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 Northover was 438 a. in extent in 1838. (fn. 1) Part of Somerton mead was transferred to Kingsdon in 1885 and a small detached part of Somerton to Northover. (fn. 2) The civil and ecclesiastical parishes were coterminous in 1901 and measured 440 a. (fn. 3) The civil parish was united with Ilchester in 1933. (fn. 4)
The parish lies on the north bank of the Yeo or Ivel, and may have formed the northern half of a bridgehead settlement, Ilchester forming the southern half. The settlement apparently remained a single unit until Domesday and the northern section seems to have comprised the estate and probably the site of St. Andrew's church. (fn. 5) Like Ilchester it was connected with the Saxon royal estate of Somerton, and survived as 'North Tone' in a perambulation of Somerton warren in Edward I's reign. (fn. 6) Subsequently Northover became divided from Ilchester, and the Yeo formed the boundary between them until the county gaol was established within the parish in the late 16th century. Ilchester parish was then slightly extended to embrace the gaol buildings. (fn. 7) The eastern boundary of Northover, following the Foss Way and then curving northwards to the Cary, was probably also the eastern boundary of Somerton warren. The irregularity of the western boundary resulted from the inclosure of Somerton mead.
The parish lies on the alluvium of the Yeo flood plain. The ground rises gently to the north to just over 80 ft., where clay loam predominates. (fn. 8) The triangle between the Somerton road, the Foss Way, and the northern boundary of the parish comprised the largest tract of land. Originally the whole area was probably one field in open cultivation, but by the beginning of the 17th century inclosures had been made in the north. (fn. 9) Most of the remainder was formally inclosed in 1839, though consolidation of holdings had long since obliterated most of the strips. (fn. 10) By 1838 the 'open' area was divided between North field and Worth field. The latter was known in the early 17th century as Woorth furlong, (fn. 11) an indication that originally both belonged to the same large field. In the same way Northover field and Witch furlong, (fn. 12) in the other arable area of the parish to the south-west of the Somerton road, were parts of a second open arable field, the southern parts of which were inclosed for pasture from the 17th century onwards. (fn. 13) Further south, between Conygar Lane and the river, lay the common pasture lands of the parish. Common rights were still enjoyed there in the early 17th century, but had been extinguished before 1838. (fn. 14)
Northover shared with Ilchester a significant position as an important crossing-place of the Yeo, where several ancient roads, two of them Roman, converged. The Foss Way, from Bath, and a road from the Bristol Channel joined a route from the east just north of the village. (fn. 15) This 'thoroughfare and travelling highway' was, by 1630, repairable by the parish. (fn. 16) All three roads were turnpiked in 1753 by the Ilchester Trust, and a toll-house was built at the first junction to the north of the village. (fn. 17) Besides these three roads a drove leading westwards, north of the church and the former manor-house, originally served Northover field and Somerton mead. Its early stretches were called Conygar Lane in the 19th century; further west it is known as South Mead drove. (fn. 18) There is much evidence of Roman occupation in the parish including many burials to the west of the village. (fn. 19)
As a suburb largely dependent on the prosperity of Ilchester the parish was probably most populous in the 13th century. By the end of the 14th century it was certainly larger than its declining neighbour, having a taxable population of 64, compared with Ilchester's 50 in 1377. (fn. 20) In 1801 there were 56 inhabitants; within twenty years this figure had doubled to 121 and reached 138 in 1831. The number then fluctuated between 90 and c. 120 until 1891 when only 79 were recorded. Ten years later this had fallen to 46. There followed a gradual recovery, the number reaching 67 by 1931. (fn. 21) Thenceforward no separate figures are available, though it is clear that the population has increased rapidly since 1949 with the erection first of the Admiralty houses and flats and then with Local Authority dwellings in Taranto Hill, Great Orchard, and Troubridge Park.
