St James, Cameley, Somerset

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Feature Sets (4)


Remarkably sequestered in the upper valley of the Cam Brook, the tiny hamlet consists of little more than church, manor house and farm. Although only 1.3kms W of the main A37 (connecting the English Channel coast with Bristol, 15kms N) at Temple Cloud, Cameley is remote. (It should be noted, however, that the parish extends E across the A37, to include Temple Cloud.) The narrow lane running along the valley is an exclusively local road. Before motor vehicles, the area would have been less isolated; if one follows the stream from its source, 2kms NW of the hamlet at the N end of White Hill, for an easterly journey of about 20kms to its junction with Wellow Brook at Midford soon after one reaches the major river Avon at a point only about 8kms upstream from Bath. The church rests on the ubiquitous Mercia Mudstone (formerly called Keuper Marl) at an altitude of about 110m above the OD.

The church consists of nave with S porch, chancel and W tower.  Of these the tower is 15thc, and the remainder is substantially of the late 12thc.  Construction is of rubble stone and dressed  stone copings to the nave and chancel, with render on the nave N wall, while the tower is of squared but irregular coursed red and grey sandstone with limestone dressings. The church was closed in 1980 and vested in the Churches Conservation Trust in 1981. The dedication to St James of Compostella was noted by Faith (2009), 59-86.


Like much of Somerset, Cameley was held by the Bishop of Coutances in 1086. In 1066 it had been held by two thegns. It was assessed at 9 hides and ½ virgate.

In one account the manor was given to the church of St Peter in Bath by Alexander de Alneto in 1153. On the other hand, it appears to have been in the possession of William de Marisco, a descendant of the Alnetos, in the 1280s. The church was certainly appropriated to the abbey of St Peter and St Paul in Bath.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

Round headed, 2 orders.

Height of opening 2.42m
Width of opening 0.98m
1st order

Plain and continuous with a hollow chamfer.

2nd order

Polygonal detached nook-shafts carrying capitals without neckings. The W is a crocket capital with 2 rows of stiff-leaf; the E a double trumpet scallop, the shields on each face recessed and connected in the middle, and the cones with individual pseudo-neckings at the bottom. Imposts have undercut roll faces above hollows. The arch has diagonal fret on face and soffit, i.e. lozenges in high relief separated by an angle roll. The label is a half-roll that is mitred to the imposts at either end.

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel arch

Two orders to W, single order to E. Segmental, stilted arch.

1st order (shared)

Plain, unmoulded jambs and arch. Plain chamfered imposts cut back flush with the wall on the E face, and with a section cut out, perhaps for a screen, on the S side of the W face. A running foliage scroll in red paint survives on the W arch face.

2nd order, W face only

Plain unmoulded jambs and arch. The N impost is gone and part of the S remains, apparently chamfered but very badly damaged.




Rather encumbered by relatively late wooden fittings and furniture, the font sits fairly centrally at the back of the nave, just forward of the tower arch. It is of the shape, so common in this region, of a Romanesque scalloped capital, producing a near-square top profile. Between the heavy large bowl and the relatively short stem there is a band of cable. Of the simplest conventional design — torus-scotia-torus above bottom rectangle, the upper torus forming the necking at the bottom of the stem —, the base sits on a fine plinth (which, unusually, looks original) of very generous dimensions (although shallow). Good lead, which looks newish, is brought up and across the rim. From the E the bowl looks in good condition, but an inspection at N and W reveals serious latitudinal cracks which have been mortared over.

Circumference of stem 1.36m
External dimensions of bowl 0.645m x 0.65m
Internal dimensions of bowl 0.46m x 0.475m
Depth of basin 0.29m
Height of bowl 0.36m
Height of font 0.88m
Height of stem (including cable at top) 0.23m


A most noteworthy find in this church (see Blair 1991) was the wooden beak-head now in the British Museum but briefly repatriated in the summer of 2009 for exhibition in Radstock Museum.


  • J. Blair, ‘A Romanesque timber beakhead from Cameley, Somerset’, Antiquaries Journal 1991, 252-264.

  • J. Collinson, The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset,  2 vols, Bath 1791, II, 125-26.

  • J. Faith, The Knights Templar in Somerset, Stroud 2009, 59-86

  • Historic England listed building 32737.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 150.

Exterior from SE
Exterior from NE
Exterior from WNW


Site Location
National Grid Reference
ST 610 576 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Somerset
now: Bath and North East Somerset
medieval: Sherborne (to 909), Wells (to 1090), Bath (to 1245), Bath & Wells (from 1245)
now: Bath & Wells
medieval: St James of Compostella (pre-Reformation)
now: St James
Type of building/monument
Redundant parish church  
Report authors
Robin Downes 
Visit Date
05 November 2009