Our History

A Church at the heart of Burnham for over 700 years

The leaning church tower shown in 2015.
Photograph by: Alex Liivet

The leaning tower.

One unmissable feature of the church building is the lean of the tower. The church tower stands at 78ft tall and it is said that if a plumb line was dropped from the north side of the tower it would land 3 foot away from the building.

Presumably the tower was built upright with settlement taking place shortly afterwards leaving the list we see today. It is thought that the cause of the settlement was caused by the lack of foundations on sand. A false joint connects the tower to the rest of the building however there is no evidence of any further movement taking place sign the original settlement.

The tower is an intriguing structure with a void thought to be several feet wide in the North wall. Above the tower room where the font is located there is a bell ringers room accessed by a narrow spiral staircase. Above the bell ringers room is the clock room, the clock being installed in 1836. Finally above the clock room is the bell room where a staircase to the roof is situated giving fantastic views over the parish.

In the beginning

Although it is thought that a church has stood on the present site since the late eleventh century the oldest surviving part of the building is the South transept (now known as the St. Nicholas Chapel). Back in 1305 the Prior of Bath granted the Dean and Chapter of Wells two acres in Burnham, together with the advowson of the Church of St. Andrew, the church itself being commissioned in August 1315. It was the 700th anniversary of commission which we celebrated with a range of events back in 2015.

As well as the South transept the south door arch, the holy water stoop, the consecration cross and the sundial by the south door are all said to be from the earlier church. The exact age of the rebuilt church is not known but it is thought to have been built in the early part of the 14th century. There was originally a North transept, the north and south transepts known as Huish and Burnham respectively. The North transept would have been demolished to make way for the gallery and balcony built in 1838.

An old postcard showing the Church prior to the widening of Victoria Street in 1925.
Postcard published by Judges Ltd of Hastings.
The Church interior in 1907
from the Francis Frith collection

The Last Supper

Installed in 1962 the tapestry depicting the last supper were gifted to the church by Canon RV Sellars and Mrs Sellars. Of 20th century Belgian origin the tapestry is a copy of Leonardo Di Vinci's The Last Supper.

A building to be explored

700 years of architecture,
design and church history

The Organ

The 19th century organ was installed by WG Vowles of Bristolin 1885. The pipes are mounted above and behind the manual the longest of which stands at 5 meters tall.

The Chandelier

Made in Bridgwater by Thomas Bayley, the originally candle lit brass chandelier has taken centre stage within the church building since 1773.

The Pulpit

Thought to be Jacobean the pulpit was altered in 1949 with the addition of a tester. donated by Elizabeth Parish and Ethel Woodman in memory of their parents.

Come and see for yourself

There are far too many historical and interesting features of our historic church to display them all here. We actively encourage members of the community and visitors to the area to come in and explore the building and the historical artifacts which have been gathered over the past 700 years.

Every summer the congregation work together to allow the church to be unlocked during the day to allow visitors to come in and explore the building. Through a scheme we call 'Church Watch' there is always a friendly volunteer on hand to answer basic questions about the history of the church and if they don't have the answers they can point you in the direction of our guide books and other resources.

Details can be found on our church watch page.

The Angels

One of the most talked about features of the building are the angels which formed part of the historic marble altarpiece of Westminster Abbey.

They are so interesting we've given them their own section.