The South Porch & Abbey



A tour of St John the Baptist

The South Porch and Abbey


Today the South Porch is home to some grave slabs from the Abbey and the notice on the wall deserves some attention. Against the west wall is the best preserved grave slab, you can see the name fairly easily - ‘Nicholas Petherton’ and that he was born in ‘Keynsham’.  All of the stones are recognised as 15th century in design and two of those named, Roger Hobbes and Thomas Rede are known to have been alive in the 1450’s from records held elsewhere. All of the stones in the porch are for members of the Abbey.

Outside of the porch is the tombstone of ‘Hugh Taylor of Keynsham and Matilda, his wife’. This stone came from the nave of the Abbey, burial there was a privilege granted to some civilians in the part of the church open to the parish. It is a shame there was no room in the porch, for this stone, exposure to the weather is making the inscription difficult to read.

All records and histories mention that the buttress VI has a mass dial on it, but had is a better word. You need a bit of imagination to see the hole that held the gnomon. On the wall of the chancel is a lancet window that is blocked on the inside by one of the Bridges family monuments. Standing here and looking east you would have seen the Abbey. It was built by William Earl of Gloucester in memory of his son Robert at some time between 1166 and 1175. It was in the same group as Woodspring Abbey and St Augustine’s Bristol, now the Cathedral.  Dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII most of the staff found other positions.

A lot was learned about the Abbey when the bypass was constructed in the 1960’s. 

On this side many carved stones are on top of the wall of the old Rectory, (now the @One Centre) and just beyond the car park by the large chestnut tree are some steps – usually covered by vegetation debris! On the opposite side, in the Park are the remains of some of the buildings.

Some years ago I was on a day course about Tintern Abbey, one of the speakers was Mick Aston who told me that his involvement in the excavations of Keynsham Abbey was one of his earliest projects and occupied a special place in his archaeological career. A lecturer at Bristol University, he became best known through Channel 4’s programme Time Team.

Edmund Prideaux