Church of St Michael

Church of St Michael

The Church in the Community

The Church has been a part of Penselwood Community life for about 1000 years, and the two are thoroughly entwined - although the ties are looser than they once were.  The Church building itself together with the Churchyard and the adjacent village hall are all owned by the Church of England through the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

As a result, the Church is automatically a part of all events that use these facilities.

    • Coffee mornings
    • Pub Nights
    • The Village Fete
    • Baptisms
    • Weddings
    • Funerals
    • Parish Council, PCA and other village meetings
    • National & Local Voting

The Church also endeavours to mark special occasions in the life of our Nation. The Church forms a backdrop and plays a central role in the annual marking of Remembrance in the village and has also recently marked the Platinum Jubilee and the death of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  

Our Church has an outward looking focus, and provides support to Charities (local, national, and international).  Members of the Church play a full part in village life and help in village as well as Church fundraising efforts.  The Church contributes 50% of the costs of running the ‘Pen Paper’.  For its own part, the Church needs to maintain its fabric, and as all house owners know, maintenance needs funds!  Over the years it has been lovingly maintained by our community, and as a Grade II* listed building this can be complicated.

The Church shares in the proceeds of Community fundraising and, amongst other things, uses the proceeds to maintain its fabric.  Penselwood Church also distributes funds to Charities on behalf of the village, to bodies such as:

     The Balsam Centre, Wincanton             

Royal British Legion

     CATBUS

The Children’s Society

     The Lord's Larder

Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution

     Living-at-Home, Wincanton

Water Aid

     Riding for the Disabled

The Samaritans

The overall picture is that of Church and Community sharing in fund raising and fund distribution, with the relationship being thoroughly intertwined.

CofE Worship in Penselwood

Generations of villagers have made St Michael's Church the praying heart for its community.  This aspect is maintained with prayers said in and for the community week by week.

The Church is open every day; it is great place to stop and think and pause to pray.  Please use it as a resource.

Our worship is thoughtful and generally at the traditional end of the spectrum, with space to reflect and pray, as well as to praise and give thanks to God.  The book of Common Prayer is used at most of our Evening Services, and during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.

Services. St Michael’s holds services of worship every Sundays and everyone is most welcome, regardless of their religious beliefs. (Details can be found on the ‘Events’ page of the Penselwood site).  The general monthly arrangements are:

  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Sunday: Service at St Michael’s at 9:00am (The 1st Sunday is usually 1662 format).
  • 4th Sunday: Evensong at St Michael’s at 6:30pm (Summer) or 4:00pm (Winter).
  • 5th Sunday: Combined Service in either Pen Selwood or Wincanton.

Occasionally things will vary, and these will be posted in the ‘Events’ page on this site.

Life Events.  Generations of villagers have used St Michael’s to mark special 'life' events, not least because it is an intimate and beautiful space for these occasions and can accommodate up to 90 people sitting down.

It provides a welcome to new arrivals through christening.

It welcomes and celebrates enduring love through marriage.

It provides for and gives thanks for the lives of those who have died through funerals and memorial services.

The Church Community contributes though the Diocese and Church Commissioners through the Parish Share System to pay a small part of the stipend of our Rector.

The Churchyard.  The churchyard is a lovely place for reflection and peace; it is well maintained, and houses both the Village war memorial and flagpole.  It is open for the burial of ashes and for full interments for those who live within our parish boundaries.  Both the Village and the Church pay for its maintenance.  It is also possible to use it for social events with the permission of the Rector.  (E.g.  It has been used for teas at the Village fete, and  also for the re-opening of the Black Bin café in 2021 when it was used in line with Covid restrictions at the time).

Hardship Cases.  The Parish has links with a Charitable Trust, one of whose purposes is to support villagers who are struggling owing to poor health or to financial pressures with bills for heating, lighting and food.

Contact.  Please get in touch with our Rector (or via the Parish Office) for further information on Life Events, Use of the Churchyard, or for cases of Hardship.

Rector.  Our Rector is The Reverend Alison Way, who is also the Rector of Wincanton Parish
Church (St Peter and St Paul's).  She was licensed to both parishes in February 2020.  Alison lives in Wincanton – please do feel free to get in touch with her via:

Alison was ordained in 2004, and has previously ministered in Basingstoke, in North Wiltshire, and in Surrey.

Church Newsletter.

Please get in touch with the Parish Administrator (currently Rachel Feltham) in the Parish Office (office@wincantonparishchurch.co.uk) if you would like to receive our weekly newsletter, and ask to be added to the mailing list, or ring one of the numbers above to get the posted version. See the posts section for the latest Reflection in text form on www.wincantonparishchurch.co.uk.  The Reflections are also available in our Facebook group - Wincanton and Pen Selwood CofE Churches.

Church Accounts.  The latest PCC accounts can be found here

Church History

It has been said that Churches on the highest points in Somerset are dedicated to St Michael and All Angels, an idea which would have commended itself to the simple Christians of Norman times.  Certainly our comely little Church bears the Archangel's name as it sits high on a spur of the Upper Greensand, looking across to the Blackmore Vale to the South and to the hills of Camelot and to Glastonbury to the West.

Like most of the Churches of Somerset, it has a tower but no steeple and is stoutly built of stone, including some of the Greensand dug out of the thousands of open pits for which Pen is famous.  Sir Nicholas Pevsner in 'Churches of North Somerset and Bristol' says that the style is mainly Perpendicular.  The roofing is of stone slabs, not Greensand.  Greensand is a freestone and cannot be split into suitably thin sheets.

