A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The parish of Chaffcombe lies 2 miles northeast of Chard and nearly 3 miles south-west of Ilminster, and had an area of 1,106 a. in 1901. (fn. 1) It is irregular in shape, extending for nearly 2¼ miles from north to south, and between 1½ mile and less than ½ mile from east to west. It is bounded on the north by Knowle St. Giles and Cricket Malherbie, on the east by Cudworth, on the south by Cricket St. Thomas and Winsham, and on the west by Chard.
The parish is on the western slopes of the Windwhistle ridge overlooking Chard, the ground falling from over 600 ft. on its eastern boundary to 200 ft. by the old Chard reservoir. The highest land, above Lidmarsh, is clay with flints, below which run successive north-south bands of chalk and Upper Greensand. The north-west of the parish is on the Middle Lias. (fn. 2) Small streams run through the parish, at Chaffcombe Gate farm and Chaffcombe village in the north, and at Lidmarsh and Avishays in the centre. There are natural springs in the area of Kingston Well farm in the extreme south.
The Domesday manor of Chaffcombe was formed from four separate estates, (fn. 3) suggesting a pattern of scattered settlement in the area in the 11th century. Chaffcombe village, the centre of the principal holding, lies along a small stream in a sheltered valley. It includes the church and the site of a medieval manor-house at its east end, the other manor-house, later Court Farm, to the south, and the rectory house to the west, all on higher ground above the village. There is now a spread of older houses, mostly of the 18th and 19th centuries, along the village street, and there has been more recent infilling of the gaps, mostly in the last 20 years. A secondary settlement in the south at Lidmarsh occurs by 1170. (fn. 4) There was a capital messuage and at least one house there by 1227 (fn. 5) and the hamlet seems to have developed around a tract of waste. It remained a substantial collection of cottages until after 1840, (fn. 6) and probably represents the centre of one or more of the subsidiary Domesday holdings. Lidmarsh is now a small and scattered settlement of small houses, most of which are of 19th-century origin. Hecstanes, later Hynkestones well or Kingston well, occurs early in the 13th century, Avishays and Oakenhead emerged as freeholds in the fourteenth. (fn. 7)
The heavily-wooded terrain, particularly in the north, probably accounts for the tortuous road pattern, the result of piecemeal cutting, imparking, and inclosure over a long period. A grant of free warren in the 13th century (fn. 8) and the formation of Chaffcombe Park, later Park Wood, by the 15th, (fn. 9) was followed by the creation of a park around a new house at Avishays in the 18th century (fn. 10) and around Chaffcombe House and Ashton in the twentieth. (fn. 11) Common pasture at Chaffcombe Common in the north-west, at Whitemoor Hill above Avishays, and at Huckers (or Hawkers) Hill or Oakey Common on the Chard road at the end of Mals Mead Lane near Chard Elm, effectively divided the parish. (fn. 12) The principal road, between Chard and Crewkerne, cuts the parish in the south, and part of the Foss Way forms a small section of the south-eastern boundary with Cricket St. Thomas. A route through Lidmarsh to Chaffcombe village and thence to Knowle St. Giles has evidently been diverted, partly by the creation of Avishays park and partly by the formation of Chaffcombe Gate farm.
