Ashill is a nucleated village towards the SW of the county, some 7½ miles SE of Taunton in gently undulating countryside, the church and centre of the rather dispersed village being perched at the relatively high altitude of nearly 70m above OD. The village clusters around a junction of the old road from Taunton to Ilminster, but is now bypassed by the A358. St Mary’s stands in the centre of the village. It ic built of local stone rubble, including blue lias, and has a 2-cell plan of a single-bay chancel and a 3-bay nave with N and S porches, with a W tower. The oldest parts are 12thc, including the N and S doorways and parts of the altered chancel arch. There is a 13thc window in the nave, and the chancel is substantially 14thc, although its origins are older. Apart from the top ten courses of blue lias blocks, its N wall is distinguished by relatively fine masonry: near-ashlar. As well as the local lias, this wall contains hamstone or similar, as well as bits of chert from the nearby Blackdown Hills. There are also several horizontal strings of narrow blocks. Towards the W end of this wall, several feet E of the junction with the nave, there is evidence of the W jamb of a blocked doorway. This may be the remains of a porticus. This whole wall may well be pre-Conquest, and certainly predates 1100. Neither Pevsner nor the List description recorded this feature. The two-storey tower appears 15thc in origin, but with later modifications, including a weathervane dated 1867. This may date the 19thc restoration that undoubtedly took place. Romanesque features recorded are the two nave doorways and the chancel arch with plain blind arches flanking it.
The Count of Mortain held the manor of Ashill in 1086. It was assessed at 5 hides and in addition contained 40 acres of meadow and woodland 40 furlongs long and 20 furlongs wide. The Count also held 2 hides in Ashill from the abbot of Athelney, which had belonged to the abbey before the Conquest and were inalienable.
Plain square jambs and arch.
Octagonal en-delit nook-shafts on tall roll-hollow bases, also octagonal in plan. The E capital is a trefoil form with a recessed shield and keeled wedges on the angles. The W is a cushion with a recessed shield outlined by a double row of beading, and keeled angles. Both have plain roll neckings and quirked hollow-chamfered imposts.
|Height of arch apex above impost||0.68m|
|Height of opening||2.00m|
|Width of opening||1.12m|
Plain jambs chamfered on the outer edge. An incidental but noteworthy feature is that the E jamb carries a boldly incised consecration cross at about waist-height. The unchamfered arch is of ten voussoirs, mostly fairly even in size except for the common exception of narrow ones near & to the E of the apex.
The outer order has detached octagonal nook-shafts, without bases. The neckings at the tops of the shafts have suffered erosion so that, although the E is extant except for a break at the W, the W has been totally lost. As usual, the capitals are different, in this case of fundamentally different design.
The E cap is of the flat-leaf form, with broad leaves on the angles decorated with concentric grooving; the leaves on adjacent faces being separated only by notches. This fine decoration seems to have been executed with considerable artistic sensitivity. Abaci are quite plain, as usual, and imposts are the usual hollow-chamfered design. The E impost is so eroded that one can only assume it to have been originally like the W.
The arch of the outer order carries a frontal chevron design of six mouldings—starting from the inside edge, two small-one large-three small. Only the central large moulding is a roll; the others are fillets. Between the chevron arch and the label there is a plain arch.
The label, is plain and chamfered.
Plain, square-section jambs and arch with quirked hollow-chamfered imposts.
Plain pilaster-shaped jambs facing W, and supporting, in their inner halves, imposts as the 1st order, and in the arch deep centripetal chevron of the same profile as is found on the S doorway arch. The outer halves of the jambs carry plain blind arches - see below section IV.5a.
EH, English Heritage Listed Building 263898.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, Harmondsworth 1958, 78.
Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 56481.