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Book outlines past of family's church

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: November 04, 2010

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ALL Saints' church in Clevedon, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this week, was built in 1860 by the Elton Family who owned Clevedon Court as a way of sparing those living in the east of the town a long and arduous walk to the other side of town for Sunday church services.

So it seems only fitting that a member of the Elton family has written a guidebook to tie in with the celebrations, which not only details its history, architecture and fittings, but also tells stories of the church – some of which have never been told before.

Julia Elton spent more than seven months compiling the fascinating book called All Saints' Church, after researching and gathering information from numerous sources including the church parish magazines and the Clevedon Mercury archives, the churches architect Alan Rome and local historian Jane Lilly.

She has already sold more than 100 copies and a further 300 have now been printed, with proceeds from the book all going to the church.

A background of the history explains how the church cost nearly £2,500 to build and was paid for by Dame Rhoda Elton out of her private estate.

Her husband, Sir Arthur Elton, 7th baronet, gave the land and also built the vicarage in 1862.

Nestled between Court Hill and Strawberry Hill in Swiss Valley, All Saints was the second church to be built in the lower town, the first was the medieval parish church of St Andrew's.

It is said that Dame Rhoda wanted to spare people living in East Clevedon the two mile walk to St Andrews, which could only be achieved by walking across five fields, for which the gates had to be opened. At that time, there were no roads in the town. The church was designed by C E Giles, a prominent Somerset architect, also practising in London.

Palmer & Green of Clevedon were contractors for the masonry and timber work, while William Bennett of Portishead was responsible for the fine stone carving.

The mid-Victorian church was transformed in the early 20th century with fittings and glass designed by two artists of the later gothic revival period, Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) and Sir (John) Ninian Comper (1864-1960).

The book includes a chapter on The Baptistery, which was completed just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and the war memorial.

Although there are other memorials in Clevedon, the East Clevedon calvary is the largest and most prominent and is also the only one to commemorate the fallen by name.

Another feature of interest is the first female bell ringers, who were permitted to ring the bells during the war.

The team of four women, three from one family, were photographed in April 1917 and again in August the same year for the Daily Mirror. The book features both current and nostalgic photographs throughout, and is easy to read, laid out in short sections.

Each section is accompanied with a church diagram highlighting where in the church it relates to, useful for anyone looking around All Saints.

Julia said she wrote the book in memory of her father, who taught her the joys of looking at churches.

She said: "The book is filled with new research and information.I have found out a huge amount and found it fascinating. I hope it will bring people into the church."

Copies of the book, which cost £5, are available from Seeleys in Hill Road.

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