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 Sock Dennis, described as a 'district' in 1839, (fn. 1) was 880 a. in extent. It seems to have lost its parochial status in the ecclesiastical sense during the 16th century, for the church had disappeared by 1575 (fn. 2) and the area was described c. 1585 as 'a manor of itself with a parsonage ap- purtenant'. (fn. 3) Sock remained extra-parochial until 1883, when the Sock Dennis Rectory Act (fn. 4) transferred just over 117 a. of land at Chestermead to Tintinhull and the rest to Ilchester for ecclesiastical purposes. The civil parish, with the same boundaries as the ecclesiastical, was retained until 1957, when it was divided between Tintinhull and Ilchester in the same proportions. (fn. 5)
The parish lay immediately to the south of Ilchester, its northern boundary only five hundred yards from the town's defences. The two Roman roads leading south and south-west from the town formed part of its eastern and western boundaries. Chestermead, providing the meadow land for the parish, forms a detached area on the banks of the Yeo to the north-west of the main settlement. (fn. 6)
Most of the parish lay on alluvium in the Yeo flood plain, and the name Sock is considered to indicate an area of marsh or streams. (fn. 7) The suffix Dennis derives from the Dane family. Towards the south-west the land rises from 50 ft. to 150 ft. and clay predominates. (fn. 8) Outcrops of lias occur on Sock Dennis farm, and slabs are used in both farm and domestic buildings.
The present road system consists of tracks to the two remaining farms in the parish from the main boundary roads. A more ancient track, known in Tintinhull as Sock Lane and traceable further south as Kissmedown Lane in Montacute, bisects the angle between these two roads. Its present route, approaching Sock Dennis Farm from the southeast, may not be its original course. There is evidence of a track to the south-west of the farm buildings, aligned on a substantial stone bridge over Bearley brook north-west of the farm. (fn. 9)
The relationship between Ilchester and Sock was evidently close. Gerard of Trent, writing in the 17th century, tells of King John wresting Sock and Bearley from the men of Ilchester to give them to William the Dane in exchange for Petherton park. (fn. 10) An exchange of land called 'Deneysesdone' in Petherton forest was certainly made with a 'haywardwyk' in Ilchester, and Nicholas Bonville was still holding the Ilchester or Sock property in 1294. (fn. 11) Chestermead may once have been part of Ilchester West field: two small plots of land were certainly in dispute between the borough and Sock manor at the end of the 13th century, (fn. 12) and a piece of meadow in Ilchester West field was referred to in 1387 as de tenura de Sooke Denys. (fn. 13) The whole parish was regarded as part of Ilchester for taxation purposes in 1327, (fn. 14) but it was separately rated in 1377 and thereafter. (fn. 15)
There are remains of Roman occupation in the parish including a site immediately to the west of Sock Dennis farm-house. (fn. 16) The leper hospital of St. Margaret, founded by 1212, evidently stood in the parish. (fn. 17) John the Dane in 1227 gave to three brethren of the house of lepers at 'Socford' 7 a. of land, three of which were in 'Casteler', just north of their house. (fn. 18) 'Socford' may have been on the Foss Way; the regalem viam de Shotford occurs in 1276 in association with Sock manor. (fn. 19) There is no further trace of the hospital after 1268, but a chapel at 'Sokford by Ilchester' was in 1340 occupied by a hermit. (fn. 20) A building called the 'spytell' was apparently still standing in the early 16th century, and land in the same area still bore the name 'chastell'. (fn. 21) The present settlement in the parish comprises three farms, their cottages, and farm buildings.
