Visit to Chelvey

Evening visit to St Bridget's Church, Chelvey, Thursday 27th June 2019

On a sunny but windy evening, 20 members of the society visited the tiny settlement of Chelvey to see the church and hear about the nearby Manor House. Our guide was  Norma Knight ably assisted by Elizabeth and Tony who provided tea, coffee and shortbread.

Chelvey Church is dedicated to St Bridget, who in addition to being the patron saint of poets,  blacksmiths, healers and a general all round kind person, is the patron of dairy farmers.  The dedication  fits in well with Chelvey, the name being Anglo Saxon for calf farm, the calves benefiting from the lush grass in the fields around the village.  In the early 11th century, the Lord of the Manor was a Dane called Thorkel possibly from Dublin where there was a Viking settlement so he would have been familiar with the Celtic saint Brigid (or Bride). The Dane was later replaced by  Anglo Saxon lords and they in turn were replaced by Normans by 1086.The Norman lord probably replaced a wooden church with a  stone building, which is part of the building we see today. The village is mentioned in the Doomsday book and  is recorded as having a population of about 50 people, very similar to the number today. It has always been an isolated settlement although there are now plans afoot to build houses between Chelvey and Nailsea.

Norma pointed out the many interesting features of the church -  the Mediaeval poppy head pews which are 600 years old, the  pew of the Tyntes family now housing the organ after it had been skilfully widened, the Norman font from 1150 altered to an octagon in the 13th century, the large porch where marriage vows were made (as mentioned by the Wife of Bath), the blocked door behind the Victorian pulpit which lead up to the Rood loft.  Apart from the base, this has disappeared, destroyed in the Reformation. There are fragments of mediaeval glass in the windows and a fragment of a 13th century wall painting. The Tyntes family built the Manor house next door and the Tynte's chapel in the 16th century.  The family had a field at Wraxall, hence the name of  Tyntesfield.  The fine 15th century tower was the subject of a recent fund raising effort as it needed extensive work on it. The money was raised by the tiny congregation. The reredos has a 16th century surround and a Victorian centre piece.

Members had time to look around this simple but fascinating church after the talk, before we returned to Clevedon.

Tom Chown, June 2019