Shepton Beauchamp’s a pretty village in a remote setting near Ilminster, and like many Somerset churches it has a rather fine tower with a splendid west window, built around 1480. If you look closely at it, the tower has an unusual design, with long, narrow, bell-openings that extend over two stages. Its architect left this signature over similar towers at Curry Rivel, Hinton S George and Norton-sub-Hamdon. Cross the threshold, and you are in the kind of building with the ‘Catholic’ feel that you meet all over the country, but there is much more than that. The Oxford Movement came early to Shepton, under the Reverend James Stratton Coles, rector in 1836 – 1872; he introduced daily services, hymns, coloured frontals, and the other things that we take for granted. Things were developed under his son and successor, Vernon Stuckey Stratton Coles, as Rector 1872-1884, who then moved to Pusey House, Oxford. Born here in 1845, V. S. S. Coles returned here in a poverty stricken old age (having given away a fortune to charitable causes) to be looked after by his sister, dying in 1929.

Shepton Beauchamp church has one feature that is quite likely unique. Just to the right of the South door as you leave is a stained glass window with the theme of the Visit of the Magi to the Infant Jesus at the Epiphany. It was executed in 1897 by J. F. Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral and friend of V. S. S. Coles. At its bottom, it depicts what is thought to represent the martyrdom in 1896 of Bernard Mizeki, catechist and martyr.


Map reference: ST402171

Simon Cotton