A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1974.
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The parish of Muchelney, lying on loam above clay and gravel between the converging rivers Yeo and Parrett, 1½ mile SSE. of Langport, is just over 2 miles from north to south and 1¾ mile from east to west, and measured 1,591 a. in 1901. (fn. 1) The extreme north-western boundary falls short of the confluence of the two rivers, but follows an irregular watercourse known in the Middle Ages as Horsies Pyll and Oldryver, (fn. 2) evidently the original line of one of the two rivers which later changed its course in time of flood. Part of the southern boundary of the parish also follows a stream known as Oldriver brook, (fn. 3) indicating a change in the course of the Parrett.
Much of the land between the Yeo and the Parrett, constituting the extreme north-western part of the Saxon royal estate of Martock, (fn. 4) lies below the 25 ft. contour. Settlements developed on some of the 'islands' of slightly higher ground rising from the marsh, three of which, Muchelney (Great Island), Midelney, and Thorney, were named by the 11th century. (fn. 5) Midelney later became part of Drayton parish, itself once a dependency of Muchelney, (fn. 6) though in 1569 the churchwardens of Muchelney still claimed that its people should not attend Drayton church. (fn. 7) Horsey, in the north of the parish, was a medieval farm site, (fn. 8) but other 'islands' including Nidney or Netney (Litney or Littleney in the later Middle Ages) (fn. 9) and Ilsey, (fn. 10) both in Thorney moor, and the Down, (fn. 11) north-east of the church, were cultivated but not occupied. Only in times of flood were all these 'islands' apparent, but flooding was frequent and Muchelney itself was often known as an island rather than as a parish until the 17th century. (fn. 12)
Permanent settlement probably resulted from the foundation of the abbey early in the 8th century. (fn. 13) The position of Muchelney, Thorney, and Ham, and of the site of the abbey was governed by their relative immunity from flooding. The abbey complex included in the 16th century not only the abbey church and claustral buildings but also the demesne farm barton, the almonry, (fn. 14) the parish church and vicarage, and the 15th-century cross. (fn. 15) This group lay in some isolation, which may explain why the church house, normally near the parish church, stood further to the south, in Lower Muchelney, (fn. 16) more accessible to the rest of the parish.
Before turnpike extensions in 1829–30 created the direct road link between Muchelney and Huish Episcopi, the main routes from Lower Muchelney ran as now south and south-east to Thorney and to Ham. (fn. 17) A third route ran due west, past the Court House and over the Parrett by Bage bridge, known as Bougkebrygge in 1474, Banckbridge in 1553, and Barge bridge in 1667. (fn. 18) In 1768 this was a wooden structure of three arches, (fn. 19) and the route was still used in 1842. (fn. 20) The bridge was replaced by Westover bridge, formerly known as Muchelney Ford bridge or Muchelney bridge, on the line of the present Drayton road. It was built in 1840 on the site of Muchelney ford by the Parrett Navigation Company, and was probably of stone and timber. (fn. 21) It was rebuilt c. 1882, and was replaced by the present bridge in 1948–9. (fn. 22) The turnpike road which joined Huish with Muchelney was built in 1829–30, and its route continued through Thorney to Kingsbury Episcopi. (fn. 23) It formed an extension to the roads of the Langport, Somerton, and Castle Cary Trust. (fn. 24) The new road in the north replaced a grass track known as Langport Wall. (fn. 25) A singlestoreyed brick toll-house was still standing in 1971 where the new road entered the village. (fn. 26) The only cart route northwards was along Horsey Lane, known in the 18th century as Chambers's drove, which skirted the southern and eastern edges of Muchelney Level and crossed the Yeo at Pibsbury ford. (fn. 27)
Droves and lanes serving the open fields and 'moors' included Strap drove and New Mead drove, south-east of Ham, in existence by 1239 when an earlier agreement was confirmed which allowed corn to be transported from Stapleton in Martock parish to Muchelney abbey. (fn. 28) Others, such as Bethune's drove which gave access to parts of Thorney moor, probably disappeared after inclosure in 1826. (fn. 29) Another route went through the farmyard of Abbey farm south-west to join the road to Bage bridge. It served Gally farm, and both buildings and lane had virtually disappeared by 1886. (fn. 30)
There was a coal yard on the bank of the Parrett at Thorney by 1841–2. (fn. 31) Also at Thorney was a halt on the Yeovil-Durston branch of the Bristol and Exeter railway. The track was opened in 1853, but Thorney and Kingsbury Halt, later known simply as Thorney Halt, was constructed later. Both halt and line were closed in 1964. (fn. 32)
Before 1538 there were six common arable fields, on the relatively higher ground near the main settlements. West and Hill, later Tout, fields served Thorney, and lay on either side of the hamlet. (fn. 33) The tithings of Muchelney and Ham appear to have shared four fields. By the mid 16th century one of these, Hamond field, had virtually disappeared. Ham field lay between Hill field and the hamlet of Ham. (fn. 34) Muchelney field lay to the north-west, on the south side of the Muchelney-Ham road. (fn. 35) The fourth field in the medieval arable complex was North field. Its exact position is not clear, but it was probably north of Ham, between Eastmoor and Whetmoor. The name was still retained in 1723. (fn. 36) South field and Seven Acres were created after the surrender of the abbey in 1538. Part of the former was still in strips in 1842; the latter was partially inclosed shortly before 1741. (fn. 37)
Common pastures and meadows occupied the surrounding levels. To the north was Muchelney Level, formerly known as Barramores, by the end of the 15th century part of the inclosed demesne of the abbey. (fn. 38) Drainage had also produced small inclosed meadows in the south of the parish by the end of the 15th century: Reedmead and Stonemead had been created by 1411, New mead by 1451. (fn. 39) To east and west of the 'great island' lay much larger tracts of low-lying land not fully brought into use until inclosure in 1826. To the west was Thorney moor, which included a piece of ground called High Alders in the 19th century, and three hundred years earlier had been divided into small withy beds. (fn. 40) The 'moor' was commoned until 1826, and measured then c. 155 a. (fn. 41) In the east of the parish lay the much larger tract of land stretching with illdefined boundaries into Martock. Eastmoor, the area nearest Muchelney, was divided into closes of meadow and pasture by the early 16th century. (fn. 42) The surviving name Black Withies suggests other uses for wetter ground to the north. (fn. 43) Further west is Whetmoor, occupying a third of the parish and uninclosed until 1826. (fn. 44) It was partly fenced in the early 18th century, but cattle from Martock often came across the 12 ft. 'lake' and fed on Muchelney soil 'through neglect of tenants in not keeping up fences'. (fn. 45)
In 1205 Muchelney abbey had licence to inclose a wood on their 'island' and make it into a park. (fn. 46) The park, which was arable in the 15th century, lay at the northern end of Netney in Thorney moor. (fn. 47) It was divided into Kine Park and Clarkenparke in the 16th century, when it comprised 12 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 48) The tenant of Abbey farm in the 16th century had fishing rights from Load to Hambridge on the river Isle, and thence to the 'longe draughts'. (fn. 49) By 1553 a fishery called 'Barrymore fishing' was let for 2s. a year, and there were two other fisheries, each worth 1s. 4d. (fn. 50) Fowling in the manor was then let for 2s. (fn. 51) Both fowling and fishing on the manor in 1727 were said to be good. (fn. 52)
No part of the abbey church has been left standing. Excavations on the site in the 1950s (fn. 53) revealed the remains of an early-8th-century church, having a semicircular apse with a polygonal external face, which was incorporated in the 12th-century church as a crypt under the choir. The Norman church had an apsidal east end with bubble chapels on its east, north, and south sides. A similar chapel stood from the south transept. A rectangular Lady Chapel was later added, probably the chapel of St. Mary atte stone for which an indulgence to visitors was issued in 1360. (fn. 54) The whole building, 247 ft. long, was evidently ornamented in the 15th century, fragments of casing still being in situ.
