Wembdon: Church

Pages 333-334

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 Wembdon by the late 12th century, when both a rector and a chaplain were mentioned. (fn. 1) In 1284 William Testard, lord of Wembdon manor, was licensed to alienate the advowson to St. John's hospital, Bridgwater. (fn. 2) The hospital appropriated the rectory in 1285 and a portion was set aside for the vicar. (fn. 3) A vicarage ordained between 1293 and 1302 was confirmed in 1304. (fn. 4) The living was a sole vicarage in 1987. (fn. 5)

The hospital appointed vicars until the Dissolution except in 1531 when the presentation was made by John Court. (fn. 6) In 1539 the advowson passed to the Crown, which presented in 1554. (fn. 7) In 1560 the Crown probably sold the advowson with the rectory, (fn. 8) and both descended to Henry Halswell. Henry, having sold the rectory, shortly before his death in 1636 settled the advowson on his brother Hugh. (fn. 9) The advowson descended with Goathurst manor to the Tynte family, (fn. 10) which held it until 1843 when Charles Kemeys Kemeys-Tynte sold it to the Revd. Edward Elton. Elton sold it in the following year to Charles W. H. Alston, who became vicar in 1845. Alston's daughters, Emma and Caroline Alston, presented Arthur Newman to the living in 1870 and sold him the advowson in 1871. (fn. 11) Newman presented his successor in 1885. (fn. 12) W. Brice was recorded as patron in 1889 and 1894, (fn. 13) and J. M. Evans presented himself in 1895 and his successor in 1908. (fn. 14) After 1910 Evans conveyed the patronage to P. S. Douglas-Hamilton, who in 1928 conveyed it to the Church Association Trust, later the Church Society Trust, patron in 1987. (fn. 15)

The vicarage was valued at £9 16s. 9d. in 1535. (fn. 16) The reputed value was £40 c. 1668, (fn. 17) and the average net income in 1829-31 was £612. (fn. 18)

Between 1293 and 1302 the vicar was assigned all offerings, casual fees, small tithes, and an allowance of grain from Bridgwater hospital. (fn. 19) By 1535 the grain allowance had been commuted to a pension of 34s. Tithes of wool and lambs (not usually paid to a vicar) were valued at 50s., other predial tithes at 60s. 8d., and personal offerings and tithes at 43s. 5d. (fn. 20) In 1841 the vicar was awarded a rent charge of £566 10s. in lieu of tithes. (fn. 21) Glebe in 1535 was valued at 8s. 8d.; (fn. 22) in 1620 it amounted to 6½ a., and in 1841 to just over 6 a. (fn. 23) In 1916 there were over 10 a., (fn. 24) but apparently none by 1978. (fn. 25)

In 1620 the vicarage comprised a parlour, hall, and kitchen, with three rooms above. (fn. 26) In 1815 the house was said to be too small for the curate, and in 1827 it was described as a cottage. (fn. 27) The building, west of the church, survived until 1871 when it was demolished to make way for a new church school. (fn. 28) The benefice had no house thereafter: (fn. 29) in 1881 the vicar was living at what was in 1987 nos. 41 and 41A Wembdon Rise. (fn. 30) In 1903 the vicar personally bought the house called Hill Grove in Wembdon Hill, (fn. 31) and his successors received an allowance to cover the mortgage charge. (fn. 32) The house, containing 21 rooms, (fn. 33) was sold c. 1943. From that time the vicars lived in a house on Wembdon Road until a new house was built in 1957 at no. 12, Greenacre. (fn. 34)

In 1554 it was reported that a canopy and pyx had not been set up for the restored liturgy and that no sermons had been preached for five years. (fn. 35) Hugh Halswell, vicar for just over a year from 1623, lived in Oxford, but the cure was said to have been well served. (fn. 36) John Musgrave, vicar from 1624, was deprived of his living c. 1652 but was restored in 1660 and remained until 1671. (fn. 37) There were generally fewer than 30 communicants in the later 18th century. (fn. 38) Henry Parsons, vicar 1791-1845 and prebendary of Wells, lived at his rectory house at Goathurst; his curate in 1815 lived at Bridgwater. (fn. 39) By 1827 two sermons were preached each Sunday and there was a resident curate, (fn. 40) but in 1840 the curate was an absentee and the vestry requested that he should live in the parish to provide weekly duty as well as services on Sunday afternoons. (fn. 41) Communion was held at least four times a year by 1843. (fn. 42) Charles Alston, vicar 1845-70, was also chaplain to the earl of Bessborough. (fn. 43) Three vicars before 1904 were also incumbents of Durleigh. (fn. 44)

In 1326 Matthew Coker had licence to alienate land in Wembdon and Chilton to provide a chaplain to celebrate in the church daily. (fn. 45) No further trace of the endowment has been found, but in 1333 St. John's hospital, Bridgwater, gave a messuage in the parish for a chantry for the Wigborough family. The chantry was to be in that family's patronage, and mass was to be said at the altar of the Virgin in Wembdon church. (fn. 46) No reference to the chantry has been found after 1349. (fn. 47)

