St Martin, Fivehead, Somerset

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Feature Sets (3)


Fivehead is a good-sized village in central Somerset, 8 miles E of Taunton. The village stands on the slopes of Fivehead Hill, on land that runs gently down to the Fivehead River, a tributary of the river Isle. The church is in the centre of the village and Langford manor house is just outside the centre, to the E.

St Martin’s is of Lias rubble, mostly squared and coursed, with Hamstone dressings. It consists of a nave with a S aisle and S porch, a chancel and a W tower. The church dates mostly from the 13thc and 15thc, and was restored in the 19thc and 20thc. The only Romanesque features are a small section of chip-carved stringcourse set in the inner S wall of the nave at its E end, and the font.


In 1086 Bertram held Fivehead from Roger de Courseulles, and it was assessed at 1½ hides with 15 acres of meadow and 20 acres of woodland. Cathanger in Fivehead was one of the holdings of Muchelney Abbey, valued at 1½ hides. Of this, Ingulf held one hide and there were 6 acres of meadow and 15 acres of woodland.


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Stringcourse section or impost with saltire-crosses

Fixed to the S wall of the nave at its junction with the E wall, just S of the S jamb of the chancel arch, is a chamfered stringcourse section or impost block decorated with rows of three chip-carved saltires on its face and chamfer.




Located centrally at W end of S aisle, W of S door (in space E of present vestry).

The bowl & base are in hamstone or similar & in good condition, and there is a rectangular plinth.

The simple cuboid base carries no decoration.

Similarly undecorated is the bottom of the cylindrical stem. However, there is a very intricately moulded ring between it & the bowl consisting (working out & up) of a scotia, a fillet, a quirk, a shallow torus, an arris & a fillet.

The nearly cylindrical bowl carries a strong cable round its bottom and a saltire band around its top. The rim is otherwise plain. Internal sides & bottom are straight. There is a good lead lining up to but not on to the rim. A neat repair of the rim may be evidence of a former lock fitting.

Circumference of stem 0.92m
External diameter of bowl 0.53m
Height of base 0.26m
Height of bowl 0.27m
Height of plinth 0.065m
Height of stem 0.26m
Internal diameter of bowl 0.42m
Overall height of font 0.94m


The vill is called Fifhide in the Domesday Survey, and according to Mills this indicates its size (5 hides), but no estate of this size was recorded in 1086. The chip-carved stone is the only evidence of 12thc fabric, but as it is reset it offers no clue to its original location. It could date from c.1080-1120.


  • EH, English Heritage Listed Building 431724.

  • A. D. Mills, A Dictionary of English Place-names, Oxford 1991 (reprinted and corrected 1995), 132.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, Harmondsworth 1958, 149.

  • Somerset County Council, Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 22691.

  • VCH, Victoria County History: Somerset, II, London 1911, 103-07 (on Muchelney).

Exterior from SE
FIVEHEAD, groundplan of St Martin's by C.E. Giles, 1865. Image from Church Plans Online (Published by the NOF Digitise Architecture England Consortium).


Site Location
National Grid Reference
ST 352 229 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Somerset
now: Somerset
now: Bath & Wells
medieval: Sherborne (to 909), Wells (to 1090), Bath (to 1245), Bath & Wells (from 1245)
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Martin
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Robin Downes 
Visit Date
31 March 2005