March 28, 2023

The Church of the Blessed Virgin St Mary

Church Services

Sunday 12th March 11.00 am Eucharist
Sunday 26th March 11.00 am Eucharist

Members of the PCC for Brompton Regis and Withiel Florey

 Rector of the Benefice Revd Dowell Conning Tel: 01398 322867
 Associate Vicar  Vacancy
 Churchwarden  Vacancy
 Secretary   Vacancy
 Assistant Curate  Revd Martin Collett  Tel: 01398 324211
 Treasurer   Mr. William Rees  Tel: 01398 371128
 Members      Mrs Jane Rees and Kevin Lawes
 Chapel Wardens for Withiel Florey  Mr. Edward and Mrs Sylvia Luxton   Tel 01398 323289

Monument Inscriptions

A complete list of monument inscriptions, from 1605 to 2008, in St Mary’s Church graveyard can be downloaded by clicking on the R.I.P. monument on the left.

The list was recorded, typed and indexed by Sir Mervyn Medlycott who has kindly provided us with a copy for our records.

Our thanks go to Sir Mervyn for his valuable contribution.   

Church History

The Church is in a splendid situation in the centre of the village. The main door in the south porch has a superb view of Haddon Hill and the surrounding hills. It consisted, at first, of a chancel, nave and tower, built 1200-1220 in the decorated style. The only part remaining of the original building is the tower with double lancet bell openings. A south transept was added about 1380 with two carved heads above, suggested at one time by the Vicar, Rev. Inman, as possibly representing the donor of the transept in the morning and evening of life. During the Wars of the Roses (1459-1480), the fabric of the churches in the West of England was largely neglected by parishioners and was maintained by the priests and local families. In 1490-1520 the nave was rebuilt in the perpendicular style. On the North side, instead of a solid wall, an arcade was built having capitols carved with wreathed foliage. A North chancel in the same style was added with what was described as an exceptionally fine and beautiful fan vaulted rood screen.

The rood screen would have been a richly ornate wooden screen closing the chancel from the nave and supporting a large crucifix flanked by large, painted and gilded figures of the Virgin and St John. The screen would have supported an overhead platform called a rood loft, which in some churches may have been used as a singing gallery, reached by a small stairway from the nave.

In 1625 new pews were installed, some of which were square but most were oblong. On the south side of the nave, between the transept and the main door, the present Jacobean pulpit was installed with a reading desk (a little lower) and a clerk’s desk (level with the floor).

This was at a time when a formal seating plan for the church was used to governed where everybody sat (ref. Somerset Archaeology & Natural History Paper 1983). A seating plan for the year 1629 shows that men and women sat separately, wealthier people sat in the more prominent seats, some of the pews were built by those who occupied them and that the poor had no right to a particular seat but would use parish seats or forms (described as planks) at the back. It seems that the church was packed with pews.

In 1770, a rather fine musicians' gallery was erected at the west end for the singing of psalms.

During the Victorian period, believed to be in 1853, some drastic restorations were made which swept away many of the church’s oldest and finest features. The nave was entirely re-roofed, as were the north and chancel aisles, the old pews and gallery were removed, the pulpit was moved to its present site and a new reading desk was added. It was during this restoration that the church suffered its greatest loss, described some years later by Mr Bligh Bond as “there stood in this church until comparatively recently, a fine screen with arched lights and fan vaulting having its Rood loft which contained some original panels. Unfortunately, when the church underwent a somewhat drastic restoration some thirty of forty years ago, the screen was removed and deposited in the vicarage stable loft. Upon the resignation of the then vicar some years later, all his goods were sold and a greater part bought by a woman broker from Tiverton, who without any authority , claimed and removed the screen. It has been impossible to discover any trace of it despite the earnest endeavours of the present vicar and his churchwardens”. The stairs to the old rood loft can still be seen on the north side.

However, a copy of the church’s layout dated 1852 obtained from the National Monuments Record does not show any of these features.

A interesting remnant, probably from the Victorian ‘restorations’ of the church, was this corbel stone (click on the thumbnail to see a bigger image). It was found in the garden of the old Vicarage and appears to be of late medieval origin, probably the 15C. A letter and diagram from Field Archaeologist, Dr Burrow in 1982 explains its likely origin. The stone is currently held in a box for safekeeping.

In 1885, the south transept and chancel were completely rebuilt on their old foundations in the ‘Decorated’ style, as before. Also, at this time, the 14th century font was heavily re-cut and at the completion of this work, the present choir and clergy stalls were put in.

The tower originally contained four bells, one of which is said to have come from Barlynch Priory, but in 1865 they were recast and a peal of five bells installed in 1866. In 1895 the tower was restored and a new altar table and other furnishings were provided. The tower was restored again in 1965 and the bells re-hung in 1968. A sixth bell was added in 1975 and its dedication service was held on Saturday 3rd May.

In 1900, the beautiful east window by Charles Kempe was given to the church by the Rev Dr Warre of Baronsdown as a thanks offering  for the recovery of his wife from a serious illness. In 1904 Dr Warre also gave the altar rails as a parting gift on his leaving the Parish.

