This document was last revised on 28th September 2010. The author wishes to apologise for any inaccuracies which may be found in this website and hopes to correct any that are brought to her attention.
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682 - 1066
The name of Leigh on Mendip is derived from three early English words - leah, men and dep. Leah means a clearing in a wood, men is stone and dep deep. Thus this is a land of deep stone (rocky gullies) with a settlement in a clearing on its wooded slopes. Also possibly Lanacoelius = Wool Hill, (Latin) or Lantocai as interpreted by Collinson.
There have been people inhabiting and farming the Leigh on Mendip area from prehistoric times as has been seen by the many traces of early man to be found throughout the district.
The water rich valley which runs from Vallis Vale at Frome to Stoke St Michael and beyond was ideal for early man to hunt and farm. This natural corridor was plentifully supplied with water, wood and pasture. Several ancient camps nearby, at Wadbury, Tedbury, Chantry and Downhead, formed part of the local inhabited area.
682 Hedda Bishop of Winchester, with the consent of Kings Kentwin and Baldred gave Lantocai (Leigh) to the monks of Glaston, which donation was confirmed by the pagan king Cedwalla (according to Collinson).
In the charters of the early Saxon kings Mells was recorded as being ceded, in 942, by King Edmund to Earl Athelstan and in the same document Wadbury Camp was mentioned as being at the head of ‘Slacombe’. Hale combe or Safe valley lies roughly parallel to Slacombe. (Hal = Hale = Whole/healthy/safe). We also find mention of King Ine arriving in the area on his way to Glastonbury where, according to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, he was to build Glastonbury Abbey. In other documents there is even a tenuous mention of King Ine’s Spring. Saxon connections provide proof of a well established farming community in Leigh as early as 688AD.
Trees which were plentiful in the combe, before quarrying destroyed them, were proof of early occupation. These included thorn, ash, elder, oak, elm, alder and field maple. Crab apple trees abounded - one of the fields, sadly now disappeared, was named Crab Tree Field. Various other field names, such as Down Mill Ham, West Hay and Elm Hay, Great Tyning and New Tyning all give witness to Saxon origin.
The monks of Glastonbury set up a series of granges locally, these provided food for the Abbey and its outlying dependants, it also brought revenue to the abbey coffers. A monastic grange stood some distance from the main village and formed a collection point for the whole monastic holding. There is some local understanding that there was such a grange at Tadhill but it also possible that the local grange was at Downhead since a Roman road, running from Pilton via West and East Cranmore crossed the packhorse track, to the south of Asham Wood, which led from Cloford through the wood to Downhead. This would have formed an easily accessed route, via Pilton, between the Abbey and its grange. There was evidence of Roman occupation in the district, a stash of counterfeit coins were found at White Woman's Hole on the edge of Asham Wood and a Roman Villa at Whatley. However, no evidence has been found of a Roman Road in the locality.
Each of these monastic farms (granges) catered for a separate type of produce - corn, beef, sheep. A domaine would be worked by a small group of monks and their lay workers. It comprised a bake house, a brew house, a threshing barn, a granary, a watermill and domestic buildings. The local water courses would have been ideal for the siting of a mill such as the more recent mill sited in Downhead. There is, however, no mention of such a mill in the Doomsday Book.
At the time of the Norman Conquest Leigh (known as Mells cum Leigh since it was considered to be part of the Mells monastic holding) was being farmed by a team of seventeen labourers divided into three units comprising; villanes who worked upon the lands of the lord of the manor - in this case the abbot of Glastonbury - for one or more days a week in lieu of rental for their own holding, with extra days at harvest and plough time ; cottars who were primarily craftsmen; and slaves. Dane Geld, or tax, was paid by the Abbot to the King for the land. Thane land belonged to the lord of the manor.
Middlecote, which had been part of the manor of Mells before the conquest was re-assigned to the manor of Babington at the time of Doomsday and so no longer had any connection with Mells from 1086.
Shortly after the Norman Conquest, laws were imposed in England allowing villagers certain rights. They included pannage - the right to loose their pigs in the forest at certain times of year, to forage for beech mast and acorns, and wood rights which allowed villagers to cut wood for firewood and timber to repair their buildings. In the year 1318 (Edward 11) included in the monastic records, is mention of Roger, Willus and John all living, and rearing pigs, in the Hale combe.
In the twelfth century a mixed team of two oxen and one horse, the horse leading, pulled the plough. Oxen were still being used in the nineteenth century when the Devon Ox was used for agriculture, where the soil was not too heavy, the Devon oxen were un-rivalled at the plough being quick moving, docile and good tempered. Four oxen could plough two acres of ground per day with a double furrow plough. It was stated, in a treatise dated 1869, that four “good Devonshire steers” could equal three horses and finish the work more quickly than a horse, they were worked in yokes and accompanied by a man and boy. The boy often chanted and sang to the oxen as they trudged up and down the furrow, this chanting was said to help them to move with more agility and to do away with the need for a whip or goad. An average ox worked to the plough from the age of two years and at six years was sent to market.
Before the Black Death (1348) the land was strip cultivated, bringing an annual income of £4 to the cultivator. A villager had the right to keep a cow and a goose on the common land and the daily agricultural wage was 2d for a man, one penny for a woman and a half penny for boys.
After the Black Death, which decimated the area, the wage rose by 50% because the plague had diminished the labour force, making the agricultural labourer a rare commodity. A village of the stature of Leigh on Mendip would have cultivated flax, which was processed and woven into linen; woad for the dying of wool and linen; Dyer’s Greenweed for dye; Soapwort for wool washing, as well as other similar plants. Oak bark was used for tanning leather and to produce a brown dye, and sheep were husbanded to produce wool. During the reign of King Edward 111 (1327-1377) a statute of labour was passed which regulated the payment of agricultural wages. No employer was entitled to pay more than the fixed wage, wages had to be paid daily instead of weekly making the possibility of claim for payment on festival or holy days void. Poll Tax was levied between 1377and 1379, and again in 1381.
Mediaeval Leigh was still largely in the ownership of the Abbey of Glastonbury. In 1428 Gilberte-in-the-combe answered to the monastic courts for non payment of rents. At this time Osbert, Reeve of Leigh, gave witness in a local law case, against a Downhead man and J. Staunton was brought before the court for failing to quit lands belonging to R. Horner and Sir Nicholas Latimer of the manor of Duntish in Dorset, who was arraigned in 1457 (during the Wars of the Roses)and died in 1505
Important Norman roads, built to popular standards of width, were under the king’s protection. These were wide enough to enable two wagons to pass or for sixteen armed knights to ride abreast. Any encroachment onto these roads was punished by a fine, a practice which was to continue for several centuries.
Most Norman cottages were built of posts, wattled and plastered with clay or mud and then thatched. Farmsteads were larger, built on a frame of boards, lathed and plastered, with an upper room accessed by a wooden ladder.
The manor house owned by the Norman Delameres,who had arrived in England from Normandy with William the Conquerer in 1066, was finally crenallated and fortified by the family in 1373, after Elias De la Mere conceived the idea of converting it into a castle during the early thirteenth century. Norman kings hunted in the Forest of Selwood to the south. By the early 15th century a thriving woollen industry had been set up and several of the inhabitants of Leigh on Mendip were making their fortunes in the trade. Tad/Todhill may well be so named since a tod was the name for a weight of wool. Sheep, grazing in the valleys and on the surrounding hills were the currency of the area. Wool was spun in village cottages and washed in the village stream - the brook which runs past Great House farm into the Halecombe was ideally placed for this purpose. Village women then dyed the spun wool, using dyes made from locally culled plants.
In 1482 the Will of Simon Lacey of Leigh on Mendip left a pipe of woad-in-the-vat and a furnace and lead cistern with pipes to the church and in 1525 John Mirifizl (Merryfield) left four sheep to the Chapel of St Nicholas in Downhead and another four to the chapel at Coleford. ( A pipe was a cask, usually containing 126 gallons of liquid).
A breed of sheep, peculiar to the region, populated the hills locally, until the latter part of the eighteenth century. John Billingsley, in his farming treatise dated 1795 commented that “There is (also) the native Mendip breed, a sort that will thrive on the poorest soil, and fatten on such land as will scarcely keep other sorts alive. Pasturage ever so dry and exposed will feed this kind. They are very hardy, and their wool fine. The mutton is also excellent for the table, being full of gravy and of a rich flavour.” These sheep also bred twice a year.
However, this excellent animal was to fall to market forces and was crossed with the larger Dorset breed, to make a larger, less specialised breed with more meat. It is said that King George 111 (Farmer George) was instrumental in this breeding programme. The wool of the Mendip sheep was finer than others but, since these sheep were diminutive, others had larger, more marketable, fleeces.
Wool traders and clothiers were to work in the district for some 200 years.
Dominant amongst these were the Bayntons and Cottingtons of Leigh on Mendip and the Horners of Cloford.
The Baynton family was an influencial crusading family whose men had travelled to the Holyland with King Henry II. They were created knights of Jerusalem and Henry Baynton became Knight Marshall to the King during the later 11th century. Temple house farm, now sadly no longer extant, belonged to the Baynton family and is a possible link to their crusading past. Some sources show this farm being called Templars farm.
The first record of a Baynton living in this area was dated 1260
A further link with the Knights Templar is found when the Norman knight, Robert de Gournay, granted the Master and Brethren of the Order of Knights Templar the right to hold, of Robert and his heirs, free from all services and exactions (in other words taxes), common of pasture on Mendip for 1000 sheep and 60 other animals. The Gournay family had come from France with William 1 and Hugh de Gournay fought at the Battle of Hastings. Hugh was granted large tracts of land by the king and his son attended King Richard 1 into the Holy Land where he took part in the seige of Acre, later becoming the Governor of Acre.
In 1315 monastic records show a Joannes Baynton, son of William, living in the Parish of Mells, and during the mid 1300s Joan Delamere of Nunney, the great grand daughter of the builder of Nunney Castle, married a Baynton of Mells, the family had become well established locally. Records show the following:
1315 Johannes son of Willielmo de Beynton.
1318 John son of William de Beinton.
1315-18 William Baynton and his sons John & Adam.
1337 John Baynton.
1693 John Baynton
**See 1519 Will of Philip Bisse - Lease of ‘Alford Place’ owned by William Carent of Frome,(son in law of Sir William Stourton of Stourton in Wiltshire and the manor of Marston Bigot.) Carent was twice married 1) Margaret, daughter of William Stourton and 2)Katherine Baynton, widow of John Baynton. In 1471 both William Carent and John Baynton, Katherine’s son, were arraigned for high treason, their premises and possessions confiscated by the new Lancastrian king, King Henry V1. Both attainders were witnessed by local men named John Watts and Robert Brown (see Appendix 6)
( Willelmo Alford - Mells Lay subsidies 1327). By the later 1500s the Baynton family had to certain extent regained tbeir fortunes, they had made a series of “good” marriages which had helped. In 1597 Henry Baynton married the heiress Anne Dyer of Roundhill,Wincanton. Anne’s father, John Dyer, had left her a fortune at his death. 1500-1600
Philip Cottington of Leigh on Mendip first appears in records in 1562 when his will was published. He bequeathed lands at Leigh and Coleford to his widow, Margaret, and to his four sons, John, Philip, Edward and James. Philip was buried at Leigh on Mendip as no doubt was Margaret/Margery. There is, however, no sign of their graves. It is probable that they, like Thomas Bridges (see below), were buried under the floor of the church and their memorials have been long gone as the result of renovations to that building.
