touching place  Evercreech St Peter, Somerset

To people of a certain age, the name Evercreech is redolent of an era of Britain’s railways celebrated in Flanders and Swann’s Slow Train, with Evercreech Junction a key station on the Somerset and Dorset line across the Mendip Hills. Today it is a small railway-less town, but distinguished for one of the finest 15th-century church towers you will see.

The tower design is believed to have originated in the western towers of Wells Cathedral (built in 1386 and 1424), subsequently developed at Wrington and St Cuthbert’s Wells. Evercreech is more refined and later than these. The style was developed further by the architect of nearby Batcombe around 1540 (ND April 2010). This ‘long-panel’ design gives the impression of height through its continuation of the transomed two-light belfry openings into panels below. Unlike some towers, the set-back buttresses bearing slender shafts are very restrained; that too, adds to the sensation of height. They continue into the parapet, uniting the design, while the battlements are restrained and do not unbalance the whole. John Harvey made a close study of the great Somerset towers, noting that the use of the quatrefoil in the battlement here suggests late work, after 1485; a view supported by the W window relating to the early Tudor work at Weston Zoyland.

No interior could live up to such a tower; the Victorians gave the church galleries in the aisles, conferring a muddled but endearing character, and more recently colour was restored to the painted ceiling.

You do not have to go to a gallery, or even a cathedral, to see great art. The art of our parish churches belongs to us all; it is not just the preserve of the rich.

Grid reference: ST 649386

Simon Cotton

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