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October Crawl: Cameley, Paulton & Timsbury

Saturday 7th October 2023

“Listed Churches in North East Somerset”

– Hosted by Tony Davies

North East Somerset, especially around Radstock and Midsomer Norton, has a largely industrial heritage. But the area contains some fine examples of church architecture, and on this trip we will visit three of those. Two of the churches date back to the 12th / 13th centuries, whilst the third is Georgian; but all three have Grade I or Grade II* listing and have some fine features.

The three churches are in very different settings. Cameley is an almost abandoned village, in rural isolation on the side of a hill. Paulton is a busy industrial village. Timsbury stands high on the hillside overlooking the valley of the Cam Brook.

We begin at 2 pm at the church of St James, Cameley (BS39 5AH) . Park on the lane by the church. St James was made redundant in 1976 and is the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It stands on the side of a hill overlooking a fishing lake and the Cam valley, and is almost on its own since the villagers left for nearby Temple Cloud.

The C15th red sandstone tower dominates the setting. It contrasts with the rather unprepossessing Mendip blue lias limestone church. Inside you will find both mediaeval benches and Georgian pews; two galleries (one of which is reached up a flight of stairs next to the porch and was ’Erected for the free Use of the Inhabitants’ in 1819); a two-decker C17th pulpit with canopy, and a square Norman font. There is a lot of dark wood around the church. But the highlight is the collection of fabulous wall paintings from the 12th to the 17th centuries. At the west end of the churchyard you will find a clutch of gravestones commemorating the long line of William Rees-Moggs over the centuries.

We go on to Holy Trinity, Paulton (BS39 7LG) at 3 pm. Park in the village car park; drive past Holy Trinity down to the Triangle roundabout , turn left and the free car park is on the right after just a few yards (signed “Accessible Parking”). This Grade II* church was built in 1235. It was rebuilt in 1757 (when the tower was constructed), and restored in 1839 by John Pinch. Inside you will find a very well-used church space, but also some of the ancient artefacts dating from before the rebuilding, including a 14th century font. Under the tower are two ancient stone effigies, probably of knights from the Paulton family. Look up in the chancel to see a host of angels keeping watch. Above them is a gallery stretching across the nave, above a crowded work area. In the churchyard is a cholera pit and monument, remembering 72 lives lost in 1832 and a further 62 lost in the 1844-1850 outbreak.

Our final church is St Mary, Timsbury (BA2 0EJ). There is a very small car park on High Street opposite the church, but parking is easier on The Avenue, next to the grassy bank just uphill from the church. This is a much more modern church, built in 1826-32 when the old church had fallen into disrepair, with a new chancel designed by Sir Gilbert Scott added in 1852. It is a light and airy church, very Victorian in most of its features. But it still has an ancient font near the door, and inside the tower a perfect Mass dial. Note the lively gargoyles on the chancel parapet, and the fine old sanctuary lamp. The East end of the church is built in three bays, but the seating in the nave has just one aisle. Again there is a gallery at the west end of the church, with a royal coat of arms decorating the gallery wall. The walls are adorned with a host of elaborate plaques, many of them to members of the Samborne family. And, hidden behind the organ along with the vestments, you will find the tomb of Barnaby Samborne. This church, like that at Paulton, has toilet facilities.

We plan to have afternoon tea here, at or shortly after our arrival at 4 pm.

Donations please, to be shared between St Mary’s and the Somerset Churches Trust.

Contact: Tony Davies. phone 01225 336124, mobile 07747 630421

Programme of Events 2023

1 April 2023
Crawl based on Wiveliscombe. Bob Croft organising – details on “Events” page.

17 June 2023
Visits to three fine churches in North Somerset led by Andrew Foyle: St Peter’s, Camerton; St Luke & St Andrew, Priston; and St Julian, Wellow.

15 July 2023
‘How to read a church’ – “Gastro” Crawl arranged by Philip Skelhorn around Queen Camel.

16 September 2023
Heritage Open Day

7 October 2023
Crawl arranged by Tony Davies to Cameley, Paulton & Timsbury.

November 2023
Annual Meeting and talk by William Newsom


Other events are in course of organisation.

Presentation by William Newsom on “Somerset Churches: Forgotten Little Gems”

The Somerset Churches Trust is absolutely delighted that William Newsom has kindly agreed to give the keynote lecture, after the Annual Meeting of the Trust on Wednesday 23rd November, at 7.30pm at the Wells and Mendip Museum in Wells. Doors open at 6.30pm with refreshments available and the Annual Meeting will commence at 6.45pm. Further information will be posted shortly.

William Newsom has the distinction of having visited over the last five years every parish church (bar two) in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, taking numerous photographs along the way. Having taken 30,000 photographs covering 556 churches, he has an unrivalled database to draw upon for the benefit of this presentation. Somerset is well known for its larger churches with magnificent towers, but William leaves those to others to cover elsewhere and instead will be providing a celebration of small churches from all across Somerset covering both ancient and modern.

We look forward to welcoming you there!

Porlock gets ready to Ride+Stride!

This is the first year that Porlock churches have participated in Ride+Stride and we wish them all the very best of luck!

Porlock St Dubricius is in the High Street, Porlock and is a Grade I Listed C12 church with a notable truncated wooden spire. There are facilities in the village for visitors. Post code TA24 8QJ

Stoke Pero Church is on Exmoor and is a Grade 2 Listed C13 church, south of Porlock but isolated and high up on in the national park. There are no facilities for visitors here. Map grid reference SS 87835 4395.