Philip Cottington, a wool merchant, left legacies “to every one of my weavers that do work for me 4d each” and monies to the poor of the parishes of Mells, Nunney, Coleford, Downhead, both Cranmores, and Stoke Lane (Stoke St Michael). One can, therefore assume that his workforce and their dependants encompassed all of these parishes, making him a considerable local employer.
There is little doubt that the Cottingtons built Great House Farm, a date stone on the gable end of this house, although partially illegible, appears to read EC 1596. It is probable that this house was improved by Philip’s son Edward after he had inherited it from his mother in 1588/9. Some fine tiles, decorated with a crown and arrow and bearing the latin inscription “Laus Die (Praise God), in the entrance hall, have been described as “Elizabethan” because they bear the letter “E”. On closer examination, it could be considered that this is a composite “EC” standing for Edward Cottington. The only connection with Queen Elizabeth is the fact that they fall within her reign. A blocked arch in the road side of this building appears to have the date stone 1598.
Behind Great House Farm lies an interesting group of buildings connected to the adjoining field which runs down to the Halecombe Brook, a useful source of water for the washing of fleeces.
A building of note, which has been used as forge and carpenter’s shop in more recent times, was possibly used as a carding and dyeing shed in the Cottington era. Dye houses nearly always stood near a stream or river. This shed would have contained a copper furnace for heating the liquors and materials, wooden vats for the dyed wools, and possibly indigo grinding mills. Until 1784 there was such a dye house, owner Messrs Billingsley and Bowles, sited at Stoke St Michael. Tenter racks would have stood outside in the sun for stretching the woven wool as it was dried.
There was probably also a wool drying shed here, though no sign of this remains since later inhabitants built an extension to the house on this spot. Such a drying house would have been a circular tower like the existing round house in Frome. To the north of Great House, situated on Shackle Brook (fed by springs to the north of the Old Frome road) was a mill. This appears on the Holland Map of 1764. On the same map, to the south, Leigh Street, side of Great House one can see a dovecote.
Margaret (Margery) Cottington (nee Middlecott), married to Philip Cottington during the 1540/30s, of Leigh on Mendip, died in 1588/89, her will, dated 24th January 1585, left her “dwelling house at Leigh and lands in Leigh, Coleford and Kilmersdon” to her son Edward, whose marriage to Alice Webb in 1580 is recorded in the Parish registers. Alice,who died in 1599,was the widow of Christopher Woolworth alias Webb. She was nee Bridges. Edward’s will was dated 1609.
Philip and Margaret’s daughter, Sylvester Dackombe, stated in her will dated 1st April 1595 that she was born in Leigh.
In 1585 the will of Anne Dackcombe of Steepleton, Dorset left bequests to “ my sister, Dorothy Hartgill; to William son of James Dackcombe and to my daughter Elizabeth Dackcombe …. the residue to my son James Dackcombe executor.”
Between the years 1558 and 1588 English troops were mustered to fight in Queen Elizabeth’s armies in Scotland and Spain. In 1569 Margaret Cottington supplied arms to the cause. In the certificate of musters dated 1569 the following were listed:
1 Corselet (body armour)
1 Harquebut (musket)
1 Bow and a sheaf of arrows.
1 Skull (helmet) The following men were provided:
William James (archer); John Rushden (pikeman); William Prattent (gunner); John Martin (billman). Four others in the parish, (Stephen Cabell, John Truckwell; Robert Norman and William Orenge), provided arms.
Margaret’s son, John Cottington, purchased land in Frome, Eggford and Nunney which, at his death in 1589, he left to his brother Edward, in trust for his (John’s) son, Henry, when he came of age. Philip purchased lands at Godminster, near Bruton, in 1569.
Philip Cottington of Godminster was the father of Francis Lord Cottington, his mother was a Stafford (according to Clarendon).
Francis, Lord Cottington was the most famous of the Cottington family. He was, as was the tradition amongst sons of noble families, sent to another household for education, that of Sir Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, (his mother's relative). Edward Stafford owned a hunting lodge (see N. Pevsner) situated at East End, Stoke St Michael.
Cottington probably began his term in the Stafford household as a page, progressing later to gentleman of the horse and was an executor to Sir Edward’s will. He was proficient in several foreign languages, including French and Spanish, and through his sponsor’s influence, he rose steadily in Court circles, becoming Ambassador to Spain at a very early age. He was knighted and awarded a baronetcy in 1623.
After being appointed to the Prince of Wales (later King Charles 1) he became embroiled in the Duke of Buckingham’s ill fated plans to marry Prince Charles to the Infanta of Spain, falling out of favour. He was, however, re instated to fulfill many positions of State including that of Chancellor of the Exchequer to King Charles 1. Following the death on the scaffold of the King and the supremacy of Parliament under Oliver Cromwell Francis Cottington fled to Spain where he remained until his death in 1652.
Francis, Lord Cottington’s body was brought back to England, at time of Charles 11’s restoration to the throne in 1660, by his nephew, Charles Cottington, when it was interred in Westminster Abbey.
Philip Cottington of Leigh on Mendip had a daughter, Dorothy Hartgill, whose descendants continued to live in the Mells area until the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The only surviving Cottington allied memorial in Leigh church is that of William Hartgill and his wife Anne. William died in 1789 aged sixty two years and Anne in 1809. In 1788 Anne Hartgill was the licencee of two public houses in Leigh, the Bell Inn and another, probably sited at Hollybush.
Thomas & James Bridges were Philip & Margaret Cottington’s sons-in-law, and Alice Bridges was Thomas’s wife. They were respectively left £20 and £40 in Philip’s will dated 29.11.1558.
The Will of Thomas Bridges of Leigh on Mendip was proved in 1628. Beneficiaries to this Will were his son Edward and his daughters Elizabeth Tovye; Margery Cooke; Jeane Heale and Elinor Saunders. (1641/2: Lay subsidies & Protestation returns; Edward Bridges, gentleman).
Will of Thomas Bridges of Leigh on Mendip proved in 1706, he was buried under the north aisle of St Giles' church in 1706 aged 72 years.
To my sons in law Richard Franklyn, Christopher Merewether, Thomas Anthony, John Langhorne and their heirs. My manors of Leigh and Coleford to be conveyed to my son Isaac Bridges.
A third generation of the family included two brothers, Thomas and Isaac. Isaac Bridges had his Will proved by his brother, Thomas, in 1670. This Will left bequests to Thomas’s eldest daughter, Mary and to her sisters Jane and Rebecca; to his mother Jane Bridges and his brother Thomas who was his executor.
1678: Sale of land by Gilson to Bridges.
1680: Sale of land by Bridges to Horner.
Jane Bridges, mother of Thomas and Isaac, left a Will in 1693 naming her grandchildren.Martha Whatley, Sarah, Barbara; Mary & Jane Merewether; Rebecca Anthony; and John, Richard & Martha Merewether.
The Horner family came to Mells via Cloford and Leigh on Mendip. They are documented as being “of Cloford” from at least the early 1500s when the first reference is of the death of Thomas Horner of Cloford in 1540. Thomas who was the son of John Horner of Stoke St Michael left no children and his estate went to his brother John, also of Stoke Lane. At John’s death his two sons John, his heir, and George lived respectively at Cloford and Leigh on Mendip.
The Horners of Leigh on Mendip had lived in this parish since at least 1504 when John Horner “of Lygh” brought an action against the escheator (Crown bailiff) claiming that this officer had ‘by force of arms’ entered Horner’s house at “Lye” and removed “nine cows and six oxen,value £10; three silver spoons; * a mazer and cover, bound in silver and party gilt with a silver knob; twelve yards of woollen cloth coloured white; twelve yards of woollen cloth coloured yellow; four elnas of linen cloth of holland; one bolt of silk coloured black, harnessed with silver; half a yard of damask; a yard and a half of velvet; four elnas of worsted; five pairs of brigantines; two sallets; four blades, called swords; a knife, called a wood knife; a bow; a saddle; two bridles (together worth £12): the goods and chattels of the plaintiff". ( It has been suggested that these items were "stolen from his house at Leigh" This is not accurate, they were removed by the escheator who was an officer of the King).
*A mazer was a mediaeval drinking bowl formed from a turned section of maple burr, mounted with a silver trim and occasionally straps, usually gilt. Rare after the 16th century.
An elna was a cloth measure being the distance between the hand and the elbow, approximately one yard.
Brigantines were coats of mail and sallets were helmets.
Little is known of this house which remained in existence until 1845 when it was demolished. It is shown on the 1779 map as being a parsonage. There appears to be no doubt that that branch of the Horner family lived there from about 1504 until the death of Leonard Horner, the last of the line, in 1607 by which time the Horner family were well established both in Cloford and Mells. A watercolour painting, by W.W. Wheatley, implies that the Manor of Leigh on Mendip was built in 1592.
This would suggest that the building painted by Wheatley in the mid 19th century was probably a renovation of the original dwelling since it is unlikely that such a large house would have been built from scratch to house the clergy.
It is, however, possible that between 1607 and 1845 this house may have been used as a clergy house. There is, however, little doubt that the Horner family were the main freehold land owners of most of the Mells and Leigh on Mendip lands. Letting the farms and their allied cottages to the occupants together with the farm land and, by the same token, owning and controlling the rest of the dwellings in Leigh. The marriage of Elizabeth Horner and Henry Fox, Lord Holland, in the mid seventeen hundreds saw the passage of lands at Leigh into the possession of Lord Holland. A map dated 1764 ,lodged at the British Library, shows his landholdings which included part of Coleford. His death in 1780 meant that these lands reverted to the Horner family.
The old Vicarage at Leigh is dated 1598 but is said to have been a farmhouse, possibly inhabited by a member of the Cottington family, before its use by the clergy. It lies very close to Greathouse farm and it is feasible that the two houses were allied to Cottington or Bridges lands. Lord Holland's map shows the Great House Farm holding as considerably larger than at later periods. It included a malt mill and a dovecote as well as a much wider spread of buildings sited between the main house and Hollybush. There was also a wide range of water courses in this area. An animal pound can be seen near the old vicarage.
Many west country clothiers combined wool trading with other occupations such as tanning, malting and farming. A clothier would purchase his wool from farmers such as those who inhabited the several farms in the Halecombe. He would then contract out to his spinners and weavers who worked the wool in their own cottages.
