Church of St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip
Chewton Mendip shown within Somerset
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|List of places: UK • England • Somerset|
Chewton Mendip is a village and civil parish in the Mendip District of Somerset, England. It is situated 4 miles (6 km) north of Wells, 16 miles (26 km) south of Bristol on the Mendip Hills and is the source of the River Chew. The parish includes the hamlet of Bathway.
There were several lead mines and stone quarries in the parish. It is also the site of Attborough Swallet (also known as Red Quar Swallet), a cave which is unusual for a cave on the Mendip Hills in that it is not in limestone but instead in Dolomitic Conglomerate and Marl. The cave was first entered in 1992.
There is a long barrow to the north of the village 100 ft (30 m) by 50 ft (15 m). Excavation in 1946 revealed six Bronze Age barrows below the crest of the Mendips. The shape of some of the existing fields suggest they are of medieval origin.
The Mendip Engineering Company Ltd was based in Chewton Mendip around the time of World War I. It was originally founded in the early 1800s as Cutler's Green Ironworks and supplied the British Army with swords. By the 19th century they were repairing farm machinery and casting drain covers and road signs. By the start of the 20th century the company was controlled by C.W. Harris and trading as the Mendip Engineering Company. C.W. Harris designed and built steam lorries in 1907/8 that were sold as Mendips; in 1911 petrol engine vans were added to the range. W.L. Adams was employed to design an engine and by 1913 had built a four-cylinder unit suitable for Cyclecars. In March 1914 Harris announced a Light Car completely made by the company; this was sold up to 1916 when war intervened. After World War I the company moved to Southmead Road in Bristol, and was later taken over by Baines Manufacturing Company Ltd of Westbury-on-Trym. Although over 300 cars were built, only one incomplete Mendip car survives, having been dug out of a hedge at Cookham near Marlow, Buckinghamshire in 1967.
In 2004 there was a proposal to build a wind turbine near Chewton Mendip, but it was eventually turned down by Mendip District Council. There was particular concern about the effect the wind turbine would have on the Mendip Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). That decision has been appealed and was considered at a public enquiry in 2006, at which Ecotricity was given the go-ahead to build the turbine. The planned 2 MW turbine was built at Shooters Bottom Farm (grid reference ST595503). It has three 35 metres (115 ft) blades rotating at 6–22 rpm around a 65 metres (213 ft) high hub. It is expected to produce an average of 6.7MWh (megawatt hours) of electricity per year from the 2MW generator, enough to power up to 2,000 homes in the area.
Chewton Mendip has its own Parish council which has responsibility for local issues, including setting an annual precept (local rate) to cover the council’s operating costs and producing annual accounts for public scrutiny. The parish council evaluates local planning applications and works with the local police, district council officers, and neighbourhood watch groups on matters of crime, security, and traffic. The parish council's role also includes initiating projects for the maintenance and repair of parish facilities, as well as consulting with the district council on the maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, and street cleaning. Conservation matters (including trees and listed buildings) and environmental issues are also the responsibility of the council.
The village falls within the Nedge Ward which is represented by one councillor of Non-metropolitan district of Mendip, which was formed on April 1, 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, having previously been part of Wells Rural District, which is responsible for local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism.
It is also part of the Mendip North West Division which is represented by one councillor on the Somerset County Council which is responsible for running the largest and most expensive local services such as education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport, policing and fire services, trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.
It is also part of the Wells constituency county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election, and part of the South West England constituency of the European Parliament which elects seven MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.
According to the 2001 Census the Nedge Ward (which includes Litton), had 2,074 residents, living in 893 households, with an average age of 40.0 years. Of these 78% of residents describing their health as 'good', 18% of 16-74 year olds had no qualifications; and the area had an unemployment rate of 1.8% of all economically active people aged 16-74. In the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004, it was ranked at 26,803 out of 32,482 wards in England, where 1 was the most deprived LSOA and 32,482 the least deprived.
The church, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, is made of Lias Stone, with a tower 126 feet (38 m) of Doulting Stone which was "unfinished" in 1541. The tower contains a bell dating from 1753 and made by Thomas Bilbie of the Bilbie family. In addition, there is a peal of eight bells by Taylor's of Loughborough. The church, which was started in 1441 by Carthusian monks, incorporates several Norman features including the north doorway. The register commences in the year 560. Near the altar is a stone seat, known as a 'frid' for those, especially criminals, who took sanctuary in the church. The church includes monuments to Sir Henry Fitzroger and his wife who died in 1388, and to Frances, Lady Waldegrave (1879). The Waldegrave family have owned Chewton from 1553, but did not live in the village until the 1860s. It is a Grade II listed building. A stone cross in the churchyard also has listed building status.
Wade and Wade in their 1929 book "Somerset" described the church as a "singularly interesting church, which possesses one of the most stately towers in the county".
Their description continued "The arrangement of double belfry windows in the two upper stages is unusual, and the conventional lines of the elaborately pierced parapet above are relieved by the projecting stair turret and spirelet. The general effect is rich and impressive. The figure of our Lord, surrounded by four pairs of adoring angels, over the W. doorway should also be observed (cp. Batcombe). In the body of the church note should be taken of the good Norm. doorway forming the N. entrance. The interior is remarkable for an ugly bit of mediaeval vandalism. To render the altar observable from all parts of the church, a Norm. triplet, which once formed the chancel arch, has been mutilated; a pointed arch has been inserted, and the corner of the S. wall pared away. The chancel contains the only extant specimen in Somerset of a frid stool, a rough seat let into the sill of the N. window of the sacrarium for the accommodation of anyone claiming sanctuary. Note (1) piscinas of different dates in chancel; (2) change of design in arcading of nave, showing subsequent lengthening of church — the earlier columns stand on Norm. bases; (3) rood-loft doorway and ancient pulpit stairs near modern pulpit; (4) Jacobean lectern and Bible of 1611. The "Bonville" chantry, S. of chancel, contains a 15th-cent. altar-tomb with recumbent effigies of Sir H. Fitzroger and wife, and a modern mural tablet with medallion to Viscountess Waldegrave. In the churchyard is a weather-worn but fine cross, with a canopied crucifix. The Communion plate is pre-Reformation, dating from 1511."