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 parish of Chillington, on the northern slope of Windwhistle ridge, measured 882 a. in 1839 and 925 a. in 1901. (fn. 1) It occupies a roughly triangular area whose base is the clay and chalk ridge stretching from St. Rayn hill in the east to Windwhistle in the west. Its western boundary with Cudworth is formed by a stream rising in Chillington Down called Stretford water, which flows due north to Dowlish Wake. The eastern boundary is irregular, marked in part by streams and in part by the IlminsterCrewkerne road, described in the 13th century as the road leading to the chapel of St. Rayn. (fn. 2)
The parish is crossed by a network of narrow lanes, the only direct route linking Dinnington with Windwhistle being known as Fisherway Lane. (fn. 3) In Dinnington this appears to be the continuation of the Foss Way. The name Stretford water given to the boundary stream with Cudworth implies the proximity of the Foss, and the discovery of Roman coins and part of a lead coffin north of Lower Chillington and coins and a bronze torc near Chillington Down suggest that the Foss ran on or near the line of the Dinnington-Windwhistle route rather than via Ludney Lane and Oldway Lane through Cudworth. (fn. 4)
The main settlement in the parish is known as Lower Chillington, on the Yeovil Sands in the undulating valley, and comprises the church on an elevated and possibly prehistoric site, the old manorhouse, and two large farm-houses. In the late 19th century there were also several cottages. (fn. 5) Chibley farm, further north on silts and marls, may also, in view of its site, be of similar antiquity, and certainly existed by 1305. (fn. 6) Hill farm, to the east, represents a small hamlet established at least by the early 15th century. (fn. 7) Higher Chillington, in the south-west, developed probably in the 18th century from cottages built on encroachments on the edge of the common on Chillington Down. By the 1970s it housed most of the population.
The extent and position of the common fields may be roughly determined by the position of the sands and marls in the northern half of the parish, between Stretford water and Hill farm. Land called Blacklands north of Hill farm and others to the south of it still bore traces of open-field arable in the 18th century. (fn. 8) Woodland just below the highest ground in the south, as in Cudworth, was a significant feature of the parish.
The surviving farm-houses are the only substantial dwellings in the parish with the exception of Old Manor-house. These include Hill Farm which dates from the 17th century and is of threeroomed plan. Lord Hinton, when leasing the farm in 1735, reserved to himself the parlour and chamber above. (fn. 9) A smaller, two-roomed, house there was divided in 1744 between the two sons of the owner, one having the kitchen end, the other the hall and entry. (fn. 10) Inventories of two other properties of the 17th century show houses with threeroomed plan, one having four and the other three rooms above. (fn. 11) Sheephouse Farm is a large mid18th-century house of stone and thatch, with pedimented door-case and a stair with turned balusters. It has a contemporary dairy wing. Manor Farm is probably earlier but has extensive 19th-century alterations.
Chillington chapelry had 20 households in 1563, (fn. 12) and there were said to be half that number in 1601 and c. 1660. (fn. 13) Between 1801 and 1841 the population rose from 216 to 321, but after remaining stable for thirty years fell by half by 1901. After a slight increase during the First World War, the total continued to fall; it was 82 in 1961 and 87 in 1971. (fn. 14)
Elias Osborn (1643–1720), a Quaker preacher, was born in Chillington. (fn. 15)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATE.
