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English Church Architecture.


WINSHAM, St. Stephen  (ST 374 063),


(Bedrock:  Lower Cretaceous, Upper Greensand Formation.)


A modest but attractive village church of axial plan.


The external appearance of this church is enhanced by its axial plan and its sympathetically-constructed modern vestry, south of the porch, to which it is linked by a short covered walkway.  (See the view of the church from the southeast, above, and the view alongside the church, looking due west towards the vestry and S. porch, below left.)  It is largely Perpendicular in style although earlier features east and west confirm a building of similar length has stood here since the thirteenth or early fourteenth century.  The thirteenth century (Early English) work is formed of three lancet windows, one in the N. wall of the nave and one each in the N. and S. walls of the chancel, the former towards the west and the latter towards the east, suggesting the chancel originally had two on each side. The early fourteenth century (Decorated) work comprises the three-light W. window to the nave, above the former doorway (which has subsequently been converted into an additional window) (as illustrated below right).  The lights step up slightly in the centre and the tracery is composed solely of two ungainly mouchettes.



Everything else is probably fifteenth century in date.  Windows are generally formed of three ogee lights and alternate tracery containing subreticulation although the renewed chancel E. window is formed of three uncusped lights with three circles above, enclosed within an encompassing arch.  The sturdy central tower rises in three stages to two-light bell-openings with straightened reticulation units in the heads and surmounting battlements, but its appearance owes most to the prominent octagonal bell-turret at the southwest angle, rising higher than the tower itself.  The S. porch has simple flat-chamfered outer and inner doorways and a ceiled wagon roof.


The attractive interior of the church appears larger than one might expect of an aisleless building, due partly to its generous width and partly to the excellent lighting, for which the clear glass in most of the windows can obviously take the credit.  This is a church one is happy to linger in, even if the architecture is relatively modest.  Inevitably, the tower arches are the most important internal features, each being composed of two orders of wave mouldings supported on circular shafts separated by wide casements - a design diagnostic of their age.  (The photograph at the foot of the page shows the W. tower arch, viewed from the nave.)  A solitary head label stop on the east side of the E. arch (S. respond) suggests others have been removed.


The octagonal font is decorated on the every face of the bowl with a pair of squashed quatrefoils, and on the octagonal stem, with a sunk rectangular recess between protruding ribs.  The rood screen, set in the arch between the tower and the chancel, appears to be old in parts, although it would no easy matter to determine precisely which.  The artless late mediaeval tympanum(?) hanging on the N. wall of the crossing tower, must once have filled the space above the screen, from where its child-like depiction of the Crucifixion would have been visible to all.   Finally, the large and excellent pulpit with massive tester (illustrated) in the southeast corner of the nave, is a much more urbane piece of carpentry which the Friends of Somerset Churches describe as Jacobean on their Church Card No. 29 (2006), although Pevsner’s silence on the subject may have been more tactful since it is not typical of that reign.   Finally, the ceiled wagon roof of the nave is another attractive feature and has gilded bosses and castellated wall plates.