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The Guildhall, 7 High Street, Milborne Port

(50°57′57″N, 2°27′40″W)
Milborne Port
ST 677 186
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes
27 February 2006

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Feature Sets

The village of Milborne Port is 3½ miles NE of Sherborne, Dorset. An elaborate and unusual Romanesque doorway is reset in a 17thc building which was once the Guildhall. This building is on the S side of the main A30 just W of the central crossroads.


No documented history.


Exterior Features



The doorway is of uncertain provenance; it is probably of late-12thc date because of the complexity of form and comparisons with other segmental arches in Somerset (see below). The arch must have originally been made in this segmental shape, as the lowest voussoirs are moulded to make the shallow angle. This contradicts the assertion of the official listing text that the arch is 'probably part of a wider span Norman arch'.

Reynolds noted that the arch is built over 'a wooden Clavel or Bressumer which our 15th century ancestors often adopted, but not the Normans or Early English builders; it is clear also that there is nothing else about the Hall which agrees with the doorway.’ (1867, 71). The tympanum is wooden, doubtless a modern adaptation to take the normal rectangular door. C. E. Ponting, in a paper written in 1914, p 53, commented that 'the whole appears to be original except the tympanum.’

The architect involved in the 1867 enlargement of the parish church, A. Reynolds, wrote: ‘I am strongly inclined to think that the old chevron zigzag jambs and dentiled arch now forming the doorway of our Guildhall were taken from the church when the present [west] doorway was inserted'. However, the fleldworker considers that the whole doorway seems rather small to have been the west doorway to the large cruciform parish church. There are original segmental arches on nave doorways at modest churches in Somerset: the doorways at Ashill, Chesterblade, East Harptree and Doulting, for example. These doorways have late twelfth century or Transitional features such as a waterleaf capital or hyphenated chevrons. There seems to be another example of the ‘folded’ voussoir, at Ashill, but a second method of making the angle, what Pevsner calls ‘vertical springers’ is used at the other, very skilful, examples.

Reynolds' description of the pattern in the arch as 'dentiled' is helpful in understanding the formation of the pattern there, though the effect is of crenellation, as described by Pevsner.


Historic England List Entry Number: 1295536

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England; South and West Somerset (Harmondsworth, 1958), 238

C.E. Ponting, ‘The Church of St. John the Evangelist, Milborne Port’, Proceedings of the Somerset Natural History & Archaeological Society LX Part II, (1914), 46-54.

A. Reynolds, ‘Milborne Port Church’ in Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society XIV (1893), 70-74.