Holy Trinity, Newton St. Loe
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The HISTORY of the CHURCH
The church lies on the western edge of the village and is approached by a road which passes the Old Rectory, a fine Georgian building which now houses the Duchy of Cornwall offices, before entering the square. On one side of this open area is the 'Old Post Office' cottage and 'Stonewalls1 (a fine house built in 1715 and formerly called Prospect View) while on the other is the former 'Free School' (established in 1698) and which functioned as the village school until 1972.
From the road you have an attractive view of the church, including the Perpendicular west tower with its single-handed clock facing you. This tower is surmounted by two light bell openings, gargoyles, a fine weathercock, a new flagpole, a parapet and pinnacles. A three-gate wrought iron screen leads into the church yard, under the old yew tree and past the medieval preaching steps which have been adapted as a War Memorial.
As you enter the church by the south door you can see two "scratch dials' on the left jamb of the porch, simple sun dials for the priest to use when checking that it was time for Mass! You then pass under an ogee arch with ball-flower decoration, matching the capitals of the quatrefoil piers of the south arcade and the four-leaf flower decoration of the small arch over the pulpit.
Just inside the door is the panel recording the complete list of Rectors of Newton St. Loe, beginning with Francis de Stockley in 1297!
The 14th century church consisted of nave, chancel, south aisle and porch. Of this early structure, the south aisle and porch remain as well as the east and west walls. The only changes in that _ of the church are some 19th century modifications of the windows-The west tower was added in the 15th century and is largely unchanged while the north aisle was built in 1857 - "to free the nave for the poor of the parish - for ever". At the same time, the north porch was constructed with its barrel vaulted roof. This could have resulted in the complete removal of a medieval rood loft - unless there is a section in the arch over the pulpit. It was at this time that the vestry was added.
For this building work, there was plenty of local raw material since the white lias could be quarried in Newton itself, the blue lias in Corston and the limestone in many areas around Bath. The floor of the south aisle and nave is paved with ledger stones and also displays two small commemorative brasses. The north aisle and chancel are paved with Victorian encaustic tiles.
Like the lower ridge of the chancel, the triple-ridged roof of the nave and aisle is supported by hammer beams and king posts lined with timber and clad in stone tiles. This is the Victorian replacement of the former single-spanned roof.
The diamond-patterned stained glass windows of the nave are also Victorian. The east window, portraying the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Trinity, is dated 1873 while the three commemorative windows of the chancel are 20th century in origin. The two square-headed Tudor windows in the vestry were removed from the north wall of the earlier nave and this explains their similarity to the tower window, which is clearly pre-Victorian. The small windows in the pulpit passage and the St. Francis window over the pulpit were erected in 1976/77 in memory of George and Margery Hughes and Charles and Joyce Roberts retrospectively.
The west window of the south aisle was blocked up during the erection of the Langton Memorial in 1701. This stone flag covered vault is surrounded by a cast-iron railing, "the earliest piece of cast-iron in Somerset, and perhaps the south-west of England according to Pevsner who calls this a " surprisingly stately and dignified monument in a courtly, restrained style, worthy of Westminster Abbey". The inscription on the marble tablet commemorates the premature deaths of seven of Joseph and Frances Langton's nine children and, later, both parents. A full translation is displayed on the nearby pillar.
The 61 feet high tower was originally open to the nave when built in the 15th century. It is now approached through an oak screen (erected in 1909 to commemorate General and Mrs. Bayly) with panels bearing the symbols.
The walls of the ground-floor ringing chamber are rendered as possibly were those of the nave before the Victorian restoration. The belfry contains six bells hung for change ringing. An additional set of hammers for a carillon is also in good working order. The tenor bell (10 1/2 cwt) is inscribed 'Thomas, Bilbie cast all we - July 4th 1741' and all six bells were cast from the metal of the 5 former bells. Below the belfry the clock mechanism also dates from the middle of the 18th century and has recently been restored (1989). Click here to see more information.
The large number of memorial wall tablets form a history in themselves. Look at the Royal hatchment over die south door, the illuminated Lord's Prayer at die east end of the south aisle; and the two Rolls of Honour on the east wall of the north aisle. The ornate brass lectern is Victorian while the round stone font, with its 'stiff leaf’ decoration, is Early English in style and is a Victorian replacement of an older plain font.
