Portrait of a Parish - Page 13

Church of St. Michael and All Angels

An entry in the Domesday Book of 1086 states that "The Church holds Cume", showing by the use of the Celtic word "Cume" or "Cwm" that the origins of the settlement go back a long way. It was an English, not a Norman king who gave the land to the Benedictine monks who founded Bath Abbey.

St. Michael and All Angels Church

The earliest church building of which we have any record, dates from Norman times and the nearby dovecote gives evidence of living quarters for the monks who came from the Abbey to supervise and work in their domain, with the church as their chapel. This small Norman building, with "a tower at the west end holding two bells" lasted until the two rebuildings of the 19th Century, in 1814 and 1865. The two bells are still held in the church, a plaque on the south wall refers to burials of the Shute family from 1505, now covered over, and the memorial to Katherine Bassett in the west wall of the south aisle was once part of a large tomb of that family in Tudor times. The earliest register of Births and Deaths, now held at the Somerset Record Office, dates from 1593, and one of the Communion Chalices still in use bears the date 1634. By the 20th Century the third church to be erected on the site had been built by the Vicar, the Reverend Francis Pocock, who also founded Monkton Combe School. The boundaries of the ecclesiastical parish had already been re-arranged to make a new parish up the hill on Combe Down, thus pre-dating the division of the civil parish some hundred years later. St. Michael's was served by two more Vicars in the first half of the century before the long interregnum which followed the death of the Reverend Percy Warrington in 1961.

The next eight or nine years were testing ones for the reduced population of Monkton Combe, but the will to preserve the integrity of the Church was there, and the final outcome was the creation of a joint Benefice with Holy Trinity in Combe Down and St. James in Southstoke, sharing the services of the appointed Vicar and Curate of Combe Down, lay Readers and other faithful Priests. The churchyard serves Combe Down as well as Monkton.

This happy arrangement ha enabled a congregation, whose numbers, compared with the population of the village as a whole are at or above the national average, to continue to worship in the community to which it belongs. One Service a week is held regularly, there is an active Youth wing, supported by senior students from Monkton Combe School. For Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve the church is full, and on the special occasions of the Epiphany Play and Harvest Festival there have been lunches to which the whole Parish was invited, limited only by the capacity of the Village Hall in which they were held.

There is a monthly newsletter, delivered to every household in the Parish, which carries village news as well as church affairs. The clock has been restored to chime the daytime hours and the bells are rung for services each week, as well as on national occasions. Many people will remember the peal which ushered in the Millennium Year of 2000 AD.

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