St Andrew's History
The church, which is dedicated, like Wells Cathedral, to Saint Andrew, certainly existed in the early 14th century. Of the mediaeval structure only the tower and some pieces of carved stone, incorporated in the walls of the new chancel and nave, remain.
Inside, can be seen the font, the oldest artifact in the church, dating back to the 12th century. The pulpit is Jacobean and would have been used by the diarist Parson Woodforde during his time at Ansford. The arch leading from the nave to within the tower is particularly graceful and is almost certainly part of the original building.
On the west wall is a list of the parish priests of Ansford dating from 1328. Against the north wall of the chancel stands a carved muniment chest, probably of the early 16th century.
The ancient bell frame was designed to house three bells, the usual arrangement in village churches in pre-reformation times. Soon after the reformation the bell frame was extended to house a fourth bell - this would have been the arrangement in about 1620. The bells were probably re hung in the early 19th century.
The present restoration has allowed for augmentation to a peal of six, the bells being hung in a new steel frame. The original wooden frame has been preserved and retained in the tower. Catholic History
There was a time when Catholics in Castle Cary & Ansford had never had it so good. Not only was there a priory in Castle Cary, but the nearby mother church in Wincanton was administered by the Carmelite Order, and always fielded at least six priests.
Wincanton at that time also covered Mere, Bruton and Milborne Port as well as Cary . The nuns at St John’s Priory were of the semi-contemplative Benedictine inspired order, The Sisters of Christ Crucified.
The order was unique in that is was the only religious order catering specifically, though not exclusively, for physically handicapped women. Being semi-contemplative the sisters were happy to open their chapel to local Catholics and, indeed, to the whole town on high days and holidays.
Came the time (10 or 11 years ago) when lack of new vocations, together with the sisters’ increasing age and dependence on each other, meant the dissolution of the priory and dispersal of the sisters to convents in France and the USA. They are still sorely missed by all in Cary & Ansford.
At about the same time the Carmelites moved from Wincanton and it was handed over the the Diocese of Clifton.
Left without a church the Catholics of the area were destitute; their halcyon days were over. But the Church of England vicar at the time, the Rev Patrick Revell, assured them that the Catholics of Castle Cary and Ansford would not be without a church. He, and his successors, together with the parishioners, have made them feel completely at home in St Andrew’s Church, Ansford.
The Methodist minister also expressed the same truly ecumenical promise. Churches Together is alive and well and thriving in Castle Cary!