There were licensed victuallers in the parish in 1751 and 1756 (fn. 13) and a public house at the west end of the village in 1842. (fn. 14) The Happy Return, originally at Chard Elm and subsequently at the junction of Mals Mead Lane and the ChardCrewkerne road, first occurs in 1859 (fn. 15) and was closed in 1965. (fn. 16)
The parish had 12 households in 1612. (fn. 17) The population was 165 in 1801 and then rose gradually to 288 in 1841. After a slight recession to 246 in 1861 it rose again to 280 in 1871. There followed a decline to 192 in 1891. (fn. 18) Between 1901 and 1921 the numbers remained steady at around 230, but since that time the population has again decreased, to 176 in 1961 and 159 in 1971. (fn. 19)
Four parishioners were reported to have joined the Monmouth rebellion in 1685. (fn. 20)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
In 1066 Chaffcombe comprised four estates, two held 'in parage' by two thegns and a further two held similarly by two other thegns. By 1086 these estates had been combined and granted to Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, under whom they were held 'for one manor' by Ralph the red. (fn. 21) This Ralph can be identified with Ralph le (or de) Sor whose family became the principal tenants of the honor of Gloucester in that county and in Somerset. (fn. 22) Chaffcombe was also held of that honor. The manor's suit to South Petherton hundred court was withdrawn c. 1262 by Richard, earl of Gloucester (d. 1262). (fn. 23) His grandson Gilbert held the overlordship at his death in 1314. (fn. 24) It subsequently passed to Gilbert's brother-in-law Hugh le Despenser (d. 1349), (fn. 25) and was still held of the honor of Gloucester at least until 1600 though counter-claims were made in the interval. (fn. 26)
Ralph le Sor was succeeded as tenant by his son Otes (fl. 1088–1126), (fn. 27) and then by Jordan le Sor by 1166. (fn. 28) John (I) le Sor, stated to be son of Otes, probably held the manor c. 1176–7, and subinfeudated it to his cousin Richard de Morewell. (fn. 29) A claim to the overlordship, however, continued in the Sor family and their successors. Another John, who occurs between 1194 and 1205, (fn. 30) was succeeded before 1227 by Robert le Sor (d. by 1241). (fn. 31) His widow Gwenllian married Nicholas son of Roger, who held the estate until 1255 when it was inherited by William le Sor, son of John (III) and probably nephew of Robert. (fn. 32) William was followed by John (IV) le Sor (d. c. 1296–7) (fn. 33) and thereafter by Ela la Sor, probably his daughter, wife of William de Esthalle. She conveyed the Sor estates in Somerset to Sir Richard de Rodney in 1306. (fn. 34) Sir Richard was adjudged to be overlord of Chaffcombe in 1316 and the Rodneys again claimed the overlordship in 1498 as of their manor of Backwell. (fn. 35) Their title was finally disallowed in 1600 in favour of the honor of Gloucester. (fn. 36)
Richard de Morewell, to whom the manor had been granted by John (I) le Sor, subinfeudated it further to Alan de Furneaux for 20s. a year, and before 1189 had assigned this rent to Forde abbey (Dors.). (fn. 37) By virtue of this grant the abbey continued to claim lordship over the terre tenants. It was the abbey which granted dower in a moiety of the manor in 1270, (fn. 38) and further claims to the overlordship of the manor were made by the abbot up to 1390. (fn. 39) Agreements with the tenants of both moieties for the payment of rent were made in 1429 and 1430. (fn. 40) No reference to these payments has been noted after 1444. (fn. 41)
Alan de Furneaux or Geoffrey his son evidently conveyed the terre tenancy to Oliver Avenel (d. c. 1226). (fn. 42) On Avenel's death the manor was divided between his two daughters, Margaret and Emme, (fn. 43) and was not reunited until the early 17th century.
Margaret married first Warin de Noneton and then Philip de Cauntelo, (fn. 44) the latter being in possession by 1267. (fn. 45) By 1286 this half had descended to Margaret's son Baudry de Noneton (d. c. 1310) (fn. 46) who left a daughter and heir Margery, wife of Robert de Pudele. (fn. 47) By 1314 it had passed to Ralph of Stocklinch, who still held it in 1327, (fn. 48) and by 1344 to Roger of Stocklinch. (fn. 49) In 1390 John Denebaud, son of Thomas (d. 1362), (fn. 50) died holding this estate, evidently in right of his grandmother Joan Stocklinch, wife of William Denebaud. (fn. 51) John's son, also John, who was involved in two armed conflicts over lands in Chaffcombe, one with the lord of the other estate, (fn. 52) died in 1429. (fn. 53) His widow Florence was in possession in 1431, (fn. 54) and ownership then passed to their daughter Elizabeth (d. 1497), wife of William Poulett (d. 1488). (fn. 55) Sir Amias Poulett, son of Elizabeth, who died at Chaffcombe in 1538, was succeeded in turn by his son Sir Hugh (d. 1573) and grandson Sir Amias (d. 1588). (fn. 56) The property passed from the last to his son Anthony (d. 1600), whose son John purchased the other half of the manor in 1613. (fn. 57)
Emme Avenel (d. c. 1253), holder of the other half of the manor, married Jordan de Lisle, who owned lands in Chaffcombe in 1235. (fn. 58) Their son Walter, dead by 1269, was succeeded in turn by his son William de Lisle (d. c. 1294) and grand-daughter Idony, wife of Hugh de Beauchamp, who presented to the rectory in 1349. (fn. 59) From Idony the property passed to John, (fn. 60) probably her son, and to his son William Beauchamp (d. 1419–20). (fn. 61) William's son John was lord in 1420 (fn. 62) but by 1461 the patronage and presumably the estate had passed to John (I) Buller of Wood in Knowle St. Giles. (fn. 63) John's grandfather or great-grandfather Nicholas Buller is believed to have married John Beauchamp's daughter and heir, (fn. 64) and his father Thomas Buller had an interest in Chaffcombe between 1386 and 1410. (fn. 65) John (I) died in 1485 and was succeeded by his grandson Alexander (d. 1526), son of John (II) Buller. (fn. 66) From Alexander ownership descended in turn to John (III), John (IV) (d. 1592), John (V) (d. 1599), and John (VI). (fn. 67) In 1612 the last sold it to trustees (fn. 68) who in the next year conveyed it to John Poulett, (fn. 69) thus reuniting the two halves of the manor.