At one time there was a barrel organ in the Church but this was removed in 1870 and replaced by a harmonium or reed organ until 1897 when the present organ was installed at a cost of £350. It was built by Victorian organ builder T.C. Lewis, who also built the organ in Southwark Cathedral, and is a fine example of his work.

It was probably built for a larger church, judging by the volume of stops, and has a nameplate dated 1872 ..... click here for details. When it was first installed, it stood at the east end of the north aisle in what is now the Lady Chapel. Pumping the organ could be physically demanding also requiring a good sense of judgement on when to start and stop. Ken White, an evacuee here during WW2, became an experienced pumper and has provided us with a description of the exact location of the organ and how it was pumped.   

In the mid 1950s, the church underwent some extensive repair work to its roof when it was discovered that the bell-frame and floor beneath the bells which were in a bad state of decay. The whole frame and the bells had to be removed and replaced at an estimated cost of £900. All of the ‘mouldering’ plaster in the church was removed, except for that in the Chancel and Sanctuary and it was during this work that the entrance to the stairs leading to the rood loft was found. It had been filled in with large stones but was restored to its present condition. A report of the work was published by Rev. N. W. Scott in the Easter 1955 edition of the Kingsbrompton Chronicle

In 1956, electricity was installed inside the church and some restoration work on the outside, including work on some buttresses, stonework as well as the roof, was carried out.

In 1961-62, the new vicar, Rev W.D.Speakman, embarked on some significant restoration work of his own. He set about plastering the interior walls of the church, restoring the north aisle and converting it to its original purpose (i.e. Lady Chapel) by moving the organ to its present position in the south transept, removing paint from and restoring the pews, restoring the wrought iron oil lamp holders that now hang from the roof and restoring the oak gates at the entrance to the porch.

When it was moved, the organ was fully overhauled, including electrification of the mechanism that pumps air into the organ, with money left by Mr Ted How and at a cost of £745. On its completion, the new altar in the Lady Chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

A newspaper report of the work carried out in 1962 can be read in an article published in the July 18th 1962 issue of Devon & Somerset News which also claims to have found the steps to the rood loft.

A new statue of Mary and Jesus carved in Norfolk by an Austrian, Anton Wagner, was installed in Lady Chapel in 1972 at a cost of £26 paid for by donations. The interior of the church tower was re-plastered in 1976 using funds raised (£296) by the Show and Gymkhana.

A brass tablet on the Church wall beside the altar with a long inscription commemorates members of the Dyke family with dates 1605 to 1654. Part of the inscription is the following to Joan Dyke, who died of dropsy, at the age of nineteen:

“Reader ‘tis worth thy paines to know

Who was interred here belowe

Here lyes good nature, pietie and witt.

Though small in volume, yet most faierly writt

She dyed young; and so oftimes 'tis seene

The fruite God loves, he‘s pleasd to pluck it greene."

On both sides of the chancel are unusual squints. Above the larger squint, beside the organ, is a plaque in memory of Emma Stuckley Lucas born 1st July 1787: died 13 February 1880. Nearby, is a Royal Coat of Arms that was originally placed in the church at the order of King James I to substantiate his claim to be defender of the faith. In 1962, it was found in poor condition in the vicarage stables but restored at that time by Mr Collins-Baker, an art master at Dulverton School.

To the west of the main door is a plaque to the memory of:-

Lieut. Fenwick C. Stevens of Lynecombe, Kingsbrompton

Died Sept 7th 1918 Age 23

Wounded on the battlefield near Arras, France

Behind the organ in the South transept, a brass plate, placed in 1901, recognising a legacy of £500 left by Stuckley Lucas of Baronsdown for the benefit of the poor. Also, a memorial stone in the floor of the main aisle in memory of John Melton, died 22 January 1703 age 3.

In the Lady Chapel is a carved Jacobean chest. It is among the things taken out during the 1853 restoration. It was probably made for Kingsbrompton Church in about 1630-40 and was saved and restored in about 1875 by John How of Rock House who carved new panels to match the original work. It was kept in good order and finally returned in 1987 by Mr.J.K.Ridler, a member of the family who lovingly looked after it.

On the outside of the Church, in the South wall, a memorial tablet to some of the Joyce family.

Ted and Betty Davey Bequest

In March 2008, one of our life-time residents Ted Davey passed away at the age of 86 following his sister Betty Davey who died a couple of years before him. They were born and lived all their lives inthe village and, in their time, had been important members of the community. After their parents died, their independent spirit led them to lead a fairly frugal and quiet life living together in the same home opposite the church.

After Ted’s death, it became apparent that a sizable part of their estate, which had been built up by their parent’s business, had been left to ‘the Vicar and Churchwardens of Brompton Regis Church in the County of Somerset, for repair and maintenance of the Church as the Vicar and Churchwardens shall think fit’.

This wording is in line with ancient custom and practice, when the Vicar and Wardens wielded much greater power in parish life. Today they would, quite naturally, share their thoughts and have discussion with members of the Parochial Church Council.

Their legacy provided an invaluable source of funds to carry out much needed repair and maintenance to the Church building at the time and has secured the funding to do so for the long term future.

Acknowledgements to Roger Steer and Rev Walter Speakman

Church Gallery

Looking towards the Altar


Church Layout in 1852