Hundred Winterstoke
Tithing Kewstoke
Union Workhouse Axbridge
Current Registrar's District North Somerset

The Domesday Book (1086) names the village Chiwestoch. Like all place names, there are no hard and fast rules as to meaning. The name does consist of the Old English word stoc meaning ‘secondary settlement’ but the first part of the name, 'Kew', has been variously explained. According to tradition, Kew was the name of a hermit who had a cell or dwelling at the top of the stone steps, known as ‘St. Kew’s Steps’ or ‘The Old Monk’s Steps’, an ancient stairway, leading up from the parish church through the woods on Monk's Hill towards Worlebury. Alternatively, the Celtic word for a boat ‘kewch' has been suggested as the root of the place name.

Population 1841
The total population was 545 persons – 279 males & 266 females The Parish was divided into two enumeration districts: District 11 – "All that part of the Parish of Kewstoke comprising Milton, Ditcombe, 4 houses at Worle and 3 in Banwell Marsh" District 12 – "All that part of the Parish of Kewstoke comprising Kewstoke Norton, Newtons Column, Woodspring and Sand."

Parish Registers
All registers begin in 1667


St Paul's Kewstoke

Kewstoke’s Parish Church is dedicated to St. Paul (Feast day 25th January) The original church was Norman but the present building is a mixture of architectural styles, having been altered and repaired over the centuries.



The entrance to most churchyards had a roofed timber erection known as a lichgate, from the German "leiche" meaning a corpse. Traditionally, the corpse on its briar rested here whilst the first part of the burial service was read. Burial practices changed and when the wood rotted in these structures they were not always replaced.


The church of St Paul has a flight of stone steps, which lead straight down from the road to an impressive stone doorway into the porch

Arch with twisted pillars

The porch leads to an inner Norman arched doorway with ornate carved twisted pillars This area has been dated to the first half of the12th century, around 1125-1130 and is thought to be the oldest surviving part of the church.

Entrance to side room

A door on the right leads into the small south chapel. Before the Reformation this was a chantry chapel, a side chapel within the church paid for and dedicated to its benefactor.
Here prayers were said and mass was celebrated for the soul of the founder.


  List of Vicars
The list of Vicars is located just inside the porch.

1322 John MANNE

1655 Tho. HAM

1326 Barthol De MORA

1667 Sam. WILLIAN

1336 Joh PRICE

1689 Hieronymus ALLEY

1348 Mich. De GRAYNTON

1703 Wm. CROFTS


1709 Tho GODDARD

1430 Abraham HOPER

1746 Benj. BURROUGHS

1463 Henr. HOGGYS

1763 Tho. BATESON

1477 Will CROSSE

1777 Ch.P. LAYARD

1479 Joh. TOWKER

1799 Thos. H. HUME

1485 Olybns SMYTH

1835 Robt. CHATHWAY

1486 Joh. CHERBURY

1883 Sidney George GILLUM

1491 Ric. SPRYING

1892 Alured Bayfield de MOLEYNS

1500 Christoph HAMILTON

1895 George Deverous DAVENPORT

1500 Joh. CHAPLAYN

1905 David LLOYD

1520 Ric. CARTER

1910 James Berkeley BRISTOW

1542 Tho. DAWKS


1554 Joh. DAVID

1935 Rich. KNIGHT

1557 Joh. BAKER


1570 Paul METHWYN

1976 C.L. WARD

1579 Paul METHWYN

1980 Bryan STRANGE

1607 Tho. METHWIN

1990 Robin VINCENT

1626 Joh. METHWIN

1992 Penny WEST



The church has a simple traditional layout – the tower and nave to the west and the chancel facing east.

The Nave

nave and chancel

The nave (Latin navis – ship) is the larger main body of a church where the congregation once stood during services. Relief for the elderly and infirm during the service was sometimes provided by a stone ledge which ran along the wall so that they could literally ‘go to the wall’ to take the weight off their feet. There is no evidence of such a ledge in the church. Fixed seats began to be introduced into all parish churches in the 15th century.


The simple stone font is, as is traditional in parish churches, sited symbolically just inside the church door. Its location near the door emphasises entry into a Christian life. In the early church, large receptacles were sited at floor level, a practical requirement for total submersion, but in the Middle Ages, when infant christening became the practice, fonts were raised up. The stone font bowl in the church of St Paul is thought to be 14th century but it rests on a Norman stem. Fonts did not originally have covers. In 1236 the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered that they must be covered and locked to prevent anyone stealing holy water.


St Paul’s has a rare late 15th century carved stone pulpit. Originally, there were no pulpits in churches. Sermons were preached outside the church or from the altar. It was only in 1603 that the order went out for pulpits to be placed inside all churches.

Stained Glass

The rich colours of a stained glass window suffuse bright sunlight. The church also has clerestory windows (pronounced clear story) along the very top of the church.

Plaque 1914-1918

Kewstoke remembers those who gave their lives in 1914 – 1918

The Chancel

The chancel, like the nave, has also been give a 13th century date.
Smaller and narrower than the nave, the chancel was the priest’s domain.

