HISTORICAL NOTES ON ST ANDREW’S CHURCH, CORTON DENHAM
Our Church and its History
There has been a Church of St. Andrew in the village since the twelfth century although the current building dates from 1869 when the Norman church was pulled down as it was deemed too small and in a bad state of repair. It is an interesting building in the Victorian, Gothic Revival and has a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. There are some celebrated, rare, stained glass windows commissioned from Jeanne-Baptiste Capronnier, from Brussels and a leaflet giving details of these is to be found in the church. There are a set of embroidered Stations of the Cross hanging in the nave, presented by a parishioner and information about them is also available in the church. At the back of the Nave in the base of the bell tower, you can see a beautiful Reredos that was originally behind the Altar. This area is now used to commemorate the Village men who served in the Great War. When this was moved to its new site in 2010, a metal panel was revealed which had been part of the original fittings in the church. At the back of the nave are early photographs of the original church and of the current church when it was newly finished.
The church has held an important position in the village throughout its history, as a church does in any small community. It lies in the diocese of Bath and Wells and, in modern times, has had to share its rector with other parishes.
The previous church to stand on the Corton Denham site was pulled down in 1869 as it was falling into a bad state of repair and was not really large enough to accommodate all the parishioners. The original building was Norman, improved over the centuries, and had contained a Norman font.
The present church is dedicated to St Andrew and was designed by C BarkerGreen. It took fifteen months to complete at a cost of some £3,400, including the fittings, and was consecrated by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Capable of seating 200 people, an increase of 50 over the old church, many of the furnishings from it were installed in the new one, but the oak benches were not and some of these, attractively carved and dated 1541, can now be seen in Rimpton Church.
St Andrew’s is approached either by a tarmac path or by a cobbled path, known as the ‘pitchen’ or ‘pitching’, a curious name which means ‘a pavement in which cobbles are set up’. Both the paths lead to the south door and porch which is the main entrance to the church. Built from good local stone in the Perpendicular style the church consists of a nave, chancel and north aisle, all roofed with tiles. There is an embattled tower on the western end holding the five bells, which were re-hung from the old church and date from the 17th and early 18th centuries; the largest measures 37 inches and the smallest 29 inches. These are still regularly rung for services and practice evenings.
The chancel, with its carved roof bosses, has four stained glass windows depicting various stories from the Gospels and was made by J B Capronnier of Brussels*. There is an attractively cased pipe organ built by Thomas Havins with eight stops and three combination pedals; a fine antique instrument which was renovated in 1981. The pulpit and the font are both of Bath stone. The window by the door in the north aisle (a memorial to the Reverend J H Wyndham) also depicts scenes from the gospels and was made in Brussels by J B C Capronnier. To the side of the south door hangs the old Corton Denham Club Processional Flag beneath which is an illuminated record of those who served in the Great War. Near the Bell Tower is a list of past Rectors and their Patrons, dating from 1267, and an interesting photograph of the old church and an account of the building of the present one. In a report last century the church plate was recorded as comprising ‘a chalice and cover dated 1573 made by Orange and a patten of 1677’. The 410 year-old silver chalice was carefully restored circa. 1980 so that it may continue to be used safely.
The churchyard was closed for burial in 1910. Shortly thereafter its maintenance became the responsibility of the Parish Council. Over time, the upper section became overgrown with brambles and weeds and sections of the dry stone boundary wall disintegrated. In 2010 an old oak tree split in a storm and required felling. An initiative was lead by the Parish Council with support from the Gardening Society; the undergrowth was cleared and the wall rebuilt. Much of the upper churchyard was then reseeded and swathes of spring bulbs planted.
Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the remains of the oak tree’s trunk were skillfully transformed by a chain saw wielding woodsman into a unique rustic seat which used to provide a quiet place for contemplation and a good view towards Corton Ridge but it has now been transformed into a bugs hotel.
On the outside of the boundary wall, to the right of the south gate, is a memorial stone to Sidney Stretton, farmer of Beech Farm (Charlton Horethorne) and New Barn Farm (Corton Denham), placed there as it was not allowed to be erected within the closed churchyard. The stone was carved by Sidney’s Irish son-in-law, Ken Thompson, who went on to become a stone carver of great renown.
