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St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip, Somerset

(51°16′35″N, 2°34′50″W)
Chewton Mendip
ST 596 532
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
31 August 2007

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The village of Chewton Mendip lies in a dip of the Mendip Hills, the valley of the Chew river, at about 140 m OD. The main A39 road between Wells and Bath runs through. It is in the Mendip district of the county, 5 miles NE of Wells. The village is a substantial one, clustered around a crossroads on the A39 road from Wells to Bath, with the church in the centre. The church is an imposing one dominated by a tall W tower begun in c.1440 and completed around a century later. It consists otherwise of a nave and chancel with a S aisle and porch to the nave and a S chapel to the chancel. Also on the S side is a large vestry. Norman work is seen in the N doorway, corbels re-used on the wall above it, and inside the E wall of the nave has the remains of Norman arches flanking the later chancel arch. Construction is of coursed and squared rubble and ashlar, with freestone dressings, and the church was restored by Giles and Robinson in 1865.


The manor of Chewton belonged to the king before the Conquest and in 1086. It was assessed at 29 hides in 1086, although it only paid geld for 14 hides before the Conquest. 18 hides were in demesne in 1086, the remainder supporting 18 villeins and 25 bordars. Together with the 20 slaves and 2 freedmen listed in the Domesday Survey, they suggest a total population of around 250 people. Four burgesses in Bath, paying 40d, were also assessed with this manor. The Abbot of Jumièges held this manor’s church with ½ hide of land, 2 slaves, 2 villeins, 8 bordars and 8 cottars.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration





The N doorway has an almost square ashlar hood, similar to that at Milborne Port, in the far SE of the county. It has been argued that the N dooway has been reset. According to the Church Guide, the Very Reverend Herne of Downside [has] said . . . that he felt sure that the Norman doorway in the north wall was not now in its original position — a look at the bonding stones on either side, irregular and unevenly distributed, made it certain that the arch had not ‘grown’ there, but had been removed from somewhere else. He suggested that this had originally been the central Chancel arch, with a small one on either side. The measurements exactly tally, and the cap moulds and arch shafts are of exactly the same design. The daughter church at Ston Easton shows a similar design in the same position, although the outer arches were pierced during a Victorian restoration.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, 3 vols, London 1899, III, 85.

H. Curwen, Church Guide (last revised 2007)

Historic England Listed Building 268038

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 162.

Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 21868.