Chillington, usually known until the 16th century as a hamlet, was a member of the manor of South Petherton, and descended with that manor in the Daubeney family. (fn. 16) It was confiscated in 1483 on Giles Daubeney's implication in Buckingham's rebellion, and was assigned for the payment of Buckingham's debts. (fn. 17) In 1485 it was granted to John Howard, duke of Norfolk (d. 1485). (fn. 18) Daubeney recovered the property on the accession of Henry VII, and at his death in 1508 left a life interest in what was described as the manor of CHILLINGTON to his widow. (fn. 19) He was succeeded by his son Henry (cr. earl of Bridgwater 1538, d. 1548), who sold the manor to Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford, later duke of Somerset, in 1540. (fn. 20) On Somerset's attainder in 1552 the manor passed to the Crown, where it remained until 1570 when it was granted to Thomas Wentworth, Lord Wentworth (d. 1584). (fn. 21) The Seymours, in the person of Edward, earl of Hertford (d. 1621), recovered the manor in 1582, (fn. 22) though James Daubeney, descendant of a younger brother of Giles, Lord Daubeney, held half the manor of Hertford at his death in 1613, presumably in succession to his grandfather who held property in the parish in 1510. (fn. 23) The manor descended to William Seymour (cr. marquess of Hertford 1641, duke of Somerset 1660). He died in 1660 and was succeeded by his grandson William (d. 1671) and then by his own second son John (d. 1675). On John's death without issue the estate passed to Elizabeth (d. 1697), wife of Thomas Bruce, earl of Ailesbury. (fn. 24)
Charles Bruce, Lord Bruce, their eldest son, was still in possession of the manor in 1705, (fn. 25) but by 1741, and probably by 1736, the manor had passed to George Speke (IV). (fn. 26) Speke died in 1753 and his trustees sold the manor before 1766 to the Revd. George Notley (d. 1768) of Cricket St. Thomas. (fn. 27) The property passed to his son, also the Revd. George (d. 1831), (fn. 28) and then successively to his grandsons George and James Thomas Benedictus (d. 1851), both of Combe Sydenham in Stogumber. (fn. 29) James was followed successively by his sons George (d. 1855), James T. B. (d. 1872), and Marwood (d. 1903). (fn. 30) Marwood Notley's son Marmion died in 1904, and the lordship passed with c. 50 a. of land, to his widow Anne, who in 1905 married C. F. Sweet of Monksilver. (fn. 31) Anne sold the lordship and land in 1942 to the University of Oxford. The property, then planted as copse, was sold in 1958 to Cdr. Patten Thomas of Lower Shiplake (Oxon.), who died in possession in 1973. (fn. 32)
A house known as Old Manor-house may originally have been built by the Notleys. It is a late18th- or early-19th-century house, formerly thatched, with brick gable ends. An older house may have stood in the garden, and there are late18th-century buildings including a coach-house opposite.
The tithes of the parish, part of the rectory of South Petherton, were let by Bruton abbey and their successors the chapter of Bristol. From 1532 the lessees were Thomas and George Speke, though by 1552 Sir Hugh Poulett was in actual occupation. (fn. 33) The Pouletts remained farmers of the tithes and of a small piece of glebe until 1802, when they purchased the freehold. (fn. 34) In 1786 the tithes and glebe together were valued at £74 6s. 9d. gross and £27 8s. 5d. net. (fn. 35) In 1839 the glebe had been absorbed into the Poulett estate and the tithes were commuted to a rent-charge of £237. (fn. 36) In 1786 there was a tithe barn 'almost in ruins', apparently in the village of Lower Chillington. The glebe then comprised 7 a. south of Chibley farm. (fn. 37)
The whole estate at Chillington was divided at least by the end of the 13th century into separate and substantial tenant holdings, and its probable origin as a detached estate and member of South Petherton in the 11th century or earlier may suggest that there was never any demesne holding there. The income at the end of the 13th century came largely from assessed rents from freeholders and villeins together, and amounted to £7 in 1292, £5 0s. 6d. in 1294, and £5 12s. 6¼d. in 1305. (fn. 38) Underwood in the first two years produced a few shillings and court perquisites 2s. The substantial tenant holdings included 1½ virgate shared by two men in 1232, (fn. 39) and John Wake's tenement called Chubbeleye, represented later by Chibley farm, in 1305. (fn. 40) By the end of the 14th century the tenants included several families of importance in the area such as the Bullers, the Kayneses, and the Lindes; (fn. 41) Thomas Kaynes, for example, held 80 a. of pasture. (fn. 42) Pasture and wood seem, from the slight surviving evidence, to have been of the greatest importance in the parish. (fn. 43) The value of the property had risen comparatively little by the end of the 15th century, assessed rents being fixed by 1493–4 at £12 10s. 11½d. (fn. 44) Before 1548 an estate of 40 a. of meadow and pasture helped to support three priests at Ilminster. (fn. 45) The land was granted in 1557 to Thomas Powle and John Slade. (fn. 46)
Among the substantial tenants in the early 16th century were the Spekes. William Speke of Avishays in Chaffcombe held an estate called Chubleys, probably Chibley, in 1506. (fn. 47) It was settled with other properties on his granddaughter Joan, wife of Thomas Sydenham, in 1537, (fn. 48) but in 1560 it passed to the Brownes of Frampton (Dors.). (fn. 49) For the next hundred years it was leased to the Hutchinses, but Bernard Hutchins (d. 1728) apparently acquired the freehold, and at his death left the property to Vere Poulett (later 3rd Earl Poulett, d. 1788). (fn. 50) By that time the land was centred on Ludney farm in Kingstone, with fields in both parishes.
