St Nicholas Church, Dunkeswell

St Nicholas Church, Dunkeswell

Please see the calendar or pew sheet for details of our services.

Dunkeswell was settled by the Saxons and a small community had grown up in the sheltered spot, certainly by 800AD. Doduceswilla is listed in the Doomesday book as having a population of at least 11 families of freemen and several slaves under their Lord. Dunkeswell as it is known today now houses a population of over 1,600 within its parish boundaries. It is situated on the southern edge of the Blackdown Hills on a high plateau 240 metres above sea level that falls steeply down to valleys, dotted with dwellings and smallholdings, carved by rivers and streams.

The main parts of Dunkeswell can be said to be the ‘old village’ centred around the church of St Nicholas, The Rectory for the Benefice, the Methodist Chapel and the Village Hall sited directly beneath the airfield and industrial estate, and ‘Highfield Estate’, located at the southern end of the village; and the aforementioned airfield and industrial estate where the wartime airfield was sited. The outlying areas of Dunkeswell are a series of ‘units’ which consist of large farms and significant historical developments such as Stentwood, built by Victorian squire John Eccles in 1881/2, the Wolford area – home of the Simcoe family and their workers and servants for many years – and Dunkeswell Abbey, originally the home of the  Cistercian abbey built in 1201.

Much of Dunkeswell remained relatively unchanged until Highfield estate was built in the latter half of the 20th Century. Facilities at Highfield include: the Medical Centre, Shop and Post Office, Pre-school, Social Club, Men’s Club, Indian Restaurant/takeaway, Hairdressers, Bowls Green, Playground and the Throgmorton Community Hall.

The most dramatic change occurred when the village became the site for a World War II airfield. This is still very much a working airfield which has a growing industrial estate surrounding it. The Aviator also provides very good Sunday lunches.

Farming in Dunkeswell consists mainly of dairy with some sheep and poultry. Produce can be bought at the farm door in some cases, with an opportunity for a greeting and a chat.  The monthly Farmers’ Market brings community and local producers together.

It is the mixture of old and new that is the striking feature of Dunkeswell. Whilst holding on to the unchanging traditional values, it embraces 21st Century life and all the benefits and challenges which that entails. There is a very lively social calendar including an annual Church fete, quiz nights, bowls club, football club, sports field, and youth club. Voluntary organisations include: The Parish Council, Blackdown Support Group, Village Hall Committees, Parish News Magazine, Tower Bell Ringers and Handbell Ringers.

The present Church of St Nicholas is at least the fourth on the site and was built between 1865 and 1868. Since 1868, the major change has been the  replacement of the original tower, considerably and dangerously weakened by the vibration of the engines of the Dunkeswell based US Navy Liberators and Catalinas of Fleet Air Wing 7, from 1943-45. The tower had to be demolished urgently in 1947, not to be rebuilt for another seven years. In 1959, the bells were restored to the Tower. There is an eight sided Norman font with intriguing figures in the arcade of columns. A kitchen has been added and an outside WC. A loop system has been installed.

The electoral roll is currently 57

The population of Dunkeswell totals approx. 1600.

The area for Dunkeswell is approx 7190 hectares

The average attendance on a Sunday is 28, but this figure is higher on ‘special days’. The congregation, which is mainly of the older generation and retired, favours more traditional hymns and liturgy, but are attuned to trying alternative styles of worship. The participation figure is currently 30. The Common Fund for 2017 is £11,666.

