A little village with a lot of history....

About the Project


Somerton is a small village with a lot of history. Little of this has been recorded in an accessible form (though the Victoria County History is excellent for the expert). Much of the history has left traces in the church, a fine Grade I listed building with some particularly interesting monuments and graves.  The aim of our project is gradually to compile a non-specialist history of the village based on this website with the church (particularly the Fermor Chapel) as its physical focus. The website already contains an outline history (Somerton Through the Centuries) and an increasing number of  articles researched and written by different people.

 We also plan that it will contain an increasing quantity of relevant archival material or in some cases links to such material held elsewhere, It thus already contains a digital version of the beautiful C18 enclosure map of the village now in the Bodleian Library, maps and other material about the sale of the village estate in 1919 and the Ministry of Information film about the village’s role in the Dig for Victory campaign the during the Second World War.

We also plan that it should contain a gallery of photographs of the village over the last decades as well as the older buildings.

We hope that the website will be of more than local interest. At the Conquest Somerton became part of the fief of William’s half-brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux and features in the Domesday Book. The article on the Fermor family, Catholicism and the established church is particularly interesting since the Fermors were staunch catholics but were nonetheless  all buried in the church. (The main tombs are well documented) The remarkable stone reredos dating from about 1400 was reputedly taken away and hidden by the villagers during the seventeenth century to protect it from the Puritans and was only reinstated in 1822.

We also hope to compile articles about the village in the 40s and 50s of the last century based on interviews with the few remaining villagers from those periods.

As part of this wider effort of collective heritage capture we are producing new guides to the church and explanations of its monuments. A new full illustrated  guide to the church will be on the website .

To avoid excluding those without access to the internet, the Fermor Chapel hosts a changing display of articles and related documentation. (The display boards are transportable so that the displays can be taken eg to schools). To make this possible the project is also providing lighting for the Fermor Chapel and its nationally important main monuments and for the reredos in the chancel..

In addition the project is conserving and displaying in the body of the church the -17th century clock mechanism from the tower

The small editorial group is responsible to the Parochial Church Council. It commissions and edits contributions and arranges events connected with local history. In addition there is a Financial Oversight Committee which includes representatives of the wider village. It approves the budget and the annual financial reports before they are passed to the PCC for approval. 

The editorial group welcomes proposals for new articles or archival material to put up on the website. No fees are paid for articles. All contributions become the intellectual property of the PCC though the PCC will welcome any reproduction or other use made of material from the website.

In early 2011 the PCC was awarded a grant of £49,500 for the project from from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aims of the Project as approved by the HLF are –

through the village’s own efforts to raise awareness (both in the village and more widely) of the history of the village and its church and of the church’s role in local life over the centuries.

to attract not only ‘hits’ but also visitors to the village and church through the establishment and maintenance of a well-designed website for the material that is being collected and created

to conserve and document the historic Fermor Chapel

to install lighting to enable the Fermor Chapel’s monuments and the reredos to be seen and appreciated

to document the church itself and create learning material about it

to document major developments in the village’s history and record memories of the older villagers

to conserve and display the c 1600 tower clock mechanism and provide interpretation in order to create an awareness of early clock mechanisms.

with the help of the Oxfordshire Buildings Record to conduct a preliminary survey some of the older buildings in the village

to mount talks and other events on locally relevant heritage themes

through these activities to create a sustainable village heritage learning project with a strong presence on the web

and a physical focus in the restored historic chapel

All involved in the project take this opportunity to thank the HLF for its wonderful support for our work.




  1. Basil Eastwood's Gravatar Basil Eastwood
    May 5, 2012    

    Very true and a particularly attractive town. Somerton Oxfordshire is much smaller and, though it shares the same name, cannot match the status of its Somerset cousin. Nevertheless we too have a long and interesting history.

  2. January 11, 2014    

    This is an exemplary site!
    I have a very arcane query. I’ve been told that Trotter’s watercolour of the Thomas Fermoy tomb shows the shields suspended from ribbons or sashes. I can’t see this from the photos on the site. I’m collecting examples of this design of tomb chest, with shields suspended from sashes, to try to understand a couple of puzzling tombs in north Wales. Would some kind person be able to check it for me? I’d love to be able to visit the church myself, and I do hope to get there one day, but at the moment it isn’t possible.

    Best wishes
    Maddy Gray

    • Basil Eastwood's Gravatar Basil Eastwood
      January 12, 2014    

      Dear Maddy,

      The three visible sides of the tomb of Thomas Fermor and his wife all have shields on them. Only on the narrow west side are two of the three shields suspended by sashes. I was in the church this morning with a camera and can send you photographs if you will send me your email address (which our comment facility does not reveal to me).

      I would not raise your hopes too high: I am not a good photographer and there is only about six inches between the west side of T Fermor and the east side of R Fermor.

      I might just note that the almost equally obscured east side of T Fermor has one shield held up by two naked figures of indeterminate sex and the much more visible north side has shields held up by diminutive images of the Fermor children (whose arms have unfortunately got knocked off) including a baby (of the same size as the others) in swaddling clothes. The general impression is charming – but not very sophisticated.

      Best wishes


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