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The Church at Norton St Philip Jenny Short

A walk in the mists of time!

In the footsteps of the famous round a local village.
An historic walk around the lovely village of Norton St Philip was the order of the day this week, and members gathered outside the ancient church of St Philip and St James under the tree on the village green opposite the school. The mediaeval church was our first port of call, somewhat unusual in that many of the pews have been removed from its centre to enable more flexible, twenty first century , community use. This large, airy, open space enabled us to view the stained-glass windows in all their glory, to marvel at the elaborately panelled, barrel tinder roof and to examine closely the intricate black and gold gates across the chancel arch that commemorate a former incumbent. There is an impressive list of former vicars in the entrance that dates from the 13th century to the present day, and a clock (with no face!) that chimes the quarters and the hour. This is useful if you know the code, and tuneful otherwise!

Samuel Pepys as well as Queen Anne, wife of James 1st, have dined in the village and visited this church, situated as it is across the open expanse of, Church Mead, a short walk from the George Inn. This large, open space is currently home to the village cricket team, but in days gone by provided ample room for archery practice, and was traditionally known as “The Butts.” An excerpt from Pepys’ Diary is displayed at the base of the church tower. It mentions the tomb of “the Fair Maids of Foscott”, now long gone, save for the two stone carved heads that had adorned it. Pepys, true to character, was curious about the remains within the tomb. It seems they were of cojoined twins, ( with “two bodies upward and one belly”) that unusually the village saw fit to commemorate.

The village itself is full of history and local legends, and we walked its narrow lanes to discover the Touchstone Bridge that once marked the turning point for the Silent Order of monks required to exercise weekly by walking there and back from the Priory at nearby Hinton, and the Tudor dovecote that remains in one of the gardens adjacent to the old Manor Farm with its now converted Tithe Barn dwellings. We marched up Chever’s Lane, as had the Royalist troops on 27th June 1685, advancing upon the Duke of Monmouth who had barricaded the Soho end of North Street to prevent the Royalist army accessing his lodgings at The George. Chever’s Lane is known locally as “Blood Lane”. Reputedly the street ran with the blood of the battle that took place there that day and cost the lives of 80 Royals but only 18 rebels. After the uprising, Judge Jefferies presided over the very public execution of twelve village men associated with the defeat of the Royalists behind the Fleur de Lys inn

We took refreshment at The George Inn having explored its Tudor front, its tiny courtyard surrounded by open, galleried Tudor balconies to modern guest rooms, and the once dungeon, now party room, down some steps. Home of the monks before they built the Priory at Hinton, the Inn was granted a licence by the Prior long before other hostelries were licensed by law in 15th Century England, and was used as a guesthouse by them before it was expanded, as Norton became a centre of importance in the wool trade and gained charters to hold two fairs annually in the nearby aptly named “Fair Close.”

Certainly a walk to remember! We look to an evening excursion next week in the hope that those who work during the day , or have other responsibilities, might be able to join us

Jenny Short 10. 08.2022