Durleigh: Church

Pages 34-35

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 plan of the church and the record of a chaplain show that it existed in the 12th century. (fn. 1) In the 16th century the living was described as a chapelry, (fn. 2) but its occupant was variously called a stipendiary and a vicar. (fn. 3) In the 18th and 19th century it was sometimes called a vicarage or a donative, but from 1792 it was legally a perpetual curacy, and from 1968 a vicarage. (fn. 4) In 1976 the living became part of the united benefice of Bridgwater St. Mary and Chilton Trinity and Durleigh. (fn. 5)

The patronage presumably descended with the rectory (fn. 6) until 1845 when Dr. John Dunning's trustee conveyed it to John J. Harrison. (fn. 7) In 1857 it was exercised by Capt. H. H. Bingham, R.N., (fn. 8) and by 1866 by the Revd. G. R. Harding (d. 1884). (fn. 9) William Gooding (d. 1902) had acquired the patronage by 1891 and was succeeded by his son William Forbes Gooding. Gooding transferred his interest in 1913 to the Bath and Wells Diocesan Trust, which in turn passed the patronage to the Diocesan Board of Patronage in 1939. (fn. 10) The interest of the Board in the united benefice was extinguished in 1985. (fn. 11)

About 1535 the vicar was paid a pension of 26s. 8d. from the rectory. (fn. 12) By 1539 he had a stipend of £5, which continued to be paid later in the century. (fn. 13) By 1772 the lay rector was paying £10, (fn. 14) and by 1815 £20. (fn. 15) About 1831 the average income, augmented by lot from the Bounty in 1792, was £22, (fn. 16) and in 1931 it was £20. (fn. 17) There was no glebe attached to the living and no house.

The chancel was said to be in great ruin in 1554 and its roof and windows were in decay in 1576. (fn. 18) Quarterly sermons were neglected in the later 16th and the earlier 17th century, (fn. 19) but in 1613 prayers were said both on Sundays and weekdays. (fn. 20) In the 1730s communion was celebrated four times a year, but by the 1770s only three times, for six or seven communicants. (fn. 21) From the mid 18th century neighbouring incumbents either served the cure themselves or employed curates. John Coles (by 1757, until 1788 or later) was vicar of Bridgwater and Henry Parsons (by 1813, until 1826) held Wembdon and Goathurst; J. D. Oland Crosse (1845-56) was vicar of Pawlett. James H. Gregg (1826-42), H. J. G. Young, M.D., M.R.C.S. (1857-9), and Henry Trend, D.D., LL.D. (1860-8), the last formerly the Baptist minister of Bridgwater, served Durleigh as a sole cure. (fn. 22) From the 1870s the living was again held by neighbouring incumbents except for 1911-15 when W. G. Deighton was vicar and lived in Durleigh Road, Bridgwater. From 1940 the living was held by the vicars of St. Mary's, Bridgwater. (fn. 23)

The church, of unknown dedication, comprises a chancel, a nave with south porch, and a small west tower with saddle roof. The proportions of the chancel, nave, and tower suggest a 12th-century date, but the chancel was rebuilt in the 13th century and the nave, refenestrated in the 14th century, was altered again in the later 15th, when both chancel and tower arches were inserted, together with the south door and doorway, the font, and the upper storey of the tower. A rood loft was also added, approached by a stair on the north side lit by a quatrefoil window. The furnishings date from 1870; the pulpit in use up to that date was probably that made in 1754 from carved pew ends. (fn. 24)

There are four bells: (i) medieval, from the Bristol foundry; (ii) 1739, Thomas Wroth of Bridgwater; (iii) 1530-70, Roger Semson of Ash Priors; (iv) 1631, George Purdue. (fn. 25) A bell was delivered in 1526. (fn. 26) The plate includes a cup and cover made by 'I. P.' in 1573. (fn. 27) The registers date from 1683. In the 1730s the curate was reported as 'far from keeping the register regularly'. (fn. 28)

The churchyard, its walls maintained by local farmers in the 17th century, (fn. 29) includes a yew tree planted in 1724. (fn. 30)


  • 1. Below (building); S.R.S. lxviii, p. 25; Cat. Anct. D. ii, B 2966.
  • 2. S.R.O., D/D/Vc 20.
  • 3. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/3137; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 208.
  • 4. S.R.O., DD/PO 2D/1, 2E; Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 136-7; Dioc. Kal.; below.
  • 5. Dioc. Dir.
  • 6. Above, manors.
  • 7. S.R.O., DD/DP 38/10.
  • 8. Clergy List, 1859.
  • 9. Clergy List, 1859.
  • 10. Crockford, Clerical Dir. (1869); Alum. Cantab. 1752- 1900.
  • 11. Dioc. Dir.; corresp. in office of the Editor, V.C.H. Som.
  • 12. Inf. from Mr. P. Nokes, Dioc. Office.
  • 13. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 208.
  • 14. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VIII/3137; S.R.O., DD/POt 39; S.D.N.Q. xiii. 271.
  • 15. S.R.O., DD/DP 38/10.
  • 16. Ibid. D/D/Rb 1815.
  • 17. C. Hodgson, Queen Anne's Bounty (1826), 229; Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, pp. 136-7.
  • 18. Crockford, Clerical Dir. (1931).
  • 19. S.R.O., D/D/Ca 22, 57.
  • 20. Ibid. 57, 98, 134, 151.
  • 21. Ibid. 180.
  • 22. Ibid. D/P/durl 4/1/1; D/D/Vc 88.
  • 23. Ibid. D/P/durl 2/1/5, 6; Alum. Oxon. 1715-1886; Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900.
  • 24. Dioc. Dir.; Kelly's Dir. Som. (1914).
  • 25. S.R.O., D/P/durl 4/1/1; photo. in vestry.
  • 26. S.R.O., DD/SAS CH 16/1; D/B/bw 1511.
  • 27. Ibid. D/B/bw 1433.
  • 28. Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xlvii. 157.
  • 29. S.R.O., D/P/durl 2/1/1-6.
  • 30. Ibid. D/D/Ca 274.
  • 31. Ibid. D/P/durl 2/1/1.