It was thus in Leigh on Mendip where three of the cottages in Leigh Street were said to be weavers dwellings - these have been more recently named Lavender, Woodside and Baytree.
Weavers cottages had wide windows to house a loom and those at Leigh run in a straight line from east to west to catch the line of sun, giving the weavers maximum daylight to work by.
The woven wool would be returned to the clothier who paid for the finished work. Weavers generally owned their own looms which were very often home made. Some weavers, with large families, might own as many as five or six looms, taking work from several masters.
In 1588 a weaver would earn less than five pence a day and by the eighteenth century was only earning one shilling or one shilling and six pence per day (5/8p). They could however get piece work rates which might bring as much as thirty-five shillings for two or three weeks’ work (approximately £4.20). Wool would often be distributed by pack horse, as was the finished cloth.
A firm of carriers located in Frome, the Claveys, who took the finished cloth to London for sale, were probably the same Claveys who lived at Claveys Farm in Mells. During the later 1500s John Smythe of Bristol was buying cloth from the local merchants and exporting it, through the Port of Bristol, to Gascony and Spain. The middle priced cloths were called penny hewes and the cheap cloths were truckers.
A wool hall named Blackwell Hall was built, at this period, in Basinghall Street, London. This hall received goods from local clothiers some of whom travelled with their consignments. It is possible that Samuel Watts of Doulting became “a merchant of London” thus.
At times of low demand the weavers might get work on the farms earning one shilling per day doing haymaking or on the roads breaking stones.
The manufacture of woollen cloth remained the principal English industry throughout the seventeenth century, it was a valuable resource for export. However, during the years leading up to the Civil War, inflation and depression came to the cloth industry reducing the region around Frome and Shepton Mallet to a state of economic insecurity.
Whilst farms were self sufficient selling cheese, corn and butter to Bristol and profiting from local inflation, the full weight of the depression was borne by the spinners and weavers. The rich clothiers remained prosperous using the opportunity to gain social power and political recognition.
There were several merchants, apart from the three mentioned above - the Merrifields, Watts’s, Cornishes, and Allwoods were all prominent Leigh families. The Halecombe farms give witness to the sheep farming in this area. Greathouse farm lies at the head of the valley and appears to have been one of the main sites for the collection and processing of wool.
The group of farms which lay at the western end of the village in the Hale Combe illustrate the methods used by an important clothier in employing lesser wool men to supply his requirements. Looking down the valley from Greathouse farm one could oversee the five farms (Rookery, or Bayntons; Halecombe; Templehouse and Allwoods), which provided the raw material - wool. Allwoods, Templehouse and Halecombe farms have all been destroyed by quarrying, leaving only Soho and Rookery still in existence. As the result of a campaign in the 1980s Rookery was saved from demolition but sits, uneasily, within Tarmac’s Halecombe quarry. Little remains of the original farmhouse at Soho which dated from the latter part of the seventeenth century.
The whole of the Halecombe is steeped in the history of the woollen trade and there is a great deal of significant evidence that all of the farms that lay in the combe, forming a coherent group, were in existence during the Middle Ages.
These farms, in their heyday, were inhabited by the Watts, Cornish, Allwood and Baynton families, and at a later date the Ashmans.
Rookery Farm, under one name or another, has been on record since the early 1600s. In 1628 a lime kiln was leased by Henry Cornish “adjacent to Thomas Watts’s in the combe”. Members of the Watts family are recorded as living over a wide area spanning from Shepton Mallet to Frome, across the eastern Mendip ridge.
The Watts and Cornish families, both sheep farmers and clothiers, lived in the combe for many years. They were wealthy and held large leasehold tracts of land.
In 1661 Halecombe farm was leased to the Cornish family and by 1691 both Halecombe and Rookery farms were also leased to members of the same family who had been occupying property in the district since 1597.
By 1657 numerous members of this family lived in Leigh, employing many wool workers. Relatives of the Cornish and Watts families, the Allwoods, lived, at a later date, in Allwoods farm.
Templehouse farm, almost certainly the dwelling of the Ashman family in 1657, is described in a lease document dated 1783 as follows:
“ A dwelling house, buildings, and two acres of ground called Orchard Well.” Before the enclosures most of the land was unenclosed sheep pasture. Thus the actual area associated with any of these houses was confined to orchard and garden. The lands being sheep grazed were common pasture, in the ownership of the lord of the manor, used by all of the surrounding farms which were leased from the same lord.
Two fields, which were situated to the north of the Soho to Stoke St Michael road, were named Redwells. This probably indicated sheep dipping locations. Reddle, mentioned in the works of Thomas Hardy, was a red ochre dye used by shepherds to mark their sheep before sending them to market. During the 1700s reddle men travelled far and wide selling this dye stuff to shepherds.
1600 - 1800
The Strodes of Shepton Mallet and the Horners of Mells favoured the Parliamentary cause and prospered whilst the Cottingtons were Royalists and never recovered from the economic failure of these hostilities.
Since Mells was a parliamentary enclave and Leigh was royalist it is entirely possible that the statue of St Catherine, patron saint of spinners and weavers, (found hidden in the Church of St Giles, Leigh on Mendip in 1898) was removed from the chapel of St Catherine in Mells to protect it from the puritan army. Sadly this statue has since been stolen from St Giles Church.
It is said that in 1642/3 a Parliamentary raiding party was sent to Leigh seeking a Royalist force which was stationed there. The Parliamentarians charged into the village in the early dawn mists and rounded up the startled royalists. It was customary for a troop of horse or foot soldiers to arrive in a village to commandeer horses, fodder, food and lodging.This could cost the local population dear. Somerset had suffered an excessive population growth and by 1630 starvation and disorder were never far from the surface in east Somerset.
What is certain is that there was local ill-feeling at this period with warring factions living in neighbouring villages. The Cottingtons were Catholic Royalists and the Horners were ProtestantParliamentarians for example.
The Cottingtons suffered the forfeiting of their estates “ for adherence to the cause of James Stuart.”
Amongst the Leigh church papers were two prayer books which included a special service of penitence for the execution of King Charles the First and a service of thanksgiving for the restoration of the monarchy.
It is said that the King family came to Leigh as the result of the civil war, fleeing from Wells to Leigh since they were Royalists. The first records of this family appear in the Mells Court Rolls dated 1674, some twenty six years after the end of that war so if they truly arrived during the war they must have been very minor members of the community at that time. They did,however, remain in the parish throughout the 1700s and into the mid 1800s becoming leasehold farmers of the Horner Estate. Their lands passed to the Season family in 1794.
Further disruption was to come some forty years later with the Monmouth uprising. On 28th June 1684 Monmouth arrived in Frome where he stayed for two days. During those two days 2000 men deserted him.
After the Duke of Monmouth’s failed bid for the crown several Leigh on Mendip rebels were tried at Wells Assize. Abraham and Jacob Adams “supposed in the Duke’s Army” were found guilty and transported, on board the ship Endeavor, to either St Nevis or St Kitts in the West Indies; Richard Fineer was found guilty and hanged at Pensford; Moses Moore, Richard Rossiter and Stephen Worrell were transported to Jamaica.
In 1776 the Spinning Jenny, a power driven machine invented by Hargreaves which could be worked by hand, was introduced locally sparking off riots in Shepton Mallet. In the early 1800s the introduction of the fly shuttle led to “riotous assemblage of a mob” in Frome. By 1835 there were seventy four power looms in use in Somerset and by 1840 weavers in the Frome area were said to earn between three and five shillings (15-25 pence) for an eighty four hour week.
The church of St Giles - named for St Giles patron of beggars & lepers - was built in the perpendicular style like so many of the Mendip churches.
This church has one of the tallest towers on Mendip containing six bells, dated 1756, 1757 and 1858. The tenor bell (1757) is inscribed “ I to the church the living call and to the grave doth summon all”. There are several memorials to past parishioners in the Grave Yard. These include a Memorial Slab (Recorded as late as 2006) with the following epitaph: "Neare this monumental stone lies the body of James Ram, who departed this life June 3, 1763, aged 42 years/ forsaken by a false and faithless wifr/ I here conclude my solitary life/ left alone to bake, to brew, to plough/ Kind Heaven in pity has revenged me now/ Here free from discord, enmity & pain/ In peace & happiness I still remain." The Holland Map (1764) shows Elizabeth Ram living in the parish. In 1753 Philip Ram was recorded as an Ale House keeper at Hollybush and was still there in 1756. John Ram appears in records in 1674.
There is scratch sun dial on the south west corner of the tower buttress and the parish registers date from 1566. There was also a chalice dated 1674. On the north side of the church is a blocked doorway which would have led out of the church into the churchyard where it corresponds with a door in the wall heading to the Bell Inn car park. Leigh Manor House, later the parsonage, was situated in the shadow of the church. These entrances were probably used as private access to the church from the manor house.
The church has the typical tie beam roof of the period. Many of the churches in this part the Mendips were built by rich clothiers. Leigh church certainly appears to be decorated with the Cottington rose which forms part of the Cottington coat of arms. This rose appears everywhere in St Giles, both on the pew ends and the roof trusses, they are even incorporated in the stained glass where the letter ‘M’ possibly stood for Margaret Cottington.
The font is Norman and has a Jacobean (1567-1625)cover.
St Giles was originally candle lit and then converted to oil lamps before finally being adapted to electricity in the 1940s. The gas supply did not reach the village until some ten to fifteen years ago, so never had town gas lighting.
In the south aisle of this church are two piscinas (stone basins with drains) and an ambry (cupboard for sacred vessels and place for the deposition of alms) all of these possibly connected to the pilgrims who visited the village on the way to Glastonbury. There is no doubt that pilgrims travelling to Glastonbury were given alms and lodging at Leigh on Mendip.
Church cottages are said to have been the almoners house, a traditional longhouse which would have contained a dormitory, a stillroom and sanatorium. Number 2, Church Walk continued to be used for the distribution of Parish Relief until relatively recent times. The pilgrim route may appear to be slightly strange, meandering from one spot to another. However, there were several holy shrines to be visited en route. St Aldhelm’s Well in Frome; the Holy Well at Holwell (where legend has it an anchorite or hermit dwelt); St Aldhelm’s Well at Doulting where there would be shelter at the monks’ grange and then Pilton and Glastonbury. This was a long journey for pilgrims seeking cures, very often barefooted, and the terraine was dangerous and difficult, it would have been unsafe to cross at night making a need for overnight lodging.
On arrival at Glastonbury the pilgrim would visit the Abbey, the Holy Well on Chalice Hill and the chapels of St Michael and St Brigid.
1449 Thomas Elys & John Bagford
1468 John Preedys
1508 Sir Nicholas Say
1525 John Debill.
1543 John Colys
1604 Elizeus Snooke
1670 Henry Dutton “rector”.
No records found for the years between 1670 & 1855. Some of the gaps may have been the result of the Black Death (1348 and 1349) and the Plague (1644-1648)or even the result of Smallpox epidemics between 1705 and 1725).
1855 - 1896 G.A. Mahon
1867 Theodore Mayo (curate)
In 1860 Mr Mahon was elevated from curate to vicar.
1896 - 1927 J.E.W. Honnywill
1927 - 1954 R. Lloyd Williams
1955 - 1959 H.S. Hancock
1960 - 1962 H. Rigg- Stansfield
1963 - 1967 E.H.H. Tiller
1974 - 1981 H.J Fisher
1983 - P.D. Winks who was made vicar of three parishes, Leigh, Downhead and Stoke St Michael, in 1984.
There are no early records of bellringers, however we do have a notice of Belfry Regulations dated 30th January 1897 which tells us their names at that date:
Vicar: John Honeywill.
Hon. Secretary: Tom Knapton.
Edgar Ashman; James Ashman; F. Ashman; John Ashman; Walter Ashman and S. Hillard.
The Reverend Lloyd Williams (1927 - 1954) lived at the old vicarage with his sister Cecilia. They had previously been missionaries in Africa and their house contained many fascinating momentoes of their years abroard, including a weaver birds nest which hung in the hall and was of great interest to their younger visitors. They were an extremely kind couple who loved gardening and wildlife.
For many years there were two recorded licenced ale houses in Leigh and not a few unlicenced or illegal ones.The giving of ale house licences was not easy to control. Two justices were required to ensure the good behaviour of ale house keepers, having first obtained a bond from the said keeper to the good order of his house. No one could keep a house without such a licence. The number of illicit hostelries was near impossible to regulate.
The Bell Inn appears to have been the only remaining licenced premises by the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The Dyer family, living locally, held licences for several inns over a wide local area during the 1700s. A victualler’s licence was allowed John Dyer of Leigh on Mendip in 1753.
The following alehouse keepers are recorded in the licencing lists for Leigh on Mendip:
1695 Thomas Stephens (The Bell)
Giles Shole (Holly Bush)
1696 Joseph Clark (The Bell)
George Salmon (Holly Bush)
1736 William Talbot(The Bell)
1753 Philip Ram (Holly Bush)
John Dyer (The Bell)
1755 John King (Holly Bush)
David Salmon (The Bell)
1756 Philip Ram (Holly Bush)
John Cabble (The Bell)
1787 Anne Hartgill (THe Bell)
Thomas Sanders (licence holder Anne Hartgill.) (? Holly Bush) In all probabilty the Inn at Hollybush closed in 1788.
1788 Anne Hartgill
Ann Aishman (licence holder Anne Hartgill)
Martha Brown (Bell Inn). ** see Appendix 6
A fireback, dated 1683, in the Bell Inn, possibly gives some indication of its age, this being only about ten years before the registration of Thomas Stephens & Giles Shole. William and Anne Hartgill are said to have arrived in Leigh on Mendip in 1785. However, William only survived four years, he died in 1789 aged 62 years. Anne is listed as licencee of two alehouses in 1787 and 1788.
She died in 1809 and was succeeded at the Bell Inn by Martha Brown.
At a later date the inn was run by Thomas Ashman who was a relative of the Brown family. There was also a Malt House locally for the production of malt to be sold to the Brewer who supplied the licenced ale house keeper. Neither the maltster nor the brewer sold the finished product although there is no doubt that a certain amount of unauthorised brewing took place in local villages.
The 1620s had been speculative years, seeing great gains and great losses, a sumptuous way of life for some and great poverty for others. A local country gentleman would have lived modestly, accepting his economic limitations, never spending more than one month in the year away from his estate. This led to a very narrow society, intermarrying and creating a very tight knit community. These gentlemen served their local area as governors and justices at the local assizes and quarter sessions which were held, respectively, at Ilminster and Wells. The country gentleman of this period filled his time overseeing the management of his estates and occupying his leisure time with field sports. There were plentiful supplies of game in the local woodlands and fish in the many small local rivers and fast flowing streams.
The following traders lived in Leigh during the last years of the 17th century
1693 - John Smith, blacksmith.
1693 - Bakers: John Goold,junior; John Colos; Stephen James; William George. Outbakers: Humphrey Cooke and William Franke.
1693 - Butchers: William White; Richard Dowding; John White; Samuel Naish; Roger White; Edward Tapp; and Robert Williams, outbutcher.
Ale Sellars - Richard Shoppard; William White; Philip Browne; Elizabeth Allan; Julian Flower; Walter Short; George Sweett; Thomas Stevens and Giles Shole.
1697 - John Prattent, out baker.
1698 -William Clarke and Robert Richardson, out bakers.
Edmund Tapp, butcher.
William Prattent, miller.
Each of the local governors and law dispensers had a coat of arms with which they ornamented their houses and the parish church and sealed their letters. When they died they were laid to rest under a tomb stone or in a vault decorated with their new gained arms. These escutcheons were not an indication of ancient nobility since hardly any of these families were either wealthy or even well established before 1539. The industrialists and merchants of the period bought their way into royal favour in much the same way that the modern breed uses political favours today, money buying position in society and bringing with it power to govern. Part of the duty of the lord of the manor was the building and maintenance of local roads. During the year 1625 the construction of road bridges was carried out in Somerset but a decade later many of these were in a state of ruin due to neglect. It was expected that roads be kept in repair by local parish surveyors, two of which were appointed annually. The parish surveyor was expected to direct the repair of the highways for six days annually. Men and equipment had to be found, a cart and two men provided by each person holding ploughland. The service of every able bodied householder, including women, was demanded to carry out these works. The post of surveyor was not popular since a fine was levied if the works were not carried out promptly.
The Court Leet was a court of record held once a year in a town or village before the steward of the leet. The Court Leet for Mells and Leigh contains the following cases:
1696: The blocking of the water courses and pollution of the same.
1698: “The road from - to Hollybush, leading to Downhead,to be repaired by the way wardens” “Ye way (from Richard Wilcox to John Worms) leading from Mendip into Leigh” to be repaired.
1722: “Ye supervisor of ye highways” for the parish of Leigh was brought before the Court Leet for “not mending the Highway between George Parker’s house and ye Holly Bush” and was ordered to do so on pain of fine of 20 shillings.
1729: The lack of care in the upkeep of ditches and boundries.
1729: The need to ensure that the quality of the bread being produced and sold in the village was up to the necessary standards.
1773: Many houses “out of repair” and needing work to be done to them.
1775: The illegal blocking of a lane. This was the second time that this lane had been blocked and a heavy fine was levied on the offender.
There were continual cases of roads being in a state of disrepair or blocked and polluted water courses. The populace of Leigh threw all of their garbage into the street, as was the universal practice, causing many problems. In 1777 Henry Harris was brought before the court for the illegal building of a house, on the Soho to Coleford Road, and was ordered to remove the obstruction within two months or pay a fine of £10. If he still did not remove it he would be fined once again and this would continue until it was removed.
During the eighteenth century main roads came under the management of the Turnpike Trusts and in 1772 the Halecombe culvert was built by the Frome Turnpike Trust. Lesser roads were still under the charge of local road constables. In 1775 stone for road mending cost 2 shillings for eleven cartloads mainly collected from local fields and in 1776 teams working on the roads in Leigh on Mendip were as follows:
Philip Stephens - 1 team working 9 days
Robert Witcombe - 1 team working 6 days.
John Beard - 1 team working 6 days.
Joseph Padfield - 1 team working 10 days.
Robert Perry - 1 team working 6 days.
The above teams included the following labourers:
Joseph Allwood, John Stocker, George Tapp, Betty Prattent, Henry Smith, John Parfit,
Jude Perkents (? Perkins), Elly Hill, Philip King (senior), Thomas Bainton, Thomas
Padfield, Jacob Smart, John Hall, “Doctor” Brittain, Mary Season, Thomas Ashman, John
Steeds and James Witcombe.
Parish constables 1777 - 1829:
1670 William Watten
1770 Richard Wornell
1777 John Clark & Richard Cayford.
1779 Thomas Gane, junior.
1783 Paul Baynton.
1785 William Plaister.
1786 James Beard.
1789 Abraham Britten.
1807 Lewis Treasure & Joseph Coles
1808 Thomas Ellery
1825 Thomas Millard.
1826 Henry Selway & George Finnear
1828 George Perkins.
1829 John Ollerenshaw.
Haywards: 1770 Richard Wornell James Merryfield. (Hayward - A Parish officer in charge of fences, enclosures, commons etc and responsible for the impounding of stray animals)
In 1777 Richard Cayford was the toll keeper/ road warden at Soho. His descendant Charles Cayford was described in the 1851 census as Turnpike Gate Keeper living at Soho. Charles had a wife, Maria, and three children.The first Cayford noted was William Cayford whose burial was recorded in 1597. In 1777 William White, junior, and William Morgan were charged by Richard Cayford with looking after the road “on pain of 5 shillings each.”
There were three toll gates in the area, the Soho gate; the Tadhill Gate and the Cole Lane Gate. The Tadhill gate was kept by Andrew Butt whose wife, Sarah, ran the Dame School there.
The Butt family had come from Dorset in the early 1800s and their descendants still live locally.
The coming of the mail coach, which replaced the post boy on horseback, led to road improvements in 1784 and the 1815 Ordnance Survey map shows a coach terminus at Coleford, the bridge there having been repaired by the Trust in 1779. Regular coaches travelled along the Frome to Wells Turnpike road calling at the Tadhill Inn and the Waggon & Horses at the Beacon.
The Swiftsure ran along the Frome to Shepton Mallet road, connecting with the Bruton Turnpike road at Leighton.
According to Daniel Defoe ( 1724/1726 ) in his book “A tour through the whole Island of Britain” roads prior to the introduction of Turnpike Trusts were “deep and, at times of flood, dangerous, and at other times, in winter, scarce passable.”
By the mid nineteenth century the practice of using statutary labour for the repair of roads had been discontinued and money was levied in lieu, this was known as composition money. In 1872 Local Government Boards were founded to supervise road management and in 1919 the Ministry of Transport was instituted and road management ceased to be a local issue.
Various instances of more serious crime occurred during the 1800s leading to long prison sentences, often served in Shepton Mallet Goal. Theft could result in whipping, long terms of penal servitude, and even transportation. At least two such men were lodged in Shepton Mallet Prison - one Britten who had been indicted of highway robbery and sentenced to sixteen years hard labour and an other person for sheep stealing and poaching.
There was also a record of James West being murdered, “by a blow” in 1770.
Poaching was rife at that time and was also very hazardous. Rural poverty was such that a labourer found it hard to meet the most basic needs of his family, desperation led to theft and punishments were severe. A man could be transported for the theft of a loaf of bread.
A penal colony was created in Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) in the year 1803, many of those sent there never returned to England.
Poachers not only risked such penalties to bring a little meat to the family table but braved the added hazards of spring loaded guns concealed in the undergrowth with a trip wire attached and man traps with their wicked metal teeth. Such deterants were to be found in the local woodlands, like Asham Wood, and could inflict terrible wounds.. Poverty made criminals of many who were desperate to keep their families out of the local poor houses.
A Statute had been passed in 1601 which obliged each parish to care for its “aged and impotent poor”, provide work for its able bodied poor and apprentice its pauper children. It also stated that overseers of the poor should be appointed to levy a poor rate and build work houses.
There were three poor houses in Leigh until the 1830s when they were sold off to defray the cost of building a central workhouse.
Leigh poorhouse records for 1825/6 show occupation of a poorhouse by Joseph Watts and his wife, who was supplied with a blanket.
After 1830 the poor of the local villages came under the management of a Union and were housed in the Union Workhouse. The Frome Union workhouse was built in 1836/7. A ”blind house” or village lockup was built in Leigh Street in March 1820. The blind house was so named because it had no windows, light and air being introduced through an iron grill let into the roof.
In 1857 an extraordinary case was brought before Mr Justice Willes, in the Somerset Assize Court, which was reported in “The Bristol Mercury” dated Saturday, April 3rd 1858. Joseph Ashman was charged with maliciously shooting at the Rev. George Mahon, described as “curate of Leigh on Mendip.” Mr Mahon had been serving as curate for only three years at the time. Mr Prideaux and Mr Kerslake prosecuted and Mr Edwards acted for the defendant. Mr Mahon, whilst officiating in the church, on the evening of Sunday 20th September 1857 was thrown against a pillar by a gun blast. When he recovered he found that he had glass in his eye and that he was covered in blood. He was considerably shaken but was able to send the constable, “one Urch”, to Tadhill Inn where Ashman was found and charged with attempting to kill the Reverend Mahon. Mr Mahon gave evidence that he had had reason, some time before, to complain of Ashman’s conduct to the Rector of Mells and this had resulted in the farmer’s eviction from a field which he rented. Ashman had uttered oaths against the curate.
Mr Mahon, when cross examined, stated that his complaint to the rector of Mells had been about Ashman’s treatment of his wife and his drunken habits. He added that the defendant was a farmer and a man of position ( he farmed Allwoods) and that it was necessary to make an example of him.
A local lad, John Hiscox, told the court that he had seen the prisoner near the church and had seen the gun in his possession. He had seen Ashman point the gun at the church window and fire it.
It was said that the gun had been loaded with a bladder of ox blood which exploded as it entered the church.
Ashman was found guilty and sentenced at the Somerset Spring Assize to two years imprisonment and Mr Mahon continued, first as curate and then, in 1860, as vicar - a post he held until 1896.
1800 - 1900
The Enclosure Act of 1779 brought a radical change to the character of Mendip. The change was from open sheep walks, interspersed with woodland, to enclosed fields, many of them arable.
The big landowners now imposed increased rents. A document, drawn up for Thomas Horner of Mells, indicated the assignment of land. He bought out most of the small local landowners at this time, purchasing their Rights of Common, and making them leaseholders. Mr Horner retained the freeholds. Much work was carried out on all local estates. Hedges were planted and walls built, turnpike roads were created and the Horner Estate had new maps drawn up showing their holdings. New field names appeared though some of the old ones were retained. A network of fields was created, enclosed by hedges of quickthorn,holly and elder and walls built from the readily obtainable local limestone.
A variety of new crops was grown in these fields - turnips, potatoes and oats being the most popular. Trees were planted, in belts and clumps, to form windbreaks and to help drainage of the land. The most popular trees were Oak, Beech, Ash, Sycamore, and conifers. The lines of local roads were rationalised, replacing the sinuous old roads with new, straight, highways of generous width and wide grass verges, these can still be seen on the Old Wells Road, just to the south of Leigh. These roads were built and repaired with stone for the most part picked up in the fields by old men, women and young boys, at a labour cost of six pence a ton.
Wells were sunk and ponds created at the intersection of four fields to make the watering of oxen easier, other ponds were dug nearer the farmhouses.
Lime kilns were built to provide fertilizer for the enclosed arable fields and to mix with sand and water to produce mortar for building work. Four hundred and eighty bushells of lime was burnt per week, using coal from Coleford and Holcombe. The lime fertilizer thus produced would manure three acres of land per week.
Charcoal, a carbon produced by the charring of wood or bones, was also used to fire the kilns since it was cheaper than coal, at 6d a sack.
Charcoal burners in Asham Wood and Leigh Woods, James and Richard Watts, produced charcoal locally which was also used by Fussells in their iron furnaces. The general rule after the enclosures was that local farm workers lived in agriculturally tied cottages and were constrained by the need to keep on the right side of their employers since any lack of co-operation on their part meant not only risking the loss of their jobs but also of their living accomodation. This practice, with certain variations, has been (shockingly) resumed in recent years with respect to tenants in some quarry owned properties.
Leigh on Mendip in those days was essentially an agricultural village, it had not yet been considered as a quarrying area. The only stone quarried here was for the mending of local roads and the building of local dwellings.
By 1830 land was being provided by the lord of the manor for villagers to cultivate potatoes. Potato plots were provided in Leigh for the following people:
John Ashman, labourer. George Season, saddler.
Benjamin Ashman, labourer. George Perkins, carpenter.
John Ashman, carpenter. John Treasure, labourer.
William Ashman, sawyer. William Tapp, coal carrier.
Mark Ashman, labourer. George Woolford, coal carrier.
Thomas Ellery, butcher. Richard Vezey, coal carrier.
James Biggs, gate keeper. Joseph Watts, coal carrier.
George Finnear, shoemaker. William Watts, labourer.
Joseph Hiscox, coal carrier.
Joseph Herridge, thatcher.
This Georgian/Early Victorian period was not as picturesque as contemporary fiction would have us believe. The sanitation left a great deal to be desired. Tradespeople and craftsmen used the street in front of their premises to dispose of their litter. Butchers threw out their refuse to moulder in the street, and although this, no doubt, gave great joy to local dogs and vermin, it also created many problems. Infectious illnesses, such as typhoid, were widespread. In rural areas some of the rubbish was spread over the arable fields as a form of fertilizer which is why broken china and other non degradable materials are still found in local plough grounds.
With the enclosures came a rise in local industry. The Fussells of Nunney and Whatley built a series of edgetool mills on local streams. They owned two forges in the Mells river valley during the 18th and 19th centuries and other works at Doulting, Nunney and Chantry. Many of the tools used locally, which included sheep shears, came from Fussell’s mills.These mills closed at the beginning of the twentieth century but there are still reaping hooks, hedging sickles and scythes in existence, locally, which bear the Fussell imprint. These tools had wooden handles which were produced by the Ashman family of Leigh on Mendip at their timber yard where a smithy/wheelwright’s workshop and a carpenter’s shed were sited.
Thomas Ashman was a timber merchant, running a steam driven saw mill whose chimneys may still be seen behind the garage in Leigh Street. The wood was steam heated to allow it to be bent into shape and then worked by hand.
Much of the raw material was grown locally and auctioneers posters dated 1817 show that there were regular sales held in local inns to dispose of the underwood cut in Asham Wood at the southern boundary of Leigh.
Some local people may still remember Jack Martin, the wood worker, who created milking stools and other household items and embellished the church with new altar rails. Jack also entertained at many a harvest supper with his renditiions of Somerset rural songs.
Iron ore was quarried locally to provide the raw material for Fussell’s numerous edge tool mills and the industry was well established in the Mells area by 1791, indeed a plot of land had been leased by John Horner to James Fussell of Stoke Lane, for an edge tool mill in 1744.
During the Napoleonic wars James Fussell produced, free of charge as a patriotic gesture, one thousand pikes for the Government. It is not, therefore, surprising that this iron ore rich area contains signs of iron smelting having taken place, sporadically, over many years.
The Frome Selwood Volunteers, formed in 1797 to quell the wool and bread riots, was commanded by Colonel Horner with Captain James Wickham as second in command, it comprised a force of one hundred infantry and sixty cavalrymen.
Lt. Colonel Wickham was severely wounded in 1816 during a riot in Frome. At this time, one year after Napoleon had escaped from Elba and returned to France, there were daily musters of these troops since the fear of invasion by the French was great. Locally stockings were being produced for the armed forces, indeed in 1795 John Clarke is recorded as being a stocking maker. There had been stocking knitters in the district since Elizabethan times.
Local gentry travelled abroad during the Georgian period and brought home new ideas, political, practical and cultural. There was a widespread demand for books, newspapers and schooling.
The Moon family moved to Leigh, from the Kilmersdon, during the 1670s. In 1689 Thomas Moon, an ale house keeper, built Manor House Farm. The date stone on this farmhouse reads BTM 1689. Thomas and his wife, Hester, had a son (John) in 1683, born at Kilmersdon.
William and Gertrude Moon, also of Kilmersdon, had a daughter, Jane, who was baptised at Leigh in 1670. William Moon, born in 1672, may have been their son who, by 1696 appears in records as “William Moon tradesman”.
In 1712 we find Edward, son of John and Elizabeth being baptised - he was probably the grandson of Thomas and Hester since their son John would by then have been of an age to father a child.
By 1777 Mr George Moon of Leigh on Mendip had lived in the Parish for 13 years and was said to "have practiced the art and business of a surgeon with good success and is now well skilled therein, having given great satisfaction and proof of his abilities in that profession as well as to those persons whom he has attended.” His son, George, was born at Leigh on Mendip in 1780
Between 1793 and 1799 land at Pitten Street was leased to Mr George Moon by Thomas Horner.
A George Moon married Sarah Fisher in the late 1700s, the local assumption is that it was the younger Dr Moon that she married. If that is the case he would have been approximately seventeen years old to her twenty two. She then managed to bear seven children in ten years a proportion of which would have been when he ( a naval surgeon) was at sea.
It, therefore, seems more likely that she married the elder Dr Moon who would have been approximately 46 years old and living in the village.
The senior Dr George Moon may well have been a widower at the time having had a son, George Moon junior, by a previous marriage.
George Moon, junior, followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a doctor, when in 1806 he registered as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons,and in June 1808 he registered for Naval service.
The death of Elizabeth Moon living at her estate at Pitten Street in 1829 shows the family still living at Townsend.
George Moon, senior, lived at Manor Farm, which had been built by his relative, Thomas Moon in 1689, and was still dispensing medicines into old age.
The 1851 census return shows a Moon family living in the village, including Ann Moon nee Joyce, (aged 37);William Moon, cordwainer (aged 28) and Albert Moon (aged 7 months).