There were 7 taxpayers in Sock in 1327 (fn. 22) and 13 in 1377. (fn. 23) There were fewer than ten people by 1428, (fn. 24) and the disappearance of the church followed in little more than a century. By the end of the 18th century Sock was 'an obliterated place', (fn. 25) and had long comprised only two farms. (fn. 26) No individual return was made in the censuses of 1801 and 1811, but in 1821 the population was ten. By 1891 the number had risen to 33, but it fell to 18 in 1931. In 1951, when the last separate figure was given, the population was 23. (fn. 27)
Richard of Ilchester or de Toclive (d. 1188) is said to have been a native of Sock, and certainly held land there. (fn. 28) After a career as a government official he held the bishopric of Winchester from 1173 until his death. (fn. 29)
The seven thegns who held Sock 'in parage' in the time of the Confessor were succeeded, after the Conquest, by Robert son of Ives, sometimes called 'the Constable', who held the estate from the count of Mortain. (fn. 30) The property continued to be held of Mortain until the second count's lands were confiscated in 1106, when the overlordship of Sock was resumed by the Crown. Robert son of Ives was the direct ancestor of the family of Beauchamp of Hatch, (fn. 31) and by 1236 the mesne tenant was Robert de Beauchamp (III). (fn. 32) The mesne lordship then passed to his son Robert (IV), his grandson John (I) (d. 1283), and John's heirs successively to John (IV) (d. 1361). (fn. 33) Part of it then passed to Alice, widow of John (IV), in dower. (fn. 34) The Beauchamp inheritance having then devolved on two coheirs, the mesne lordship seems to have lapsed. (fn. 35)
Richard of Ilchester, bishop of Winchester 1174– 88, held a hide of land there by grant of Robert de Beauchamp. (fn. 36) John the Dane, (fn. 37) his heir, brought an action in 1224 concerning a carucate which Richard had conveyed to William son of Ralph. (fn. 38) William the Dane, perhaps John's father, was the founder of the Whitehall in Ilchester between 1217 and 1220. (fn. 39) John the Dane held two fees in Sock of the Beauchamps in 1236. (fn. 40)
Between 1256 and 1268 the holding, described as a manor and divided into smaller fees, was disputed between the Bonvilles, the Pauncefoots, and Brice, son and heir of William Deneys, evidently successor to John the Dane. In 1256 Nicholas de Bonville established a claim to 2¼ fees which were said to form the manor. (fn. 41) Two years later the estate was settled on Nicholas's heir William, and was then said to comprise 21/5 fees. (fn. 42) At the death of Nicholas in 1264 the estate was held partly for ¼ fee of the king, and the rest for 2 fees of Mortain of Robert Beauchamp. (fn. 43) In 1268, however, Brice Deneys, a minor in the custody of the Crown, successfully recovered seisin against William Bonville and Isabel Pauncefoot, who were said to have acquired the estate during the civil war. (fn. 44)
In 1283 Grimbald Pauncefoot unsuccessfully challenged Brice's right to the manor, and three years later the holding, described as 1½ fee, was in Deneys's hands. (fn. 45) Ten days earlier than this inquisition Brice enfeoffed Grimbald Pauncefoot with two thirds of the manor. (fn. 46) The grant represented half the manor except the capital messuage, and half the advowson. (fn. 47) Between 1292 and 1294 Nicholas Bonville acquired from Brice not only the mesne lordship of the Pauncefoot moiety, but also the ownership of the other moiety, including the capital messuage, part of the transaction being the purchase of a messuage and three carucates of land for 200 marks in 1293. (fn. 48)
Nicholas Bonville died in 1294 in possession of what later became known as the manor of SOCK DENNIS. (fn. 49) His son, also Nicholas, was holding the property for 2 fees of Mortain in 1337. (fn. 50) After failure to repay a debt contracted in 1345 he lost possession, and Sir Richard Abberbury was owner in 1361. (fn. 51) Abberbury lost possession in 1375 to Sir Thomas Brooke. (fn. 52) The Bonvilles retained some interest, however, and in 1388 the manor was settled on Nicholas Botiler, with remainder to William (later Sir William) Bonville. (fn. 53) Two years later Bonville had apparently taken possession. (fn. 54) At his death in 1408 he was succeeded by his grandson, also William. (fn. 55)
Bonville came of age in 1416; (fn. 56) he was created Lord Bonville in 1449 and died in 1461. (fn. 57) His heir was his great-granddaughter Cecily (d. 1530), wife successively of Thomas Grey, marquess of Dorset (d. 1501), and of Henry Stafford, earl of Wiltshire (d. 1523). (fn. 58) Cecily's son by her first marriage, Thomas Grey, survived her by only six months, and was succeeded by his son Henry (cr. duke of Suffolk, 1551), though Sock seems to have been settled originally on his younger son Thomas. (fn. 59) On the attainder of the duke in 1554 the lands reverted to the Crown, but were settled on another brother, Sir John Grey, in 1559. (fn. 60) John's son Henry (cr. Lord Grey of Groby, 1603), sold the manor, together with lands in Ilchester and Yeovilton, to Edward Phelips of Montacute in 1594. (fn. 61)
The property remained in the Phelips family, sometimes forming part of the jointure of Phelips wives, until 1753. (fn. 62) In that year Edward Phelips sold both manor and advowson to Henry Hele, M.D., of the Close, Salisbury. (fn. 63) Hele's devizees, Thomas Phipps of Westbury Leigh (Wilts.) and Thomas Hele Phipps, his son and heir, sold the estate in 1818 to John Heathcote Wyndham (d. 1852). He was succeeded by his son J. E. Wyndham of Exeter. (fn. 64) The manor had by this time ceased to be anything more than a farm, known in 1968 as Sock Dennis farm.
