A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.
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The ancient parish of Kingsdon, sometimes known in the 16th and 17th centuries as Kingsdon Cary, (fn. 1) had an area given as 1,870 a. in 1841. (fn. 2) Evidently this total did not account for the inclosure of Southmead c. 1803, which amounted to 194 a. in the parish. (fn. 3) In 1885 parts of Kingsmoor and two small areas in the east of Somerton were added, (fn. 4) and the parish was estimated at 2,330 a. in 1901. (fn. 5) The parish lies 2½ miles south-east of Somerton and 2 miles north of Ilchester, being bounded by Charlton Mackrell on the north and east, Ilchester and Northover on the south, and Long Sutton and Somerton on the west and north-west. It is of irregular shape: 3½ miles from north to south, 1½ mile wide in the north, and 2 miles at its widest point in the south.
The soil is principally clay over lias with Rhaetic clay and Keuper Marl in the extreme north and estuarine alluvium along the banks of the river Cary to the east. (fn. 6) The highest point in the parish is 287 ft. in the north-west on Kingsdon hill, from which the parish probably takes its name. To the north and north-east to Kingsdon wood, and east to Nut hill and Hally hill, the ground slopes gradually downwards and then drops more sharply to the river Cary. The village, on the south-west side of Kingsdon hill, lies between the 175 ft. and 125 ft. contours. Further south the land falls away towards Southmead and apart from a slight rise at Bondip hill the south of the parish lies generally at about 50 ft. Apart from rivers bounding the parish, it is watered only by shallow rhines and ditches.
The eastern and northern boundary of the parish is formed by the river Cary and its tributary, Park brook; the extreme southern boundary beyond Southmead by the river Yeo. A stretch of the western boundary follows Lime Pit Lane, a medieval road.
The principal road through the parish runs from Somerton to Ilchester, entering Kingsdon in the north-west, crossing Kingsdon hill, passing west of the village to Red Post Cross, over Bondip hill, and out of the parish in the south. From Red Post Cross southwards the road formed part of the Ilchester turnpike from 1753. (fn. 7) The remainder was adopted by the Langport, Somerton, and Castle Cary turnpike trust from 1777–8. (fn. 8) The LangportWincanton road enters the parish in the west near Catsgore, runs south of the village to Red Post Cross and over the eastern boundary. The western section to Red Post Cross was turnpiked in 1792, the eastern in 1824, also by the Langport, Somerton, and Castle Cary trust. (fn. 9) Turnpike gates formerly stood at the northern approach to Kingsdon hill and at Catsgore. (fn. 10) Kingsdon village now lies east of the Somerton-Ilchester road, although it seems likely that the main route once passed through the village. Wood Lane or Quarry Lane and Underwood Road, subsequently Nuthill Lane, both run north from the village to Kingsdon wood and Nut hill respectively, and Henley Road runs north-east from the village to Cary bridge and Lytes Cary. Mill Lane leaves the Somerton road on the north side of Kingsdon hill and runs south-east, crossing Wood Lane at the old quarry, meeting Henley Road at a point known as Halley or Holy Cross, (fn. 11) and continuing beyond as Park Lane, mentioned in 1608. (fn. 12)
The village is roughly triangular in shape, its western limit formed by High or Top Street, the northern by Pound Street at North Town, and the south-eastern by Bottom Street (Tarrs Lane in 1861) (fn. 13) and Manor Close. Middle Street runs south through the centre of the village to Chapel Street, the latter crossing from east to west and meeting High Street at Pie or Pike Corner. At its eastern end Chapel Street leaves the village and turns south, passing Langlands Farm to become Frog Lane. (fn. 14) Another lane south of Chapel Street links Manor Close and High Street. Originally Chapel Street ran along the southern edge of Bondip Farm but in the 19th century it was turned south to meet High Street near the church. (fn. 15) Similarly Frog Lane formerly continued south from Langlands Farm through the grounds of Kingsdon Manor to meet Lodge Road, but the lanes in this area were diverted in 1833 to avoid Kingsdon Manor and its gardens. (fn. 16)
In the earlier 19th century the whole parish was intersected by a maze of tracks and footpaths serving the common fields, particularly in the south and south-west, (fn. 17) but many of these have been closed.