The main cloister lay to the south of the church. Judging by its surviving southern alley and the adjoining abbot's lodging the whole was largely rebuilt in the late 15th or early 16th century. Fragments of 12th-century masonry were incorporated in its walls. The cloister alley is two-storeyed with chambers above and an arcade, formerly filled with tracery, below. The lodging, which is remarkably complete, includes a kitchen and a hall or anteroom on the ground floor and several upper chambers. (fn. 55) The finest of these, the abbot's parlour, has an elaborately carved fireplace with two recumbent lions surmounting the now blank panel above it. One wall is occupied by an oak settle with linenfold panels. The windows contain fragments of glass bearing the initials of Abbot Thomas Broke (1505– 22). The refectory adjoined the lodging to the east. Its surviving north wall, backing on the cloister alley, is carved with stone panelling, evidently to match the windows in the missing wall opposite. The sites of warming house, chapter house, and infirmary have been located, and the reredorter still stands.
To the west and south-west of the abbey church was the barton of the demesne farm, now divided by the present road to Drayton, and includes a 9-bay barn, probably dating from the early 16th century. (fn. 56) It is of lias with Ham stone dressings, some original slit openings to the ground floor, and a four-centred doorway near the south end. The structural evidence suggests that it was always at least partly twostoreyed, although the present floors are not the original ones. The tie-beam roof trusses have collars and curved raking struts. There are three purlins to each roof slope and a few curved windbraces survive. The almonry, further north, was converted to a domestic dwelling after the surrender of the abbey. (fn. 57) The present Almonry farm-house replaced the original in 1902. (fn. 58) It was then a small thatched building of two storeys adjoining a larger brick farm-house. (fn. 59) Over the door, in a round-headed niche, was the carved figure of an ecclesiastic, with hand raised in blessing. (fn. 60) The figure remains over the door of the present farm-house.
Many houses in the village bear witness to their builders' use of the abbey ruins as a stone quarry. Before the mid 16th century timber was evidently the more usual building material. The Tudor House in Lower Muchelney is an example of a timberframed structure with crucks, dating probably from the early 16th century, and subsequently cased in stone. (fn. 61) Lias rubble and thatch were the chief materials in the 17th and 18th centuries, several houses in Silver Street, Lower Muchelney, and in the more scattered settlements of Thorney and Ham, showing their use with mullioned windows and hood moulds. Two substantial brick houses, Manor Farm and School Farm, both in Lower Muchelney, show the same features persisting in the different medium of brick, and probably date from the early 18th century. The Court House in Silver Street, used as a vicarage in the later 19th century, (fn. 62) apparently originated as an early-18thcentury stone farm-house consisting of a single range with a stair projection at the rear. It was extended eastwards in 1874 when 15th-century fragments from the abbey were incorporated in the building and buttresses were added to the older range.
In 1840 the churchwardens reported that there was neither inn nor beer house in the parish, but they had heard of, and hoped to suppress, the clandestine sale of cider. (fn. 63) A beer house, in business by 1861, (fn. 64) was closed in 1878. (fn. 65)
Men of the parish in the 19th century shared a friendly society with Drayton, holding their annual feast on Whit Wednesday. (fn. 66) Muchelney women were admitted to the Drayton women's club in 1880. (fn. 67) Parishioners were from 1879 eligible for membership of the Drayton and Curry Rivel Agricultural Association. (fn. 68)
The population of the parish in 1801 was 283. After four decades of fluctuation the total of 349 was reached in 1841, followed by 340 in 1851. The total then fell each decade to 103 in 1911 and then, after a slight recovery to 213 in 1931, fell to 164 in 1961. (fn. 69)
Manor and Other Estates.
