St Augustines Parish Church Locking
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History of St Augustine's Church Locking

St Augustines Church
The Parish Church of St Augustine dates from the 14th century and is a Grade II* listed building. It stands on a hill above a valley by the Mendip Hills and has views towards the nearby coast. There has been a church here for over 800 years.

The first written mention of the church comes in 1217 in a charter concerning gifts by a wealthy resident of 'Lokyng' to canons of nearby Woodspring Priory. an Augustinian priory founded to commemorate Thomas à Becket. The Prior and Convent of Woodspring were patrons of the church until the priory's dissolution in 1536 during the Reformation in the reign of King Henry VIII.

Of the Norman church fabric the font is the sole remaining part. The font has carvings characteristic of Celtic art from the 11th century, and the figures at the corners are dressed in armour of the style of Richard I (1189–1199).The oldest part of the church visible today is the tower, which was built in 1380

There were two St Augustines - St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) who was born in Numidia (now part of Algeria) and became a noted doctrinal theologian in Carthage and Rome, but it was most probably St Augustine of Canterbury (c. 550 - 604) to whom Locking's church was dedicated.

St Augustine of Canterbury was born in Rome and became the first archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Gregory 1st, sent him to England from the monastery of St Andrew in Rome to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.

When Augustine and his company of monks reached Aix-en-Provence, they were so terrified by reports of the savage islanders that Augustine returned to Rome for permission to give up the attempt, but Gregory refused. A favourable circumstance, which they were unaware of, was that Bertha, the wife of Ethelbert, the Saxon king of Kent, was a Christian.

Augustine landed at Thanet in Kent in 597. There Ethelbert received the embassy, listened patiently to Augustine's sermon, and promised the monks shelter and protection at Canterbury, where a residence was assigned to them. On June 2, 597, Ethelbert was baptized, and thereafter the new faith spread rapidly among the Anglo-Saxons. Augustine was made a bishop and given authority over all future English bishops. In about 603 he tried, unsuccessfully, to achieve uniformity in liturgy and practices between the Celtic and Roman Churches. His feast day is May 28.

Locking Church SomersetTHE PARISH OF LOCKING
Although the Parish of Locking is small, it can boast a long history. Before Christianity came to this area, there was a permanent settlement within the boundaries of the present Parish. With the arrival of the Romans wooden huts were replaced by stone buildings. A farm built by the Romans has been uncovered at the nearby former Royal Air Force Station. When the Roman legions withdrew in 410 A.D. paganism forced a firm foothold and Christianity largely disappeared in Central and Eastern England. However, in Scotland, Wales and the South West, the Celtic Church flourished. Gradually the Saxons pushed further towards the Atlantic and in 658 A.D. annexed Somerset, but by that time they had been converted to Christianity.

The name "Locking" has a Saxon derivation probably meaning 'Locc's people", and it was in this Saxon period that the Church and village grew. Very little concerning the first thousand years after Christ is known with any certainty, but it may be that in place of a Church there was a preaching cross where villagers could hear the gospel preached by a visiting preacher. If such a cross did exist, no trace of it remains today, though it is possible that the ornamentation on Locking Church Font was copied from the cross. It can be seen from the list of vicars that there were many in Locking before 1380, but it is not known if they had a Church here.

In 1217 Woodspring Priory in Kewstoke, Weston-super-Mare, was founded by William de Courtenoi, and Geoffrey Gilbwyne donated "the manor of Lokyng and all belonging to it" to this priory. Woodspring was owned by The Order of St. Victor which was a sub-division of The Order of St. Augustine, and since Locking Church is dedicated to this Saint it is reasonable to assume that Monks from the Priory founded the Church soon after.The names of the vicars of Locking can be traced back to 1319. The oldest part of the present church is the tower dating from 1380. Most of the rest of the church was restored in the 19th Century. In 1814 - 1815 extensive repairs including the addition of the North aisle were carried out at a cost of £233.3s.6d financed by the Merchant Venturers of Bristol who were patrons of the church and owned much of the village and surrounding land at the time.The chancel was rebuilt on the old foundations in 1833. In 1876 a single manual pipe organ was installed on the East wall of the Horth aisle.

Undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the church is the font. The carving and inter-twined serpents in the panels are characteristic of Celtic art, placing it in the 11th century. However, the figures at the corners are dressed in armour of the style of Richard I (1189 - 1199). A few years ago, it was suggested that their costume is characteristic of Henry V (1413 - 1422) because of the head-dresses of the figures are those which were worn at that time. These head-dresses were cut off during alterations in the last century, when the rim of the font was reduced in height to make it level. But it is possible that the changes were made on the figures to keep costumes up to date with the styles of the time, and the Church built in 1380 might have replaced an earlier Church built in either the 11th or late 12th Century. The font stands beneath the tower, but this was not its original place. The south side lacks ornamentation, and therefore this would have been facing a wall. Also it originally stood on one pillar, part of which was found in the Churchyard in the 1970s and now stands in the porch. The four corner pillars were added in the 19th century to ease the weight on the corners.

