MSO9435 - St George's Church, Dunster (Building)


St George's Church is mainly 15th Century with 12th and 13th Century work. It was restored in 1875-7.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

St. George's Church is originally 12th century in date. At this time it was probably cruciform with a central tower. Rebuilding took place in the 13th century but mainly in the 15th and 16th centuries. [1] The priory church is the eastern portion of St. Georges's Church which is the private property of G.F. Luttrell Esq., Dunster Castle and is now disused. [1,3,12] The whole of the church, including the east portion is in normal use. [2] Predominantly 15th century with evidence of 12th and 13th Century work, restored 1875-7 by GE Street. Possesses a monastic choir dating from the 13th Century when Reginald de Mohun established a Benedictine Priory connected with Bath Abbey. Late 15th Century carved oak rood screen with 14 unequal openings and elaborately carved canopy. Monuments include: a stone female effigy with canopy (said to be one of the Everard family); the recumbent figures of Sir Hugh Luttrell and wife (15th century) an incised slab with figures of Lady Elizabeth Luttrell (also 15th century) and an altar tomb with two pairs of recumbent figures, also Luttrells. [4] The church is built of red sandstone and was the priory church for the Benedictine priory of Dunster, which was a cell of Bath. It was conveyed to Bath by William de Mohun at the end of the 11th Century. Some Norman evidence remains e.g. a small part of the west portal, including one column (now housed in part of the W doorway, which is 19th Century and in a neo-Norman style) and parts of the crossing piers. Some other details are 13th Century but the rest of the church is mainly Perpendicular, mid 15th to mid 16th Century. A contract dated 1443 calls for the rebuilding of the crossing and the erection of the tower to occur within three years. The church was restored in 1875-7 by GE Street. The church's furnishings include a Perpendicular font and a screen, "a splendid specimen, worthy of the best in Devon. All across nave and aisles, by the fifth arch from the W. There is a rood-loft door by the crossing as well. The surviving screen was erected as the outcome of a quarrel between monastery and town in 1498." There are also various tombs relating to the Luttrell family, who came into possession of Dunster Castle in 1376 and a 1740 chandelier. The priory buildings were arranged to the north of the church. [6] Was the priory church. The graveyard has been in use since medieval times. [7] Photograph showing south-east view of church. [8] A white marble tablet on a grey marble backboard commemorates William Norman who died in 1940. The badge of the Royal Engineers is depicted in the top left corner. A plaque commemorates D'arcy Blofeld who died in 1915. Another plaque commemorates Alan Bryant who died in 1917. A plaque commemorates 11 members of the parish who were killed in World War One. The plaque has a nowy-head containing a laurel wreath. An oak framed hand calligraphied roll of honur records the names of 11 of the parish who died in World War Two. A white marble tablet in an alabaster frame commemorates Henry Strong who died in 1917. There is a badge of the Royal Artillery above the inscription. [9] [SS 99044366] St. George's Church (Vicarage) and (NAT) Priory Church (NR). [11] The Church is situated within Dunster Conservation Area. The character appraisal (2002) states of the church, "Cruciform in plan, the monastic choir dates from the 13th century, with other parts of the church also of 12th and 13th century date. The bulk of the church, including the tower is 15th century, including the wagon roof with 50 finely carved bosses of roses, quatrefoils and heads. The south aisle roof is lighter oak, flat and heavily panelled with about 100 small bosses. Other important