The identity of the halves as individual manors was preserved by the Pouletts under the names of CHAFFCOMBE BULLER and CHAFFCOMBE POULETT, administered separately until the 18th century. (fn. 70) The estate descended with the manor of Hinton St. George in the Poulett family until 1913 when the Chaffcombe lands and the advowson, but not the lordship, were sold to Holliday Hartley of Chaffcombe House. (fn. 71) The Hartley estate was divided and sold in 1923. (fn. 72) The lordship, not mentioned after the first sale, has apparently continued in the Poulett family.
The manor-house linked with the Poulett half of the manor was leased to Robert Cuffe of Donyatt in 1542. (fn. 73) Cuffe assigned the lease to Richard Cogan of Chard in 1544, and his widow Agnes (d. 1549–50) left it to her son John. (fn. 74) By 1565 John Cogan had allowed the house, bakery, dairyhouse, and stables to fall into decay, (fn. 75) and soon after he assigned the lease to Peter Bryce. (fn. 76) In 1599 it was leased by the lord to his son Amias Poulett, who surrendered it in 1615 to his brother John, then lord. (fn. 77) It is not mentioned thereafter and was evidently demolished. The site of the house is not precisely known but local tradition places it immediately north-west from the church.
The manor-house attached to Chaffcombe Buller was mentioned in 1294 and treated as leasehold by 1640. (fn. 78) It was known as the Court House from the late 17th century (fn. 79) and as Court Farm it continued to be held as part of the Poulett and subsequently Hartley estates until 1923, when it was bought by the tenant, F. Wilmington. (fn. 80) The latter sold it to R. S. J. Gould in 1945, and his son Mr. C. R. Gould has held it since 1972. (fn. 81) The present building is part of an apparently substantial 15th-century house. A traceried window survives on the first floor with unidentified coats of arms on the labels.
A hamlet at Lidmarsh is first recorded as Libbemersa in 1170 (fn. 82) and Forde abbey received grants of rent and small amounts of land there in the 13th century. (fn. 83) The overlordship of these was claimed by the earl of Gloucester in 1315 but was awarded to the heirs of John le Sor in the following year. (fn. 84) It is doubtful whether there was a single dominant estate there in the 13th century, but a part of the hamlet may have formed an element of the ½ fee at Cudworth and Knowle St. Giles held in 1303 and 1316 by Matthew de Esse and Humphrey de Kail, and in 1346 by de Kail alone. (fn. 85) At his death in 1348 William Kail held a messuage and 30 a. of land in Lidmarsh under Robert FitzPayn which passed to his son John (d. 1384). (fn. 86) John also held 20 a. of pasture in Aveneleseigh, later AVISHAYS. In 1385 John's widow received in dower 20 a. of land at Okenehede and 10 a. at Lidmarsh in respect of these lands, then stated to be parcel of Cudworth manor. (fn. 87) Thomas Kail (d. 1394), son of John, was succeeded in turn by his sister Idony (d. 1401), wife of John Poulett, and her sons John and Thomas. Both sons died in 1413 and the lands, then totalling 100 a. in Aveneleseygh and 20 a. in Lidmarsh, reverted to a feoffee, John Kaynes (d. 1420). (fn. 88) The latter's daughter Joan (d. 1462), wife successively of Sir John Speke and Hugh Champernowne, (d. 1482) was succeeded by her grandson, John son of John Speke. (fn. 89) William Speke, described as of Avishays in 1506, was followed by his son Thomas and grandson John Speke. (fn. 90) By 1530 the estate was held as a freehold under Chaffcombe manor. (fn. 91) John Speke's sister Joan and her husband Thomas Sydenham had livery of the Speke lands in Chaffcombe in 1537, (fn. 92) and their son Richard Sydenham conveyed the property to John (I) Browne of Frampton (Dors.) in 1559. (fn. 93) The premises evidently passed by successive sons to Sir John (II) Browne (d. 1627), John (III) (d. 1659), and John (IV) (d. 1670). They were then inherited by the uncle of the last, George Browne (d. 1677), followed in turn by his sons George and Robert. (fn. 94) In 1697 Avishays was sold by Robert Browne to his tenant Elias Sealy of Chaffcombe (d. 1715), to whose family the estate had been leased since Sir John (II) Browne's time. (fn. 95) Sealy was succeeded by his son Samuel (d. 1742), whose only surviving child Sarah married James Marwood (d. 1767) of Widworthy (Devon). (fn. 96) Under the will of Sarah Marwood (d. 1797) Avishays was to be held jointly by her daughters as long as her only son, James Thomas Benedictus Marwood (d. 1811), continued insane. (fn. 97) On his death the Marwood estates were divided between the four daughters, Avishays passing to Sarah Bridget (d. 1821), wife successively of Henry Stevens and John Inglett Fortescue, and subsequently to her sister Mary (d. 1831), wife of the Revd. George Notley of Combe Sydenham. (fn. 98) Thereafter it descended to her great-nephew William Warry Elton who sold it to Edward Clarke (d. 1895), a Chard solicitor, in 1859. (fn. 99) From that date the property continued to change hands with some frequency, and in 1973 was owned by Mr. James Verner.
