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St Martin, North Stoke, Somerset

(51°25′12″N, 2°25′37″W)
North Stoke
ST 704 691
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Bath and North East Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
medieval St Martin
now St Martin
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes

3 December 2009

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North Stoke, Somerset (not to be confused with North Stoke, Sussex and Oxfordshire) is a small village in NE Somerset; in 2010 it had only 72 inhabitants. Relatively insignificant though it certainly is in respect of Romanesque sculpture, St Martin’s deserves close consideration for its strategic location. It is sited 4 mi NW of Bath at the top of a tiny nucleated settlement perched up on the NW flank of Lansdown Hill, thus enjoying an extensive and commanding view of the Avon valley and across to the Welsh hills.

The church of St Martin has a sturdy but squat W tower, nave, and a chancel which is of similar dimensions to the nave. A major restoration took place in 1888 which repaired or replaced much of the fabric. Much of the building is from the 13thc. to 16thc. although the W tower dates from the 12thc. The font is also Romanesque and there is reused sculptured masonry in the nave walls which may date from the 12thc.


Taylor (1900) notes that King Penda appropriated Bath and surrounding area to Mercia in the mid 7thc. Offa consolidated Mercian power when, in 781, he made Bath a royal estate. Bath was transferred from Mercia to Wessex in the mid 10thc. North Stoke is not mentioned in DB.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration





The re-used blocks are not voussoir-shaped and so are unlikely to have formed part of an arch, but they may have formed jambs to a former window or doorway. They could have been part of the original 12thc build.

The font is of a type also found at the near-neighbouring parish of Langridge (q.v.). Its squarish profile is reminiscent (perhaps intentionally) of a Roman altar. The greater size of the bowl over the stem is very nicely judged.

For what was probably always a small, isolated settlement, the evidence suggests there was a good level of investment here in the 12thc. Certainly, it is worth pointing out that the entire tower, even if not boasting much sculpture, is built of ashlar masonry throughout.

  1. F. Arnold-Forster Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), III, 267.

Historic England listing 1215229.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 235.

Revd. C.S. Taylor, 'Bath, Mercian and West-Saxon',Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 23 (1900).