We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Michael, Cudworth, Somerset

(50°53′35″N, 2°53′34″W)
ST 373 108
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
7 April 2005, 12 Sept 2008

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=7614.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Cudworth is a village and parish in the South Somerset district, 5 miles NE of Chard. Its territorial extent is greater than one might expect of a parish with an electoral roll of only thirteen, extending up a steep slope southwards to the main A30 trunk road (much more important formerly before being eclipsed by the A303 N of Ilminster) and down a gentler slope northwards towards Dowlish Wake and the local ecclesiastical centre of Ilminster (where, although nothing now remains of any original Saxon minster church, a very fine Perpendicular edifice proclaims high status). In the current Ilminster & District Ministry there are seventeen churches. Despite being only a little over a kilometre away from what is still a busy main road despite demotion, the site of the church seems relatively remote; that road, of course, cannot be seen or heard, given the topography and vegetation. Geologically, the church (at 120m OD above sea level) lies on the locally abundant Head below the Windwhistle Ridge composed of Greensand and Chalk topped with Clay-with-Flints. The slopes to the N consist of various forms of Lias, which underlie the church. Historically, there are remains of a deserted medieval settlement immediately to the S and SW of the church: these include a moat and fish ponds; there is a local tradition of a former monastery.

The church is 12thc in origin, with a N doorway and one small window surviving in the fabric of that period (in the E wall of the N aisle, photographed but not described as a feature). Otherwise the nave and chancel are 13thc with 14thc and 15thc modifications. Construction is of local lias rubble with hamstone ashlar dressings. The church has a 3-cell plan of 2-bay chancel, 3-bay nave and N aisle, and no tower. The N aisle of the church, with its altar and fine E window recess (recalling the design of an original Romanesque apse), is used as the Lady Chapel; once a year Holy Communion is celebrated on the patron saint’s day (September 29th). Apparently, if the weather allows, the light of the rising sun shines through the tiny window ― nicely suggesting an original alignment of at least this part of the church according to a definition of east by reference to the dedicatee.


Cudworth belonged to three thegns in 1066, and to Odo from Robert of Arundel in 1086. It was assessed at 3½ hides, with 4 acres of meadow, and pasture 8 furlongs long and 2 furlongs wide. By 1236 the overlord was Roger FitzPayn, and VCH assumes a similar descent to Charlton Mackerell. In other words, at the death of Roger Arundel II in 1165 the manor passed to his sister Maud, married to Gerbert de Percy (d.1179). On Maud’s death the manor and church were divided between her daughters Sybil and Alice. Sybil’s moiety passed through her marriage to the de Poles, and then the FitzPayns, who held it until the 14thc.

As for the tenancy, again following VCH, no occupier is known after Odo until c. 1186–8, when Alan de Furneaux gave the church to Wells cathedral. Alan was succeeded in other lands if not at Cudworth by his son Geoffrey in 1188. The family continued in occupation in the 13th century. Alan de Furneaux was tenant in 1236, and a namesake in 1284–5.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration


Interior Features

Interior Decoration






The EH list description describes the font as a large early C13 font with dog-tooth and cable-mould decoration, misreading the chip-carving as saltires and thus misdating the font. It was not mentioned in Pevsner (1958). The altar slab at Yeovilton, discovered under the sanctuary floor during the restoration of 1992 and restored to the high altar position in 2009, is a useful comparison for the incised crosses on the altar slab here at Cudworth.

Fascinating: the remains of an earlier church, its present isolated situation on the N flank of Windwhistle Hill well away from the present upstanding survivals of the village (in two small clusters E & W of the church), the relative grandeur of the Norman fabric, prompt curiosity about its historical importance. Its prebendary status was surely significant. The remains of a deserted village etc. immediately S of the church, isolated today, have been noted in the description.


N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Harmondsworth 1958, 144.

English Heritage Listed Building 262147

Victoria County History: Somerset, IV (1978), 146.