NORTON-SUB-HAMDON, St. Mary (ST 473 176),
(Bedrock: Lower Jurassic, Junction Bed.)
One of A.K. Wickham's so-called 'South Somerset' group of churches
with exceptional towers, dateable to the late fifteenth century.
Standing in the shadow of Ham Hill, from whence the golden stone of which it is built was dug, this is an attractively situated church in what was once a very fine village before it was marred around the edges by some very unsympathetic modern development. The five-stage tower (seen left from the southwest) has two finely carved canopied niches set one above the other in the south wall. The W. window features five ogee lights, a transom, and subarcuation of the outer lights in pairs, the W. doorway has continuous mouldings and carved spandrels beneath a label with blank quatrefoils above.
The four bays of the nave and aisles are spanned under a single roof and lit by four-light windows to north and south with alternate tracery, subreticulation, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and through-reticulation (as illustrated below left). (See the glossary for an explanation of these terms.) The two-bay chancel has one-bay side chapels and the chapel windows and N. and S. windows of the sanctuary projecting beyond, have three lights, alternate tracery and subreticulation, while the chancel E. window has four lights, a transom, subarcuation of the lights in pairs, and through-reticulation. There is no clerestory but the chancel, aisles, tower and S. porch are all embattled and enriched with crocketed pinnacles rising from the buttresses between the bays. The porch has a barrel vault,
Inside the building, the wonderfully slender four-bay nave arcades are supported on piers composed of four shafts separated by four casements, a form so common in south Somerset as to be considered almost standard (see the S. arcade, below left), and similar arches lead from the aisles to the chapels and from the chapels to the chancel. The chancel arch is also in this style, but taller, and here there are two tiers of capitals like those at St. Michael's, North Cadbury, some twelve miles to the northwest. The soffits of the tower arch are panelled like many others in the area (cf. Hinton St. George, Long Sutton, Martock, and Muchelney among others). There are few furnishings of note but Pevsner drew attention to the attractive tower screen, of c. 1904, Henry Wilson (The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 263), which is 'typical of Arts and Crafts woodwork at its best'.