Simon Cotton celebrates Somerset towers


The magnificent tower of Bishop’s Lydiard church (1) would be a highlight if found in many other English counties; here in Somerset it is one of many, with similarities to others like Ile Abbots (ND Feb 2018), Kingston Saint Mary and Staple Fitzpaine. It is built of red sandstone, with Ham Hill dressings, probably around 1480. Don’t miss the Comper interior to which it is attached.

Another building stone widely used in Somerset is of blue lias, employed in the tower of Middlezoy (2), which was probably built much the same time at Bishop’s Lydiard. It has similarities to the richer one at Weston Zoyland (ND Dec 2020). 

The tower at Curry Rivel (3) uses Ham stone dressings to offset the blue lias. It is one of a number of towers of slightly later construction from around 1500 into the early 16th c. which share the feature of elongated two light bell openings, such as Hinton St George, Norton-sub-Hamdon (both ND Dec 2019) and Shepton Beauchamp (ND April 2019). 


Further reading

A. K. Wickham, Churches of Somerset, Phœnix House, 1952; 

John H. Harvey, ‘Somerset Perpendicular – The Church Towers and the Dating Evidence’, Trans. Ancient Monuments Society (New Series), 1982, Vol. 26, pp. 157–183; 

J. Orbach and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Somerset: North and Bristol and Somerset: South and West, Yale, 2011 and 2014 respectively