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After centuries at the centre of village life, there's so much to explore at St Michael's Church.

A typical Anglican church. 

The Nave

Standing in the centre of the nave between the two transepts are two round classical arches where the North and South arcades meet the chancel wall. These two classical arches, and originally a similar one into the chancel, were created when the central tower was removed in 1791, prior to which, the central tower rose above this spot. 

'The Crossing', which refers to  the name usually given to the area under a central tower, would have been rather closed in. It is believed the original tower was supported by further handsome panelled arches like those leading from the side aisles into the transepts, including one opposite the chancel arch opening. Below the roof and above this arch facing down the ante would have been the Royal Coat of Arms, now found over the north door. 

The Church Ceiling

The central aisle has a medieval wagon roof or ceiling. It was extended at the east end of the nave by the length of three panels when the central tower was removed in 1790. These additional panels are longer than the standard size of panels throughout the rest of the ceiling. 

The bosses at the intersection of the ceiling ribs are of plaster rather than carved wood and were added to the ceiling on the recommendation of the Diocesan Architect, Benjamin Ferrey, who surveyed the church in 1862. The side aisle ceilings, which were flat versions of the central ceiling, were in a ruinous condition and although Ferrey recommended exact copies, the existing, rather gloomy boarded ceilings were provided. 

Careful observation indicates that the nave is slightly out of line with the chancel. This feature is found in some old churches and is believed to have been constructed deliberately by ancient builders to indicate Christ's head falling to one side at the crucifixion. 

The Bells

The central tower contained a peal of five bells. Ringers stood in the centre of the church in full view of the congregation. In 1760, during the ringing of the bells to mark the Coronation day of King George III, the congregation would have been quite entertained as ringers consumed forty gallons of cider; over half a point of oil was required for the bells. 

In 1770, the number of bells was increased to eight. The bells were cast by the Bilbies of Collumpton; seven of them in 1770 and one a year later. 

Following the installation of a new bell frame and the additional weight of new bells, the, now dilapidated, tower began to struggle. In 1790, a petition was sent to the Bishops of the time requesting permission to demolish the tower due to its ruinous state and the distraction caused by ringers in the centre of the tower. Permission was granted and the new tower was constructed at the east end of the church alongside the chancel. The present bell ringers carry out their duties on the first floor of the tower, reportedly in a more sober fashion than their forebears. 

If you are interested in joining the team of bell ringers at St Michael's please contact the church.

The Organ

 

In 1855 it was agreed at a vestry meeting that 'a base viol should be sold and the money arising therefrom should be applied towards paying the organist for the coming year'. A further meeting in 1857 considered 'alterations to the present singing gallery to fit it for the reception of an organ which the Vicar was already to place in the church'. This was unanimously resolved and the work put in hand.

The present instrument was enlarged in 1934 when Mrs Dorothy Maudslay gave the organ from North Coker House to be combined with the church organ. The painted pipes at the front had to be brought further forward, creating the advantage of allowing more sound into the church. Also at this time, Mrs Heneage of Coker Court 'offered to supply electric current from her plant to work the blower for the organ'. 

Repairs were undertaken in 1958, with a rededication service held the same year. 

The organ remains a central part of church services and celebratory events to this day. 

The Pulpit

By 1603 it became law that a pulpit should be provided in all churches. To the left of the chancel arch stands an oak pulpit on a stone base. There is a tradition that the four steps to a pulpit represent the evangelists St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John. 

Historical records suggest there must have been a proposal to move the pulpit in St Michael's to the centre of the church. In 1842 a grant of £35 was received from the Diocesan Incorporated Society for Building Churches - on condition that 'the pulpit be not placed in the centre'. A similar grant of £35 was made on condition that 'the reading desk be placed on the north and the pulpit on the south side of the chancel and the font at the west end of the building'. The plan was agreed, however, by 1862 Ferrey wrote that 'by alteration of the position of the pulpit and reading desk much improvement could be effected'. 

The present pulpit and vicar's stall at the nave end of the choir stalls are believed to have been installed during work carried out after Ferrer's report in 1862. 

The Font

If you stand at the back of the church you will see the eleventh century Norman font with early stone font cover. The base of the font is of a much later period, probably nineteenth century. 

The font is appropriately placed near the entrance of the church as it is as the font that people are baptised and received into the Christian faith. 

 

Baptism in the Church of England most commonly takes place within a few months of a baby's birth, however, a person can be baptised at any point in their life. During the baptism service the congregation say the following words:

"receive 'them' into the family of your church that 'they' may walk with us in the way of Christ and grow in the knowledge of your love".

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