The house is of brick with stone dressings and appears to be of the 18th century, but the east side of the main building incorporates part of an earlier17th-century house which was refronted in the last years of the same century when an eastern courtyard with coach house, stables, and brewhouse were laid out. (fn. 100) The courtyard was further enclosed on the north by a kitchen wing, added in the earlier 18th century, and in 1745 (fn. 101) the main range was extended southwards and doubled in depth by the addition of new principal rooms behind a symmetrical west front of seven bays. More service rooms were added on the north in the 19th century and a conservatory, presumably of similar date, on the south-east was removed in the twentieth century. There is a large walled garden to the south-east and on the hill to the east a small embattled structure of the 19th century, known as the Castle, serves as both eye-catcher and water tower. There are extensive farm buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries to the north of the house.
Oakenhead, mentioned in 1385, formed part of the Avishays estate in 1394 and was held as a freehold of Chaffcombe manor by Joan, widow of Sir Thomas Brook, at her death in 1437. (fn. 102) It was inherited by her son Sir Thomas Brook (d. 1439) (fn. 103) and evidently passed to her grandson Edward, Lord Cobham (d. 1464). (fn. 104) It continued in the Brook family, descending by successive heirs, Lords Cobham, to John (d. 1512), Thomas (d. 1529), George (d. 1558), and William (d. 1597). (fn. 105) On the attainder of Henry, Lord Cobham, son of the last, in 1603 the estate evidently passed with other Brook lands to Charles Blount, earl of Devonshire (d. 1606), and subsequently to the latter's illegitimate son Mountjoy Blount, later Lord Mountjoy. (fn. 106) Mountjoy sold the property to John Lambert in 1624, in whose family it continued until its settlement in 1656 on Jeffery Pysing (d. 1706) of Winsham and his intended wife Elizabeth Lambert. (fn. 107) Their son Hugh (d. 1714) was succeeded by his son Jeffery (d. 1735) and grandson Hugh. (fn. 108) The last conveyed it to Jennings Darby in 1743 and sold it to John Notley in 1750. (fn. 109) Oakenhead was held by George Notley in 1800 and sold in 1829 by Edward Elton of Greenway (Devon) to Henry Hoste Henley of Leigh in Winsham. (fn. 110) By 1830 the farmhouse had been demolished and by 1839 the lands had been absorbed by Henry John Henley's farm at Kingston Well. (fn. 111)
Forde abbey owned a small property in the south of the parish linked with the grange at Street in Winsham and known in the 16th century as Hynkestones Well alias Heckestonwill. A William de Hecstanes witnessed an abbey charter in the early 13th century. (fn. 112) It was leased with the grange and properties in Dorset to Richard Pollard in 1539 for 21 years, and then in 1545 its reversion was sold to John Preston of Cricket St. Thomas. (fn. 113) The name has not been traced thereafter until the early 19th century as a farm known as Hinkstones Well or Kingston Well, then on the Henley estate, suggesting a descent from the 16th century with the manor of Street and Leigh through the Dewport and Henley families. (fn. 114)
By 1086, after combination, a demesne holding of more than 3 hides out of a total of 4 hides and 3½ virgates had been created. Stock on the farm amounted to 8 head of cattle, 24 swine, and 65 sheep. The two smallest holdings, both occupied by villeins and with two plough teams for a total of only 1¾ hide, probably lay in the south of the parish around a settlement at Lidmarsh. The total value of the property was 60s. (fn. 115) It was twice subinfeudated in the late 12th century, first for 10s. a year and then for 20s. (fn. 116) In the later 13th century it was valued at 40s. (fn. 117) and between 1314 and 1414 at twice that sum, (fn. 118) but the true value was probably closer to 106s. 8d., the assessment of the Denebaud half in 1390. (fn. 119) By 1444 the rents for one half amounted to £8 8s. 1d. a year. (fn. 120)
