The parish church of St Mary the Virgin has been in existence for a very long time with a list of Rectors dating back to 1265. Built of blue lias stone, consisting of a chancel, north vestry, nave, western tower and a porch to the south.
The vestry, in memory of William Greswell (1765 - 1876) is on the site of an earlier building formerly linked to the chancel by an arcade. This suggests the chancel was longer to provide a choir for the Chantry Priests.
Five Chaplains were to celebrate, daily for the souls of the Lord of the Manor, Sir Simon de Furneaux and his heirs. This was set up in 1329. The ruined building now known as the Chantry was part of the original Manor House.
More historical information is available here and in the church.
The parish church of St Mary the Virgin has been existence for a very long time with a recorded list of rectors dating back as far as 1265.
The church is closely linked with the ruins of the nearby chantry which itself dates from 1329 when it had a complement of five chaplains to celebrate daily in the parish church for the soul of the Lord of The Manor - Sir Simon de Furneaux and his heirs.
Although supported by property and land in both Kilve and the neighbouring village of Stringston, the Chantry had ceased to function by 1411 ( and was in fact gutted by fire in the mid 19th century) and so by 1433 Kilve Church had reverted to its original status. It is interesting to note that the link with Stringston was revived in 1552 and the joint rectorship continued all the way down through the ages until 1946 when the village of East Quantoxhead was added. Kilton and Lilstock were included a year later and in 1977 the United Benefice of Quantoxhead was formed from these villages together with the addition of Holford, Dodington and West Quantoxhead. In 2007 the parishes of Stogursey and Fiddington then joined the afore mentioned parishes to form the Quantock Coast Benefice.
The church is built of local grey stone and consists of a chancel with north vestry, nave, and a western tower and porch to the south. The vestry, in memory of William Greswell who died in 1876 is on the site of an earlier building which was linked to the nearby Chantry with an arcade - suggesting that the original chancel may have been longer, perhaps to provide a choir for the college of Chantry priests. The porch dates back to the 14th century but the chancel arch, windows and nave roof indicate 15th century rebuilding, when the addition of a screen involved the creation of a shallow projection to the south to house both rood loft light and pulpit.
It is thought that the tower may have been added as late as 1636 (when the wardens were ordered to build an extra room) and its plain windows in 1771.
The tower houses two bells, one of which came from the Bristol Foundry, circa 1500, and it is believed that at first they were housed in a separate thatched building.
Some of the things which you might like to take a closer look at are the FONT which dates back to the 12th century and has a plain bowl with a cable-moulded base. In the chancel you will find some medieval glass and a wooden panel in the choir stalls which is dated 1687. Just above the main doorway is the royal coat of arms, painted on canvas, this unique piece dates from 1660.Cast your eyes upwards to the ribbed and plastered vault to the chancel which dates back to the 15th century.
Registers of burials date back to 1530, baptisms to 1591 and marriages to 1632. There are gaps for the years 1648 -65, but thereafter, records are almost complete. Kilve communicants numbered around 10 in 1776 and for most of the 19th century there was one service alternating between morning and evening - with 5 or 6 communions yearly. In 1851 average morning attendance was 60 and in the evenings 100! There were some 50 Sunday school pupils. Today services are held on a very regular basis on every Sunday with the exception of the 2nd Sunday of the month, and currently in 2003 the church has a recorded membership of 25 and an average attendance at services of some 20 people. However we are able to compare very favourably with the attendance figures of the mid 1800s - for the festive services at both Easter and Christmas and indeed at special services like those held to celebrate both the Millennium and the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II the church was full to capacity.
Apart from being the centre of Christian worship within our community, St. Mary’s serves the area in many other ways. It is a haven for many tourists who visit the nearby shoreline, a place where they can find quiet and sanctuary from the rigours of the 21st century. For all the many hundreds of children visiting the educational centre at Kilve Court it is a place where they learn of our ancestors and so much of the history of our little village. And entertainment too! The Church has been the venue on many an occasion for concerts given not only by local people but also visiting artists
As with every building of such an age, finances , alas, form a very important part of everyday life of the Church. It is difficult to understand that back in 1291 the worth of Kilve Church was recorded as just £10 . Disputes over the legal status of the benefice in 1433 were said to have led to the neglect of the parish and in 1448 the new Rector’s understanding of scripture and letters was “very mediocre” so he was ordered to employ a chaplain to allow him to study grammar for two years! Despite “hardly any progress” having been made he was found competent in 1451 and granted a further two years’ study. In 1554 the Church was said to lack books and ornaments because of bad debts and in 1577 the Rector was reported for non-residence The value had shrunk to just £9 by 1535 but was revalued to £100 in 1668 and £642 in 1831.
A far cry from today's accounts. Discounting the day to day running expenses of the church, Kilve’s ‘parish share’ alone amounts to over £6000 per annum and in 2001 the Parochial Parish Council (PPC) commenced the first phase of an ambitious restoration programme (the last one being undertaken back in 1913). The restoration was staged in two phases and completed in late 2006 at a cost exceeding £218,000! It is a compliment to the resourcefulness of the PPC, church members, and the village as a whole that in such a small community some £100,000 of that total was raised locally.
If you would like to contribute towards the on-going upkeep of our lovely church, your donation may be put in the box just inside the main door or sent to our Treasurer Mr C R Rutt “Grantchester”, Kilve Bridgwater Somerset TA5 1EA. Using the Yellow “Gift Aid” envelopes also allows us to claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated. Thank You