Securing our history for the future

Background History of Bawdrip Church

Originally belonging to the Abbot of Athelney. He gave the advowson to William of Bawdrip in 1195 in return for an annual pension. The Church had, obviously, been built before this date, although it is not mentioned in Domesday 1086. Although not included in Domesday, this does not necessarily mean that a Church building was not there at that time as Domesday was primarily concerned with land and buildings on which tax could be levied. If it were there at that time it would have looked significantly different. A much lower building with a thatched roof. Today its architecture is essentially 13th century with a 14th century knave and transept. In 1330 dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. The parish churches were still intact under Henry VIII’s persecution of the roman Catholic Church, but the supression of the Chantries supporting masses for the dead was the prelude to a theological battle, which under Edward VI (Henry’s son) abandoned the mass, banished rood screens and other images, vestments, altars, painted wall murals, surplus plate and anything thought to encourage superstition. On Edward’s death, Mary, Henry’s daughter by Katherine of Aragon, a staunch Catholic and predecessor to Elizabeth I, reversed the trend and brought back the mass. However, her reign only lasted 5 years and when Elizabeth ascended the throne, prayer book services were established. The destruction of works of art during Henry and Edward’s reigns must have been heartbreaking and silver, artwork and other treasures from Churches up and down the land were hidden. Tales, obviously, handed down from this period, and elaborated on over the years, speak of tunnels running from the Church to various houses within the village and of buried silver treasures which have never been recovered.


As mentioned previously, the Church was very important in village life and Church services were held daily. The Rector/Priest/Curate/Parson were influential in the administration of village affairs. By looking at old Wills, where Church officials were quite often witnesses, we have been able to fill in some of the gaps in the list of incumbents given below.

The Church is mentioned in 1242 as being fled to as a place of sanctuary by Adam Baret of Cossington.

The stone effigy of Simon de Bradney, Knight, now lies in the North Transept, having been moved there following the renovations in 1864-69. He is holding his shield in his left hand, but this now faces into the wall and probably any decoration has been eroded. Simon was a benefactor of the Church in the 14th century, having granted a messuage and land in Bawdrip in 1316 to the chaplain at the altar of the Virgin Mary. This was in return for prayers to be said 5 days a week, in perpetuity, for the souls of his family.


John Atherton’s body, the former Bishop of Waterford and Lisemore, who was hanged in 1640, was reputedly removed from his grave in the 19th century and buried in ashes in Bawdrip Churchyard in an undisclosed site. He was born in 1598 at the Rectory. He was said to have been a very tall man. He was the son of the former Rector of our Church, John Atherton Snr., who held office in Bawdrip in 1585 until the time of his death of 31 July 1609. We have not been able to find out the significance of being buried in ashes.

It is interesting that John Atherton Snr’s widow, Joyce, remarried within a matter of months on 13 November 1609 to John Harwell of Bawdrip.

The Will of Sir Thomas Lane, priest dated 02.06.1545 gives a snapshot of the goods they held dear. I wish to be buried in the Church of Bawdrip. To the High Altar my best table cloth and a towel. To our Lady Service at Mark iiijs. To my sister Margaret my best short gown, to my sister Margery my second gown. To John Lane my worsted coat. To Sir John Dunne my best coat. An old coat to Kerke. To Alice Hurloke a new long kerchief, to my god-daughter Elizabeth Lane, a kerchief, to Johane my middle bolster. To John Alyn my second short and xijd. To Martyn Alyn iiijd. The residue to Thomas Clape (executrix). Witnessed by Sir John Poxwell, John Alyn Snr and John Stowell.

The village stocks were positioned outside the North door of the Church where the land at that time was part of the village green.

Repairs to the stocks and cucking stool are recorded in the Manor Court Rolls of 1589, 1630 and 1655.

The Church bells are housed in a late medieval bell cage. There are 4 bells. 2 by Roger London of Workingham, who died 1448 and 1 each by Thomas Purdue 1671 and Thomas Bayly 1745 (could this Thomas Bayly have any family connection with the author of The Mistletoe Bough poem, Thomas Haynes Bayly 1797-1839?).

List of Encumbents

1312 Wil de Edington, Rector             1318 Walter de Iselys, Rector             1321 John de Corston, Rector             1333 Robert de Fitzours, Rector

c1351 Robert le ferroner [1], Rector   1402 Thomas Keek, Rector                 1420 Walter Woodward, Rector           1421 Richard Robyn, Rector

1434 Thomas Pilton, Parson               1440 John Balsham, Rector                1440 John Nown, Rector                     1474 John Bulcom, Rector

1482 Michael, Coly, Rector                 1496 Richard Fokesworth, Rector        1508 Christopher Bayly, Rector           1520 John Brook, Rector

1530 John Baywell M.A., Rector          1544 Sir John Poxwell, Curate            1545 Sir Thomas Lane, Priest (year of death)

1555 Gilbert Honesby, Parson             1562 Hugo Baywell B.A. Rector          1569 Thomas Gatacre, Rector             1584 Joseph Franklin, Rector

