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St George, Beckington, Somerset

(51°15′47″N, 2°17′6″W)
ST 802 516
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
  • Robin Downes
24 August 2007

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The village of Beckington is in the NE of the county, 3 miles NE of Frome and less than 2 miles from the Wiltshire border. Once at the crossing of two trunk roads, the A361 and the A36, Beckington is now mercifully by-passed. It lies above the E bank of the river Frome, near the middle of a busy area ringed by Frome, Bath, Bradford-on-Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury and Warminster, quite prosperous today and doubtless even more so in the heyday of the local cloth industry. The main railway lines between London and the South-West and between Bristol and Portsmouth/Weymouth cross at Westbury, only 4 miles distant. The church, on a broad eminence to the S of the village centre, looks S across its graveyard to fields.

Its most striking Romanesque feature is the four-storey W tower, but the 12thc sculpture of the bell-storey is heavily restored and much of it replaced, presumably in the 1873 restoration. There is an octagonal S stair to the tower with three plain round-headed lancets on its S face (not described), and there are two other blocked 12thc lancets; one on the S face of the tower, E of the stair turret and the other on the N face, partly hidden by the clock. The angles of the tower are defined by plain coursed angle shafts. The bell stage has twin round-headed bell-openings enclosed by 2 further orders; to either side of each bell-opening are two bays of blind arcading, and at the top of the stage are corbels below a plain parapet. These are late-medieval at each angle, but on two of the faces are corbels that may be 12thc. These are not placed centrally on the faces, and are described below. Otherwise the church is largely late-medieval, with an aisled and clerestoried 15thc nave with N and S porches, a 14thc chancel and a late-15thc S chapel. The N and S doorways are 15thc, but above each is a segmental relieving arch, and there is a quadrant of another arch in the W wall of the S porch. Construction is of random and coursed rubble, except for the top storey of the tower, of ashlar, and there was a restoration in 1873 by Piers St Aubyn. Romanesque work is found in the tower windows, corbels, blind arcading and stringcourses, and on reset stones inside and outside the building.


In 1086 the manor of Beckington belonged to Roger of Arundel, the entry reading, “Roger holds BECKINGTON himself. Aethelfrith held it before 1066; it paid tax for 10 hides. Land for 10 ploughs. In lordship 2 ploughs; 5 hides & 3 virgates. 9 villagers and 7 smallholders have 6 ploughs & 4 hides & 1 virgate. A mill which pays 20s.; meadow, 12 acres; pasture, 8 acres; woodland, 100 acres. 24 pigs; 100 sheep; 50 goats. Value when he acquired it, £10; now £6.” Charters for a market and a fair at the manor were granted to John de Erlegh by Edward II in 1318.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses
Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Pevsner described the tower of Beckington Church as “the most ambitious Norman tower of any Somerset parish church, big, broad, prominent, and vigorously decorated at the bell-stage.” He also noted that the blind arcading alongside the bell-openings could be seen as “a strange anticipation of one of the conventions of certain Perp Somerset towers (Axbridge group),” and that “the arches have the continuous roll-moulding of Bristol, Malmesbury, Glastonbury, etc.”


Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record 17253.

R. W. Dunning, The Church of St George, Beckington, 1973.

EH, English Heritage Listed Building 266984.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, Harmondsworth 1958, 141.