Dr George Moon, junior, (aged 66) lived at 26 Leigh Street, a widower with a house servant named Mary Norris. Next door, at number 25, lived a retired seaman called William Taylor (aged 67) who was described as a “Greenwich out pensioner”. The two cottages, inhabited by George Moon and William Taylor were at Townsend making it feasible that William Taylor may have served in the navy with George Moon, perhaps as his servant or batman, although there is no evidence of this. Another Greenwich pensioner, named Edward Hodges, lived at Leigh at that time, a lodger of the Tapp family at number 11, Tweed. Both of these naval pensioners were local men having been born in Kilmersdon.
Eight years later in 1859 William Moon of Leigh on Mendip, was still plying his trade as a boot and shoe maker
An agricultural depression followed the Napoleonic Wars and by the end of the 1800s cheap foreign imports, bad weather causing disease in livestock and a drastic fall in land prices had contributed to agricultural collapse.
Twenty seven thousand pounds was paid for seven hundred acres of land in Wiltshire in 1812 this had, within a few years, fallen in value to seven thousand pounds. It is not hard to imagine that the same price fluctuations applied locally. However, by the 1850s, farming fortunes had improved and agriculture was once more buoyant and the repeal of the Corn Laws resulted in a golden age in the farming industry.
The Victorian period found Leigh on Mendip becoming very much a satellite of Mells, however the Parish Boundary between Mells Park and Leigh on Mendip remained - at Park Corner it runs along the park wall, Mells being on the Park side of the road and Leigh on the side adjacent to Halecombe Quarry. Sir John Horner was lord of the manor, his agent collected the rents in both parishes. At Leigh these rents were collected in a building which stood on the site of the present day garage. In 1830 there were ten labourers in Leigh, three Ashmans; five Padfields; one Watts and one Treasure. There were also two carpenters (John Ashman & George Perkins); five coal carriers;a butcher (Thomas Ellery);a shoemaker(George Finnear)and a saddler(George Season).
There were also a blacksmith, a harness maker and a working Mill. Most of the dwellings in Leigh at that time would have been thatched and Joseph Herridge was working as a thatcher.
Dr George Moon esq. M.D. was practising medicine.
Definition of a shop (Oxford Dictionary 1924) " Building or room for retail sale of goods." This definition shows that "goods" for sale at a premises where they are manufactured for example shoes could be called a shop. We can, therefore, assume that the definition of goods for sale included the following items sold from 1693 to 1689 by a blacksmith, several butchers, bakers, ale sellers and probably cordwainers (shoemakers). These would have been the shopkeepers of their time.
By 1851 the census gives us a more detailed picture, with three labourers working in the local woods -Isaac Brittain, William Button and Justinian Watt, Isaac Brittain’s wife, Mary, was a nurse and Ann Edwards a servant, both working at Soho Farm. There were six agricultural labourers listed, Joseph Rabbitts, John Biggs, Ben Padfield, George Butt, Samuel Moore and Simeon Moore, Samuel Moore’s daughter, Ann, was a charwoman and his other daughter, Harriet Wilmott, was a washerwoman.
The village also boasted a tailoress (Mary Butt)and three dress makers (Henrietta Earle, Jane Ellery and Jane Clark).
John Harding, a journeyman carpenter, worked in the local timber yard. (A journey man was an artisan who had worked out his apprenticeship.)
John Wilcox was the stone mason. George Ellery was the butcher and Alfred Earle the grocer. The baker was Job Joyce, the father in law of William Moon, a cordwainer ( boot & shoe maker), both originally from Kilmersdon. William Moon’s business was run from a cottage adjoining the Bell Inn, which was run by Thomas Ashman. This Inn had been previously run by Martha Brown. ** see Appendix 6.
No reference has been found of any other Inn in Leigh on Mendip at this period, although there was a rumour that Oak Cottage was really “The Royal Oak”. Since this cottage was a bakery it might be feasible that the configuration of the property was such as to allow sacks of flour and other bakery products to be received here and could also have included a malthouse as an adjunct to the bakery business. Malt houses were very rarely situated at a beer retailing site i.e. Inn or Public House.
The timber yard, trading under the name “Thomas Ashman”, was owned by Mr Brown. Mrs Tabitha Brown, a retired dressmaker, is listed in an early census as the grandmother of three Ashman children.
Matthew Ashman was the blacksmith, his forge was adjacent to the timber yard, he married Mary Fussell in 1852.
In 1841 there were in fact 44 members of the Ashman family living in Leigh on Mendip.
By 1871 there were still many tradesmen/shops in the village.
Alfred Earle, Hester Lane - Grocers. (Virginia Cottage)
Henry Selway - baker and beer retailer.
Emanuel Green - carrier, living at Whitehole.
John & James Hiscox - stone masons.
William West & Simeon Moore - butchers.
George Walwin - Carpenter & Rake Maker.
Thomas Rossiter - Spade & Rake handle maker. ( Fairleigh)
Alfred Speare & Francis Lane - Boot & Shoe Makers.
William Henry Season - Harness maker and grocer. (Lantern Cottage)
Matthew Ashman - Postmaster. (Pilgrim Cottage)
A substantial quantity of cheese was produced locally. Farmers employed dairy maids in addition to their other staff. Much of this cheese was sent to Bristol market and, annually, to the great fair at Winchester.
Several carriers carted coal from the mines in Coleford, Kilmersdon and Holcombe down to the Shepton Mallet Turnpike road, through Dean, to avoid the tolls on the other roads. This caused so much trouble that eventually a chain was put across the track at Dean to prevent the practice.
Remnants of the wool trade could still be found locally where stocking knitters continued to work until the mid 19th century. There were eight stocking knitters listed in the 1841 census including Susanna and Elizabeth Ashman.
Leigh boasted two Methodist chapels, the Trinity Primitive Methodist Chapel and the Ebenezer Wesleyan Chapel, dated 1811, both of these are now dwelling houses.
The Ebenezer Chapel had two galleries, one over the entrance door and the other behind the rostrum, reached by an outside staircase. A small school room, attached to this chapel, is still there but is now a private dwelling.
Open air, or “camp” meetings were held, by the congregation of the Primitive Chapel, on the green at Townsend, the preacher using a farm waggon as a pulpit.
The Wesleyan preachers had made many converts amongst the Fussell's iron workers. It is possible that John Wesley (1703-1791) preached to the people of Leigh in September 1785 since he preached “in an open space, next to the road, at Mells” where he was stung by a wasp and “ was afraid it would swell, so as to hinder my speaking” but was still able to preach. (Journal of John Wesley vol.v.page vi).
Mr Honnywill, the vicar of Leigh from 1896 to 1927, did not approve of his anglican churchgoers speaking to chapel going villagers. As a high churchman he considered those who attended chapel meetings to be sinful. Many of his sermons contained references to “bolshevics”. Mrs Honnywell was good to her husband’s parishioners, sending her companion to the cottages of those of the congregation that were unwell with gifts of jellies and eucalyptus.
Village schools developed, first through Dame Schools, followed by the Charity School Movement, dominated by high Anglicans and Tories, which held very high religious and moral standards.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century a school teacher ranked lower in the social scale than most tradesmen. He or she was expected to dress creditably and plainly and to lead a blameless private life. Masters were expected to teach reading and arithmetic, whilst their wives taught needlework to the girls. Thrashings were commonplace, in fact these continued in Leigh, in a modified form, until the 1970s.
Much of the learning was done by rote, handwriting and arithmetic were practiced on slates. The headmaster kept a log book and a register.
Leigh on Mendip School was built in 1863, originally a church school to accomodate one hundred and thirty children, it thrives to this day as a County Primary School.
Prior to the building of this school the Reading Room adjacent to the Vicarage was used as a school room. In 1851 the school teachers were William Cruft and Sophia Heard, they were succeeded by George Henry Banting in 1860.
Mr Banting married a local girl and remained in the job for 42 years, living at Leoglen. He was later joined by his wife and daughter as teacher and assistant teacher.
There were four annual school holidays - three weeks at Christmas; a week to ten days at Easter; a week at Whitsun and a four week summer holiday. At Eastertide a half holiday was given when, on Maudy Thursday, the children collected wild flowers and mosses to decorate the church. Other reasons for school closure included meetings of the school clothing club run by the vicar’s wife; the doctor’s club; a benefit society named the Shepherd’s club and a similar organisation named “the Revels”; the taking of the census; funerals of school managers; bad weather and epidemics.
Between the years 1913 and 1926 there were many epidemics including scarlet fever; chicken pox; whooping cough; measles; diphtheria and pneumonia.
The influenza epidemic of 1925 ran from January to March causing the school to close from 26th February until 9th of March.
Bad weather also disturbed the smooth running of the school. In 1891 snow caused problems for eleven weeks and in April 1922 very heavy snowfall led to the closure of the school since only twenty six out of seventy eight pupils were able to attend. It was closed for the day on February 2nd 1927 on health grounds, there having been a heavy snowfall during the night, complicated by “there being much influenza about.”
The same applied in 1931 and 1946 when it was considered that, in particular, pupils from Downhead would be prevented from attending, and it was noted that “ it was so dark by 3pm during bad weather that it is impossible to see to do any work, as we have neither oil lamps nor electric light at present.” Electricity only came to Leigh school in December 1946. The headmaster also complained that school supplies were insufficient to run the new school radiators.
It has been said of Leigh that it was a cold and dismal place in which to live, and John Billingsley had commented, a century earlier, that “when you proceed further northwards and gain the summit of the Mendip hills, you find yourself, comparatively in Lapland.”
In 1905 a feud appears to have developed between the vicar, Mr Honeywill, and the Headmasters, Mr Banting firstly and then Mr Gibbons. There also appears to have been considerable friction between the vicar and the school managers because Mr Honeywill wanted religious knowledge to be taught in the church, whilst the Headmaster and school managers wished it to take place in the school to embrace both church goers and other school attenders. Mr Honeywill also wanted a school holiday on Ascension Day while the managers favoured Empire Day,started in 1902 and fully implemented by 1904. (Mr Banting retired in 1904). The matter rumbled on until May 1906 when the Chairman of the managers, Mr Horner, decided not to reappoint the Reverend Mr Honeywill to the Board of Managers who had refused to grant an Ascension Day holiday but allowed one on Empire Day. The vicar denounced them from the pulpit and shortly afterwards left the parish.
1891 saw the commencement of the Free System whereby the custom of weekly payment, of 4 pence per week for farmer's children and one penny per week for labourer’s children, was discontinued.
The school master found it difficult to keep up attendances at the school during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The older boys were absent several times a year during the autumn and winter months when they were recruited by the gamekeeper on the local estate as beaters for the pheasant shoots and in the summer they were needed for haymaking. The following excerpts from the school log book illustrate this.
“ 9th December 1891: Only 14 boys in attendance out of 40 on the register. Shooting party in Mells Park the chief cause.”
“10th December 1891: Shooting party at Mells ruins the attendance.”
Twice a year children were removed from school by their parents to work on the village allotments, planting and harvesting the crops.