Sock Dennis farm-house is a three-storeyed building of lias with Ham stone dressings. Originally of two storeys, it dates from the 17th century (fn. 65) and has round-headed mullioned windows on the ground floor. The front portion and the third storey were added early in the 19th century.
The estate later known as SIR JOHN BERKELEY'S MANOR or WYNDHAM'S SOCK originated in the holding of Grimbald Pauncefoot. (fn. 66) In a lawsuit in 1329 Clemence, widow of Grimbald Pauncefoot (II) (d. 1314), claimed that Grimbald (I) had enfeoffed Bishop Robert Burnell (d. 1292) of this property. (fn. 67) It had then descended to the bishop's nephew Philip (d. 1294), and then to Philip's son Edward. Edward then demised the estate to Clemence and Grimbald for her life, with remainder to Amaury, Grimbald's brother and heir. (fn. 68) Amaury Pauncefoot was returned as tenant for half the manor for a fee Mortain in 1316, (fn. 69) though Clemence was actual tenant in 1327. (fn. 70) Amaury seems to have succeeded by 1343, (fn. 71) but his son Grimbald (III) granted the estate before 1361 to Thomas, Lord Berkeley. (fn. 72)
Sir John Berkeley, successor to Thomas, let the estate for his life to Sir William Bonville in 1389. (fn. 73) In 1411, after Bonville's death, Sir John Berkeley (d. 1428) and Elizabeth his wife settled the property on their son Maurice (later Sir Maurice), of Bisterne (Hants), and Beverstone (Glos.). (fn. 74) Sir Maurice died in 1458 leaving Sock and other lands in trust for his grandson, William (d. 1485). Sock was held by William's widow for her life, and then passed to his uncle, Sir Edward Berkeley (d. 1506), of Avon (Hants). (fn. 75) It descended to his son Thomas, his grandson John, and his great grandson Sir William (d. 1551) (fn. 76) and then to Sir John Berkeley of North Hinton (Hants), who in 1568 sold the estate to Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey (Wilts.). (fn. 77) In 1585 Danvers sold Sock to Sir Matthew Arundell, (fn. 78) who was succeeded in 1598 by his son Thomas (cr. Lord Arundell of Wardour, 1605). (fn. 79) The trustees of Thomas, Lord Arundell (d. 1643), sold it to Wadham Wyndham of Dinton (Wilts.) in 1655. (fn. 80)
The property then descended in the Wyndham family through William (d. 1734), his son William (d. 1762), his grandson William (d. 1786), and his great-grandson, also William (d. 1841). (fn. 81) The property was still described as a manor in the early 18th century, but in the 19th was considered only a farm. (fn. 82)
The farm-house of Wyndham's Sock, known as Sock House in 1657, was then occupied by the tenant of half the land. (fn. 83) The present Ham stone house was built to the design of Joseph Beard of Kingsdon in the 1820s. (fn. 84) In 1968 the farm was known as Sock Manor farm.