Rood Screen

In the pre-reformation church a physical barrier always separated the two sections – the nave for the people and the chancel for the priest. This barrier was made up of several elements: resting on the floor between the chancel arches, a carved screen; above that a sturdy horizontal beam supporting the figure of the crucified Christ traditionally flanked by the Virgin and St John; then a loft or gallery entered by means of a stone stairway within an adjacent wall or turret. All these elements carry the pre-fix ‘rood’. Rood has its root in an Anglo Saxon word for the crucifix.

Doorways to Rood Loft

Doorways to Rood Loft


Within the chancel lies the altar, the most sacred part of a church. Before the Reformation this sacred area of the church was rich with ornamentation. Commonly, behind the altar against the east wall was a reredos (pronounced reer-dos, from Anglo-Norman, areredos) richly carved screens depicting scenes from the Bible. Some were large exquisitely carved from wood, stone, marble, alabaster etc. They were enthusiastically destroyed either at the Reformation or by the later Puritans. St Paul’s parish church has a particularly fine stone reredos. This is a modern sculpture in the style of those that existed in the 15th century. The reredos is divided into five panels depicting the annunciation, the nativity, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. Each of the five panels are bordered by small figures representing each of the twelve disciples.

Contrast of dark to light

The contrast of dark to light. Traditionally built ancient churches were dark places lit only by candles. Light had great symbolism in the early church.


Church tower with gargoyle

Waterspouts projecting from the upper part of a building threw water clear of walls and foundations and protected the building from erosion. Such spouts often bore strange figures of ugly or mythical creatures. Gargoyles (the English words gargle, gurgle and gargoyle are derived from the Old French gargouille - the noise of water) are common on medieval buildings.


A carved figure that does not serve that purpose is known as a grotesque.
In Somerset and other parts of the West Country they are known as Hunky Punks. The siting of these hideous figures on a church building has various explanations – pagan memory, a reminder of evil as one entered the church or creatures intended to keep evil away. The square embattled tower contains five bells

Former rectory glimpsed through trees

The former vicarage (now a small hotel) can be just glimpsed through the trees next to the church. The original house was built just after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. The present dwelling was largely rebuilt c. 1830.
Before Christianity, it was unlawful to bury the dead within a community so burial always took place in the fields away from the populace. In the 8th century, churchyards were added to the church building for the burial of the dead in consecrated ground within a defined walled boundary. The custom of churchyard burials seems to have stemmed from monastic orders that buried those of their community near them. Once started, it very quickly spread. Those deemed noteworthy were buried close to the church or even inside the building. The priest saw to it that burials were conducted with reverence and that the bodies remained inviolate. Unbaptized children, suicides lunatics and the excommunicated were forbidden burial in consecrated ground. When a priest did relent, such souls were buried on the North side of the church. Traditionally, he oldest tombstones are found nearest the church.
Erecting tombstones was the privilege of the rich and the practice did not become more common place until the 17th century. The poor would have either had no marker at all or it would have been flimsy and soon rotted away.


To Monks' Steps

These steps are just a little way across the road from the church of St Paul.

Map of Monks steps

There are some 215 (according to my daughter) coarse flat stones that lead up the steep hill above Kewstoke Church towards Milton.

Monks' Steps

Their exact purpose is unknown or the date they were constructed. The legend is that St Kew had a hermitage on the summit.

Monks' Steps

In 1853 a silver ring brooch, dated to the sixth century AD, was found above the top of the steps. Also near the top of the steps, on the western side, a pit-chamber of uniform shaped stonework was found which was excavated in 1871 by the Revd. W. Jackson. The finds in the pit spanned several ages - Iron Age pottery, a late Saxon or medieval iron knife, pottery shards dated to medieval times, a 15th-century spur and the hilt of a sword dated from the time of the Civil War. Unfortunately, the chamber was destroyed during World War II.


Holy relic

During the middle of the 19th century repairs were made to the wall on the North side of the chancel. Concealed inside the wall, behind a stone on which was carved an effigy, workmen found a hollow cavity. Inside this cavity they found the remains of a broken stained wooden cup around which stories abound. It is believed that the cup was a holy relic and came from the nearby priory. The prior’s own seal was indeed a cup. Furthermore, it was claimed that the staining was caused by the blood of the English martyr Thomas Becket or alternatively the cup contained water brought from Becket’s shrine at Canterbury. Whatever it originally contained, it was obviously considered to be a relic of some considerable importance. How did it end up hidden in the wall of the parish church? It is thought that the cup was brought from the priory and hidden in the wall during the turbulent times around 1536 when the priory was dissolved. The plaque above tells the story of this discovery. The ‘Becket’ cup is now in Taunton museum, but the hiding place can still be seen in St Paul's church.

Worspring Priory in the distance

Hard to see, but from the churchyard, the Priory can just be glimpsed in the distance.


It's this way

“It’s this way!”

Approaching the Priory

The history of Kewstoke is linked with Worspring (later re-named Woodspring) Priory, which is situated on a peninsular on the slopes of Middle Hope.

