Two for the price of one on this first church crawl of the 2014 season organised by Andrew Densham - to St Michael’s, Brent Knoll, and St Mary’s East Brent, where we said Compline. As usual, the evening was rounded off very tastefully in the delightful Brent Knoll Inn.In both churches, Christopher Marsden-Smedley ensured we didn’t miss features well worth a second look, as well as contextualising our appreciation of our ecclesiastical surroundings by a few pointers to the wider historical interest of the localities in which they were situated. So, for example, he noted that the hill upon which St Michael’s stands has been a site of religious activity since the end of the Stone Age, not long after the building of Stonehenge. A little nearer our own time, we all diligently decoded the fascinating carvings on the pew ends which included not only some pagan references, but also just what the local people thought of a particularly grasping Abbot of Glastonbury who is depicted as a fox. The church dates from the 11C. There’s a Norman doorway, the north aisle was built in the late 15C, and the pulpit was put in place in the 17C. The 3-stage tower dates from around 1397. The churchyard boasts a modern and discreet solution to the loos-in-churches dilemma.
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St Mary’s church, one of whose churchwardens very kindly attended on us, is also a Grade I listed building, dating from the 15C, with the tower and spire being added around 1400.There’s a 15C eagle lectern and a 1634 pulpit.As part of a restoration in the 19C, the chancel was designed by William Butterfield, with a highly decorated ceiling.There’s one window entirely of mediaeval glass, and the north aisle windows have restored mediaeval glass figures of saints, remounted in Victorian window glass.A modern pane in one window of the chancel contains the initials APW. A clue to the identity is a wicket and bails - Archie Wickham was vicar 1911-1935 and was a leading player for Somerset County Cricket Club.His name also appears on the church gates restored in 2005 and dedicated to him.In the churchyard beyond the war memorial, a tree, dead at first glance, sprouts an extended and oddly shaped branch.In front of it, a stone nun lies in the glass, whiling away eternity staring into what was a gorgeous blue sky when we were there.