Of the three open arable fields of the 16th century, (fn. 18) North field comprised most of the north and north-east of the parish, bounded on the southwest by the Somerton–Ilchester road, Mill Lane, and Park Lane, excluding most of Kingsdon wood and Huish in the extreme north and parts of Ruttle ('Ruttle Hyll' or 'Reddelhyll' in 1563) (fn. 19) and Groundhams ('Gromeham' or 'Gromonham' in 1563), (fn. 20) but including North Town furlong immediately north of the village, Nut Hill, Hally Hill ('Halowyll' in 1563, 'Hallow Hill' in 1598–9) (fn. 21) and Okey Land. West field was bounded on the north and northeast by the Somerton–Ilchester road and Mill Lane, on the east by Wood Lane, the village, Lodge Road, and the Somerton–Ilchester road again, to Red Post Cross, on the south by the LangportWincanton road, and on the west by the parish boundary. South or East field (fn. 22) cannot be precisely located but appears to have lain south-east of the village, bounded on the north and east by Park Lane and the parish boundary, stretching south of the Langport–Wincanton road to Wheatland. (fn. 23) Open pasture lay at Huish in the extreme north and generally in the south of the parish, including Witch, Dark Pits ('Derpitte' in 1508), (fn. 24) Nidens ('Nethon' in 1563, 'Neythen' in 1587), (fn. 25) Middle moors, Brinshill ('Brounshulle' in 1321), (fn. 26) Edmonds Hill ('Eadmoreshulle' in 1321), (fn. 27) Chinnocks Hill, Southmoor, and Bondip ('Bondelypp' in 1563). (fn. 28) Open and common meadow lay at Southmead ('Brodemeade' alias South mede' in 1563, 'of old called Pill meade' in 1617) (fn. 29) and Middle moors in the south of the parish, at Huish in the north, and in smaller plots elsewhere. There was also common pasture at 'Northmore', probably by the Cary beyond the north-western boundary, and common waste at the northern end of the village known as North Town in 1656 (fn. 30) and as Kingsdon green in 1810. (fn. 31)
Kingsdon wood in the north of the parish was 60 a. in extent in 1353 (fn. 32) but had shrunk to 40 a. by 1563. (fn. 33) It was this depletion which probably led to the regulation of tree felling there. In 1608 the tenant of the wood was ordered to fell a certain agreed quantity of timber in each year and the price at which this was to be sold had to be assessed by the other tenants. (fn. 34) In 1592 and 1639 occupiers of the wood were presented for cutting too much (fn. 35) and by the 18th century saplings were being planted to replace timber that had been felled. (fn. 36) The wood remained relatively stable in extent, comprising 38 a. in 1783, (fn. 37) and was let for shooting in 1971. (fn. 38)
The principal evidence for Roman settlement in the parish is provided by two villas recorded by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and probably discovered by Samuel Hasell in the 19th century, (fn. 39) the first supposed to lie west of the village and the SomertonIlchester road, and the second located in the north-east of the parish at Hally hill, near the banks of the river Cary. (fn. 40) Kingsdon village lies in the centre of the parish on the south-eastern slopes of Kingsdon hill, and remains the only area of settlement. Initial development probably took place along High Street, subsequently spreading further downhill to the south-east. The earliest surviving domestic architecture dates from the early 17th century and references to the building of cottages at the northern and southern extremities of the village occur in the manor court rolls of that period. (fn. 41) All the farmhouses lie in the village, with the exception of Springfield farm to the south-west, created out of the open fields in the mid 19th century. (fn. 42) The Congregational chapel (fn. 43) and school (fn. 44) both stand on the south side of Chapel Street, Kingsdon Cary manor-house (fn. 45) lay on the eastern edge of the village, and Kingsdon Manor (fn. 46) to the south. Modern houses have been built along Underwood Road north of the village, and to the south-west near Kingsdon Manor.
There was an alehouse in the parish in 1694 (fn. 47) and between 1736 and 1738. (fn. 48) Another was closed in 1748 because of disorderly conduct there. (fn. 49) An inn mentioned in 1755 was known as the Black Swan from 1763 to 1769, the Swan in 1776, and the White Swan in 1778. (fn. 50) A second public house, the Malt Shovel, was licensed during the years 1763–5, and the New Inn occurs in 1769. (fn. 51) Beer retailers in the parish are mentioned from 1859 (fn. 52) and the present Kingsdon inn in Middle Street is first recorded in 1897. (fn. 53)
The building stone is generally the local blue lias, formerly quarried in the parish. (fn. 54) The village retains a number of 17th- and early-18th-century houses with lias walls, most of which also have thatched roofs. There is a variety of two and threeroomed plans, similar to those which occur in Pitney and Huish, with both internal and gable chimneys. Of particular interest is Oak Cottage which has two rooms on the ground floor, each with a gable fireplace, and a central passage flanked on one side by a plank and muntin wall and on the other by a wall of lapped planks. Park Cottage retains many of its ovolo moulded wooden windowframes of the early 18th century. Many of the present outbuildings in the village were once cottages and others are now derelict, illustrating the effects of 19th-century depopulation. In 1868 more cottages were needed; many were allowed to fall down and their occupants moved to Somerton, 'where women would rather they lived'. (fn. 55)
A bowling green is mentioned in 1777 (fn. 56) and lay south of the rectory and churchyard. (fn. 57) The pastime was popular in the parish as early as 1619, when six men were fined 6d. each at the hundred court for playing bowls. (fn. 58) There was a miniature rifle club in the village in 1914. (fn. 59) The Kingsdon Friendly Society was founded in 1834. (fn. 60) The former infant school on the church path was used as a reading room in the early 20th century. (fn. 61)
In 1624 there were 216 communicants in the parish. (fn. 62) The population was about 450 in 1791, (fn. 63) and 455 in 1801. Thereafter the figure rose to 610 in 1831 but subsequently declined to 252 in 1901. (fn. 64) After the First World War the population remained stable, but since 1931 has risen slightly, reaching 313 in 1951, and 312 in 1961. (fn. 65)
After the Civil War Thomas Hurd and his son Thomas compounded for their estates in the sum of £186 for 'adhering to the King's party'. (fn. 66) At the time of Monmouth's rebellion the churchwardens paid 11s. 6d. for the relief and quartering of the King's soldiers, and 2s. 6d. to the pressmaster to redeem a horse plough. (fn. 67)
Manors. (fn. 68)
At the time of Domesday KINGSDON appears to have formed part of the royal manor of Somerton, (fn. 69) although there is no positive evidence to identify the manor with one of three estates mentioned as members of Somerton in 1066 (fn. 70) or to indicate when the separation from the royal manor took place. The overlordship may have been held with the honor of Gloucester c. 1284–6, (fn. 71) but the descent has not been traced thereafter.
