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 Pitney in 1876 was said to be just over 1,303 a. in extent, (fn. 1) which included 262 a. of Pitney moor, part of King's Sedgemoor, awarded to the parish in return for its proportion of common rights in the whole 'moor' in 1795. (fn. 2) The detached meadows in Kingsmoor, east of Knole, were transferred to Long Sutton in 1885. (fn. 3) The present area of the parish is 1,341 a. (fn. 4)
The parish, including Pitney moor, is over three miles from north to south, and about a mile from east to west at its widest point. Pitney moor forms a roughly triangular area in the north, joined to the remainder by Pitney Steart bridge, and is wedged between the parishes of High Ham and Somerton. The irregular eastern boundary interlocks with Somerton, suggesting that in origin at least part of the settlement belonged to that manor. (fn. 5) The southern boundary with Long Sutton interlocks in similar fashion and for similar reasons at its eastern end. (fn. 6) Its relation to the present LangportSomerton road suggests that the original course may have formed the boundary between the two parishes. The western boundary, with High Ham, largely follows the course of the Low Ham rhine, flowing southwards from King's Sedgemoor.
Pitney village lies in a valley on each side of a stream flowing westwards into the Low Ham rhine. From this valley the ground rises eastwards and southwards, reaching 150 ft. along the LangportSomerton road. To the north, near Pitney wood, it reaches 225 ft., forming a spur at the end of the scarp running westwards from Somerton, overlooking King's Sedgemoor. The arable land of the parish lay on this clayey ground rising from the village. Meadow lay largely along the western boundary, on the narrow ledge between the foot of the scarp and the Low Ham rhine.
There was no large-scale quarrying, but there is evidence of private digging for lias from the 16th century. (fn. 7) A quarry was opened on Stowey hill in the 1830s to provide stone for road mending. (fn. 8)
The origin of the settlement implied by the evidence of the place name suggests an island. (fn. 9) An earlier interpretation, deriving from the Saxon word for soft dirt, seemed to Gerard appropriate 'being seated in a very miry country'. (fn. 10) The two Roman villas, one at the foot of the northern scarp overlooking King's Sedgemoor, the other on the southern slope, both on the promontory north of the present village, (fn. 11) may point to this topographical feature as the 'island'. Settlement in the present parish thus dates from the Roman period, though an earlier object, a Bronze Age sword of c. 200 B.C., was discovered on Pitney moor. (fn. 12)
The village lies along and between two roads, lying parallel to and on each side of a small stream which is crossed at intervals to form a grid pattern. The church stands near the western end of the village, and the original farms have their houses in the village centre, the yards often divided by the stream. Farms established outside the village developed as a result of inclosure or the division of the main estate at the beginning of the 20th century. (fn. 13)
Three roads run directly north of the village, parallel to each other; they were known in the early 19th century as Laneing End (now Rectory Hill), Chessills Road, and Stowey Road and served the arable fields. South field was reached by similar roads and tracks, the present road from the Langport-Somerton road at Halfway House being known as Hermitage Lane nearest the village and then as Pitney Road. (fn. 14) The east of the parish, with earlier closes, was similarly served by tracks. Leazemoor Lane, which runs from Gore Road west of the church along the valley following the Low Ham rhine, gives access to Pitney moor. The LangportSomerton road only served to by-pass the parish.
