Somerset

Somerset is home to perhaps as many as 123 churches containing historic bench ends, with perhaps the widest range of associated dates in the four western counties. Although my own interest is primarily in Tudor bench ends I have included churches with benches that are estimated to be seventeenth century or earlier – partly because I know that others may be as interested in the seventeenth century as the sixteenth, but also because I know from experience how often sixteenth-century bench ends are recorded as fifteenth- or seventeenth-century in error.

J. Charles Cox, in his Bench Ends in English Churches (London, 1916) suggested that at least 46 Somerset churches contained historic bench ends. Comparison of his list with the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (in which we find ‘listed buildings’) shows that he vastly underestimated the total. The list below has been compiled using Cox’s list and the Statutory List. Alas, 15 of the churches mentioned by Cox do not have historic bench ends listed in their entries in the Statutory List, which may mean that they were removed in the interval: these churches are marked ** in my list below. Merriott and Winsham, both mentioned by Cox, are explicitly described as having only nineteenth-century pews in their listing, so their historic bench ends may have been removed between Cox’s visit and the publication of his book.

Available galleries can be accessed by clicking on the name of the parish.

1.Alford
2.Ashcott
3.Badgworth
4.Baltonsborough
5.Banwell**
6.Barton St. David’s** (Not mentioned in listing, but two present)
7.Barwick
8.Beercrocombe
9.Bicknoller
10.Bishop’s Hull
11.Bishop’s Lydeard
12.Brean
13.Brent Knoll (referred to by Cox as South Brent – album incomplete)
14.Bridgwater, St. Mary’s (17th century)
15.Brompton Ralph
16.Broomfield
17.Bruton (17th century)
18.Cannington (17th century)
19.Catcott (17th century)
20.Charlton Mackrell
21.Cheddar
22.Cheddon Fitzpaine
23.Chedzoy (album incomplete)
24.Chewton Mendip
25.Chilthorne Domer (17th century)
26.Chilton Cantelo (17th century)
27.Chipstable
28.Churchill
29.Churchstanton
30.Clapton-in-Gordano
31.Clevedon (Church of St. Andrew, moved from Wraxall, c.1892)
32.Combe Florey
33.Compton Dundon
34.Corton Denham** (moved to Rimpton c.1870)
35.Cothelstone
36.Creech St. Michael
37.Croscombe
38.Crowcombe
39.Culbone
40.Curry Rivel
41.Curry Mallet
42.Dodington (17th century, prob. 1610)
43.Donyatt (taken from nearby manor chapel, now demolished)
44.Dunster** (ten bench ends from Dunster preserved at RAMM, Exeter)
45.East Brent
46.East Quantoxhead (album incomplete)
47.East Stoke
48.Elworthy
49.Enmore
50.Exford**
51.Fiddington
52.Goathurst (17th century)
53.Great Elm (17th century)
54.Greinton
55.Hatch Beauchamp
56.Heathfield
57.Hemington (17th century)
58.High Ham
59.Hillfarrance (mentioned by Cox, the Statutory List describes as 19th century copies of 16th century originals)
60.Isle Abbots
61.Kilmersdon
62.Kingston St. Mary
63.Limington (“14th century” in listing, available photographs suggest 16th century)
64.Litton
65.Lovington
66.Lydeard St. Lawrence
67.Lyng
68.Mark
69.Mells (17th century)
70.Merriott** (C19 pews in Statutory List)
71.Middlezoy
72.Milverton
73.Monksilver
74.Moorlinch
75.Mudford (17th century)
76.Nettlecombe
77.North Cadbury (album incomplete)
78.North Petherton
79.North Wootton
80.Norton Fitzwarren
81.Oake**
82.Old Cleeve
83.Othery
84.Over Stowey
85.Pitcombe
86.Pitminster
87.Podimore (17th century)
88.Portbury (14th century)
89.Queen Camel
90.Rimpton
91.Rodden (17th Century)
92.Sampford Brett
93.Sandford Orcas** (now in Dorset but listed here after Cox.)
94.Somerton
95.South Barrow
96.Sparkford
97.Spaxton
98.St. Decuman, Watchet (17th century)
99.Stogumber
100.Stogursey
101.Stoke Pero (17th century)
102.Stoke St. Gregory
103.Stringston (1602)
104.Swell
105.Taunton**
106.Thornfalcon
107.Timberscombe (17th century)
108.Tintinhull
109.Tolland
110.Treborough (17th century)
111.Trull
112.Wambrook
113.Weare
114.Wellow
115.West Bagborough
116.West Buckland**
117.West Camel (14th century)
118.West Coker (17th century)
119.West Pennard
120.Weston Bampfylde
121.Westonzoyland
122.Whitestaunton**
123.Winsham** (historical pulpit and font ‘otherwise fittings C19’)
124.Wraxall** (Cox may have seen those moved to Clevedon, c.1892)
125.Yatton**

Additional churches added since the map was drawn and numbered:

126. Butleigh (Listed by JCD Smith. Statutory List suggests C20 copies.)
127. Cameley
128. Chelvey (17th century)
129. East Pennard
130. Fitzhead (Listed by JCD Smith. Statutory List suggests C19 benches.)
131. Hinton Blewett
132. Leigh-on-Mendip (Listed by JCD Smith. No bench ends in Statutory List.)
133. Puxton
134. Selworthy
135. Stoke-sub-Hamdon
136. Weston-in-Gordano
137. Winscombe

 

SomersetCropped.jpg

For a larger version of the map CLICK HERE

Some of Somerset’s bench ends are described in detail in Rural Bench End of Somerset by Peter Poyntz Wright. Other information can be found in Bob Osborne’s eBook The Carved Medieval Bench Ends of South Somerset.

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