features are the 15th century oak rood screen with 14 openings and a finely carved canopy, and there is an important group of sculptures of the 13th to 16th century of the de Mohuns and Luttrells. There was a major restoration of 1875-7 by G.E. Street." [21] Binding states that the Norman church was just over 80 feet long and nearly 25 feet wide, with a fairly flat wooden roof and a large round-headed arch at the east end leading to the chancel. She also states there may have been a low tower. In 1498, an agreement was arbitrated in Glastonbury where the church was effectively divided into two parts; the east was for the monks and the vicar and parish had the west end, with a new and separate choir. This resulted in the construction of the carved rood screen which crosses the whole breadth of the church two bays west of the tower, creating the parochial chancel, together with the reconstruction of the nave, the south aisle enlarged and the nave roof replaced by the present waggon roof. The north aisle was rebuilt soon after 1504 and the west window and font installed about 1530. The dual use of the church ended with the Dissolution and the lands then passed into the use of the Luttrells, though at one stage the rectory, tithe receipts and responsibility for appointing a vicar was conveyed to Hugh Stewkley. By 1643, the chancel was used by the family as a burial place. The church was completely restored in 1875 by GE Street, assisted by GH Samson, and this included the replacement of the large Perpendicular window at the east end by three 13th Century lancet windows constructed from remains found in the vicinity of the church by Mr Samson. [22] The building was visited in April 2012 as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. It received a BAR score of 6. [23] During a watching brief undertaken in December 2017, excavation was carried through the southern nave wall and here the opportunity was taken to examine the foundations of the medieval structure. The complete profile was not achieved at this point but it was clear that three separate phases of activity were present. It commenced with a broad structure consisting of angular Hangmans Grit rubble bonded by soft dark red-brown sandy mortar which extended at least 1.10 metres south of the existing superstructure. This was immediately overlain by a dump of large angular Hangmans Grit rubble in a matrix of fragmented dark red-brown mortar mixed with soil many of the components of which were found to tip to the north. On the surface of this layer was built the latest foundation consisting of only two courses of Hangmans Grit rubble bonded by hard pale pink lime mortar and this structure formed the footing for the existing superstructure of the nave. It was discussed that evidence for two phases of structure were noted, indicating that the nave wall must have been completely rebuilt rather than simply modernised in the 15th Century. The foundation of this rebuild is rather precariously laid on a loose dump of demolition debris, presumably surplus to requirements following the robbing of the earlier structure of which intact courses of the much wider foundation survives . It remains unclear as to whether this lowest structure represents a component of the Norman church or an earlier structure predating the grant of the site to Bath Abbey. Indeed, the unconventional layout of the abbey buildings may be partly explained by the restrictions imposed by a desire to retain an existing consecrated building, albeit at an inconvenient location within the granted lands. [25] The church is depicted on 2018 MasterMap data and labelled "St George's Church and remains of Benedictine Priory". [26] A collection of images of the building is held by the Historic England Archive. [28-44] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [45] The church is discussed in the 2018 Conservation Area Appraisal. [46]

