A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1992.
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The position of Durston church beside the former manor house suggests a manorial origin. In or after 1170, and probably before 1176, William of Erleigh, lord of the manor, gave Durston chapel, possibly once dependent on North Petherton, as part of the endowment of Buckland priory. (fn. 1) The Hospitallers, replacing the canons at the priory, became perpetual parsons in 1189. (fn. 2) On the lapse of the office of preceptor after 1433 it was for a time let to the lords of the manor and described as a free chapel. (fn. 3) By 1501 it was served by a chaplain paid by the farmer of the former preceptory, (fn. 4) and after the Dissolution in 1540 was regarded as a donative by owners of Buckland manor as impropriators of Durston rectory. (fn. 5) The living was described in 1792 as a perpetual and augmented curacy, (fn. 6) in 1839 as a chapel, curacy, or donative, (fn. 7) in 1860 as a rectory, (fn. 8) and in 1867 as a perpetual curacy. (fn. 9) The living, held with Thurloxton from 1896 (fn. 10) and united with it between 1904 and 1961, (fn. 11) was held with Lyng between 1961 and 1978. (fn. 12) In 1978 it became part of the united benefice of North Newton with St. Michaelchurch, Thurloxton, and Durston. (fn. 13)
The preceptors of Buckland presumably appointed the chaplains of Durston until 1433. In 1434 and 1443 successive ladies of the manor had the right of presentation at alternate vacancies possibly in conjunction with the Hospitallers. (fn. 14) The priors of St. John of Jerusalem appear to have appointed chaplains when the preceptory was let to farm after 1501. (fn. 15) After the Dissolution the impropriators appointed and paid curates until 1930 when Edward Portman, Viscount Portman, retained the advowson on the sale of the estate. (fn. 16) Lord Portman died in 1942 and his uncle and successor, Seymour Berkeley Portman, Viscount Portman, transferred the patronage of Thurloxton with Durston to the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1944. (fn. 17) The bishop has three out of every four turns in the advowson of the united benefice. (fn. 18)
The curate was paid £2 10s. c. 1535, (fn. 19) £3 6s. 8d. and his tabling in the later 16th century, (fn. 20) and £15 in the mid 18th. (fn. 21) The average income was £20 in 1829-31. (fn. 22) By 1860 the annual stipend had been increased to £30. In that year Queen Anne's Bounty augmented the living by grant of £200 and the lay impropriator, the Revd. Arthur Gray, made over his tithe rent charge of £170, which from 1862 was payable to the incumbent. (fn. 23) In 1838 there was no glebe; (fn. 24) no house was provided for the curate. (fn. 25)
In 1420 a friar minor was licensed to be enclosed as a hermit in a cell near Buckland priory. (fn. 26) There was an anniversary chaplain at Buckland in 1450, (fn. 27) and two chaplains in the priory church and one in the preceptory chapel under the farmers after 1501. (fn. 28) In 1541 licence was given to make a churchyard round the church at Durston, (fn. 29) presumably as a result of the closure of Buckland priory where the inhabitants may have been buried. Curates were not resident in the parish and in 1630 services on Wednesdays, Fridays, and holy days were not read. (fn. 30) No church ales were held after 1634. (fn. 31) Thomas Jenkins, curate by 1688 and until 1699 or later, also served North Newton, and in 1689 declared himself a non-juror. (fn. 32) William Bampfield, curate from 1776 until 1782 or later, also served Lyng and Michaelchurch, (fn. 33) and Thomas Tregenna Biddulph, curate by 1815 and until 1838 and a leading Evangelical, was also incumbent of St. James's, Bristol. (fn. 34) In 1815 he lived in an adjoining parish for three months of the year and his assistant curate, who lived in Creech St. Michael and also served Lyng, then and later held services each Sunday at Durston. (fn. 35) By 1840 two services were held during the summer and one in winter. (fn. 36) On Census Sunday 1851 the general congregation was 100 in the morning and 146 in the afternoon, with 35 children at each from the Sunday school. (fn. 37) William Smith Tomkins, curate 1862-96, served the parish from West Monkton in 1873-4 but in 1875 lived at Castle Cary where also he was the curate. In 1881 he was boarding at Lodge Farm but by 1883 was living in Weston-super-Mare. (fn. 38) There was a resident assistant curate in 1901-2. (fn. 39)
The church house was a two-storeyed, thatched building; part was used as a school until 1644, when fruit was stored there. (fn. 40)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, dedicated in the 1540s to St. Nicholas, (fn. 41) is a small building of stone comprising chancel, nave with south porch, and western tower, all but the tower rebuilt in 1852-3 to the designs of C. H. Knowles in the Decorated style. (fn. 42) The furnishings include a communion table of 1635. (fn. 43) There was a gallery in the tower in 1873. (fn. 44)
There are five bells, the oldest dated 1633. (fn. 45) The registers date from 1712 and are complete. (fn. 46) The plate includes a cup and cover of 1695, a paten of c. 1655, and a saucer dated 1728. (fn. 47)