The close connexions between Pitney and Wearne in Huish parish (fn. 15) clearly made Gore Road of importance as the direct link across the Low Ham rhine. Frequent references to bridges from the 15th century onwards suggest additional links with High Ham. 'Whytewillbrygge', then broken down, occurs in 1423, (fn. 16) and again in 1538. (fn. 17) It may well be the predecessor of the footbridge which takes a path parallel and south of Gore Road, near the present Whitewell. 'Halberstonesbryge' occurs in 1520 evidently joining the parish with the abbot of Glastonbury's lands. (fn. 18) Stembridge, where a strip of Pitney crosses the Low Ham rhine in the north-west of the parish, leads directly through High Ham East field to Stembridge mill. (fn. 19) Pitney Steart bridge, formerly Pitney Door bridge, rebuilt in 1807, crosses the Cary and serves Pitney moor. (fn. 20)
Until the parish was inclosed in 1807 there were three substantial open arable fields in Pitney. North field and Middle field occupied the rising ground north of the village, the northern boundary being marked by Pitney wood, and the division between them by Middle Hedge Road. (fn. 21) South field lay between the village and the southern boundary. (fn. 22) The earliest reference to these fields is in 1745. (fn. 23) There is some evidence to suggest an earlier and different arrangement, implying the existence of only one field, known as Pitney field, in the 15th and 16th centuries, (fn. 24) and of an Eastern field, by 1807 divided into a number of closes in the south-east of the parish. (fn. 25)
Commonable pasture, which after 1807 was entirely absorbed into existing holdings, was largely on King's Sedgemoor, but also on Leazemoor and Pitney Steart moor, in the north of the parish, and on Gore common, north of Gore Road. (fn. 26) The detached meadows comprised an area on Kingsmoor in Long Sutton parish, known as Chestermead or Chestlemead and later as Pitney Western, Pitney Eastern, and Pitney Knole meads; (fn. 27) and small shares in Poolmead in Huish Episcopi. (fn. 28) Poolmead occurs as Pylmede in 1423 when a new sheep-house was built on Pitney land there. (fn. 29) Parts of Leazemoor were apparently inclosed c. 1583, when the 'moor' was claimed as waste. (fn. 30)
Most of the older buildings in the village have lias outer walls and thatched roofs. Brick is first found in the 18th-century Rookery, where it may be the casing of an older stone wall. Window frames are of wood, as in the 17th-century example at Estate Farm, (fn. 31) or more commonly of Ham stone which may sometimes be a replacement for wood. Except for those which incorporate the chimney stack, internal walls are of lapped planks or timber frame and wattle until the 18th century. Two buildings which have been demolished had cruck truss roofs. (fn. 32) The 17th- and early-18th-century farmhouses are generally of three-roomed ground plan. They include East End Farm, which has a crosspassage between the hall chimney and the kitchen screens, and which leads into a 'linhay' alongside a low service wing; Estate Farm, which has been partly rebuilt after a fire but retains its cross-passage plan and has a panel on the front wall with the name of John Pyne and the date 1694; and Butterwell Farm, which has a central pantry with principal rooms at each end of the range.
By 1756 there was an inn in the village, known by 1759 as the Horse and Jockey. From 1788 it was called the Crown, and from 1795 the Rose and Crown. It survived until 1808. (fn. 33) The Half Way House inn on the Langport-Somerton road was so named in 1817, having formerly been called the Hermitage. (fn. 34)
The population of Pitney in 1801 was 243. The total nearly doubled, to 465 by 1841, but there followed an irregular decline to 199 by 1931. In 1951 there were 216 inhabitants and in 1961, 192. (fn. 35)
The later manors in Pitney were made up from a succession of Crown grants, mostly from Somerton manor, to Richard Revel the elder between c. 1190 and 1203. The first grant appears to have been described as a soke, held at a rent of 72s. 6d., confirmed to Revel in 1190. (fn. 36) Richard Revel the younger still held this in 1219 and probably until his death in 1222. (fn. 37) The second was a gift by Richard I to the elder Revel of rents of 60s. in Somerton in return for a quit rent. (fn. 38) The third, made before 1203, was of land for £12 a year, to which was added in 1203 a further estate in the same manor comprising land worth 50s. a year, and described under the form 'Pettewurth'. (fn. 39) The larger of these estates was subsequently described as at Pitney and at Wearne. (fn. 40)