At the time of the Domesday survey the Benedictine community of Muchelney owned the 'islands' of Muchelney, Midelney, and Thorney which had formed part of the demesnes of the abbey presumably from the time of its foundation, possibly by the early 8th century. (fn. 70) The monks surrendered their house and possessions early in 1538, and the whole property, described as the manor, rectory, and advowson, was granted almost immediately to Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford, later duke of Somerset. (fn. 71) The Crown recovered the property on Seymour's execution in 1552, (fn. 72) and in the following year leased the manor and the site of the monastery for 21 years to John Penne, a groom of the Privy Chamber. (fn. 73) Some few days later Penne made over his lease to Robert King, gentleman usher of the Queen's Chamber. (fn. 74) In 1557 King received from the Crown a further 21-year lease, to take effect after the expiry of the original lease in 1574. (fn. 75) In 1562 King sold his interest to John Walshe, then a serjeant-atlaw and later a justice of Common Pleas, who was a native of Cathanger in Curry Rivel. (fn. 76) On Walshe's death in 1572 the lease reverted to King, who retained the property until 1580, when his title was declared void. (fn. 77)
The manor, divided since the surrender of the monastery into separate holdings, was thenceforward leased by the Crown in these units. The largest, a holding of over 200 a. largely of inclosed pasture known as the Old Demesnes, (fn. 78) together with the 'residue' of the manor and the rents of free and customary tenants, was let to Sir Edward Phelips, his wife, and son for their lives, the Old Demesnes in 1586, the 'residue' in 1592. (fn. 79) The site of the monastery and adjacent closes were leased to Robert Cole alias Plume in 1575; (fn. 80) the New Demesnes were leased to William Symes of Poundisford in 1581; (fn. 81) and Horsey farm was in the hands of the Phelips family by 1587. (fn. 82)
Edward Phelips was tenant of the 'residue' of the manor, including the manor rents and presumably the courts, when Robert King's lease was declared void in 1580. (fn. 83) By Exchequer decree he was allowed to have the property as Crown lessee for the unexpired term of King's lease. Early in 1591 he in turn made a lease to Robert Redhead, his tenant, and early in 1592 the manor was let by the Crown to Redhead and to Edward and Robert Phelips for their lives. (fn. 84) In 1628, in return for the sale of the manor of Broadway to the Crown, Sir Robert Phelips acquired the freehold of the manor. (fn. 85) He sold it to his son Edward, for the payment of his debts, in 1638. (fn. 86)
By 1654 the manor belonged to Edward Davenant, D.D., treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. (fn. 87) It was probably settled in that year on his son John (d. 1671). His grandson, also John, of Landford (Wilts.), in 1680 allowed it to stand as security for payments under his father's will, (fn. 88) but it did not have to be sold, and passed eventually to his three daughters each of whom, Rebecca, Catherine, and Elizabeth, had one third share of the property, between 1717 and 1719. (fn. 89) The whole manor was evidently put up for sale in 1727, and was probably then purchased by Walter Long of Salisbury and Preshaw (Hants). (fn. 90)
Walter Long died in 1769 and his son, also Walter, died unmarried in 1807. William, a younger son (d. 1818), was followed by Walter, son of another son John (1728–97). Walter Long died in 1871 and was succeeded by his son Walter Jervis Long (d. 1891), and then by his grandson Walter Long (d. 1919), whose trustees sold the manor and other property, amounting to nearly all the land in the parish, to the tenants in 1921. (fn. 91)
The site of the monastery and adjacent closes, amounting to about 140 a., were leased to Robert Cole alias Plume for 21 years from 1575; William Symes of Poundisford was granted the reversion in 1581. (fn. 92) In 1592, before Cole's lease had expired, the Crown granted a 31-year lease to Arthur Worliche of Leighs (Essex), who immediately assigned it to a London goldsmith and then sold it to Hugh Portman of Orchard Portman (d. 1603). (fn. 93)
In 1614 Sir Edward Phelips purchased the site and the farm from the Crown, and two years later his son Sir Robert settled it upon Anne Portman, widow of Sir John Portman (d. 1614), Hugh Portman's brother. (fn. 94) The Portman family owned the farm until 1825 when Edward Berkeley Portman exchanged it with Walter Long for the manor of Gussage St. Michael (Dors.). (fn. 95) With the rest of the Long family holding it was sold in 1921. (fn. 96)
The farm, the only demesne lands retained by the monastery at the surrender, was let to John Smythe and his wife in 1547 for £11 12s. (fn. 97) It then comprised the site of the monastery and its remaining buildings, and adjoining closes containing c. 140 a. (fn. 98) William Witcombe was tenant of the farm in 1592. (fn. 99) Muchelney farm, as it was called in the 18th century, measured nearly 178 a. by 1763, and c. 185 a. in 1825. (fn. 100) It was let to John Pitt, an Ilchester maltster, from 1742, (fn. 101) and later to Robert Gatcombe and the Stuckey family. (fn. 102) By 1841 it was tenanted by Isaac Young; (fn. 103) the Westlake family took the tenancy in 1850–1 and remained at least until 1897. (fn. 104)
The former farm-house was originally the lodging of the abbot of Muchelney. The buildings were described in 1547 as of three roofs, namely a hall, kitchen, larder-house, and buttery, with a chamber over the hall and 'beyond and by the sides thereof' three other chambers. (fn. 105) The building dates from the late 15th or early 16th century. (fn. 106) With the adjoining abbey church site it was taken into the guardianship of the Crown in 1927. (fn. 107)
The Old Demesnes, some 200 a. largely of inclosed pasture grounds, let by the monks before their surrender, were in 1586 leased to Edward Phelips, Margaret his wife, and Robert their son for their lives. (fn. 108) Sir Edward, as he then was, still held the property, including Barramores, in 1609, (fn. 109) but he or his son seem to have disposed of the property before 1638. The descent of the New Demesnes is also not clear. In 1581 they were leased to William Symes for 21 years; (fn. 110) in 1594 the Crown granted them to Robert Smythe and his sons John and Gervase. (fn. 111) By 1601 they were in the hands of Sir Thomas Neale of Warneford (Hants), who was still tenant in 1609. (fn. 112)
By 1667–8 two estates, later known as the 'manors' of Neales and Barramores, were owned by a Mr. Goodwin, probably John Goodwin of Bletchingley (Surr.). (fn. 113) His grandson Deane succeeded him in 1674 and added to his holding in the parish the so-called 'manor' of Knowles's, acquired from Stephen Knowles in or after 1679. (fn. 114) Deane Goodwin was succeeded in 1692 by his brother Charles who died, probably in 1726, and then by John Goodwin, described in 1729 as of St. James's, Westminster. (fn. 115) Goodwin held courts baron until 1739, and his estate was variously described as the 'manor' of Muchelney or as three separate 'manors'. (fn. 116)