St Nicholas Church is on Worthy Toll Road in Porlock Weir and is a late C19 Tin Tabernacle in a conservation area. Facilities are in Porlock Weir, 100 yards away. Post code TA24 8PA.

All three churches are well worth visiting and we wish you happy walking between them!

Stoke Pero Church and St Nicholas Church, Porlock Weir


A Thank You to our long-serving Vice Chairman

Chris Hawkings retired from the position of Trustee and Vice Chairman in April 2022 after many years of service to the Somerset Churches Trust. But, as Chris’ interest in churches and chapels is undiminished,
we wanted to give Chris encouragement to further explore (even further afield) with a token of our appreciation, this took the form of a copy of Simon Jenkins’ Europe’s 100 Best Cathedrals signed by fellow Trustees. As Chris said ‘This book is a wonderful momento of my time not just at SCT but during my career and on my travels! As for the cathedrals, whilst I have seen a few of them, a European Grand Tour could be in the offing!’

The Trust is very grateful that Chris will continue to volunteer by helping our Grants Secretary with Church Assessment visits from time to time.

This is a timely reminder of the immense value of volunteers to our charity. Please consider if you could assist us in a capacity which matches enthusiam and support for the maintenance and resilience of our churches and chapels in this historic county of Somerset. Make yourself known to us via the Contact Us page and we will be in touch very soon!

Somerset Churches Trust – could you make a difference?

Like all voluntary organisations, this charity relies on the expertise and enthusiasm of people who are willing to give their time and commitment to ensure the continued future and careful development of historic church buildings in the county of Somerset. Trustees and Officers of the SCT are all volunteers and we are now looking for new volunteers to join in our work. We are interested in filling a number of key positions and welcome your expression of interest if you feel you might be willing and able to help.

Important areas concern overall Trust direction and strategy (Chair), Membership Secretary, Trust Secretary and a Trustee with Ride+Stride responsibilities. Ride+Stride is a key fundraising mechanism for the Trust and the ability to co-ordinate county wide is essential.

In general, enthusiasm and a passion for the continued existence and access to our historic churches and chapels is as important as any technical or professional skills which you may also possess.

If you are interested please do let us know via the Contact Us page and we will be in touch promptly. The next meeting of the Trustees is on October 18th and expressions of interest will then be considered. We appreciate that volunteering can be burdensome but with a committed group who have the aims of the Trust at their heart, these roles can also be very rewarding. If you know someone you think may be interested and suitable, please do let them know about this opportunity. Thank you.

We are grateful to Bath and Wells for helping advertise our volunteer roles through their online Connect magazine and we hope this will help extend our reach to potential Trustees.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Somerset Churches celebrate the Platinum Jubilee

Round Somerset towns and villages, not to mention the cities, there was great celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on 2nd  – 5th June. For our member churches and chapels in particular we would like to showcase some of the ways in which this took place. Please do let us know about your event and add some photos.

In West Somerset, our local church, St Petrock’s in Timberscombe, had a heritage exhibition including church records dating back to 1656 on show alongside the village schoolchildrens representations of the Queen and with a large selection of royal and Jubilee memorabilia loaned by villagers which all made a stunning display. Beautiful flower arrangements and the original Coronation music provided a fitting backdrop to the event. The bellringers pealed to open the exhibition and again as required on 3rd at 11.30am. The Somerset Churches Trust supported this church with a grant in 2018 to help provide a servery and an accessible toilet. It is absolutely certain that without their support the PCC would have found it very hard to access support from the National Churches Trust as this SCT grant gave credibility to the project. Our visitors commented on how welcoming it was to have a servery with non stop refreshments and a ‘comfort stop’.

This all goes to exemplify the important work the SCT does and how it enables communities to thrive. We welcome your support – whether in the form of donations or as a volunteer. And do please send those records of your church events for us to showcase as well. Thank you.

What are church crawls?

When I became a Trustee of the Somerset Churches Trust I didn’t know what a ‘Church Crawl’ actually was. I am learning that they provide an opportunity to enjoy the peace, beauty and craftsmanship evident in so many places of worship in Somerset.

I couldn’t possibly put it better than did Athena – Cultural Crusader – recently in an article in Country Life edition dated March 30th 2022. With the kind permission of Country Life an extract from this beautifully written piece follows:

With one surprise following another on a church crawl Athena found that ‘what crowned her enjoyment of these lovingly maintained buildings and their contents was the fact that every single church door she tried was open. That’s something she would not necessarily have expected in times gone by and is testimony to the unsung labours of parishioners. Athena both thanks and salutes them. She wonders retrospectively whether this reality reflects something of a change in the perceived importance of these buildings: during lockdown, all of us became aware of the things that existed on our doorstep and in the process, came to value them more than before.

Church buildings are part of our common inheritance that we can all enjoy. As places of worship, they are more than museums, as monuments, they are more than venues for services and, as public buildings, they are more than the possession of their congregations. It further adds to their appeal that, as buildings with a deep history, they don’t entirely belong to one generation or, indeed, to one family or group. Instead, they transcend time and society, embodying in our landscape and streets collective possession, history and identity.

These are not – to state the obvious – qualitites susceptible to quantification on a spreadsheet. We need to cherish churches as much as we can, particularly at the present moment, when the future of these buildings is once again in the headlines.’

Well said. And do join a Somerset Churches Trust Church Crawl and sample our own county treasures!

Marion Jeffrey