Part of Richard Revel's land was granted to his son William in 1205. (fn. 41) This holding was given in 1217 to Geoffrey de Craucumbe, and by 1219 he had evidently succeeded as tenant to the other former Revel property. (fn. 42) In that year he was holding 12 librates of royal demesne in Pitney and Wearne in Somerton manor. (fn. 43) The estate, assessed at ¼ fee, was granted to Geoffrey and his heirs in 1230, together with land and rents in Langport and free warren for hares in Pitney. (fn. 44)
Geoffrey evidently died without heirs in or before 1249 and the manor was kept in hand and administered for the Crown by farmers. (fn. 45) In or shortly before 1266 this estate, described as the 'manors' of PITNEY and WEARNE, and subsequently as the manor of PITNEY WEARNE PLUCKNETT, PITNEY PLUCKNETT, or PITNEY PLUCKNETT and WEARNE, (fn. 46) was granted to Eleanor of Castile, wife of Prince Edward. (fn. 47) In 1270 the property, described as West Pitney and Wearne, was given in exchange for lands in Hampshire to Sir Alan de Plucknett. (fn. 48)
Alan died in 1298 holding half the hamlet of Pitney of the Crown by a quit rent. (fn. 49) He was succeeded by his son, also Alan (d. 1325), and then by his daughter Joan (d. 1327), possibly the Joan de Bohun of Kilpeck (Herefs.) who granted lands in Pitney and Wearne to Sir Thomas de Marlebergh in 1327. (fn. 50) Thomas settled this property in or before 1341 on Sir Henry de Haddon (d. 1348) and on Eleanor, his wife (d. 1361), with reversion to William FitzWaryn (d. 1360) and his wife Amice, daughter of Henry and Eleanor. (fn. 51) Sir Ives FitzWaryn, son of Amice, succeeded his mother and died in 1414. (fn. 52) His sole surviving daughter Eleanor married successively Sir John Chidiock (d. 1415) and Ralph Bush. (fn. 53) Pitney and Wearne were settled on Eleanor's son William Bush and on his wife Joan in 1433, but a later agreement gave Sir John Chidiock a reversionary interest in 1439, and he succeeded on Bush's death in 1441. (fn. 54)
Sir John died in 1450 leaving two daughters. The younger, Catherine, married successively William Stafford (d. 1450) and Sir John Arundell of Lanherne (Cornw.) (d. 1473) and died in 1479. Her son and heir Sir Thomas Arundell, K.B., died in 1487, when the manor was said, clearly in error, to have been held of the abbot of Glastonbury. (fn. 55) Thomas was followed by his son Sir John (d. 1545), and by his grandson, also Sir John, who in 1546 sold the manor to Leonard Chamberlayne of Woodstock (Oxon.). (fn. 56)
Chamberlayne conveyed the manor shortly afterwards to Sir William Essex (d. 1548), of Lambourn (Berks.), who left successive life interests to George, Edward, Thomas, Edmund, and Humphrey Essex. The last was evidently in possession in 1559. (fn. 57) George Essex (d. 1588), then of North Street, Langport, was lord of the manor by 1562. (fn. 58) Another George settled the property in 1599 on his 'cousin german', Robert Essex of Ashdown (Berks.). (fn. 59) Robert sold the manor in 1610 to William Compton, Lord Compton, later earl of Northampton (d. 1630). (fn. 60)
The manor descended, like the manor of Sutton in Long Sutton, in the Compton family to George Compton, the 6th earl (d. 1758). (fn. 61) His widow, then wife of Claudius Amyand, held it until her death in 1800, when it passed to Lord George Cavendish, third son of William Cavendish, duke of Devonshire (d. 1764), through his marriage with Elizabeth (d. 1835), heir of Charles, earl of Northampton (d. 1763). (fn. 62) George, created earl of Burlington in 1831, died in 1834; his grandson and heir William (d. 1891) succeeded as duke of Devonshire in 1858. Victor (d. 1938), the 9th duke, sold his estate in Pitney, amounting to 641 a., in 1919, though the lordship of the manor was not included in the sale. (fn. 63)
