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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

The advowson of the church of Nether Taunton

Further, by a Chancery Inquisition post mortem, 24 Henry VII., No. 61, it is found that Humphrey Conyngesby, Sergeant at Law, and others instituted a suit on behalf of William Stavely, and others, by which he recovered to them the Manor of (apparently Upper) Taunton, the advowson of the church of Nether Taunton, about 2,700 acres of various land, and the rent of 4.5 quarters of salt in Over Taunton, Nether Taunton, Tetford, and other parishes.

The Manor, with that of Horncastle, continued for a long period in the hands of the Bishops of Carlisle; who were patrons of the benefice until the creation of a bishopric of Manchester, in 1848, when their patronage in this neighbourhood was transferred to that See. The Manor, however, with that of Horncastle, had previously passed to Sir Joseph Banks, and came eventually to his successors, the Stanhopes. The benefice, until late years, was a very poor one, being a perpetual curacy, annexed to Mareham-on-the-Hill; their joint annual value being 160 pounds, without a residence. But when the episcopal property (the Bishop being Rector) was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, they, with the aid of Queen Anne's Bounty, raised the joint benefices to 300 pounds a year; and in 1869 erected a good residence at Toynton, now occupied by the Vicar, the Rev. W. Shaw.

The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was formerly a very mean structure, dating from the 18th century (1772), in the worst of styles, with wooden-framed windows, of large square panes of glass, and having a flat whitewashed ceiling. The timbers of this had become so decayed that a former curate-in-charge, mounting to the false roof, to examine them, fell through, among the square pews below. This incident led, not too soon, to the rebuilding of the fabric, at a cost of more than 1,200 pounds in 1872, on the site of the previous building, as also of an original 13th century edifice. The present church is a substantial and neat structure in the early English style, thoroughly well kept, and with several pleasing features. It consists of nave, chancel, and porch, with tower and low spire. The nave has, in the north wall, two single-light narrow pointed windows, and at its eastern end a two-light window, having a quatrefoil above. In the south wall there is one single-light and one two-light window, corresponding to the above; the porch, taking place of a window at its western end.

The two-light window in the north wall has coloured glass, with various devices, one being a small copy of the famous Descent from the Cross, by Rubens, in Antwerp Cathedral; another the Royal Arms, with the initials V.R. below, and date 1848. The corresponding two-light window in the south wall has coloured glass "In memory of Eliza, wife of the Rev. T. Snead Hughes, late Vicar, she died March 9, 1872, aged 57." The subjects in the two lights are the Ascension of our Lord, and the three women at the sepulchre, with an angel pointing upward. In the west wall of the nave are two pointed windows beneath a cusped circlet, all filled with coloured glass; the lower subjects being John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, and the baptism of our Lord by John in the Jordan; the upper subject is the angel appearing to Zachariah; all three having reference to the patron saint of the church. An inscription states that these are a memorial to the late Mark Harrison and his wife Ann, erected by their family.

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