Church & Chapel

Details from various publications, including Felicity Tunncliffe-Smith’s ‘Notes on The Parish of Kewstoke and The Church of St Paul.’

As you enter the church though the Norman archway you will be reminded that countless saints, known and unknown, have passed before you to make this building above all else a place of prayer and worship and thanksgiving.

This guide will explain to you that builders and church folk throughout the ages have contributed to the beauty of the building. We have here a rich heritage which has been entrusted to us and which the present people of the parish work hard to maintain. But a church isn’t just stones and timber – however beautifully they may be put together and maintained – a Church is people coming together as the Body of Christ to worship and praise God. This beautiful building we believe reflects something of beauty and love of our Creator and our giving thanks for all his gifts to us.

The peace and beauty and the “aliveness” of our Church flows from the central figure of the Cross and then to a rather strange figure over the door which leads to the staircase to the rood loft. Technically this is a ogee arch, an S-shaped curve surmounted by the figure of a man. The arch flows out from the mouth. Could it be that the essence of this feature can be found in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 7 verses 37-39.

“(Jesus said) – ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me; whoever believes in me, let him drink!’ As Scripture says, ‘Streams of living water shall flow out from within him! He was speaking of the spirit which believers in him would receive later.”

May this figure remind us that it is the peace and the power of the living waters of the Holy Spirit which keeps this Church, the people and the building what it is – a place to the glory of God.-Bryan Strange, Parish Priest.1980-1989.

Details of the Church services will be found on the Notice Board at the entrance of the gate. We invite you to join us in our worship.

The Church

Kewstoke Church is dedicated to St. Paul. The original Church was Norman but the present Church is a pleasing mixture of architectural styles, having been altered and repaired over the centuries. It is now mainly of the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries.

We enter the church through a deep porch which is surmounted by an open parapet above which can be seen the sundial. Inside the porch is a 13th Century lancet window. The arch of the south door within the porch is a well preserved example of the Norman work showing interesting carving. The lack of weathering suggests that it was an internal arch of the Norman Church rather than an outer one. The door itself is very old and fastened together with hand-wrought nails. The sanctuary knocker on the door has five nail holes representing the five crucifixion wounds of Christ.

The font just inside the door is probably fourteenth century and shows signs of having been re-cut. The date is not certain, some suggest the bowl is much older than the base.

The nave has been dated as 13th Century but has many features of other centuries. The 15th Century clerestory, the upper windowed portion, is an unusual feature in a small church with one aisle. The two windows on the north wall towards the back of the church are 14th Century, as is the north doorway, now blocked. The stained glass window, by Paul Jefferies, near the pulpit is dedicated to the memory of a recent vicar, Richard Knight (1935-60).

The 15th Century pulpit is particularly beautiful with its elaborate carving. It is similar to the pulpit at Wick St. Lawerence, which came from Woodspring Priory, so it may have connections to the Priory too, although some people believe that the many stone carved pulpits in this area were the work of a travelling band of masons. Whatever its origin it is certainly one of the beauties of the Church.

At the foot of the chancel arch on the south wall is the roodloft door. Over it is a curiously shaped arch which is called an ogee arch; it incorporates a stone head which was flattened to support the original loft beam. Behind the door is the original circular staircase which led to the rood gallery. Roodlofts were ordered to be destroyed in 1547 and Kewstoke’s roodloft was destroyed with many others. The chancel arch is 15th Century and the east windows are 14th Century but it contains 19th Century glass. The rose window depicts the crucifixion of Christ. The lancet window represents the Annunciation. The two windows on the south chancel wall are believed to contain some of the oldest glass in the church. There is a piscina in the south wall and an ambry in the north wall. The dark oak chair in the Sanctuary is Jacobean and the light oak from the days of William and Mary.

New work has been carried out in the church within this and the last century. The chancel was partly re-built and re-roofed in this last century. The modern rood screen, erected in 1938, is the work of Herbert Read of Exeter as is also the beautiful carved reredos which was placed in the church in 1923. Both are memorial gifts of the Stratton-Coles family.

The south chapel behind its modern small screen was originally a chantry chapel but after the reformation it was used by the Lord of the Manor as a manorial pew until the 19th Century. The chapel window showing coats of arms of the local family suffered bomb damage in the last war, although it was restored using much of the original glass. The chapel was restored as a memorial chapel in 1949 to those from the parish who lost their lives during the 2nd World War.

The original old pitch-pine pews have been replaced by simple oak ones along with the altar rail and choir stall, the dedication of which was performed in 1968.

Over the south door is a memorial of Thomas Hardwick, in the form of the Royal Coat of Arms of William IV. This has recently been restored.

The tower is mainly 15th Century with fine peal of bells which bear the following inscriptions:
1. Anno Domini 1637
2. Mr. Joseph Shepard Ch. Warden 1748
3. V.A. Ch. W. 1734
4. Anno Domini 1637
5. Anno Domini 1637 (recast 1906)
6. (Modern 1906)

The tower was, in recent years, found to be unsafe and a great deal of repair work has been carried out which unfortunately led to its changed appearance.

Communion plate belonging to the church includes an Elizabethan silver gilt Chalice and Paten. There is also a silver flagon of pleasant design presented to the church in 1739. The earliest registers date from 1667 and there is a list of vicars dating from 1322. All ancient registers and records are now stored in the Museum at Taunton. In the porch are old stones of various dates found in different parts of the church.

There is one old story linking the Church to the Priory. In 1849. during repairs to the north wall of the nave, a reliquary was found hidden behind a piece of carved stone. In the back of the reliquary was a carved recess holding a small wooden cup containing traces of a dark substance. It is believed to be one of the wooden cups sold by the monks of Canterbury claiming they contained water mixed with drops of the blood of St. Thomas a Becket. Presumably the monks of the Priory, fearing the dissolution of their church and Abbey, hid their most precious relic in the wall of the Parish Church. This cup is now held in the Taunton Museum. A modern collage hangs in the porch depicting a monk journeying from Canterbury back to the Priory with the relic.

The churchyard re-ordering was begun in 1976 and shrubs and trees were planted to turn it into a peaceful garden of rest and repose to be enjoyed by all. This work was carried out under the guidance of the vicar of that date, Canon Leslie Ward.
The Church is a standing memorial to the skills of centuries of craftsmen and the use of the very best materials – all coming together for the Glory of God. In this last half of the 20th Century many smaller additions and gifts have been incorporated into the Church. Some gifts may be used for a limited time, such as hymn books and service sheets. Others will stand the test of time such as the new oak lectern made by the brother of the vicar, Reverend Bryan Strange. A figure of Mary and Child is cast in rigid plastic material.

St. Paul’s Church is the living Body of Christ – may you find in this building ‘the Living Stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.’ (1 Peter 2 v 4)

The view from the tower of St. Paul’s Church: