Outside the Church
Work on the current building began in the early 1400s, and grew from an earlier building dating back to about 1230. (the earliest recorded Rector's name dates from 1264). It is strikingly placed on its small hill, dominating the town square, which itself still keeps its medieval shape. The entrance up the church steps is narrow, so that the full beauty of the building is only gradually revealed as you approach. The church is built of limestone and decorated with Doulting stone, while the steps are an interesting example of Dolomitic Conglomerate (pudding stone). The pierced parapets are an attractive feature.
The crossing tower is over 100 feet high, and holds six bells. The statue on the East side is that of St John the Baptist. On the West side is a king -
Enter through the South porch, with its stone panelled roof and sadly disfigured statuette of the Madonna. The first impression on entering the church is of light and space. The nave is tall, the windows large, and the glass clear or tinted, rather than stained. The church was fortunate that its Victorian restoration came late, in the 1880s, and was at the able hands of the Diocesan architect, J. D. Sedding, who may have designed the glazing patterns himself. He also organised the appeal for funds, so we have much to thank him for.
The elaborately plastered nave ceiling dates from 1636, and a local man was paid ten guineas (£10.50) for the work. It presumably replaced a decayed wooden roof. The chancel ceiling was
similarly plastered, but was replaced as part of the Sedding restoration. The North aisle ceiling retains some mediaeval painted panels, and amongst the carved bosses is the head of a Green Man, with leaves sprouting around his face. At the south east end of this ceiling is a very fine plaque of the Madonna with lilies.
At the head of the North aisle stands a case containing the altar frontal embroidered by Abigail Prowse. She was the daughter of Dr George Hooper (Bishop of Bath and Wells 1704 - 1727) and widow of John Prowse (who died of smallpox on 1710). The frontal depicts the altar furnishings of that time and took her ten years to embroider.
The pews are Victorian, and the end designs include an alarmingly lifelike head of St John the Baptist on a platter.
The Lady Chapel and Crossing
At the end of the South-
The pillar in the chapel is pierced by a squint. In the 13th century building this would have given a direct view of the altar from outside for those, such as lepers, who were not allowed inside the church.
The Lady Chapel is used regularly for weekday services and acts as a focus for the Mothers' Union.
In the crossing is a fine fan-
The Sanctuary and Vestry
The parclose screen (on either side of the sanctuary) is another part of the Sedding restoration. It shows some remarkable lettering (look for the word "Acknowledge" on the North side just inside the altar rail) and many small animals. The Altar rail itself repeats the names recorded on the War Memorial outside.
The West End and Spearing Bequest
Virtual Tour of Church
A virtual tour of Axbridge Church is available on Google Maps.