Old Church of St Nicholas, Uphill

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Old Church of St Nicholas
St Nicholas' Church, Uphill, Somerset.jpg
Location Uphill, Somerset, England
Coordinates 51°19′13″N 2°58′56″W / 51.32028°N 2.98222°W / 51.32028; -2.98222Coordinates: 51°19′13″N 2°58′56″W / 51.32028°N 2.98222°W / 51.32028; -2.98222
Built c. 1080
Architectural style(s) Norman
Governing body Churches Conservation Trust
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official name: Old Church of Saint Nicholas
Designated 19 May 1983[1]
Reference no. 33251
Old Church of St Nicholas, Uphill is located in Somerset
Old Church of St Nicholas, Uphill
Location of Old Church of St Nicholas in Somerset

The Old Church of St Nicholas at Uphill, Somerset, England, dates from around 1080,[2] and was built on the site of previous places of worship. It stands on a cliff top overlooking Brean Down and the mouth of the River Axe.

The partially ruined church consists of a tower, chancel and a roofless nave. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building,[1] and in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, although the roofed portion is still used for services occasionally.


Uphill Cliff looking North East

The partially ruined church, on the edge of Weston-super-Mare, sits on a cliff top the southern slope of which and the quarry at its western end form the Uphill Cliff Site of Special Scientific Interest, notable for its species-rich calcareous grassland. It consists of grassland and rock-face situated on Carboniferous Limestone. Steeper banks and knolls in the grassland have a flora which includes orchids, Somerset Hair Grass (Koeleria vallesiana), and Honewort, (Trinia glauca) and the Goldilocks Aster (Galatella linosyris) along with several species of butterfly and Weevil (Curculionoidea).[3]

The church overlooks Weston Bay, Brean Down and the mouth of the River Axe which was used as a port in Roman times, probably for the export of lead from the Mendip Hills.[4] The nearby tower on the hill is the remains of an 18th-century windmill.[5]

History and architecture[edit]

The cliff beneath the church contained caves which contained evidence of occupation since the Stone age. The caves have since been quarried away and the artefacts removed to museums. During the Roman period a Romano-British temple was erected on the site. Some remains of this have been found beneath the floor of the open nave. There is evidence of a wooden church on the site around 700 AD during the Anglo-Saxon era, and the port at Uphill may have been a centre for pilgrims travelling to Glastonbury Abbey. The church became the responsibility of the abbot of the monastery dedicated to St Michael, which was on Steep Holm island in the Bristol Channel.[6]

The current Norman stone building has a central three-stage tower, chancel and unroofed nave.

The building was remodelled in the late Middle Ages and restored in 1846 by Thomas Knytton of Uphill Castle. The porch was rebuilt in 1904, although the church had been partly in ruins since the building of a new parish church in 1844.[7] The nave no longer has a roof.

There are three carved sundials, one on the east side of a plain tympanum set over a blocked door in the south wall and one to the west of the tympanum. The third sundial, on the window head on the south face of the tower, predates the Norman Conquest and may be Saxo-Norman.[7]

Current use[edit]

It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and occasional services are held in the part of the church which still has a roof.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Historic England, "Old Church of Saint Nicholas, Weston-Super-Mare (1129743)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 31 August 2013 
  2. ^ "Churches". Uphill Village. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "Uphill Cliff" (PDF). English Nature's SSSI Information. Retrieved 27 January 2007. 
  4. ^ Farr, Grahame (1954). Somerset Harbours. London: Christopher Johnson. p. 65. 
  5. ^ "Uphill Windmill, Uphill, Weston-super-Mare, Avon". Viewfinder. English Heritage. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "Old St Nicholas history". Uphill Team Ministry. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "St Nicholas Church". Pastscape. English Heritage. Retrieved 7 March 2018. 
  8. ^ "St Nicholas' Church, Uphill, Somerset". Churches Conservation Trust. Retrieved 29 March 2011.