By 1766 the Pouletts had acquired further properties including Hill and Sheephouse farms, which made them the largest landowners in the parish. (fn. 51) Vere and Anne Poulett acquired interests in Sheephouse farm in 1749; (fn. 52) Hill farm, like Sheephouse farm held by the Poole family in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, (fn. 53) came to John Poulett, Lord Hinton (later 2nd Earl Poulett, d. 1764) by 1735. (fn. 54) By 1786 the Pouletts held 473 a., and early in the 19th century the total rental was worth £425. (fn. 55) In contrast the rental of the manor was small. In 1650 and 1671 it amounted to 27s. 1d. from freeholders, £4 6s. 4d. from leaseholders, and £6 14s. 6d. from copyholders, though arrears were then high and the chief rent from the Browne holding had remained unpaid for eleven years. (fn. 56) By 1766 the Notleys, in the persons of John and the Revd. George Notley, virtually shared the remainder of the parish. (fn. 57) By 1786 their estate amounted to c. 235 a. (fn. 58)
The two largest farming units at the end of the 18th century were Hill farm (177 a.) and Thomas Poole's holding of the Revd. George Notley, later part of Manor farm. Poole also held Chibley farm (44 a.) of Earl Poulett. One named farm later absorbed into other holdings was Hocombe (Oakham) farm, held of the Read family. (fn. 59) Grazing and milk production were the most profitable aspects of farming. Of seven surviving inventories dated between 1634 and 1669 two included flocks of sheep and another two equipment for cheese-making. Roger Bragge (d. 1669) left goods and stock worth over £127, including 6 cows, 3 young bullocks, and 47 sheep. Robert West (d. 1645), assessed in 1641 among the prosperous farmers of the parish, (fn. 60) had 30 sheep, 3 cows, a heifer, and a bull. The possessions of Judith Marshall (d. 1640) included 19 lb. of flax and £200 in cash. (fn. 61) Field names surviving to the end of the 18th century included Flaxland Orchard, Hemphay, and Rackhay. (fn. 62)
Grazing developed further in the 18th century as common arable lands were inclosed. Blacklands, north of Hill farm, was still held in common in 1692, and it seems likely that at the same date some strips survived in former common fields known as Upfield, Wheatfield (or Whitefield), Little field, and Parrock field. (fn. 63) Some common remained at least until 1715, and there were a few uninclosed parcels in 1736. (fn. 64) Some of the last to be inclosed were 13 a. on the Hill, still arable in 1786, and 30 a. of common on Chillington Down, taken by the Notleys for pasture. (fn. 65) Water meadows were developed in the north of the parish on Chibley farm by Anne Poulett in 1742. The land involved, known as Bruffalongs, was evidently once arable. (fn. 66) In 1754, on the same farm, Poulett granted a lease of a herd of dairy cows for three years, undertaking once a year to provide transport for a load of butter to Weymouth. (fn. 67) In 1778 the titheable stock in the parish included at least 61 cows and 490 sheep, excluding the stock of two farmers who paid by composition. (fn. 68) Hill farm supported 19 cows and 120 sheep.