In 1441 and 1450 the manor-house was described as an ancient hall. (fn. 64) Its site may well have been in the field later called Court Hay at the eastern end of the village, though there is a tradition which links the site with the present Manor Farm. (fn. 65)
By 1227 Henry Lorty, husband of Sabina, daughter of Richard Revel the younger, was holding lands in Pitney and Somerton by a quit rent. (fn. 66) In 1242 he and his wife accounted together for land worth 72s. in Pitney and Wearne, and Henry paid a total of £12 5s. for a soke in Somerton and other lands. (fn. 67) Sabina died in 1254, having settled her estate, described as the manor of PITNEY, and later known as PITNEY LORTY, on her son Richard (d. c. 1253) and his wife Maud, both minors. (fn. 68) The manor, held in chief, passed to Sabina's grandson Henry, who came of age c. 1273, and who was summoned to Parliament as Lord Lorty in 1299. (fn. 69) Lorty died in 1321 leaving the manor, with the advowson of the chapel, to his son John. (fn. 70)
After John's death in 1340 the descent becomes confused owing to the attempt by Ralph de Middleney, husband of John's sister Elizabeth, to obtain control of the property by illegally marrying his son to John Lorty's heir Sibyl. (fn. 71) Ralph held the manor until his death in 1363, and his widow, who had a joint interest for life, succeeded as sole owner. (fn. 72) By 1374 Elizabeth had married Sir Robert de Ashton, and he held the manor in right of his wife until his death ten years later. (fn. 73)
Maud, wife of John Langrich, and Elizabeth, wife of John Gunter, heirs of Sibyl Lorty, established their claim to the manor on Sir Robert's death, (fn. 74) and gave a life interest to Philippe, Sir Robert de Ashton's widow. (fn. 75) Sir John Tiptoft, Philippe's third husband, held the manor in her name until her death in 1417. (fn. 76) It then passed to Elizabeth, wife of John Andrewe and widow of John Gunter, sole surviving heir of Sibyl Lorty; and on her death in 1422 the manor then devolved on Roger Gunter of Racton (Suss.) (d. 1436), son and heir by her first husband. (fn. 77) John Gunter died in 1474, leaving his brother William as his heir. (fn. 78) William Gunter was succeeded in 1484 by his nephew Edmund who sold the manor in 1484–5 to trustees for Robert Morton. (fn. 79)
By will dated 1486 Morton devised a life interest in his manors, including Pitney, to his widow Agnes. On her death in 1517 she was succeeded by her son and heir Robert, who held them until his death in 1559. He paid the ancient quit rent for the manor of Pitney at least until 1534. (fn. 80) The estate, subject to the jointure of his son's widow, passed to his grandson George Morton who in 1579 sold it to John (later Sir John) Popham, serjeant-at-law. (fn. 81) Pitney then passed to the Hanham family, of Deans Court, Wimborne Minster (Dors.), through the marriage of Sir John Popham's daughter Penelope with Thomas Hanham (d. c. 1593). (fn. 82) Their son John died in 1625 leaving as heir to the property his daughter Eleanor, later wife of John Pyne. (fn. 83) Their son, also John, died in 1699, and was succeeded by his nephew Francis, third son of his brother Charles. By 1704 Charles Pyne, evidently heir to his son Francis, was owner of the manor, and settled it in 1715 in trust on his wife Frances. (fn. 84) She held it for at least the next ten years, but by 1746 it had passed to her eldest son John, of Curry Mallet (d. 1764). His son, also John, of Charlton Mackrell, died in 1791 leaving it to his eldest son Anthony, a clergyman, who presented himself to the rectory in the following year. (fn. 85)
Anthony died in 1819. By 1824 at least until 1839 William Uttermare of Curry Rivel and his sister Hannah Michell of Taunton were jointly lord and lady of the manor. By 1843 they had been succeeded by William Pyne (d. 1881), second son of Anthony Pyne and rector from 1824 until 1851. (fn. 86) By 1876 the holding amounted to just over 179 a., and no manorial rights were then claimed. The Pyne family survived until the death of Charlotte Uttermare, widow of B. Nathan Smith, in 1925. (fn. 87)
The capital messuage of the manor was known in the 15th century as Courteplace. (fn. 88) A house at the foot of Rectory Hill, now called Court House, possibly the successor to this building, incorporates fragments of 16th-century timbering.
