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Gallery: Churches of Somerset
by Peter Kessler, 31 October 2010
Sedgemoor Part 1: Churches of Nether Stowey,
Cannington & East Brent
St Mary's Church, Nether Stowey, lies at the
eastern end of Stowey Court, both of which are divided from the rest
of Nether Stowey by the A39 road which was built in 1968. The original
church on this site was medieval, although little of it remains today
and little detail seems to be available. The tower was built up in the
fifteenth century. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1849-1851 by
Richard Carver and Charles Edmund Giles, although the tower was untouched.
The building consists of a nave with south porch
and north and south aisles, chancel and west tower. The tower is
embattled, built in three stages. Coursed and squared red sandstone
rubble is used throughout, with freestone dressings and slate roofs.
The building of the nearby Stowey Court was begun by Lord James Audley,
into whose hands the manor passed in 1343. It was completed by his
great-grandson in 1588 and stood in a park which contained deer.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Cannington,
stands in the very centre of the village, reached via a narrow lane leading
from Church Street to the west and via Brook Lane to the south. Cannington
first appeared in Saxon Charters as 'Cantuctone'. Cantuc was a British word
for a ridge, and the same word was used for the nearby Quantock Hills. The
area was conquered comparatively late by the West Saxons, retaining strong
links to the British kingdom of Dumnonia.
A wooden Saxon church may originally have stood
in the village, but no trace has survived. Following the Norman
Conquest, the De Courci family were made lords of nearby Stogursey
(Stoke Courcy), establishing Cannington Priory about 1138.
The church was built alongside the priory by 1336, with the tower
being added in the fourteenth century. This church (but not the tower)
was demolished in the following century and replaced by the present
St Mary the Virgin, East Brent, is at the
western end of Church Road, on the south-western edge of the village.
The first mention of East Brent is in a charter of 693 under which
King Ine of the West Saxons gave 'Brentmarse' to Abbot Alnod of
Glastonbury. The Abbey held it until the Dissolution in 1539. The
Domesday Book records in 1086 that a priest called Godwin was resident
in the parish, so there must have been a Saxon church too, possibly
a wooden one.
Construction of the present church began in the late
thirteenth century and by 1298 most of the nave had been built. The tower
and the spire were added about a century later. The oldest two bells still
in use date from 1440 and 1450. Abbot John Selwood was vicar from 1467-1493.
He brought most of the pews from Glastonbury, and these bear his initials.
The chancel was rebuilt between 1840-1845, and the secondhand tower clock
was probably added then.
All photos on this page contributed by Colin