Monday 20th June 2011
St Martin's Church, Worle
Our guide at Worle was Paul Elliott, churchwarden, whose commitment to the church was palpable and whose sense of continuity informed his whole talk. The church was built around i 125. The only structural remnants from this time are the base of the tower and the inner arch to the porch over the south door. The font with its original lead lining also dates from this period. No natural or holy source is known for the water used in baptism - the mains water used being blessed by the priest. The subject of christening caused our guide to recall his own experience in the Holy Land when he was co-opted to assist in a baptism in the Jordan river while on holiday there. The church was rebuilt in the perpendicular style during the 14th and l5th centuries. By the nineteenth century the church was in a very dilapidated state and in 1870'S some major repairs were undertaken, initiated by the vicar Nathaniel Wodehouse.
For those who like happy coincidences the newly rebuilt church was rededicated on All Saints' Day 1870, ten years to the day after the consecration of East Clevedon. The interior of the church has a number of interesting features, chief of which is probably the set of Misericord carvings on the south side of the choir. These are believed to have come from Woodspring Priory following its closure at the Dissolution, a suggestion supported by the initials PRS carved on one of the seats which could be those of Prior Richard Spryng, Prior of Woodspring and Vicar of Worle in the early sixteenth century. Copies of these rich woodcarvings were made and installed on the north side of the choir at the the time of the 1870 restoration. Another reminder of pre-Reformation ritual is a small doorway at the end of the north aisle which led up to the rood loft. This was accessed via another doorway still visible above the first one.
A wholesale destruction of Roods (i.e. depictions of the Crucifixion) took place during the English Reformation along with the Rood Screens that supported them. The nineteenth century Oxford movement favoured their re-introduction and at Clevedon we had seen a fine example. Other features of the church include a stone pulpit dating to the 1550's, and a reredos of slightly earlier date than Clevedon's and based on Leonardo's painting of the Last Supper. A stained glass window depicts St Martin himself who legend recounts was a centurion in the Roman army at the time of the Emperor Constantine, and overcome with pity at the sight of a naked beggar, divided his cloak in two with his sword, giving half to the other man.
Our thanks go to Paul Elliott for his inspiring talk. To visit St Martin's the best time to go is on Friday morning as it is closed at most other times.