Yetminster

 

 

St Andrew

 

Architectural Description

 

The remains of the Saxon preaching cross with carving on two sides

St. Andrews presides genially over the handsome stone houses of Yetminster, a high proportion of which date from the seventeenth century, when the village achieved an unusual prosperity. The church, of course, is much older: it has Saxon origins, and retains the carved base of a preaching cross of that period. What stands, however, belongs largely to the third quarter of the fifteenth century, except for the low and simple chancel, of about 1300, with its characteristic trio of lancet windows overlooking the street.

 

The fifteenth century work – nave, aisles, porch and tower – has greater pretensions, and is a good example of a uniform, aesthetically ambitious scheme undertaken on a relatively small scale and with limited means. The exterior, whose best face is to the south, is given grandeur by the row of large battlements that partly conceals the roof, by the sturdy elegance of the tower, and by the vigorous tracery patterns in the broad windows (recalling those of Sherborne Abbey). Eleven of the twelve original consecration crosses survive. The interior of the nave is appealingly spacious and light, thanks to its very broad plan, which (with its aisles) is nearly square, and to the tall wide arches that flank the main vessel. The lack of upper windows makes this, like St. John’s, Yeovil, a ‘hall-church’, echoing the great halls of castles and the open-plan ‘preaching churches’ of the Franciscans and Dominicans. Large parts of the original oak roofs remain (including the central one, a graceful semi-circular ‘barrel’ roof), as do some of the original benches. 

From the artistic point of view the most precious feature of the church is the amount of original colour that survives on walls, roofs and even benches. The survival of such a comprehensive unified scheme is rare. Though the traces of it are often faint, much decayed, or destroyed, what is left hints at an interior once ablaze with bright red, green, blue, white, gold and black. These colours were gathered in vigorous chevron or spiral patterns, or employed to pick out the foliate and heraldic decorations of the roofs, or to illuminate the sacred monogram IHS, the first three letters in Greek of the name of Jesus.

The fine 15th c roof with the sunburst of Edward IV and the Crowned Sacred Monogram - ihc - meaning Jesus

as well as mediaeval painted patterns of barber's poleing, chevrons etc.

 

Among the original carved capitals is one illustrating the favourite medieval joke of the geese (the hitherto gullible people) hanging the fox (the rapacious and mendacious friar).

One of the carved capitals in the nave

A more genteel but equally entertaining detail is the little horse on a boss in the roof, the ‘rebus’, or punning emblem, of the local magnate, Sir John Horsey of nearby Clifton Maubank, who may well have paid for the nave and tower.

The intervening centuries have seen the adornment of the church with attractive funerary monuments, notably the great early sixteenth century Horsey brass and the pleasantly naïve Minterne wall monument of more than a century later. Successive restorations have succeeded for the most part in consolidating rather than replacing the medieval fabric. The most recent of these was completed in 2000; it attended to traditional re-leading of the roofs, modern electric wiring and lighting and necessary repairs to the external stonework.

During the last few months of 2006 a major reordering of the Chancel took place.  The space gained for further flexibility for worship has been welcomed by many people.

More work took place in 2008 to make the Tower watertight. The opportunity was taken to regild the weathercock.

 

 

The handsome re-gilded weathercock (1752), now back in place on the top of the tower.