel House. (fn. 30) His successors usually lived at North Newton and served both churches. (fn. 31) By 1910 services were held weekly with monthly communion. (fn. 32)

The church of ST. MICHAEL comprises an undivided chancel and nave with north and south aisles, and a north tower above a porch. The proportions of the building and part of the north wall of the nave apparently survive from the 11th century. Some rebuilding took place in the 15th century at the west end. The east window is of the 15th or early 16th century and in 1840 the church retained square-headed windows of the same period. (fn. 33) The lay rectors were regularly presented in the 16th and 17th centuries for failing to maintain the church. (fn. 34) In 1663 it was said to be ruined and to have been so for some years, and the parishioners received support from the parishes of the diocese to pay for its rebuilding. (fn. 35) After 1823 a long south transept at the west end of the nave was removed. (fn. 36) Later in the century north and south aisles of three bays were built, the north known as the Maunsel aisle and the south built by Sir Alfred Slade in 1868, (fn. 37) possibly by the architect who was extending Maunsel House the same year. In 1840 the church had a west gallery with an outside staircase. (fn. 38) Communion rails dated 1635 were said to have been removed to the Priory, Chilton Polden. (fn. 39) There is a plain octagonal medieval font. The tower contains one bell dated 1670, (fn. 40) recast in 1938. (fn. 41) The church possesses a small Elizabethan cup and cover. (fn. 42) The registers date from 1695 and are complete. (fn. 43)


  • 1. V.C.H. Som. i. 521.
  • 2. Below, this section.
  • 3. Collinson, Hist. Som. iii. 99, referring to part of an Athelney register which does not survive.
  • 4. Knights Hospitallers in Eng. 17.
  • 5. T. Hugo, Hist. Mynchin Buckland Priory and Preceptory (1861), 74-5.
  • 6. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, p. 502.
  • 7. P.R.O., C 142/440, no. 91.
  • 8. S.R.O., D/P/s. mi 2/2/1; D/D/Vc 87; D/D/Bs 42, 43; Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 144-5.
  • 9. S.R.O., D/P/new. n 2/9/2.
  • 10. Ibid. D/D/Vc 87; above, Lyng.
  • 11. S.R.O., DD/AH 5/1; above, Stogursey, manors.
  • 12. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1883, 1897, 1902).
  • 13. Ibid. (1906); Dioc. Dir.
  • 14. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 211.
  • 15. Hist. Mynchin Buckland Priory, 74-5.
  • 16. S.D.N.Q. xiii. 271.
  • 17. S.R.O., Q/REI 29/4.
  • 18. C. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty (1864), p. ccxliii.
  • 19. S.R.O., Q/REI 2/3; ibid. D/P/new. n 3/1/1, 3/4/1; D/P/s. mi 4/4/1, 5/2/1.
  • 20. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 144-5.
  • 21. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 22. Inf. from Dioc. office.
  • 23. S.R.S. x, pp. 618-19.
  • 24. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 134.
  • 25. Ibid. 180.
  • 26. Ibid. D/D/Bs 42-3.
  • 27. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815, 1827.
  • 28. Ibid. D/D/Va 1840.
  • 29. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815, 1827.
  • 30. Ibid. DD/SLM 13; P.R.O., HO 107/1924.
  • 31. e.g. Morris & Co. Dir. Som. (1872); S.R.O., D/P/car 23/7.
  • 32. S.R.O., D/P/s. mi 2/5/1.
  • 33. Taunton Castle, Pigott colln., wash drawing by J. Buckler, 1840.
  • 34. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 22, 57, 235, 310.
  • 35. S.R.O., DD/SAS PR 248, 314.
  • 36. Ibid. DD/SLM, bk. of maps, St. Michaelchurch 1823.
  • 37. Morris & Co. Dir. Som. (1872); for a photo., above, plate facing p. 313.
  • 38. Taunton Castle, Pigott colln., wash drawing by J. Buckler, 1840.
  • 39. W. Stradling, Priory of Chilton super Polden (1839), 5.
  • 40. S.R.O., DD/SAS CH 16.
  • 41. Ibid. D/P/s. mi 6/1/1.
  • 42. Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xlvii. 160; S.R.O., D/P/s. mi 5/2/1.
  • 43. S.R.O., D/P/s. mi 2/1/1-4, 2/2/1.