Sources/Archives (47)

  • <1> Article in serial: Eeles, F.C.. 1950. Dunster Church. The Archaeological Journal. 107. p. 117. p117.
  • <2> Unpublished document: PITCHER, GHP. 1960s. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 26 May 1965.
  • <3> Monograph: Hancock, F. 1905. Dunster Church and Priory. P. 126-7.
  • <4> Index: Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest . DOE (HHR) West Somerset District (Dunster Ph) Somerset 04/08/1983 10 11 12.
  • <5> Monograph: Allen, N.V.. 1974. Churches and Chapels of Exmoor. Exmoor Press. P. 51-54.
  • <6> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. P. 154-6.
  • <7> Unassigned: Aston, M. 29.11.78. Somerset County Council.
  • <8> Article in serial: Anon. The Builder. P. 169 and plates.
  • <9> Website: Imperial War Museum. United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials. UKNIWM references 24549-54.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Wyvern Architects. 24/04/1994. [Unknown].
  • <11> Map: Ordnance Survey. Various. Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) . 25 inch, 1929.
  • <12> Unassigned: Hancock, F.. 1902. REV Object Name Book.
  • <13> Unassigned: Ecles, F. C.. 1940. The Church of St. George.
  • <14> Article in serial: Freeman, E. A.. 1855. Dunster Priory Church. Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society. 6. P. 1-16.
  • <15> Article in serial: Batten, J.. 1890. Barony of Beauchamp of Somerset. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 36. P. 39-42.
  • <16> Article in serial: Anonymous. 1906. Dunster Church. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 52. Part I, pp 56-61. P. 56-63.
  • <17> Article in serial: Lyte, H. M.. 1927. [Unknown]. Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries. 19. P. 17.
  • <18> Article in serial: Freeman, E. A.. 1880. The Case of the Collegiate Church of Arundel. The Archaeological Journal. 37. pp 244-270. P.258-9.
  • <19> Article in serial: [Unknown]. 1928. [Unknown]. Devonshire Association reports and transactions. 60. P. 36-40.
  • <20> Monograph: Collinson, J.. 1791 (2006). The History and Antiquities of Somerset. Archive CD Books Ltd. P. 18-19.
  • <21> Report: Fisher, J.. 2002. Dunster Conservation Area Character Appraisal. Exmoor National Park Authority. p19.
  • <22> Monograph: Binding, H.. Discovering Dunster. The Exmoor Press. p38-53.
  • <23> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13.
  • <24> Leaflet: Alderson, C.D.. 1971. The Church of Saint George, Dunster. N/A.
  • <25> Report: Brigers, J.L.. 2018. The Parish Church of St George, Dunster, Somerset: A watching brief in the churchyard. 9, 17.
  • <26>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap. [Mapped feature: #44971 ]
  • <27> Monograph: Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R.N.. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses England and Wales.
  • <28> Photograph: Hesketh-Roberts, M.. 1999. Job: St Georges Church. Colour. Negative.
  • <29> Photograph: Unknown. 1890-1920. Looking east across the nave towards the rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Print.
  • <30> Photograph: Unknown. 1900-1930. The late 15th century carved oak rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Negative.
  • <31> Photograph: Unknown. 1881. View looking over Dunster, taken from the north-west showing the castle to the left and St George's Church to the right. Unknown. Print.
  • <32> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1910-1925. General view looking towards Dunster showing the castle on the left and St George's Church on the right, taken from Dunster Park in the east. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <33> Photograph: [Unknown]. 1890-1920. Looking east across the nave towards the rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Printout.
  • <34> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1900-1907. Interior view looking down the centre of the nave to the rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <35> Photograph: Ellis, C.. 1900-1930. The late 15th century carved oak rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Printout.
  • <36> Photograph: Ellis, C.. 1880-1900. St George's Church viewed from the south-east. Unknown. Print.
  • <37> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1900-1907. St George's Church, taken from the south. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <38> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1900-1907. St George's Church, taken from the south-east. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <39> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1900-1907. The west end of St George's Church, taken from the west. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <40> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1910-1925. The tower of St George's Church, taken from Church Street in the south. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <41> Photograph: Photochrom Company Limited. 1900-1907. Interior view showing the arch into the Chapel of the Holy Trinity form the south transept of St George's Church. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <42> Photograph: F Frith and Company Limited. 1910-1925. General view showing the Dovecote and St George's Church, taken from the north-west. Unknown. Postcard.
  • <43> Photograph: Houghton, F.T.S.. 1910-1934. Detail of the fan vaults and carved cornice on the west side of the rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Printout.
  • <44> Photograph: Howard, F.E.. 1910-1934. A view of the fan vaults and carved cornice on the west side of the rood screen in St George's Church. Unknown. Printout.
  • <45> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36948, Updated 18 May 2022.
  • <46> Report: Pratt, N. and Thurlow, T.. 2018. Dunster Conservation Area: appraisal document. Exmoor National Park Authority. p 9, 15, 18, 21, 48, 60, 93, Figure 47.
  • <47> Index: Charterhouse Environs Research Team. 2012. The CHERT Index of the Drawings and Sketches of the Reverend John Skinner. Vol 18 (1836 Devonshire), pages 62, 63.

External Links (9)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 26/4/28
  • Church Heritage Record ID: 601463
  • Exmoor National Park Authority HER number: MEM24465
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11232
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO12069
  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 SE84
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 99/01217
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36948
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33569
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 34928



Grid reference Centred SS 9903 4366 (53m by 27m)
Map sheet SS94SE

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Record last edited

May 18 2023 5:05PM


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