The Nave


        A tour of St John the Baptist

The Nave


One enters the nave through the doors of a screen which was erected in 1755. It is thought that the gallery was erected at the same time to house the choir and organ and to provide seating for the poor, considered more appropriate than the box pews many of which would be ‘rented’. The gallery survived the restoration for in 1866. “It was proposed to remove the organ from its present position in the west window”. At the dedication service after the restoration in May 1863 “the church had 479 allocated seats and in the gallery, 100 for the children and 400 for the poor. It is also an interesting indication of the (Victorian) social mix of the parish”. It is not clear when the gallery was removed.

On the floor, two gravestones to look at close to today’s pews. On the right (south) side the top of the stone to Matthew Ford has three deep cut symbols of death – a pair of crossed bones, a skull and an hourglass (time has run out!). More of these are seen in the choir/chancel area. On the left (north) side is a stone of the Saunders family with dates from 1706 to 1779. I have never noticed directions on a stone before. “At the foot of this stone William…….” and “Beneath this stone North East to this lies Nathaniel…….”

At the restoration the barrel roof was removed and the present ‘Kingpost’ construction erected. Some of these were replaced in the 1950’s under the guidance of Rev. Mervyn Wedgwood as part of what Elizabeth White calls ‘The battle of the beetle’.  I like the fact that the decoration varies with a Trefoil or a Quatrefoil at the wall ends. Hidden almost out of sight above the central heating pipes are carved wall plates. Four to each bay and more easily seen from the aisles, they are about 9” (22cms) square and are all slightly different. John McLennan took photographs of them all the last time scaffolding filled the church (1997). The corbels are faces (mainly bearded) alternating with angels some with symbols of the crucifixion and two with musical instruments.

In the centre of the nave you are under the large chandelier. The Guift of Mrs Ann Tilly 1717 - three hundred years ago. I wonder if it is made of local brass? Originally it held candles (she left money for their provision and £1 for a yearly clean) before being converted to gas and now to electricity. She gave two chandeliers it is not clear which other one is hers. Look up from underneath, it is inscribed with her name and date.

The lectern was given in memory of Rev J H Gray here 1870-93.
A memorial to his wife is on the wall nearby. The banners were introduced by Chris Samway’s from around 2000, and Veronica Tuck who gathered a team together to design and create them. One of the earliest was a banner given to Poole Gakuin College in Osaka, Japan where our link missionary Rev Pam Cooper (from Keynsham) worked for 40 years. Its twin is in Chewton Church.

On the wall of the chancel facing down the church is a memorial mounted on a black oval background to members of the Palmer family. Father and son were surgeons here, the son died young in 1804. A pause to think about the work of the local doctor in those days. His wife Rachel was a widow for nearly 60 years – a chance for us to think and remember those who lose a partner, particularly at a young age.

On the other (south side) is the finely carved Jacobean pulpit. Nickolaus Pevsner thinks it is near the age of the tower, about 1665. It was originally on the other (north) side and was a ‘two decker’ but in the move it lost both the lower ‘deck’ and its sounding board. In considering the pulpit we have passed the nave altar on the dais. Both are relatively new features for the church, the dais in this form completed in 2014 though the nave altar was first introduced in 1977.                                   

 * St John the Baptist, Keynsham a history of the church by Elizabeth White.

  Edmund Prideaux