Pitney Lorty does not appear as a separate estate in the Domesday survey, though by 1254 there were 1½ carucate in demesne, gardens, a dovecot, and a mill, and the whole manor was extended at just over £18 17s. (fn. 89) Free and customary tenants together paid rents totalling £9 15s. 9d., and works were assessed at just over 29s. (fn. 90) Rents had fallen to £7 3s. by 1423. (fn. 91) The manor of Pitney Wearne was formed in part by 2½ virgates held by Robert de Odburville in 1086 in Huish parish. (fn. 92) This property became linked with land in Pitney formerly part of Somerton manor. By 1260–1 the estate, then in royal hands, was charged for a tallage at 20 marks. (fn. 93) In 1270 West Pitney and Wearne was said to be worth £23 and about ten years later £20 18s. (fn. 94) By 1298 the estate included half the hamlet of Pitney. The demesne farm then comprised 195 a. of arable, 6 a. of meadow, 4 a. of wood, a small piece of common pasture, gardens attached to the capital messuage, and a dovecot. There was one free tenant holding a virgate, 3 customary tenants each with a virgate, 5 with ¾ virgate, 9 with ½ virgate, 10 with ¼ virgate or 'ferdell', and 4 cottagers. The customary tenants owed labour services and paid small rents known as 'wodeschep' at Hockday and church-scot (chursutt) at Martinmas. The cottagers paid money rents. The whole land held by the tenants produced £7 9s. 11d. rent and services worth £8 17s. (fn. 95) The estate was let to farm in 1369 for £33 14s. 2½d., (fn. 96) and by 1412 was assessed at £44. (fn. 97)
By the end of the 15th century the revenues of the manor, based on assessed rents of £25 9s. 6½d., increased by 20s. from 1513–14. Arrears and defective rents mounted between 1518 and 1528, occasionally to a fifth or more of the total income, though fines and perquisites usually amounted to very much more. (fn. 98)
In 1327 33 taxpayers in the two manors together were assessed at a total of 51s. 3d., both totals larger than those of the neighbouring town of Langport, though lower than Aller and Muchelney. (fn. 99) Any economic decline suggested by increasing arrears and defective rents at the beginning of the 16th century seems to have been reversed on Pitney Wearne manor by 1610, when the rental amounted to £35 12s. 6d., together with 21 capons and 3 hens. (fn. 100) This figure remained fairly constant for the rest of the 17th century. (fn. 101) Exchanges of land to consolidate holdings, presumably in connexion with small-scale inclosure, were common on Pitney Lorty manor by the end of the 16th century, and its economy, too, may well have benefited. (fn. 102)
About 1625 the manor of Pitney Wearne was estimated at 1,114 a. in extent. (fn. 103) Some 616 a. lay in Pitney parish in 1692, and of these 458 a. were arable, 112 a. pasture, and 33 a. meadow. (fn. 104) The farming units were small, the largest amounting to 84 a. There were 24 copyhold tenements and 30 held on lease; heriots were still payable on 12 holdings. (fn. 105) By 1765 only one farm, one cottage, and the site of the dovecot were copyhold. (fn. 106) No such details have been found for Pitney Lorty manor, though both clearly depended on their share of King's Sedgemoor, a scheme of c. 1625 allotting 318 a. to Pitney Wearne and 251 a. to Pitney Lorty. (fn. 107) The failure of the scheme prevented any significant improvement of the 'moor' until it was finally divided in 1795. (fn. 108)
There is some evidence of inclosure for pasture at the beginning of the 18th century, (fn. 109) but over 463 a. remained in open-field cultivation until 1807. (fn. 110) The small detached areas of common 'moor' on Kingsmoor, amounting to just over 30 a., had been previously sold to pay the inclosure expenses. (fn. 111)
Throughout the 19th century, as before, half the parish was held by one landlord; in 1876 the duke of Devonshire owned 575 a., and by 1919 641 a. (fn. 112) The largest farm in 1876 measured 214 a., and incorporated the present Manor and Brookside farms. There were two others of 137 a. and 127 a. on the Devonshire estate, and one of 134 a. on the Pyne estate. The largest freeholding, 54 a., is now represented by Estate farm. (fn. 113) Within the next forty years these units were divided, and by 1919 there were seventeen named farms, only one of which, Manor farm, was over 100 a. (fn. 114) By 1939 there were twelve farms in the parish, (fn. 115) a number which had decreased by 1971.
