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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Somerset

by Peter Kessler, 21 November 2020

SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 38: Churches of Halse & Fitzhead

Church of St James, Halse, Somerset

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.

Church of St James, Halse, Somerset

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, Halse, Somerset

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 / Halse United Methodist Church, Somerset

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.

Church of St James the Great, Fitzhead, Somerset

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.

Church of St James the Great, Fitzhead, Somerset

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.

Images reproduced


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