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Dunster, Somerset

Historical Description

Dunster, a small town and a parish in Somerset. The town stands on the margin of a rich and fertile vale, opening toward the Bristol Channel, environed all round by lofty, picturesque, successive hills, has a station on the G.W.R., 180 miles from London, and 24 WNW of Bridgwater. The parish includes also Alcombe, Aville, Bondington, Frackford, Kitswall, and Staunton hamlets. Acreage, 2888 of land and 659 of tidal water and foreshore; population, 1114. It was a site of a fortress of the Saxon kings, called Torze, or " the tower," and the word dune or dun, signifying " a hill,'' being afterwards prefixed to that name, the place came to be called Dunetorre, or corruptedly Dunster. The town is a quaint old place, amidst the most beautiful scenery of Somerset, and offers much attraction to strangers both by its own antiquities and by its command of numerous, neai-y interesting view-points. It consists principally of two streets, the larger of the two running N and S, the smaller branching westward from the church, and it contains a post, money order, and telegraph office (R.S.O.), a chief inn, a market-house, an ancient market-cross, remains of an ancient castle, fragments of an ancient priory, a parish church, a Wesleyan chapel, a cottage hospital, and a county police station. The inn is remarkably old, seems to have been founded in connection with the priory soon after the Conquest, and contains several curious ancient sculptures and carvings. The market-house is a rickety old wooden structure, and stands associated with a notable ancient manufacture of kerseymeres, mentioned in an Act of James I. as " Dunsters." The castle succeeded the fortress of the Saxon kings, was erected in the reign of William the Conqueror by the first William de Mohun, has a great gateway of the time of Edward IIL, was rebuilt in 1580, suffered capture by the Marquis of Hereford in 1643, was visited by Charles II., sustained a siege with capture by Blake, was the place of William Prynne's confinement by Cromwell, is now the seat of the Luttrell family, and stands on a steep ascent to the south of the principal street, closing the vista of the street view. Only an iron-studded door and a ruinous tower of the original Norman structure now remain, but tlic apartments of the newer edifice contain interesting objects of art, and the circumjacent park, comprising 69 acres, presents picturesque features and commands some brilliant prospects. The priory was founded about the same time and by the same person as the castle, was devoted to Benedictine monks, dedicated to St George, and annexed as a cell to the abbey ef St Peter at Bath, and at the dissolution was given to Humphrey Colles. The church is of the time of Henry V. or that of his successor, was restored or enriched by Henry VII. in gratitude for aid given by the inhabitants at the battle of Bosworth, consists of nave, transept, and chancel, with central tower 90 feet high, and contains in the chancel monuments of the Mohuns and the Luttrels. The whole building was very beautifully restored in 1873. A great cattle market is held on the first Friday in Dec. The town in the time of Edward III. was a borough, and sent members to Parliament, and it afterwards held the elective franchise conjointly with the neighbouring town of Minehead, but both it and Minehead were disfranchised by the Reform Act. Grabhurst Hill, situated contiguous to the town, has a height of 906 feet, rises from intermediate eminences called Tor and Conygar, has remains of terraces on which " the Dunsters " or old kcrsymeres were dried, and commands a circle of charming views. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Bath and Wells; value, £206 with residence.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySomersetshire 
Ecclesiastical parishDunster St. George 
Poor Law unionWilliton 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Somerset Archives & Local Studies, have images of the Parish Registers for Somerset online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Dunster from the following:


Online maps of Dunster are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Somerset papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Somersetshire, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.

DistrictWest Somerset
RegionSouth West
Postal districtTA24
Post TownMinehead