The tower is embattled and carries a rough weatherworn head at each corner and strong buttresses on either side of the West door.  There is a large porch over the South entrance and above the outer door is a niche containing a sculpture (c. 1400) of the Virgin and two kneeling figures, which was brought from Italy by Rev Samuel Marindin during his incumbency (1841- 52).

Inside the porch are stone benches, one on either side, that on the left carrying a slab inscribed with the name of ‘J. Matthews’ and dated 1795.  Around the South door itself is a characteristic Norman zig-zag carving, whilst on the lintel is carved a lamb in a circle flanked by a lion and lioness.  At the corners are the crowned heads of two kings - as yet unidentified but believed by some to be King Alfred and King Guthrun.  The early antiquaries regarded this feature as Saxon but later expert opinion is that it dates from Norman times only. The Tympanum above is bare.

Formerly there was a Standing Cross in the Churchyard, but this disappeared during the rebuilding of 1805.

It is believed that the Tower, Chancel and possibly the Nave, were rebuilt circa 1450.  Like many other Churches, large and small, ours suffered extensive renovation in the 19th century.  In 1805 the sidewalls of the Nave were pulled down and rebuilt 4 feet higher, and in 1848-9 a new North Aisle and Vestry were added.  There was some local indignation after the 1805 rebuilding when it became known that gravestones and walling stone from the Nave had been used to build a wall at Pear Ash, a pigsty in the Marsh and a W.C. at Forest Lodge.

In the tower are 6 bells.  The tenor, from the redundant Church of St Mary at Charlynch, near Bridgwater, and a new treble were added in 1985 when Robert Parker of Hambridge rehung the bells in steel frames.  The Bishop of Taunton dedicated the completed work on 18 October 1985.

The bells are:

  • Treble F# diam 24in weight 3cwt Whitechapel Bell Foundry 1985
  • 2nd E diam 25'/4in weight 31/2 cwt pre-Reformation
  • 3rd D diam 27/4in weight 43/4 cwt Llewellins & James 1887
  • 4th C# diam 29/2in weight 43/4 cwt Llewellins & James 1905
  • 5th B diam 321/4th weight 61/4 cwt George Purdue 1584
  • Tenor A diam 35ins weight 6l/2 cwt Thomas Geffries 1520

The 5th bell was the first ever cast by Purdue and the 3rd bell was a replacement for, or a recasting of, a bell of 1717 by Edward Lott.  Only two other bells by Lott are known.

There is a tradition that when Stavordale Priory was being dismantled, a dispute arose between Penselwood and Stoke Trister as to which village should have the bell.  It was finally agreed to load it onto a cart and to allow the horses to take the bell to whichever village they chose.  According to legend Penselwood was the lucky recipient.  Others think that the Stavordale bell would have been too small to be any use in a peal.

The inscriptions on the bells are as follows.

Treble: “To the glory of God AD 1984”

2nd: “In Nomine Domine. Amen”

3rd: “Jubilee 1887. E.CAustin, Rector. E.Dogrell, W.E.Arnold, Churchwardens”

4th: “To the Glory of God and in thankful remembrance of Rev. H C Leaver, Rector 1852/77, Rev. W. S. Glanville Rector 1899/1900”

5th: “Anno Domine *1 1584.”

Tenor: “Sancta margareta ora pro nobis tg”

Inside the Church, the pew ends are of great interest.  They were carved by the late Mrs Clemency Angell in 1927.  They show Medieval figures engaged in their daily work on the land.  Mrs Angell signed many of the bench ends with a carved honeybee.  John Butt, a carpenter living at what is now called Holly Cottage in Coombe Street, made the pews themselves of local wood.

A list of the incumbents, beginning with Hugh de Burton 1325, may be found on the South Wall on the left of the window.  The window contains the only glass remaining from the rebuilding.  There are five roundels of the 15th century, and they feature: in the centre, the Sun in splendour, on the left the Blessed Virgin Mary and a crown, and on the right, the letter T inverted and a crown.  It is sad that so much medieval glass was destroyed in 19th century renovations, but who can blame Penselwood when Salisbury Cathedral was suffering similarly.

The Norman font has a square bowl with fluted sides and behind the font stands a figurine of St Michael carved in lime-wood by Major K. Archer of the parish.  At one time there was a gallery across the West end of the Nave, but this was removed in recent times.

In the apex of the roof are three carved and gilded oak bosses, each of a different design. These were taken from Stavordale Priory in 1874. Above the chancel is a board bearing the Royal Arms put up in 1820, presumably to mark the accession of George IV in that year.  Two boards setting out the Commandments and the Creed were erected at the same time, at a total cost of £12-1s-½d.

The Churchwardens accounts for 1814 show that an iron chest was bought for £6 and that lads were paid 3d per dozen for dead sparrows; 4d was disbursed for a hedgehog and a polecat.

Before 1871 singing was led by a violin, a cello, a bass viol and flutes.  In 1871 a Willis organ was installed.  The present instrument, also a Willis, was acquired in 1960.

No ancient memorial stones survive inside the Church, although the step at the West door appears to have been one.  It is now almost indecipherable from age and wear.  There are handsome marble mural plaques and brass plates in the Nave and Chancel dating from the last century.  In 1867 a partly obliterated flagstone was removed from the Chancel step when the tiles were laid.  The stone was to the memory of 'Catherine Tyte obiit 23 Maii Anno Domini 1684 Aetatis Suae 26'.

In 2006-2008 the roof of the whole Church was completely replaced with the generous help of the National Lottery English Heritage grant scheme, several other charitable trusts and some very handsome legacies - but most of all through the hard work, enthusiasm and generosity of the people of the village.

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