-Watchet & Williton Benefice -

St. Peter's, Williton



HISTORY

For centuries, St Peter's was a chapel-of-ease and until 1902 formed part of the ancient Parish of St Decuman, now the parish of Watchet.

Although it is quite probable that there was a Saxon place of worship beforehand, the first record of a chapel on the present site was one founded by Robert Fitzurse.  Robert was the brother of Sir Reginald, who possessed the Manor House of Williton and was the leader of the four murderers of Thomas a Becket in 1170.


The Manor House, which stood on a site south west of the church, beyond the cottages but in front of the stream was given by Sir Reginald to Robert Fitzurse and it is possible that Robert founded the chapel in expiation of his brother's crime.



THE CHURCH

The chapel of St Peter was dedicated by the early 14th century to All Saints.  The building has a chancel with north vestry and south chapel,   a nave with north and south aisles and shallow north porch and a western porch and bellcot.  Its core is a medieval building of nave and chancel whose east and west walls survive.  The south aisle, added in 1810-12, incorporates the Elizabethan windows of the original south wall of the nave.


The building was heavily restored in 1856/9 with a north aisle and vestry added.  The incumbent at that time was the

Rev  Samuel  J Heathcote who served until his death in 1906 (the east window stained glass is his memorial).  The roof was renewed and the bells were rehung in a tower with a small spire.


The spire did not last long, probably being destroyed in the violent storm of 1872.  The bells were then hung in a wooden bellcot which was replaced by the present stone one in 1896.


The octagonal font is dated 1666 and was lmade from local alabaster from cliffs near Watchet and is incised 'RW RP' the initials of the Chapelwardens.  The previous font was destroyed by vandals in 1657.


On the south side of the chancel there is a 15th century piscine with cinquefoil-headed niche and a projecting basin.


Further internal refurbishment took place in 1949/50 including the relocation of the organ and font and the construction of new choir stalls. Two riddell posts with carved angels and oak communion benches were also installed forming part of a war memorial dedicated by the Bishop on 5th March, 1950, as indicated by a tablet on the Sanctuary wall beside the choir stalls.


OUTSIDE

On glebe land once known as 'The Chapel Green'  opposite the north doorway of the church, across the road originally called 'Pleystrete' stands the remains of a cross, the upper part of which was said to have been destroyed in the Civil War when a raiding party rode this way to Orchard Wyndham.


This is one of five such crosses which at one time stood in various parts of Williton.