A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The small hundred of Crewkerne is a compact area on the southern boundary of the county at the eastern end of the Windwhistle ridge with a complex geological structure. Its irregular and often dramatic landscape has much in common with north Dorset, from which it was originally divided by the river Axe. The great parish of Crewkerne was a royal Saxon estate which once incorporated all but two of the later parishes into which the hundred was divided, though the town itself was never large, and looked southwards into Dorset rather than north and west into Somerset for most of its trade.
The hundred was formed by 1084. At its head was the royal manor of Crewkerne itself together with its church estate and the parishes of Hinton St. George, Merriott, and Seaborough (now Dors.). (fn. 1) Misterton and Wayford then formed part of Crewkerne. The tithings of Crewkerne parish varied during the course of time and for differing purposes, but in 1599 included two 'towns' known as Guyan and Bonevile, evidently medieval freeholds, the second of which was almost certainly part of Crewkerne and not a separate settlement. (fn. 2) The hundred remained so constituted until the 19th century. (fn. 3)
Ownership of the hundred evidently followed the manor until its division in the 16th century. The 'foreign hundred' was given by William de Reviers (d. 1217) to his daughter Mary on her marriage to Robert de Courtenay, and thence descended through the Courtenay family. (fn. 4) In 1556 ownership was divided, and a survey of 1599 recognized the existence of several lords, but subsequent enfranchisements within the manor evidently extinguished some claims to the hundred. (fn. 5) The Vivians certainly claimed their 1/8 share of the hundred in 1608, (fn. 6) and the Trelawneys at least retained manorial rights until 1613, (fn. 7) but the Pouletts alone continued to exercise jurisdiction, in 1666 in respect of their ¼ share and by the beginning of the 19th century the whole hundred. (fn. 8)
The only court roll to be found is a fragment dating from 1585–7, the court apparently held jointly by Amias Poulett and William Mohun. (fn. 9) Court books survive for 1651–77, 1703–10, and 1715–26. (fn. 10) In 1514–15 the lord held two lawdays and eight other courts for the hundred, (fn. 11) and in 1526–7 two lawdays and ten other sessions. (fn. 12) A similar pattern continued at least until 1545. (fn. 13) In 1599 the twice-yearly lawdays were attended by freeholders called 'hundreders' and the three-week courts by the customary tenants. Hinton and Merriott had by that time achieved some independence, for Hinton's tithingman and four posts were obliged to do suit only on two occasions during the year, and the Merriott tithingman and posts had only to attend the Easter and Michaelmas lawdays to do royal suit and were not obliged to make presentments. (fn. 14) The jurisdiction then claimed was over waifs and strays, felons' goods, and the assizes of bread and of ale.
By the 17th century the court was held annually in October, on the same day as the Crewkerne manor court, and made orders for highways, bridges, and Crewkerne farming administration.
Until the 17th century the hundred was represented at the sheriff's tourn, held also for adjoining hundreds, on Ham Hill at Easter and Michaelmas. (fn. 15) By 1652 these had been 'much discontinued', (fn. 16) though the churchwardens of Hinton paid money to their tithingman in 1646–7 either for his expenses at the tourn or for the amercement for non-attendance, the parish register was similarly paid in 1656–7, and amercements are recorded until 1670. (fn. 17)
Hundred courts were maintained by the Pouletts apparently until the 19th century. In 1785 the Michaelmas court leet met at 10 a.m. on 19 October, (fn. 18) and jurisdiction was still claimed in 1805. (fn. 19) In the 1680s the court met in the church house. (fn. 20)