Grassland thus accounted for most of the land in the parish in 1778, and the leading crops from the remaining arable were wheat and barley. There were also some 26 a. of oats, 11 a. of flax, and very small areas of peas, beans, and potatoes. Between 50 and 60 hogsheads of cider were also produced. (fn. 69) In 1786 the relative acreages were 371 a. of pasture, 148 a. of meadow, and 234 a. of arable. The arable was then described as 'cold and rather unfruitful', some of the pasture 'cold, bad land'. (fn. 70)
Woodland was also of significance in the parish. 'Holcombewode' formed part of Eleanor Daubeney's dower in 1386. (fn. 71) In 1699 Lord Ailesbury's tenant of land called Holcombe undertook to plant three oak, ash, or elm trees each year. (fn. 72) This policy permitted the Pouletts to allow the tenant of the dairy 220 faggots in 1754. (fn. 73) In 1786 and 1839 there were c. 80 a. of woodland, and in 1905 73 a. (fn. 74) In 1958 Holcombe Copse and Chillington Down wood, sold with the lordship of the manor, amounted to 87 a. (fn. 75)
By 1839 the parish was divided between five substantial farms: Sheephouse (154 a.), Hill (139 a.), and Chibley (132 a.) farms were held of the Pouletts, Chillington (158 a.) and Green (73 a.) farms of the Notleys. (fn. 76) Twenty years earlier Sheephouse farm had been let with the tithes of the Notley portion of the parish. (fn. 77) By 1851 further consolidation of farms had taken place: William Poole's Manor or Chillington farm had absorbed Green farm and with land in Cudworth measured 340 a. He employed 22 labourers. Arthur Hull's Hill farm amounted to 207 a., with 5 labourers employed. Neither farm had changed in size by 1958. (fn. 78) By 1973, however, Sheephouse was being worked with Ludney farm in Kingstone. (fn. 79) Dairying developed further in the 19th century: in 1851 there were six dairymen living in the parish as well as a cheese dealer. (fn. 80) By 1905 685 a. were under grass compared with 290 a. under arable. (fn. 81) Dairying predominated in 1973.
Apart from farming gloving was the most important occupation in the parish in the 19th century, employing 43 women and girls in 1851. (fn. 82) The standard of cottages was low in the 1860s, and the village was singled out as being 'a very bad parish'. Improvements were certainly being made by 1868, but there was a shifting population, due in part to the depression in gloving. (fn. 83) Nearly a quarter of the inhabitants in 1851 had been born outside the parish. (fn. 84) By 1868 there were said to be more cottages than labourers to occupy them, including some in Clay Lane, Lower Chillington, and more in Moor Lane, Higher Chillington, each having a potato plot attached. (fn. 85)
Chillington normally formed a single tithing in South Petherton hundred at least from the 16th century, though there is some evidence to suggest that a tithing of Hill, possibly embracing the Poulett property in the east of the parish, existed in the 17th century if not earlier. (fn. 86) Under a lease of 1735 the tenant of Hill farm was allowed 20s. a year for holding the office of tithingman and £5 for office as hundred constable when it was his turn. (fn. 87)
Pleas and perquisites of court were received from the estate at the end of the 13th century, (fn. 88) but there was no income from that source at the end of the 15th and none accounted for in 1671 when Chillington and South Harp in South Petherton were administered together. (fn. 89) One extract from a court baron survives for Chillington and South Harp from 1692, (fn. 90) but there is no other direct evidence of a manor court. A lease of 1754 required suit and service to the manor court on summons. (fn. 91)
The parish had two overseers in 1641–2 and one in 1671 (fn. 92) and in the 19th century. (fn. 93) The earl of Hertford gave a site for a poorhouse which was built but not entirely paid for in 1615. (fn. 94) Six freehold cottages were used for the same purpose until 1837, when they were sold. (fn. 95) The parish became part of Chard poor-law union in 1836.