The senior branch of the Gouvis family probably held the mesne lordship by 1194, at which date their cadet branch was in possession of the lordship itself. (fn. 72) William (I) de Gouvis (d. c. 1194) was elsewhere succeeded in turn by his son Robert (I) (d. by 1229) and grandson Robert (II) (d. by 1241). (fn. 73) The mesne lordship is first recorded in 1265 when it was held by Robert's son William (II) de Gouvis (d. 1298–9). (fn. 74) Thence it passed to the elder of William's two daughters, Joan wife of Sir John de Latimer (d. 1326), (fn. 75) whose son Sir Robert (I) (d. 1361) (fn. 76) and grandson Sir Robert (II) occur as mesne lord in 1353 and 1407 respectively. (fn. 77) The subsequent descent has not been traced precisely but the mesne lordship was held by the earl of Salisbury in 1436, (fn. 78) by William Carent in 1458, (fn. 79) and by the prior of St. Swithun's, Winchester, in 1502. (fn. 80)
The lordship of the manor was evidently granted by the senior branch of the Gouvis family to their cousins, (fn. 81) although the exact relationship has not been determined. In 1194 the manor was seized by the Crown from Brian (I) de Gouvis, possibly son and successor of Richard de Gouvis (d. 1176–7), in consequence of his revolt against Richard I in 1193. (fn. 82) The Gouvis estates were probably restored on John's accession in 1199. Brian was succeeded in turn by his sons, Brian (II) and Roger de Gouvis (d. 1231). (fn. 83) Brian (III), son of Roger, leased Kingsdon to Geoffrey de Fanacourt for 12 years, and Avice, countess of Devon, claimed it in 1280 by assignment. (fn. 84) The case was resolved by a grant to the countess for one year (1280–1). (fn. 85) A substantial grant from the manor, if not the manor itself, comprising 7 carucates, was made in 1283 by Brian (III) to his second son Brian (IV), in return for a pension of £60 a year. (fn. 86) Richard de Gouvis, eldest son of Brian (III), predeceased his father, (fn. 87) leaving an only daughter Margery, wife of Robert du Boys. (fn. 88) On the death of Brian (IV) c. 1293 Robert and Margery du Boys took possession but were ejected by the mesne lord when Brian's widow produced a posthumous heir, Brian (V) de Gouvis. (fn. 89) Subsequent efforts by the du Boys family to secure the child's person and his wardship were unsuccessful. (fn. 90) In 1345 Brian (V) leased the manor for 12 years to Roger Turtle, a Bristol merchant (d. c. 1347). (fn. 91) Turtle's executor, Robert de Gyen of Bristol (d. 1353), succeeded to the term, (fn. 92) but his estates were seized by the Crown in 1352 for his withholding money from the King. (fn. 93) The remainder of the lease was granted to Sir Guy Brien in 1353, (fn. 94) and he purchased the fee in that year from Brian (VI) de Gouvis. (fn. 95)
In 1386 Brien (d. 1390) settled the manor on his son William, who died in 1395. (fn. 96) The Brien estates were then divided between Sir Guy's granddaughters and Kingsdon passed to Philippe, wife successively of Sir John de Ros (d. 1396) and Henry Scrope of Masham (Yorks.). (fn. 97) On Philippe's death in 1406 her lands passed to her sister Elizabeth, wife of Robert Lovell, (fn. 98) and in 1407 this couple settled a life interest on Henry Scrope (d. 1415). (fn. 99) Lovell's only child Maud (d. 1436) married first Sir Richard Stafford (d. c. 1427), leaving an only daughter Avice, and secondly John d'Arundel, earl of Arundel (d. 1435), by whom she had a son Humphrey. (fn. 100) On Humphrey's death in 1438 the manor passed to his half-sister Avice, wife of James Butler, earl of Ormond (cr. earl of Wiltshire, 1449), who in 1445 settled it on their issue with remainder to the right heirs of James. (fn. 101) Avice died childless in 1457 and the manor was forfeited to the Crown after the earl of Wiltshire's execution in 1461. (fn. 102) In 1462 it was granted to William Neville, earl of Kent, who died in the following year. It was then conveyed to George, duke of Clarence, subject to a pension granted as jointure in 1470 to Eleanor, countess of Wiltshire. (fn. 103) On Clarence's attainder in 1478 a life interest was granted to Eleanor, then wife of Sir Robert Spencer. (fn. 104)
In 1488 an agreement was reached between the surviving descendants of Sir Guy Brien for the partition of the estate between them, by which the reversion of Kingsdon was allotted to Thomas Butler, earl of Ormond, Eleanor's brother-in-law. (fn. 105) Ormond succeeded on Eleanor's death in 1501, (fn. 106) and by his will the manor passed in 1515 to Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland (d. 1527), husband of Eleanor's daughter and coheir Catherine. (fn. 107) In 1528 the manor was sold by the earl of Northumberland to Thomas Arundell, later of Wardour (Wilts.). (fn. 108) On Arundell's execution in 1552 (fn. 109) it was granted to Edward Fiennes, Lord Clinton and Saye (d. 1585), who sold it back to the Crown only eight months later. (fn. 110) Arundell's widow received a life grant of the manor in 1553, (fn. 111) the reversion going to her son Matthew (later Sir Matthew) Arundell in the following year. (fn. 112) His son Thomas (cr. lord Arundell of Wardour, 1605) succeeded him in 1598, (fn. 113) and his grandson Thomas, Lord Arundell, in 1639. (fn. 114) The latter died in 1643 fighting for the royalist cause, but Kingsdon was saved from sequestration by its sale to trustees in 1653. (fn. 115) It was regranted to the Arundells at the Restoration (fn. 116) and thereafter continued in the family. It was sold by Henry, Lord Arundell (d. 1808), to Aaron Moody (d. 1829) of Southampton in 1801, (fn. 117) and his son C. A. Moody conveyed it to William Neal of London in 1864. (fn. 118) On Neal's death in 1890 the manor passed in turn to his sons Capt. William Neal (d. 1901) and the Revd. John Neal (d. 1916). (fn. 119) The latter was succeeded by his son J. F. Neal (d. 1919) and by his grandson J. S. Neal (d. 1942). (fn. 120) The lordship was held by the trustees of the Neal estate in 1971. (fn. 121)
The medieval manor-house probably stood immediately north of the churchyard in a field called Culverhay. (fn. 122) A dovecot belonging to the lord of the manor, mentioned in 1353, (fn. 123) stood in a field of that name in 1598–9 (fn. 124) and 1773. (fn. 125) The house was burnt down probably shortly before 1552 when the demesne lands were split up and leased to the tenants. (fn. 126) In 1827 Kingsdon House, occupied by the lord of the manor, stood at the south-western edge of the village. (fn. 127) C. A. Moody rebuilt the house further south before 1833, when the village roads were diverted around the grounds. (fn. 128) The architect was believed to have been William Wilkins and the lias stone used was quarried on the site. (fn. 129) Shortly after the purchase of the estate in 1864 William Neal 'reconstructed and greatly enlarged' the building, known as Kingsdon Manor from c. 1902. (fn. 130) It was sold to Bristol Corporation in 1952 and was occupied by Kingsdon Manor school in 1971. (fn. 131) The present house is built of stone with slate roof. It has two and three storeys, having two slightly projecting wings with pediments and an open parapet to the centre of the building.