The handrail on the wall leading up to the south gate was given by Lady Alexander to commemorate the Millennium and in memory of her husband, Sir Lindsay Alexander.
The Village Cemetery
Upon the closure of the churchyard, a village cemetery was created from land donated by Lord Portman. Since 1958, the cemetery gates carried a dedication to Jolyon Spiller, a schoolboy killed in a road accident on Wheatsheaf Hill. By 2012, the gates had deteriorated beyond repair and were replaced.
In 2002, a Living Churchyard Scheme was developed, funded in part by a local authority grant. Native trees and shrubs were planted in the unused area of the cemetery to encourage birds and insects and provide an attractive, natural and peaceful environment.
In 2003, a wooden seat was purchased by the PCC and installed in the cemetery. Its location provides a spectacular view of the church and the hills above the village. The cemetery is maintained by village volunteers and the cost of its upkeep is met by the Parochial Church Council.
In the village cemetery are the graves of several military heroes.
Sgt. Percy Thomas won his MM on cavalry operations in Mesopotamia just after the end of World War I. He was buried in the cemetery with full military honours, including gun carriage and firing party, in the mid 1930’s. He taught semaphore to the village scouts and guides and encouraged them to compete; they won national championships in the 1920’s. He married a local girl and lived at the Queen’s Arms.
Rear Admiral Godfrey Place won his VC for carrying out a midget submarine attack on the battle ship ‘Tirpitz’ in World War II. He and his wife, Althea and family lived at The Old Bakery for many years.
Colin Pickthall won his DFC whilst in the Army Air Corps during operations over Indonesia in the 1960’s. He was chairman of the Gardening Society for several years.
There is evidence in early maps of a church in Whitcombe until the 17th Century. There is evidence of church stone, including 2 small stone arches, in the construction of the Dairy House, Whitcomb Farm Lane, built approx. 1750 and it is assumed the stone came from the Whitcombe church.
For a listing of Corton Denham Rectors 1267-2021 Click Here
The following information is extracted from the listing of Historic England.org:
CORTON DENHAM – 387/1/53 CHURCH OF ST ANDREW
Listed Grade II 15.2.85. No. 1366360
National Grid Reference: ST 6358822596
Parish church. Rebuilt 1869-70 to design of Charles Baker-Green. MATERIALS: Hamstone ashlar with plain clay tile roofs mostly between coped gables, but with hipped chevet to the east end. PLAN: Mostly in an early C15 style. It has a three-cell plan with additions; comprising a one and a half bay chancel, four bay nave and north aisle, with north east vestry, south porch and west tower. EXTERIOR: The chancel is built into the hillside. It has a plinth, with offset buttresses to each chamfered angle. There is a panelled parapet and ornamental clay tile ridge and wrought iron cross finial to the roof. There are cusped single lancet windows with arched headstops to north east and south east chamfers, and two-light early C15 traceried style windows with labels to north, east and south faces of the chevet. There are similar two-light window and bay buttresses to nave which has a plain eaves band course. The south porch to bay two has a simple hollow moulded pointed arch; the north east vestry has a cusped lancet east window and simple north door. The north aisle has small cusped lancets with pointed arched labels with headstops between offset bay buttresses, a two-light west window, and a simple west door. The tower is in three stages, with plinth, diagonal offset corner buttrusses two stages high, string courses, and a battlemented parapet with corner finials. There is an octagonal, plain, full height stair turret to the north east corner, taller than tower, with an outer door at the base. The west door, up two steps, is set within a pointed-arched opening under square stopped label with quatrefoils in spandrils; above, is a three-light C15 style window. The other faces are plain to this stage: to stage two, two-light transomed C15 pointed arched windows to north, west and south faces; similar windows without transomes to all faces of stage three, fitted with pierced stone baffles. INTERIOR: has unplastered ashlar throughout. The nave has arched rib ceiling and C15 style arcade. There is a hollowed wide chancel arch and a panelled vaulted timber roof to the chancel. The furnishings are simply detailed and include an octagonal stone pulpit with richly carved panels, and a matching small octagonal font with black marble shafts to the corners. Sited in a floor pit in the nave, and covered by cast iron, lattice pattern floor gratings, is a cast iron warm air heating stove, complete with its combustion chamber. It was manufactured by H.B. and H. Petter of Yeovil. In addition there is some painted and stencil decoration about the church. HISTORY: There has been a church in Corton Denham probably since the C12, although the present church was built in 1869-70. Its construction was financed by Edward Berkley Portman, Viscount Portman. SOURCES: http://www.hevac-heritage.org/homepage.htm C R J Currie, R W Dunning (Editors), A P Baggs, M C Siraut, A History of the County of Somerset (1999), vol 7, pp 101-08 REASON FOR DESIGNATION: The Church of St Andrew is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * It survives relatively unaltered and is a balanced, single-phase composition * The quality of its architectural detailing, both externally and internally * The church furniture is of good design * The survival of a contemporary heating stove adds to the building’s interest.