St Nicholas Church Activities

  • We have a friendly and welcoming congregation and a strong community spirit. We are open to suggestions from both church members and non-church members to enhance our worship and evangelising.
  • Long standing link with the Methodist Chapel with whom we hold joint Bible Study Groups and quarterly United Services, including the Annual Covenant Service.
  • Apart from other ‘Special Services’ our church is one of the few who still hold a service for the Battle of Britain. We also hold an annual American Memorial Service to remember those who served in Dunkeswell during the Second World War.
  • St Nicholas has a strong group of 6 teams who lead lay services and they continue to grow in confidence.
  • It is hoped to create Lay Pastoral Teams in the near future.
  • We hold a Healing Ministry Service  once a month which is of exceptional value in developing our spiritual lives together, and our caring for those in need.
  • Church members are involved in Bible Stories with the pre-school.
  • Some of the congregation are members of the newly formed Dunkeswell Community Choir.  We are currently looking for choir leaders.
  • We are in the process of applying for a grant towards major electrical work and repairs to the fabric of the building.
  • We are friends with and socialise with non-church folk and encourage them to join us at services. Despite a population of over 1600, we only have a church participation of 33. Few of the residents of Highfield have previously taken part in church life, and this community remains a difficult challenge for ministry and mission, despite many attempts to engage them, including holding worship events at Highfield.  An annual “All Souls Day” Service is held at Highfield (known locally to non-church residents as ‘The Loved Ones Service”).   Highfield is 3/4 mile from the Old Village, and the heavy traffic and steep hill preclude any idea of walking in safety to church, especially for the infirm and those with children.  Lifts by car are offered to those who wish to avail themselves of the service.
  • We have, on separate occasions, had ‘Sunday School’ classes but the lack of support has resulted in its closure.
  • Currently, the church is not put to any use apart from services.  The layout largely rules out any other functions, although the suggestion of removing some or all of the pews and replacing them with chairs is regularly reviewed.  The location is also a factor as the village hall in the old village, and the community hall and social club at Highfield are generally used for such purposes.

Our Greatest Challenges

Our greatest challenges are:

  • To encourage the 30-60 age group to contribute to the growth of the church and to bring valued ideas to bridge the gap between generations.
  • To encourage and introduce to the church those who are reticent or wary as to what “a visit to church” entails and the “expectations” of those who attend.

There are regular joint services with the local Methodist church, to be held either at

St Nicholas Church or at the Methodist Church in Dunkeswell.

Please check the Parish news for further details

Current Church Officers

Churchwarden:       Mrs Carol Fouracre: Email: Tel: 01404 891621

Churchwarden:       Mr Peter Girling: Tel: 01823 680726

Tower Bell Captain: Mrs Brenda Eastell: E-mail:  Tel: 01395 487117

Parochial Church Council

Chairman:  Revd John Hayhoe

Vice Chairman: Mr Peter Girling

Treasurer: Mr Gordon Lewis

Planned Giving Officer: Mrs Elaine Power

Secretary: Mrs Carol Fouracre

Deanery Synod Rep’s: Mrs Barbara Simmonds and Mr Gordon Lewis

Safeguarding Rep: Mrs Barbara Simmonds: 01404 549107

Health & Safety/Fire Rep:  Mr Gordon Lewis: 01404: 891872

Mr David Palmer

Mrs Carol Quinain

Mr Barry Simmonds

Mrs Ann Stevens

Church Notices: Mrs Carol Fouracre

Flower Rota: Mrs Barbara Simmonds

St Nicholas Church Mission Action Plan


  • Lay Worship Leaders Group
  • Lay Assistants at Holy Communion
  • Healing Ministry
  • Emmaus Courses
  • Cremation Garden
  • Formation of Dunkeswell Mission Community Choir
  • Introduction of modern style of music within some services, using keyboard and creating a good mixture of worshipful music


 Sharing of Lay Worship Teams with all Parishes

  • More joint services with all Parishes (possibly outside locations)
  • Separate, additional ‘Family Friendly’ Services on ‘Special’ Days, i.e. Easter/Harvest/Christmas
  • Pastoral Team
  • Summer Feast
  • Annual Fete
  • New Choir Leader(s) – Expand to cover all types of song i.e. popular/classic/Gospel/Modern Songs/Hymns. To be called a Community Choir so as to encourage all parishioners in all the parishes.


  • ‘Friends of the Church’ Group (bringing awareness of need to support local church). Organised by those who wish to support the church without feeling pressure to attend (but with support from St Nicholas).
    • Music Group
    • Village Project to get whole community working together
    • Retreat Days