November 13 – A Day Church micro-ing around South Somerset

Near Yeovil

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

When we arrived at Haselbury Plucknett Mike went into St Michael’s church while Honey and I waited outside. Just then a couple walked out of the church and the lady asked if I was geocaching, the GPS around my neck was a bit of a giveaway. They were in the area to have a day looking for church micros too. We chatted for a few minutes and then went to find the cache together. It was lovely to meet RyroD and Netty227. The church had three lovely modern stained glass windows created by John Banks and Margaret Wiles in the 1980’s. It amazes me to be able to stand in a place where a saint like St Wulfric lived, worked and died. This country is so ancient.

When we parked at St Mary’s in East Chinnock, we recognised the car in front of us and sure enough, there was Netty227 and RyroD just leaving the churchyard to walk to the final. We said hello again and went to find the numbers we needed. They were quickly collected and the final worked out. First, we went to see the church and this one has nearly all modern windows except for one Victorian one. These windows were very different from the ones at Haselbury Plucknett and I couldn’t find any information about them but I think they may have been German. The kauri pews were lovely and it was nice to be reminded of home. A short walk and the cache was soon found. I found a very interesting article about many people from East Chinnock who emigrated to New Zealand between 1830 and 1840, so they were very early settlers to our country. I especially liked the specification of ‘Applicants were advised that a strict enquiry would be made as to their qualifications and character.’

The church of St Peter and St Paul at Odcombe was another nice church with saints on the stained glass windows and a painted organ. But the most amazing part was the awesome reredos in gilt mosaic featuring a sheep and a pelican. Above it was a modern stained glass window in the memory of Constance Padwick, a Christian writer and missionary to the Muslims who died in Odcombe in 1968. The window was made by Christine Arnatt. There was also a Queen Victoria coat of arms from 1852 which may be the first of its kind we have seen.

At the little church of St Peter & St Paul in the village of Lufton, near Yeovil, we had to find a monument to Edwin Newman. Actually, there seemed to be three Edwins but we soon found the right one, collected the numbers, made an easy find and left a travel bug. The church was not open.

St Catherine’s at Montacute was our 499th church micro and was very special to us as the story of the Holy Cross being taken from Montacute to Waltham Abbey in 1066 is part of the new scenes added to our Medieval Mosaic. The story goes that in 1030 following a series of dreams in which the Devil told him where to dig, a local blacksmith found buried on St Michael’s Hill a black flint crucifix or Holy Rood. Tofig, a standard bearer to King Canute, loaded the life-sized cross onto a cart and then named a series of possible destinations. The oxen pulling the wagon refused to move until he said Waltham in Essex, where Tofig had a hunting lodge. They then started and continued non-stop until they reached Waltham, and where they stopped Tofig decided to build an abbey at the site which became Waltham Abbey. The cross became the object of pilgrimage, notably by Harold Godwinson. “Holy Cross” became the battle-cry of Harold’s armies at the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings. The Holy Rood is said to have foretold Harold’s defeat at Hastings: on the way there from the Battle of Stamford Bridge he stopped off at Waltham Abbey and the legend is that the cross “bowed down” to Harold as he prayed and this was taken as a portent of doom.
St Catherine’s is an impressive church with three tombs to the Phelips family as well as wall monuments in their chapel. The tombs were dated 1484, 1508 and 1588. The Norman arch in the chancel bears testimony to the site of a Saxon church being here in 1000AD. Nearby is an Abbey farmhouse and also Montacute House which is a National Trust property but the house only opens at the weekend at this time of the year.

Our 500th church micro!! St James at Preston Plucknett’s church micro number was 10669, a CM with a number of special significance for us (1066). We stopped here for lunch and then we went to the church which was old but had been newly renovated throughout. There was an ancient churchyard cross and a busy multi-coloured stained glass window over the altar with Jacob, John, Martha and a sheep. The corbels were impressive and were all named with Solomon, David, Samuel, Moses and Abraham on the left and Anna, Esther, Ruth, Deborah, Miriam and Sarah on the right.

We then visited three more churches at Yeovil Marsh, Mudford and Thorne Coffin, all were closed but we found the church micros at two of them. At Chilthorne Domer we found one of the three names we needed to find for the geocache but not the other two. Then a lady arrived to retrieve her dog and when we talked to her we realised that we were standing right beside the lych gate dedicated to the soldiers we were looking for.

At St Margaret’s in Tintinhull, we found the coordinates alright but finding the cache proved challenging as it was getting dark. Also, Honey was with us and keen to get into the field beyond. I looked, Mike looked and again and again. Suddenly I was surprised by ‘have you lost something’ by a dog walker. We had to explain what we were doing. We nearly gave up, when I put my hand right on it right where we had both looked over and over and right where the hint said it would be. Our geocaching friends from earlier in the day have been here today too. Ten church micros, one traditional and one DNF found, not a bad haul for the day.