"The Winsham I Remember"


I will now pass on to the religious aspect of the village. This, like the pubs, has taken a gradual decline, and the places of worship seem to be just about hanging on, and bear no resemblance to the place it held in the community all those years ago. 

The lively Church we knew prior to the First World War, could call in enough for its two Sunday services to three parts fill it. On festival occasions it was always filled to overflowing, forms had to be brought in, and placed in the aisles to help accommodate all those who could not find space in the pews. 

The Church boasted a good choir of men and boys, and an excellent team of Bell ringers. Not only did they ring the big bells, but at Christmas time, they would tour the village and outlying farms and ring Christmas carols on the hand bells. 

This custom died a natural death many years ago, and it has now become difficult to muster a team to give us a peal every other Sunday. As recently as last Sunday (June, 1971) out of a congregation of about thirty, I was the only one that was born in the village. The remainder were people who know not our village as we few locals that are left know it. Today it has very little character, it has lost most of that, and is now a residential community, in a rural area. The only trace of yesteryear is the countryside itself, and that changes very little. When the Church was alive, and active, we also had a thriving Sunday School, that gathered twice a day on Sundays, with enough children attending to warrant five teachers, some of whom are still with us today.

The Vicar at this time was the very highly respected Reverend Daniel Spencer, who was a little man of small physique, and indeed, affectionately endeared to the whole of the village as "The Little Man". I have heard, hard, rough men, that never went to any place of worship, boast of the fact, that out of respect, they always raised their hat to the little man. To complete the Church roll, we also had a very popular Curate, known as Joe (Joseph Oliver Evans). He was a young man who was very much to the forefront in the organisation of all the activities affecting the younger folk of the parish. He also had a Sexton, an office, which few of the younger folk would be aware existed in the village, or what his duties were. On top of this, foreign students came to the Vicarage to be trained in the laws of divinity. This, I am sure, will show how active the Church was in those days. The congregational Chapel in Fore Street, was also very well supported. Here they had a resident pastor, living in the Manse. Two services were held on Sundays. People were married here and burial services conducted.  A very strong Sunday school was again in evidence twice a day on Sundays.
The Sunday School Summer outing, was in those days, a real treat, and something that was looked forward to for many months. The destination was Seaton, all the children were taken, accompanied by some of the parents.
It was a real occasion. It left very early in the morning and two large farm wagons would turn up, all specially washed the day before, and all looking spic and span. If my memory serves me right, one was supplied by Tom Robbins and the other by Farmer Dommett, of Hey Farm, driven by Jim Grabham. Across the wagon were placed three or four planks of wood to service as seats, and, after a roll call, off we went. Everybody would be very excited and many children would be seeing the sea for the very first time. Others, that had been before, would be looking forward to putting their feet in the water. I cannot recall anyone ever being daring enough to actually have a dip, but never the less it was a great day. Chard Junction, where it is a case of all change to the puffing billy, that took care of the last leg of the journey, passing through two stations at Colyford and Colyton, before reaching Seaton. At last we arrive and there is great excitement. The day is spent here, before the homeward journey is made in like fashion. I well remember Mrs Churchill used to come with us, and always brought back a bucket of sea-water, for Fred, her husband, in which he would bathe his feet. I strongly suspect this was the nearest he ever got to the sea, as he was always too busy, but I shall have more to say about him later.
Not so big in numbers as the other two perhaps, but the Gospel Hall had its supporters. Two services were held on Sundays, similar to the opposition, and a very strong Sunday school which always increased its strength in the months prior to Christmas, as at the Christmas party all the girls were presented with a petticoat, and all the boys with a shirt.  The man in charge there at the time, was called Matthew Cross, but who was known to one and all as "Mattie". He was indeed a devout Christian and the little hall and the children were his life. I have been there at the Christmas party, when it was a feature of the evening for all the children, large and small, to either recite a poem or sing a chorus from Sanky Hymnal. Even the tiniest of them would perform, and Mattie would spend the evening with tears streaming down his face.






This page revised 16 May 2009