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Parish and Priory Church of St George, Somerset

In the village of Dunster

See also Dunster

Dunster church door by Barbara Ballard The beginnings of St George church are obscured in the past. It could have been one of the early churches dedicated to celtic saints. The only early reference to it, dating from just after the Norman conquest, is that a church was “rebuilt” here. The land was granted to the de Mohun family by William I. William de Mohun, lord of Dunster castle, gave the church and land to the Benedictine bishop and monks of Bath. Thus sometime between 1090 and 1170 there was a priory in Dunster.

The church at that time was similar to the one in place today, being the same length; however its style was more squat. Today the only remains of that church that can be seen are the restored west door, the north wall, and the pillars that are part of the west facing tower piers.

Dunster church fan vaulting by Barbara Ballard When the current church was first built it was one large area with the high altar at the east end of the church. The monks and parishioners had a dispute during the 1400s related to the times and ordering of services, use of bells, and much more. The dispute was arbitrated in 1498 at Glastonbury. There was a decision made for the parishioners to erect and maintain a choir separate from the monks. This is the origin of the church’s great screen crossing the nave, chancel, and sanctuary. The 54 foot long screen, built in 1499, is thought to be the longest carved rood screen in the world. One of its features is fan vaulting. The original screen that spanned the tower arch was moved to the eastern arch of the south transept.

The church font dates from c 1530. The carvings on the font represent the five wounds of Christ and the instruments of the passion. The cover dates from the 1850s. The pulpit is from the 1800s. The west window (not the glass) dates from c1530. A painting of the royal arms, 1660, is on the north walls and dates from Charles II’s reign.

Dunster church aisle by Barbara Ballard Dunster church interior by Barbara Ballard In the church are three iron bound chests dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. The chandelier found in the centre of the choir is from 1740. The pews, that have carved ends, date from 1876. In the south end of the transept is a grave slab of Adam of Cheddar who was the prior of Dunster from c1345-1355. The organ was rebuilt in 1960.

Dunster church tower by Barbara Ballard There are eight bells—recast and rehung in 1968—in the tower. An 1876 clock is located in the tower. A carillon plays a tune several times a day.

Dunster church monument by Barbara Ballard Wagon roofs, a 16th century Perpendicular font and the tombs of the Luttrell family decorate the red sandstone Church of St. George, first built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 14th and 19th centuries. The eastern end of the church belongs to the Luttrell family and a number of monuments, tombs and inscription related to the family are found here.

Dunster church memorial garden by Barbara Ballard Buildings that were once part of the priory can be seen along Church Street—a medieval tithe barn, two medieval gateways, and a circular medieval dovecote with 4-foot thick stone walls. The building that served as the monks’ lodgings is now a private home and adjoins the church. The garden at the side of the church is a memorial to those who died in world wars I and II.

Visitor Information

Dunster, Somerset is located near the coast on the A396 in the north-east part of the county, just south of the A39. The church is open daily. The tower is usually open to visitors Thursdays from 8-9pm.

Photos by Barbara Ballard

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