Culbone Church

Culbone Church, located in the village of Culbone in Somerset, is said to be the smallest parish church in England.[2] The church, dedicated to the Welsh saint Beuno, has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building[3] and the churchyard cross is Grade II*.

St Beuno's Church, Culbone
A small stone church surrounded by trees
St Beuno's Church, Culbone is located in Somerset
St Beuno's Church, Culbone
St Beuno's Church, Culbone
Culbone within Somerset
51°13′17″N 3°39′32″W / 51.2213°N 3.6590°W / 51.2213; -3.6590Coordinates: 51°13′17″N 3°39′32″W / 51.2213°N 3.6590°W / 51.2213; -3.6590
OS grid referenceSS842482
DenominationChurch of England[1]
StatusParish church
DedicationSt Beuno
Functional statusActive
Length35 feet (11 m)
DioceseBath & Wells
Saxon window, chancel north wall

The church is recorded in the Domesday Book.[4]

The church seats about 30 people, the chancel is 13.5 × 10 feet (4.1 × 3.0 m), the nave 21.5 × 12.33 feet (6.6 × 3.8 m) and the building has a total length of 35 feet (10.7 m).[5] Services are still held there, despite the lack of access by road. The church is probably pre-Norman in origin, with a 13th-century porch and a late-15th-century nave. It was refenestrated and re-roofed around 1810 and the spirelet added in 1888. It underwent further restoration in 1928.[6]

Joan D'Arcy Cooper, psychologist, Yoga teacher, author of Guided Meditation and the Teaching of Jesus,[7] and wife of the potter Waistel Cooper, was organist at the church and is buried in the graveyard.[8] The graveyard also contains a war grave of a soldier of the Welsh Guards of World War II.[9] Sir David Calcutt QC, the eminent barrister and public servant, is buried in the churchyard too.

Interior and exterior featuresEdit

The nave has retained its box pews, including a Jacobean squire's pew for the now ruined Ashley Combe House. The tall proportion of the nave and the primitive bowl font suggests Anglo-Saxon origins. The east end is restored. There is a small window, carved from a single block of sandstone, outside the north wall of the chancel, with a face on top of the pillar dividing the two window lights. This is probably also Saxon.[10]


The church is passed by the South West Coast Path, but drivers must turn off the A39 opposite the village pub, and park where possible on the narrow track. There is then a walk of 1.5 miles (2.4 km) "through steep woods of walnut and oak, glorious on a summer's day with the sea glinting through the trees, darkly mysterious and dripping with water in winter".[10]

In mediaEdit

In a television version of Lorna Doone, St Beuno's was used as the location for the marriage of John Ridd at Oare Church.[11]

The church is featured in the 1988 video of Mike and The Mechanics hit song "The Living Years".

A 2016 BBC television series "Coastal Path" about the South West Coast Path includes a visit to the church.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "St Beuno, Culbone". A Church Near You. Church of England. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
  2. ^ "Parish Churches". Somerset County Archives. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Culbone church". Retrieved 24 October 2007.
  4. ^ Scott, Hamish (16 November 1996). "Hidden hamlet of Exmoor:country". The Independent.
  5. ^ "Culbone – Kitnor". Minehead Online. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Culbone Church (1058037)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  7. ^ Cooper, J. D., Guided Meditation and the Teaching of Jesus. Salisbury: Element Books. (Reissue Edition) 30 November 1982.
  8. ^ Malcolm Welshman (4 November 2011). "A tiny church called Culbone, near Porlock". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  9. ^ "Ricketts, William Charles". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b Jenkins, Simon (2000). England's Thousand Best Churches. Penguin Books. pp. 689–690. ISBN 978-0-141-03930-5.
  11. ^ "Walk - Culbone Church and the Fairytale Tunnels". South West Coast Path. Retrieved 9 July 2013.

Layley, Charles G (1985). St. Beuno's Culbone "The smallest complete Parish Church in England". Barnstaple: Aycliffe Press Ltd., on behalf of Culbone Parochial Church Council. ASIN B008LP8HRO.

External linksEdit