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St Leonard, Chelwood, Somerset

(51°21′17″N, 2°31′27″W)
ST 6358 6187
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Somerset
now Bath and North East Somerset
medieval Wells
now Bath & Wells
  • Robin Downes
  • Robin Downes
05 May 2010

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Feature Sets

The tiny hamlet of Chelwood, in the Mendip Hills south of Bristol (the church is at an altitude of c.90m above OD), is just half a mile east of the crossroads of the main A368 between Bath (8 miles distant) and Weston-super-Mare, running east-west through it and the main A37 road between Bristol and the English Channel coast. It thus enjoys easy road communications.

The distant view from the south-west of the hamlet from the main A37 near the top of Red Hill (174m), brings out the rural landscape seen as one looks slantwise across a gentle north-facing slope predominantly pastoral with some considerable woodland towards the southern flanks of the Cotswolds north-west of Bath across the river Avon. The meaning of the place-name has nothing to do with a wood: it signifies ‘Ceola’s or Ceolla’s worþ’, ‘worth’ meaning ‘enclosure’.

The church of St Leonard, which is built of sandstone and limestone rubble with limestone dressings, consists of a W tower, nave, N porch, S aisle, chancel and S vestry. Constructed in the 14thc., it was almost entirely rebuilt c.1860. The only Romanesque feature is the font.


DB records two manors in Chelwood, one owned by Count Eustace with Alfred of Marlborough as sub-tenant, the other held by Alfred of Marlborough with Nicholas as sub-tenant.





The author wishes to record his thanks for access to the churchwarden, Mr D Weston. The churchwarden informed the author that an expert on fonts, having examined this one, apparently expressed the confident opinion that its decoration enabled it to be dated 1125-7. However, neither the identity of the commentator nor the reasons for such a precise attribution are recorded.

The unusual volute decoration is closely comparable with that on the rather more elaborate font at Hinton Blewett (also in North East Somerset), only 4 miles to the SW. It would not surprising to discover that the same workshop was responsible for both fonts: that at Chelwood being a ‘standard model’ whereas that at Hinton Blewett being ‘deluxe’, as it were.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), III, 83.

Historic England listing 1320735

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth, 1958), 157.