The Cary family appear to have held lands in Kingsdon from the 12th century. Henry son of Gormund of Cary owned property there in the time of King John, and was succeeded in turn by Adam of Cary and his son John (I) of Cary. (fn. 132) John (II) of Cary held lands in Kingsdon in 1308, (fn. 133) and it was probably his son John (III) who paid 5s. for his lands there in 1327, when the Gouvis holding was taxed at 6s. (fn. 134) John's son William died without issue and was succeeded by his uncle Thomas (d. 1356). (fn. 135) He was followed in turn by his sons Sir Thomas (d. 1361) (fn. 136) and John (IV), of Bluntshay in Whitchurch Canonicorum (Dors.). (fn. 137) In 1375 John (IV) sold his lands in Kingsdon to Sir John Mautravers of Hooke (Dors.) (d. 1386). (fn. 138) Mautravers was followed by his daughters and coheirs Maud (d. 1406) and Elizabeth, the latter succeeding her sister and marrying Sir Humphrey Stafford of Hooke (d. 1442). (fn. 139) In the 15th century the estate was known as the manor of KINGSDON or KINGSDON CARY. (fn. 140) On Sir Humphrey's death the manor passed to his third son William (fn. 141) but at William's request was conveyed in 1444 to his niece Avice, countess of Ormond, then owner of the larger manor of Kingsdon. (fn. 142) On her death without issue in 1457 the manor evidently passed in turn to Humphrey (d. 1461), son of Sir John Stafford, and to Humphrey (cr. earl of Devon, 1469, d. 1469), son of William Stafford. (fn. 143) The earl was succeeded by his cousin and coheir Eleanor, wife of Thomas Strangways of Stinsford (Dors.) (d. 1484). (fn. 144) Their grandson Sir Giles Strangways (d. 1547) was owner in 1543, (fn. 145) and his grandson Sir Giles held Kingsdon Cary at his death in 1562. (fn. 146) The manor then passed successively to John (d. 1593), Sir John (d. 1666), Giles (d. 1675), and Thomas (d. 1713). (fn. 147) Thomas Strangways, son of the last, died without issue in 1726 and the manor descended to his surviving daughter Susanna, wife of Thomas Horner of Mells (subsequently known as Thomas Strangways Horner). (fn. 148) In 1783 it was held by her grandson Henry Thomas FoxStrangways, earl of Ilchester (d. 1802). (fn. 149) It continued to be held by that family until 1864 when the 4th earl conveyed the property to William Pinney of Somerton Erleigh. (fn. 150) By this date the estate had long ceased to enjoy manorial status.
Kingsdon Cary manor-house is first mentioned in 1356. (fn. 151) It lay at the south-eastern edge of the village near Langlands Farm (fn. 152) and is now derelict. The house was known as Cariescourt in 1454, (fn. 153) Kingsdon Farm in 1787, (fn. 154) and later as the Old Manor. It was evidently a rectangular two-storeyed building of lias with Ham stone dressings, and includes a fire-place with a four-centred head which masks an earlier wooden bressummer.
At his death in 1308 Sir John Meriet held the overlordship of two virgates of land each held under him as 1/16 of a fee by Brian (V) de Gouvis and John (II) of Cary. (fn. 155) On the death of Sir John's grandson, Sir John Meriet, in 1369 (fn. 156) the same lands were described as a virgate of land held as 1/5 of a fee by Sir Guy Brien and a carucate of land held as a ¼ of a fee by John (IV) Cary. (fn. 157) The origins and subsequent descents of these holdings have not been traced, but they probably merged with the above two manors.