Goodwin's widow Mary, formerly of Worth (Suss.), wife of Andrew Bethune of East Grinstead (Suss.), held courts until 1748 as guardian of her daughter Mary Goodwin. (fn. 117) The daughter had come of age by 1752, but is not found after 1761. (fn. 118) Certainly her mother had succeeded her by 1768, and still held courts in 1772. (fn. 119) By 1777 her daughters by her second husband, Catherine and Anna Bethune, were 'ladies of the manors', the former being married to the Revd. Dr. George Bethune of Worth (d. 1803). (fn. 120) Catherine survived both her sister and her husband until at least 1808, and her four children retained possession until 1824. (fn. 121) By 1826 the property had been acquired by Walter Long, lord of Muchelney manor. (fn. 122)
In 1586 tenements and a sheephouse at Horsey and 100 a. of land, formerly tenanted by John Seymour and Thomas Phelips under Robert King's lease of the manor, were let by the Crown to Richard Phelips of Winterborne Whitchurch (Dors.). (fn. 123) A further lease to Phelips was granted in 1588. (fn. 124) Both grants were for the lives of Phelips, his wife Mary, and Richard, son of John Phelips. In 1607 the latter, described as of Corfe Mullen (Dors.), leased the property, then called Lanes Horsey, to Sir Robert Phelips of Montacute. (fn. 125) The freehold was purchased from the Crown in 1614, and Horsey was part of the estate sold by Sir Robert to his son Edward for the payment of his debts in 1638. (fn. 126) The subsequent descent of the land has not been traced with certainty, but a survey of the manor in 1670 includes holdings known as Horsey leases. (fn. 127)
The benefice estate, formally separated from the vicarage in 1308, (fn. 128) amounted in 1334 to pasture worth 24s. and tithes and oblations worth 76s. (fn. 129) By 1535 the income was from tithes alone, assessed at £11; (fn. 130) but in 1560 they were said to be worth only 20s. to the Crown grantees. (fn. 131) A number of tithe suits in the late 16th and early 17th centuries suggest a much higher potential value from moduses and tithes in kind. (fn. 132) Just over 990 a. were still titheable in kind in 1841, and a modus of 2d. an acre was payable on a further 455 a. As many as 113 a. were exempt by prescription. (fn. 133) Under the tithe award a rent-charge of £336 11s. was established, all but £2 payable to the lord of the manor. At the same time just over 12 a. of land were reckoned part of the rectorial estate, and formed part of Parsonage farm. (fn. 134)
At the surrender of the monastery in 1538 the rectory property was granted to Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford. (fn. 135) It reverted to the Crown on his execution in 1552, and was granted in 1560 to Robert Davye and Henry Dynne, both of London. (fn. 136) The lands and tithes were in practice in the control of lessees, members of the Smythe family. John Smythe was probably farming the tithes from the abbot in 1535–6, and he certainly held the profits under the duke of Somerset from 1547. (fn. 137) These profits are said to have included glebe. (fn. 138) Smythe was still receiving tithes at least until 1564–5. (fn. 139) His son Robert was still alive in 1594, (fn. 140) and Robert's elder son John was described as farmer of the rectory in 1606. (fn. 141)
By 1607 John Pyne of Curry Mallet was lay rector; he left the parsonage to his wife Juliana who presented to the benefice in 1619. (fn. 142) Her second son Hugh, of Cathanger (d. 1628), devised the rectory to his son Arthur. (fn. 143) Christabel, Arthur's sister, wife of Sir Edmund Wyndham, succeeded on her brother's death in 1639. (fn. 144) It is possible that the family lost the property during the Interregnum, but Sir Charles Wyndham (d. 1706), of Cranbury (Hants), son of Sir Edmund and Christabel, left the parsonage to his wife James. (fn. 145) She died in 1720 and her heirs sold the property, including some land recently added to the holding, in 1725 to John Collins of Ilminster (d. 1741). (fn. 146)
Collins's son John, of Hatch Beauchamp, died in 1792 heavily in debt, and his widow and son sold the property to Henry Tripp of Orchard Wyndham in 1803. (fn. 147) Tripp sold the rectory and 27 a. of land to Walter Long, lord of the manor, in 1825 for £2,275. (fn. 148)
In 1086 there were only four carucates of arable on the three 'islands' of Muchelney, Midelney, and Thorney, apparently divided equally between demesne and tenants. There were also 25 a. of meadow, 12 a. of wood, 100 a. of pasture, an arpent of vineyard, and two fisheries paying 6,000 eels. (fn. 149) The surrounding 'moors' were clearly not included in the survey, and the whole estate was worth only £3. Frequent flooding continued to hamper the economy of the parish: in 1243 the abbey was 'distressed for water'; (fn. 150) in 1317 the abbot was allowed to combine his office with that of sacristan to save money. (fn. 151) At the same time there was a continuous process of drainage and recovery of meadow and pasture grounds, at least from the mid 13th century, notably on the southeastern boundary with Martock. (fn. 152)
There were 3 villeins, 18 bordars, and 4 serfs on the estate in 1086, cultivating their lands with two ploughs. (fn. 153) This high ratio of customary holdings persisted throughout the Middle Ages. There were only three small freeholdings on the manor, producing in 1484–5 a rent of 2s. 5d., and in 1535 8s. 11d. for a total of 36½ a. (fn. 154) The largest, in Thorney, belonged in 1412 to Sir William Bonville, and by c. 1525 measured 27 a. (fn. 155) A man of villein status was presented at the manor court in 1411 for leaving the manor. (fn. 156) Another died in 1450 as tenant of a house and two cows were payable as heriot. (fn. 157) Between the freeholders and the serfs were the customary tenants. By 1484–5 customary works had virtually ceased, though some were but newly commuted, (fn. 158) and as late as 1451 three tenants were presented for not coming with their oxen and ploughs to the lord's park. (fn. 159) Customary payments amounted to about a sixth of the income of the manor. Payments in lieu of works rose from 9s. 6d. in 1434 to 10s. 3d. in 1444, and to £3 7s. 1d. in 1484–5. (fn. 160) Other customary payments comprised auxilium villani, levied at Martinmas, and worth over £4 throughout the 15th century; 'rypesylver', a total of 9s. from 36 customary tenants; 4s. 8d. in lieu of 14 'slabs' of iron paid by 14 tenants at Whitsun and commuted for 4d. each; 3s. 2d. for Peter's Pence; and church-scot. (fn. 161) By the mid 16th century none but church-scot remained. In 1407 this had comprised gifts to the abbot of 70 chickens at Martinmas, of 84 geese at Lammas, and 3 capons at Michaelmas. (fn. 162) In the mid 16th century these payments were still reckoned in geese and chickens but were paid in cash and amounted to 16s. 7d. (fn. 163)
By the end of the 15th century the demesne lands actually cultivated by the abbey included 97 a. of arable. In 1484–5 41 a. were sown with wheat, 39½ a. with oats, 12 a. with beans, and 4½ a. with barley. The wheat yield was nearly twice as great as the oats. (fn. 164) By 1484–5 the abbot was employing a shepherd, two ploughmen, two drovers, and a keeper of the barton. (fn. 165) In 1440 the demesne livestock comprised 60 cattle, including 19 cows but no oxen, and 25 horses. (fn. 166) A tenant in 1411 had a flock of 100 sheep. (fn. 167) A levy on pigs was paid at the manor court early in the 15th century and 53 were counted in 1412. (fn. 168) Figures for the rest of the century are much lower. (fn. 169) There was an eel fishery on the Yeo in 1475; it was let for 31½ 'sticks' of eels, and the lord had to find timber to make and repair the weir. (fn. 170)
There are indications during the later 15th century of a systematic exploitation of the estate, a policy probably connected with the large-scale rebuilding of the abbey. (fn. 171) Exploitation took the form of letting hitherto unused land for grazing, mostly for life; of building cottages to be rented out; and of turning into cash such small items as ash bows, hides, and boughs of trees. (fn. 172) The extra land and new cottages produced an income in 1484–5 of £2 19s. 4d. More significant in terms of income in that year were the sales of meadow and pasture from the demesne. Occasional sales of grazing in closes, amounting to only a few pence, dated from the 1450s, (fn. 173) but rose to 18s. 9d. in the summer court of 1475, (fn. 174) and to £8 18s. 4d. in 1484–5. (fn. 175) This still represented underexploitation, for some pastures remained unsold. (fn. 176)
The policy was carried a stage further between 1511 and the surrender of the abbey in 1538, during which time well over 200 a. of largely inclosed pasture grounds were granted out in copyholds for terms of lives. (fn. 177) Just over half lay in the north and east of the parish at Barramores and Eastmoors, and the whole came to be known during the 16th century as the Old Demesnes. By 1553 the Old Demesnes produced an income of £24. (fn. 178)
By the time of the surrender of the abbey in 1538 the demesne farm amounted to c. 390 a., of which c. 70 a. were arable. (fn. 179) It produced an income of £8 6s. in 1535, less than a tenth of the value of the whole manor. (fn. 180) The farm staff comprised only a shepherd and a ploughman. (fn. 181) Division of the demesne continued after the Dissolution: the New Demesnes, some 250 a. of land, two-thirds uninclosed meadow and pasture, were divided between copyholders on leases for lives, and by 1560 produced an additional £27 8s. 4d. (fn. 182)
The severe contraction of the demesne holding increased the economic significance of the new tenants. In 1484–5 payments by customary tenants for assessed rent, commuted works, new rents, and traditional dues amounted to £30 0s. 10d. (fn. 183) In the next fifty years rents rose to £73 9s. 4d. (fn. 184) Tenant farms varied considerably in size: by 1560 there were 112 separate holdings, with rents ranging between 1s. and £5 13s. 4d., besides the abbey site and farm of c. 140 a., let for £11 12s. (fn. 185) 'Horsey Place', the nucleus of Horsey farm, was the largest single holding, an inclosed pasture farm, including a sheephouse, stretching to 100 a. (fn. 186) Some holdings were grouped into the hands of a single tenant: John Larcombe, probably bailiff of the manor under the abbey in 1535, (fn. 187) had four copyhold tenements totalling over 94 a. (fn. 188)
The pattern of cultivation changed as a result of the policy of demesne leasing. By c. 1511, when leasing began, much of the demesne meadow and pasture was already inclosed. Well over 50 a. of Eastmoor, for example, were shared between 15 closes, and these small grounds were the first to be let. After 1538 larger areas came to be divided into small units for the same purpose. Rodmead, later Reedmead, which before 1538 amounted to 21 a., was divided between 14 holdings. Similar divisions took place elsewhere, including Seven Acres, where an 18-a. field became 14 strips mostly of pasture. (fn. 189) Arable lands were affected less. Hamond field, one of the six common fields, used only by the tenants of Muchelney hamlet, had virtually disappeared by 1553, but was evidently replaced by South field, where 47 a. were shared between Muchelney and Ham. (fn. 190) South field had originally been part of the abbey arable demesne, and a witness in a later tithe suit testified that in his youth he 'did often times go into the said South field when the abbot's own ploughman did plough the arable lands there'. (fn. 191) Another witness implied that the original field extended to c. 100 a. (fn. 192)
The whole estate thus leased was in 1553 worth over £88, of which the former demesnes accounted for over £51. (fn. 193) It remained, subject to reversionary grants, in the hands of a single Crown lessee until 1580. (fn. 194) Thenceforward it was divided into several units. By 1614 the Phelips family were holding the 'residue' of the manor with the remaining demesne farm, the Old Demesnes, and Horsey farm, together valued at £116 16s. 5d. a year. (fn. 195) The pattern of holdings changed in the 17th century, the property falling into three main divisions: the manor, which included Horsey, the 'manors' of Neales, Knowles's, and Barramores, which probably originated from the Old and New Demesnes, and the site of the abbey with its farm. These three estates, all owned by absentee landlords, were brought together c. 1825, when the whole parish was again under one owner, a state of affairs which continued until just after the First World War. (fn. 196)
By 1670 (fn. 197) the manor was an estate of over 566 a., fairly evenly divided between arable and meadow. Including Horsey Leases there were 84 separate tenements, most having a share in the commons as well as beast leazes on Thorney moor. The tenants themselves comprised three freeholders and the rest copyholders for lives, 55 of whom paid heriots or an equivalent in cash. The total rental was £36 15s. 2d. The common on Whetmoor, shared between Muchelney and Martock, was thought to be of great benefit to both lords and tenants 'if it happen to be divided'. (fn. 198)
In 1727 the manor measured just over 662 a., divided into 68 tenements, of which 11 were leasehold and the rest copyhold. (fn. 199) The estate was then up for sale, and was worth over £946 a year. Improvements were expected by the inclosure of Whetmoor and Thorney moor, which by that time provided 52 commons and 230 beast leazes respectively for the tenants. Inclosure intended 'this year' would have provided an additional 600 a. of 'very good pasture', bringing the yearly value to nearly £1,717. At the time many holdings were near surrender and it was declared that 'no manor was ever more abused, neglected', or 'underlet'. (fn. 200) The manor was probably sold in that year, but inclosure did not take place for another century. (fn. 201)
Barramores 'manor' in 1668 was a holding of c. 200 a. of pasture divided into 38 holdings, two of which were leasehold and the rest copyhold. (fn. 202) At the same date Neales 'manor', of c. 120 a. in 31 holdings, was by contrast under mixed cultivation and was all held by lease. (fn. 203) By 1740 the combined 'manors' of Knowles's, Neales, and Barramores amounted to 506 a., of which 133 a. were in hand. (fn. 204) The agent of the absent owner in 1731 had complained of 'four times the trouble . . . in letting, managing, and taking care of the estates', and the amount of land in hand underlined the difficulty of finding tenants at the time. (fn. 205) Changes from copyholds to leaseholds and some consolidation of holdings on these estates are evident during the 18th century. On Barramores in 1741 there were still 38 holdings but as many as 18 were leasehold; and by 1777 23 were so held. The number of holdings on Neales had been reduced to 20 by 1777; on Knowles's there was still little change: heriots were no longer payable, and there was a slight reduction in the number of separate holdings. (fn. 206)
Little is known of the third estate in the parish in the 18th century. It comprised Muchelney, now Abbey, farm, and Raymond's Tenements, all fenced in 1763 and amounting to nearly 203 a., with beast leazes in Thorney moor and common on Whetmoor. (fn. 207) From 1742 it was let for 21 years for £160 a year to an Ilchester maltster, the tenant agreeing to let 23 a. lie fallow each year, ploughing it three times. (fn. 208) Subsequent tenants paid higher sums: Robert Gatcombe £200 a year and Thomas Stuckey £440. (fn. 209) In 1800 a new tenant took the farm for 14 years, paying £330 for the first seven and £340 for the remainder. A levy of £20 an acre was to be paid if grassland put down in the previous seven years was ploughed, and grass was to be mown only once a year. There was also a restriction on the amount of potatoes and other garden produce grown and the tenant was to keep sheep penned at night, attend to and pay for all repairs, manure the land adequately, and keep 23 a. fallow each year. (fn. 210)
An act for the inclosure of c. 60 a. of common arable land, the remaining areas of Thorney West field, Thorney Hill or Tout field, and Muchelney field, c. 155 a. of Thorney moor, and pasture on Whetmoor, shared between Martock and Muchelney, was passed in 1819. (fn. 211) Only two landowners, Walter Long and Edward Berkeley Portman, were involved, but the award was not completed until 1826. (fn. 212)
By 1841 a pattern of farming had emerged in the parish which has largely persisted to the present day. The largest holding, a combination of the present Manor and Daws farms, was of nearly 323 a. Two farms at Thorney were over 200 a. and four others, Abbey with Gally farm, Almery (now Almonry), Horsey, and Parsonage farms, were between 125 a. and 170 a. The largest farm at Ham was just over 92 a. (fn. 213) During the 19th century the amount of arable land in the parish, always small, contracted still further. In 1801 there were 337 a. under plough, of which 207 a. produced wheat, 63½ a. beans, 42 a. barley, 12 a. peas, and 10½ a. potatoes. (fn. 214) By 1841 293 a. were arable, (fn. 215) and by 1905 only 222¼ a. (fn. 216)
Grassland thus remained of paramount importance for sheep and other stock and, from the later 19th century, for dairying. Two men renting dairies were in business at Ham by 1861, and a third dairy had been established by 1866. (fn. 217)
In 1821 53 out of 63 families in the parish were engaged in agriculture; (fn. 218) and in the 1840s an expanding population required new cottages. (fn. 219) Later in the century the effects of flooding accentuated the more general effects of the agricultural depression. In 1879 and 1880, for example, there was a reduction of a tenth in all rents because of floods, and sheep had to be sold or slaughtered because of disease. (fn. 220) In 1891 the labourers were said to be 'much on the move', and six cottages stood empty in 1892. (fn. 221) The farmers relying on grass and not on corn were less seriously affected by the national depression, and farms changed little in size up to the mid 1970s. The only major unit to disappear, Parsonage or Rectory farm, was divided in 1855. (fn. 222)
In the 19th century the demands of farmers created ancillary trades in the community. In 1861 there were two carpenters and a stone-mason; and a few years later a blacksmith and a thatcher. (fn. 223) Pottery and corn-dolly making were revived in the parish in the mid 20th century. Stock raising and dairying remained the centre of the economy, and some corn was grown solely for use as thatching material.
There is no direct evidence for a mill, but Mill Close drove, on the south side of the present Drayton road, survived as a field-name until the 19th century. (fn. 226) Closes called 'Millhey' and 'Millese', part of Abbey farm in 1547, also lay probably in that area. (fn. 227)
The abbot of Muchelney claimed to hold a liberty at Muchelney, indicated at the time of Domesday when he paid no geld for his holding. (fn. 228) This liberty, confirmed c. 1280, (fn. 229) was evidently still enjoyed in the 15th century, and surviving court rolls illustrate how it was exercised. (fn. 230) When defined c. 1290 the abbot enjoyed return of writs and quittance of the common summons; and his own rights within the manor comprised infangthief, chattels of felons, amercements from pleas there, gallows, assizes of bread and ale, tumbrel, pillory, view of frankpledge, waifs and strays, and free warren. (fn. 231)
The manorial court in the 15th century had jurisdiction over the four tithings of Muchelney, Thorney, Ham, and Midelney. (fn. 232) Four courts were held each year, at Michaelmas and Hockday described usually as curia legalis with view of frankpledge, (fn. 233) and at Christmas and Midsummer described simply as curia. No clear division of function between the courts is evident, and procedure seems to have varied, though presentments of each tithing and presentments of the jury of freemen for the whole manor usually followed proceedings between parties.
Business in the court was varied. Pleas of debt and trespass between parties were common. Both tithings and jury reported houses, roads, causeways, and ditches in need of repair, breaches of the assizes and of the peace, illegal snaring and fishing, and the production of bad ale, though the jury in some ways acted as a counter-check on the tithings. Thus in May 1411 Muchelney and Thorney tithings reported breaches of the assize of ale, and Thorney in addition a woman who had raised the hue against a neighbour. Ham tithing told of a breach of the peace and of a lane in need of repair. The jury of the manor presented several tenants to mend the bars controlling access to Thorney moor, and four people for keeping dogs which chased and killed geese. (fn. 234) The court acted upon these and similar presentments, ordering repairs or fines; and it initiated action against escaped nativi, or against a man keeping company with another's wife. (fn. 235)
In the early 15th century there were separate haywards for Muchelney and Midelney, but by 1454 each of the four tithings elected both a hayward and a reeve. (fn. 236) Tithingmen were apparently chosen annually by virtue of their holdings, though in 1451 the tithingman of Ham successfully resisted a second year in office in respect of a second holding. (fn. 237) Other officers included a man to oversee Thorney moor to ensure that no outsiders' beasts grazed there, and by 1455 there were scavengers to report and remove dead animals. (fn. 238) The haywards, who collected fines and attached goods as well as selling grazing, were also responsible for selling ash bows, hides, and strays. (fn. 239)
The court was held in the church house early in 1547, (fn. 240) but the subsequent division of the manor probably resulted in its suspension. The right to hold courts leet and baron and views of frankpledge was retained in law in the early 18th century, (fn. 241) and the lord was certainly holding courts by 1744. (fn. 242) The representative of the lord normally headed the signatories to vestry decisions during the 18th century, and the vestry seems by that time to have taken over the functions of the earlier court. (fn. 243) Extracts from courts baron for entries survive for the 'manors' of Knowles's, Neales, and Barramores between 1718 and 1761. (fn. 244) The only local officers known in the 17th and early 18th centuries are constables. Muchelney and Midelney had one each in 1637–8, (fn. 245) and the constable of Muchelney occurs in 1710. (fn. 246)
