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Life magazine - October 2016

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A History of Walton Church

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This account was found in the church.  The author is unknown.  Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version of the picture.


The parish church of the Holy Trinity is in the centre of Walton village, which in turn is claimed to be the geographical centre of Somerset.


The present church is not old; having been completely rebuilt in 1865/6 on the site of - and incorporating wall fragments from - an earlier stone church: with a North aisle added to the original floor plan. It is known that the tower was centrally placed in the older church and was only moved to the North face in about 1830: to be rebuilt in 1865 and further altered in 1886. It is also known that early in the 15th Century a porch was added to the South face. This was later converted to a vestry and continued in use as such until 1865.

Some confusion exists as to the designer of the rebuilt church. Generally the Victorian architect, J.Norton, is quoted, but some contemporary documents also attribute the work to the Rev. J. F. Turner. Whoever was the designer, the impression grows that architect and builders were straining to produce a work containing all the examples of organic change which normally co-exist in a village church gradually developing since Early English times.


The fabric is of the local stone, blue lias, which wears well and which gives a soft, grey but somewhat severe aspect to the building. This look of severity, particularly noticeable from the main road, disappears when standing to the South of the building, and when viewed from the top of Walton Hill; the church, with its well wooded surrounds, fits perfectly and sympathetically into the village environment.

Windows vary greatly in style. Those which are North facing are of a flattened 3 light Perpendicular design. Those on the South vary as one moves along the face.   The chancel is lit by two 14th C twin lights with trefoils, while the nave has for lighting both 15th C and 14th C patterns. The east window is in the Early English reticulated style with three lights, and a central star. The West front has a large four light window in the Decorated design.





















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Photos of the old Walton Church
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Quod potuit window
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Ecce ancilla window

The present South porch is high roofed and in Early English pattern with a keystone cross on the open arch. The effect is pleasing.


The tower; which lost its four corner pinnacles in 1887, to be replaced by the present spire, has belfry windows in plain Early English mode. The peal is five bells, of which the tenor (16cwt) is the oldest, being cast in 1637.


The clock was installed in 1887 (During the repairs ?) in memory of the Rev. D A.Phillips, a former rector.


This curious sequence : Tower moved in 1830; general rebuilding in 1865; collapsing stone pinnacles removed in 1887 , casts doubt on the actual extent of the 'demolition' of the tower.


The interior, with its high plain walls, gives a cool, peaceful impression. The nave is wide, fitted with pews of local oak, little decorated.


The pulpit is of stone, with a wrought iron banister capped with oak. The oak is of ancient origin,recarved.


Most other fittings are unremarkable, but the altar, of painted wood, is unusual. It is of the 'Sarum' type. There is no reredos.


The font, particularly ornate in the early Victorian manner, was given by Lord John Thynne (rector 1823 to 50). The supporting pillars are of Cork marble with a Painswick stone bowl.


There are few memorial tablets, possibly due to the rebuilding, nor are there ledger stones or memorial flags on the floor.


A plaque records the children of Lord John Thynne.  



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Plaque about the clock
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Plaque listing the Thynne children

The only medieval carving in the church is of a parish priest of around 1300: possibly an early Rector of Street with Walton. Discovered probably when the tower was being resited in 1830, the Doulting stone coffin lid effigy, although the stone is worn, can be seen to be a priest at prayer and robed for celebrating Mass.


On the West wall is a translation of a 1543 (Henry VIII) legal document setting out an agreement reached over tithes and firewood between the Rector (in 1543 one Thos. Bull) and the King's Commissioners for Glastonbury Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. This record of a court settlement throws one small chink of light onto a complicated three cornered struggle between Abbey against Diocese and the Crown on one hand, and Abbey and the parish clergy on the other, which had gone on for at least 400 years. In 725 ) A.D., the Saxon King, Ina granted to the newly re-established Abbey of Glastonbury a charter. This document, probably the subject of poor translation and then extensive forgery in the 12th C., was the basis for Abbey claims which led to considerable legal and physical fighting over the centuries.


As we see from the court deed, even the Dissolution of the Abbey did not end the struggles. Incidentally, Thos. Bull got his firewood, or 33/4d a year in compensation. But  in return Henry's treasury claimed, and got, the 60s a year pension paid by a rector to the Abbey since 1191.


 A wooden tablet lists the rectors of Walton and Street until the parishes separated in 1886. There are the usual gaps showing lost records during periods of turmoil. The list restarts with Walton alone until the appointment of the last rector in 1954. Walton is now, since 1977, a parish in a group with the clergy headed by the Rector of Street.


Saxon pressure seems to have driven the Britons from the immediate area around 650 A.D. About 700 A.D. the former Celtic monastery at Glastonbury was revived under royal Saxon patronage. By about 740 A.D. the general lines of parish boundaries in this area seem to have been fixed. This early development may well have been due to the organising urges of the monastic authorities.


Walton was a manor of the Abbey. Domesday talks about 30 hides. A hide for tax purposes (Danegeld) was counted as about 150 acres worked under the 3 field system. Thus Walton could have been some 4500 acres, all owned and directly managed by the Abbey.


 A Norman church was erected at about 1150 and rebuilt about 1350, when Street church was going up. Street was one of the 'seven churches' claimed by the Abbey under the Ina charter. Walton was in effect a chapelry of Street but the rectors of Street - when resident - lived at Walton in some style.


With the Dissolution of the monasteries and the scramble for monastic assets, Sir John Thynne of Longleat acquired Walton; lock, stock and barrel. The entire village was owned by the Bath estate until sold by auction in 1939.


The population rose slowly from the 150 or so in 1087 to nearly 400 in 1801, and nearly 800 by 1845. Emigration, enclosures and agricultural depression severely drove down the numbers as the 19th C. rolled on.


With the rise in importance of Street and the growth of a more varied, mobile society, the population started to rise again and is now approaching 1000 people.

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List of Walton rectors
Walton Church