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St Mary, Cannington, Somerset

(51°8′59″N, 3°3′43″W)
ST 258 395
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Robin Downes
09 February 2005

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Feature Sets

Cannington is a large village towards the centre of the county, administratively in West Somerset and just 2.7 miles NW of Bridgwater. It is 3½ miles inland from Bridgwater Bay a pivotal point of the Bristol Channel, where the chief Somerset river, the Parrett, has its outlet. Through the centre of the village runs the Cannington Brook, which joins the estuary of the Parrett some 1.3 miles to the north-east. The church stands in the village centre. It is a large building with a W tower, an aisled nave with a S porch, and a chancel with a NE vestry. The tower is late-14thc and the remainder 15thc, and construction is of coursed red sandstone rubble with freestone dressings. It was restored and remodelled from 1840. In the vestry is a respond from the earlier Norman chancel arch. This is the only Romanesque feature recorded here.


Cannington was a royal manor by the reign of King Alfred, and at his death in 899 it passed to his son Edward the Elder. It was still a royal manor in 1066. In 1086 Erchenger the priest held of the king in the church of Cannington half a virgate which Aelfric the priest had held in 1066. Robert de Curci gave the church in c.1138 as part of the endowment of Cannington Priory. The advowson belonged to the priory. The dedication to St Mary dates from 1336.


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Being within easy reach of the Parrett (probably via Combwich), Cannington was historically very important from prehistoric into medieval times. The masonry remnant may not be much in size or artistry, but it is evidence of significance in the Norman period. . The N respond of the C12 chancel arch, visible in the vestry, and the weathering of the earlier nave roof on the tower are evidence of the size and form of the church before the C15.

According to Pevsner: ‘The church is entirely parochial in appearance. It cannot be the former church of Cannington Priory, a house of Benedictine nuns, founded c.1138 (by Robert de Courcy of Stogursey). Its position in relation to the priory must have been similar to that at Muchelney. Of the parish church of the C12 one composite pier with a strong attached shaft remains, now in the vestry. If it is in situ, the Norman church was not in line with the present chancel. But an irregularity of this kind is to be expected, as the present Perp tower is not in line with the rest of the later Perp building either.’


English Heritage List Description 268856.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, Harmondsworth 1958, 112.

Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record, 15704.

Victoria County History: Somerset, VI, London 1992, 73-89.