The tower is a fine example of the towers for which Somerset is famous, and from the top one has a splendid view of the surrounding countryside and out towards the coast. It is the highest point in the Parish. It was built in 1380 and therefore is the oldest part of the Church fabric. The trefoil parapet which surmounts the tower had to be partly restored in 1965.

St Augustine's, Locking, has a ringable peal of 6 bells. The fourth bell is the oldest original bell, cast in Bristol circa 1380, and is one of the oldest in the country still in regular use. It has some interesting chisel marks and is of listed status due to its age. The tenor bell dates from 1792, andl is inscribed "I to Church the living call and to the grave I summon all". From George Massey's account in his book 'The Church Bells of Somerset', it is recorded that there were originally 4 bells in the tower dating back to the 14th Century.

The peal was augmented to five bells in 1921 and then to six in 1946 to commemorate victory in the 2nd World War and appropriately called the 'Victory Bell'. The bells were rehung on a cast iron metal frame in 1904 and refurbished in 1998. An old beam in the porch dated 1631 and taken from the belfry bares the name of John Plumley, Lord of the Manor. The old door on the inside of the stairs leading to the top of the tower is original 14th century.

The pulpit is one of the finest in the county, although now "marred by gaudy paint" (quotation from F. A. Knight in "Seaboard of Mendip"). Since there are five other octagonal stone pulpits in other churches in the local vicinity it is likely that they are the work of one school of craftsmen. Beneath the Victorian paint, traces of what may be original colouring can be seen, and the pulpit may have been gaily painted with vegetable dye when first carved in about 1480. It was repainted in the 1970s.

The Lord's Table was probably made about 1814, the four legs matching the classic columns in the nave. Oher wooden furniture including tables and lecturn have been made by pasishioners in the last 50 years.

There was an old chest in the Church dating back to the 17th century. It contained Parish records from that date, and these contain many items of local interest. For example, six pence was given to Englishmen who had been robbed by pirates. There was also an old map in the vestry on vellum dated 1800, which shows the village with just thirteen houses. These are now in the North Somerset achives.

St Augustines Church LockingMONUMENTS
In 1969 when a new heating system was put in the Church, a plaque covering a grave was discovered at the back of the Church. It is dated 1704. There is a War Memorial plaque to a villager Sapper Glimstead of the Royal Engineers who died in the 1914 - 1918 war. The Lych gate was erected in 1910 by the Parishioners in memory of the Rev A. Woodforde vicar of the Parish from 1894 - 1909.

The stained glass windows are in the main Victorian and are good examples of this period. There is one more recent window.

There are a collection of biblical texts painted on the walls above the nave archway, doors and windows. The Ten Commandments on either side of the communion table were scripted in 1804.

This was done by Locking Woodworking Class, run by Miss Gimingham of Locking Manor, and completed between 1914 - 17. A number of parishioners carved separate panels, their names can be seen at the base of each one.

The inside of the churchwas renovated in 1986, including removal of the choir stalls and front rows of pews. Recent redecoration was carried out in 2010.

The Church Is a House of Prayer, worship and witness, not just a museum. People in each generation need to know the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Vicars of Locking

1319 Richard de Lincumb
1325 Henry de Cary
1333 Walter de Sanford
1347 Walter Aleyn
1440 John Wylton
1445 Heny Crakul
1445 John Baker
1455 John Gefferey
1459 William Grendham
1475 John Feyland
1477 Odo Odellan
1478 David ap Griffith
1498 Christopher Gomulton
1500 Robert Paunton
1501 Thomas Lewys
1505 John Batturyl
1524 Thomas Dey
1557 Nicholas Balland
1557 Philip Howell
1561 Thomas Sharpan
1573 Paul Methwyn
1579 John Printoste
1598 John Lawe
1608 Simon Coote
1618 Robert Vizer A.M.

1643 John Hellier A.B.
1671 Edward Wooton
1675 Joseph Franklyn
1693 John Millar A.M.
1732 Richard Rocke A.B.
1742 Richard Tuthill
1781 William Camplin M.A.
1812 William Dowell M.A.
1824 Alfred Harford B.A.
1857 George Henry Law M.A.
1876 Harry O'Connor M.A.
1880 Willian Clifton-Mogg M.A.
1887 Arthur Birth Sayce M.A.
1894 Alexander John Woodforde B.A.
1910 Geoge Frderick Jackson M.A.
1914 Arthur Edward Love M.A.
1939 Francis Dance M.B.E.
1942 Eric James Hood
1946 Thomas Henry Bland M.A.
1948 Cecil Copp Harcourt B.A,
1953 Denis Harold Tongue M.A
1967 Alfred Ronald Good
1976 John Hedley Mardon
1991 Michael Clifford Cotterell B.A.
1999 Christoper J.S. Turner
2007 Anne Lee

Reminiscences of Locking

Personal reminiscence of Locking and St Augustine's written by William Henry Parsons who was born in Locking in 1865 can be found here

History of Rev Alexander John Woodforde, (1839-1909) Vicar of St Augustines Locking for 15 years. He is buried inthe churchyard and commemorated on the Church Lych Gate.