Apart from the manor-house and the 'Old Vicarage', described elsewhere, (fn. 22) the so-called 'Northover Manor', Darlington House, and Northover House are the only structures of any age in the village. The first is a late-18th-century house of stone, of two storeys and six bays. The groundfloor windows have wood casements with 'Gothick' glazing. Darlington House, nearer Ilchester, on the other side of the street, is a two-storey building of rubble, with brick window-surrounds, probably of the 18th century. It has a five-window front, dominated by a Roman Doric porch, and deep eaves. Northover House adjoining is somewhat larger; its seven bay ashlar front, with angle pilasters and porch, probably dates from the early 19th century, though the south wall contains a mullioned window somewhat earlier in date. The house was certainly standing in 1802 when George Tuson, solicitor, moved there, though its proximity to the gaol was thought by his clerk to render it 'not in a very desirable situation'. (fn. 23)
The manor of NORTHOVER is not mentioned eo nomine in the Domesday survey, but seems to have been the estate of the church of St. Andrew held by Brictric of Glastonbury abbey T.R.E., and by Maurice, bishop of London, of the Crown in 1086. (fn. 24) By the beginning of the 13th century the manor evidently formed part of the barony of Great Torrington (Devon): William de Torrington held it in 1221 and was succeeded on his death in 1224 by his uncle, Matthew. (fn. 25) On Matthew's death in 1227 the barony was divided between his five sisters, Sibyl, wife of Richard de Umfraville, having, inter alia, a ½ fee in Northover. (fn. 26) By 1242–3 this holding was described as part of the honor of Gloucester; (fn. 27) it was held of the Clares until the partition of their estates in 1314, and then passed to the Despensers through Eleanor, youngest daughter of Gilbert de Clare. (fn. 28) Hugh le Despenser was overlord at his death in 1349, but by 1361 it was among the fees of Henry, late duke of Lancaster. (fn. 29) By 1375 it had reverted to the Despensers, and was confiscated by attainder in 1400. (fn. 30) It was parcel of the duchy of Lancaster in 1401–2, but Isabel, wife of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, the Despenser heir, died as overlord in 1439. (fn. 31) The overlordship probably lapsed on the death of her grand-daughter, Anne, in 1449. (fn. 32)
In 1219 or earlier William de Torrington granted part of his holding, including the church, to William Brewer (I). This gift was confirmed in 1221. (fn. 33) Brewer had, by 1219, given the property, later described as ½ fee, to his newly-founded hospital of St. John the Baptist at Bridgwater. (fn. 34) Though later described as half the manor, it was usually assessed at ¼ fee. (fn. 35) It seems likely that the hospital acquired parts of the other holdings in the parish by the Dissolution, (fn. 36) and from 1539 the hospital's successors were regarded as lords.
William de Torrington's heirs retained the other portion of his estate: Sibyl de Umfraville was the recorded holder in 1234, though she may already have been succeeded by her son Gilbert (I). (fn. 37) In 1295 the estate was said to be held of Gilbert's heirs. (fn. 38) A return, perhaps of 1330, gives the tenant as Henry de Umfraville, who was said to hold of a mesne tenant, Patrick de Chaworth. (fn. 39) Gilbert (II) de Umfraville (d. 1349) was tenant in 1349, holding directly of Hugh le Despenser. (fn. 40) Patrick de Chaworth was again mentioned in 1361, but by that year the Umfravilles had been succeeded by Roger Cammell. (fn. 41) Richard Brice of Ilchester (fn. 42) held the estate by 1376. (fn. 43) William Story was returned as tenant in 1401–2, though he apparently disclaimed the tenancy. (fn. 44) No further evidence of this estate has been found.
