St Michael, East Coker, Somerset

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Feature Sets (3)


East Coker is a village in the South Somerset district of the county, 2 miles SW of Yeovil.  The village is dispersed around a network of minor roads and lanes W of the A37 Yeovil to Dorchester road, which follows the line of the Roman road from Ilchester to Dorchester. The 12thc church was originally cruciform and nave aisles and a N porch were added in the 15thc.  In 1790,the unsafe crossing tower was taken down and replaced by one on the N side of the chancel. The nave and aisles are of three bays, the chancel of two and the transepts are single-bay. Construction is of hamstone squared rubble with ashlar. The S arcade piers have late-Norman features but are probably 13thc. The font is Romanesque.


Coker (East, North and West) was held by the king in 1086, and by Gytha (the mother of Earl Harold) in 1066. It was assessed at 15 hides although it paid geld for only 7. Of this, 5½ hides were in demesne. The holding was populous, with a total of 87 listed people, suggesting a total population of 400-500. There was a mill, 100 acres of meadow, pasture measuring 1 league by half a league, and woodland measuring 8 furlongs by 6. The manor was granted to the Abbey of Saint-Étienne at Caen by William II, and the tenancy was in the hands of the Mandevilles by c.1205. It passed to Hugh de Courteney, Earl of Devon, c.1325, and it remained in this line until the 16thc.


Interior Features



S arcade

Three bays, pointed. The arches have two plain chamfered orders to nave and aisle; the piers are cylindrical with moulded capitals, circular in plan,  having a concave bell, a plain roll necking and an undercut roll impost block. The E and W respond carry the capitals on a short half-shaft with a multi-cusped conical lower termination. Bases have two tori and a prominent water-holding scotia between.




The font is in the W part of the nave, N of pier 2 of the S arcade, in the NE angle of SW part of church, forward of the pews. It is entirely of hamstone or similar, but only the bowl is medieval.  As is so often the case, the older, original, bowl looks whiter than all the other renewed parts. The bowl is cylindrical with a slightly concave conical lower section forming the transition between bowl and stem.  Just above the lower edge of the cylindrical section, the bowl is encircled by a band of cable. The rim is chamfered at both edges. It is damaged at the W and there is a metal fragment opposite at the E, so these are probably evidence for a previous lock-fitting. The inner walls of the bowl taper slightly into a flattish bottom. The usual vertical tooling is visible on these sides, since there is no lead-lining. Tooling on the outside is also as usual: horizontal or diagonal. There may be a vestige of vertical moulding of the bowl surface: in some lights, very shallow incisions may be imagined.

The bowl is carried on a modern almost cylindrical shaft with an upper roll necking. This stands on an attic base with pronounced steps between the constituent parts, and the base is on a cylindrical chamfered drum. The step is too shallow to merit the name. Unusually its W side abuts the pews; its E edge is curved.


Circumference of base (at scotia) 2.15m
Circumference of bowl 2.16m
Circumference of stem 1.54m
Depth of bowl 0.26m
External diameter of bowl 0.69m
Height of bowl 0.42m
Internal diameter of bowl 0.54m
Overall height 1.00m


A well-presented church, but the focus is on associations with T S Eliot. Local historians Brian & Moira Gittos have published the ‘Saxon’ masonry (long-and-short work) visible externally in the W wall, but although the quoins of the W end are large blocks, they cannot be described as long-and short work in the normal sense. The arcade arches are certainly 13thc, while the supports probably date from early in that century. It is included here as the responds and bases include Romanesque features. The font is described in the list description as  ‘C13 circular font with cable mould on modern base.’ Pevsner prefers, ‘Circular,Norman, with one cable moulding.’


  • J. Collinson, The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset,  Bath 1791, II, 340-44.

  • English Heritage Listed Building 263649

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958,161

  • Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 50441

Exterior from NE
Nave NW quoins detail
Nave, NW quoins
Nave SW quoins


Site Location
East Coker
National Grid Reference
ST 539 122 
now: Somerset
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Somerset
medieval: Sherborne (to 909), Wells (to 1090), Bath (to 1245), Bath & Wells (from 1245)
now: Bath & Wells
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Michael
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Robin Downes 
Visit Date
21 November 2005