The following extracts are from British History Online (Copyright)
There was a church in Corton in the 12th century. The living was a sole rectory until 1946 when it was united with Sandford Orcas (Dors.). In 1972 it became a curacy-incharge and from 1979 until 1987 was part of the united benefice of Queen Camel with Marston Magna, West Camel, and Rimpton. In 1987 it became part of the united benefice of Queen Camel with West Camel, Corton Denham, Sparkford, Weston Bampfylde, and Sutton Montis.
The advowson was held by Sir Joyce Dinham (d. 1301) and descended in the direct male line to John (d. 1332), Sir John (d. 1383), Sir John (d. 1428), Sir John (d. 1458), and John, Lord Dinham (d. 1501), although patronage was sometimes exercised by feoffees. In 1526 Philip Champernowne presented on behalf of Lord Dinham’s heirs. Thereafter the advowson descended in separate shares although the Queen presented in 1555 during a minority and again in 1557, 1568, and 1575. William, Lord Compton, and Maurice Gilbert presented in 1608 as holders of two quarters, and John Martin and James Norman in 1620 probably for the other two shares. In 1611 Lord Compton sold his quarter to John Langhorne, the rector (d. c. 1619), but his son and heir Maurice was unable to sustain his right of patronage against the Crown, which presented in 1621, 1624, and 1630. The Portman family, who had purchased one quarter from the Gilbert family in 1612 and Maurice Langhorne’s share, then said to be two quarters, in 1642, presented, apparently without opposition, from 1660 although others claimed to hold shares of the advowson until 1756 or later. The Portmans retained patronage until 1944 when it was transferred to the bishop. From 1987 the bishop was patron of the united benefice jointly with the Diocesan Board of Patronage for the first and third turns.
In 1291 the church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. and in1535 at £13 9s. 3½d. net. About 1670 the living was reputed to be worth £100 and in 1705 over £30 net. The average gross annual income was c. £195 in 1774-98 and £392 in 1829-31. In 1535 tithes and offerings were valued at £12 os. 2½d. and in 1837 were commuted for a rent charge of £380.
In 1535 glebe was worth £2 and in 1636 the rector had 30 a. in the arable fields, 19½ a. of inclosed land, and common pasture for 62 sheep. Some glebe was exchanged in 1723 and c. 1802 leaving 37½ a. in 1837. The land was sold, probably between 1923 and 1926.
The rectory house, mentioned in 1636, may have been rebuilt in the late 18th century. In 1815 it was said to be fit. It was partially rebuilt in 1819 to designs by Even Owen of Sherborne (Dors.). It was built of local stone rubble and has a U-plan of two storeys with attics. The main west elevation of 5 bays has a central porch and a parapet.15 It was sold c. 1929 and in 1993 was known as Corton Denham House. In 1929 a new rectory house, called Preston House in 1993, was built north-west of the old house, and was designed by H. Ellis. It was sold c. 1939.