Woodspring Priory

The priory was founded about 1210 by William de Courtenay, a grandson of Reginald Fitzurse of Williton, one of the four murderers of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury between the years 1162-1170. The other assassins were Hugh de Morville, William de Traci and Richard Brito. An earlier building, a chantry chapel built by Fitzurse himself and dedicated to Thomas the Martyr of Canterbury, had occupied the same site. Both the chantry chapel and the priory were built to atone for the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket who was canonized just three years after his martyrdom in 1173.

The Martyrdom of Becket

In this postcard showing the martyrdom of Becket, Fitzurse is the one with a muzzled bear on his shield.


Ornate ceiling

High Windows

It was an Augustinian house of the double order of St. Augustine and St. Victor of Paris, and was dedicated to the honour of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary the Virgin and St. Thomas the Martyr of Canterbury. The priory was enlarged in the 15th century when the infirmary, the tower and a great barn were built. The priory was later further embellished. The nave was still undergoing changes to the North aisle, when in 1536, when Peter Tormynton was the Prior, Henry VIII suppressed the priory, along with other religious houses throughout the country.

priory farmhouse

After the Reformation, the priory was converted into a farmhouse, with chimneystacks built up through the roof of the nave. The dwelling is now owned by the Landmark Trust. From a distance, the building looks like a typical parish Church.

priory fireplace

Priory fireplace



Kewstoke village
The photograph shows the road running North–South up the hill towards the church.

Kewstoke is situated three miles from Weston-super-Mare. The area is steeped in history. Stone Age flints have been found along with Bronze Age burial urns dug up from the slopes of Worlebury. Other artefacts found on the hill include spearheads, a palstave and a socketed axe. There is evidence that the area was farmed during the Iron Age and a hill fort was strategically sited to the west of Worlebury Hill. The Iron Age hill fort, over 2,000 years old, was protected on the North and west by seemingly unassailable cliffs, by a ditch and rampart on the south and by two huge stone ramparts and several ditches to the east, not to mention marshland, but even then, the inhabitants of the fort could not keep enemies at bay. Archaeology has revealed human remains, perhaps as many as 100 skeletons, in pits within the boundaries of the fort. The Revd A. Catcott, who wrote in 1758, wrote an early description of Worlebury: "An uncommon camp, about 1/2 mile round surrounded on the E. Side with 7 or 8 small trenches and one large one, about 30ft broad and the banks of stone (which were dug out of the lesser trenches) raised to the height of about 16ft". It was later described as "Caesar's Camp", probably because of the Roman coins found there.



Old views of Kewstoke

Kewstoke village postcard dated 1913

Kewstoke village postcard dated 1913

Kewstoke postcard - no date

Kewstoke postcard - no date


PARSONS in Kewstoke

My ancestor John PARSONS was christened in the Parish Church of St James the Great in Winscombe. Following his marriage to Ann DRAKE, he settled in Sandford in Winscombe and his first two children were christened in the same church. In the winter of 1817 he was on the road having been removed from the parish of Congresbury where his third child was born, to Kewstoke. There, two more children were born. According to the census returns, John and Ann lived in Ditcombe in 1841 and in Norton Beauchamp in 1851.



Mary Ann 1809-1886 to Robert LEWIS

James 1811-1879 to Emma TRIP

Betsy 1817-1879? to Richard SWEET

Joseph Drake 1820-1899 to Mary HURMAN

Thomas 1824-1853 to Mary GLOVER

Both John and Ann are buried in the churchyard.




A rather colourful character, Patty was named ‘The Weston Witch’. I include her here for two reasons: I love such eccentric characters and her surname was PARSONS. Who knows, she might be related to me.
Sue Ryall of Kewstoke very kindly sent me a newspaper article about Patty. It contained various tales and eye witness accounts of Patty and her shenanigans and leaves one wondering if Kewstoke was blessed with crops of Magic Mushrooms, for certainly LSD had not been manufactured then. Patty, described as a tall thin woman, lived in a dismal little cottage on the side of the hill just where the Kewstoke toll-gate lodge now stands at least until around 1810 (the Kewstoke toll-gate was opened in1848), eking out a living and telling fortunes. Legend says she is buried in St Paul’s churchyard, location unknown.
But there was more to Patty than that it would seem. In 1928 Mr Ernest E. Baker collected and published articles written about Patty PARSONS. Indeed, Mr Baker himself did not doubt her powers:
“All the people round were mighty terrified of her and whenever she was coming round a corner or down a road, all the folk would run away sharp”
Such was her power that Mr Baker goes on to say that the villagers supplied her with produce in order not to offend her in any way. Outsiders though, did not know any better. A farmer from Congresbury offended Patty so she spoiled his butter and cheese. Her power was so great that:
"Even the Rev. Wadham Pigott and Mr John Pigott at the Grove and Mr Richard Parsley in his farmhouse by the Rectory gates were, so people said, afraid of Patty.”
Patty was a shape-changer too apparently. Near Eastfield Park a man saw her change to become an attacking snarling dog.
When he defended himself, his stick passed right through the beast: “At the eleventh stroke the dog became Patty again.”
On another occasion huntsmen chased a hare that bolted to Patty’s cottage.
“She was sitting in her straight-backed chair, but was very red and hot-faced and puffing and panting.”



Parish Registers for Kewstoke


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