Tuesday, 24 November 2009

St Andrew, Mells

Photograph courtesy of Frank Collins

Mells is a pretty and interesting little village just west of Frome, with houses scattered along steep lanes. At its heart is the impressive church of St Andrew, set alongside an equally impressive Tudor Manor House, approached along a planned 15th century street - the combination being described by architectural historian Nikolas Pevsner as "among the happiest in Somerset".

The church itself - now Grade I listed - was founded in the 13th century, but almost entirely rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries in the Perpendicular Gothic style. From this period, the most notable features are the wonderful porch and tower - the latter with impressive pinnacles. Indeed, the whole church is decorated with battlements and pinnacles, as well as an unusual two-storied polygonal vestry. Both porch and tower have elaborate fan vaults, of a quality which would grace any cathedral.

Inside, the roofs and furnishings are largely Victorian, but it still feels like a mediaeval church: the north chapel has its original wooden roof, and the south chapel - largely filled with the 19th century organ - has two very impressive brasses to earlier Vicars, unfortunately rather hard to appreciate in their cramped surroundings. Look closely and you can also find the remains of the odd Jacobean pew.

The adjacent manor house was once home to the Horner family, and passed by marriage to the Asquiths. Around the turn of the century, the house became something of a magnet for the artistic worthies of the time such as Eric Gill, Edwin Lutyens and Burne-Jones, who left some impressive fittings and furnishings, including tombs, memorials, glass and tapestries.

Most notable are a tapestry and a plaster memorial depicting a peacock to Laura Lyttleton, both by Burne-Jones; and the handsome equestrian statue by Mannings and Lutyens in the north aisle. This is a memorial to Edward Horner, the last of the male Horner line, killed in action at Noyelles in France in 1917, aged 28.

Outside, behind the East end of the church are memorials to the Horners and Asquiths, to Lady Violet Bonham-Carter, and - most notably - to Siegfried Sassoon, who asked to be buried close to his friend, Ronald Knox, the Catholic priest and scholar. To the north, a clipped avenue of yews is another example of Lutyens' work.

St Andrew, New Street, Mells nr Frome BA11 3PT

No comments:

Post a Comment