12th to 20th October 2018

St Beuno's Church, Culbone

St Beuno's Church, Culbone, Porlock Weir, Nr Minehead TA24 8PQ

Parking   None
Toilets    None
Food       None

Setting   Unique!

Said to be the smallest parish church in England, seating only 33, St Beuno's can only be reached on foot. The church is sited in a quiet combe looking out to sea. A leper's squint is set into the north wall, a relic of the 16th century when a leper's colony was sited in the nearby woods. The church boasts a Saxon font and carved head that is part-cat, part-man on the north window.
Though the site is remote and peaceful now, it was not so peaceful in 1280, when the chaplain of Culbone was indicted for murder, 'having struck Albert of Esshe (Ash) on the head with a hatchet, and so killed him'. It is hard to imagine anything so untoward happening in this peaceful place now!
The church is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and is almost certainly pre-Norman. It is just 35 feet long, with the nave taking up 21 feet of that length. Even though there is no road access there are still regular services at the church.
While the body of the church is at least 11th century if not older, the porch is probably 13th century, and the nave was rebuilt in the 15th century. Inside are box pews, including a 17th century pew for the squires of nearby Ashley Combe House. There is a very simple font that is almost certainly Saxon, and a small window in the south wall of the chancel of a similar date. The window frame is carved from a single block of solid sandstone.
The most interesting features of the church are the font and the chancel screen. The font is fascinating; it has been described as both Saxon and Norman. Whatever the exact date it is a beautifully carved example of ancient stonework. The font bowl stands on a much later base, probably Victorian.
The chancel screen dates to the 14th century and has some very attractive carved panels. On the south side of the nave in front of the screen is the boxed pew bult for the Lovelace family of Ashley Combe house. The chancel arch itself is 13th century.
One peculiar feature is the conical spire, built of deal and slate, probably in place by around 1810. A local tradition says that the spire was originally atop Porlock church, and was blown off in a storm and carried all the way to Culbone. In the churchyard is a modern cross, which stands on a 15th century base.

Access is the big challenge for visiting Culbone. Park at Porlock Weir (paid parking) and follow the South West Coast Path. The path is signposted 'Culbone Church' and starts behind the hotel. It crosses a farm field, then enters attractive woodland, rising up the hill to the thatched gateway to the Worthy Estate. Rather than go up the estate road the trail turns towards the coast and pases through beautiful woodland, with glimpses of the sea through the trees. Culbone will eventually come into view on your right, half hidden in a dell by trees rising up on all sides. There seems to be a discrepancy in the signposted distance between Culbone and Porlock Weir depending on which side you start from! In Porlock Weir the signs say 1 1/4 mile to Culbone, but from Culbone they say 2 miles to Porlock Weir. The 2 miles sign is closer to the truth.The walk is very pleasant, and mostly level except for the very beginning.

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