Ditcheat Church

(from the from the Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. , Vol. 59, p 21, 22 )

At the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Ditcheat, the Rev. C. E. Leir, Rector of the parish, gave an interesting and humorous address dealing with the history of the building and his own reminiscences of the services as then conducted. The following description is based on this address and on the accounts given in earlier volumes of the Proceedings (Freeman, XIII, i, 23; Ferrey, XXIV, i 48, illustration of Church; Buckle, XXX, i, 26.)

The Church is cruciform in plan with a central tower, of which the lower portion is late XII Century and the oldest portion of the building now standing. The chancel was rebuilt in the XIII Century, "the windows being beautiful specimens of geometrical tracery, of a character rare in this county, but presenting a considerable resemblance to some of the work at Tintern (c. 1280), and they are further adorned by boldly foliated arches of the inner wall-face" (Buckle). In the later part of the XV Century the nave and transepts were rebuilt, and the tower raised a stage higher, for otherwise it would have been invisible. The low and heavy arches were left, forming a barrier between nave and chancel, the transepts being connected by two large squints reaching down to the level of the floor. The beauty of the chancel seems to have preserved it from destruction, and as at the neighbouring church of Pilton, the walls were raised to range with the transept and nave, and a row of clerestory windows inserted. On the parapet above are carved shields bearing the arms of Bishop Stillington, 1466-91, Abbot Selwood, 1457-93, and Dean Gunthorp, (He left 20li. to provide ornaments for the use of the high altar here. S.R.S., XVI, 361.) 1465-98. The work was therefore contemporary with that at Pilton carried out by precentor Overay, 1471-98. Some fragments of painted glass still remain in the windows, the figures of St. James and St. Philip appearing in the south aisle. The beautiful tie-beam roof does not deserve the strictures of Professor Freeman, who to make amends in 1865 waxed enthusiastic over the fittings of the choir, of which the pulpit and reading-desk still survive, but the screen has disappeared. In the north aisle is a board painted with elaborate armorial bearings of Robert Hopton, ob. 1638, whose house, though altered, still stands on the north side of the churchyard.