The holding of the dissolved hospital of St. John, Bridgwater, was granted by the Crown in fee to John Leygh in 1544. (fn. 45) In the same year Leygh alienated both manor and advowson to John Soper of Speckington. (fn. 46) Soper sold both of them in 1546 to William Lyte (d. 1558) of Lillesdon in North Curry. Lyte's eldest son John in turn sold them to Thomas Raymond of Chard in 1566. (fn. 47) Another Thomas Raymond, his grandson or nephew, (fn. 48) died in 1605 leaving Northover to his eldest son John. (fn. 49) By 1620 John had been succeeded by Thomas Raymond (d. 1650), probably his brother. (fn. 50) Thomas's daughter Mary, who succeeded to her father's sequestrated estates, (fn. 51) probably married Col. John Hody (d. 1702). (fn. 52) John Hody, the colonel's son, succeeded but on his death in 1729, two years after his own son, the manor passed to his son-inlaw, the Revd. Edward Chichester, who had married his daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 53) Chichester, who was both lord of the manor and incumbent, died in 1730, leaving as his heir his infant son Henry. (fn. 54) Henry Chichester was lord of the manor and the dominant figure in parish administration until his death in 1799. (fn. 55) He was succeeded by his son John Hody Chichester (d. 1834), and by his grandson J. H. W. Chichester (d. 1846), who left Northover to live at Stoke St. Michael. (fn. 56) The heir in 1846 was Charlotte, daughter of Chichester's sister Caroline, and wife of J. L. Burnard of Bath (d. 1873). (fn. 57) Mrs. Burnard retained the property at least until 1895, (fn. 58) but her son the Revd. A. C. Burnard, was described as lord of the manor in 1897. (fn. 59) The Chichester family, in the person of F. E. Chichester, retained the title at least until 1910. (fn. 60)
The former manor-house stood to the northwest of the church. It appears to have been an irregular building of stone, with a stone tiled roof topped by a kind of cupola. (fn. 61) During the early 19th century it was let to successive vicars of the parish; it was subsequently pulled down and replaced by the present house, which from 1871 was the official residence of the incumbent. (fn. 62) A medieval barn of ten bays stood to the south of the manor-house; it was burnt down in 1876. (fn. 63)
The estate of St. Andrew's church, Ilchester, identifiable as the later parish of Northover, included 3 hides of arable and 30 a. of meadow in 1086. The demesne estate comprised a hide and 3 virgates, worked with 2 ploughs by 2 serfs; one villein and 6 bordars with a plough cultivated the remainder of the arable. Stock included 2 pack-horses, 9 'beasts', and 50 sheep. The whole estate, including a mill worth 20s., was valued at 100s. (fn. 64)
There is virtually no direct evidence for the agrarian history of the parish from the 11th to the 16th centuries, though an indirect suggestion, in 1347, that a two-field system of cultivation was being practised, (fn. 65) is confirmed by the open-field system which survived into the 19th century. (fn. 66) Surviving property transactions usually involved houses rather than land, and indicate Northover's status as a suburb of Ilchester. People resident in the parish, such as Thurstan the goldsmith and William the smith in the 13th century, almost certainly had their business premises in the town and lived in the quieter suburb. (fn. 67) Northover's decline, however, did not immediately follow that of Ilchester: the manor was assessed at 20s. 2d. in 1327, compared with 24s. 3d. for Ilchester; by 1377 the town's taxable population was smaller than that of Northover. (fn. 68)
At the Dissolution the rectorial estate held by St. John's hospital was clearly the largest holding in the parish. The demesne farm and the tithes were leased to members of the Golde family for £5 6s. 8d.; the rest of the estate brought in rents of £6 15s. 10½d. (fn. 69) The demesne farm, known as Upper farm, comprised in 1601 several closes of pasture and large tracts of arable, described as a virgate and 89 a. (fn. 70)
By c. 1600 the field boundaries had reached a stage from which they had changed little by the mid 19th century. There were inclosed pasture grounds in the north of the parish at Saundhyll (later Swanhills) and Oxenlease, and also nearer to the village at Boughthayes (later Batthays) and Bonny's or Bonne's (later Bum's) Close. Madlands was in 1605 still common pasture, and Somerton mead was apparently divided for grazing into acre and half-acre strips. The rest of the parish was still in open-field cultivation. (fn. 71) Inclosure of the southwestern portion of the ancient parish, the former Somerton mead, was made in 1806 under an Act of 1797. This involved nearly 75 a. of meadow and pasture lying between South Mead drove and the river. (fn. 72) Inclosure of the remaining open fields was made in 1839, and involved about 170 a. Most of this property was in the hands of two landowners, and the Act only gave legality to an arrangement of property which had prevailed for at least a year before the award was made. (fn. 73) In terms of land use the parish was equally divided between arable and pasture in 1834 but by 1905 only a quarter of the parish was arable. (fn. 74)