Once a year, in the autumn, Asham Woods were ‘thrown open’ for nutting and on this occasion most of the older children were again absent.
Throughout the year there were several school outings, including Sunday School outings. In April 1903 the Anglican Sunday School visited “ Sir Richard Paget’s Cranmore Tower”, by special arrangement, followed by tea in the schoolroom. During the same year, on Ascension Day, there was a half holiday when the girls went for a ramble in Mells Park and the boys played cricket “in Mr Davis’s field” at Rookery farm. In July 1903 the pupils of the Primitive Methodist Chapel Sunday School had an outing to Weston-Super-Mare, and in the same year, the Wesleyan Sunday School took their pupils to Weymouth.
There were other holidays connected to National events:
May 1900 a half day holiday was given to celebrate the surrender of Pretoria (Boer War) and the flight of Kruger (President of the Transvaal from 1888) to Holland.
July 1902 a holiday to celebrate the coronation of King Edward V11.
1918: Peace holiday to celebrate the end of the Great War.
1922: The celebration of the marriage of the Princess Royal.
1923: The marriage of the Duke of York (later King George V1) to Miss Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (the late Queen Mother).
1935: The Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary and the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester.
The death of King George V was marked by another holiday when the school children attended a service in the church to mourn his loss.
The Coronation of King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth in 1937 was celebrated with tea parties and games.
During the 1914-1918 War the Head teacher had been conscripted into His Majesty’s Forces but was ruled exempt after an appeal from the County Education Committee to the Army Council. However the pupil teacher, Edward Shorter, was called up in 1916 and, after serving for two years, returned to the school in 1919.
In 1922 a supplimentary School Mistress, Miss Dorothy Padfield, was appointed. Miss Padfield used to cycle each day from Doulting where she lived with her parents.
Mr J. Gibbon was the Head teacher from 1904 to 1924, and in 1912 Maisie Willcox was appointed pupil teacher with M. Ashman as supplimentary teacher at a salary of £20 per annum.
In 1921 the school was changed from a Parocial school to a Council school, being joined by the children from Downhead where the school had been closed. During the 1920s friendly football matches were arranged, the school playing Stoke St Michael, Oakhill, Croscombe, Cranmore and Doulting.
During the years 1928/29 a fowl house and pig pen were built and by 1930 a start was made “in the keeping of poultry by the scholars.” Pig and bee-keeping were included in boys’ curriculum, under the guidance of the Headmaster.
1924 - 1936 Head teacher Mr Thomas Matthews
1936 - 1942 Head teacher Mrs Dyer
There was an annual Christmas party and in 1890 there was a performance of Sleeping Beauty, a lantern lecture took place in 1899.
In 1948 the Central Office of Information provided four short films, “ Birds of the village”, “Spring on the farm”, “Action” and “Nose has it.”
Throughout the years the schoolmanagers dealt with numerous problems, ranging from leaking roofs to inadequate heating and sanitary arrangements. There was an annual inspection by the education authority ( in the early years by the school inspector) and an annual report on both the conduct of the teachers, educational standards and the practical running of the school.
During the 1930s Mrs Rabbitts and Mrs Stone complained that the infant teacher (Miss Price) administered corporal punishment to their children who were in the infant room. Miss Price was warned, for the second time, that under no circumstances must she administer corporal punishment to any pupil in the school.
In 1932 " a stone was thrown on the school roof from the Trinidad Quarry" breaking several of the tiles, no one was hurt and this was reported to the quarry manager.
During the Second World War (1939-1945) the school was used as Air Raid Precaution (ARP) shelter and a Feeding Scheme Station and blackout curtains were installed.
In 1941 rules for the conduct of the staff, in the event of enemy action and possible damage from incendiary bombs, were issued by the County Education Committee. This never happened, thankfully, but they were nevertheless prepared for it. The school also accomodated 23 evacuees from the London area, who arrived complete with London County Council teachers. Classes had to be staggered because the building was too small to take the extra numbers
During the war years the children collected nettles which, being rich in nutrients, were used in cookery and concerts were held to fund the war effort.
Leigh on Mendip Parish Council met at the school in the early days before the building of the Memorial Hall.In 1925 the Parish Council consisted of five members:
Chairman - Mr A.H. Vining.
Overseers - Mr Clement Ashman & Mr Thomas Matthews.
School manager - Mr H. Clark
Mr Cary was the fifth member.
In that year a letter was sent to the local member of Parliament protesting about the new Valuation and Rating Bill. However, normally the business was mainly with relation to damage to footpaths, stiles and water supply.
In October 1928 a special meeting was called to discuss the proposed building of a water tank at Tadhill, with a small hydraulic ram to fill it, “the overflow to be taken to the village supply, as the parishioners generally had suffered from shortage during the past three months.”
Two years previously there had been serious derogation of supply due to over use at Barnclose Quarry. A supply of water from the village supply had been allowed the quarry company by the Rural District Council, resulting in serious shortages in the village. The quarry caused further problems in April 1932 when they damaged a footpath, and caused a stile to disappear. However, Mr Abel ( a Parish Councillor and owner of the land) reinstated both to the satisfaction of the Parish Council.
Water problems continued to dog the parish for many years and in 1938 there were complaints from the inhabitants of Tadhill that they “ had to walk across two fields to fetch water in buckets, only to find same as green and unfit for human consumption.” Mr Kent, clerk to the Rural District Council, promised to ask Mendip Concrete Works to haul water from another source during the drought.
During 1941 a collection of waste paper was begun by the Women’s Voluntary Service and the Rural District Council collected tins.
Complaints were received during the Second World War (1939 -1945) regarding the bad state of local roads because of the passage of military traffic. So, the chairman of the Parish Council suggested that a plan should be put into operation “with the American Military Authorities” to solve the problem.
In 1945 the first refuse collections were arranged for the village, with a fortnightly collection.
In 1946 Leigh applied for two extra councillors, bringing the total to seven, and at this time the idea of a village hall was mooted, it would be a memorial hall to the fallen of the Second World War. The Miner’s Welfare Institute donated funds since they considered that their current premises were inadequate. The hall was finally built in 1956 with Colonel Eliot becoming the first Honorary Secretary.
In 1947 the new council houses were built and called Park Hayes.
In 1949 pumps were installed at Mr Knowles’ garage “for private car hire.”
Electricity came to Soho and Hollybush in 1954, some eight years after it had been installed in the main village.
Two world wars changed the character of the village, agriculture became the primary industry, the fields were ploughed up and used for the production of crops to feed the population.
However, after the Second World War there was great push to build both houses and transport routes. A new type of entrepreneur arrived in the district buying out the small local quarry owners. These newcomers had a different perception of the land that they were plundering and soon the small quarries which had been given open ended permissions were being worked by multinational firms who brought workers from elsewhere to run their ever more complicated machinery, and local quarry men lost out. Those jobs which had been filled by early quarrying were lost and there was the same lack of jobs locally as had been seen with the industrialisation of the woollen trade two hundred years before. Coal mining, which had flourished during the nineteenth century, also declined. Those jobs which had been filled by early quarrying and coal mining were now at risk.
Sadly the new quarrying methods also damaged this gentle landscape and continues to so do. The careful husbandry of the land, which typifys the eastern Mendip villages has been diminished and the tranquil rural nature of the area has been brutalised.
We,in our brash 21st century, have damaged so much which should have been left in trust for future generations. Clean air and water, taken for granted in earlier times, natural pasturage and woodland where ordinary people could recharge their batteries have been superceded by traffic noise and light pollution. Our very landscapes have been damaged to supply roads for a workforce which commutes, by car, to the towns for work and entertainment and which demands ever increasing quantities of dwellings to house an inflated population. A working landscape has become an over exploited, over governed, dormitory waste land and devourer of our valuable natural resources.
1327 Willelmo Alford (Mells Lay Subsidies)
1519 Alford Place owned by William Carent. Leased by James Bisse.
1519: Note: Will of Philip Bysse of Stoke St Michael dated 18/1/1519.
“ To James Bisse, my nephew, all the right and title and tenure of my years which I have in that tenement in Lee Super Mendeppe called ‘Alford Place’, with all the land, closes, meadows etc with mountain land and other appurtenances which I have of the lease of William Carent,esq. And all my charter to have and to hold to the said James and his assigns forever.”
1544 James Bisse acquired an estate consisting of the Manor of Batcombe.
1627 Leased by Philip Raynes of Philip Baynton.
1657 John Ashman
“A dwelling house and buildings & two acres called Orchard Well”
1691 Lease to John Cornish.
1847 “Norman’s dole”.
A thatched dwelling with Dairy, kitchen, cheese room, three ‘dormitories, stable, 2 waggon sheds, skilling, barn, strawyard, pond and two pig styes.
1750 Lease to Tobias Treasure. (£8.00)
1783 Leased to Henry Samson
“ Dwelling house, barn, stables, gardens.”
1841 Thomas Nicholas
1861 William Turner
SOHO (Toby’s)(1690s) The term Soho predates Tallyho and is a hunting term.
1762 William Baynton
1763 Tobias Treasure.
1831 Owner Thomas Horner
Lease to William Cash
1841 George Warr
1859 Thomas Horner Leased to John Millward.
Stone and tiled farmhouse containing dining room;kitchen;scullery;Dairy; 4 bedrooms;2 attics; Bathroom & W.C.
Outbuildings - Waggon 'hovel'; Trap house; Fodder store & mixing room; Stone & pantile cow stalls; stone & tile milk room; 3 stalled cart horse stable with loose box; stone & tile root house with loft; cowstalls.
Built by Edmund Spark
1777 late Mrs Sparkes, Philip Stevens
1802 late John Season
1831 Owner Thomas Horner
Leased to William Abraham
1871 Edmund Abraham
1923 Mr Abel.
Stone and tile containing Drawingroom, Diningroom,Kitchen, Washhouse with copper, Dairy, Cheeseroom, three bedrooms and rwo attics. Brick and tiled outbuildings comprise Waggon shed, cow stalls, piggeries, stable with loft, mixing shed and a cooling room.
1689 Built by BTM.
1919 Harry Cary
1871 George Harding
Stone and tile farmhouse containing Parlour; livingroom; back kitchen; dairy; pantry; cheese room; six bedrooms.
8 stone and tiled piggeries; yard; farrowing box; cow stalls; bullbox; garage; mealhouse; cart house; stable; grinding house; 6 pig sties; cow house; Timber and tiled mixing shed; 2 calving boxes; timber and iron roofed cow house. Orchard.
1628 Thomas Watts
1782 Lease to Elizabeth Baynton.
1831 Owner Thomas Baynton
Lease to Daniel Watts
1841 Owner Mary Baynton,
Lease to Daniel Watts
1861 Daniel Watts
1871 Alfred Davis
1919 Harry Cary
1758 Joseph Allwood
1762 Sarah Cornish
1762 Sarah Cornish
1762 Luke Ashman
1793 Luke Ashman
1841 Joseph Ashman
Lease to John Cornish
1831 John Cornish
WHITEHOLE Stone, tiled farmhouse containing Parlour, Kitchen, Dairy,washhouse with copper, three bedrooms and a cheese room. Outside a stable, open shed, piggery with yard, cow house with calving box.
