A short history of St Mary’s Church Whitelackington

A short history of St Mary’s Church Whitelackington

The little village of Whitelackington lies 1.5 miles to the NE of Ilminster. Its name derives

from the Old English personal name Hwitlac and tun, meaning ‘farm’. In 1127 the name was

recorded as Witelecintone.

The lovely hamstone Church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated beside the Manor House,

a small distance from the present village. The two transepts are the oldest parts of the

church, with large north and south windows that almost certainly date back to the early 14th

century. The original building would have been much narrower, with a thatched roof, the side

aisles having been added at a later date in the Perpendicular style. It is unusual to find a

roof such as this one, extending as it does across nave and north and south aisles. Should

you be fortunate enough to find someone to take you to the top of the tower you will enjoy

magnificent views across to Exmoor and the Quantocks. Interestingly in the lead roof there

are numerous carvings of hands, feet, shoes and names, the earliest that we could find

dating back to 1689.

In the south transept, there is an unsual piscina containing a shelf and guarded by two dogs.

There are also two stone effigies, one of a lady, thought to be from about 1375 and the badly

damaged figure of a knight in armour from a slightly later date.

Near the church there stood a great spreading chestnut tree under which the Speke family

entertained the Duke of Monmouth in 1680. This was to have terrible consequences five

years later when, during the Rebellion, Monmouth passed through Ilminster, recognised

Charles Speke and shook his hand. When the rebellion was defeated this simple act was not

forgotten and Charles was sentenced to death by Judge Jeffries and hanged in the Market

Square in Ilminster