By 1740 parish affairs were controlled by the vestry. Two waywardens or surveyors of highways were appointed in 1747 and 1765, and from 1852 until 1894 the names of those liable for office as waywarden and overseer were recorded annually. (fn. 247) A salaried assistant overseer was appointed from 1791. In the 1740s there were four haywards responsible for the grazing control of Thorney moor. (fn. 248) Clothing and cash payments to the poor were often supplemented at times of crisis. In 1768 bread and peas were given, and in 1796 barley and bacon were purchased to be sold at a loss. Allowances of bread were also made in 1796. Coal was bought for the poor in 1799, potatoes in 1800, 1801, and 1809, and bread in 1846–8. (fn. 249) The vestry was also concerned with the construction and maintenance of sluices, the prevention of pigs from grazing on Whetmoor, and the rewards for the destruction of vermin. (fn. 250)
In 1744 the vestry agreed to lease the parish house, probably the old church house, from the lord of the manor, presumably to house the poor. (fn. 251) A further lease was taken in 1777. (fn. 252) In 1801 it was agreed to repair the house, then called the poorhouse, and to 'have chambers over the great hall and little room and make three dwellings'. (fn. 253) The poorhouse in use in 1829, presumably the same building, stood on the site later occupied by the school in Muchelney village. (fn. 254) It had been demolished by 1842. (fn. 255) The parish became part of the Langport poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 256)
Until 1400 Muchelney was the mother church of Drayton, and such a relationship suggests an early foundation, perhaps preceding the Conquest. (fn. 257) The church was appropriated to Muchelney abbey before 1228, when a vicar is first found. (fn. 258) A vicarage was ordained in 1308, though the vicar received no glebe beyond a residence, an orchard, and a garden, and was dependent for his food and stipend upon the monastery. (fn. 259) After the Dissolution a small rent-charge was made upon the lay rectory. (fn. 260) While still occasionally described as vicar in the 17th century, the incumbent was more usually known during the 18th century as a curate. From 1824, after a Parliamentary grant, the benefice was commonly called a perpetual curacy. (fn. 261) It was united with the vicarage of Drayton in 1924. (fn. 262)
The patronage of the living belonged to Muchelney abbey until 1538. After the surrender of the house it passed to Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford. (fn. 263) On his attainder in 1552 the property reverted to the Crown, which presented in 1555, 1557, and 1575. (fn. 264) Robert Smythe, lessee of the lay rectory, presented in 1582. (fn. 265) By 1619 the lay rector herself was in possession of the advowson, and subsequent owners of the parsonage, and from 1825 of the manor, presented. The Long family continued as patrons after the sale of the manor in 1921. Walter Long's son W. V. Campbell-Wyndham-Long was patron in 1923. A. W. Long, who had succeeded him by 1945, transferred the patronage to the bishop about 1950. (fn. 266)
The church was taxed at £6 in 1291. (fn. 267) Under the ordination of 1308 the vicar received bread and ale daily from the monastery, meat on Sundays and Tuesdays, and eggs and fish on other days. In addition the abbey sacrist paid him £4 a year to support the charges of his vicarage. Sunday offerings at both Muchelney and the daughter church at Drayton, oblations at burials, offerings of bread and eggs at Easter, and oblations at confessions, weddings, and churchings were payable to the vicar, who had to find a chaplain for Drayton and to support all charges of his cure except procurations. (fn. 268) Subsequent alterations of these arrangements probably occurred when Drayton became virtually independent of the mother church in 1400. (fn. 269) Certainly in the years immediately preceding the surrender of the monastery the vicar was receiving a 'pension' of £10 from the abbey, (fn. 270) and also 40s. as 'wages'. (fn. 271) The second sum may have been in return for personal services to the abbot, for only the larger sum was considered part of the benefice income. (fn. 272)
In 1560 the lay rectors were charged to pay the sum of £10 to the vicar, together with unspecified sums to support the cure. (fn. 273) By 1635 the vicar received in addition fees for weddings and churchings. (fn. 274) The reputed value was still only £10 in c. 1668. (fn. 275) By 1831 the income had improved to £93, the result of a succession of endowments and grants, (fn. 276) and twenty years later comprised £74 from land in other parishes, £7 10s. from glebe in Muchelney, and £10 7s. from the lay rector. (fn. 277) A further augmentation was made in 1879. (fn. 278)
The glebe in 1635 comprised an orchard and garden. (fn. 279) Royal Bounty of £200 in 1741 purchased c. 10 a. of meadow in Aller in 1746. Further similar sums from the same source in 1775 and 1783, the latter met by two grants of £100 each from the Horner and Pincombe trustees, were laid out in 18 a. of land in South Petherton in 1785. Grants from the same trusts and from the patron, Henry Tripp, in 1819, and from the Pincombe trustees and the incumbent, Samuel Alford, in 1824, totalling £400, purchased just over 7 a. in Aller and nearly 8 a. in Long Load. In 1879 the patron, W. J. Long, added 22 a. of land in Muchelney, producing £50 a year, which was met by a grant of £45 a year from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This grant brought the glebe estate to about 55 a., producing an income of £157 12s. 6d. (fn. 280) Most of this land was attached to the benefice in 1970. (fn. 281)
The house and buildings occupied by the vicar in 1308 were formally assigned to him and his successors under the terms of the ordination. (fn. 282) The vicarage-house was described as 'ruinous' in 1606, (fn. 283) and as 'much decayed in timber and thatching' in 1623. (fn. 284) In 1815 the non-resident curate described it as 'small, and yet an incumbent may live in it, but equally as large as it has been for ages'. (fn. 285) His successor found it 'only a small cottage', and lived in another parish. (fn. 286) By 1840 the house was used as a cellar and later as a school; and in the later 19th century it was rented by a local farmer. (fn. 287) Resident incumbents lived at the Court House until after 1902, when the benefice was held in plurality. (fn. 288) The medieval vicarage-house was acquired by the National Trust in 1911. (fn. 289)
The building stands north of the church and is of stone with a thatched roof. When originally constructed in the early 14th century, it comprised a two-bay open-roofed hall, with a parlour and solar at the east end, and a service room and a guest room above at the west end, beyond the screens passage, with a narrow room over the screens passage, possibly for a servant. Later alterations include two windows of the solar, dating from the mid 14th century, and the two large hall windows, the panelled ceiling of the parlour, and perhaps the roof, of c. 1475. The inserted floor in the hall and a large stone fireplace on the screens passage are of c. 1550. (fn. 290) From its date it seems likely that the house was built as a direct result of the ordination of the vicarage in 1308, replacing the older house then in existence.
