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St Andrew, Blagdon, Somerset

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Feature Sets (2)

Description

The small village of Blagdon is in the Mendip Hills, 11 miles SW of Bristol. It lies on Dolomitic conglomerate bedrock at an altitude of about 100m above OD on the fairly steep south side of the upper Yeo valley. The Black Down after which the settlement is named is an expanse of upland heath on Portishead Beds of Old Red Sandstone 2.5km to the SW; its summit, Beacon Batch, is the highest point of the Mendips at 325m above OD. Above the village towards Black Down the underlying rock is composed of bands of limestone of varied width (specifically: Hotwells Limestone-Harptree Beds-Clifton Down Limestone-Burrington Oolite-Black Rock Limestone-Lower Limestone Shale); below, down to the reservoir NE of the village (Blagdon Lake - opened in 1901), is the inevitable Mercia Mudstone (Keuper Marl). The village looks across its lake to gentle Lias hills on the other side of the valley — hills which hide from view the conurbation of nearby Bristol.

Blagdon village lies along the main A368 Weston-Bath road and adjoining lanes. The church part of the village is kept discrete from the commercial part by a deep combe which even today preserves a totally rural landscape; the two parts are connected by a footpath which gives fine views from the west of the church on its eminence (at an altitude of about 100m above OD) commanding the lake.

St Andrew’s is a very grand large church which has been obviously refurbished by Bristol mercantile money, probably more than strictly necessary for fabric-survival: a building proclaiming proud patronage. This healthy situation (for the fabric) is possibly now ended since the last substantial contributions came from Wills tobacco money and the present congregation is unable to match those. It has an aisled nave with a south porch, a short chancel and an impressive 4-storey W tower. The tower is 15thc but the rest of the church is by Sir Frank Wills of 1907-09. Construction is of closely jointed squared and coursed dressed stone to the tower and rock-faced rubble squared and coursed with ashlar dressings to remainder. The only Romanesque feature is a piscina with figural carving.

History

Blagdon belonged to Serlo of Burcy in 1086, and to Aelmer before the Conquest. It was assessed at ten hides and also included 2 mills, 10 acres of meadow, 220 acres of woodland, and pasture 1 league in length and width. 1 hide of this land was held from Serlo by Lambert.

In the 12thc Blagdon passed to Serlo’s grandson Robert fitzMartin, and it remained in that family until the 14thc. The church and surrounding lands meanwhile were given by Richard fitzMartin in the 12thc to the monks of the Cistercian house of Stanley (Wiltshire) who held them until the Dissolution.

Features

Furnishings

Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Piscina

Set in the S wall of the chancel, a piscina consisting of a roughly-shaped cuboid block, dished on its upper surface and carved on the front face with a projecting roll and below this an arcade of four round-headed bays with fictive capitals of indeterminate type and large bulbous bases. In each bay is a frontal figure indicated by a crude head above a slightly smaller conical body. The four heads are oval with slightly pointed chins, bulging eyes in sockets, small triangular noses and incised thin mouths. The piscina is now set under a round-headed arch with a label at a distance from the arch – neo-Norman work by Wills. . The condition of the carved frieze is fairly good except for the rather eroded E end of the easternmost arcade. There may be traces of original (red) paint.

Dimensions
Depth of carved block 0.33m
Height of carved block (at front) 0.19m
Width of carved block (at front) 0.42m

Comments/Opinions

Pevsner described the piscina as an ‘interesting, extremely primitive Norman stone with four big-headed figures under arches.’ The EH Listing text describes the figures as the four evangelists, which is possible but by no means certain.

Bibliography

  • EH, English Heritage Listed Building 33899.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, Harmondsworth 1958, 144.

  • VCH, Victoria County History: Wiltshire 3, London 1956, 269-75 (on Stanley).

Distant view from WSW.
Tower from ESE.
Tower from SW.

Location

Site Location
Blagdon
National Grid Reference
ST 504 590 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Somerset
now: North Somerset
Diocese
now: Bath & Wells
medieval: Sherborne (to 909), Wells (to 1090), Bath (to 1245), Bath & Wells (from 1245)
Dedication
medieval: St Andrew
now: St Andrew
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Robin Downes 
Visit Date
02 June 2009