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St Edward, Chilton Polden, Somerset

(51°9′20″N, 2°53′52″W)
Chilton Polden
ST 373 400
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
07 November 2008

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Feature Sets

Chilton Polden (literally ‘Children’s Town’), probably meaning belonging to the heirs (princes), is a village in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset 5 miles NE of Bridgwater and 8 miles W of Glastonbury. It is one of the string of satellites of the Abbey strung along the Polden Ridge (Lower Lias, of clay with some limestone) from Puriton to the NW on the Bristol Channel to the river Cary to the SE: fertile and easily worked land which still provides the raw material for agricultural prosperity. The Polden villages are typically less than a mile apart along what is today a minor road running almost parallel about half a mile N of the very busy trunk A39 road. To N and S are the low-lying moors across which there are even today very few routes: these must have been virtually under water in medieval times, especially in winter. The draining of the Somerset Levels was, of course, a project systematically and successfully pursued in the Middle Ages by their ecclesiastical and other owners. The modest church of today, hardly greater than a chapel, lies on the western side of a gentle valley in the western part of the village.

The church consists of a chancel with N organ chamber, nave with N aisle, N vestry, and S porch, and a bellcote over the W gable. Construction is of rubble with slate roofs. The building that preceded it on the same site was of 13thc origin and consisted on nave chancel and S porch only. The N transept was added in 1829, then in 1889 it was rebuilt and extended in 1889 to the designs of E. Henry Edwards of Bristol. The only Romanesque feature is a loose stone, formerly a holy water stoup.


Chilton Polden belonged to Glastonbury Abbey as a satellite of Shapwick. Shapwick was assessed at 30 hides before 1066, and 20 hides were held by 14 thegns in 1066 and by Roger of Courselles from the Abbot in 1086. 5 of these hides were in Chilton Polden. When the church was rebuilt in 1889 it was rededicated to St Edward the Martyr.


Loose Sculpture


The stoup is mentioned neither in Pevsner (1958), Orbach and Pevsner, the Listing Description, the VCH, nor the Church Guide. The author is indebted to Brian and Moira Gittos for his attention being drawn to this exquisite piece. The leaf forms suggest a date in the 1170s or '80s (ed).


Anon, Church Guide, undated.

Historic England listed building entry 269465 (included in Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Records).

J. Orbach and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. New Haven and London 2014, 202-03.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958, 124.

Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 13725.

Victoria County History: Somerset, VIII (2004), 34-42.