Stoke Heritage

The Parish of Stoke St Mary (with Thurlbear)

 

The ecclesiastical parish of Stoke St Mary (with Thurlbear) contains two parish churches.  They are the church of St Mary the Virgin, Stoke St Mary, and the redundant church of St Thomas, Thurlbear.

The Parochial Church Council is responsible for the care and maintenance of the Grade II* listed church building in Stoke and the adjacent churchyard.  It is also responsible for the churchyard of St Thomas’s Church, Thurlbear, where the building itself is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust.

St Thomas’s is a remarkable building which was evidently built in the second half of the 11th century.  It is the earliest aisled church in Somerset, and one of the earliest in the West Country as a whole.  Its two simple Norman arcades have a powerful dignity and its 15th-century west tower contains a very rare ring of four bells cast by an Exeter maker in about 1450.  Though the church is now owned and maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust, St Thomas’s is still a parish church and is used for services on a few occasions during the year, most notably for a candle-lit Advent Carol Service in November.

St Mary’s Church dates chiefly from the 13th century and its west tower is a good example of the work of this period. There is other 13th-century evidence inside the church, but the character of the interior owes most to the 15th century and to a Victorian enlargement in 1864, when a new south aisle was added.  The pulpit, choir stalls and pews all date from the Victorian period.

The organ, acquired for St Mary’s in 1978, dates from 1834 and could originally be played as a barrel organ.

The tower has a simple stained glass window in the Arts & Crafts style.  But more memorable are three windows commissioned between 2000 and 2003 from the renowned stained glass maker, Patrick Reyntiens, whose other works include the baptistery window in Coventry Cathedral and glass for Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.  The three windows depict St Anne with her husband teaching the Virgin Mary to read, the Day of Pentecost, and the Annunciation.

 

For more information about St Thomas Thurlbear, click here