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St Luke and St Andrew, Priston, Somerset

(51°21′3″N, 2°26′37″W)
ST 692 614
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Bath and North East Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes

15 Dec 2009, 11 Feb 2010

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Priston is a village 4mi SW of Bath in NE Somerset. Much of the parish has a certain remoteness which is due to the hilly, sparsely populated terrain and access being only by lanes. It will be seen from the distant view of the village that it nestles in a shallow combe: this valley is watered by Newton Brook which flows into the Avon near Twerton, just downstream from Bath. Geologically, like so many settlements in this area, Priston village lies on Lower Jurassic rock — specifically, a narrow exposure of Blue and White Lias (limestone) surrounded by the clay of Lower Lias. Much of the parish is above 100m above OD but rises to over 150m. The church itself, slightly above the village and about 200m from the very centre of it, is at an altitude of about 90m. The Grade 1 listed church of St Luke and St Andrew is made of rubble with freestone dressings, and some ashlar. It has a nave, north vestry, central tower, and chancel. The church has 12thc origins, with probably a 14thc phase, and the tower was rebuilt in the 1750s. There was a major restoration in largely neo-Norman style in 1861, which included the arches under the tower (see Comments). There is a Romanesque corbel table, south doorway and a piece of loose sculpture.


Land at Priston was given by King Athelstan (925-40) to a community in Bath which may have functioned as a community of secular priests, ie. as a minster church, later to become Bath Abbey. DB describes Priston as belonging to Bath Church.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Loose Sculpture


A photograph of the interior has been included to show how the tower was rebuilt in the nineteenth century using motifs from the S doorway. The whole effect is commendably grand (and suggestive of great care and expense, as well as respect for the Romanesque style), but the more the details are examined the more mechanical and repetitive they seem.

There is evidence on either side of the south porch (in the south wall of the Nave) of former round-headed windows, but there is no sculpture present and so they are not recorded here.

The place-name (Priston=Priest's Tun or settlement) suggests medieval importance for the church. Its general air of grandeur supports the intuition: the central tower probably denoting high status, and the use of ashlar. Presumably, the dependency upon the abbey church of St Peter at Bath explains the status of Priston - farms and mill as well as the church, no doubt.

The corbels are not finely executed and in the fieldworker's opinion are rather characterless, compared, for example, with those at the church of the neighbouring parish of Englishcombe.

The loose sculpture appears to be part of a pier or perhaps an imposing doorway. One wonders what happened to the rest of it.

  1. F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), III, 230.

Historic England listing 1312703.

W. Page (ed.), A History of the County of Somerset (London, 1911), 2, 69-81.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth, 1958), 247.