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St Mary, Norton-sub-Hamdon, Somerset

(50°56′27″N, 2°45′15″W)
ST 471 160
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes
9 October 2008

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Feature Sets

Norton-sub-Hamdon is a village in South Somerset, located 5 miles W of Yeovil. Its name refers to the subordinate situation of the village over 100m below and to the SW of Ham Hill. The site of Norton was probably chosen because it almost nestles into a side valley from the river Parrett 1/2 mile W of the church. Being on Yeovil Sands (at an altitude of about 32m OD), it is blest with exceptionally fertile land and has a supply of excellent and very handsome building stone available only about 1/2 mile distant on Ham Hill. The present church of St Mary has 13thc origins but was rebuilt around 1500-1510. Some fragments of Romanesque sculpture were however incorporated in the inner face of the later medieval tower. This was damaged by lightning in 1894 and restored.


An un-named thegn held the manor in 1066; in 1086 the manor was held by the Count of Mortain, who gave it to Grestain Abbey in Normandy. The abbey administered the manor through Wilmington Priory in Sussex until it was confiscated as an alien priory in the 14thc. (Bush, 1994)


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


It must have been relatively easy and cheap for medieval masons to transport their material downhill from the quarries. No wonder Norton church has such a display of ashlar.

Presumably the sculpture was acquired from a Romanesque church on the same site, following a widespread pattern of reuse. It must have been reasonably ambitious building, as the material which survives is highly decorative and far from being merely functional. Perhaps this was a legacy of its monastic patronage. The saltire design flanked by a roll-moulding suggest a possible original use as jamb-decoration. The blocks with and without pellets may have alternated vertically in the original setting. According to Charles Trask, writing in 1898, the visible sculpture included capitals and voussoirs as well as the blocks described. The whereabouts of this additional material is now not known. The date and significance of the inscribed crosses on the blocks are likewise obscure.

The author is indebted to the kind assistance of Mr Malcolm Reid for access to the tower and help with recording. Unfortunately, some of the stones are in positions which are very awkward for photography and some images are less than ideal. However, this applies particularly to those in the belfry which are of only two designs and fortunately these are adequately recorded.


Historic England listing 1253811

  1. F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), III, 213.

R. Bush, Somerset: the Complete Guide (Wimborne, 1994), 159.

  1. N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset (Harmondsworth, 1958), 262.

Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 56284, online at http://webapp1.somerset.gov.uk/her/text.asp

C. Trask, Norton-sub-Hamdon (1898).