No reference has been found to open-field cultivation. In 1420 the Beauchamp family complained that John Denebaud had illegally inclosed a 2-a. plot of pasture with a fence and a hedge of thorn and brambles. (fn. 121) A rental of 1444 shows that apart from small tracts of pasture and moorland the manor lay almost wholly in closes, one substantial piece of arable called le Sarte suggesting its origin as an assart. (fn. 122) The demesne lands held with one half of the manor by William de Lisle in 1294 comprised a house and garden, 30 a. of arable land, 4 a. meadow and pasture, and 20 a. of underwood. (fn. 123) By the 16th century the few references to demesne are to isolated closes leased to tenants. (fn. 124) In 1542 the Pouletts leased 77½ a. with Chaffcombe Poulett manor-house (fn. 125) and in the 17th century 10 a. were held with Court Farm. (fn. 126) In neither case, however, was the land recorded as former demesne.
Domesday recorded woodland measuring 8 furlongs square (fn. 127) which probably lay on and around Sprays Hill in the north-east of the parish. A wood called 'Rivelos' was claimed in 1275 to have formed part of the Avenel inheritance, (fn. 128) and 'Rokewoode' and 'Ryvelhose' occur in 1419. (fn. 129) The lord's wood was leased to tenants by 1443 (fn. 130) and timber was taken there without licence in 1531. (fn. 131) 'Lumbardes wood' of 31 a. was leased with Chaffcombe Poulett manor-house in 1542, (fn. 132) and it was presented in 1564 that under-tenants had caused much damage to the lord's wood. (fn. 133)
Philip de Cauntelo received a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Chaffcombe in 1267. (fn. 134) Chaffcome Park was part of Chaffcombe Buller, when it contained 40 a., and in 1582 it was leased with Woodhouse in Knowle St. Giles. (fn. 135) In 1613 it was sold to the Pouletts with the manor of Chaffcombe Buller (fn. 136) and between 1650 and 1759 was held under lease by the Lumbard family. (fn. 137) On the expiry of the last lease the park was retained in the hands of the lord and in 1765 was stocked with Poulett cattle. (fn. 138)
One half of the manor included 4 houses and 4 bovates in 1390 (fn. 139) and in 1444 the same property had 9 tenants holding 5 cottages and 2 other tenements, including lands of Old Auster. The manor pound was then divided between four of the tenants and three of these were evidently supplying hurdles in lieu of works. (fn. 140) In 1443 mention is made of the non-payment of hurdlesilver for 18 years. (fn. 141) Between 1553 and 1560 the administration of the Poulett halves of the manors of Chaffcombe and Knowle St. Giles, together with Illeigh farm in Knowle, was combined (fn. 142) and thereafter Chaffcombe manor was considered to include much of Knowle. The problems of the divided manor occasionally caused confusion, as in 1569 when Poulett claimed half the price of a stray sheep presented in John Buller's court. (fn. 143) A lease of the Poulett manor-house for 90 years was granted in 1542 and by the end of the 16th century conversion from copyhold tenure to leases for 99 years or 3 lives had begun. (fn. 144) The reunion of the two Chaffcombe halves in 1613 resulted in an estate of some 615 a., although this included lands in Knowle St. Giles. (fn. 145) About half the holdings were then leased, and conversion to leasehold continued during the 18th century. (fn. 146) In 1716, excluding Illeigh in Knowle, there were 2 freeholders, 26 copyholders, and 24 leaseholders, the last two classes holding nearly 500 a. between them and the total rental standing at £22 7s. 9d. Most of the farming units were small: only two over 35 a., of which one was Chaffcombe Park and the other a farm of 71 a. (fn. 147) Covenants to plant trees, particularly oaks, form a regular feature of Poulett leases in the late 17th and earlier 18th centuries. (fn. 148)
