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St Beuno, Culbone, Somerset

(51°13′16″N, 3°39′34″W)
SS 842 482
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval St Beuno
now St Beuno
  • Robin Downes
27 March 2005

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Culbone is a hamlet in the civil parish of Oare in West Somerset district, in the Exmoor National Park. It consists of a few houses and the church, close to the SW Coast Path, set in woodland less than ¼ mile from the sea at Porlock Bay. The large village of Porlock is 3 miles ESE. The church consists of a 2-bay nave with a W bell-cote with a slate-hung spirelet, and a S porch, and a chancel. Herringbone masonry in the W wall suggests a pre-Norman date for some fabric. The nave was given new windows in the 15th-16thc and the porch dates from the 13thc, and there are additions and signs of restoration on the 19thc. Construction is of local stone – random rubble partly whitewashed. Romanesque features described here are the chancel N window and the font.

The dedication was originally a ‘Celtic’ one. Like other churches along the English shore of the Bristol Channel (e.g., Congresbury, Watchet, Porlock, Braunton, Hartland), Culbone was connected with strong early monasteries and missionary and activity located in Glamorgan (notably at Llantwit connected with St Illtud and at Llancarfan).


Culbone was held as a manor by Osmund in 1066, and by Drogo from the Bishop of Countances, Geoffrey de Montbray, in 1086. It was assessed in 1066 at 1 hide and 1 virgate, and also included 50 acres of pasture and 100 acres of woodland.


Exterior Features





The EH list description calls the chancel window Saxon and describes the font as a Norman baluster font. Pevsner makes no mention of the font. Quite a popular church (despite its being inaccessible to unauthorised vehicles & the extremely damp state of the narrow wooded valley location & therefore the church fabric). Visitors are attracted mostly by its reputation of being England’s smallest church, but they are also attracted by the ‘romantic’ setting with its history of having had a leper colony & by the Celtic associations of the church. Whatever the reasons, this church is a must-see on the itinerary of anyone who is able to park in the tiny area provided & undertake the quarter of an hour’s walk down the rough track. (And the half hour back up the steep hill!)


English Heritage Listed Building 265441

Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record (ENPHER) MSO7735

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