At least two early 14th-century rectors were only in minor orders, and there was a parochial chaplain in 1450. Unspecified lights were recorded in 1501 and an obit in 1548. In 1554 the curate was deprived for marriage. The rector was non-resident in 1557 but others were usually resident although many were pluralists. John Cooth, rector 1630-60, was sequestered from Shepton Mallet but claimed to retain Corton although he lived at Shepton. Thomas Brickenden was presented in 1660 and was succeeded by his son Edmund in 1701. From 1775 until 1852 the living was held by members of the Wyndham family and from 1861 to 1925 by Portmans. The Wyndhams were pluralists but normally resided in Corton and held two Sunday services in the 1780s when there were 20 communicants. In 1815 the resident rector did not serve and a neighbouring incumbent took services. In 1827 there were four celebrations of communion. On Census Sunday 1851 there were 190 people at morning service and 220 in the afternoon, including 70 children at each service.
The medieval building, evidently dating from the 12th century and dedicated to St Andrew by 1543, comprised an undivided chancel and nave with a north aisle to both and a tower apparently at its west end. The tower was said to have been rebuilt c. 1685. The church was demolished in 1869 because it was too small and dilapidated. The medieval church was galleried in 1773. Some of its 16th-century bench ends including one dated 1541 were removed to Rimpton and its 12thcentury font was destroyed.
The present church of ST. ANDREW was built at the expense of Edward Berkeley Portman, Viscount Portman (d. 1888), and was consecrated in 1870. It was designed by Charles Baker Green in the Perpendicular style and comprises a chancel with north vestry, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. There are contemporary fittings and stencil decoration, and glass by Capronnier of Brussels and by Hardman (1903-5).
There are five bells, the earliest of c. 1580 probably by William Purdue and one dated 1694 by Thomas Purdue. The plate includes a cup and cover of 1573 by R. Orenge of Sherborne (Dors.) and a paten, dated 1677, given in 1678 by the rector. The registers survive from 1538.
Part of a cross, possibly from the 14th century, was set up in the grounds of the rectory house c. 1870.
There was a Quaker in the parish in 1670. Licences for meeting houses were issued in 1705, 1822, and 1824, the last probably for Wesleyan Methodists who met regularly from 1826. A Wesleyan chapel was built at the west end of the village probably in 1859. There was a resident lay evangelist in 1891. The chapel was disused in 1910; it was formally closed in 1925 and converted into a cottage.
¶Two dame schools were held in the late 18th century. A Sunday school supported by the curate had 50 pupils in 1818 and 105 in 1825. In 1833 there were three day schools with a total of 29 children, all of whom attended a Sunday school which taught 96 children. The Sunday school continued at the same size in 1846, a year after the schoolroom had been built by Edward Berkeley Portman, Viscount Portman (d. 1888). In 1868 it had 58 pupils, of whom only one girl was at day school. A night school then had 32 children on the books. The average attendance at the day school was 42 in 1883 and 44 in 1905. The school was bought by Somerset County Council in 1920 and became a county school. From 1927 it took children only up to 11 years. There were 21 children on the books in 1935 but in 1940 34 evacuees, mainly from Southampton, entered the school. In 1945 there were only 11 children and in 1963 the school closed, the children transferring to Queen Camel. The school building has been converted into a village hall.
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR
A gift made by Maurice Gilbert (d. 1608) had been lost by 1824. In the same year sums totalling £14 given between 1675 and 1715 by the Revd. Thomas Brickenden, rector 1660-1700, and members of the Bartlett family were still recorded although no distributions had been made for many years. Attempts to revive the charity had failed by 1908. By will dated 1717 Jonathan Beaton gave a rent charge of 1s. a week on Church farm to provide bread for the poor. In 1824 and 1840 12 white loaves were distributed weekly to those not on relief. A gift of £400 in railway stock from the Portman family in 1907 produced an income which was added to the rent charge and provided food, brandy, nursing, and medicine for the sick. The Beadon and Portman charity was recorded until 1939 but not in 1991.
The Church Bells:
Bell 4 of 5 is indicated in the Dove Guide as being listed for preservation by the Church Buildings Council (Church Care)
The B&WDACR Annual Report for 2018-19 lists four members of The Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers (B&WDACR).
Doves guide has the listing: Corton Denham, Somerset, S Andrew. 5, 10 cwt (~510 kg) in G♯.
