St Cuthbert's, Wells in Somerset
St Cuthbert's parish church in Wells, Somerset, is one of those churches which would invite uneviable comparison with the huge cathedral which dominates the other end of the city of Wells. But, despite the presence of its bigger neighbour, St Cuthbert's manages to establish itself as a splendid building in its own right.
While the cathedral plays with architecture as a massive concept, the builders of St Cuthberts achieved a delicacy - both inside and out - which the cathedral does not. If the cathedral is shouting the Christian message then St Cuthbert's is a quiet yet authoritative whisper. The church's crowning glory is a superb painted ceiling in the nave which would put some cathedrals I have visited to shame.
www.flickr.com/photos/barryslemmings/sets/72157629185113870/ to view the full set.
Wearing my film geek hat for a moment, St Cuthbert's appears extensively in the 2007 British action comedy 'Hot Fuzz' as the parish church of the mythical town of Sandford. The film's director Edgar Wright came from Wells and chose his home town for many scenes in Hot Fuzz including the 'Hollywood style' epic shoot-out in the town square. Wright said of Wells: "I love it but I also want to trash it".
In the film Britain's most effective police officer (Simon Pegg) is exiled from London to Sandford for having a 400% arrest record in the belief that a quiet country town will crimp his style. Instead he discovers the town is under the thumb of a murderous neighbourhood watch scheme run by actors Edward Woodward, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Kenneth Cranham and Billie Whitelaw.
St Cuthbert's churchyard is used as the setting for the church fair while the church tower is used for the murder of the town's local newspaper reporter - his crime was too many misprints and factual errors. Timothy Dalton even comes to grief on a scale model of St Cuthbert's in the film's finale. Actor Paul Freeman portrayed the vicar of 'Sandford parish church'.
See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Fuzz
The church is believed to have Saxon origins but the Saxon church may have been located further up the hill than the present site. The only traces of the Norman church are a damaged piscina and all later major developments are 13th to 16th century. Until 1561 the church had a central tower but, as encountered in other British churches, this was unstable and either collapsed or was removed around that date.