Beercrocombe Church History Notes
Beercrocombe church has been dedicated to St. James from its earliest days, and is in the Ilminster Deanery, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.
Research indicates there was a Church on the present site from the 13th century, a time when many newly established parishes acquired their own Church. The present Church may have been built by John Harwell, John and his wife Margery were Lords of the manor from 1402
Some evidence of the 13th century Church remains, in particular the lancet window on the north wall, but the Church is predominately 15th century built in the Perpendicular style, with further additions made in the next century. The tower is 15th century.
It seems likely the Church was originally thatched and we do know the Chancel roof line was altered following storm damage in 1703, but it is reasonable to assume that the Church as we see it today was completed by the early part of the 17th century.
The Nave is capable of seating 80 people on mainly Victorian pews, however to the rear of the Church are four early pews thought to date between 1180 and 1220. These pews predate the Church and must have originated elsewhere, maybe the now disappeared Church at nearby Capland.
On the north wall is an Achievement, restored in 1997. It was found that the 1762 version we see now is a palimpsest of an earlier 1660 one, the older one being rotten and worm eaten was trimmed and a new Achievement made using the old boards.
Also on the north wall is a tomb recess, records do not record who or indeed if anyone was buried beneath the tomb, such tombs can also serve as monuments as well as places of internment, however only the ‘great and the good’ were accorded the privilege of being commemorated within their parish Church.
There are two tombs beneath the nave carpet commemorating members of the Durman (Dorman) family, who died in the 18th century. Durmans are recorded as living in the village from 1569, when Francis Dorman is listed on the Muster Roll, to the 1930’s. Again history does not tell why the Durmans should be honoured in this way.
A list of Rectors through the ages is displayed on the west wall, the church today must look much as it did to most of them. The Rev. Arthur Voules, who was Rector here for 40 years, is buried in the churchyard.
The Chancel Ceiling.
Visitors will notice the traditional blue ceiling in the Chancel. In the early middle ages, artists had no means of producing a strong blue colour. Vegetable dyes and clay washes merely produced a muddy unattractive hue. The only source of a vivid blue was the semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, which was rare and expensive.
The colour blue therefore came to be regarded as a special colour, to be used sparingly, and to represent items of particular worth, for example the Virgin Mary is traditionally represented in blue clothing. It may also be true that the choice of blue for the face of church clocks echoes this idea.
At a later stage access to blue dyes became easier but the notion of blue as a special colour persisted.
Various phases of restoration have taken place , the most recent being from 1994-1997, details of which are recorded in a commemorative book within the Church.
A visit by Sir Stephen Glynn on 13th February 1857 notes - the Church is in a bleak lonely position, the interior is neat and has undergone recent restoration. Although he does not record the details of the restoration, he says the Nave has open seats and the Chancel is stalled, and there is a plain perpendicular rood screen.
Further major restoration was undertaken in 1897, the details of which are lodged in the Count Record Office. The restoration was to commemorate Queen Victoria’s long reign, and a total of £370 was raised.
St. James has never been a wealthy Church, but it has been fortunate that each ucceeding generation has played their part in keeping it in good repair.
After a recent visitation by the Rural Dean he wrote -
‘much time, care and money has been spent on this much loved little church, and it
is wonderful to see it in such good condition.
I offer my congratulation and good wishes to the whole congregation.’
For a period of six years, the village was privileged to listen to one of the most influential thinkers of the time, however why John Wesley visited Beercrocombe is not known.
Extracts from his Journal record:
September 1746, Thursday 18th., “ about one I preached at Beercrocombe”
June 1747, Wednesday 24th, “we rode to Beercrocombe, hoping to reach Tavistock the next day”
July 1747, Monday 27th, “ once more to Beercrocombe”
September 1748 ,Thursday 15th., “I rode to Beercrocombe, where, between six and seven I preached to a serious congregation”
August 1750, Wednesday 1st. “ hence we rode to Beercrocombe and the next day to Cullompton”
August 1751, Wednesday 21st., “we reached Beercrocombe in the evening, and Cullompton the next day”
September 1751, Friday 27th., “In the evening I preached at Beercrocombe, and on Saturday came to Bristol”
The Church bells were restored and augmented in 1999, thanks in large part to the Millennium project ‘Ringing in the Millennium’. Under the scheme grants of 50% could be awarded for the restoration of bells that had been silent for 30 years or more.
With the help of other grant giving bodies, private donations and gifts, the total of £36,000 needed was raised in 1999.
The cracked Tenor bell was recast, the original treble, 2nd and 3rd were restored to become the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of the new ring of five bells. A new treble bell, the Millennium bell was cast . From old Vestry records it was discovered that Beercrocombe did have five bells at one time: in 1861 a bell was removed for scrap because it was broken, so once again we have a peel of five bells.
Treble cast by John Taylor, Loughborough, September 9th 1999. After much deliberation the new team of bellringers decided upon the
“Another bell rang backalong
Now here am I to sing my song”
2ndcast by Bayley Street & Co. 1756 , Inscribed
“Praise ye the Lord with one accord, Thomas Vile Churchwarden”
3rd cast by John Taylor, Loughborough, in 1861
4thcast by Robert Austen, Compton Dundon, in 1626.
The bell has a border of flowers and crowns, and ornamental bands of Tudor Roses and Thistles, thought to be an allusion to the then
recent union of England and Scotland.
Tenor cast by Thomas Wroth in 1721, and inscribed :
“Mr. Robert Jefferies Churchwarden”
The peaceful churchyard contains the remains of many people who have spent their lives in Beercrocombe, worshipped in the church and been confronted by all the worries of every day life, no matter what century they lived in.
Only very few have headstones to mark their resting place.
There are three box tombs and five headstones dating from the 18th century, the inscriptions are worn but a recent project has deciphered and recorded the inscriptions.
The oldest memorial is the box tomb nearest to the gate, in memory of Henrie Morley, who died in 1644, his son Roger Morley who died 1655, and another member of the family, Richard Morley who died 1708. In 1674 the churchwardens were noted as Richard Morley, possibly the same person as buried here, and Henry Morley maybe his son, both of whom may be descendants of Henrie Morley.
St. James Church Beercrocombe
The Church has been dedicated to St. James since its earliest days and is thought to date back to the 13th century.
It is a small, welcoming country Church that conveys an air of rustic peace and tranquillity.
The Parish is part of a United Benefice called 'The Seven Sowers'