About this church
Set in a fold of the Mendip hills, in the valley of the River Cam, St James is an unpretentious and delightful church. It escaped major restoration in Victorian times and remains an unspoilt gem.
This beautiful hillside landmark, with an impressive 15th century tower built of warm red Mendip sandstone with a handsome parapet, assaults the senses and contrasts with the humbler local blue lias limestone of the rest of the church.
Inside you are immediately struck by the wall paintings. Here, even the porch shows some traces of paint. The fabulous wall paintings are from the 12th to the 17th centuries. Fragments that have been identified, including the fine early 17th century Ten Commandments over the chancel arch, framed in twining leaves with enchanting cherubs faces peering out.
The interior has a warm and appealing atmosphere; its features and fittings are a delightful mixture of periods. The nave walls lean slightly outwards, betraying their great age, and the flagstone floor slopes gently downhill.
There are medieval benches as well as Georgian pews, an early 17th century pulpit, a west gallery dating from 1711, and a south gallery from 1819 inscribed in handsome lettering 'for the free use of the inhabitants'. Along the walls of the nave are rows of 18th century hat pegs for gentlemen to hang their hats.
Poet John Betjeman described St James as 'Rip Van Winkle's Church', asleep for centuries and virtually untouched.