Orchardleigh church was already dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin in 1400, and some of its architecture goes back to the Decorated period around 1300. It is uncommonly rich in sculpture of that date, with some of the best glass in Somerset, dating from 1430 to 1520.

The moat round the church was dug by Sir Thomas Champneys in about 1800 and the monument in the churchyard commemorates his dog - the Fidele, immortalised by Henry Newbolt whose own ashes are buried there. Sir Gilbert Scott restored St. Mary's in 1878.

These churches are not, and must not become mere objects of artistic or antiquarian curiosity. They must continue to serve their primary purpose as houses for the worship of God. Services have been held in them for centuries and this unbroken pattern of prayer must continue.

But we hold these buildings in trust for ourselves and future generations. May we be faithful to that trust, and may they continue to reflect the Glory of God.

This article was written by Michael McGarvie FSA, a local historian.