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St John the Evangelist, Cutcombe, Somerset

(51°8′34″N, 3°31′46″W)
SS 931 393
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
06 July 2004, 05 January 2005

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Feature Sets

Cutcombe is an Exmoor village in the W of the county, consisting of houses and farm buildings and the church along a lane in hilly country overlooking the Avill valley. It is these days effectively eclipsed by the adjacent settlement at Wheddon Cross, which has obviously developed around the crossroads of the A396 Dunster-Exeter main road and the B3224, a very important secondary route running along watersheds across the Brendon Hills and Exmoor — linking the Taunton area with the west end of Exmoor (for access to Lynton, Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, etc.). The A396 divides the Brendon Hills from Exmoor proper, so Cutcombe is just within the former area (although within the Exmoor National Park). The church is perched above a steep valley gouged by a tributary of the Avill which has its source closeby. There are also nearby springs. All of which accounts for the settlement. (The Avill is near the village but not relevant to its heart.) At 300m, Cutcombe/Wheddon Cross is known for being the highest village on Exmoor.

The A396 takes a N-S route, taking advantage of the north-flowing Avill and its tributaries, up to the high pass at Wheddon Cross, the narrowest point of the W-E watershed, whence it descends rapidly into the valley of the south-flowing Quarme and its tributaries. Approximately three miles S of Wheddon Cross the Quarme flows into the major Somerset/Devon river Exe. The A396 continues down the Exe valley to Exeter.

The church was recorded in 1791 with a dedication to St Lawrence, but by 1830 the present dedication was established. The 13thc – 14thc church has an aisled nave with a S porch, a chancel with a S chapel and a W tower. Construction is of random rubble, and there was a restoration from 1862. The only Romanesque feature is the font.


The manor of Cutcombe was held by William de Moyon as tenant-in-chief in 1086, and it was held before the Conquest by Aelmar. It was assessed at 3 hides, but swine were clearly important to the local economy as 6 swineherds were recorded in 1086. These men presumably made use of the woodland, a league long and half a league broad, and there were also 6 acres of meadow and pasture 2 leagues by one. Of the land of the manor, 3 knights held 1 hide and half a virgate of land, with 2 acres of meadow, 14 acres of woodland and pasture half a league long and 5 furlongs wide.

The church of Cutcombe was given by William de Moyon (the third of that name) to the Augustinian canons’ house at Bruton, probably towards the end of the 12thc. By 1291 the priory of Dunster was enjoying income from rents and spiritualities in Cutcombe.





An anonymous note placed on the font reads, ‘This font must originally have been a notably fine example of a twelfth-century font. The base and stem are the original Purbeck marble of the twelfth century and show how lovely the whole must have been before its mutilation in Victorian times. According to old pictures, its main outline was similar to what we see now though the present top of Italian marble is rather heavier and larger than the original.’


English Heritage Listed Building 265319

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958, 148.

Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Records 31021, 33476.

Victoria County History: Somerset, II (1911), 81-82 (on Dunster), 134-39 (on Bruton).

Victoria County History: Somerset, XIII (planned).