The largest holding in the parish, Northover farm, ceased to be the 'home farm' of the manor about 1805, and was let as a unit, with a farmhouse, from that time. The house, now a restaurant and known as Northover Manor Hotel, was before that time a private residence, and by 1861 had again ceased to be connected with Northover farm. (fn. 75) The farm itself was let to Messrs. Phelps and Ireland from 1805; by 1811 J. H. Crocker was tenant. James Crocker succeeded George Drew about 1821, and his family farmed the property until 1876. The farm was then just over 312 a., nearly three-quarters of the parish. At the end of J. B. Crocker's tenancy, in 1876, it was said to be 'well known to be one of the finest farms in the county'. (fn. 76) The holding was continued for some years, but had been divided by 1912. (fn. 77)
The only other substantial property in the parish was that built up by George Tuson, solicitor, in the early 19th century. In 1838 Frances Bailey Tuson and the Revd. William Wilkins Gale held an estate of just over 67 a.; by the following year Henry Tuson and Gale shared the property. (fn. 78) This was the nucleus of Southmead farm, the house and buildings of which were erected about 1842. (fn. 79) It remained in the Tuson family until after 1897. (fn. 80)
Agriculture was always the most prominent occupation in the parish. Twelve families out of 21, for example, were so employed in 1821. (fn. 81) In more recent times the presence of a main road through the parish, once considered a financial burden, (fn. 82) has been recognized as a source of income. Public houses, such as the Dolphin in the period 1716–23, or the Darlington Arms, now Darlington House, built in 1835, had comparatively short periods of existence, owing probably to the competition from Ilchester. (fn. 83) The popularity of the motor car, however, and greater space for expansion than Ilchester possessed, allowed Northover to take the lead in establishing garages and restaurants. The first garage was opened by 1931, and within the next four years two refreshment rooms, a trading company, and an antique dealer were in business. Four years later, by 1939, a café and a boarding house provided further accommodation for travellers; (fn. 84) more facilities, including a restaurant and two garages, have been added since the Second World War. About a quarter of the parish was under arable in 1971, the remainder used for grazing.
Parish expenditure on poor relief can be studied in detail from the beginning of the 18th century until 1836. (fn. 85) Out-relief was normally given: between 1740 and 1750, for example, the parish spent on average just over £17 a year. One year, 1747, was abnormally high, many children suffering from sickness, but the number of adults relieved varied between three and four. Towards the end of the 18th century, the average expenditure rose, not because of an increased number of paupers on regular relief, but as a result of a growing number of extraordinary payments for clothing, house rent, and administration. Expenditure in 1776, for example, was nearly £33; in 1797–8 only three paupers were relieved, for the sum of 18 guineas, but total expenditure was almost twice that sum. The highest payments were made in the periods 1803–6 and 1830–1. (fn. 86) In 1834 there were 14 labourers in the parish, all employed. Piece-work was general and the average wage was £20 a year. Women and children were employed either in a factory at Ilchester, or in gloving at home. (fn. 87)
There was a mill in Northover in 1086, valued at 20s. (fn. 88) A miller occurs in the 13th century, (fn. 89) but there is no further trace of a mill until 1538–9, when it was let by the lords of the manor. (fn. 90) In 1561 it was conveyed by Thomas Phelips to Thomas Gould, and seems to have remained with the Goulds until 1694, when Bernard Gould made it over to Katherine Webb, widow. (fn. 91) Its ownership has not been traced in the 18th century, though John Skreen occurs as miller in 1756–8. (fn. 92) Mrs. Alice Stuckey owned the mill by 1805 and retained it until 1809. She was followed in quick succession by Miss Underwood in 1810 and Thomas Lockyer in 1811. George Tuson bought it in 1812; he sold it about 1826 to the earl of Darlington, and he in turn, about 1834, to James Peddle Bond. Mrs. Chard bought the property in 1846. (fn. 93) A succession of millers can be traced from 1816 until the early 20th century, some of whom were owners as well as occupiers. Probably the last to work the mill was Herbert Parker: he was in occupation throughout the First World War, but between 1919 and 1923 the mill became a private house. (fn. 94)
The mill, known as Northover Flour Mill in 1838, (fn. 95) was fed by a race, constructed behind the gardens of the houses flanking the east side of the main street. The mill-house and some of its buildings still stand, though the race has been almost completely filled in.
