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Gallery: Churches of Somerset
by Peter Kessler, 21 November 2020
SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 37:
Churches of Halse & Fitzhead
The Church of St James, Halse, is accessed
from the north side of Tinker's Lane in the southernmost part of the
village - and at the top of a steep hill. A chaplain served the
parish around 1159, which clearly means that a church existed before
that. Robert Arundel gave it to the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
In 1374 it was claimed that there had been a chantry in the church
until twelve years earlier, seemingly erroneously thanks to a
confusion between Roger and Robert Arundel.
The church is built of local sandstone with Ham
stone dressings, It comprises a chancel with north chapel, nave with
north aisle and south porch, and west tower. Until 1867 or later it
was plastered and whitewashed externally. The rear arch of the south
door, font, and a fragment of carved stone beneath the east window
survive from the 1100s. The church may have included the Arundel
family chapel on the north side of the chancel, lost during a full
restoration of 1900.
Halse Church House (The Old Vicarage),
stands on the western side of Church Hill, about halfway up on the
climb to the church (see above). A church house had been built by
about 1559, somewhat later than usual where they served for parish
events up until the Reformation. The house was still standing in
1789. Today the outbuildings alongside Church Hill are the old
parish rooms. The Old Vicarage behind it has a core that is as
old but has been greatly rebuilt.
Halse Bible Christian Chapel stood at the
very top of the narrow lane which leads up from Culvers End Cottage,
about twenty-five metres north of The New Inn, and sitting on the
southern side of the lane. By 1845, and possibly by 1831, there was
a society of Bible Christians in the village. The chapel was built
in 1847. It became Halse United Methodist Church in 1926, but
closed in 1964. The building was later converted into the garage
that can be seen to this day.
The Church of St James the Great, Fitzhead,
sits inside the north-east corner of Church Road as it dog-legs
through the western half of the village, with the tithe barn at its
south-west corner. The building is a fine, largely fifteenth century
church which consists of a nave and north aisle, chancel, and
vestry. It has a three-stage western tower with a separate entry
that leads to six bells. The fabric is of red sandstone, with Ham
stone dressings, and tiled roofs.
The building was heavily restored in the
nineteenth century (seemingly in 1883), with work on the nave and
chancel being undertaken around 1849, which retained the late
medieval pews and rood screen. The north aisle was added in 1887
and was extended eastwards for a vestry. Much of the medieval
fabric of the nave survives. The tower is early Perpendicular,
built in Quantock red sandstone rubble with Bath stone dressings
in nineteenth century work.
Three photos on this page by P L Kessler, plus
two kindly contributed by Huw Thomas and one by Joseph Rogers, all
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.