A church house, owned by the lords of Wembdon manor, was probably the later poorhouse. (fn. 48)

Until it was substantially rebuilt after fire destroyed the nave roof in 1868, the church of ST. GEORGE, so called in 1285, (fn. 49) comprised a chancel with north vestry, a four-bayed nave with north and south aisles, and a west tower. The chancel was rebuilt and the north aisle added in the 13th century, the south aisle, porch, nave roof, and tower in the 14th century, probably after the building had been described as a ruin. (fn. 50) Windows were replaced at the same time in the earlier rear arches in the chancel. The font, a stair tower, rood loft, and screen were added in the later 15th century. In 1725 the chancel arch was filled to convert the chancel to a vestry and the nave was decorated with murals. A new vestry was made on the north side of the chancel in 1824, approached from the clerk's desk through the former doorway to the rood stair. The chancel arch was then reopened. (fn. 51)

After the fire the church was virtually rebuilt by J. M. Hay of Bath. The nave was extended one bay eastwards, the chancel arch was removed to the east end of the north aisle, and a vestry was added south of the chancel. (fn. 52) Most of the furnishings were replaced.

There are six bells, the oldest the tenor of 1710 by Thomas Wroth. (fn. 53) The plate includes a dish of 1712, and a cup, cover, and flagon of 1728 by James Wilkes. (fn. 54) The registers date from 1665. (fn. 55) In the churchyard are the base and shaft of a 15th-century cross and a set of stocks.

In 1539 there was a chapel called Holowell, near the well below Wembdon Hill. (fn. 56) No further trace of the chapel has been found.


  • 1. S.R.S. lxviii, p. 25; Cat. Anct. D. ii, B 2966; P.R.O., DL 25/299; DL 42/11, f. 7v.
  • 2. Above, manors; Cal. Pat. 1281-92, 132, 147.
  • 3. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 662-3; Cal. Pat. 1313-17, 258.
  • 4. S.R.S. i. 267-8.
  • 5. Dioc. Dir.
  • 6. S.R.S. lv, p. 62.
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1554-5, 253; S.R.S. lv, p. 137.
  • 8. Cal. Pat. 1558-60, 457; above, manors (rectory).
  • 9. P.R.O., C 142/492, no. 121; Som. Wills, ed. Brown, vi. 94-6.
  • 10. Above, Goathurst, manors.
  • 11. Inf. from Church Society Trust.
  • 12. S.R.O., D/D/B reg 40, f. 207v.
  • 13. Dioc. Kal.
  • 14. S.R.O., D/D/B reg 41, f. 151v.; ibid. 42, p. 128.
  • 15. Dioc. Dir. 1910, 1914; inf. from Church Society Trust.
  • 16. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 214.
  • 17. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 24.
  • 18. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 156-7.
  • 19. S.R.S. i. 267-8.
  • 20. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 214.
  • 21. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 22. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 214.
  • 23. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 687; ibid. tithe award.
  • 24. Ibid. D/D/R, inventory 1916.
  • 25. Inf. from Dioc. Office.
  • 26. S.R.O., D/D/Rg 687.
  • 27. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815, 1827.
  • 28. Ibid. tithe award; ibid. DD/EDS 6740; painting in vestry.
  • 29. Dioc. Kal.
  • 30. P.R.O., RG 11/2376.
  • 31. S.R.O., D/D/Bbm 310.
  • 32. Dioc. Dir.
  • 33. S.R.O., D/D/R, inventory 1916.
  • 34. Inf from the vicar, the Revd. Peter Bannister.
  • 35. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 22.
  • 36. Ibid. 235.
  • 37. Walker Revised, ed. A. G. Matthews, 317.
  • 38. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 88.
  • 39. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815; Le Neve, Fasti, 1541-1857, Bath and Wells, 63.
  • 40. S.R.O., D/D/Rb 1827.
  • 41. Ibid. D/D/Va 1840; ibid. D/P/wem 9/1/1.
  • 42. Ibid. D/D/Va 1843.
  • 43. Clergy List, 1857, 1869.
  • 44. Above, Durleigh, church.
  • 45. Cal. Pat. 1324-7, 246.
  • 46. S.R.S. ix, p. 321.
  • 47. Ibid. x, p. 608.
  • 48. Above, local govt.
  • 49. Cal. Pat. 1313-17, 258; for the church c. 1800, above, plate facing p. 297.
  • 50. S.R.S. i. 257-8.
  • 51. Bridgwater Mercury, 9 Nov. 1870; S.R.O., D/D/R, inventory 1916; ibid. D/P/wem 4/1/1-2; D/D/Cf 1869/1; Hawarden, St. Deiniol's Libr., Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne, vol. 49, ff. 12-13.
  • 52. S.R.O., D/D/R, inventory 1916; D/D/Cf 1869/1; County Herald, 7 Nov. 1959.
  • 53. S.R.O., DD/SAS CH 16/2.
  • 54. Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xlvii. 163.
  • 55. S.R.O., D/P/wem 2/1/1-20.
  • 56. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/3137.