The estate at Sock in the 11th century was predominantly arable, though the four ploughs on land for five may perhaps indicate some then recent contraction of the cultivated area. (fn. 85) Thereafter, at least until the late 13th century, the arable remained constant in size, and in 1294 measured 480 a. (fn. 86) Grassland was evidently recovered from what was waste or marsh in the 11th century. In 1086 the manor had 70 a. of meadow, but no recorded pasture, though the demesne farm alone supported 5 beasts (animalia), 35 pigs, and 25 sheep. (fn. 87) By the late 13th century the two moities of the original estate comprised between them 120 a. of meadow and the same amount of pasture, with additional meadow in Chestermead, rented out for £6 3s. a year, and pasture, probably in common, worth £4. (fn. 88) Chestermead, sometimes divided into sesters, was obviously valuable and sought after, especially for grazing cattle. (fn. 89) One tenant in Sock in 1328 possessed a bull, 24 oxen, and 20 cows there; and another had at least 16 oxen in 1374. (fn. 90)
In the time of the Confessor the whole estate had been held by seven thegns 'in parage'. (fn. 91) Robert son of Ives's farm of 2½ hides was worked with one serf, and 8 villeins and 2 bordars held the rest of the land, amounting at the old valuation to one hide. By the late 13th century an unspecified number of both free and customary tenants were paying rents in cash. (fn. 92) The total value of the two parts of the parish in 1294 was returned as £69 11s., though in the following year the figure was £37 11s. (fn. 93) The estate of Cecily Bonville was farmed for £22 in 1527–8 and 1539–40. (fn. 94)
The farm of the manor of Sock Dennis by 1527 comprised rents of both free and customary tenants, (fn. 95) but it must be assumed that many of these were resident outside the manor and parish. Certainly the surviving medieval evidence suggests outside ownership and non-resident landlords. The decline in resident population evidently continued during the 16th century, (fn. 96) probably the result of change from arable to pasture. Such change had certainly occurred on Wyndham's Sock by the mid 17th century, the 500-a. holding having only 18½ a. of mixed arable and pasture and the remainder grass. (fn. 97) The manor included the meadows of Chestermead which the lessee in 1566–8 reseeded, thereby considerably increasing the value of his cattle. (fn. 98) There was a consequent rise in rents in the manor, from just over £57 in the 1580s to over £86 in the 1630s. (fn. 99)
In the later 17th century the two manors provided a contrast in estate management. By 1680 the Phelips estate, amounting to some 340 a., was divided between 117 a. in hand and 223 a. leased to George Hilborne of Ilchester. (fn. 100) The holding was gradually increased in size: c. 1700 there were over 429 a. (fn. 101) and by 1752 470 a. (fn. 102) In contrast the Wyndham estate covered c. 509 a. in 1657, divided into fourteen holdings. (fn. 103) In 1746 it was still split between five, (fn. 104) and was seriously fragmented by leases for lives as late as 1819. (fn. 105) One farm, known as Upper Sock farm, of c. 230 a., had then emerged in a total acreage of 496 a. (fn. 106)
The Wyndhams carried out a number of improvements in the 1820s and 1830s, though they found it difficult to secure suitable tenants, particularly after severe flooding in 1828. (fn. 107) Wyndham's Sock farm, as it was then called, was said to be in a 'bad state' and lacked a tenant, although the farmhouse had recently been rebuilt. (fn. 108) Alterations at Burlinghams by 1838 had made the house 'very convenient', and other buildings had been made 'very perfect' according to the owner. When a few other old buildings had been attended to he hoped to 'have a truce from building'. (fn. 109)
By 1839 there were only four holdings in Sock. The largest, Sock Dennis farm, was 415 a.; Wyndham's Sock measured 314 a. and Chestermead 117 a. Just over 130 a. were then under arable cultivation and 747 a. under meadow or pasture. (fn. 110) In the early 1860s many of the workers on Sock farms had to live in Ilchester, but cottages were being provided later in the decade. (fn. 111) In 1968 three farms shared the land of the ancient parish between them and were predominantly pastoral. (fn. 112)