Chaffcombe common is mentioned in 1553 when it was overstocked by the tenants, and it was agreed by the lords of both halves of the manor in 1564 that sheep should be pastured there only between the feasts of St. Andrew (30 Nov.) and Lady Day (25 Mar.). (fn. 149) In the 18th century it was suggested that the tenants of the manor, who would otherwise suffer under a parliamentary inclosure, might be granted liberty to inclose the commons themselves. (fn. 150) A reference to land lately inclosed from the common in 1812, adjoining 'New close', (fn. 151) suggests that inclosure was then proceeding piecemeal. Between 1818 and 1824 the occupiers of estates totalling nearly 530 a., including the owner of Avishays, had rights over Chaffcombe common, (fn. 152) but by 1839 the inclosure of the whole common had been completed. (fn. 153) Common pasture on 'Hyemore', Whitemoor Hill, and Huckers Hill was mentioned in 1571. (fn. 154) The first of these has not been identified, but Cold Harbour cottage at the western approach to Avishays and built by 1700, had formerly stood on Whitemoor Hill common and the name survived as Whitemoor Lane and in closes north-east of Avishays. (fn. 155) In 1726 and 1740 an annual rent of 2s. called the Plashett or Plashnett rent, payable within 20 days of Michaelmas, was rendered by the commoners of Whitemoor Hill, Lidmarsh, and Chard Heathfield. (fn. 156) Huckers Hill common is probably Hawkers Hill otherwise Oakey common, of which 6 a. was described as recently inclosed in 1830. (fn. 157) Much of Lidmarsh was evidently common pasture and again appears to have been privately inclosed by tenants during the 18th century. (fn. 158)
Avishays formed the largest freehold in the parish. In 1413 it included 120 a. of which 20 a. lay in Lidmarsh, (fn. 159) and a further 60 a. may probably be assigned to Walscombe in Chard. (fn. 160) In 1697 the home estate include 40 a. at Avishays and 24 a. at Lidmarsh. (fn. 161) The Sealys and Marwoods bought some more land during the 18th century and the acquisition of the lease of Cold Harbour cottage in 1729 to form the western lodge (fn. 162) probably gives the approximate date at which the park around the house was laid out.
Formerly the largest farm in the parish, Chaffcombe Gate was created by the Pouletts in the late 18th or early 19th century and had an acreage of 208 a. in 1819, (fn. 163) a significant portion of their estate in the parish which totalled 425 a. in 1839. The Henley estate of 230 a. then included Kingston Well farm of 117 a. and substantial property at Lidmarsh; Avishays had increased to 185 a. and between them these three holdings accounted for 90 per cent of the parish. Tolleys farm at Lidmarsh then had 81 a., and Kennel House near Avishays 64 a. (fn. 164)
At the time of the tithe commutation the parish included 311 a. of arable, 467 a. of meadow and pasture, and 117 a. of woodland. (fn. 165) By 1905 the amount of arable had fallen to 212 a., the grassland rising to 633 a. and woodland to 132 a. (fn. 166) The former Poulett estate was broken up in 1923, when the farms passed into private hands, particularly those of the Vincent family of Knowle St. Giles, Poulett tenant farmers from the 18th century. (fn. 167) During the 20th century there has been a diminution in the size of the larger holdings and a corresponding increase in the extent of the smaller farms. Thus in 1973 Court Farm had been extended to 85 a., whereas Avishays had dropped to 150 a. and Chaffcombe Gate to 125 a. The agriculture of the parish continues to be both dairy and arable. (fn. 168)
Although the parish has always been dependent principally on agriculture for its economy, there were links with the clothing and gloving industries, presumably by virtue of the parish's proximity to Chard and Ilminster. A weaver is mentioned in 1700, a clothworker in 1741, (fn. 169) and a hand-loom weaver of sailcloth in 1851. In 1851 there were 23 female glovers. (fn. 170)
There were separate courts for each half of Chaffcombe manor, but rolls survive only for Chaffcombe Poulett for the years 1523, 1530–2, 1552–3, 1560–72, (fn. 171) 1651–77, 1703–10, 1715–26. (fn. 172) Courts continued after the reunification of the manor in 1613, and by 1651 a single court only was held. The courts for the Poulett half of Knowle St. Giles manor had been united with those for Chaffcombe Poulett by 1560, but suit of court to Chaffcombe Buller was required of a tenant in 1776. (fn. 173) In the 16th century the manor court met usually twice each year in spring and autumn, being known simply as the manor court or the court leet. Pleas of debt and trespass occur at one court in 1572. No reference to the appointment of manorial officers has been noted.
