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St Mary, Christon, Somerset

(51°18′41″N, 2°53′27″W)
ST 380 573
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now North Somerset
  • Robin Downes
28 June 2008

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At an altitude of 40-45m OD on the SE slope of a modest hill (up to 113m OD) in the western Mendips, the small settlement of Christon occupies quite a dramatic situation on the W side of the gap formed in the Mendip Hills by the Lox Yeo, 1.8km N of that river’s confluence with the major Axe: to the N lie the forbidding hills; to the S lie the Somerset Levels, no doubt equally if not more forbidding in medieval times. Possibly the principal thoroughfare then was the narrow and winding lane still running along the bottom of the southern scarp of the Mendips between Bleadon and the coast to the W and Axbridge and Cheddar to the E. Even today, roads to the S of that lane are few and little used until the main A38 is reached; to the N, communications are a little better because they can use higher ground: the road from Loxton 1.5kms to the S winds along the valley side and there is a comparable lane on the eastern side. Except for the large village of Winscombe 4kms to the E, Christon shares this remote area only with the slightly larger hamlet of Loxton to the S. This isolation is rudely underlined rather than attenuated by the jarring, jeering, M5 which roars up and down the valley. About 700m NW of the Lox Yeo river (and an ear-splitting 400m from the motorway), the church lies on the lane reasonably centrally, next to the Court, the modern successor to the manor house. Geologically, most of the hamlet lies on Dolomitic Conglomerate above the valley slope’s Mercia Mudstone and the valley bottom’s Alluvium; above the Conglomerate is the hill’s Black Rock Limestone. The place-name was originally just ‘Cyrc’ or ‘Cryc’ (= creech = hill), the Saxon ‘tun’ being a later addition. Prehistoric exploitation of the immediate area is evident from the remains of agriculture; Roman remains were also discovered when the M5 was built, where that road scrapes the NE edge of the hill behind Christon.)

The church comprises a nave with a S porch, a central tower and a chancel. Work is found from the 11-12thc, 14thc, 16thc and 1875. The earliest masonry is in the chancel, which has long-and-short work in the E quoins and herringbone masonry in the lateral walls. From the later 12thc are the S nave doorway, the restored arches, vault rib supports and corbels of the tower and the font. Construction is of rubble with squared quoins. The author is indebted for some information to Elaine Jamieson of English Heritage, who led a party from the Bridgwater Archaeological Society around part of the hamlet, focusing particularly on field-systems ― prehistoric and medieval ― on the hill to the N.


Christon is not mentioned by name in the Domesday Survey, and any idea that it might be ‘Crook’ [24, 7] (on consideration of the place-name) is nullified by the Phillimore commentary that that place is in North Petherton Hundred. Light has recently been thrown on both the early and later medieval history of Christon and Loxton by Aston and Costen (2008), in which it is argued that Christon was Serlo de Burcy's 3 -hide holding in Banwell; a conclusion already reached by Morland (1964). This land was held by Serlo from the Bishop of Wells in 1086 and had belonged to Earl Harold in 1066. Christon was known as Chruchestone in the later Middle Ages and was clearly a chapelry of Banwell; it is also possible that Uphill was connected with Christon and perhaps was also a chapelry of Banwell (Members of the Council (1894), 68-9; Weaver (1901), 339).


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Vaulting/Roof Supports





Pevsner (1958) described the S doorway as late-Norman. He made no mention of the font. Between them the 19 visible Romanesque corbels have only 8 designs as follows:

a. Grotesque animal-head: 7 certain examples: S 2, 5, 4; W 2, 3; N none; E 1, 4.

b. Geometric (roll with pellets, or roll): 5 certain examples S 3; W 1, 4; N 1; E 3.

c. Human head: 2 certain examples: S 1; W none; N none; E 2.

d. Geometric (saltire): 1 certain example: W 1.

e. Geometric (Greek cross): 1 certain example: N 2.

f. geometric (chevron): 1 certain example: N 2.

g. Bird/lion: 1 certain example: N 3.

h. Two fish: 1 certain example: E 5.


M. Aston and M. Costen, 'An Early Medieval and Secular Ecclesiastical Estate: the Origins of the Parish of Winscombe in North Somerset', Proceedings of the Somerset Natural History and Archaeological Society, 151, 2008, 139-57.

English Heritage Listed Building 33394.

Members of the Council, Two cartularies of the Augustinian priory of Bruton and the Cluniac priory of Montacute. ed. Somerset Record Society 8, Taunton 1894.

S. Morland, ‘Further notes on Somerset Domesday’, Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological & Natural History Society 108 (1964), 94-8.

S. G. Nash, ‘Huish by Highbridge: chapel and Compton Bishop prebend’, Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries 32 (1980-5) part 315, 212-15.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 163.

C. Thorn, C. and F. Thorn, (trans. & ed.), . Domesday Book, 8, Somerset, Chichester 1980.

F. W. Weaver (ed), Somerset Medieval Wills 1383-1500, Somerset Record Society 16, London 1901.