St Nicholas, Radstock, Somerset

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Radstock is a small, former colliery town 7 miles SW of Bath.  The town lies in and among the deep valleys of the NE Mendips: quite a dramatic landscape and not without fields even now that the conurbation of Radstock with Midsomer Norton has mushroomed with dwellings. It owes its name to its important position, at the crossing of the Wellow Brook, on the Fosse Way — or, rather where the present A367 (choosing easier gradients than its Roman ancestor) crosses it, the Fosse Way itself having taken a more precipitous line 1km to the W. Pevsner’s (1958) comments on the town are worth quoting at length:

‘Radstock is really desperately ugly. Or so at least it appears in its pleasant countryside. In industrial counties one would perhaps praise the nearness of field and hedgerow and the hilly site as such. In Somerset the small colliery town without dignity in any building hurts particularly.’

The collieries have now of course long been closed, but there are still probably few buildings of much merit.

Communications are good but exclusively by roads now that the railways have gone. (Radstock was once connected to Bath and Shepton Mallet by the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, and to Frome and Bristol by the Great Western Railway.) The geology, above the coal measures, valley Alluvium and landslip, consists of Mercia Mudstone and a narrow band of Cotham Member and Westbury Formation Mudstone (on which the church sits) below what is essentially the Blue Lias of the hills to the NW and SW of Radstock (which rise to slightly over 150m OD).

The church itself lies a merciful 300m S of the town’s busy central crossroads, on the left bank of the stream, at an altitude of about 72m OD; reaching it from the S, one has little awareness of the town: on a sunny day, it almost seems pastoral!

It consists of a 3-bay chancel with a N vestry, a 5-bay nave with a N aisle and a S porch, and a W tower. Of this, the W tower is 15thc, and possibly also the S wall of the nave and the porch, The rest was rebuilt in a Geometric gothic style in 1879. Construction is of coursed limestone rubble with weathered buttresses. The only Romanesque feature is the font.


Evidence of Radstock's Roman past is to be seen in the inscribed stone visible in one of the photographs of the font. In 1066 the manor belonged to Alfgeat, Alwin and Algar, and it was assessed at 7 hides and 3 virgates.  In 1086 it was held by Roger from the Bishop of Coutances. 





The font is conventionally in the  SW part of the nave, placed at an unusually large distance W of the S door and so close to the wall that the step abuts it. It consists of a bowl with a fat single cable roll encircling it at mid-height, on a chamfered drum base that stands on a similar chamfered plinth. This stands on a step extended to the S for the celebrant. The font above the cable roll is cylindrical; below the roll it is slightly tapered on its W side, giving the bowl the lop-sided appearance noted by the list description. Not only this, but there are discrepancies in the heights of the bowl above and below the cable ring. Although the aggregate is equal all round, it will be found that a difference of about a centimetre in the height of the bowl below the cable N and S has been compensated in the heights N and S above the cable. The step, probably more recent than the rest of the font and in the usual darker bluish stone, is cut to form a semi-circle around the font base at its N end. Placing the celebrant to the S of the font is rather unusual but not without parallel in the area (cf, for instance, at Bleadon in North Somerset). Good lead is brought up to and partly across the undecorated rim. The tooling of the font surface is worth inspection: quite regular but varied between horizontal and vertical. The bowl has been repaired at NE and SW, presumably to cover the removal of former lock-fittings.

External diameter of bowl at rim 0.665m
Internal diameter of bowl at rim 0.54m
Depth of bowl 0.26m
Height of base 0.20m
Height of bowl 0.53m
Height of bowl above cable 0.22 - 0.235m
Height of bowl below cable 0.21-0.225m
Height of font 1.10m
Height of plinth 0.225m
Height of step 0.13m


The font is not mentioned in Pevsner (1958), but the List Description calls it a 'lop-sided Norman font, a cylinder with cable-moulding.'


  • Historic England List Description 31982.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 249.

Exterior from S


Site Location
National Grid Reference
ST 689 546 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Somerset
now: Bath and North East Somerset
now: Bath & Wells
medieval: Sherborne (to 909), Wells (to 1090), Bath (to 1245), Bath & Wells (from 1245)
now: St Nicholas
medieval: St Nicholas (pre-Reformation)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Robin Downes 
Visit Date
30 June 2008, 10 Sept 2009