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St Margaret, Middle Chinnock, Somerset

(50°54′53″N, 2°45′8″W)
Middle Chinnock
ST 472 131
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes
28 Nov 2005, 18 Mar 2008, 03 Sept 2014, 25 April 2022

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Middle Chinnock is 3 miles NE of Crewkerne in generally undulating country, an area of South Somerset notable as good farming country. Chiselborough Hill rises abruptly to the N of the Chinnock stream; the chalk hills of Dorset are not far to the S. The small, compact, settlement of Middle Chinnock is only a field away from the larger village of West Chinnock. The church of St Margaret is at the S end of the settlement, packed together quite closely with the rectory, manor house and farm. The medieval nave has a porch and W tower, and the plan at this end of the church seems unchanged. It had transepts added in 1836 and has a chancel that was restored in the 1860s. Remains from the Romanesque period include the S doorway to the nave, and a font. There are also re-set carved stones in the exterior walls of the N transept and chancel.


The origin of the ‘Chinnock’ place-name is disputed, but ‘Cinuc’ or ‘Cinioc’ appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle around 963 AD. There was a Chinnock estate comprising East, Middle and West. It is thought that this division into three was perhaps formed between 950 AD and the Conquest. In 1066 the manor of Middle Chinnock was held by an unnamed thegn; by 1086 it was held by the Count of Mortain, with Mauger as his tenant. The manors of Middle and West Chinnock were consolidated in the late fifteenth century.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration





Famous and excellent, golden building stone is named 'Ham stone' after nearby Ham Hill, its principal and best source. It has been speculated that some building-stone for the two Chinnocks came from West Chinnock Hill to the S where there is a small outcrop of Ham stone, but no quarries are marked on the 1841 OS map. There is a quarry marked near Broadstone Farm, on the edge of the Inferior Oolitic Limestone, less than 500m ESE of Middle Chinnock church, which the fieldworker suspects may have been the source of the church’s fabric.

The exterior reset blocks are not mentioned in Pevsner or by the English Heritage listing: thanks are due to Brian and Moira Gittos for drawing the fieldworker's attention to these sculptures. They are presumably survivors of an earlier building. Too high to measure, they are also difficult to discern for shape or design due to the heavy coating of lichen, but perhaps they might be survivors from the label of the S doorway, or string courses from the lost chancel. Fragment 2 on the N transept N wall is unusual in form.


Vertical chevron patterns on lintels are uncommon (and not very frequent in jambs), but the lintel of the S doorway at Kilpeck is another that has a vertical chevron pattern.

It has been suggested that, rather than resembling fish (Pevsner 236), scale pattern in a tympanum represents wooden shingles or stone slates on a roof, that is, the dome of the firmament. The elongated shape in this example would be consistent with shingles (Wood 2001, 20-1; fig 14).


The fieldworker compares the shape and decoration of this font to the one at St Mary's church, Stocklinch Ottersey (about 6 miles to the WNW): there is a foliage trail there, but it is not beaded; the plinth is somewhat different there, but similar tooling is evident. The filedworker writes that 'this font so much resembles that at St Mary's church, Stocklinch Ottersey... that [he] would confidently infer a common workshop'. The presence of claw tooling may indicate that this font is likely to be late in date, probably towards the very end of the 12thc if this is correct. Indeed, the fieldworker wonders if this tooling is from later cleaning up, and not Romanesque at all. Or could both this font and the one at Stocklinch Ottersey be of the 13thc?


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, III (London, 1899), 86.

Historic England listing 1057169

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset (Harmondsworth, 1958), 236.

R. Wood, 'Geometric Patterns in English Romanesque Sculpture', Journal of the British Archaeological Association 154 (2001), 1-39.