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St Mary, Hardington Mandeville, Somerset

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Description

Hardington Mandeville (as distinct from Hardington Bampfylde in the N of the county) is a small village in South Somerset District. The parish borders the Dorset parish of Halstock about 3kms S from Hardington church. Itself in moderately hilly terrain, the elongated parish stretches N-S for about 8kms between just short of the Coker Ridge to the N (over which runs the A30 London-Penzance road) and the much higher Dorset hills to the S (below which and through the parish runs the London Waterloo-Exeter railway). The parish is relatively narrow, typically about 2kms. The village itself lies in an elevated situation towards the N of the parish; the church, itself at the N end of the main settlement, is about 1km S of the N boundary, overlooking (at just over 80m OD) the shallow valley of the Chinnock Brook occupied by the subsidiary settlement of Hardington Moor immediately to the N. The church, alongside the manor farm, lies at the top of the village. It occupies a sub-oval enclosure (a possible indication of Saxon origin) with a fine command of the prospect, especially to the N. 

Typically of some border areas, the roads in this area are unclassified. There are no obvious important historical N-S routes. To consider the nearest main roads: the A30 has already been mentioned; the A37 linking Bristol and the English Channel at Weymouth runs NW-SE about 5kms E of the village along the alignment of its Roman predecessor between Ilchester and Dorchester.

Urban facilities are available at the important former market town and present commercial and industrial centre of Yeovil, about 5kms to the NE. About 7kms to the WSW is the smaller town of Crewkerne — like Yeovil, on the A30.

Geologically, this is a Jurassic region, the main settlement of Hardington itself being on Forest Marble. The lower areas of Hardington Moor to the N and Hardington Marsh to the S are on Fuller’s Earth. The familiar and fine building stone known as hamstone is available from Ham Hill about 6kms to the NW. 

Although there is some relatively recent building, the village does not seem to have grown much in the last 150 years, to judge from the earliest available Ordnance Survey editions (from a 1886 survey) of the 6-inch/25-inch maps (on the National Library of Scotland website). The author can certainly vouch for its peaceful stability during his lifetime. It is a pleasant, if unspectacular, place with two contrasting pubs surviving — one in the village and one at Hardington Moor. 

If ever there was a mill within the parish (none being marked on the map) one assumes it must have been at Hardington Moor, powered by the Chinnock Brook which rises in the modest heights several kilometres to the E. The primary focus of parish industry must always have been agricultural. However, a cursory examination of the 1861 census (as representative sample) reveals, in addition to the expected occupations necessary to a self-sufficient community (for example, quarry work, blacksmith work, shopkeeping, dressmaking, shoemaking, laundry work), two cottage occupations typical of this area of South Somerset: gloving and canvas weaving.

The church stands in the centre of the village, and is essentially a work by George Pearce of 1863-64, except for the W tower whose lower stage is Norman, with a 14thc tower arch and a Perpendicular upper stage. It consists of a chancel with a N chapel / organ chamber, a nave with a N aisle and a S porch, and the W tower mentioned above. Construction is of Hamstone cut and squared rubble with ashlar dressings. This is very much the local stone as Ham Hill is less than 4 miles away. The font and a monstrous bird’s head sculpture in the sanctuary are the only Romanesque features here.

History

Hardington Mandeville was held by Gunhild, a daughter of Earl Godwin, in 1066. It was assessed at 10 hides, but paid geld for only 5 in 1086, when it was held by the king. 5½ hides were in demesne, and the rest was occupied by 16 villans and 16 bordars with 8 ploughs. There were 40 acres of meadow and woodland 5 furlongs by 4, and it rendered £12 14s of blanch silver.

After the Conquest the manor was annexed to the barony of Marshwood in Dorset (Marshwood village is approximately 20km SW of Hardington, on the Devon border) and held by the Mandeville family from which it took its name. It remained in this family until the early 14thc. The church was rebuilt in 1123, according to the List Description, when the newly-founded Abbey of Quarr (Isle of Wight) was invested with the rectorship.

Features

Interior Features

Interior Decoration

Miscellaneous

Bird head corbel

Located in the sanctuary, supporting a stone bracket used as a credence table fixed to the N wall. It is approximately triangular in form, with the beak forming the apex, away from the wall. It has large round bulbous eyes, a hawk-like beak, slightly open, and the surface is articulated with wide parallel grooves.

Dimensions
Max. height 0.23m
Max. width 0.13m
Projection from wall 0.28m

Furnishings

Fonts

Font

Located against the N wall of the nave, opposite the S door. (Documents in the County Record Office show the font placed centrally under the tower arch in the plans for the new church of 1863.) The font is in Hamstone and in good condition. It consists of a tub-shaped bowl with a deep, almost vertical, upper rim and a tapered section below the rim, rather like a flowerpot. At the bottom of the bowl is a band of single cable, encircling the top of the cylindrical stem. The stem rests on a chamfered drum base, and that on a distinctly odd-looking step, which is pentagonal, one of its angles pointing out at the S door. Its top edge is chamfered. 

Around the top of the rim of the bowl is a row of incised lozenges. The lead lining comes up to and over the inner third of the rim, which is rebated to suit.

Dimensions
Heights
Depth of bowl 0.31m
Height of base 0.15m
Height of bowl + stem 0.78m
Height of font 1.005m
Height of lozenge band 0.085m
Height of step 0.085m
Diameters
Diameter of exterior of bowl 0.72m
Diameter of interior of bowl 0.53m
Circumferences
Circumference of base 2.24
Circumference of bowl at rim 2.26m
Circumference of stem 1.60m

Comments/Opinions

On its prominent hilltop site, within an oval churchyard, this church is redolent of some antiquity & importance. 

The grotesque head was compared by Gittos and Gittos (1997) with Viking work. Similar heads of the Romanesque period but carved in wood are found in Værnes church in North Trøndelagin near Trondheim, illustrated in Blindheim (1965), 33ff. The present author is sceptical about Viking Age sculpture being a product of a workshop working in a remote Somerset church; the head could well have been imported by the Reverend John Hancock, vicar of the neighbouring parish of Haselbury Plucknett between 1869 and 1881, (who was responsible for the neo-Norman arch etc. on the N side of Hardington chancel and must therefore have been an enthusiast for the Romanesque), but if so there is no record of the acquisition in the County Record Office.

The list description offers 1123, the date of the rebuilding of the church, as a possible date for the font.

Bibliography

  • M. Blindheim, Norwegian Romanesque Decorative Sculpture 1090-1210, London 1965

  • J. Collinson, The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset, Bath 1791, Vol. II, 347-48.

  • B. and M. Gittos, ‘Anglo-Scandinavian? beast head in Hardington Mandeville church’, Journal of the Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society 7, No.3 (1997) 64-66.

  • B. and M. Gittos, ‘Hardington Mandeville, St Mary’s church’, Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, 141 (1997), 183-84.

  • Historic England Listed Building 263726

  • J. Orbach and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, New Haven and London 2014, 345.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958, 190.

Exterior from SE
Exterior from NW

Location

Site Location
Hardington Mandeville
National Grid Reference
ST 512 119 
Boundaries
now: Somerset
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Somerset
Diocese
now: Bath & Wells
medieval: Sherborne (to 909), Wells (to 1090), Bath (to 1245), Bath & Wells (from 1245)
Dedication
medieval: St Mary (pre-Reformation)
now: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Robin Downes 
Visit Date
07 Jul 2005