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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Somerset

by Peter Kessler, 21 November 2020

SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 38: Churches of Ash Priors & Bishops Lydeard

Holy Trinity Church, Ash Priors, Somerset

Holy Trinity Church, Ash Priors, stands on the inside corner of the main lane, to the south and west of it. The name 'Ash Priors' is a corruption of 'Esse Prioris', or 'the property of the prior'. However, the present building was never a priory church like many in the Taunton area. As western Somerset churches go, it's a relatively recent building with a pretty uniform structure. The main body of it dates to the fifteenth century, with a south aisle that was added in 1833.

Holy Trinity Church, Ash Priors, Somerset

The church was restored in 1874. It consists of red sandstone random rubble masonry, with slate roofs and tiled chancel of the 1800s. It has a two bay aisled nave, north porch, and north and south aisle chapels, with the latter containing an organ and having been extended by one bay to contain a heated vestry. The three-stage crenellated tower has a pyramid slate roof and weather vane, with diagonal buttresses, and a square-headed Tudor arch doorway.

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bishops Lydeard, is on the western side of the High Street. In the Norman period the village belonged to the bishop of Bath and Wells. In 1291 King Edward I granted a charter to Bishop Robert Burnell to hold a weekly fair in the village. A church has existed on this spot since the Saxon period in Somerset, although the oldest part of the present building is the north arcade, which dates from the end of the thirteenth century.

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset

The church is built of red sandstone, with a typically tall Somersetian tower, embellished with facings of creamy Ham Hill stone. It was built about 1450, one of the earliest of a group with the towers of Isle Abbots, Kingston, and Staple Fitzpaine (see links). On the south side, to the east of the porch, there is a 'Rood Turret' that houses the spiral stair which leads to the top of the rood screen. Inside, the older north arcade is distinctly lower than the younger south arcade.

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset

The present form of the interior, though, is decidedly Victorian and later. The chancel was rebuilt on the original foundations about 1860, at which time the north aisle was extended east (it originally finished level with the chancel arch). In the nave there are carved bench ends, mostly formed by a group of itinerant Flemish wood-carvers around 1540. The rood screen was made, probably in Taunton, early in the sixteenth century. It is typical of local fan-vaulted screens.

Bishops Lydeard Independent Chapel, Bishops Lydeard, Somerset

Bishops Lydeard Independent Chapel (Congregational) is to the east of the High Street, flanked southwards by a house and then Bartons Close. It is shown on the OS 25-inch map of 1889 (surveyed 1887), perhaps existing for some time before that. It closed in 1969. Greenway Christian Fellowship seems no longer to exist. It possibly met in the Independent chapel or, more likely, in a private house on Greenway, over the other side of the Minehead GWR branch line.

Five photos on this page by P L Kessler, plus one kindly contributed by Michael Day 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 by Robert Cutts.

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