The central panel of the reredos in the chancel showing the Nativity.
Our sister church of St Katharine at East Woodlands sits just below the ancient hillfort of Roddenbury Hill and adjoining woodlands that formed part of the ancient Selwood forest. It was built at the instigation of Thomas Viscount Weymouth in 1712-14, probably in tribute to his great friend Bishop Thomas Ken who died in 1711 at Longleat House and who was buried at Frome St John the Baptist. For the first century or so of its existence the church was known as the ‘New Church’.
Woodlands parish was part of the ancient parish of Frome Selwood but separated in 1872 and now comprises the area including East and West Woodlands, Blatchbridge, Feltham and Friggle Street.
Services are usually held on the first and third Sundays of the month at 11.00am.
From 4 January 2021 all services at Woodlands are suspended givne the current risks in Tier 4 and the limiited space and ventilation at Woodlands.
Please check our parish magazine and notice sheet for details of online services and services elsewhere.
There is socially distanced seating available for between 16 and 30 people depending on whether people come as individuals or with another member of their own household.
Images of and information about our stained glass can be found here.
Fragments of our story....
Of ancient time
From Blatchbridge and Feltham, from Friggle Street to East and West Woodlands – our parish is a glorious straggle of hamlets and farms set amidst the landscape of what was the ancient Selwood Forest. Signs of ancient occupation remain at Roddenbury Hill – a massive Iron Age encampment now covered with trees: Monmouth’s sentinels were stationed from there to Marston Hill after the fight at Norton St Philip.
Just below that hill lies Hales Castle – a circular ringwork with traces of an attached bailey which suggest a Norman date. Friggle Street is of ancient date as also Dog Street – once a haunt of notorious robbers and villains – the area infamous for coining of false money called Woodlands groats.
Close to St Algar's Farm off the Maiden Bradley road lie the remains of a Romano-British villa, a roadside settlement and a probable mausoleum or shrine, a site where metal and glass were worked
The medieval chapel of St Algar at that farm reminds us of faithful folk in the area before this church was built. According to the 16th-century antiquarian John Leland, Ælfgar (Algar), the chapel was the burial place of "the bones of S. Algar, of late tymes superstitiously soute of by the folische commune people" - it is presumed he was an Anglo-Saxon hermit.
In May 1719 the Revd Thomas Eyre BA was appointed chaplain in Frome Selwood and licensed to Woodlands: - the Oratorio or Chapel lately built in the Civil Parish of Frome. He was later to take his MA and become a Prebendary and Chancellor of Wells Cathedral, Rector of Fovant and a Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral.
Over the years many have ministered here – often not the incumbents whose names are recorded in the porch but curates or chaplains. It is unlikely that Revd John Ross, who spent 14 years as Bishop of Exeter whilst remaining vicar of Frome Selwood, came here often; Nor would Revd Charles Phillott have been seen much as he spent much of his incumbency at Dawlish, for the sake of his wife’s health.
Of those who did minister here a few names are identifiable: Revd J P L Fenwick was licensed as curate here in 1991, Revd R A Denton in 1822, Revd J K Goldney in 1823, Revd G W B Daniell in 1827, Revd C Morrall in 1831, Revd H D Wickham in 1832, and Rev G H Hetling in 1855
From 1872 the church had its own priest living along the lane – and that continued until the 1950’s when the parish was reunited in plurality with Frome Selwood.as the C18 Trust Deed and 1811 Deed of Consecration make clear that it should be.
Of recent years Revd Pat Lawless, and our Reader, Janet Caudwell, have been much valued for their ministry here
Organ and music
On Thursday 3 October 1793 a report appeared in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette: “Thursday last a new organ, lately erected in the church in Frome Woodlands, was opened with a selection of sacred musick from the works of Handel, and other eminent composers. The band was conducted by Mr Goss of Salisbury, and the performance was executed with correctness and taste to the general satisfaction of a numerous and genteel audience. At the close, an effusion of loyalty (characteristic of the allegiance of the neighbourhood) burst forth in an universal chorus of God save the King.”
On Tuesday 18 May 1937 a report appeared in the Western Daily Press: “CHURCH FETE AT WOODLANDS, FROME Opening Ceremony Performed by Marquis of Bath - The Marquis of Bath performed the opening ceremony at a garden fete at Woodlands on Whit Monday in aid of church funds. The marquis was introduced by the vicar (the Rev A E Stantial). A pastoral play, “Jenkins’ Picnic,” was ably produced by the vicar, a former member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. There were stalls and competitions of various kinds and dancing by children. The Blue Quartet Band played selections and afterwards there was a dance in the parish Room.”
From our own church choir to the annual musical hall by the Woodlanders, music continues to be a vital part of the life of this community.
Joys and Sorrows
Of recent years the Frome Cheese show has been held at West Woodlands and is a great celebration of rural life – sadly the lane adjacent to that site has also over the years seen cattle brought from many parts of the country for slaughter when there have been major outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.
In individual lives over 300 weddings have now been held here since the first in 1873, whilst others find our churchyard a peaceful place of remembrance. Many men from the village served during the First World War: their names are recorded over on the south wall and some gave their lives: remembered on the plaque by the lectern and in the chancel railings and gates erected in 1919 as a memorial to them.
Amongst the darker events of the past 300 years must be noted a dreadful assault on and murder of a young girl at Battle Farm in 1851. The event was so notorious that it attracted national publicity and one Henry Smith a Sargeant from the new Metropolitan Detective Force was sent from London to investigate.
Thankfully cholera is not the problem that it was in the late C19 – but it take until the 1940’s for mains electricity to reach here and the 1950’s for the municipal water supply to be connected.
Much of story of this building lies hidden amongst files kept at Longleat who paid for and endowed the building – the endowment continuing to this day in the form of the Thynne Ecclesiastical Trust that still provides about £2,000 a year towards our maintenance costs.
Details about the old gallery at the west end, of the Cherub heads and the letters painted over the East Window in 1775, of the conversion of the North porch converted to a Vestry in 1823 are therefore very limited.
Major restoration took place in work on the Chancel and Vestry ca 1870 by C E Giles, and then the Nave, Aisles and addition of the stair turret in1879-81 by J L Pearson, architect of Truro and Brisbane Cathedrals – we are fortunate enough to have copies of some of his drawings.
Of more recent years the renewal of the nave roof some while ago and the recent rewiring have been important parts of the continuing cherishing of this place.