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Merriott, Somerset

(50°54′46″N, 2°47′37″W)
ST 443 129
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes
18 April 2005

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Merriott lies 2 miles N of Crewkerne. The village is close to the centre of the SW parish boundary, apparently at the crossing of two old routes. One runs along a low ridge from West Chinnock across the Parrett at Bow Bridge to Hinton St. George; the other from Chiselborough (and perhaps Martock) in the NE. to Crewkerne in the south. The parish church of All Saints dates from the 13thc, with modifications in the late 15thc or early 16thc, and major restoration including the extension of the nave, a new chancel and chapels by Benjamin Ferrey in 1860. There are two Romanesque sculptural fragments in the church and some reused exterior sculpture.


In 1066 the later manor of Merriott formed two estates. The first, of seven hides was then held by Lewin and Bristward and by 1086 had been granted to the count of Mortain, under whom it was occupied by Dodeman. The second estate, of five hides, occupied in 1066 by Godwin, had passed by 1086 to Harding son of Eadnoth the staller. Later these two holdings were combined under the ownership of Harding's descendants. (VCH)


Exterior Features


Loose Sculpture


The meaning of the animal relief is not entirely clear. Beigbeder's Lexicon of Symbols (1989, translated) states ‘The cockerel can be a symbol of violence and anger. Fighting cocks are depicted at Saulieu, Beaune and Autun, in imitation of a classical bas-relief. Such combats were regarded by the Ancients as ill omens. In the Romanesque period they evoked the concept of Judgement'.

The Crucifixion sculpture may be a head from a standing cross, perhaps an exterior preaching-cross. As is usual for early medieval representations, Christ is shown as alert and victorious, in contrast to later medieval representations which tended to emphasise instead the sacrifice and emotion of the S-shaped body slumped on the cross. Given its likely early date, one wonders if it could possibly even pre-date the Romanesque era, although there is no mention of it in the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, and the official listing text entirely sidesteps the question of date. Either way, it is an interesting and notable piece.

It is not clear what type of feature the chevron decoration might have originated from; the blocks are not voussoir-shaped but rectangular, and neither is there any chamfering which one might associate with a string-course. It may have been decoration applied to a flat surface behind an important object, or possibly a tympanum infill.

This is one of many churches in Somerset where there are early sculptural remnants in an otherwise much later building.


A. P. Baggs and R. J. E. Bush, 'Parishes: Merriott', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4, ed. R W Dunning (London, 1978), pp. 52-61. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/som/vol4/pp52-61 [accessed 21 February 2023].

O. Beigbeder, Lexique des symboles, 2nd edition (Zodiaque, 1989).

Historic England listing 1175447.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset (Harmondsworth, 1958), 235.