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In Somerset’s green and pleasant land

July 30, 2012

This week I am in Somerset. There are many glorious churches here, many with superb towers. All built to the glory of God. The trouble with here is deciding which churches to see. There are so many good ones that I have only been able to choose a selection to whet your appetite. Go and explore, there are some real gems to discover.

St. Mary’s, Ilminster


Right in the heart of this little town sits St. Mary’s. A minster church – that means a place which had several priests who went out to serve the neighbouring parishes. St. Mary’s is open every day. The signs outside do not say this as such but do say ‘Welcome to St. Mary’s.’ There are the usual guidebooks for sale as well as postcards of the church. There are lots of leaflets on the Christian faith – mainly from SgmLifewords (see previous post about leaflets on these). 30 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There are also some leaflets available entitled ‘Living with loss.’

This really is a stunning church. There is a prayer chapel for quiet prayer, a prayer board with leaflets on how to pray. There is also some folders about the World War 1 and 2 local war dead. These are very welcome and well done.

I would rate this church as very good.






St. Mary the Virgin, Isle Abbotts

Welcome at Isle Abbotts

The signs outside are pretty basic but there is a good welcome sign stood up in the porch. Inside, I found that 13 people had signed the visitors book in the last month There are guides available, post cards and book marks. There is also small library. Perhaps more interestingly there is a display of the tower restoration of a few years ago and also more recent parish events. This all helps to show that this is more than a beautiful building but is a living community of Christians. This is a lovely church to visit and I would rate it as OK on my very scientific rating system (I will have to do a post on how I have worked this out – there is a system!).





St. Catherine’s, Swell

St. Catherine’s, Swell

What a find! A great little church in the middle of no where. Next to a large manor house. This isn’t one of the great Somerset churches but it is very lovely one. So peaceful. It is signed from the roads with signs which say simply, ‘Ancient Church’. There is no actual church sign outside but I can forgive St. Catherine’s much. There is a short guide and some cards available. Some 11 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There are prayer boards and some leaflets on how to pray and different ways to  pray. Also, a copy of 1000 best churches is left open at the entry for Swell. There is also the story of St. Catherine of Alexandria. I wish that more churches would make something of their patron saint. There is a pilgrim’s stamp to use. Also, and quit unusually, there are several posters displayed with Bible verses on. All in all a lot of effort has gone into welcoming visitors here. I rate this as very good.










St. Andrew’s, Curry Rivel

Curry Rivel

This church is open and there is a very clear welcome. The signage is very good. Only 5 visitors had signed the book in the last month. There is a question, comment and prayer board which is a bit out of the ordinary. There is also a simple notice which directs family history enquirers to the local county record office. Some children’s work is displayed. Again, there are Bible verse posters. Yet mores secondhand books for sale! There is a WW1 folder giving information on those who gave their lives during that conflict. I also found a prayer display and there is a side chapel for quiet and prayer. This is a wonderful and peaceful church which I would rate as good +.









St. Mary Magdalen, Taunton

A welcome from the Vicar – St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton

A large church in the centre of a bustling town. he signage is very good with a clear welcome being given to the visitor. Inside was busy as the church runs a successful cafe. There is a good books shop with a good selection of Christian books and gifts, and also so,me secondhand books. There is a private chapel for prayer and prayer slips and a votive stand to use. There is also a nice welcome notice from the vicar with a picture of his smiling visage. A good idea, although that might depend on what the vicar looks like! I would rate this as very good.







St. Jame’s, Taunton

St. Jame’s, Taunton with blood lorry outside

Just down the road is St. James. Another fine church with another characteristic Somerset tower. This was sort of open . They were having a blood donors session in the church so it wasn’t possible to have a really good look around. This church is strongly evangelical and what is available inside reflects that. They even have a sign on their leaflet rack which says; ‘Have you read your Bible today?’ (I have as a matter of fact). I am not sure that that is the best welcome to give to a visitor although it is an important and worthwhile thing to do. There are some gospels and tracts available. I would rate this as OK for the visitor.








