We would like to welcome you to the Parish Church of Cheddar, dedicated to St. Andrew, and invite you to share some of its beauty and peace. The present building (with the exception of the 13th century chancel) was built between 1350 and 1450 and is probably the fourth church to be built on the site of an early Roman settlement. The graceful tower of 110ft has many Roman bricks used in its construction.
The earliest reference to a church in Cheddar is made in the will of King Alfred (died 901 AD) who left money to the ‘religious families’ or monastic community at Cheddar. The palace of the Saxon Kings was excavated on the nearby site of the Kings of Wessex Academy in 1960. In 1068, a Norman Charter refers to the Minster Church at Cheddar. The first vicar, William Giffard, son of the King’s Marshall, was appointed in 1130 AD and the Dean and Chapter of Wells Cathedral were granted the patronage of the church in 1240.
Hannah More, the famous philanthropist and educationalist opened in 1789 the first of her Mendip Sunday Schools at Hannah More Cottage in Lower North Street, Cheddar.
The centre section of the church was originally divided from the chancel by a wooden screen (which, because a crucifix was positioned on it, was called a rood screen – a Saxon word meaning ‘a cross’) This screen, of which only the aisle sections remain, had a gallery with access through the now blocked doorway in the north aisle. The supporting beam and moulding on the aisle walls indicate its original width. The crucifix over the screen was possibly removed in 1612 when the churchwardens ‘pd for the cutting down the image and plasterynge 7d’ In 1873, panels from the balcony were used to make the clergy and choir stalls.
The holes in the left hand side of the organ vestry permitted children either to watch the Lady Chapel services or for the hearing of confessions.
The Nave Ceiling
The oak-panelled ceiling is particularly ornate over where the crucifix was positioned.
The Church has one of Somerset’s finest examples of a 15th century carved stone pulpit. The medieval colours, restored in 1873, were cleaned in 1996.
Made in 1822 with oak from the rood-screen.
The 15th century iron-bonded oak chest has three locks – one each for the priest and two churchwardens – with a slot for cash offerings.
Four of the pillars on the south side which have plain moulded capitals were reused from an earlier church. They have square bases which once provided the only seating in the nave.
The font is late 14th century. The oak cover, with pomegranates around the base dates from refurnishing the church in the early 17th century.
The heads supporting the roof-braces are alternately those of King and Bishop denoting the ownership of Cheddar Manor. It was owned by the King until 1204 when the King sold the estate to Hugh, Archdeacon of Wells, for £20. He then sold it to the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1229. It remained in the possession of the Bishops until 1546 when it was transferred to Edward VI.
There are some 100 carved bench ends dating from the 16th/17th centuries. The straight-topped bench ends on the north aisle pews have interesting carvings illustrating ‘gossiping’.
These are (counting from the screen) on the left hand side:
No 3: two interlaced tongues – ‘babbling’;
No 5: three faces – ‘deceit’;
No 18: the poison of asps – ‘bitter words’;
And on the right hand side
No 11: a hand with a rosary.
Near the north door is a wall tablet commemorating Richard Cox Gough (1827-1902) who discovered the present Gough’s Cave in 1893.
On the left hand side of the chancel under the canopy is the tomb of Sir Thomas de Chedder (d.1443), a wealthy Bristol merchant, with a brass of a knight. On the floor is the brass of his widow, Lady Isabel de Chedder (d.1476) dressed in wimple and widow’s weeds. The inscriptions and shields on both brasses are missing.
On the right hand side of the chancel is the tomb of Edmund Roe (owner of Cheddar Manor) d. 1595. The inscription is missing. The four coats of arms (from the left) are: 1. Malherbe, 2. Symbols of the Passion, 3. Roe, 4. Seacroft.
Under the adjoining arch is a 13th century double piscine (washing bowls) used for the ablutions of the communion vessels and the priest’s hands.
The statue of St. Andrew on the north wall was purchased in 1926 and is believed to be of 16th century continental design. A similar statue is in the east cloister of Wells Cathedral.
The oak linen-fold panelling was made in 1920.
The two chapels on either side of the chancel each with separate doorways, were built and endowed as private chantry chapels in the late 14th century. They were dissolved in 1548 by Edward VI.
The Lady Chapel
The left chapel, now used as a choir and organ vestry, was formerly a chantry chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was endowed in 1362 by a William Huse, who bequeathed £200 for its building. There is an ornate single piscine behind the entrance door to the chancel. Robert de Chedder, twice Mayor of Bristol and an executor of William Huse, was buried in the chapel in 1384.
The Trinity Chapel
On the right side of the chancel in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity which dates from c.1380. It was originally endowed as a chantry chapel. The last chantry priest was a John Mattock who received an annual pension of £4 13s 4d at the dissolution of the chapel in 1584. The Laudian style altar table, dated 1631, was purchased by the churchwardens who ‘pd Thomas Smith for a new table board 25/-‘ and ‘received of Richard Cooper for the old table board 3s 4d’. There is a double piscine near the south doorway.
St Nectan’s Chapel
This beautiful chapel, build about 1490 by the Fitzwater family of Cheddar Hall, was the last addition to the church. It is dedicated to St. Nectan who was martyred at Hartland, Devon, in 550AD. In the ornate archway are the statues of St John the Baptist, St Augustine and St Stephen, whilst in the corner of the south window is a damaged statue of St Erasmus (or Elmo), a Syrian bishop martyred in 303AD and since honoured as the patron saint of sailors. The windows of this chapel contain a fine collection of stained glass made at Bristol c.1480 illustrating the heraldry of local families, the lives of St Barbara and Erasmus and, in the upper part of the east window, the Annunciation. The stone altar, with two of the original consecration crosses is pre-Reformation.
Under the Tower
The two large oil paintings were originally positioned over the chancel arch in 1803. They depict the stewardship of time (‘Father Time’) and Judgement (‘The Skeleton’).
There is a fine lierne stone vaulted ceiling to the belfry where there are 8 bells. The tenor 23cwt (1759 A.D.) was rehung in 2003. The oldest bell is the fifth which is pre-Reformation.
The church exterior, with its ornate pinnacles, gargoyles and parapets is worth viewing.
In the corner of the Trinity Chapel is a corbel head thought to have come from the Norman Minster Church.
On the south buttress of the Trinity Chapel is a scratch sundial.
Above the west window of the tower are the statues depicting the Annunciation – the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.
On the east side is the patron saint, Andrew. All these statues were conserved in 1998 when traces of medieval colouring were found.
Either side of the west doorway are the heads of Henry IV (d. 1413) and his Queen, Joan of Navarre (d. 1437). These were carved in 1970 to replace earlier heads
On the left side of the path leading to the war memorial is the grave of William Chatterton-Dix (1837 – 1898) author of several hymns including ‘As with gladness men of old’.
The churchyard cross, with its sculptures of the Crucifixion, Virgin and Child, and Saints Michael and George, was erected as a war memorial in 1920.
THE OLD VICARAGE
A ‘new’ Vicarage was built in 1829 replacing the Elizabethan building. There are significant remains of a Roman Villa under the lawn.
This bulding is now in private ownership with the current St Andrew’s Vicarage in another part of the village. At the north end of the building however is a door to the Church Office.
Notes by R.G. Hill M.A.
Copyright – Cheddar Parochial Church Council 2005