ST MARTIN'S CHURCH
A BRIEF HISTORY 20p
[Extract from a Parish Newsletter]
THE CHURCH BUILDINGS
October 4th is the Sunday observed at the Feast of the Dedication. We read in John 10 that Jesus was at this Feast in Jerusalem. It would be about two months later than the date we now observe in October (which corresponds to the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, the equivalent of our Christian Harvest Thanksgiving.
The Feast of Dedication is often confused with the Patronal Festival which is that on the Day of the Patron Saint. The reason for the uniform date is that with many ancient Churches like ours, the actual dates are not known. In Kingsbury the original Church is no longer visible. It would have been a Saxon Church of wood and stone, and its Patron Saint, St Martin, points to a time when that Saint was popular for Country Churches after 400 AD.
The family name most anciently associated with Kingsbury is Landbroc. It so happens that the old Chapelry of St James was probably built by the Normans, whilst the Landbrocs retained their Saxon connections with Kingsbury, living at Middle Lambrook; and later as we shall see being concerned with the building of the Tower there around 1450.
The old building at Kingsbury would probably have survived till well into the 1300s when the new centre arcade of arches was built to support a new building. That at St James' antedates this period to the time when its central arch was first built, and its thick rubble walls later pierced at various periods with windows of different dates. The hooded arch of the East window is the oldest of what is called the Decorated period between 1300-1400.
At St Martin's the division between the old and the new is broadly represented by the Blue Lias stone and the Hamstone - the former being the older - with intermediate building of the aisles, Porch and Clerestory.
The Tower, Chancel and Transept (the present Chapel) are later additions 1460-1500, but all would have been completed before Henry VIII and the Reformation as various little details show. These details are interesting and have to be looked for as follows.
Bishops and Deans Of Wells Coats of Arms in the Transept are of around 1460 where some of the old stained glass survives. (We are told by the Royalist diarist Simmons that during the Civil War these windows and those of the aisle (South?) were full of heraldic glass. It looks as though most of it perished then at the hands of the Puritans)> Two little vivid heads and faces in the old Chapel on the South (now filled with the organ) high up in the tracery of the East window, give a clear picture of Tudor features and hair style with a Tudor Rose, and probably date to the end of the Wars of the Roses. This appears also in the two figures on the East face of the Tower above the Nave roof. One has a hat and scarf of this period, and the other appears to support a model of a building on his knee, with a mason's apron. Several figures in niches and angel corbels on the Tower South and West faces have been beheaded, but a Bishop and a King seems to have survived high up. The stone Coats of Arms (four) are solid memorials to the Landbroc and Rodbard family - the crowning jewel being the two small well preserved figures about 12 feet up in the SW buttress corner wearing rosaries and kneeling facing round the angle. This must represent the marriage of Katherine Landbroc and John Rodbard (of Merriott) around 1410 - a date known; and would point to the tower being built (of solid Hamstone with fine Somerset tracery in the blank windows, quatrefoils on the string courses and surmounting pinnacles, and animals and natural carving on the corner spouts) - perhaps in their older years.
Another feature is the evidence of the construction of the Parvise (Look out) over the Porch - a Crucifix over the little window and a blocked doorway (now revealed, following repairs and renovations in 1989) from the Turret from the Nave. There may well have been a squint (view of the High Altar from the interior of the Porch and an Easter Sepulchre - now sometimes called 'the Old Man's Seat - on the exterior of the South aisle wall), whilst another doorway from the North Turret probably gave on to the Great Rood Screen, now cut off, which still has the sockets for the Crucifixion Rod. It is interesting also to note the heavy buttress supporting the old South aisle arch, the symmetry of which seems to have cut into by the outside wall - as also clearly where the South East Tower Buttress is built right into the West window by the South aisle, and the interior buttress standing in the body of the Nave inside with empty niches - giving a completely free standing Tower of immense panelled and vaulted construction under.
There are many other details but all these bear upon the date and worshipping usage of the building. In this respect reference should also be made to the two old stained glass intact high up in the tracery of the two sanctuary windows. The bizarre animal figures, forming the spout outlets on the South side of the Nave, Chancel and Vestry may have as much reference to the worshipping order of the natural creation as to local superstitions. (see Isaiah 6, Joel 2:21 and Revelation 4:6-9, 5:8-14, where Seraphim and Beasts are closely connected in the Visions).
I have not mentioned the details of St James except to show how closely and strangely connected our two Churches are. They are in the old Hundred of Kingsbury, and their connections have probably more to do with the civil relations of the three men-at-arms who figure in Domesday and make up the separate manorial units. The Churchwardens, or rather Chapel Wardens accounts of the 18th century when St James was restored are of great interest. But note too that the people most concerned with the Restoration of St Martin's in 1845-50 were the Rector of East Lambrook, Mr Kenning Fowler and the tenant of Lord Portman at New Cross - Mr George Parsons; associated also with Jonathan Hearne at Thorney (who tenanted two coal yards, one belonging to William Stuckey who lived at Thorney Mill, and the other to the Wyndham estate). These details are taken from the tithe award of that date.
THE TOWER. Height 99' - to pinnacles.
As one of the Quantock Group - distinctive (horizontal Decor), tradition connects it with that of Huish Episcopi. It is heavier, less harmonious, but dominating - 'a 'King' to a 'Queen' - although 'Kingsbury' is 'Chine' or 'Combesbury'!
due to hipped Buttresses 3/4 up.
heavy top canopy.
solid ashlar Hamstone construction.
The technical construction is clearly visible where it cuts into the North Aisle windows.
Carved Figures - many mutilated - almost certainly in Puritan revolution when the Church suffered deprivation after losing protection of the Landbrocs and Rodbards who seem to have left Mid-Lambrook at around 1600.
(a) Architect or Mason - Patron SE NE on E face - ditto
on W face.
(b) Bishop or St Martin on S face.
(c) Modern - St Martin over 1914-18 memorial.
(d) Two little figures - probably Katherine de Landbroc and
John Rodbard, married about 1400 - on the SW corner
about 15' up, 15th century, kneeling with rosaries.
(e) Sun or Mass Dial SW buttress.
Pale Wavy of Six 3 Sable Oxen Chevron D'or Azure
Lambroc = Rodbard 1404
A Chevron Ermine Between 3 Leopards Faces
Claveshley Married Rodbard c1570
Two Crescents A Bar Pale Wavy of 6
Lambroc - pre 1066
A Chevron or Azure 3 Sable Oxen
With acknowledgement to the Reverend K W Puddy for the text. 1987/8 and Miss E A Swain for the Art work.