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St Laurence, East Harptree, Somerset

(51°18′5″N, 2°37′26″W)
East Harptree
ST 566 560
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Bath and North East Somerset
  • Robin Downes
05 November 2009

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East Harptree is a village in the upper Chew valley, now in the Unitary Authority of Bath and North East Somerset. The valley yields terrain conducive to settlement and road communication. There are easy routes through the hills W, E and N; routes S over Mendip (to the diocesan centre of Wells, for example) are not so easy but perfectly feasible. That the place-names probably refer to the local herepath corroborates the sense of relatively easy road communications in the area; the second element of ‘Harptree’ refers to woodland. East Harptree straddles a lane which runs SSW from the West Harptree-Chewton Mendip secondary road and climbs Mendip to meet a principal N-S route across the high ground (West Harptree to Wells). The principal road of the valley, running through West Harptree, is the A368 connecting Bath with Weston-super-Mare. Bristol city centre is about 10 miles N as the crow flies.

The village, at about 110m above OD on the gradual N slope of Mendip, on Dolomitic Conglomerate bedrock above Mercia Mudstone (formerly called Keuper Marl), commands a good view of the Chew valley running N. The river is about 1 mile NE of the village. As well as pastoral farming, the economy of the locality formerly incorporated mining activities (on Mendip).

The church is in the village centre and consists of a chancel, a nave with a N aisle and S porch and a W tower. Construction is of coursed sandstone and limestone rubble to the tower and south porch, squared and coursed rubble stone to the nave and chancel, and dressed stone openings, quoins and copings. The earliest parts are 12thc, but there is 13thc work too and the tower is 15thc. The church was restored on the late-19thc. Features described here are the transitional S doorway, a lone corbel and the remains of a stringcourse on the S chancel wall, the font and carved stones reset in the churchyard wall.


East Harptree contained two equal-sized manors in 1086. Azelin held a manor of 5 hides from the Bishop of Coutances that had been two manors held by Alric and Wulfwig in 1066. The second manor, also assessed at 5 hides, was held by Ealdwine in 1066 and by Robert son of Walter from the Count of Mortain in 1086.

Collinson notes only one manor in East Harptree, that of Azelin who was, in his account, Azelin Gouel de Percheval. His holding had passed to a son, John de Harptree, by the time of Henry I and thence, in Henry III's reign, to Robert de Harptree, who assumed the name of Gournay.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses
Corbel tables, corbels




The reset chevron voussoirs are probable evidence of an earlier doorway. The current S doorway is clearly rebuilt to some extent, but the hyphenated chevron ornament is an interesting late-12thc feature. Pevsner described it as 'a kind of crenellation with triangular merlons'. The same author failed to record the font, although it receives a brief mention in the list description as Norman, and indeed it is hard to be any more precise than this.


Bath and North-East Somerset Council website: topographical information on ‘Area 3: Upper Chew and Yeo Valleys’

J. Collinson, The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset, Bath 1791, III, 587-90.

Historic England listed building 32766

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 187.