1585 John Atherton M.A., Rector         1609 Henry Peek                              1632 William Chapman M.A.               1661 Edward Lovell M.A., Rector

1675 Thomas Marshall B.A., Rector     1677 Thomas Roberts M.A., Rector     1680 Thomas Holt M.A., Rector           1689 Thomas Cheyney, Rector

1689 Zaccarias Brayly, Preacher         1696 Thomas Dowden M.A., Rector     1723 Ben Mellier M.A. Rector              1728 Henry Parsons M.A. Rector

1752 Henry Tucker, Rector                 1755 Henry Yonge, Rector                  1755 James Ponsford, Curate              1771 John Podger, Rector

1781 C Hobbs, Curate                       1782 William Evans, Rector                 1784 John Stradling, Curate               1786 John Stradling, Rector

1805 Sam Simmonds, Rector             1806 William Smith Knott, Rector        1828 John Bowen M.A., Rector           1829 Edward Prys, Curate

1835 Edward Page, Rector                 1840 Charles Wardroper, Curate          1841 John Warren, Curate                 1855 John Warren M.A. Rector

1881 J.M. Warren, Curate                  1886 J.M. Warren M.A. Rector             1901 Edward H Brice M.A. Rector       1903 William Townsend M.A. Rector

1919 G. W. Leonard Cass B.A. Rector  

  Rectors – Warren 1855-1886            Wm Cass 1919

It appears that in 1720 repairs were carried out to the Church and it was at this time that the lead roof was probably put on to replace the existing thatch. There are a lot of initials and dates carved on the roof trusses, but none pre-date 1720. In 1736 a set of silver-plate, made by Fuller White, was donated by Denys Rolle, Lord of the Manor of Bawdrip.

The graveyard has been in use since at least medieval times. In c1900 the earliest gravestone then recorded was for Richard Grimsteed, died 9 November 1660. The inscription read “Here is my home ‘til trump doth sound and Christ for me doth call. Then so I rise from death to life. No more to die at all.” Unfortunately, no trace of this grave exists today. There is another reference in Collinson’s wirtten in the late 1700s to a tombe on the floor of the chapel which stated “Here lies the bodies of Richard Allen, deceased 16 January 1611 and of Mary, his wife.” Richard Allen appears in the Manor Court Rolls 1588 and 1589 and appears on the rent roll c.1595.

No other gravestones from the 1600s were evident in the 1900s and very few from 1700s. It was said that one old gravestone was used for the seat opposite the porch of the Church and at least one was used in the pavement at the Rectory. More recently during some work at the Church, a crypt was discovered near to the Church Path entrance to the Churchyard. It is believed that this belonged to the Slocombes, a prominent family in Bradney during the late 19th century (refer to Old Bradney Farm).

In 1865 extensive renovations were carried out on the fabric of the building and 1,200 sq. ft. were enclosed to extend the area of the church.. Initially, the original building was to have been pulled down. Fortunately, Revd Warren’s plans were thwarted as the necessary funds could not be raised. The medieval floor tiles disappeared as the original floor was dug out during the alterations to make “it appear more lofty”, which is why you now step down into the church. Regrettably, during the renovations the medieval glass also disappeared, to be substituted with Victorian stained glass windows, mostly to the glory of the village elders who probably thought they could buy their way into heaven! There are, however, some very beautiful corbels at the end of each of the roof arches. Particularly fascinating are the slant eyed features of the two heads on the archway to the entrance to the altar at the Eastern end of the building which gives them Far Eastern characteristics. The last service in the old unrestored Church took place on the 30 April 1865. During this time the Church services were held in the Tithe Barn situated between the Rectory stable yard and garden. The Tithe Barn was pulled down in 1886. A dial was added to the clock already in the church tower in 1887.

Church c1860

Church ext. c1860 note no clock

In the early 1900s an old man at that time recalled that in his youth men had been slung over the top of the tower of the Church on boards to whitewash it and this was done every year.[2] Limewash over rubblestone was a common practice throughout the county up until this time.

The old pound was incorporated in the Churchyard and consecrated in 1951 with the first burial held in that part in 1954. At the right side of the drive to The Rectory was

The Rectory Lodge, Tithe 130

In 1841 the property was owned by Jeffreys Allen (Lord of the Manor) and occupied by Thomas West. Subsequent censuses show that the Wests were here until 1871.

1881 census shows this building as being occupied by the Misses Wall (Sarah 16 and Elizabeth 24). At a later stage a bungalow was built somewhere in this vicinity, this disappeared when the existing school building was enlarged in 1993/4.

[1] Robert le ferroner, Rector of the Church of Baudripp, is given as a witness to a Latin Grant, dated 1351, by John of Bawdrip to his mother Orange (see p.4). His name does not appear on the list given in the Church. SRO D/D/BS/43. www.theclergydatabase.org.uk

[2] From notes by the Revd. Brice early 1900s