Church in Wiveliscombe was first documented in 1179 and during the reign of Bishop Ralph a new church was built on the same site. Whilst evidence of the design and site of this church building is limited it is known that there was a particularly handsome carved and gilded oak rood screen and carved oak seat ends and pulpit. Surprisingly it is also known that the entrance used to be in the south aspect rather than the current north.
In 1826 the pillars in the church were found to be out of perpendicular and the cracked tower oscillated when the bells were rung. The County Surveyor was engaged to carry out an appraisal. He concluded that the necessary repairs would cost £3,109 whereas a new building to his design with catacombes would cost £4,185. A parish meeting agreed to the latter proposals and the foundation stone for the new church was laid on 6th June 1827. The new St Andrew’s was consecrated in 27th October 1829 by Bishop Henry Law with the cost being borne by all rate payers in the parish.
The new church built in gothic style increased the seating capacity by 558 seats to 1250. There have been several reorderings of the interior since then with the most significant being in 1914 when the sanctuary was remodelled and the large oil painting of Jesus by West County artist William Brockedom was replaced by the rose window in memory of Lieutenant Ralph E Hancock DSO son of Frank and Mariquita Hancock of Ford.
An organ was first installed in 1845 it was much enlarged and moved to the south aisle in 1892 before being moved back to the gallery in 1929. Further enhancements have also been made in 1995 and 2000. The organ is now used not just for services but also for frequent concerts and recitals.
The oldest part of the church is the 12th century Norman Font which was returned in 1924 from the garden of Berry’s on Town Hill where it had been used for many years as an ornament.
Information from Wiveliscombe a History of a Somerset Market Town 2008. For a more details history of the church see A Short Guide to the Parish Church of St Andrew Wiveliscombe – published by Wiveliscombe Parochial Church Council. D H Luxton © 2000.
The Church Crypt was also used in the Second World War for the storage of valuable and precious Church furniture, ornaments and records from all over the country. BBC Radio 4 programme “Making History” investigated the parish church of St Andrew’s. Click here for more information in the Hidden Treasures of St Andrew’s, Wiveliscombe or look at the BBC website.