In 1284–6 the manor of Kingsdon was stated to be held for one 'forthurtha' of the mesne lord, (fn. 158) possibly meaning an outlying area of open land and referring to the former status of the manor in relation to Somerton. The word may survive in the field name Great Forehead in Kingsdon North field, first noted in 1625. (fn. 159) The manor produced an income of £16 in 1194, (fn. 160) and £30 in 1265, the Michaelmas rents then totalling 60s. (fn. 161) The value of the manor in 1353 was £31 8s. 7d of which rents accounted for £24; (fn. 162) demesne lands comprised 305 a. of arable land, 47 a. of meadow, and 60 a. of wood. (fn. 163) When the custody of the manor was granted to Sir Guy Brien in that year, however, deductions from the income amounted to £20 13s. 4d. (fn. 164) By 1502 the value had fallen to £20, (fn. 165) although the rental rose to £43 7s. 3½d. in 1514–15, of which £10 11s. 8d. was derived from the farm of the demesne. (fn. 166)
In 1552 demesne land totalling 233 a. of pasture, 76½ a. of arable, and 23 a. of meadow was parcelled out among 11 leaseholders and 17 copyholders to produce a total rent of £11 7s., (fn. 167) and continued thereafter to be farmed by tenants of the manor. In 1563, discounting the recently divided demesne, there were 8 freeholders with about 170 a., 10 lease holders with 595 a., and 26 copyholders with 817 a., paying total rents of £34 1s. 11d. (fn. 168) Thereafter the income from rents remained stable: £46 3s. 7d. in 1643, (fn. 169) £46 7s. 8½d. in 1711, (fn. 170) and £47 5s. 8½d. in 1783. (fn. 171) Enfranchisements made by the Arundells were probably responsible for a reduction in the rental to £39 7s. 2½d. by 1798. (fn. 172)
In 1563 there were 1,060 a. of arable (all in the three open fields), 528 a. of pasture, and 153 a. of meadow within the manor. (fn. 173) The extent of pasture is significant. In 1615 the inhabitants were pasturing at Northmore in common with the men of Somerton Erleigh, and also in Southmead. (fn. 174)
In the early 17th century Southmead, then about 200 a. in area, was held in common with 14 other lords and freeholders. The lord of Kingsdon held the right to strays, preys, and drifts both there and in Northmore. (fn. 175) In 1610 it was found that 30 years earlier the Pitney tenants of Sir John Hanham had illegally inclosed 9 a. in Southmead, and that 40 years before a further 40 a. there had been inclosed by Somerton tenants. The bailiff and tenants of Kingsdon were therefore ordered to pull down the hedges. (fn. 176) After the breach of Southmead, pasture there was apportioned among the tenants from St. Giles's day (1 September) to Martinmas by the rate of 2 rother beasts, 1 horse, or 4 sheep for each acre held there. Holders of only a yard of ground in the meadow or poor cottagers with no land there were permitted to pasture a rother beast or horse. (fn. 177) All such customs, however, were subject to agreement with the lord of Somerton manor and his tenants. (fn. 178) Various abuses were reformed as they came to light, and an elaborate scale of fines for the breach of many different customs was drawn up in 1616. (fn. 179) A move to inclose Southmead in 1597 to resolve territorial anomalies seems to have come to nothing. (fn. 180)
By 1563 about 250 a. had been inclosed within Kingsdon manor. (fn. 181) Thirty acres of common pasture called Nidens ('Nethon' in 1563) appears to have been inclosed by the lord in the early 16th century, possibly without the consent of his tenants. (fn. 182) Inclosures within Kingsdon manor during the late 16th and early 17th century were generally resisted by the manor court, (fn. 183) and encroachments on the common fields may probably be attributed to the late 17th and early 18th centuries. By the early 19th century only West field (103 a.) of three open arable fields preserved its identity, North field was composed of more scattered plots totalling 111 a., and South or East field had been almost entirely inclosed. (fn. 184) It was stated c. 1800 that the land here was 'of an inferior quality, yet very much improveable and capable of being much better laid out and the common fields divided'. (fn. 185) Meadow and pasture totalling 119 a. and principally in Southmead was inclosed c. 1803 by an award made in 1829. (fn. 186) The Kingsdon Inclosure Award of 1810 regulated the inclosure of 294 a., of which nearly 259 a. were arable. (fn. 187) Conversion to grassland evidently took place during the earlier 19th century and by 1839 the parish contained 1,057 a. of meadow and pasture and only 780 a. of arable. (fn. 188) This trend continued during the 19th century and by 1905 grassland had increased to 1,243 a., and arable had shrunk still further to 451 a. (fn. 189)
Medieval land tenure was principally on three lives. (fn. 190) By 1563 copyhold tenements were held on 1, 2, 3, or 4 lives, but in 1552 ten leases for 99 years absolute were granted. (fn. 191) Conversion to leasehold continued during the 17th century, and by 1726 only 32 tenements were copyhold and 61 leasehold. (fn. 192) Of these leasehold tenements 25 were held on lives and 36 on 99 years or lives. (fn. 193) However, by 1761 the trend had been reversed, for although copyholds had shrunk to 26, there were 41 leases on lives and only 25 on 99 years or lives. (fn. 194)
The dominant holding within the parish has always been the Kingsdon manor estate. In 1563 it comprised about 1,784 a., (fn. 195) in 1656 1,976 a., (fn. 196) in 1839 1,649 a., (fn. 197) and in 1971 about 1,500 a. (fn. 198) In 1563 within the manor there were 3 holdings over 100 a. (the largest of 121 a.), 20 between 20 a. and 100 a., and 13 tenants holding less than 20 a. (fn. 199) By 1783 there were 2 farms of 355 a. and 135 a., 17 tenements between 60 a. and 100 a., and 26 tenants holding less than 20 a. (fn. 200) By 1734 the principal occupier of lands within the parish was George Hilborne (d. 1741). (fn. 201) His family occurs at Kingsdon in the late 13th century as 'Hillebrond', (fn. 202) and received a grant of arms in 1708. (fn. 203) George's tenements passed to his sister Dorothy (d. 1749), wife of James Hare of Bristol, (fn. 204) whose only child Mary married Christopher Jolliffe (d. 1799). (fn. 205) Jolliffe occupied 355 a. on the manor estate in 1783 and was the most prominent freeholder. (fn. 206) His son, James Hare Jolliffe (d. 1836), temporarily occupied the manor-house. (fn. 207)
