Bath, Somerset


Kelston, Somerset from the air


Kelston, a village on the north-western side of Bath in Somerset, was, like Bradford on Avon, a manor that belonged to the Abbey of Shaftesbury in the Middle Ages. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it was listed as part of the Manor of Bradford, Wiltshire. It seems to have been run as a part of the Abbey’s holdings in Bradford, although little contemporary documentation has survived.

No charter granting Kelston to Shaftesbury Abbey has been found, but it was listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 as being part of Shaftesbury Abbey’s Manor of Bradford [on Avon] in Wiltshire, hidden under the name Alvestone, because a scribe must have dropped the initial letter of Calvestone. There is no entry for Kelston in the Domesday Book for Somerset. The name suggests that it was a specialised calf-raising unit for the abbey.

“To this manor of Bradford belongs Alvestone. In the time of King Edward [the Confessor] it paid tax for 7 hides [units of land area], apart from the above 42 hides [of Bradford on Avon itself]. There is land for 6 ploughs, of this land 4 hides is in demesne [the land managed by the Abbey directly]; there are three ploughs there.”

The 7 hides mentioned there accounts for an otherwise mysterious area of land that was missing when adding up the size of the medieval Bath Hundred, the rest of which had been given by various kings of Wessex and England to the Abbey of Bath. A Richard de Kelveston became the Vicar of Bradford in 1312. In 1383 men and stone were sent from Bradford to Kelston to build an oxhouse for the Abbey’s Reeve, its chief official there.

After the dissolution of Shaftesbury Abbey in 1539, Kelston was granted by King Henry VIII, with Batheaston and St Catherine’s, to John Malte as the guardian of the King’s illegitimate daughter Etheldred Dyngley, who later married John Harrington. From then on it became a true part of the Hundred of Bath Forum in Somerset and so was no longer connected with Bradford on Avon.

The aerial photograph shows the parish church, an old barn and earthworks that remain from the big Elizabethan manor house that was demolished when the present Kelston Park mansion was built in the 1760s by John Wood the younger. The body of the church of St Nicholas was largely rebuilt in the 19th century, but the 13th century west tower, presumably built for Shaftesbury, remains of the medieval building. In the chancel there is part of a Saxon cross with interlace carving which was found in the rebuilding in 1860. Manor Farm Barn dates from the late 15th or early 16th century and so too was probably built by Shaftesbury Abbey.

Kelston Somerset history