Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park

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The tiny parish of Cricket St Thomas is located between the two much larger parishes of Chard and Crewkerne in South Somerset. Sat in a beautiful valley, the parish only has a local population of roughly 50, but the St Thomas Church, the Cricket St Thomas Manor House and the surrounding estate, aka, the Wildlife Park formerly, draws in a good number of visitors every year.

Photo by Clive Gutteridge

The Former Wildlife Park

Up until the year 2009, Cricket St Thomas was famous for a wildlife park on the Manor grounds, which hosted over 600 rare animals. The park closed in 2009 when owners Warner Leisure Hotels decided to shut it down, citing the cause to be a decline in footfall. More than a decade later, the manor estate is still referred to as the wildlife park sometimes.

The gardens and lakes that remain to date have been opened and closed multiple times to the public since 2010. Those that wish to visit the Cricket St Thomas Manor House and the surrounding estate, should inquire with the local authorities regarding its current status first.

What Other Attractions are there?

Other than the estate and the manor, there is, of course, the historical Church of St Thomas. The Grade II Protected and Listed British heritage church was originally built in the 14th Century, but it was renovated in 1868 to preserve the building’s integrity. Interestingly enough, there was apparently a church that even preceded the 14th Century structure, although it was not the Church of St Thomas that we see today.

In addition to the rare flint, hamstone, and slate architecture of the church, there are some interesting artifacts preserved within the structure that are each unique.

The Artifacts in Church of St Thomas

The most famous artifacts preserved within the church in Cricket St Thomas are:

  • A piece of the altar cloth that was used during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation
  • A black and white, ionic marble monument which hosts the commemoration plaque of Alexander Hood
  • A pure white marble statue of Archangel Michael in the Churchyard

Trivia: The statue of St Michael was feared at night to such a degree by the local population that the church was forced to lay it down on the ground for a long time. A brief note of the account can be found within the church itself.

There are likely several others within the church, but these are the most famous artifacts that most are aware of.

In 1994, a portion of the estate also played host to the Crinkley Bottom Theme Park. The theme park (based on the BBC TV show, Noel’s House Party) closed by 1998, and the dilapidated ruins of the Dunblobbin House was demolished in 2014. Although neither the wildlife park nor the theme park remains today, the parish of Cricket St Thomas still has a beautiful, rustic charm to it. The natural lakes and the well-kept gardens, coupled with the enigmatic, ancient church, makes Cricket St Thomas, a fine site for a day visit.

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