Hist Hemington

St. Mary's The history of Hemington Church is typical of many English country churches. It was built by the Normans, extended and altered around 1230; there was further work 100 years later, and again 1480-1500 when the tower was built.
The porch is Victorian and (he pews date from the early 1600's. Certain parts of the building are of substantial architectural interest. The parish includes the medieval manors of Hemington, Highchurch, Huntminster and Faulkland, all of which probably had village settlements but today (lie principle centre of population is Faulkland. Though there is no other evidence, the names Highchurch and Huntminster suggest that originally there were churches at these places. Unrest following (he Norman Conquest and the severity of (lie Black Death in the area in 1348 permanently affected the pattern of settlement.

St Marys is Grade 1 listed by English Heritage.

EXTERIOR Thee general impression is of a late 15th century church in the Perpendicular style. The parapets, many of the windows and in particular the tower, date from this period but this belies the greater age of much of the building. The tower, like that at Buckland Dinham, has double windows at the intermediate stage and a single window at the top. The windows at each stage are of different design. A change of builders, a shortage of funds, or a delay in completion, may account for these differences and the comparatively plain top stage compared with Mells or Leigh on Mendip with which on other counts there are similarities. Inside can be seen the springing for stone vaulting, never completed.

There is a ring of six bells, two of which are medieval. A detailed description, together with the inscriptions, will be found inside the tower. The windows of the south aisle date from the 1340's as does the western most window of the nave. The doors in the porch and in the west front of the tower are both 15th century. The porch is Victorian (1856), said to be tile work of Sir Gilbert Scott, the distinguished church architect who was active in the area but it is curiously unscholarly. The humbler structure it replaced can be seen in the drawing of the church in the 1840's, reproduced on the front page of this leaflet. Note the sundial on the parapet east of the porch. Legend has it that the Black Death plague pit is on the north side of the church near the vestry door.

INTERIOR The interest of the building is apparent from the interior. Of the Norman church the principal features are the chancel arch with delicately cut ornamentation on the capitals and the circular font decorated with a double ring of scallops. The south aisle is Early English work (c. 1230) and of particular note are the south door and the arches between the chancel and the aisle with a cluster of Purbeck shafts to the pillar and the piscina on the eastern respond. The arcade between (lie nave and (lie aisle is also of (lie same date but the windows, again with Purbeck marble inner shafts, are Decorated work of c1340. The clerestory and the nave roof, with oversize grotesque corbels, is late 15th century. The roof itself has been renewed but there is a good 15th century ceiling in the aisle supported by the corbel heads described overleaf. The pews are thought to date from the 17th century and not earlier. The remainder of the 17th century fittings were removed in the restoration of 1856 and an idea of the appearance of the church prior to this can be got from the picture on the north wall of the nave. The stairs to the Rood Loft behind the pulpit are a trace of pre-Reformation arrangements. The text painted on the north wall of the nave is post-Reformation - late 16th century. There is a 16th century chest on top of which is a copy of the Authorised Version of The Bible dated 1634 and a great lectern Bible printed in 1781 presented to the church by the Rev. Giles Hill. In the chancel within the sanctuary will be seen a curious chair presented to James Turner of Faulkland in 1890 on the completion of the Eiffel Tower. lie was a local character who built in the I880's Turner's Tower which stood alongside the A366 between Faulkland and Ammerdown, a landmark, 185 feet high, until its demolition sonic years ago. He also built for convenience while attending church the little coach-house and stables at the corner of the churchyard - it has "J.T. 1881" on the gable. Later Rev. J.S. Raymond (rector 1882-1921) used it to garage his motor car which was one of the first in the neighbourhood. The memorials are of no great artistic merit but have local interest. In the chancel is that of the Hills which commemorates a family whose members were rectors in an almost unbroken line from 1678 to 1814 during which time the old rectory west of the church was built. In the south aisle are two tablets to the Vigor family who in the late 17th century purchased the Manor Highchurch and opposite the organ. is an inscription dated 1667 which quaintly mixes English and Latin.

SCULPTURE Often minor items of sculpture pass unobserved but Hemington has a number well worth studying. On the west face of the tower, dating from c1500.. by the window above the door .. Man with basket and ? Pilgrim with hat and staff. In the south aisle, dating from c. 1230 .... a fascinating series of corbel heads carved as half length figures; some depict monastic life in a very unflattering way. The most interesting are
I.Man with tooth and ? stomach ache.
2.Man holding in one hand a pot with handle and in the other a brush.
3.Abbot with crosier wearing a fool's cap and bell with a goose across his shoulder and a pig beside him.
4.Man in gown wearing a fool's cap and bell.
5.Fat monk holding money bag with hand raised in mock blessing.
6.A bearded face of great beauty.

© St Mary Hemington 1995

Some further interesting articles may me downloaded here

A Hedgehog and a Sparrow

Why does the Rector live in Vicarage Lane

Information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)

Details of Somerset Record Office holdings relating to this parish.

Hemington Parish Council

General information from Wikipeida

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