The first mention of East Brent is in a
charter of 693AD under which King Ina of the West Saxons gave ‘Brentmarse’
to the Alnod Abbot of Glastonbury. The Abbey held it until the dissolution
in 1539. At the time of the Doomsday Book (1086) it is recorded that there
were a total of 46 houses in the parish. A priest called Godwin was
resident in the parish.
In 1203, one Martin de Summa was parson, he was followed by Gilbert
of Sarum who was vicar in 1262 and was given a pension by the Abbot in
return for land on the Knoll.
Once the Normans had invaded, many tiny parish churches were
demolished and replaced by bigger, more elaborate buildings. East Brent
was no exception.
A new church, the current building, was started in the late thirteenth
century and by 1298 when Rogerus became vicar, most of the nave had been
built. The tower and the spire were added about a century later. The
oldest two bells still in use date from 1440 and 1450.
Abbot John Selwood was vicar from 1467 to 1493. As well as building
himself a manor house adjacent to the church (demolished in 1708), he
also brought from Glastonbury most of the pews. These bear his initials
and are rich in fine carvings. The carved wooden eagle lectern dates
from this period. It is one of the few surviving wooden medieval
lecterns in England. There is also some fine fifteenth century stained
There was a wave of activity in the church in the reign of Charles I
during the incumbency of Philip Malet. In 1634 the pulpit was acquired
and the following year a gallery. The fine lath and plaster ceiling of
the nave with a blackberry thorn motif was added in 1637 by Italian
1840 to 1845 saw the short incumbency of William Towry Law and the
rebuilding of the chancel. It is likely he was responsible for obtaining
the already second hand tower clock which still tells the time for the
village. In 1841 the first school was built.
The vicar for 51 years from 1845 to 1896 was Archdeacon George
Anthony Dennison. A colourful High Church Victorian who was once tried
for heresy. Following an epidemic of diphtheria he was responsible for
the damming of the spring and the stream on the Knoll and so provided
the village with its first supply of clean drinking water. However, his
greatest claim to fame, together with churchwarden John Higgs, was the
foundation in 1857 of the famous East Brent Harvest Home that is still
carried on today in much the same tradition.
Another more recent incumbent which must be mentioned was the the
Rev. Archdale Palmer Wickham. vicar of St Marys from 1911-1935. He was
tremendously popular. He even had a road in the village named after him!
He played major first class cricket for Oxford University and later as
wicketkeeper for Somerset CC. He was also a knowledgeable
entomologist. On his death in 1935 his study notes manuscripts and
collection of butterflies and moths were lodge at the British Museum.
On the north side of the chancel is a stained glass window dedicated to
the Rev. Wickham depicting his love of cricket and wildlife. The new
church gates replaced in 2005 were dedicated to the
Paul Kingdom (Treasurer)
The vicarage, in the incumbency of the
Ven. George Anthony Denison M. A. archdeacon of Taunton and Prebendary
of Wells, had the tithes commuted at £690 per annum with residence and
80 acres of the land and is in the dedicated to the Virgin Mary,
consisting of nave, chancel, north and south aisle, porch and tower
containing five bells and surmounted by a spire. In the church are two
cedilla and the whole of the windows are of stained glass two in the
north aisle and the remainder modern. The altar is very highly
embellished. The pulpit and seats are of oak, with some curious
specimens of carved ends. The Church 514 feet long and 50 feet wide; the
height of the tower 80 feet and the spire 60 feet. On the exterior of
the tower are three niches; the upper one contains an effigy King Ina,
with sceptre and mound, embracing a monk; the middle niche, Queen
Frithegrand and in the lowest, her husband, King Ethelard, who succeeded
Ina on his retirement from Rome.
From the Directory of Somersetshire 1875