Kingsdon Cary manor comprised 125 a. in 1454, (fn. 208) 120 a. in 1563, (fn. 209) and 107 a. in 1864. (fn. 210) The only other sizable holding in 1598–9 was that of Thomas Browning, which contained 50 a. (fn. 211) By 1827, the Jolliffes having left the parish, the manor estate had been reorganized and contained three farms of over 200 a. and four farms of between 100 a. and 200 a. (fn. 212) By 1839, apart from Kingsdon manor itself, there were four farms of over 200 a. and one of 176 a. (fn. 213) Springfield farm, created in the mid 19th century, which the Neals kept in hand under a bailiff, (fn. 214) included about 400 a. in 1861 and was sold early in the 20th century. (fn. 215) In 1971 the manor estate comprised Bondip farm (285 a.), Sunnyside farm (264 a.), Langlands farm (242 a.), Park farm (183 a.), Cottage farm (150 a.), and Stoneleigh farm (119 a.). Lands of 185 a. attached to Manor farm were split up among the other estate farms in 1971. (fn. 216)
In 1552 there was a common quarry for lias in the parish, (fn. 217) although taking stone was restricted by the manor court, which in the early 17th century granted licences to dig on the payment of fines. (fn. 218) Elizabeth Hilborne (d. 1750) left her quarries at Pitts, south-east of Kingsdon Green, to her sons, (fn. 219) one of whom rendered a fine to the lord for selling stones out of the manor in 1775. (fn. 220) James Sansom paid regularly for licence to quarry stone on Kingsdon Green between 1780 and 1798. (fn. 221) Masons in the parish occur regularly during the 19th century, (fn. 222) but the stone has not been extensively worked in the 20th century. The principal quarry evidently lay at the western corner of the junction between Mill Lane and Wood Lane. (fn. 223)
Linen-weavers are found regularly in the parish during the 18th century, (fn. 224) amongst whom was Christopher Dampier (d. 1784), the most prominent nonconformist in Kingsdon. (fn. 225) Apart from masons and weavers, agriculture provided employment for most of the inhabitants, and 79 out of 111 families were thus engaged in 1821. (fn. 226) During the 19th century many of the women were employed in gloving, (fn. 227) although in 1868 it was stated that 'the pay is very bad, about a day and a half's work for a day's pay'. (fn. 228) A machine-maker was working in the parish in 1843, (fn. 229) a builder in 1902, a horse trainer and a traction engine proprietor in 1923, (fn. 230) and a motor mechanic in 1926. (fn. 231)
A mill formed part of property conveyed by John and Joan Cary to John Mautravers in 1375 (fn. 232) and the following year a miller was taking unjust tolls. (fn. 233) John Reynolds was presented for the same offence in 1573 and 1574, (fn. 234) and two other millers in 1618 and 1619. (fn. 235) In 1628 a windmill formed part of the estate held by Thomas Browning (d. 1626), (fn. 236) and was probably the windmill in North field mentioned in 1694. (fn. 237) Field names indicate that this stood towards the north-western end of Mill Lane on the summit of Kingsdon hill. (fn. 238) A miller occurs in the parish in 1829. (fn. 239)
Kingsdon, a tithing in Somerton hundred, included both the parish of Kingsdon and the manors of Lytes Cary and Tuckers Cary, in Charlton Mackrell. (fn. 240)
No court records survive before 1502, although suit to Kingsdon manor court at Michaelmas and Hockday is mentioned in 1345. (fn. 241) Rolls are extant for certain years in the period 1503–13, (fn. 242) and in broken series for 1574–1663. (fn. 243) The court, described as curia manerii, met generally twice a year usually in spring and in autumn. (fn. 244) Two haywards were appointed annually at the autumn court, each holding serving by rotation, (fn. 245) and two sheep-tellers occur in 1602 and 1605. (fn. 246) A body known as 'the Seven Men' is mentioned between 1590 and 1639, its duties generally comprising the settlement of boundary disputes. During the 16th and 17th centuries the court seems to have been unusually vigilant in dealing with misdemeanours or, conversely, to have suffered from extremely unruly tenants. Thus in years when many presentments were made against tenants of dilapidated buildings or to prevent illegal sub-letting the perquisites were high. In other years, once the status quo had been restored, the income from this source fell abruptly.
Churchwardens and 'posts' occur in 1554 (fn. 247), two churchwardens were being appointed annually by 1587, (fn. 248) and two collectors for the poor are mentioned in 1654. (fn. 249) Between 1760 and 1832 two overseers were elected annually, serving in rotation for their holdings. (fn. 250) The church house had been converted for use as a poorhouse by 1762 and continued to be so used until 1836, (fn. 251) when the parish became part of the Langport poor-law union. (fn. 252)
The church is first mentioned in 1242. (fn. 253) The advowson descended with the manor from at least 1343, (fn. 254) but the bishop of London presented in 1521 by grant of Henry, earl of Northumberland (d. 1527). (fn. 255) Thomas Arundell, who bought the manor in 1528, (fn. 256) evidently also acquired an interest in the advowson; the presentation in 1556 was made by the executor of Anne Tydder, widow of Nicholas Tydder, of Shaftesbury (Dors.), to whom Arundell had granted the living. (fn. 257) Arundell's widow presented in 1558 and 1562. (fn. 258) The Crown presented in 1582, (fn. 259) but after 1589, when Matthew Arundell was patron, (fn. 260) members of the family, because of their adherence to Roman Catholicism, leased successive presentations to others: Edward Kirton of Castle Cary in 1641 and 1642, (fn. 261) Nicholas Ingram in 1690, (fn. 262) and John Bush of Burnett in 1719. (fn. 263) The form of these grants is probably indicated by a lease of the advowson dated 1735 to the Revd. William Dodd and Edward Clothier for 14 years, with a covenant to renew the same for a similar period if the resident incumbent survived the initial term. (fn. 