1782 Leased to Thomas Parfitt.
1793 William Parfitt
1861 John Green
1866 Emanuel Green
1871 Martha Green
1923 Mr S.A. Craddock.
Small holding. Stone & tiled cottage. Garden & Paddock.
Beards & George Moon
1923 Mr W. Button
TADHILL HOUSE FARM
This building had been a coaching Inn with an allied farm. It was called "The George and Pilgrim" originally.
1841 Owner Robert Cox
Leased to Charles Nuth
1871 Charles Britten
KNAPHILL ( The Saxon word cnaep or knap means a short, sharp, hill).
1780s William Watts
1851 Sarah Butt
1871 John Lewis
TWEED Built of stone with a tiled roof, contains diningroom, sittingroom,small kitchen, pantry and cellar and five bedrooms. Coal and woodsheds outside. Implement shed, trap house, cow shed, cowhouse with loft, five bay open shed, three piggeries and a meal house. Stone & Thatched cottage.
1861-1871 John Cosh
1923 John Harris
1750 Mr Loder
1793 Mrs Flower
1827 Owned by William Batt
Leased to George Wilcox
1851 George Harding
1861 Henry Cosh
1866 Henry Cosh
1871 Henry Cosh
Philip Cottington died 1562
1588/9 Margaret Cottington died
Thomas Bridges died 1628
Thomas Bridges died 1706
1784 John Season
1794 John Season (A Map dated 1784 was produced for John Season incorporating Greathouse Farm and "George Ellery's land"
1841 Owner Sir Edward Baker,leased to Olorenshaw
Farmhouse: Stone and tiled with parlour; kitchen; dairy; scullery; cheeseroom; 3 bedrooms; outside wood and coal shed. Yard; stone and tiled two bay waggon shed; 2 stall stable; 4 pig styes;cow hoouse and mixing room.
1923 Mrs Powis.
Philip Cottington will published 1562 naming his ? eight children and leaving the bulk of his estate to his widow Margaret/Margery nee Middlecott. (She had previously been married to Thomas Burges/Bridges who had made a will in 1543).
Philip(who purchased an estate at Godminster in 1569). Married to ? Stafford.Father of Francis, Lord Cottington.
Edward inherited lands at Leigh on Mendip from his mother in 1589. Married to Alice Webb. Will of Edward Cottington dated 16/6/1608 proved 20/6/1609. to "My cousin, James, son of John Cottington, his sister Sarah, my neice, under 21, my cousin Henry Cottington....... The Residue with my mansion, lands etc to my cousin James Cottington, son of my brother Philip Cottington of Godminster (in Pitcombe) he be my heir and executor. My said brother, Philip, and my cousin Thomas Walton, of Baltonsborough, overseers.
John (who purchased lands at Egford, Frome). Died in 1589 leaving his son Henry in the care of his brother, Edward.
Sylvester Dackcombe. Will dated 1595.
Anne Dackcombe. Will dated 1585 in which she left bequests to"her sister Dorothy."
? Alice Bridges , wife of Thomas Bridges.
October 1584 marriage of William Raynes and Gillian Cabble.
1593 Burial Francis Raynes.
1597 Burial Joane Raynes.
William Raynes, of Leigh on Mendip, Somerset, gent.
Will dated 31/8/1630 proved 29/11/1630 by Philip Raynes.
Son Hugh & his four children - Hester, Sarah, Alice & Lidia; John & Francis Raynes, sons and Dorothy the daughter of John Raynes decd. My son in law George Samson. My daughter Ann Samson. My sister Edith Hooper. My son Philip Raines.
1630 Templehouse farm leased to Baynton by Philip Raynes (Originally from Mells).
1670 Baptism of Francis son of William & Margery
1671 Burial of Edward Raynes and Mrs Joane Raines.
1673 Baptism Samuel son of William & Margery.
1678 Burial Philip Raynes
1683 Burial Philip Raynes.
John Raynes ? built Lantern Cottage in 1698.
1714 John Raynes
1717 Philip & John Raynes
1730 John Raynes
1774 Philip & William Raynes
1779 James Raynes
1796 Isaac Raynes
1780s George, Joseph & John Raynes
1799 Philip & William Raynes
ASHMAN FAMILY:(The word Ashman is from the Saxon meaning producer of Potash.)
1618 Death of Elizabeth Ashman at Leigh.
John & William Ashman
1675 John & John (junior) Ashman
1676 John & Thomas Ashman
1693 John Ashman
Luke Ashman - at Allwoods.
1788 Ann Aishman - Bell Inn
1793 Luke Ashman & Robert Ashman “late of Wornalls”
Will of John Baynton of Whatley: to “my father John Baynton, the elder, of Whatley; my uncle Robert Ashman of Bath…..My wife Betsy….”
Robert Ashman late Wornalls ?
1836 Thirza Ashman born.
1845 Jacob Ashman, (steam maker) son of James (gardener)married Anna Britten (servant), daughter of John Lewis, (butcher).
1846 Joseph Ashman aged 35, widower, (carpenter) son of Luke (Yeoman), married Sarah Derham daughter of William Derham of Tadhill.
1876 John and Kezia Ashman married.
Walter Henry son of Frank & Naomi.
1916 Gordon Ashman born.
1786: John Baynton married Lydia Ashman.
1827: Jane Baynton, sisters Ann Williams & Mary Coombs.
1826: John Baynton of Whatley married Betsy Bennett.John died in 1829 and his widow married his brother Thomas. Three brothers - Thomas, Charles & Isaac. Robert Ashman (of Bath) was John’s uncle.
1831: Thomas Baynton of Leigh on Mendip dwelt at Baynton Farm (Templehouse) with Mary Baynton.
1832: Charles Baynton, esq., Army Captain, married Anna Maria Cooper.
Lawrence Baynton married Sophia Cooper.
1846: Nehemiah Baynton (labourer) son of George Baynton married Isabella Lane daughter of William Lane of Downhead.
1849: Anne Baynton of Frome. Sarah Ayres, widow, daughter of Anne Baynton.
ALLWOOD FAMILY (Originally from Cloford)
1542: Lands at Cloford - Nicholas Alwodde to Richard Alwoode.
1542: Nicholas Alwoode to Walter Alwoode - tenement and lands at Cloford.
1773: Will of William Watts - to my first cousins Thomas Allwood,Jacob Allwood 2 Guineas each.
1814: William Watts married ? Allwood.
1836: Betsey Richardson sister of Allwood Watts.
1841: Joseph Allwood wife Mary Watts, daughter Elizabeth.
1471: Robert Brown.
1538: John Brown willed his rents from Leigh on Mendip.
1543: Will of John Brown(e) of Bristol proved. Beneficiaries were his brother Robert, his sister Isabel Cole, his sister Elizabeth (executor), his neices Isabel and Elizabeth, his nephew Richard.
1588 William Brown(e) buried at Leigh
1589 Alice Brown (e) buried at Leigh
1599 Joane Brown (e) buried at Leigh
1679 Roger, son of James & Eleanor baptised.
1693: William & James Brown(e).
1693: Philip Browne - Ale keeper.
1788: Martha Brown
1793-1799: John Brown - the Manor of French House (Whatley/Chantry).
1829: Will of Mrs Brown of Whatley: witnessed by John Baynton
1829: Mrs Tabitha Brown of Leigh on Mendip (retired dress maker) grandmother of three Ashman children.
1717 John Season
1784 William Season
1792-1799 John Season paying rent for Grove Shute and other lands, including "late Bridges".
1792-1799 William Season paying rent.
1793 Estate called Leigh Side belongs to John Season
1802 "Late John Seasons"
1830 George Season - saddler.
1859 Henry (farmer)
1861 Henry - Collar & Harness Maker and Grocer. (Lantern Cottage)
1871 William Season
1872 Henry *- Grocer,Bacon & Cheese Factor and Saddler.
1875 Henry " " " " "
1882 Martha daughter of William and Anne Season died aged 37
1886 William Henry Season died aged 70
1896 Anne Season, wife of the above, died aged 78
1909 Betsy Lewis daughter of Philip & Mary Season
Connection with the Moon family, the marriage of George Moon Season son of Henry Season * to Sarah Kate Derham during the 1870s/1880s.
1541 Edward Watts buried at Shepton Mallet.
1566 William Watts death & burial at Leigh on Mendip
1590 John Watts " " " "
1595 Mark Watts " " " "
1599 Alice Watts " " " "
1599 Elinore Watts " " " "
1641/42 Nicholas Watts
1663 Mary daughter of - Watts
1663 William & Hannah Watts
1670 William Watts
1679 Alice Watts baptism
1693 Samuel Watts of Leigh on Mendip
1699 Nicholas Watts
1701 Death of Samuel Watts "Merchant of London" Buried at Doulting.
1708 William Watts son of William Watts married Eliza Jane ?
1716 Thomas Watts
1721 William Watts
THE CLARKE FAMILY
1696 Joseph Clarke (Alehouse Keeper)
1698 William Clarke (Out Baker)
1777 John Clarke (Constable)
1795 John Clarke (Stocking Maker)
1851 Jane Clarke (Dressmaker)
1897 William Clarke (Bell Captain)
1925 H. Clarke (School Manager)
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS (To follow)
Great house farm
Cottington Tomb (Westminster Abbey).
Bell Ringers notice
Photograph Bell Ringers
County Records Office
Local History Library,Taunton.
Paget Papers - Bristol University Special Collections.
Horner Archives - Courtesy of Lord Oxford, Mells.
Somerset & Dorset Notes and Queries.
Glastonbury Abbey Cartulary.
General view of Agriculture of the County of Somerset (1795) John Billingsley
Feet of Fines
State Papers Domestic.
Somerset Assize Rolls.
Exchequer of Lay subsudies.
Certificate of Musters.
Enclosure & Reclamation of the Mendip Hills (1770-1870) by Michael Williams
The works of Daniel Defoe.
Mediaeval England - Beresford & Joseph.
The History of the Rebellion and the Civil War in England. By Edward, Earl of Clarendon (1641).
Kelly’s County Directories.
Bristol & District Postal Directories
Morris’s Directory & Gazetteer.
Extinct & Dormant Baronetcies - John Burke,Esq. (1830)
Dormant & Extinct Baronages - T.C. Banks (1809)
Somerset & the Armada - Emanuel Green (1888)
Leigh school log books.
Leigh on Mendip Parish Council records.
The Woollen & Worsted Industries - Lipson
The Cloth Industry in the West of England - J. de L Mann.
Members of Parliament for the County of Somerset 1939