Bell Weight Nominal Note Diameter Dated Founder
1 4. cwt 1264.0 D♯ 26.50″ 1724 William Knight R
2 5 cwt 1139.0 C♯ 29.00″ 1694 Thomas Purdue Y
3 6 cwt 1057.5 B♯ 30.50″ 1724 William Knight Y
4 6. cwt 927.5 A♯ 33.00″ c1569† ? Purdue (generic)
5 10 cwt 829.5 G♯ 39.00″ 1869 John Warner & Sons
Corton Denham Initial 6th May 2021.docx Page 2 of 3
Details of frame
Frame Bells Year Material Maker
1 1,2,3,4,5 1870 Oak unidentified
1870 Notes from the Rector about the new church:
Copy of a memorandum made in the Corton Denham Church Book, by the Hon. the Rev. W.B Portman.
“The Parish Church of Corton Denham having become dilapidated and being insufficient for the accomodation of the Parishioners, it was taken down in March 1869 and entirely re-built in the following 18 months. Although on the same site, the new church is considerably larger and can seat 200 persons, being a gain of quite 50 seats. The churchyard was also enlarged by the gift of a piece of land lying above the old ground, to the East.
The largest bell, being found to be cracked, was re-cast by Messrs.Warner of London.
The Church and Churchyard were consecrated on July 26th.1870 by the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
The contractors for the work were Messrs. Draper and Trask. The amount of the contract was £2,350, which with an additional sum of £335 for extras -levelling Churchyard, new walls to same, and other matters – was defrayed by Lord Portman, the Patron of the Living.
The furnishing of the Chancel, carving roof, stained glass windows, organ, heating apparatus, pulpit, font, new plate, new bell and various items, amounted to a further sum of £725 which was provided by the Rector and his family -the organ being given by Hon L.R.Portman, the South window and Communion Plate by Hon. Louisa Portman, the two small stained glass windows by Lady Mordaunt and Miss Mordaunt -mother and sister of Mrs.Portman.”
- The East window was given by the Hon. Mrs.Walter Portman, wife of the Rector.
- The Tower West Window was given by the widow and Children of the Hon.. the Rev.W.B.Portman, in his memory.
- The South window was given in memory of Francis Portman by his mother, brothers and sister.
- The Church Registers date from 1538.
- The Churchyard is now closed.
- The Bells (5) were restored and re-hung on ball bearings during 1924-5
F Barton Horspool.
H.Coaker } Churchwardens
The Church Grade II Listed Heating System
The following Extract is from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (Heritage Group) (Copyright)
|The rebuilding of the present church consecrated in 1870, was the most likely time when a warm air heating system was installed beneath the central aisle of the Nave.
The stove which is installed in a long floor pit, is covered by many cast iron open pattern floor gratings which allowed the convected heat from the stove and its flue pipe to rise up into and warm the church. The stove was solid fuel fired by coal or coke and a storage area for the fuel was provided within the pit towards the front of the stove. Several stone steps were constructed leading down into the pit providing easy access for the stoker to enter the pit and fire the stove.
|It would seem that during the later part of the 19th century or early 20th century the warm air heating system was not considered sufficient to provide adequate heating for the congregation or the Rector, so another smaller size heating system was installed in the Chancel area adjacent to the Vestry. This took the form of a wet heating system with a bank of large diameter cast iron pipes installed in another floor pit covered with cast iron floor gratings. This then provided additional heat to the Chancel area of the church. The wet system had a solid fuel boiler installed in the Vestry. This boiler was removed during the 1980’s.|
The construction of the stove comprises a cast iron front plate complete with a firing door and an ash clean out door set into a single course of brickwork. A square shaped cast iron back plate is attached to the rear of the brickwork from which a long firing tube extends for a distance of approx 2 metres, before it connects to a rectangular shaped flue duct, that is routed under more open pattern floor gratings towards the Chancel end of the church. Metal fins have been fixed to the firing tube at about 80 mm spacings to greatly increase the heat transfer surface area of the stove.
The space for storing the solid fuel can be seen on the left of the floor pit in front of the stove. The stove due to its rarity has now been given a Grade II listing by English heritage.
The stove makers name HB & H PETTER YEOVIL is inscribed on the front plate.This type of finned tube stove design is similar to the Gill stove arrangement that had been in manufacture from the 1820’s onwards and may have been used by this local manufacturer.