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Church of St Benedict

A Grade I Listed Building in Glastonbury, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1466 / 51°8'47"N

Longitude: -2.7196 / 2°43'10"W

OS Eastings: 349760

OS Northings: 138836

OS Grid: ST497388

Mapcode National: GBR MK.82SC

Mapcode Global: VH8B3.TF3W

Entry Name: Church of St Benedict

Listing Date: 21 June 1950

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1057966

English Heritage Legacy ID: 265861

Location: Glastonbury, Mendip, Somerset, BA6

County: Somerset

District: Mendip

Civil Parish: Glastonbury

Built-Up Area: Glastonbury

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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Listing Text


Mainly late medieval: chancel perhaps renewed in the mid 14th century, tower perhaps mid 15th century, north aisle and porch c. 1493-1524. South chapel, 1862, by Benjamin Ferrey. General restoration, new south aisle and transept, and the reconstruction of the north aisle and porch using old materials, by J.D. Sedding, 1884-6.

Materials: Coursed Lias limestone with dressings of yellow Oolitic limestone, (perhaps from Doulting quarries, which were owned by Glastonbury Abbey).

Plan: West tower, four-bay nave with clerestory, north and south aisles, chancel with shorter chapels. Three-bay south aisle with short transept. North aisle and porch, vestries at the north-east.

Exterior: The tower is of three stages, with set-back buttresses and embattled parapet. Complex angle pinnacles added in the mid 19th century. Two long belfry lights on each face, with central mullion and transom, and Somerset tracery. Between the belfry lights, a diagonally-set attached pinnacle rises from an angel corbel at the base of the stage. In the middle stage is a short two-light window with flanking statuary niches. Four-light west window, four-centred west door with richly moulded frame and hoodmould with demi-angel. Embattled nave, north aisle and porch. The chancel has angle buttresses and the east window tracery still shows signs of curvilinear Dec. The north porch has a stoup, the arms of Abbot Bere over the door, and a shallow eastward projection with slit window, perhaps for a porch altar. The low priest's vestry at the north-east is 15th century, rebuilt 1884-6. It was extended north with a one-and-half-storey choir vestry (faculty of 1913). South aisle by Sedding, 1884-6 with window tracery following that of the north aisle. Gabled south transept, the south window of three-lights with one transom. Solid parapets to aisle and nave on the south.

Interior: Panelled tower arch. Inside the tower, a tierceron vault with big bell hole. The nave and north aisle have shallow cambered roofs with moulded beams, c. 1500-20 (Abbot Bere's initials on a boss in the north aisle). The roofs are doubtless repaired, but seem substantially original. They rest on elaborate angel corbels bearing shields, etc. Perp nave arcades of the usual Somerset pattern ¿ four hollows with attached shafts, and moulded ring capitals to the shafts only. Four-centred arches. The chancel is fairly plain, with a ribbed wagon vault, probably 19th century.

Principal Fixtures: The fine piscina is c. mid 13th century; a trefoil-headed opening beneath a gabled hoodmould with crockets of stiff-leaf. Octagonal bowl supported on a pendant corbel, with smaller pendants flanking. Over the chancel arch, an ex-situ sculpture of a Crucifixion, probably 15th century. The triangular ground with curved edges suggests it came from the spandrel between two arches, perhaps part of a reredos or screen. Good 15th century font with rectangular cusped panels around the bowl, and a panelled stem. Stone panelled and traceried pulpit, late Victorian. Nave benches with traceried ends, by Sedding. Stained glass: East window perhaps 1860s, of the same period the south chapel. West window (Sermon on the Mount), 1959; South transept south, and two in the south aisle, all c.1880s. In the tower is a fine ledger slab probably of Blue Lias, to Henry Gold, c.1711; circular incised armorial with Baroque mantling. On the south aisle west wall, a provincial early 18th century tablet with broken pediment and floral frame.

History: A church of St Benignus is believed to have been dedicated c. 1100. Its site was the resting point of the saint's (misidentified) relics during their translation from Meare to the Benedictine Abbey of Glastonbury in 1091. The dedication was changed to St Benedict in the mid-17th century. It sits exactly 500 feet west of the abbey gatehouse (was there a direct site line before Benedict Street and Magdalen Street were built up?). It was a dependent chapel of St John, the town parish church, which was itself under the Abbey's ecclesiastical jurisdiction from at least the 8th century. The north aisle and its porch were built by Abbot Bere (1493-1524). The window tracery here, although probably renewed, is characteristically Tudor - cusped inverted-Y forms and ogee lights, cf. Dunster north aisle windows, dated 1504. The tower has been assumed to be also c.1500-20, however the tracery is decidedly simpler, and has no ogee lights: a mid-15th century date would be more reasonable.

Bush, R., Somerset, The Complete Guide (1994), 108 and 139
Faculties at Somerset Record Office, Taunton
Incorporated Church Building Society archives (www.churchplansonline.org); file refs. 05997, 08938 Folios ff.1-24; 08938 Folios ff.25-42
Harvey, J., Somerset Perpendicular: The Church Towers and the Dating Evidence, (Ancient Monuments Society, 1984)
A History of the County of Somerset (Victoria County History): Volume 2 (1911), 82-99.

Reasons for Designation: The church of St Benedict, Glastonbury, is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* The substantial medieval remains (i.e. the nave and north aisle with timber roofs of c.1500, the north porch and its interesting altar projection, and particularly the very good west tower) are significant examples of the Somerset Perp style, despite some over-restoration.

* The survival of a very good Early English piscina hints at the quality of the earlier church.

* The church provides evidence for the ways Glastonbury Abbey promoted saintly relics to attract pilgrims, and how those activities affected the historic development of Glastonbury beyond the Abbey walls; it is also a prominent feature in the town.

* The Victorian enlargements and restorations were by Ferrey and Sedding, both widely respected exponents of the Gothic Revival.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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