St Michael’s Church Cudworth Somerset
The church is built throughout in random rubble stone and flint with dressed hamstone to doors, windows, buttresses, quoins, etc.
The Norman doorway on the north side has a carved capitals and leaf decorated tympanum with a dragon at the head of the east shaft and opens into the north aisle, probably the oldest part of the church.
At the east end of the aisle a tiny round-headed Norman window is set low in the wall with a simple piscina or basin alongside. To the top right of the door on the inner wall there is a grotesque figurehead with tongue hanging out.
The nave and chancel are believed to be of late 13th century origin. The nave has a medieval open-timbered arch-braced collar roof restored in 1940 during the major works promoted by the Rev. C J Allen which saved the buildings from becoming derelict.
The Chancel has a barrel-vaulted roof in oak provided by the church Commissioners at the same time.
Early in the 14th century new windows were put into the east part of the chancel and south wall of the nave. The west doorway and the window above it were constructed in 15th century when a new window was also let into the south wall.
The windows provide examples of the development of medieval design: Early English on the north aisle. Decorated on the south side of the chancel, Perpendicular in the west window.
The Font is 13th century with dog tooth cable moulding, The pulpit is Jacobean.
In the north aisle are tablets commemorating Richard Smyth of Cudworth who died in 1685 and his wife whose Protestant grandfather was expelled from Ypres in the late 16th century by the Duke of Alva.
There are two bells in the bellcote: one by Robert Wiseman, 1607 and one by Thomas Purdue, 1678.
The Parish Of Cudworth
Since Norman times the church has stood at the heart of Cudworth. An ancient settlement close to the Fosse Way and recorded in the Domesday Book: “Odo holds Cudworth (CUDEWORDE) from Roger (Arundel) land for 4 ploughs .
In lordship 2½ hides , 1 plough, 2 serfs. There are four villeins and two bordars with ½ plough and one hide, 4 acres of meadow, pasture 3 furlongs by 2 furlongs, 2 beasts, 12 swine, 60 sheep.
From the 15th to the 18th centuries the manor was held by the Speke family and then until the early 20th century by the Pouletts.
To the east of the church are traces of medieval settlement and to the south are the remains of a moat, earthworks and a fishpond, indicating a substantial establishment, presumed to be the olf manor house.
In 1563 there were 14 households and in the 17th century the parish had two churchwardens, 2 sidesmen, a constable and two overseers.
At the beginning of the 19th century the population was 163 and rose to 181 by mid-century including, as well as the farming families, 10 glovers, 2 dressmakers and 2 handloom weavers. There was a school, a poorhouse, (later occupied as a smithy) and an Inn, known since 1782 as the Windwhistle Inn.
In 1636 the vicarage or prebendary house was replaced by a new building which survives today with other 17th century houses, Knights House and Bonners Leaze. The other large farm house appear to be of 18th and 19th century origin. Family farms now occupy the major part of the parish.
In the late 12th century the church became a Prebend of Wells Cathedral through the gift of Alan de Fourneaux. The Cudworth stalls are still to be seen among the cathedral choir stalls and in the chapter house.
The living was served by stipendiary chaplains until 1728 when the living became a perpetual curacy and in 1886 the benefice became a vicarage on its amalgamation with Chillington. In 1983, on the death of the last vicar, St Michael’s joined the Windwhistle group of parishes with Dowlish Wake, Kingstone and Chillington and subsequently became a member of the Ilminster Team ministry.