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St Michael, Brent Knoll, Somerset

(51°15′8″N, 2°57′15″W)
Brent Knoll
ST 335 508
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
19 July 2007

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Brent Knoll is in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, 2 miles NE of Burnham-on-Sea. The name of the village is taken from the hill topped by a hillfort that rises immediately to the east.

The village of Brent Knoll follows the lane around the base of Brent Knoll, from its NW sector to its S, where it joins the main A38 trunk road from Bristol to Taunton. The M5 runs only a few hundred yards further east. Brent Knoll is an Upper Lias protrusion above the dominant Middle Lias of the area, 456 feet (139m) high at its summit, mainly surrounded by the Somerset levels, it is perhaps the most prominent landmark in this part of the county. It bears the marks of agricultural and military exploitation from prehistoric times. The manor house and church hug the lower slopes of its relatively sheltered SW flank. It is about 2 miles from the present shoreline of the Bristol Channel to the W. On a clear day it is visible from well down the Channel. Unfortunately, views from the church are limited except to the south, and these are impeded by trees and housing. The church consists of a nave with a separately roofed N aisle and a S porch, a S transept (now the vestry), a chancel and a W tower. Romanesque features are the S nave doorway, a pillar piscina in the N aisle and the font.


Brent Knoll (otherwise South Brent) and East Brent were assessed together in 1086. They were held by the abbot of Glastonbury from well before the Conquest. Before 1066 this holding paid tax for 20 hides, of which 4 hides were in lordship. It also contained 20 acres of meadow and its inhabitants numbered 5 slaves, 50 villans and 47 bordars. In 1086 Roger (of Courseulles) held 1 hide from the Abbot, Ralph (of Conteville) 5 virgates, Aelfric (son of Everwacer) 5 virgates and Godwin (the priest) 1½ hides. Those who held from the Abbot before 1066 could not be separated from the church.

The church of South Brent (= Brent Knoll) was granted by the Abbot of Glastonbury to Wells cathedral 1173x80 as a prebend for the archdeacon of Wells, the initial recipient being Thomas of Earley (alias Agnellus).


Exterior Features




Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae


Pevsner omits any mention of the font, which the EH list description calls 11thc. Romanesque quatrefoil fonts are not common. That at St Mary’s, Stafford was related by Drake (2002) to Scandinavian work. Others at Broadwell and Westwell (both Oxfordshire) are much less delicately carved. In the opinion of the editor this font is unlikely to be either Romanesque or Anglo-Saxon; it presents parallels with the fine mouldings and ogee profiles typical of 14thc work. The pillar piscina, in contrast, is certainly 12thc work.


D. E. Greenway (ed), Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1200, vol 7, London 2001.

C. S. Drake, The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. London, 2002, 4, 11, 32 (on St Mary’s, Stafford).

English Heritage Listed Building 433646.

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

Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 13229.