The Victorian oak pews of the south aisle were generously spaced to accommodate the fashionable hooped skirts of that time and set aside for the Earl Temple with his family and retainers. The north aisle was for the tenant farmers and those gentry who paid 'pew rents', the west stalls for the children and the nave for the 'poor'.
The chancel is approached through a memorial oak screen presented in 1912. Like the stalls of the south aisle and the western end, the choir stalls have carved 'poppy' bench ends depicting leaf, flower and berry. The alabaster reredos (1891) presents the Nativity scene in relief and is set in a wooden triptych.
The two-manual pipe organ was presented by John Lascelles in 1879. It bears a plate 'In memory of Frank Angel - organist 1938-1967' recalling a man who also maintained the organ through all those years. From the vestry, a short passage behind the organ leads up to the Victorian oak pulpit which is supported by a slender stone column.
Against the east wall of the south aisle once stood an altar to the Virgin Mary from which another short passage, incorporating a 'squint’ or hagioscope, led to the chancel. This feature, discovered during the restoration, is now guarded by oak doors at each end which are bolted from the outside and contain a small grill. If this doubled as the village lock-up, the unhappy offender had nowhere to sit, very little headroom and no real ventilation after the 'squint’ was glazed!
The Choirs of Holy Trinity Church, Newton St Loe
The church choir can be traced back to the incumbence of Edwin Lascelles who became Rector in 1878 with the purchase of an harmonium, which still stands in the south ailse and is still playable. Initially he invited a professional organist, James Peacock of Bath to lead the singing. The following year the church was presented with a pipe organ by the Rector’s father. It is that organ which we see today, resited from the tower to the chancel, by Griffin & Stroud in 1896.
In 1884 the Rector who invited an amateur musician, John Fryer of Newbridge, to become organist to the parish church. John Fryer, who ran a builders merchants business in Bath, recruited singers largely of the village menfolk and youths, trained them and accompanied them on the new organ.
The choir wore black cassocks and white surplices some of which can still be found in the tower cupboards.
In 1913, in failing health, John retired and his duties were assumed by Walter Angell, the headmaster of the endowed school in the village. In 1924, when Walter retired as schoolmaster he naturally left the tied house and moved to Bath continuing his duties as parish organist until 1938.
The position of organist was now filled by his nephew, Frank Angell who lived in the village. Frank was by trade an organ builder and continued in that trade while maintaining the church organ, training the choir and playing for services, weddings and funerals. At Christmas he would take a small band of singers around the village carrying with them the Gilbert & Bauer harmonium.
On Thursday, February 9th 1997 Frank failed to turn up to play for a funeral and he was found in is arm chair having passed away.
From then on, with a succession of volunteer organists, while the choristers still attended the services they had no leader and the choir gradually ceased to exist.
In 1975 a group of musically minded folk from Newton, Corston and even Saltford formed a madrigal group which met each Sunday in each other’s homes and were eventually emboldened to lead a sung Eucharist service from the choir stalls with one of our number, Bob Johnson, playing the organ. We had already given some musical evenings in Newton and Corston raising a little fund and in 1977 we invited everyone to a Candle-lit Carol Concert. It was an instant success and we repeated it each Christmas until 1977 when a professional organist was appointed who stayed for three years.
In time we recruited Dora Frost to play each fourth Sunday and she, in turn, recuited some of her nursing colleagues to allow Bob to concentrate on his duties as organist to Corston church. Dora had unfortunately for us recently accepted the post of organist to Larkhall URC church limiting her availability to us and, when she became ordained in the URC church we had to look to musical friends for an organist. Spurred on by Dora’s recruits we had each bought blue albs as our choir robes and in these we have persisted.
The Choirs of Holy Trinity today
There remains the Church Choir - a group of mixed singers who regularly attend Holy Trinity - who lead the service of Sung Eucharist on each fourth Sunday. Customarily at the organ we have Denis Calderley and the choir is robed. When requested these choristers are happy to sing at weddings.
The Festival Choir, invited by Joe Bernard, includes choristers from neighbouring parishes, many from Farmborough together with the choir master of that parish, Chris Lovell, and friends from Bath together with some of the church choir. This choir leads Evensong on Trinity Sunday, and Harvest Festival. It will also present an oratorio on Good Friday and a Carol Service at Christmas.
One further choir, a group of men who intone the Service of Compline, unaccompanied, during Holy Week.