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St Nicholas, Bratton Seymour, Somerset

(51°4′9″N, 2°27′44″W)
Bratton Seymour
ST 677 301
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
8 December 2005

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The 2011 census counted 104 persons in Bratton Seymour village. The parish of 1,374 acres (historically fluctuating between c.1,000 and c.1,500 acres following boundary changes) is situated in South Somerset District, contiguous with the parish of Wincanton, the nearest small town. In the far east of the county, this area is close to the ancient boundary of Selwood Forest and the present border with Wiltshire: Penselwood village is only about 8kms distant. This moderately hilly district is reasonably prosperous agriculturally, concentrated on dairy-farming with a little arable.

A cursory glance at a map will show that Bratton Seymour, together with many other comparably sized villages, sits within a triangle formed by three small towns at the apexes: (clockwise) the aforementioned Wincanton 3.5kms ESE, Castle Cary 4.5kms NW and Bruton 5kms NNE; all three are well connected by reasonably good roads, Bratton Seymour itself being sited a very short distance (200m-1km) N of the A371 Castle Cary-Wincanton road (part of the long-distance route between the Bristol and English Channels or Bristol and Poole). The A303 trunk road, nationally important because it forms part of a popular route between London and the South West Peninsula, runs E-W past Wincanton (until recent times, of course, passing through the town) and is easily accessible by lanes from Bratton Seymour at a distance of only 3kms. Railway access, at Castle Cary, is almost as easy for Bratton Seymour residents: reasonably frequent services are available along the main line between London Paddington and Exeter and beyond; there are also more local services on the Heart of Wessex line between Bristol and Weymouth, which services also stop at Bruton.

The Domesday entry for the settlement spells the place-name ‘Broctune’, which has led to the probably erroneous inference that the ‘tun’ is named after a badger-sett (e.g., by Stephen Robinson in his ‘Somerset Place-Names’, Stanbridge 1992). More erudite and reliable information suggests that the place-name belongs with a common set in which ‘Bratton’ simply means ‘Brook-town’ after Old English ‘broc’=’brook’ (e.g., ‘The Vocabulary of English Place-Names’ volume 2, p. 37, published by the English Place-Name Society at Nottingham in 2000). This must imply that the nameless stream which rises 200m SE of Manor Farm, turns increasingly away from the settlement following a NE direction, runs down towards the Shepton Montague valley where it joins the river Pitt, which flows down to Cole to join the principal Somerset river Brue about 4.5kms away from Bratton Seymour Manor Farm, was originally considered far more significant than can now be believed. The ‘Seymour’ qualifier is a corruption of the French ‘Saint-Maur’, the family name of the local landowner who is supposed to have taken possession of the manor in the fourteenth century.

A more obvious topographical distinguishing feature (than the brook) is Bratton Hill (184m OD) along whose eastern side the settlement is strung along a lane striking north from the junction (at Jack White’s Gibbet) with the A371. This lane runs generally downhill from the main road (157m OD) past Church Farm (140m OD), whence it descends more steeply to Shepton Montague. The church is perched above the road, on the W side, at about 145m OD; even higher is Bratton House, towards the summit of the hill. Not exactly but almost, the village lane follows the geological boundary between the Forest Marble of the higher ground and Fuller’s Earth below. (Hereabouts, the geology is characterised by the N-S Jurassic strand.) Map-readers may be forgiven the notion that the altitude of the church must give good views but they would quickly be frustrated on site by neighbouring trees: only the NE aspect is fully rewarding.

The church is constructed of local uncourse rubble with Doulting and hamstone dressings, and consists of a 2-bay chancel with a N vestry and a 3-bay nave with a W tower and a S porch. Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway and the arch of the S porch, the font and reset stones in the external N and S walls of the nave.


Bratton Seymour was held by Gerard from Walter de Douai in 1086, having been held by Alsige in 1066, and it paid geld for 4 hides. From Walter the lordship descended (like Wincanton) to the Lovell family. Henry Lovell (d.1194) held land there that had passed to his son Ralph by the time of his death. It was held by the Seymours by the 14thc.

The Domesday tenant, Gerard, was Walter de Douai’s steward. By 1185 Gerard of Bratton, son of Jordan and probably Gerard’s grandson, had secured a hide of land there. He was still alive in 1217. Some of his lands were given by his daughter Aline to Bruton Priory when she inherited. As for the church, Gerard gave it and its tithes to Bath Priory in 1107. This must have been cancelled as in the later 12thc another Gerard of Bratton gave the advowson to Bruton Priory, which claimed the property in 1228.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration





The list description places the font in the 13thc. It was not mentioned by Pevsner (1958) but Orbach (2014) dates it 11thc -12thc. There are similarities with nearby fonts at Blackford and Holton. The reset stones correspond with nothing in the standing fabric and must be from a removed feature.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, 3 vols, London 1899, III, 63.

Historic England Listed Building 261970

J. Orbach and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. New Haven and London 2014, 128.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958, 92.

Victoria County History: Somerset, VII (1999), 164-70