264) The widow of William Cox (rector 1719–40) joined these lessees in presenting in 1741, as did the widow of Edward Mervin (rector 1741–4) in 1744 and 1745. (fn. 265) All the 18th-century rectors appear to have had a personal interest in the patronage. Robert Tucker presented Thomas Tucker (rector 1767– 94), (fn. 266) and John Tucker subsequently presented Thomas's son Thomas Tucker (rector 1794–1827), and his successor. (fn. 267) When the Arundell family put the manor up for sale in 1779 the advowson 'after two lives' was included, and the patronage also formed part of the sales held in 1783 and 1787. (fn. 268) It was probably on the latter occasion that the Tucker family, holders of the lease, purchased the advowson which was sold to University College, Oxford, by John Tucker of Taunton in 1829. (fn. 269) The college presented in 1835, (fn. 270) but sold the patronage to William Neal between 1888 and 1891. (fn. 271) It continued in the Neal family until the union with Podimore in 1943; thereafter the Neals had two turns and the bishop one. (fn. 272) The united benefice has been held with Babcary and Yeovilton since c. 1965. (fn. 273)
The church was valued at £14 in 1291 (fn. 274) and 1334, (fn. 275) at £26 3s. 1d. in 1535 (fn. 276) and at over £80 in 1656. (fn. 277) The common reputed value c. 1668 was £100, (fn. 278) and rose to £190 in 1787. (fn. 279) In 1815 the income exceeded £150 (fn. 280) and had risen to £432 by 1831. (fn. 281)
In 1242 the rector agreed to pay rent for land in Charlton Mackrell in return for tithes owned by Bruton priory in the parish. (fn. 282) In 1334 the tithes of corn and pasture were valued at £2 6s., and oblations and small tithes at £4 9s. 4d. (fn. 283) By 1535 the predial tithes were assessed at £16, personal tithes, oblations, and other profits at £6 7s. 2d., and tithes of wool and lambs at £2 6s. 2d. (fn. 284) In 1839 the rector received a tithe rent-charge of £342. (fn. 285) A modus of 2d. an acre in lieu of great and small tithes had previously been paid on some land. (fn. 286) In 1841 the rent-charge was reduced to £326. (fn. 287)
In 1334 the rector held 60 a. of arable land valued at 30s., (fn. 288) a figure which had risen to £2 by 1535. (fn. 289) In 1606 he had 46 a. of arable, 8 a. of meadow, and 8 a. of pasture, excluding the lands attached to the parsonage house. (fn. 290) The rector was allotted 21 a. under the inclosure award of 1810, (fn. 291) and his holding in 1839 totalled 62 a. (fn. 292) It was increased by 8 a. in 1841, (fn. 293) and was 70 a. in 1939. (fn. 294) The value of the glebe was given as £90 15s. in 1851, (fn. 295) and the lands were leased in 1918 for £67 a year. (fn. 296) In 1971 most of the glebe, including the site of the derelict rectory, (fn. 297) formed part of Western farm, lying immediately west and south of the churchyard, (fn. 298) and comprised nearly 48 a. (fn. 299)
The parsonage house was described in 1521 as 'a very goodly mansion place and well apparelled', (fn. 300) but by 1557 it was 'ruinous and in decay and part thereof fallen down'. (fn. 301) In 1617 the rector had the house, a barn of 6 'poles', stable, stall, 'grunter' house (pig house), hay house of 5 'poles', and 2 cottages, one occupied by the parish clerk. (fn. 302) The old rectory, standing immediately west of the church, was burnt down in 1925 (fn. 303) and was derelict in 1971. A new house was erected in 1925 at the north end of the village.
At least three of the 14th-century rectors, Adam Hildebrond (rector by 1310), Peter Pyk (rector 1319–43), and Hugh Erlegh (rector by 1389) were not in priest's orders when serving the parish. (fn. 304) John Trewargh (rector by 1402 until 1451) had licence to absent himself and farm his church in 1402, (fn. 305) and Christopher Twynyow (rector until 1509), James FitzJames (rector from 1509), and James Gilbert (rector 1521–56) all held the benefice in plurality. (fn. 306) John Dunster (rector 1556–8) was a former canon of Bruton abbey. (fn. 307) John Dotin, M.D. (rector 1558–61), another pluralist, was rector of Exeter College, Oxford, and a noted astrologer. (fn. 308) Alexander Westerdale (rector 1642–89) was incumbent throughout the Interregnum, having been appointed parish register in 1654. (fn. 309) Richard Carter (rector 1690–1718) held the benefice with Charlton Mackrell where he evidently lived. (fn. 310) Peter Hansell (rector 1835–97) was fellow and bursar of University College, Oxford, until 1836 and was rector for 62 years until his death at the age of 91. (fn. 311) His tenure was interrupted for a period of 7 years from 1844, which he spent in France, after suspension and sequestration for immoral behaviour with a parishioner. (fn. 312)
A parish chaplain occurs in 1450, (fn. 313) and curates are mentioned between 1532 and 1575 (fn. 314) and in 1745, 1792, (fn. 315) and 1831. (fn. 316) In 1610 Holy Communion was celebrated five times and the annual figure fluctuated between four and seven times until the Civil War when it fell to three. (fn. 317) After the Restoration it fluctuated between one and five times, falling as the rector grew older. (fn. 318) The figure varied between two and five during the years 1767–1828, rose to six in 1829, and to nine in 1833. There were monthly celebrations between 1834 and 1836. (fn. 319) By 1843 there were two sermons every Sunday and communion was celebrated six times a year, (fn. 320) but by 1870 the sacrament was again being administered monthly. (fn. 321) On Census Sunday 1851 the morning service was attended by a congregation of 80 and the afternoon by 134, although the minister maintained that the normal figure had been reduced by the absence of the squire's establishment and by 'a prevailing epidemic'. (fn. 322)
A church house was rented from the lord by 1563; (fn. 323) it was in disrepair in 1613 and 1614. (fn. 324) In 1623, in consequence of the movement against church ales, brewing lead, two spits, and a rack were sold and the house sub-let. (fn. 325) By 1762 it had been converted into a poorhouse. (fn. 326) It lay south-west of the junction of the path to the church and High Street, (fn. 327) and the enclosure in which it stood is still (1971) extant.