There were usually two churchwardens in the late 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 174) It was agreed in 1737 that the rector should nominate one. (fn. 175) Vestry minutes from 1850 show the appointment of two overseers, two way wardens (one only from 1861), and a churchwarden. From 1863 one of the overseers was salaried. (fn. 176)
A workhouse or poorhouse at Lidmarsh was sold in 1837, the parish having become part of the Chard poor-law union in the previous year. (fn. 177)
A rector of Chaffcombe occurs c. 1187. (fn. 178) The advowson was held with the manor by 1275 when its ownership was in dispute between the lords of the two halves, (fn. 179) and similar disputes took place in 1344 and 1402. (fn. 180) After the reunification of the manor the advowson continued in the hands of the Pouletts. William Morryn of Knowle St. Giles presented in 1545 by grant of Sir Hugh Poulett, (fn. 181) and the bishop by lapse in 1696. (fn. 182) In 1913 the patronage passed with the Poulett estate to Holliday Hartley. (fn. 183) Between 1923 and 1931 it was conveyed to the Diocesan Board of Finance, the present patron. (fn. 184) The benefice was united with the livings of Knowle St. Giles and Cricket Malherbie in 1941. (fn. 185)
The church was not mentioned in the taxation of 1291, but the rectory, valued at £8 13s. 4d. in 1445, (fn. 186) was exempted from tax in 1517 for poverty. (fn. 187) Its gross income had risen to £9 18s. 4d. by 1535 (fn. 188) and to £40 by 1651. (fn. 189) The living was augmented by grants in the 1650s, (fn. 190) and was worth £60 by c. 1668. (fn. 191) It fell to £45 in 1727 (fn. 192) and to £43 17s. c. 1785. (fn. 193) The net income was £143 in 1831 (fn. 194) and 1840, (fn. 195) and £165 in 1866. (fn. 196)
In 1535 the predial tithes were valued at 19s. 8d., the tithes of sheep and lambs at 26s. 8d., and oblations and personal tithes at 35s. (fn. 197) The tithes were leased to Earl Poulett in 1819 for a rent of £126, and were commuted for a tithe rent-charge of £160 in 1839. (fn. 198)
The glebe lands, worth £3 6s. 8d. in 1535, (fn. 199) totalled 22 a. in 1606 and 1637. (fn. 200) They amounted to 28 a. in 1819 when they were leased with the parsonage house for £50 a year. (fn. 201) The extent of the glebe remained the same until the sale of all but 4½ a. between 1894 and 1914. (fn. 202) No further glebe had been sold by 1972. (fn. 203)
The parsonage house was described in 1606 as a mansion, barn, and stable with three little gardens. (fn. 204) The building was said to be unfit for residence in 1835. (fn. 205) It continued to be used as a farmhouse until its sale between 1894 and 1914. (fn. 206) The building, known as the Old Rectory, is generally of stone with a thatched roof. It has an original two-roomed plan with later extensions. The interior has a number of 17th-century features, including a staircase with turned balusters, and there is a cruck roof. A large stone rectory house, built near the church in 1886, (fn. 207) housed the incumbent in 1973.
