The Parish Church

In his will of 1382 the then rector of Yeovil, Canon Robert de Samborne, apparently a man of some wealth, left the residue of his goods ‘to be expended on the work of the church of Jevele, begun by me, until it be finished’.

It is almost certain that Robert was the illegitimate son of a rector of Kingston Pitney. In 1348, while still a young priest, he gave the rents of twelve Yeovil burgages to support three chaplains, one of whom was to be called the arch-presbyter, to celebrate for the souls of his parents, himself, and for others named. To this, in 1355, a further £27 in rents was given to Yeovil’s rector, John de Risingdon, of which 21 marks (£14) was to help maintain the three chaplains of Trinity chantry chapel. From the balance the rector was to retain 100 shillings and a robe or two marks per annum for his life.
The chantry chaplains were to suffer loss from a great fire in 1449 that destroyed 117 houses - a large proportion of the town. Included were 17 properties belonging to Holy Trinity chantry, and 19 belonging to the Blessed Virgin Mary chantry, both in the church, as well as 11 belonging to the chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary outside. The latter seems never to have recovered from this calamity.

In 1362, after having been incumbent of Kingstone near Ilminster, and then rector of Merriott, Robert exchanged the latter living with John de Risingdon for the rectorate of Yeovil. Once he had settled disputes over his lordship rights, and became a canon of Wells Cathedral, he probably then contemplated rebuilding the church here and induced William Wynford, currently master mason (architect) of the cathedral buildings, to produce a design in the recently introduced Perpendicular style of architecture.

Today, the church of St. John Baptist presents an appearance hardly changed from when it was newly completed at the beginning of the fifteenth century, its many large windows having earned for it the title of ‘Lantern of the West’.
Parish Church