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. tony@anthonydavies.uk phone 01225 336124, mobile 07747 630421