John Clawsey, rector from 1545, was deprived for marriage in 1554 but was restored in Elizabeth I's reign. (fn. 208) Edward Middleton, rector 1568–1609, was a former fellow of New College, Oxford, and for 2½ years employed curates to serve in his stead. (fn. 209) Peter Cox, rector 1642–?, 1662–95, was ejected during the Interregnum when the church was served by Joseph Shallett by 1648, and then by Robert Pinney from 1658. (fn. 210) Cox was reinstated at the Restoration and held Lympsham in plurality. (fn. 211) Most of the incumbents since that time have been graduates. (fn. 212) Richard Abraham, rector 1789–1822, held the living with that of Ilminster, and Charles Penny, D.D., rector 1848–75, was headmaster of Crewkerne grammar school throughout his incumbency. (fn. 213) The lack of any satisfactory parsonage house during most of the 19th century resulted in a succession of non-resident parsons and the curates they employed. The curate in 1827 lived in Chard and also served Cudworth. (fn. 214) Curates under Dr. Penny were generally Second Masters at Crewkerne School. (fn. 215) It was only when the new rectory was built in 1886 that resident incumbents returned to the parish.
In 1577 the parishioners had only two sermons in a year. (fn. 216) The churchwardens were twice presented for not electing a parish clerk in 1623. (fn. 217) There were only eight communicants in 1776. (fn. 218) One service was held every Sunday in 1827, and by 1840 two, with at least four celebrations of Holy Communion annually, although the parish had reverted to a single Sunday service and sermon by 1843. (fn. 219) The advent of a new rector in 1848 resulted in a return to two Sunday services and Holy Communion eight times a year. (fn. 220) Census Sunday 1851 produced congregations of 32 in the morning and 90 in the afternoon. (fn. 221)
The church of ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, formerly dedicated to St. Michael alone, stands at the eastern end of the village, set back well above the road. It is built of ashlar and has a chancel with north vestry, nave with north aisle and south porch, and west tower. The body of the church was rebuilt to the designs of J. M. Allen in 1858, the north vestry added in 1877, and the tower largely reconstructed in 1882. (fn. 224) The nave and chancel of the old church were probably 14th century or earlier, and the three-stage tower was added in the 15th century. The windows of the nave were partly renewed early in the 16th century, those of the south wall of the chancel in the 17th or 18th centuries. (fn. 225) The new church may have followed the plan of its predecessor but the features were not copied and are now in a plain 15th-century style.
The plate includes a cup of 1574 by 'M.H.' (fn. 226) There are six bells: (i) 1970, Whitechapel foundry; (ii and iii) 1898, Mears and Stainbank; (iv) 1921, Mears and Stainbank; (v) medieval, Exeter foundry; (vi) 1733, William Knight of Closworth. (fn. 227) The registers date from 1678 and are complete from 1681. (fn. 228)
A house was licensed for dissenting meetings in 1704, (fn. 229) and an Anabaptist was living in the parish in 1776. (fn. 230) Two rooms were licensed for dissenters in 1799. (fn. 231) Bible Christians were meeting at Lidmarsh from 1831 and had eight members in the following year. An attempt to establish a cause at Chaffcombe failed in 1834–5 and the Lidmarsh group seems to have disappeared a year earlier. (fn. 232) Independents from Chard used a house from 1844. (fn. 233)
In 1754 a schoolmaster was paid by the Marwoods of Avishays for teaching children to write. (fn. 234) The parish had a Sunday school in 1819 supported by Mrs. Fortescue of Avishays in which 30–40 children were taught. (fn. 235) This was financed by subscriptions in 1835, in 1846 had a salaried master and mistress and two unpaid mistresses, (fn. 236) and by 1851 was maintained at the sole expense of the rector. (fn. 237)
A School Board was formed in 1876 and a school was built in the village in 1878. (fn. 238) By 1883 the average attendance was 32. (fn. 239) An additional schoolroom was built in 1893 and the attendance rose to 39 in the following year and to 63 in 1900. (fn. 240) The school was 'in good order and very well taught' in 1903. At that date there were two teachers and a rented teacher's house; the school building was also used for parish meetings and the Sunday school. (fn. 241) By 1908 it was a County School with 77 children on the books and an average attendance of 49. (fn. 242) The numbers on the books fell to 51 in 1921, and from 50 in 1938 to 31 in 1949. (fn. 243) The school, then known as Chaffcombe County Junior School, was closed in 1959 and the pupils transferred to Chard. (fn. 244)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
In 1787–8 a sum of £10 vested in Mrs. Marwood of Avishays was producing 8s. a year which was paid to the poor. The name of the donor was then supposed to have been a Mr. James but no details of the charity's foundation have been found. (fn. 245) In 1824 the capital, which with accumulated interest had increased to £13 10s., was stated to have been in the hands of the churchwardens for many years and the income distributed to the second poor. (fn. 246) The charity had been lost by 1866. (fn. 247)