A Brief History of St Johns, Kenn


There has been a church on the site of St John the Evangelist, Kenn for a very long time. There is some evidence to indicate pre-Norman times.

However, most of what can be seen of the main structure is the result of substantial rebuilding in 1861, at which time, according to the Vestry Meeting record, the whole edifice was rapidly deteriorating.

The total cost of rebuilding was £996 17s 11d. The total funds raised by appeal, rates etc was £796 14s 0d. The remaining £200 3s 11d was contributed by the incumbent, who was subsequently declared bankrupt.

Amongst the older items in the church are two old monuments which were rebuilt into the church wall in 1861.One, over the South Door, is in memory of Sir Nicolas Staling Knight, complete with inscription and Coat of Arms. On the West Wall above the tower door is a monument to Christopher Kenn, depicting him with his two daughters facing him, and his wife underneath him, holding in one hand a baby and in the other, a book.

The family occupied the Manor of Kenn from about 1150 to the early 1600s.

In the tower, possibly Norman, is a small window depicting Bishop Thomas Ken, who held the See of Bath and Wells from 1685 to 1690, during the troublesome time of the Monmouth Rebellion, which culminated in the 'Battle of Sedgemoor'. The tower also houses a single bell of rough cast bronze; its origin is not known, but it was recast in 1775 by Bilbie of Chewstoke, and again in 1815.

In the South Wall, by the altar, the outline of the Priest's Door can be seen. It survived until the rebuilding but was blocked up at that time. The pulpit is modern and was probably installed in 1861. Nothing is known of the history of the altar; it pre-dates the rebuilding and is a basic, solid wooden table of dowel and peg construction.

The Porch is floored with old gravestones. Going outside into the quiet, well kept Churchyard, there are three features of interest. Firstly the outside of the Priest's Door. Whilst it might not be unique, the pyramid-shaped steeple on the tower is unusual and was probably modified in the rebuilding. Lastly is the Preaching Cross, originally built in the 14thC, and restored as a memorial to the men from the Parish who died in then 1914-18 War. There is no memorial to the 1939-45 war as Kenn is a 'Thankful Village', as all those from the village who served, returned home safely.