The South Transept (St Thomas Chapel)Te South TranseptThe South Transept
The South Transept is also called the St Thomas Chapel, after Thomas Becket, who was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170. It was enlarged during the 14th century by Sir John de Clyveden, who also built Clevedon Court in the reign of Edward II (1307-27), at the same time as the reconfiguring of the Nave and building of the South Aisle, and was turned into a chapel for the Lords of Clevedon. The Elton family became Lords of the Manor in 1709, and have a family vault in this chapel. Sir Charles Elton, at the time he began the restoration of the church in 1844, handed over the chapel to the Parish, and renounced all rights therein.
Several memorials on the walls commemorate members of the Elton family (some of which appear in Figure 16). The most poignant is the one below the south window to two boys, Abraham and Charles Elton, aged only 14 and 13, who in 1819 were swept away by the tide when crossing from Birnbeck Island at Weston-super-Mare, where the Old Pier now stands (Figure 17). Their bodies were later recovered the opposite side of the Channel, and they were found locked in each other's arms. How appropriate are the words on the Tablet: "The flood was stronger than their strength, though not than their love", and "They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided (2 Samuel 1:23).”
The most famous of the memorials must surely be that to Arthur Henry Hallam, the very great friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson, who had been in love with Tennyson's sister (Figure 18). In memory Tennyson wrote his epic poem, ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’. Hallam had been travelling on the Continent with his father, Henry Hallam (related to the Eltons by marriage), in 1833 at the age of 22, when he suddenly died in his hotel room in Vienna of a congenital aneurism. Both Arthur and his father Henry are interred in the Elton vault.
It is human nature to remember, mourn and commemorate those loved ones whom we have lost. Here in St Andrew’s Church many find a place of comfort to gather for funeral or memorial services. Christians feel the absence of loved ones who have died as keenly as everyone else. However, intermingled within our grief, is a deep sense of hope that death is not the end, that God has something better prepared for us beyond our mortal lives. In vivid, poetic imagery, the prophet Isaiah wrote that God “will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:7-8). Citing this and other verses from the Hebrew scriptures, the apostle Paul, in describing the hope that comes from the resurrection of Jesus said, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ … thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 55, 57.
On the south wall of the South Transept is a large stained-glass window. Surrounding it can be seen the outline of the much larger original window dating from when the transept was enlarged in the 13th – 14th century. This was replaced with the smaller window during the renovations of the 15th century (Figure 19).
At the north end of the South Transept is the high Gothic southern arch of the Crossing, which replaced the original Norman arch, probably in the 14th century (Figure 20). In front of this, on either side, are pipes remaining from the 1905 pipe organ which was later decommissioned.
Ahead of the screen between the South Transept and Crossing is a table containing candles and prayer cards. During various seasons of the year there may also be one or more of several other themed prayer stations around the church, located in this transept. Above all, this church is a place of prayer, as it has been for around 800 years.
Prayer remains an important part of the life of the church, both corporately and for individual Christians. We believe that God can answer prayers offered in humility and submission to God’s will. Visitors are invited to light a candle at the prayer station, and if they wish, write a prayer and place it in the box provided. Prayer cards are reviewed on a regular basis and members of our church pray for the issues raised on them.
On the west wall of the South Transept, in addition to memorial plaques, can be found an artist’s impression of the changes to the church through the ages, drafted by Roland Paul in 1926. An adaptation of the lower part of this is shown in Figure 21 (the upper part is represented in Figure 7 in the section on the Crossing).
The evolution of the church through the centuries can be seen in a slideshow format here.