In 1327 Sock was described as the 'foreign' of the borough of Ilchester. (fn. 113) No court rolls survive for either manor, and certainly in 1527–8 and 1539–40 no courts were held. (fn. 114) By the end of the 18th century Sock tithing was considered part of Tintinhull parish. (fn. 115) It was incorporated in the Yeovil poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 116)
There was a church at Sock in 1286. (fn. 117) In origin it was evidently a daughter church of Yeovil, and a pension was still paid by the rector of Sock to the rector of Yeovil in 1428. (fn. 118) The church itself had disappeared by 1575 but the benefice, thereafter a sinecure, remained until suppressed in 1883. (fn. 119) An attempt to unite part of the parish with Ilchester and part with Lufton and Montacute proved unsuccessful in 1656–7. (fn. 120) In 1883 the ecclesiastical parish was divided between Ilchester and Tintinhull and the rectory dissolved. (fn. 121)
The advowson lay with the holders of the manor. In 1286, when the manor was divided, the right of patronage was to be exercised alternately. (fn. 122) Subsequently, despite the division of the holding, the advowson lay with the lord of Sock Dennis manor, though the Crown presented in 1306 and 1318 during minorities, (fn. 123) and the bishop collated in 1409, apparently by lapse. (fn. 124) Thomas Phelips presented the rector in 1577, by grant of the patron; (fn. 125) and in 1766 and 1767 Sir Alexander Powell acted as joint patron with Henry Hele. (fn. 126) John Heathcote Wyndham was patron from 1818 until his death in 1852; his son, J. E. Wyndham of Exeter, succeeded him. (fn. 127)
In 1297 the church was worth £7 15s. (fn. 128) By 1334 the rector had 66 a. of glebe worth 44s. 8d., pasture for his cattle, (fn. 129) and oblations and small tithes worth 26s. 8d. (fn. 130) The rectory was assessed at £7 6s. 8d. in 1428, (fn. 131) but its real value was clearly smaller, since it was several times exempted from taxation, provided that the curate remained in residence. (fn. 132) In 1523–6 it was worth £6, (fn. 133) and £5 10s. 1½d. in 1535. (fn. 134) Its 'common reputed value' c. 1668 was £12. (fn. 135) By 1831 the income was £188. The tithes were commuted in 1839 for £254 19s. gross. (fn. 136)
The most distinguished medieval rector was Nicholas Halswell, M.D. (rector 1492–1500), a foundation fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1518. (fn. 137) Attempts to enforce residence on the rectors by tax exemption during the 15th century (fn. 138) appear on the whole to have been successful. A century earlier Walter Gerard (rector 1338–47) was allowed to serve in a private household provided he returned to his church for two days each fortnight in Lent. (fn. 139) Roger Hyllary (rector 1531–77) apparently held the benefice when the church itself went out of use. (fn. 140) In 1571–2, during a dispute with Thomas Phelips over a lease of the rectory lands, he described himself as 'a poor, aged, impotent, and blind person'. (fn. 141) Most of the rectors from the end of the 16th century held other benefices: John Beale (rector 1638–83) was vicar of Yeovil from 1660 until 1683; Thomas Brickenden (rector 1688–97) was rector of Corton Denham 1660–1701, and his successor at Sock, Edmund Brickenden (rector 1697– 1706), was also his successor at Corton. This pattern continued throughout the 18th century. John Manning Hazeland (rector 1785–1819) was curate at Bishop's Cannings (Wilts.) 1779–95 and vicar of Bigbury (Devon) 1785–1819. (fn. 142) John Heathcote Wyndham (rector 1819–52) was rector of Corton Denham 1813–52, and patron of Sock. His successor as rector, William Pyne, held no other cure, but lived at Charlton Mackrell. (fn. 143)
The church of St. John the Baptist (fn. 144) had dis- appeared by 1575. (fn. 145) There had formerly been lights, supported by rents, before the altar of St. John the Baptist in the chancel and also before the altar of the Virgin. (fn. 146) A doorway, probably of the early 16th century and perhaps formerly part of the fabric of the church, is incorporated in one of the buildings of Sock Dennis farm.