Pitney was thus an exclusively agricultural community, 66 of its 70 families in 1821 being engaged in agriculture. (fn. 116) This pattern survived until after the Second World War, the village having before then attracted few private residents. (fn. 117) Trades were largely confined to those ancillary to farming, though some gloving was carried on. (fn. 118) The decline of population began in the 1840s, and at least three families were helped to emigrate either to the Colonies or to the United States. (fn. 119)
There was a mill belonging to Pitney Lorty manor by 1254, (fn. 120) and two mills in 1579. (fn. 121) Two millers regularly appeared at the manor court between 1596 and 1604. (fn. 122) In 1605 a third miller, Edward Clawsey, was said to have recently erected a windmill. (fn. 123) In 1691 Pitney Lorty manor included a water-mill and a windmill. (fn. 124) It is not known where these mills stood, though the long narrow field, terminating in an irregular plot in the southwestern part of the parish, and known as Mill Close, may well, despite its position in a valley, be the site of a windmill. (fn. 125)
Summaries and fragments of court rolls for Pitney Plucknett or Pitney Wearne survive intermittently for the period 1553– 1639, (fn. 126) court books for 1534–8, (fn. 127) 1612, (fn. 128) and 1745– 1839. (fn. 129) For Pitney Lorty there are extracts from court rolls for 1423 and 1520–1, (fn. 130) and rolls for 1596–1609, (fn. 131) 1693–6, and 1701–3. (fn. 132)
The courts for Pitney Plucknett or Pitney Wearne, in the 16th century described as curie legale and curie manerii for the usual twice-yearly sessions in April and October, and as curie baronis for additional meetings largely concerned with entries, were regularly called views of frankpledge and courts baron from 1620 onwards. In the 18th century the winter court was described as court leet and court baron, the Spring session as court baron only. Spring sessions ceased after 1770. The officers of this manor were a tithingman and two haywards, one for Wearne and one for Pitney. The tithingman evidently was answerable for Wearne only. These officers were appointed until 1839.
Pitney Lorty courts were also held twice a year, and were usually described as courts leet and manor courts or as courts leet and views of frankpledge. The officers were a constable, a tithingman, and a hayward, the first chosen by the steward from names submitted by the court, the others holding by rotation. The distinction between this and the hundred court was not always clearly drawn, (fn. 133) and in 1697 the officers were apparently chosen in the hundred court. Conversely, an order of Lorty manor court in 1608 was to apply to both manors, though perhaps only as they concerned Pitney parish. (fn. 134)
Both courts made repeated and evidently unsuccessful attempts to improve the standard of buildings in the 16th and early 17th centuries, and were also concerned with the more usual prevention of sub-letting and the control of agricultural practice. Fines for allowing strays, always very common, extended to asses and a swarm of bees. (fn. 135) Stocks were maintained by each court. (fn. 136)
Part of the poor rate in the 18th century was occasionally allowed to the waywardens. (fn. 137) Besides the normal parish officers was the Sedgemoor expenditor, whose original responsibility for the drainage of the 'moors' in the parish was extended by the vestry to supervising grazing in the droves, mole catching, the sale of parish road-scrapings, and paying bounties for the destruction of sparrows. (fn. 138) From 1850 until 1872 names of inhabitants eligible for office as constable were submitted to the vestry. The workhouse, in existence by 1815, was not used in 1834, and was sold in 1838. (fn. 139) The parish became part of the Langport poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 140)
A reference in 1225 to William, parson of Pitney, is the first indication of a church there. (fn. 141) It was described as a chapel as late as 1321, (fn. 142) and the close link with Pitney Lorty manor suggests that it originated as a foundation of one of the lords of that manor. (fn. 143) Traditional claims by the parishioners of Pitney to right of burial in Huish Episcopi, and the complementary assumption that Pitney should contribute towards the maintenance of Huish church tower, is evidence of the close connexion between the two parishes through the lands of the manor of Pitney Wearne, and may also be evidence that Pitney was a daughter church of Huish. (fn. 144) This last claim seems to have been the origin of the peculiar jurisdiction exercised by the archdeacon of Wells, rector of Huish, in the parish of Pitney in the 19th century. (fn. 145) The benefice of Pitney has always been regarded as a rectory, though the incumbent formerly received the great tithes of only a part of his parish. (fn. 146) From 1962 the rectory was held in plurality with Aller, but in 1970 it was united with the vicarage of Huish Episcopi. (fn. 147)
The advowson of Pitney belonged to the Lorty family and to their successors as lords of the manor of Pitney Lorty from the early 14th century at the latest (fn. 148) until the mid 19th century, though the archdeacon of Wells presented in 1624 and the bishop in 1699. (fn. 149) The vicar of Huish made an unsuccessful claim in 1541. (fn. 150) William Pyne, lord of the manor, and John Williams were patrons in 1819. (fn. 151) The right of presentation was acquired from the Pynes by Capt. Joseph Dudman by 1857. (fn. 152) On his death in 1864 it passed to his son Lumsden Shirreff Dudman of Pitney House (rector 1851–78), (fn. 153) and then to his grandson J. L. S. Shirreff Dudman (d. 1930) of Hove, also a clergyman. (fn. 154) The last was followed as patron by his widow Beatrice (d. 1955), and then by Miss G. M. S. Dudman, his daughter, who presented in 1970. (fn. 155) The patron of the united benefice in 1971 was the archdeacon of Wells.
