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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Somerset

by Peter Kessler, 15 November 2019

SW&T (Taunton Deane) Part 11: Churches of Durston to Burrowbridge

Church of St John the Baptist, Durston, Somerset

The Church of St John the Baptist is on the northern side of the busy A361 road on the eastern edge of Durston, with the churchyard entrance around ten metres east of the Fog Lane junction. Durston chapel was originally given as part of the endowment of Buckland Priory in 1170. The priory buildings once stood where today's Buckland Farm lies, on the opposite side of the A361 in nearby Lower Durston, and nothing remains of them. Durston chapel was enlarged in 1815.

Church of St John the Baptist, Durston, Somerset

One Thomas Grey paid for the 1815 restoration, and he is commemorated by a tablet on the south wall of the tower. The chapel was rebuilt in 1853 by C H Knowles, turning it into a small parish church in the Early English style with slate roofs. The earliest part of the existing church is the late Perpendicular tower which was built in blue lias, while the main body is of rubble stone with hamstone dressings. The three-stage crenellated tower underwent restoration in 1897.

Athelney Abbey, Somerset

Athelney Abbey's site is marked by King Alfred's Monument which, while gated, sits in the middle of an open field on private land to the immediate north of Athelney Farm. The more formally-titled Monastery of Our Blessed Saviour, St Peter, St Paul, and St Athelwine was sited on or close to King Alfred's AD 878 fortress of Ethelingaeigge. It was Alfred who later ordered the abbey to be built (or perhaps expanded from an earlier hermitage). The Dissolution ended it.

The Free Chapel of St Michael, Barrow Mump, Somerset

The Free Chapel of St Michael stands at the top of Barrow Mump - a well-known local landmark. This natural conical hill was turned into a castle motte by the Normans. A chapel seemingly existed in 1544 when the land was granted to John Clayton following the Dissolution, confirmed in 1548. Funds were donated in 1663 towards its repair, which work began around 1724 but was not finished. Another attempt in 1793 also failed and the church gradually became a ruin.

Church of St Michael, Burrowbridge, Somerset

The Church of St Michael, Burrowbridge, is on the south-eastern side of Main Road, with the River Parrett on its western flank. This was the replacement for Barrow Mump's St Michael's Chapel (see above), following several failures to enact repair work on the old chapel. It was built in 1836-1838 by Richard Carver, with the chancel arch being inserted in 1888. The building is of squared and coursed blue lias hamstone dressings, with slate roofs, and coped verges.

Ebenezer Baptist Chapel, Burrowbridge, Somerset

Ebenezer Baptist Chapel, Burrowbridge, stands on the eastern side of Riverside, on the east bank of the River Parrett, about 310 metres north of St Michael Burrowbridge (see above). The chapel was built in 1856 (not 1836). The porch was added and the rear of the building was enlarged late in the nineteenth century. A date of closure is not known but, despite the chapel now serving as a private residence, public access must be maintained to the burial ground.

Four photos on this page by P L Kessler, one kindly contributed by Douglas Law via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group, and one copyright © Stephen Richards, and reused under a cc licence. Former Taunton Deane area church names and locations kindly confirmed by South West Heritage Trust.

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Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.