St Thomas Church Guide

St Thomas Church was opened in 1857 to serve the desperately poor and overcrowded area of East Wells. Although this community went back to the 12th century only in 1835 was it brought within the city boundary and it continued to have a somewhat separate identity. The newly created parish consisted mostly of courts of medieval housing behind cottages on what is now St Thomas Street.

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St Thomas Church and east Wells as seen form the Cathedral's main tower. St Thomas Street runs through the foreground.

The church was designed by S.S.Teulon, a Victorian architect whose reputation has grown over the years. The south aisle was added in a slightly simpler style in 1866, together with a small vestry. Further additions were a choir vestry in 1926 and a parish office in1993.

Church Ground Plan

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  1. High altar
  2. Chancel 
  3. Sanctuary 
  4. Nave altar
  5. Altar Rails
  6. Organ
  7. Pulpit
  8. Nave 
  9. North porch
  10. North aisle 
  11. Font 
  12. South aisle
  13. Lady Chapel 
  14. Priests' vestry
  15. Choir vestry
  16. Parish office
  17. East porch
  18. Apse 
  19. North View 
  20. Memorial wall
chancel
2. The Chancel and Sanctuary

2. The Chancel and Sanctuary

Note how the carved capital on the column by the pulpit extends into the chancel. The use of the vine motif to visually unite the spaces occupied by clergy and congregation emphasizes that Christ's saying, "I am the vine; you are the branches" is addressed to the whole church.

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sanctuary
3. The Sanctuary Roof

3. The Sanctuary Roof

Although Teulon may have wished to suggest that priest and people were together 'The Body of Christ', he nevertheless distinguished the chancel and sanctuary with much richer decoration than the nave.

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nave
8. The Nave

8. The Nave

The Nave of St Thomas'. The word 'nave' is generally supposed to be derived from the Latin 'navis' (ship), this being a symbol of the Church. No roof could look more like an upturned boat than this one. When the wind blows, it also sounds like one.

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north_aisle
10. The North Aisle

10. The North Aisle

The North Aisle showing the carved capitals and angels. Note the more intricate roof in this aisle. The statue is of St John and commemorates the amalgamation of the parish with Horrington. The small crosses on the wall are for the Lenten service of the Stations of the Cross.

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font
11. The Font

11. The Font

The Font. While the perspective may make the font area look more spacious than it is, it is certainly more open than it was before 1983 when the surrounding area was cleared of pews. The picture shows the South Aisle added in 1866. Note the contrast between the columns of 1866 and those of the earlier North Aisle.

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13. The Lady Chapel

13. The Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel and Bas-relief. The Lady Chapel was created in 1930. The bas-relief is the work of the world famous sculptress Josefina de Vasconcellos and depicts the Christ Child blessing doves as a reward for their singing. It was given in 2002 and was placed in existing ironwork which was suitably modified.

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18. The Apse and Tower

18. The Apse and Tower

The Apse and Tower. When the church was built it was the first substantial building as Wells was entered on the important road from Bath and this was the first spectacular view. Crowning the apse is a fine iron cross by Skidmore. Two of the four statues of the evangelists around the tower are visible in this picture.

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20. The North View

20. The North View

The best overall outside view of the church is seen as it is approached from the city up St Thomas Street. This picture of 2002 shows the original main entrance but soon after it was taken the path was relaid to make the church more accessible.

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