Guide to Ruishton

A Guide to St. Georges Church,



For over 800 years St. Georges has provided a spiritual home for this community. 1000’s of people have visited this place with their families, to celebrate birth and marriage or to seek solace in times of grief and distress. Over the centuries the life of this community and the lives of individuals have shaped this Church and created the building we see today.


Entering by the south door, there is a column and capitals (shown here) and the fragment of a zig-zag arch, the remnants of a church which stood here late in the 12th century. Subsequent alterations to the building obscures the extent of the Norman work, but the tiny chancel and the south wall of the nave are perhaps, further remains of the 12th century church. That building may have been either a simple rectangle or a cruciform shape, in either case it soon became too small for the community it served.


One striking feature of the church, the mis-alignment of the chancel, may have resulted from the northward extension of the nave possibly in the 13th century. Certainly the nave had reached its present size by the 14th century, when the rood stair behind the pulpit was built. This staircase (rediscovered in 1866) gave access to the rood loft surmounting the chancel screen. All trace of the screen is gone, except perhaps for the fine medieval panels incorporated in the reredos (the carved panels behind the altar). The only medieval glass to have survived the centuries is in the tiny window which lights the rood stairs. It depicts two watching angels.


The 15th century left a very clear mark on this building. New windows for the nave and chancel allowed more light into the lofty church. This would have illuminated the wall paintings which were uncovered in the 19th century (now vanished). There was also a new porch, an arcade, a chancel arch and an unusual double squint which allows those in the south aisle a view of the priest.


The history of the south aisle is difficult to determine but it may also have been remodelled in the 15th century. At first sight it is typical of the late medieval perpendicular style, with a rare and beautiful east window which probably dates from the late 13th century. There is a piscine in the south wall (uncovered in 1866) which appears to have been partially blocked to allow the insertion of a perpendicular window nearby, probably in the 15th century. The piscine marks the aisle as the ancient site of an alter, dedicated perhaps to the Virgin Mary, whose guild or brotherhood apparently flourished in Ruishton shortly before the Reformation.


The font (shown below) dates from about 1380 and is of exceptional quality. It has an octagonal bowl richly carved and supported by panelled shafts.                       



In the 19th century the Anderdon family presented a 16th century  Flemish painting to the church. It had originally formed an alter-piece and was titled “The Presentation by the Magi”. Unfortunately it was stolen from its place above the font in 1981 and never recovered.


The pulpit was given to the church by the Sommerville family after the Great War (WW1). It replaced an 18th century pulpit which is thought to have found its way to our sister church at Thornfalcon.


The organ was built by George Osmond and given to the church in 1913, in memory of Edwin and John Thorn. Although born in Ruishton, they had, like many others, sought better fortune in America.


On the wall, left of the organ are six ropes, each of which is connected to a bell in the belfry. The bells of St George’s have been unringable for some years but this chiming devise enables them to be used in a similar way to a carillon. 


The royal arms over the south door was originally on the front of the singing gallery. This was removed and re-sited during the Victorian restoration of 1866.


The church plate (silver) includes a fine Elizabethan chalice and cover, the latter bearing the date 1574.



Outside the Church


The chief glory of this church is its tower. It is built of the blue lias stone, typical in this area and is likely to have been quarried locally. Even in a county famed for its church towers its design is strikingly elaborate, with ham-stone friezes, canopied niches and an array of angel busts. It was planned or under construction by 1533, when Richard Gode of West Monkton left 20d (approx 8 ½ p) “to the byldynge of the tower of Ryston”. Despite a recent suggestion that no crown for the tower was never intended, it probably stands unfinished. The letters T and M over the west door are memorial, perhaps to an unknown benefactor.


There has been a tower clock at least since the late 18th century, although the present mechanism was made in 1882 by Smith’s of Derby. Two of the tower’s bells were cast in 1747 by Thomas Bayley of Bridgwater; another of 1781 was the work of Thomas Pyke of the same town. In 1955 the ring of six was completed with the addition of three bells made by Taylor’s of Loughborough. Unfortunately by the end of the 20th century an inspection had found the bells too heavy for the tower and all ringing had to cease.


Standing near the entrance to the church are the remains of a fine large cross, thought to date from the early 15th century. It has panels around the shaft which may bear the emblems of the four Evangelists. The figure of a mitred bishop or abbot, with his hand raised in blessing, looks down from the corner of the south aisle nearby. It is probable that he, like a similar figure found at St James’s Church in Taunton, originally formed part of the cross.


We hope that you have found this tour of St George’s interesting. Please visit us and experience not only the centuries of history but also the peace and tranquillity of God’s house.


Written in 1981 by Tom Mayberry and illustrated by Shirley Pippin. (Revised 2012 by Muriel Coles).

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