The church of ALL SAINTS stands at the western edge of the village. In 1461 the dedication feast was changed from 4 September to the Sunday after the Decollation of St. John the Baptist (29 August) to avoid harvest time. (fn. 328) The building is of lias with Ham stone dressings and has a chancel with north vestry and organ chamber, nave with transeptal north and south chapels and south porch, and west tower. The nave is of 12th-century origin and there is a niche of that date over the south door, but the only other early features are two 13th-century window openings in the north wall. The chancel was rebuilt in the 14th century and has no evidence of the enlargement which was recorded in 1521 as having taken place in the 15th century. (fn. 329) The north chapel was formerly the base of a 14thcentury tower. Windows were inserted and the arch into the nave enlarged in the 15th century when the tower was replaced by one at the west end. The porch and the south chapel, formerly known as St. Catherine's aisle, (fn. 330) were also added. A new window was put into the south side of the nave and new tracery into those on the north.
The floor of the chancel was raised in 1636. (fn. 331) The church was restored in 1869 when the chancel is said to have been rebuilt and the organ chamber added, and again in 1906, when the vestry may have been built. (fn. 332)
The bowl of the font is of the 12th century and some late medieval bench-ends are reset in the screen to the north chapel. The Ham stone effigy of a cross-legged knight under the north window of the north chapel was originally in the chancel but was removed into the churchyard in the 15th century, where it lay in 1521. (fn. 333) It has been dated 1270– 80 and may portray Brian (III) de Gouvis. (fn. 334) The three-lock register coffer is mentioned in 1605 (fn. 335) and probably dates from 1538. The early-17thcentury pulpit is probably that made by William Squier in 1627. (fn. 336)
The plate dates from 1831. (fn. 337) There are six bells: (i) c. 1400, probably William Dawe of London; (ii) 1607, Robert Wiseman of Montacute, recast 1952; (iii) c. 1450, Roger Landen of Wokingham; (iv) 1782, recast 1936, William Bilbie; (v) 1861; (vi) 1946. (fn. 338) From 1830 a morning labour bell was rung in the church at 5 a.m. during the summer and 7 a.m. in the winter. (fn. 339)
The registers, complete from 1538, comprise both the original paper register and a parchment copy from 1558. (fn. 340)
A private house was licensed for Presbyterian worship in 1749. (fn. 341)
A chapel 'now erected' was licensed in 1759, probably succeeding a house licensed by the Independents in 1756, (fn. 342) although the congregation preserved traditions of an earlier foundation given variously as 1664, (fn. 343) 1676, (fn. 344) and c. 1710. (fn. 345) In the early 19th century it was served by resident ministers, (fn. 346) but has generally been supplied by visitors since that time. (fn. 347) On Census Sunday 1851 the congregation totalled 65 in the afternoon and 112 in the evening, and the Sunday school was attended by 6 in the morning and 6 in the afternoon. (fn. 348) The chapel, on the south side of Chapel Street, is a plain rectangular building of lias with a vestry at its eastern end. The manse lies on the west side of Middle Street.
A house was licensed for dissenting worship in 1815, (fn. 349) but the denomination was not stated.
A schoolmaster was teaching in the rectory in 1606, (fn. 350) and another was licensed in 1631. (fn. 351) In 1818 there were day-schools for c. 40 children and a Sunday school, supported by subscription, attended by c. 80 pupils. (fn. 352) In 1833 there was an infant school for 70 children started c. 1826, (fn. 353) and two segregated day-schools for 40 children, supported by subscription and payments from pupils. There were also two Sunday schools for 50 children. (fn. 354) The day-and infants'-schools were supported by the National Society by 1846. (fn. 355) The boys' school was then attended by 22 during the week, by 37 on Sundays, and by 8 during the evenings. The girls' school had 59 pupils during the week and on Sundays, and the infants' school had a complement of 31 children. (fn. 356) A local farmer stated in 1868 that he preferred to employ boys who had not been to school and that, although he 'does not mind reading and writing', he 'dislikes too much education'. (fn. 357)
The National day-schools subsequently combined and the present building on the south side of Chapel Street was opened in 1872. (fn. 358) The Sunday school was later held in a separate property on the west side of High Street below the church. (fn. 359) In 1894 the average attendance at the National school was 41, (fn. 360) and in 1903 the number on the books was 58. (fn. 361) The school then comprised two rooms (also used by the Sunday school) and a cottage for the mistress. (fn. 362) The school had been 'in a bad condition' but the mistress was then 'working it up with some success'. (fn. 363) In 1907 the name was changed from the Kingsdon Voluntary school to the Kingsdon Church of England school. (fn. 364) The attendance fell to 42 in 1914–15 and the establishment became a junior school in 1925. (fn. 365) In consequence the numbers dropped to 16 in 1934–5, rising thereafter to 22 in 1944–5, and 39 in 1954–5. (fn. 366) The school had 34 pupils in 1969. (fn. 367)
A school, administered by the Bristol education authority, was moved to Kingsdon Manor in 1948. (fn. 368) The school is for handicapped boys and in 1971 had 60 pupils. (fn. 369) The manor-house, originally leased from the manor estate, was purchased by the authority in 1952. (fn. 370)
Charities for the Poor.
William Neal (d. 1890) left £300 to the rector and churchwardens, the income to be applied every Christmas in the distribution of meat among the deserving poor of the parish. (fn. 371) The income in 1970 amounted to £7 15s. 4d. and was employed according to the donor's wishes. (fn. 372)