By 1273–4 Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, had a view of frankpledge on his 'free manor' of Northover, enjoyed the assize of bread and ale, and claimed the return of writs and right of tumbrel. (fn. 96) St. John's hospital, Bridgwater, appropriators of the benefice, held some kind of court until 1539. (fn. 97) There is no evidence that this court continued when the property came into lay hands.
From the 18th century and probably earlier the vestry was exercising wide powers. The appointment of the tithingman, an office reluctantly undertaken by the inhabitants in rotation in the 17th century, (fn. 98) had by 1733 become the responsibility of the overseers, who at least until 1749 paid a man £1 a year to hold the office, and provided him with clothing. (fn. 99) Until the 1730s normal parish affairs were conducted by two men, appointed annually as churchwardens and overseers, (fn. 100) though on occasion one accounted only for the church, the other only for the poor. From 1735 until 1750, however, the lord of the manor, Henry Chichester, was the sole churchwarden and overseer. In 1748–9 he combined these offices with that of waywarden, and for that year received £2 to cover expenses for the three offices. From 1753 until the end of the century the churchwardenship was held by one man only. Henry Chichester, who held it jointly, 1750–3, was sole warden from 1760 until 1774, and was followed by three members of the Culliford family. From 1787 onwards two overseers were appointed annually, one of whom was usually the churchwarden. Since 1804 two churchwardens have normally been appointed; the incumbent's custom of choosing one dates from 1827. (fn. 101)
Until the division of accounts after 1753 the same rate supported both the church and the poor, though separate accounts of expenditure were usually kept. The rate also supported the general expenditure on roads and gates in the common meadow lands, paid by the overseers. There is, however, evidence of a surveyor of highways by 1719. In 1743 the churchwardens made a payment to waywardens covering the period from 1735, and in 1744 there was clearly a separate account kept by the waywardens. During the period 1749–52 the offices of waywarden, churchwarden, and overseer were exercised by one man, and an account for the repair of roads has survived for 1751–2. (fn. 102)
Apart from direct payments to the poor (fn. 103) the overseers made occasional contributions for clothing, and more regularly paid rents for paupers. In 1739 they bought beef and beans because of the hard winter; for several years from 1808 they supported a parish mole-catcher; and in 1803–4 paid for drilling the Ilchester Volunteers. (fn. 104) Between 1801 and 1804 they rented several houses for the use of the poor, and in 1810–11 rented a poorhouse. (fn. 105) No other trace of such a house has been found, and there was certainly none in 1834. (fn. 106) The parish was incorporated in the Yeovil poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 107) The vestry appointed a parish constable in 1842–5. (fn. 108)
The church at Northover, judging by the size of its estate probably in origin a Saxon minster, occurs in the Confessor's time. It was then held by Brictric of Glastonbury abbey, but by 1086 was held by Maurice, bishop of London, of the Crown. (fn. 109) The benefice was appropriated by St. John's hospital, Bridgwater, in 1219, (fn. 110) and a vicarage was subsequently ordained at an unknown date. The income of the vicarage was augmented in 1337, possibly by a pension of £2 from the appropriators. (fn. 111) The rectorial tithes were added to the benefice probably early in the 18th century, (fn. 112) and the living was therefore occasionally described as a rectory, or as a rectory and vicarage. (fn. 113) Approval was given in 1656 to unite the parish with Ilchester and part of Sock Dennis, (fn. 114) but it retained its independent status until 1936, when the living was annexed to Ilchester rectory and the two parishes were united. (fn. 115)
The advowson lay with the appropriators until 1539. It then descended with the manor, though John Iverey in 1569, Giles Hodges in 1579, and Humphrey Drake, a relative of the patron, in 1627, each presented by grant of the lord of the manor. (fn. 116) George Hilborne and James Sampson, who presented in 1731, did so as trustees for the infant Henry Chichester. (fn. 117) Col. F. E. Chichester, the last to be described as lord of the manor, retained the patronage until his death; his executors and later his widow then held it. In 1961–2 the patron was Miss V. M. Newington 'by representation of Col. F. E. Chichester, deceased', in 1969 E. Chichester Everitt, and in 1971 Everitt's executors. (fn. 118) The patron of Northover presents to the united benefice one turn in three. (fn. 119)
