S MARY, WESTON ZOYLAND, SOMERSET
Being Somerset, Weston Zoyland has one of those splendid Perp. towers with niches for statues of saints and pierced stone in the windows. Built of steel-blue lias, this one is a bit taller than most, due to an extra stage, and inside it has the local refinement of a panelled tower-arch. This was part of a rebuilding campaign around 1500, propelled by Richard Bere, last-but-one Abbot of Glastonbury (1493 to 1525), who is commemorated by his initials on the S transept outside and on one bench-end and an angel’s shield in the roof. And what an interior. The church was not restored until the mid-1930s (when it badly needed it), by one of the few men who could do it justice, W. D. Caroe. The roof is one of the few to be mentioned in the same breath as Somerton and Martock (ND Oct. 2018), with angels looking down from between the tie-beams upon the late-mediaeval benches below. Caroe designed the screen, topped by the figures of the rood group. As usual for Somerset, the Dec. chancel was not part of the rebuild.
The spacious, clerestoried, nave is not crammed with furnishings, but crammed it was on one night of awful horror, following the Battle of Sedgemoor on July 6th 1685, when the Duke of Monmouth’s army was routed. Those who survived scattered, if they could; around 500 wounded prisoners were locked in the church for the night. Several were hanged there and then, and five died of their wounds. Sixteen of the royal army were buried at Weston; a thousand and more rebels were buried in pits on Sedgemoor. After Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys and five other judges sat at the Western Assize, 330 rebels were hanged and 849 transported; 34 got off ‘lightly’ with a whipping. The churchwardens paid 5s. 8d. “for Frankinssense and pievey [saltpetre] and resson [resin] and other things to burn in the church after ye prisoners had gone out”, but it is doubtful if this fumigation could eradicate the recollection of that dreadful day from peoples’ memories.
Map reference: ST352348