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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Somerset

by Peter Kessler, 21 November 2020

SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 34: Churches of Langley Marsh & Wiveliscombe

St Luke's Mission Church, Langley Marsh, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

St Luke's Mission Church, Langley Marsh, is set back from the southern side of Blackwater Lane, towards the eastern end of the hamlet. This mission replaced one in the nearby Hillside Barn, believed to have served the local miners. Locally nicknamed 'Langley Cathedral', it opened on 14 October 1893, with seating for a hundred. Made of corrugated iron, this 'tin chapel' was erected at the expense of Reverend Howard McCricks on land given by the Bouchers of Greenway Farm.

Wiveliscombe Evangelical Congregational Church, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

Wiveliscombe Evangelical Congregational Church, Wiveliscombe, is located in The Manse, on the western side of Silver Street (Golden Hill), about sixty metres south of The Mews turning. It was erected in 1708, making it one of the oldest such buildings. Enlargement work was undertaken in 1825. It is rendered, with a shallow-pitched Welsh slate roof. The south (far) side and east bay were slightly enlarged around 1900 to take a new organ. The church remains open.

Wiveliscombe Reading Room, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

Wiveliscombe Reading Room is on the eastern side of Silver Street (No 10), about fifty metres north-east of the High Street junction. Reading rooms were imposed upon the working classes by the upper classes, mainly the church and local landowners. This one was opened in 1887, but the need for reading rooms declined throughout the twentieth century. Wiveliscombe's became parish council rooms for an uncertain period, but today the building serves as a guesthouse.

St Richard's Catholic Chapel, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

St Richard's Catholic Chapel was in a former newsagent shop on Silver Street, seemingly close to the High Street junction (the right-hand side of the street is shown here). Catholics initially met wherever they could find an available room, including (apparently) hired rooms in local public houses and, for a while, a room in the town hall chambers. A mission started in 1942 and the chapel opened in the same year. It was replaced by a permanent building in 1967 (see links).

St Andrew's Church, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

St Andrew's Church, Wiveliscombe, sits a little way back from the south side of Church Street, flanked to the west by Rotton Row, and with a very large churchyard behind it. A church here was first documented in 1179. Under Bishop Ralph a new church was later built on the same site. Whilst evidence of its design is limited, it is known that there was a particularly handsome carved and gilded oak rood screen and carved oak seat ends and pulpit, plus a south entrance.

St Andrew's Church, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

In 1826 the building's pillars were found to be out of true and the cracked tower oscillated when the bells were rung. With the necessary repairs not much less than the cost of a brand new building, in 1827 it was demolished, and the present church was consecrated in 1829. It is in the Gothic style, with seating for 1,250. An organ was first installed in 1845, enlarged and moved to the south aisle in 1892, and moved back in 1929. More work took place in 1995 and 2000.

Four photos on this page by P L Kessler, plus two kindly contributed by Huw Thomas via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group. Former Taunton Deane area church names and locations kindly confirmed by South West Heritage Trust. Additional information from The Rise and Decline of Village Reading Rooms, Carole King (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

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Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.