It is not possible to separate the former rectorial estate from the rest of the holding of St. John's hospital, though the complete holding was said to be worth £20 in 1426, (fn. 120) and the rectory, including tithes, was let in 1515 for £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 121) Both before and after augmentation the income of the vicarage was small; the benefice was not normally taxed and was known for its poverty. (fn. 122) It was assessed at 20s. in 1426 (fn. 123) and £3 6s. 8d. in 1445, but by 1535 it was worth £8 12s. 11d. (fn. 124) By the mid 17th century its value was £40, in 1786 £43, and in 1835 £106. (fn. 125) The benefice was augmented in 1859. (fn. 126)
The rector had predial tithes in the parish worth £3 in 1535. (fn. 127) By 1606 these were computed as the tithe corn of the 'Upper farm'; the occupier of the farm was regarded as the rector and had to maintain the chancel. (fn. 128) Probably when this farm and the benefice were in the hands of Edward Chichester in 1729–30, the rectorial tithes were merged with the vicarial. (fn. 129)
Under the augmentation of 1337 the vicar was given the tithe of hay, lambs, and ale in the whole parish, together with oblations. (fn. 130) These tithes and oblations were worth £5 6s. 4d. in 1535. (fn. 131) By 1606 the vicar received tithe of hay, except from 18 a. of 'Upper farm', tithe peas and onions throughout the parish, and tithe corn from all but 'Upper farm'. The occupier of the farm could compound for all other tithes; the rest were paid in kind except 'kyne white', a payment of 3d. for each milking cow, offerings, and 'garden pence'. (fn. 132) The consolidation of the tithes of rectory and vicarage simplified these arrangements. By 1838, in lieu of a modus of 2d. an acre on lands in Somerton mead, just over 33½ a. were awarded to the vicar. By that time tithes from gardens were no longer payable but the gross rent-charge which replaced all tithes was still worth £123. (fn. 133)
The size of the rectorial glebe is not known, and there is no separate valuation in 1535. From 1337 the vicarage was endowed with 9½ a. of arable and an area of meadow, 2 a. in one year and 1¾ a. in the next. This exchange of meadow was said to be by ancient custom. (fn. 134) The glebe was worth £1 14s. in 1535; (fn. 135) it was described in 1606 as a close, part arable and part pasture, 3 a. in the arable fields, and just under 2 a. of meadow, the meadow in lieu of the tithe hay of the 18 a. of 'Upper farm'. This meadow was in Somerton mead, and was cut for the vicar by the occupier of the farm. (fn. 136) By 1838 the glebe measured just over 10 a. (fn. 137) A strip in North field was exchanged in 1870 for the lower part of the grounds of the manorhouse and a withy bed, presumably in connexion with the rebuilding of the house as a vicarage house. (fn. 138) By 1897 the glebe had increased to 14 a.; the sale of the vicarage house and grounds has reduced the acreage to just over 8½ a. (fn. 139)
A house and yard were assigned to the vicar, presumably soon after the rectory was appropriated. (fn. 140) By 1606 the vicar had a house, backside, and garden, which probably occupied the site of the present 'Old Vicarage', south-east of the church, between the road and the river. (fn. 141) The present house was built probably in the late 18th century; it is of two storeys, of rubble, with a thatched roof. Its wooden casements have 'Gothick' glazing, and there is a central rustic porch. The house was said to be in good repair in 1815, but twenty years later was considered by the then incumbent to be 'unfit'. (fn. 142) In fact, the vicars rarely lived in the house; from 1805 at least until 1838 it was let, and incumbents or their curates lived at the 'Old Mansion' as the manor-house was called. (fn. 143) William Harbin (vicar 1857–64) was living in Church Street, Ilchester, in 1859; and his successor, Sydney East, also lived in the town until he purchased from his father-inlaw, J. L. Burnard, either the 'old mansion' itself or its site. There, about 1871, he built a new vicarage house; this remained the incumbent's home until the parish was united with Ilchester in 1936. (fn. 144)
