We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Peter, Portishead, Somerset

(51°28′49″N, 2°46′13″W)
ST 466 760

pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now North Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes

23 March 2009

29 Nov 2022

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=165.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.

Feature Sets

The small town of Portishead occupies a strategic position on the S side of the mouth of the river Avon, and once enjoyed a trading importance subsidiary to Bristol, 8 mi away to the East. Now in North Somerset, Portishead was part of the County of Avon between 1974 and 1996. The town church of St Peter is in a surprisingly quiet area, surrounded by an airy rural atmosphere: no wonder local people refer to it as the ‘village’. The church has Romanesque origins but was rebuilt in the 14thc and 15thc in Perpendicular style. It was altered and extended to the east in 1878-9 using old materials and features. The font is Romanesque; there is also a possible early altar slab.


Like much land in this part of Somerset, this area belonged to the Bishop of Coutances in 1086; Aelfric held it prior to 1066. The manor later reverted to the Crown, after which William II gave it to Harding, a Bristol merchant. The manor then passed to his son, Robert Fitzharding, who became Earl of Berkeley. The Berkeley family held the manor for several generations. (Robinson, 1915).







The bowl is very imposing with its heavy, rather grand design but in the fieldworker's opinion the chelsea-bun type volutes overbalance the modest stem and timid plinth. Like some other fonts in the area (e.g., Weston-in-Gordano just 1.7mi distant), the bowl shape is essentially like a Romanesque capital. In distinction from the plain Weston example, and perhaps befitting the greater status of the church, this has corner volutes - but not really proper volutes, as they are only a two-dimensional surface treatment and not carved fully in the round. The damage and crude repair is regrettable, but may be a sign of frequent movement or possibly iconoclastic damage, neglect and recovery. It is one of many churches in the region with a Romanesque font as the only survival in an otherwise later medieval building.

Altar slab

Presumably, the central cross has been eroded. Concerning the two crosses inscribed at the NW, perhaps the first was not in the ‘correct’ position?

  1. F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), III, 228.

Historic England listing 1291081.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth, 1958), 245.

W.J. Robinson, West Country Churches (Bristol, 1915), 115–119.