About Our Church
The Church Room
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
The church is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, this dedication was made in the Reign of Henry the Third, 1216 to 1272, the previous dedication is not known. The present church consists of Clerestoried Chancel, N & S transepts, Crossing tower, Clerestoried Nave, Aisles and S. Porch.
Village tradition believes that the original church was built in AD 824 , though all traces of this building have long since disappeared.
This early date comes from ‘an ancient notebook’ found in the parish chest and mentioned by the Rev. H. Henry Tripp in a pamphlet he wrote in the 1930’s about the church’s history and listing the restoration carried out from 1920 to 1932, and the various finds made when the plaster etc. was removed from the walls.
This date is of great interest, in AD 842. Aethulwulf, King of the West Saxons granted an estate of 25 hides of land in Ditcheat and Lottisham to Eanulf his ‘Princeps’, a copy of this charter in Latin with the bounds of the estate in English is listed as S.292 in the Electronic Sawyer. Di. Clements included the bounds in her pamphlet about Ditcheat.
Eanulf gave the estate to Glastonbury Abbey before his death in AD.867 perhaps as his ‘Soul Scot’, the abbey still held the estate at the time of The Domesday Inquest and continued to do so until the ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’.
The church is of considerable architectural interest with evidence of several periods in its walls. We have no knowledge of the original design, was it a simple two cell i.e. Nave and Chancel or a three cell with Nave , Crossing and Chancel, probably built of timber.
The Cruciform design suggests a Norman origin.
The oldest part is the lower storey of the tower , possibly C12, the remains of a Norman arch still visible in the N. Transept, this arch was filled in many years ago when further building work was in progress, the present tower is not on the same centre line as this arch, raising an interesting question about what alterations have taken place. The small windows of the tower may be of this period as is the pilaster strip on the S. face.
The chancel has undergone several rebuilds and alterations. It was rebuilt in the 13th.century to replace the existing one, the lower windows being fine examples of this period.
Until the 15th century the church must have had comparatively low side walls with high pitched roofs, Note drip mould of former roof on the W. face of the tower, the tower at this time must not have been much higher than the roof ridges. The Nave was enlarged with aisles, clerestory and a flat oak roof, transepts rebuilt, Dr. John Harvey has a photograph of the roof in his book ‘Gothic England’, he dates it to c.1470-1490.The Tower was raised by adding a belfry storey. Massive diagonal buttresses were added to the two east corners of the tower to support the additional weight above and the space between the buttress base and the arch was used to insert a squint, the S. one being designed as a doorway, the Northern opening being subsequently cut down to floor level. The space under the tower was filled with a fan vault.
The walls of the chancel were raised to about the same height as the nave and additional windows forming a clerestory were inserted giving it the appearance of a two-storied building.
The chancel was separated from the nave by a rood screen and a rood loft accessed by a door in the N. arch . This was cleverly done, a staircase from an entrance in the N. aisle crossed over the aisle/transept arch to the rood door. The corbels of the rood loft are still visible in the nave. The rood -loft would probably have been demolished in the 16th/17th century.
The S .porch is of double height, there is no evidence that it had a floor inserted.