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St Nicholas, Radstock, Somerset

(51°17′22″N, 2°26′50″W)
ST 689 546
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Bath and North East Somerset
  • Robin Downes
30 June 2008, 10 Sept 2009

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Radstock is a small, former colliery town 7 miles SW of Bath. The town lies in and among the deep valleys of the NE Mendips: quite a dramatic landscape and not without fields even now that the conurbation of Radstock with Midsomer Norton has mushroomed with dwellings. It owes its name to its important position, at the crossing of the Wellow Brook, on the Fosse Way — or, rather where the present A367 (choosing easier gradients than its Roman ancestor) crosses it, the Fosse Way itself having taken a more precipitous line 1km to the W. Pevsner’s (1958) comments on the town are worth quoting at length:

‘Radstock is really desperately ugly. Or so at least it appears in its pleasant countryside. In industrial counties one would perhaps praise the nearness of field and hedgerow and the hilly site as such. In Somerset the small colliery town without dignity in any building hurts particularly.’

The collieries have now of course long been closed, but there are still probably few buildings of much merit.

Communications are good but exclusively by roads now that the railways have gone. (Radstock was once connected to Bath and Shepton Mallet by the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, and to Frome and Bristol by the Great Western Railway.) The geology, above the coal measures, valley Alluvium and landslip, consists of Mercia Mudstone and a narrow band of Cotham Member and Westbury Formation Mudstone (on which the church sits) below what is essentially the Blue Lias of the hills to the NW and SW of Radstock (which rise to slightly over 150m OD).

The church itself lies a merciful 300m S of the town’s busy central crossroads, on the left bank of the stream, at an altitude of about 72m OD; reaching it from the S, one has little awareness of the town: on a sunny day, it almost seems pastoral!

It consists of a 3-bay chancel with a N vestry, a 5-bay nave with a N aisle and a S porch, and a W tower. Of this, the W tower is 15thc, and possibly also the S wall of the nave and the porch, The rest was rebuilt in a Geometric gothic style in 1879. Construction is of coursed limestone rubble with weathered buttresses. The only Romanesque feature is the font.


Evidence of Radstock's Roman past is to be seen in the inscribed stone visible in one of the photographs of the font. In 1066 the manor belonged to Alfgeat, Alwin and Algar, and it was assessed at 7 hides and 3 virgates. In 1086 it was held by Roger from the Bishop of Coutances.





The font is not mentioned in Pevsner (1958), but the List Description calls it a 'lop-sided Norman font, a cylinder with cable-moulding.'


Historic England List Description 31982.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol. Harmondsworth 1958, 249.