|All Saints', Wrington
A History of the Church
by Hugh C. Smith (3)
The windows of All Saints contain no mediaeval glass. The Handbook of 1861 mentions vestiges of old glass, and there are still small pieces of blue glass in the cusps of one of the plain glass windows in the north aisle. This could possibly be the only remains of mediaeval glass in the church.
The modern windows, however, are of interest, as they commemorate Hannah More, three former Rectors of Wrington and three former prominent local families.
I. In the north wall of the chancel is a memorial window to Hannah More, erected by public subscription in 1884, some fifty years after her death.
2. In the south wall of the chancel is a window to the Leeves family. The Revd. William Leeves was Rector of Wrington from 1779 until 1828. He entered Holy Orders by way of the 1 st Regiment of Foot Guards having enlisted as an ensign in 1769. In 1779 he took Holy Orders and was appointed to the living of Wrington where he remained until his death, 49 years later. He was a contemporary of Hannah More and a frequent visitor to Barley Wood.
He is perhaps best remembered for the fact that he wrote the music to the ballad of "Auld Robin Gray" as he was an accomplished musician and composer. Two stories recall his incumbency: the first, the occasion when he was bringing home a new carriage and the surveyors of highways were requested to order that the hedges be sheared to allow the carriage to pass without scratching; the second, when his effects were auctioned in the 01d Rectory in Broad Street after his death. The floor of the auction room collapsed and buyers, bidders and the auctioneer disappeared through the floor. The comment on the state of the house in the 1850's was that "the tall tenement looks at this moment as if it was withheld by compunction alone from falling on the present proprietor". William Leeves is buried beneath the High Altar of Wrington Church.
3. In the south aisle, east in St. Nicholas's Chapel, the window commemorates the Revd. Preb. Scarth and Mrs. Scarth. Preb. Scarth was Rector from 1871 until 1890, an antiquary who ranked among the foremost English authorities of his time in Roman antiquities and especially the relics of the Roman occupation. He was formerly Rector of Bathwick and wrote a book on Roman Bath, " Acquae Sulis or Notices of Roman Bath", was a frequent contributor to Archaeological and antiquarian publications and wrote a potted history of Wrington for the 1887 edition of the Somerset Archaeological Proceedings called "Wrington - A Sketch of Parochial History". He died in Tangier in 1890 and is buried in the churchyard, close to its western boundary.
4. The middle window of the aisle is dedicated to the Revd. John Vane, Rector of Wrington from 1828 until 1871. At various times the Revd. John Vane was President of the Wrington Literary Society, a trustee of each of the four Friendly Societies, and President and Trustee of the Wrington Village Hospital. He it was who presented the silver teapots to the Wrington Female Friendly Society in 1841.
He was the first Priest in Charge of Christ Church, Redhill, having contributed a large part of the cost of the church, which was consecrated in 1844. He was also responsible for the building of the mixed national school at Lulsgate Bottom, and in 1861 it was recorded that the school was largely supported by him, aided by a few small subscriptions and the children's pence.
He was one time Chaplain of the House of Commons and was reputed to be very popular with his farming friends. He was said to believe that the first object of study for a country clergyman should be composts, was an authority on the succession of crops and the subsoil plough. He made a smart speech at an agricultural dinner and was said to manage the clods under his care with an intuitive cleverness.
Burrington is one of the few parishes in England having the right to elect its own incumbent, and their selection had to be approved by the Rector of Wrington. The Rector, however, had no power of rejection, this being confirmed in 1828 in the Court of Chancery when the election of the Revd. Arnold to the Curacy was rejected by the Revd. John Vane. The candidate, however, declined the living, whereupon the Revd. John Vane assured the Burrington parishioners that he would present a man equally acceptable to him and to them. When they agreed, he nominated himself, and became Vicar of Burrington as well as Rector of Wrington.
5. The James family is commemorated in the window to the west of the south door. John James was perhaps the best known member of the family. He married Mary Baker of Westhay, and was a solicitor in Wrington, in partnership with Mr.Whitley until Mr. Whitley's death in 1831. John James lived first in Station Road, and in the 1840 s moved to Alburys which he had rebuilt.
John James was Churchwarden for 26 years, from 1846 until 1872; he conducted property sales for the district at the Golden Lion; he was connected with the Literary Society and the local Friendly Societies; was treasurer of the Bible Society and Clerk to the Petty Sessions; also a member of the first committee of the school when it was built in 1856.
In his day the Tithe Feast was held at the Golden Lion. This was the occasion when the Rector was host at a dinner for those who paid him tithes. During John James's life the Tithe Commutation Act was passed (in 1836) when the old fashioned payment of tithe in kind was simplified to a yearly cash payment which was adjusted annually on cereal prices.
