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St Peter, Marksbury, Somerset

(51°21′31″N, 2°28′51″W)
ST 666 623

pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Bath and North East Somerset

medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes
27 Jan 2010, 25 May 2022, 8 June 2022

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Feature Sets

Marksbury is a small village in Somerset sited near the Chew valley, about 5.5 miles SW of Bath and 13 miles NE of Wells. The meaning of the place-name (‘boundary-fort’) suggests potentially significant history (Costen, 1983). S of the Avon Valley, E of the Chew Valley and W of Newton Brook Valley, Marksbury is in a historically active area and nowadays part of a favoured, prosperous district either side of the Avon. The bedrock on which the village rests is the Lower Lias known as ‘Blue Lias’. There is a quarry marked on nineteenth-century OS mapping immediately W of the village. One of the site photos, taken from the neighbouring parish of Farmborough, gives a view across the relatively flat land of Marksbury Plain to the church tower and beyond to the hills of Winsbury and Stantonbury. The original settlement lies offset below and to the NW of the A39, which is a long-established route along the high ground.

The church of St Peter therefore would seem originally to have occupied an almost solitary commanding position (at 124m above OD) on the high ground of the ridge, isolated except for its farm close-by on its SW side. The church consists of W tower, nave, N porch and chancel. The church is of late 12thc origin, but mainly dates to the 15thc, and was extensively restored in 1875. The only Romanesque feature present is a 12thc font.


In 926 Athelstan gave the manor to his son. It was later gifted to Glastonbury Abbey, but was then taken by Danish troops. It was restored to the abbey again after the victory of Edgar. (Robinson, 1915). DB records that the manor was held by Glstonbury Abbey prior to 1066, with 2½ hides of this land held in 1086 by an unnamed thegn and by Oswald before 1066. Some illumination on the relation between Marksbury and Wansdyke is offered by Michael Costen in Anglo-Saxon Somerset (2011).





The siting of the church may well be significant for several reasons. One is its placing at the interface beween the former Mercian and West Saxon kingdoms, and indeed the placing of the church alongside what may well have been the historical route between the two diocesan centres. The River Avon with its access to the Bristol channel, and transport links eastwards to London means this was probably a relatively affluent area with resources for high-status building work. High-quality freestone is also available nearby, although curiously this does not appear to have been used in the fabric of the church.

This disparate cultural context may perhaps inform what appears to be an unusually complex font design, for which no obvious parallels are immediately forthcoming. It is hoped that future research will brought to bear on this question.

  1. F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), III, p.196

M. Costen, 'Marksbury and District in the Old English Period' in Bristol and Avon Archaeology 2 (1983), pp. 25-35

M. Costen, Anglo-Saxon Somerset (Oxford, 2011)

Historic England listing 1320777, online at: www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1320777

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth, 1958), p. 223

W.J. Robinson, West Country Churches (Bristol, 1915), pp. 54–60.