Nicholas Gillet (vicar from 1512 until at least 1545) was persuaded by a party within the community to declare Thomas Ive, Cromwell's candidate for the vacant abbacy in 1532, under canonical age. (fn. 291) Services were not 'in due time' in 1569, and the curate did not catechize nor read the Injunctions. (fn. 292) By 1606 divine service had not been held for three years, and for want of a minister the children were not catechized nor Holy Communion celebrated. (fn. 293) In 1623 the vicar was involved in scandalous behaviour with a former female parishioner. (fn. 294) The church was served from 1655 by James Jolliffe, appointed by the Lord Protector, but there was apparently no minister in the parish for several years after the Restoration. (fn. 295)
Thomas Powell (vicar 1782–1816) was nonresident after 1792, and Christopher Winter was appointed stipendiary curate from 1813. (fn. 296) By 1815 Powell was living in Wales because of 'illness and infirmity'. Winter lived at Stoke sub Hamdon and served East Lambrook, but conducted at Muchelney a 'full service' and preached once every Sunday, and celebrated Holy Communion four times a year. (fn. 297) Samuel Alford (vicar 1820–43) lived at Curry Rivel in 1827 and also served Drayton. Services at Muchelney were held once every Sunday, alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 298) The average congregation in 1851 was 130 in the morning and 200 in the afternoon, each figure including 50 Sunday school pupils, but services were still held as before on alternate Sundays. (fn. 299) Two services each Sunday were introduced in 1858, (fn. 300) and by 1870 the resident curate celebrated Holy Communion six times a year 'immediately after morning prayer'. (fn. 301) Monthly celebrations were introduced by S. O. Baker in 1873. (fn. 302)
A church house, the property of the lord of the manor, is first mentioned in 1547, when it was being used for a session of the manor court. (fn. 303) In 1553 it was held 'in the name of the parish'. (fn. 304) It was still in existence in 1670, but was then in hand. (fn. 305) Almost certainly it was used in the 18th century as a poorhouse. (fn. 306)
The parish church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL, apparently dedicated to St. Peter only in 1543, (fn. 307) and clearly taking its dedication from that of the abbey church, stands immediately to the north of the ruins of the abbey. It consists of a chancel, with north and south chapels extending from the aisles; a nave of 3 bays with north and south aisles; a two-storeyed north porch, balanced on the south side by a 19th-century vestry; and a west tower. The north side of the church, always the more important entrance front, has embattled parapets with quatrefoil ornament to the merlons. The whole building is in the later Perpendicular style, but it is likely that the chapels and the tower were the last parts to be built. The embattled and pinnacled tower, of three lofty stages, has set-back buttresses, windows flanked by canopied niches to the middle stage, and two belfry windows on each face. There is a pillar stoup outside the west door. The chapels are more ornate than the aisles and are slightly wider. Any earlier features in the church, notably the tiles in the sanctuary and around the font, were discovered on the site of the abbey church in 1873, and the four canopied niches in the east wall of the south chapel were found elsewhere in the parish. (fn. 308) The internal jambs of the south chancel window are carried down to accommodate three canopied sedilia. Both the lower stage of the north porch and the space below the tower are stone-vaulted. The font has an octagonal bowl with carved panels and four square attached shafts. There are four original poppy-head bench-ends. Fragments of glass in the east window date from the later 15th century; three roundels in the north window of the chancel are Netherlandish, dating in part from the 17th century. (fn. 309) An outstanding feature of the church is the waggon roof of the nave, with painted panels depicting angels and cherubs, surrounded by clouds and stars in a firmament with a sun in the centre. The work is thought to be of the early 17th century.
The pulpit and lectern, made for the Lord Mayor's chapel in Bristol in 1830, were given to the parish by Sir Charles Wathen in 1889 and 1892 respectively. (fn. 310) In the gallery above the 19th-century south vestry is a contemporary barrel organ. (fn. 311) The tomb in the churchyard at the east end of the church, incorporating the headless effigy of an abbot, was discovered during excavations at the abbey site in 1873. (fn. 312)
The plate includes a cup and cover, dated 1633, made by 'R.S.', and a chalice, paten, and flagon given in 1873 by William Long of Westhay, Wrington. (fn. 313) There are five bells: (i) 1692, Thomas Knight of Closworth; (ii) 1707, Thomas Knight; (iii) and (iv), 1847 and 1872, Mears; (v) 1626, Thomas Pennington of Exeter. (fn. 314) The registers begin in 1702 and the series is complete. (fn. 315)
The house of Richard Scott at Ham was licensed for worship in 1708, but no denomination was specified. (fn. 318)
In 1787 the vestry agreed to support from the poor rate a Sunday school to teach poor children reading and the catechism. This school continued at least until 1792. (fn. 319) In 1818 a day-school and a Sunday school, the latter supported by subscription, taught between 20 and 30 children. (fn. 320) By 1825–6 the Sunday school had 20 boys and 20 girls, and the old vicarage-house was being suggested as suitable for a permanent dayschool and residence for a mistress. The Lord of the manor was already giving £10 annually, and the use of the house 'would enable the incumbent to keep up a daily school, and be . . . the fulfilment of his earnest wish'. (fn. 321) By 1833 there were two day-schools in the parish, teaching 27 children at their parents' expense, and a Sunday school, supported by Lady Mary Long, for 52 children. The vicar and the lord of the manor selected and supported a lending library. (fn. 322)
By 1846–7 there was only one day-school, for 14 children, supported both by subscriptions and school pence. There were, however, two Sunday schools, with a combined total of 60 pupils, supported by subscription. (fn. 323) They were probably held under the same roof at the old vicarage-house, and continued at least until the 1880s. (fn. 324) A private day-school continued at least until 1866. (fn. 325)
In 1870 the vestry agreed to establish an elementary school, and early in 1872 the Muchelney Parochial School was opened. Built by the lord of the manor, it was at first controlled by a committee of the owner, the vicar and churchwardens, and three 'principal ratepayers'. Children over the age of three years were taken, and costs were shared equally between the lord of the manor and a rate. School pence were payable until a Parliamentary grant was received. (fn. 326) The school building was extended in 1878 and again in 1883. (fn. 327) Average attendance was 53 in 1894 and 43 in 1903. (fn. 328)
The school was normally staffed by two mistresses. The new head teacher in 1888 undertook also to superintend the Sunday school, play the harmonium in church, and train the choir. (fn. 329) In 1903 the school was described as a 'pleasantly conducted and well-taught school'. (fn. 330) It remained a National school with voluntary status until 1930, and from 1931 accepted only junior pupils. (fn. 331) Numbers in the school fell rapidly during the Second World War, and from 1948 there was only one teacher. The school was closed in 1960 and the pupils transferred to Huish Episcopi.
The school building, of local lias rubble, includes copies of details found in the old vicarage-house. (fn. 332) The building was in 1970 a private dwelling.
In 1892 lectures on nursing were organised by the vicar and were 'fairly well attended by the wives and daughters of labourers'. (fn. 333)
Charities for the Poor.
By 1484 Muchelney abbey owned a house, distinct from the Almonry, (fn. 334) described as the 'Bedehouse'. (fn. 335) The 'almeshouse' in 1535 gave shelter to four poor people, and was supported by an annual payment of £6 13s. 4d. from the abbey. (fn. 336) Payments ceased at the surrender of the monastery and the house was presumably closed.
By will proved 1910 Rhoda Stuckey Reeves bequeathed £300, the residue to be distributed at Christmas to aged poor of 60 years and more. (fn. 337) The Revd. Samuel Ogilvy Baker Memorial Fund was established under a trust in 1945 by Baker's nephew and niece. The sum of £600 was invested to provide clothes for poor parishioners. In 1965 four persons each received £4 from the charity. (fn. 338) Both charities were in existence in 1970. (fn. 339)