6. The window in the north aisle is to the memory of William Henry and Emily Harford. William Henry Harford was the youngest son of John Scandrett Harford of Blaise Castle, one of the familyof well-known
Bristol merchants, who wrote the inscription for Hannah More's memorial. He bought Barley Wood shortly after Hannah More had moved to Clifton. It was thatched and an entry in an old account book refers to him buying haum with which to renew the roof. He appears in election notices of the period, was Chairman of the Committee for the erection of the new Poor Houses, Trustee of three Friendly Societies and as Resident Magistrate attended the hanging of three men executed at Kenn in 1830. He was one of the members of the first committee of the schools in Wrington. Emily Harford died in 1832 at the age of 25. William Henry Harford in 1877. Both are buried in the churchyard.
Fives Playing in Wrington Churchyard:
Over the years between 1633, when the Churchwardens Accounts begin, and the early 19th century there was intermittent warfare between the fives players and the Churchwardens regarding the playing of the game in the churchyard. Protests from the Churchwardens appear to have been rather on the grounds of the damage caused than upon the irreverence of the proceedings. Many parishes had this same trouble and one must remember that the churchyard was not so crowded with graves then as now and was used as a meeting place for the inhabitants.
Efforts by the Churchwardens to stop the nuisance included in the 17th century the provision of railings in 1641; the digging of pits before the tower by the sexton in 1647, 1648 and 1651 entered as "Digging pits to save the church windows"; new posts and rails by the tower in 1659 and more holes in 1673.
ln 1657 insult was added to injury when the parish was wrongfully accused of setting up a tennis court in the churchyard and a messenger had to be dispatched to Wells to protest at the wrongful accusation. In 1680 Churchwardens were supported by the Bishop of Bath & Wells against the playing of ball or other games in the churchyard upon Sundays and in the same year a lattice was put up before the windows. In 1703 it was renewed and shutters were again erected in 1769. Later in the century 12s.Od. was paid for hauling and setting up stones in the fives court but all to no avail as in 1816 water was turned into the area.
In the 19th century mention is made of the staples around the windows which once held the lattices. These have now been removed, but the holes that held them have been filled and
can be seen in the window surrounds.
fives playing damaging church windows
The Church Clock:
There has been a clock in All Saints for many years. What the original movement was like we have no knowledge, but reference to a clock in the church is made in the first year for which we have Churchwardens Accounts, being 1633/4. In this year the clock was twice mended at a total cost of 7s. 4d.
In 1662 a note on the goods in the church refers to a "clock with a little bell", and later in the century 4s. Od. was paid for a rope for the clock. (This would presumably be the rope to which the weights were attached). In 1695/6 William Webb Senior undertook to keep the clock in order, whilst in the l8th century work on the clock is again mentioned.
The bells deserve a talk to themselves. Over the centuries they have provided a background to both parochial and national events, which is proved by random entries extracted from the Churchwardens Accounts:
1642 - 3s. l Od. given to the ringers when Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. passed through Wrington on her way to France.
So history has been linked with the ringing of Wrington bells. But their ringing was very unlike the change ringing to which we are accustomed. During the l6th century Wrington tower had only four bells, the number being increased to five in 1611. An agreement exists dated 1628 for Roger Purdue to recast two bells "att the bell pit in the back side of the now dwelling house of one Josias Breane, situate in Wrington". The Churchwardens and inhabitants were to be allowed to watch the proceedings provided they behaved themselves.
During the l7th century constant attention was paid to the bells and during a period of 30 years £92 was spent upon them out of a total church income of £550. In 1749/50 the old 5 bells were made into a peal of 6. All the bells, except the oldest bell now in the tower, were taken to Chew Stoke. Two bells in the tower bear the date of this re-casting (1750)
marking special occasions
and the bells were in this instance hauled to Chew Stoke and back by plough teams. The Bilbie foundry was established in Chew Stoke in 1698 by "ould Edward Bilbie" as he called himself, and it lasted for over 100 years. Bells from the foundry are numerous in Somerset, and some bear quaint but illiterate inscriptions.
During the remainder of the l8th and l9th centuries various bells were re-cast and in 1845 it is recorded that the last member of the Bilbie family, a small man, old and bent with hair over his collar, came from Chew Stoke to hear whether the new bells were the equal of the old Bilbie bells. His assessment was not recorded.
In 1911 the peal was increased to the present ten bells by the addition of four treble bells. Inscriptions on these four bells refer to people prominent in the village at the date.
Mr. H.H. Wills 1911. Mr. Henry Herbert Wills was a great benefactor to the villages of Redhill and Wrington, To him Wrington owes the gift of a cottage and
site for the Memorial Hall, as well as a gift of £1000 towards the cost
of the building. Mr. Wills died in 1922 before the building of the hall began but his widow -
Mrs. Mary Monica Cunliffe Wills whose name appears upon the second bell, laid the
foundation stone in 1923 and opened the hall in 1924.
The total weight of the peal is just over 7 tons, the bells varying in weight from the tenor at 37 cwts to the treble at 7cwts. They are hung in two tiers of five and the resistance of the tower to the vibration caused by the bells over the years provides striking testimony to the thoroughness with which the 15th century builders completed their task.