8 members of the History Group made a visit to the church of St Laurence in Combe, or Combe Longa as it is otherwise known. St Laurence’s feast day is August 10th, and there is a travelling fair on the village green around that date. Combe is an Old English word for valley and the original village was down in the valley of the river Evenlode, where the Saw mill is now. However as parts of the south doorway of the present church can be dated to the 12th century, it seems the village spread up the hills to surround the church. The church itself was first documented in 1141-2, when it was granted by Empress Maud to Eynsham Abbey. The present chancel was built around 1310 and the three arched sedilia dates from this time. The nave is exceptionally wide for a church of this overall size, and had a rood screen the whole width. However this was removed in 1852, although the narrow winding stone stairway which led to the top can still be seen in one corner. There is a rare medieval stone pulpit against one wall which is still used, and from which John Wesley gave three sermons in the 1700’s.There are many colourful early 15th century wall paintings. One large one, sadly damaged, is of St Christopher surrounded by a mermaid and various river creatures. Over the chancel arch is a colourfully painted Last Judgement or Doom. There are several stained glass windows, some with very old fragments of birds and other creatures. There was a fire in 1918 in the tower, and the bells had to be recast, although the medieval sanctus bell survived. The damaged tower was then recontructed to it’s original design.
We all enjoyed our visit, and meeting the Rev Roy Turner who showed us round, and was recognised by one of our members as having been at one time the vicar of Carterton. Then made our way through Finstock to the Hilltop Garden Centre for our afternoon tea.