At least two of the vicars of Northover in the late 15th century, Thomas Spencer (1497–8) and Robert Walsh (1506–9), were brethren of St. John's hospital, Bridgwater. (fn. 145) Thomas Master (vicar 1509– 56) apparently survived the changes of the period unscathed; (fn. 146) in old age he evidently appointed a succession of curates, one of whom was reported in 1554 as 'not sufficient to have the cure'. (fn. 147) Master himself was accused in the same year of allowing the churchyard to decay and of failing to keep hospitality in his house. (fn. 148) From about 1575 the vicars were non-resident for at least five years. (fn. 149) George Drake, appointed vicar in 1627, was the son of Richard Drake of Donyatt, and a relative of the patron. (fn. 150) He held the benefice at least until 1650. (fn. 151) A Public Register was appointed in the parish in 1654. (fn. 152)
Between 1672 and 1713 three vicars in succession were also rectors of Ilchester. The second, Richard Hody (1686–90), was a relative of the patron of Northover. (fn. 153) Edward Chichester combined Northover with the living of Berrynarbor (Devon) from 1714 until 1730, and married the heir of the lord of the manor. (fn. 154) Nathaniel Bartlett the younger (vicar 1785–1828) was in 1815 rector of Closworth with Bubdown and lived at Closworth. (fn. 155) Northover was then served by Thomas Ebrey, rector of Ilchester. (fn. 156) In 1827 Bartlett's curate also served Limington. (fn. 157) Bartlett's successor was John Maber Munden, the patron's son-in-law, who combined the living with that of Corscombe (Dors.). (fn. 158) Sydney East (vicar 1851–7, 1865–72) was also son-in-law of the patron. (fn. 159)
By 1815 one service was held each Sunday; some years later it was the practice to hold them alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 160) This remained the pattern at least until 1870. (fn. 161) On Census Sunday 1851 the congregation in the afternoon was 129; the average attendance was about 70 at a morning service and 120 in the afternoon. (fn. 162) Holy Communion was celebrated four times a year by 1843 and six times by 1870. (fn. 163)
The church of ST. ANDREW, on high ground at the northern end of the village where the Shepton Mallet and London roads join, consists of a chancel and nave, with two shallow transepts and a western tower which serves as the entrance porch. The tower is plain, with diagonal buttresses at the foot and a plain parapet. The nave and chancel were completely rebuilt in 1821, when a porch was apparently demolished. (fn. 166) The south transept was added as an organ chamber upon restoration in 1878. (fn. 167) A gallery was erected in 1758, but was presumably dismantled in 1821. (fn. 168)
The marriage registers begin in 1531, baptisms in 1534, and burials in 1543 but the series is incomplete. (fn. 169) The plate includes a cup and salver presented to Ilchester church, and given to Northover in 1849, and a silver salver of 1722. (fn. 170) There are four bells: (i) 1636, by Roger Purdue of Bristol, cracked and lying on the tower floor; (ii) 1765, by Thomas Bayley of Bridgwater, (iii) 1751, by Thomas Elery of Closworth; (iv) 1450–80, Bristol. (fn. 171)
The house of Jasper Butt or Batt, a leading Quaker, was licensed as a meetinghouse in 1689. This may have been for a group which had abandoned meetings in Ilchester. (fn. 172) The houses of John Sugg and John Miller were apparently used for religious meetings in 1815 and 1820 respectively. Their denominational connexions are unknown. (fn. 173)
A number of private schools were conducted in the parish during the 19th century, though none was attached to the church. (fn. 174) A boy's boarding-school was held in Northover House in 1822–3. (fn. 175) By 1859 there was a girls' school which took boarders; and in 1870 a Miss Simpson conducted a day-school. By 1897 at least until 1910 a girls' preparatory school was held, at first in the Manor and later elsewhere. (fn. 176)
Northover was made contributory to the Ilchester School Board formed in 1875, and the children attended the Board School. (fn. 177) Infants also attended the National School in Ilchester. Both schools were closed in 1962 and were replaced by Ilchester County Primary School, situated in Northover parish. (fn. 178) In 1969 Ilchester County Junior School, also in Northover, was opened, taking pupils from the former Primary School and from Yeovilton and Limington. Infants from these two villages joined with the infants in the former Primary School, which was renamed Ilchester County Infants School. In 1971 there were 123 children in the infants' school and 168 in the junior school. (fn. 179)
Charities for the Poor.
Robert Browne (d. 1610) gave £8 to be used as a stock for the poor 'at the discretion of the chief of the parish'. (fn. 180) There is no further evidence of the payment or investment of this money.