The church was not included in the Taxatio of 1291, though in 1445 it was assessed at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 156) The net value in 1535 was £9 14s. 8½d. (fn. 157) About 1668 it was said to be worth £50, and in 1815 about £153. (fn. 158) By 1831 the average net income was £170. (fn. 159)
The rector of Pitney received predial and personal tithes and tithes of wool, which in 1535 amounted to £9 13s. 2d. (fn. 160) By 1634 all meadow and pasture in the parish was charged with a modus of 1d. an acre, and the rector also received tithe hay from the detached meadows by the Yeo east of Knole and of a small area in Pitney 'Yeards' and Broad Poolmead; tithes of West wood, and in Pitney wood 'tithe in kind at felling thereof'. (fn. 161) All parishioners paid 3d. for cow white and 1½d. for each heifer, and at Easter payments of 3d. were made by every married couple, 1d. by every single person born in the parish, and 2d. by every servant. (fn. 162) At the same time the rector had the great tithes of some 114 a., in High Ham, largely at Beer, and of just over 29 a. in Huish Episcopi. (fn. 163)
Under the inclosure award of 1807 the rector of Pitney was assigned corn rents in lieu of tithe over 807 a. of the parish, valued at £110 13s. 2¾d. Moduses still payable to him, amounting to 30s. 9d., were confirmed. (fn. 164) Corn rents worth £5 4s. 9¾d. were awarded to the rector of Pitney in lieu of tithe from Huish in 1799, (fn. 165) and the tithes in High Ham were converted to a rent-charge of £21 in 1838. (fn. 166) The Pitney corn rents were converted to a rent-charge in 1876 and were then worth £85 19s. 8d. (fn. 167) By 1916 these rents had risen to £97 11s. 10d. (fn. 168) The total rent-charge from the three sources in 1923 was £122. (fn. 169)
The glebe lands were valued at 4s. 6d. in 1535. (fn. 170) By 1634 there were 13 a., and by 1807 just over 18 a. (fn. 171) The second figure included an augmentation of 2 a. of pasture, the origin of which was not known in 1705. (fn. 172) The glebe was sold in 1921. (fn. 173) The former rectory-house stood on the north side of the churchyard. It was a stone building with thatched roof, of two storeys, with three-and four-light Perpendicular windows with quatrefoil tracery to the ground floor. (fn. 174) The house was no longer occupied by the rector in 1827, and was soon afterwards described as unfit. (fn. 175) It was still standing in 1840, but had been demolished by 1876. (fn. 176) By 1869 a new house had been built further to the north, probably by Lumsden Shirreff Dudman, the rector. (fn. 177) This house, copying some of the features of the old, was occupied by succeeding rectors until 1970.
