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Gallery: Churches of Somerset
by Peter Kessler, 21 November 2020
SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 39:
Churches of Cothelstone to Combe Florey
The Church of St Thomas of Canterbury,
Cothelstone, lays behind Cothelstone Manor on the western side
of Cothelstone Road. The church is thirteenth century, while the
manor house is largely seventeenth century. A chapel existed at
Cothelstone in the Saxon period. Following the arrival of the
Normans, the Cothelstone estate was given to Adam de Coveston, a
vassal of the bishop of Winchester. The chapel was granted to the
monks of Taunton Priory (see links).
In the 1200s the chapel became a parish church,
linked to Kingston St Mary, but it has always maintained close links
to the manor. Memorials to generations of the Stawells (descendants
of the de Covestons who held the land for half a millennium) fill
the church interior. The will of Robert Stawell (died 1499) refers
to the church as 'the parish church of St John the Baptist of
Cothelstone'. The present dedication was only supplied after
the Reformation, perhaps in 1786.
The Church of St Pancras, West Bagborough,
sits almost a kilometre east of the centre of the village, flanked
closely on its eastern side by Bagborough House. The building dates
to the fourteenth century but has since been restored. The north
aisle was added in 1839 and further restoration was undertaken in
1872. It was beautifully decorated in the 1920s by Sir Ninian Comper.
It seats two hundred in two aisles, and has an excellent two hundred
Until the twentieth century it bore the
dedication Holy Trinity Church. It stands high above the main
village, and allegedly owes this separation to the Black Death which
reduced the population to below one hundred souls in the fourteenth
century. In an attempt to rid themselves of plague the villagers
abandoned the original settlement and rebuilt away from the church.
The building is of coursed squared red sandstone, with tiled roofs
with decorative ridge tiles.
The Church of St Peter & St Paul,
Combe Florey, sits on the northern side of the lane in the heart
of this hamlet. The mound alongside the church is known as 'the
monks' garden'. When the eighteenth century historian Collinson
wrote about the village he mentioned an old building on top of the
mound which was being used as a summerhouse by the then owners of
the adjoining gatehouse. This, possibly, was the site of a medieval
Chantry of the Blessed Virgin, since lost.
In the twentieth century the Waugh family made
the village their country home, buying Combe Florey House (behind
the church) in 1956. It is here that the grave of Evelyn Waugh and
his wife Laura can be found in a private plot. One of his sons,
Auberon Waugh (the newspaper journalist), is buried in the small
graveyard across the road from the Elizabethan gatehouse. The small,
red stone Gothic church itself dates to the late Norman period,
around the 1200s-1300s.
Five photos on this page by P L Kessler, plus
one 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