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St George, Dunster, Somerset

(51°10′57″N, 3°26′47″W)
SS 990 436
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval St George
now St George
  • Robin Downes
13 May 2004, 05 January 2005, 18 March 2008

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Dunster is a large village in the district of West Somerset, 5 miles W of Watchet. The church is predominantly of the 15thc , and has a cruciform plan with a central tower and N and S transepts. The nave has aisles and a S porch, and the chancel has side chapels and dates from the 13thc when Reginald de Mohun established a Benedictine priory affiliated to Bath Abbey. The church is of red sandstone, and was restored by Street in 1875-77. Romanesque work survives in the W portal (which is largely by Street), and the W crossing piers.


The manor of Dunster was held by Aelfric in 1066 and by William de Mohun in 1086. This Norman lord was granted nearly 60 estates in Somerset, and became the county's sheriff c.1083. He established Dunster as the seat of his barony and built a castle there. He retained the manor for himself rather than farming it out. By 1131 he had been succeeded by a son, William II de Mohun, who was dead by 1155. This son was created Earl of Somerset by the Empress Matilda in 1141, but the earldom was not passed on to his son, William III although the barony and estates were. William IV (d.1193), his son, inherited, and at his death in 1193 his son Reynold was a minor, so did not come into possession until 1204. The estate remained in the Mohun family throughout the medieval period.

The church (specified as St George's) was given by the first William de Mohun to his foundation of Bath Priory in c.1090. There may have been monks at Dunster shortly afterwards, but the priory was not formally set up until c.1330. The advowson was in the hands of Bath Priory from c.1090 until the Dissolution.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches





The N capital of the W crossing arch is the feature of outstanding interest here. The flying pose of the figure compares, for general effect, with the angels at Winterbourne Steepleton in Dorset and at Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire. Compositionally it has resemblances with French acrobat figures, but this interpretation is at odds with the heavy, clumsy figure himself. The purse he carries may identify him as the almoner of the priory, an appropriate person to present to the laity in the nave.


Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record MSO9435

English Heritage Listed Building 264660

W. Hunt (ed.), ‘Two Chartularies of the Priory of St Peter at Bath’, Somerset Record Society Publications, VII (1893), 38.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958, 154.

Victoria County History: Somerset, II (1911), 81-82

Victoria County History: Somerset, XII (text in progress).