During the 15th century the benefice was held by at least two rectors in minor orders; (fn. 178) and the rector in 1467 was among others accused of counterfeiting money. (fn. 179) In 1463 the rector was employing a parochial chaplain. (fn. 180) Cananuel Bernard (rector 1624–68) accused in 1634 of celebrating clandestine marriages of people from Langport, appears to have retained his benefice without interruption during the Interregnum, and to have continued to celebrate marriages according to the rites of the Established church throughout the district. (fn. 181) A young clerk, probably Faithful Cape, was c. 1693 ordained 'to read prayers for an ancient minister, or officiate at a little place called Pitney'. (fn. 182) Anthony Pyne (rector 1792–1819) was also rector of Kingweston and both patron and lord of the manor of Pitney Lorty. (fn. 183) His son William succeeded him as patron and lord of the manor in 1819, and was rector from 1824 until 1851, when he became rector of the sinecure benefice of Sock Dennis. (fn. 184) In 1827 he was living at Langport and serving as assistant curate at Compton Dundon. (fn. 185) Pyne's successor as rector, Lumsden Shirreff Dudman, was presented to the benefice by his father. (fn. 186)
In 1815 only one service was held each Sunday, alternately morning and evening. (fn. 187) This was still the practice in 1827. (fn. 188) 'Few' attended the morning service on Census Sunday 1851, but the church, seating 256, was 'generally full' in the afternoon. (fn. 189) At the beginning of the incumbency of Charles Powell Berryman (rector 1879–85) two services for adults and one for children were held each Sunday, each with a sermon, Holy Communion was celebrated fortnightly and at festivals, and there were also weekday services. In 1880 the rector introduced an embroidered altar frontal, a pulpit fall, and a stole. (fn. 190)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST is built of lias with Ham stone dressings and consists of a chancel with north vestry, nave with south chapel and porch, and west tower. The earliest part of the building is the early-13th-century chancel which has been extensively rebuilt but retains a two-centred doorway and formerly had an east window of three stepped lancets. (fn. 191) Presumably there was a contemporary or earlier nave, and a southern transeptal chapel may be inferred from a rib-vaulted squint in the south respond of the chancel arch. The arch, the four-bayed nave, the porch, and the tower are all of mid- to late-14thcentury origin. All are or were of relatively plain character with continuous chamfers to the chancel and tower arches, a plain rectangular tower with projecting stair turret, and a cusped outer south doorway. The existing south chapel was built in the 15th century when the two south windows in the nave were enlarged, two new windows were placed in the south wall of the chancel, and the tower was heightened.
The chancel was restored in 1853 when most of the windows were altered and a small vestry was built against the north wall. The restoration of the nave took place in 1874, (fn. 192) when the north wall was rebuilt, a new roof incorporating four medieval bosses was put on, and the east window of the chapel altered. The plinth of the font is 14th century. The pulpit and parts of the reading desk are early 17th century.
There are five bells: (i) 1897; (ii) c. 1350, Thomas Hey,? of Shaftesbury (Dors.); (iii) c. 1350, Dorset foundry; (iv) and (v) 1705, Thomas Knight of Closworth. (fn. 193) The plate includes a cup of 1572 by 'I.P.' and a paten given in 1738. (fn. 194) The registers begin in 1623 and the series is complete. (fn. 195)
By 1668 Quakers were meeting regularly in Pitney, jointly with Friends from Somerton, but their numbers were so small that in 1674 the meeting was united with that of Long Sutton. (fn. 196) Thomas Willis (d. 1682), ejected from Heathfield, was licensed to preach to Congregationalists in his house in 1672. (fn. 197) It is not clear whether this group has a continuous history to the present day; the house of William Chard was used as a meeting-house in 1693, and there is a tradition that George Whitefield (d. 1770) preached in the parish at a house called the Old Meeting. (fn. 198) No further licences for Independent meetings have been traced until 1798 and 1799. (fn. 199) These cottage meetings apparently continued until 1842 when a chapel was erected. In 1851 services were held every Sunday evening for adults, and on Census Sunday the congregation numbered 60. There were Sunday schools in the morning and afternoon for 50 and 45 respectively. (fn. 200) The chapel, which seated 150, (fn. 201) was rebuilt in 1874, and is called Hope Chapel. (fn. 202) It is a simple lias building with a tile roof, and stands at the eastern end of the village.
There was a day-school in the parish by 1818; possibly the same school in 1833 had 20 pupils, and was supported by contributions from parents. A Sunday school, started in 1823, had 30 pupils ten years later, and was financed by the rector. (fn. 203) By 1838 it was evidently housed in a room owned by the duke of Devonshire, and by 1846–7 had 24 day pupils. (fn. 204) There was also a dame school with 18 pupils and a Sunday school, held in the Independent chapel, which in 1851 had a morning session with 50 pupils and an afternoon one with 45 pupils. (fn. 205)
The day-school probably continued without interruption, and in 1875 the duke of Devonshire conveyed a site for a new building to the archdeacon of Wells. (fn. 206) The school was affiliated to the National Society and was supported, though sometimes reluctantly, by voluntary contributions. The building was extended in 1887, and by 1894 had accommodation for 87 pupils and an average attendance of 59. (fn. 207) By 1903 there were 43 boys and girls and 25 infants on the books, and the premises were sometimes used for evening continuation classes, for the Sunday school, and for parochial entertainments. (fn. 208) The school took juniors and infants only from 1930, and was closed in 1963. (fn. 209) The building is now leased for use as the village hall. (fn. 210)