All Saints, Trull

The Churchtourism study on tour at All Saints, Trull

This is a nice church to visit. The signs outside don’t give much away but the church is open. There is a welcome notice on the door which has been made by two children. Inside there are gospels and post cards as well as one or two other leaflets to take away. There is also water and a glass for the thirsty pilgrim – something not often seen. There are pictures of the PCC members and clergy, and a happy bunch they look to be. Only 6 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There is also a small prayer tree to hang ‘leaf’ prayers  onto.  I would   rate this as good.




St. Mary the Virgin, Kingston St. Mary

The visitor will find a good welcome here. There are guides to buy as well as some simple laminated sheets to wander around with. There are some other faith based leaflets as well. A children’s area is set up for use.The lectionary is left open on the last Sunday’s readings. I quite like this as I think that we can be too tidy in churches. By leaving a Bible or Lectionary open, as well as leaving hymn numbers up, we are saying that this is a living church community that worships here Sunday by Sunday. Again there are only 6 entries in the visitors book for the last month. One thing that caught my eye was ‘A resent for the Visitor’, the notice of which explained that there was a booklet of tales about the village for the visitor. Unfortunately, they seemed to have all been taken! I suppose that that is a good thing. There is quite a bit of interest at St. Mary’s and I would rate this as OK

St. Mary the Virgin, Kingston St. Mary


Kingston St. Mary









St. Mary’s,North Petherton

Prayer corner at St. Mary’s, North Petherton

When I visited two friendly ladies were painting the church door! Having carefully negotiated that I found myself in a very interesting church. There is a lovely quiet chapel for prayer here, a votive stand to use and a prayer request board. There are some leaflets around, including some about getting a baby baptised and about getting married. These had been locally produced to a good standard. A good local history display rounds off a good church to visit.I rate this as good.






St. Mary’s, Westonzoyland

Battle of Sedgemoor visitor centre at St. Mary’s, Westonzoyland

Another church open with ok signage. On entering I found some guides and a children’s area.15 visitors in the last month, by the book anyway. It must actually be many more. This church is unusual because it houses the Battle of Sedgemoor Visitor Centre. This explains in some detail what has become known as the Pitchfork Rebellion of 1685. The last battle where Englishmen fought Englishmen. It is very well done. There is a prayer tree to use and an open Bible on a side altar Also yet more secondhand books! These are obviously very common.This is an interesting church with  much to offer the visitor. I would rate this as good +

St. John the Baptist, Glastonbury

Hour glass on pulpit at St. John the Baptist, Glastonbury

Glastonbury is a strange place in many ways and it is good that St. John’s is on the High Street in the centre of town and giving a strong, Christian witness amongst many other competing ideologies. The signs are very good and very welcoming. There were some stewards on duty when I called in. There are visitors leaflets in several languages, a shop and a small lending library. A children’s area is set up to use. There is a quiet chapel and a votive stand to light candles. Many prayer slips had been laid out on an altar. This really gives a sense that they are being taken seriously.Some lights were on in the chancel to help highlight this. This really is an interesting church to visit and I would rate it ass very good. 74 people had signed the visitor book in the last month by the way.










St. Cuthbert, Wells

Prayers at St. Cuthbert’s, Wells

A large church in the centre of this small city. It is open each day. There are guide booklets available. There is a children’s area with artwork displayed. 125 people had signed the book in the last month. A votive stand and prayer board cater for prayer. The Trinity Chapel is set aside for quiet and prayer. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved there. The roof is amazing! This i a good church for the visitor.

St. Cuthbert’s, Wells

Wells Cathedral

My study is concerned with ordinary parish churches but I did call in on the cathedral as a contrast. What is most noticable is how professional it all is and more commercial. It is quite hard to get in without paying as you are made to feel that you have to, although it is voluntary. It is a fabulous place and well worth spending time in. There are people to give tours and a good shop and refectory. A far cry indeed from the humble parish church. I like visiting both.



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  1. simontcope permalink

    We shall hold you to that blog post on your rating system, Louise & I have been wondering!

  2. simontcope permalink

    We shall hold you to that blog post on your rating system, Louise & I have been wondering how it works!

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