The church at Chillington first occurs as a dependent chapel of South Petherton at the end of the 13th century when the prior of Bruton, rector of South Petherton, was ordered to provide services there. (fn. 96) Its status was confirmed in 1400, (fn. 97) but in 1494 a burial ground there was dedicated, though the inhabitants were still required to pay mortuaries to the vicar of South Petherton and to contribute to the repair of the parish church. (fn. 98) With other chapels of South Petherton it passed after the dissolution of Bruton abbey to the newlycreated chapter of Bristol in 1542. (fn. 99) Lessees of the tithes both before and after the Dissolution were responsible for providing a priest until after 1838, (fn. 100) though the patronage later reverted to the chapter. (fn. 101) In 1885, when the benefice was united with Cudworth, the patronage was transferred to the bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 102)
In the 1570s the curate was paid £4 a year. (fn. 103) This sum was augmented by ten marks under the will of Sir Anthony Poulett (d. 1600) for preaching four times a year. (fn. 104) Between 1651 and 1655 the curate, who also served Barrington, was paid £7 10s. a quarter. (fn. 105) In the early part of the 18th century Lord Poulett, farmer of the rectory and tithes, paid the curate £15 a year. (fn. 106) The income was augmented by grants of £200 each made by lot from Queen Anne's Bounty and Parliamentary grants made in 1750, 1810, 1811, 1817, 1824, and 1832. (fn. 107) By 1786 the farmer's contribution was £20. (fn. 108) The net income in 1831 and 1851 was £60. (fn. 109) By 1909, after the sale of some glebe, fixed payments amounted to £53 11s. (fn. 110)
Glebe was evidently purchased with augmentation money in the 18th century. In 1909 there were 12½ a. at Clayhidon (Devon) and other pieces at Stockland and Dunkeswell (Devon), the last two then 'recently' sold. There were said to have been 12 a. at Thornford (Dors.) at some date 'irregularly' exchanged for the Stockland property. (fn. 111) By 1974 all the land had been sold. (fn. 112)
There appears to have been a house for the curate in 1619. (fn. 113) John Vaigge (curate 1651–5) repaired it in 1654 and Lord Poulett paid the cost. (fn. 114) There was no house by the early 19th century. (fn. 115)
On at least three occasions during the later 16th century the chancel of the church needed repair. (fn. 116) In 1577 the rector of Dowlish Wake served the cure but 'out of due time and season' and 'without the yearly sermons'. (fn. 117) In 1611 the curate failed to read the Canons as he had 'no book in church'. (fn. 118) At least two curates, Hugh Mere (1623–37 or later) and John Vaigge (1651–5), also served Barrington. (fn. 119) During the 18th and 19th centuries the curacy was several times held by schoolmasters: Thomas Hare (d. 1762), curate by 1751, was described as a 'good scholar and poet', was headmaster of Crewkerne school and from 1758 rector of Chedington (Dors.); (fn. 120) his successor at Chillington, Robert Burnet Patch, curate 1762–78, was also his successor at Crewkerne. (fn. 121) J. P. Billing, curate 1857–61, and George Phillips, curate 1861–73, were both headmasters of Chard school. (fn. 122) Neither they nor their successors were resident in the parish.
There were six communicants in 1776. (fn. 123) In the 1840s and 1870s services were held once a Sunday, alternately morning and afternoon, with celebrations of the Holy Communion eight times a year. (fn. 124) The average afternoon congregation in 1851 was 140 with 35 Sunday-school children. (fn. 125)
In 1548 a light was maintained in the church. (fn. 126)
The church of ST. JAMES is on a knoll which bears all the traces of a prehistoric site. (fn. 127) It is built of coursed rubble and has a chancel, and a nave with north vestry, south organ chamber, and south porch. The chancel is partly of the 13th century, but predominantly of the earlier 14th, and may have been enlarged at that time. Later in the same century the nave and porch were rebuilt. The chancel arch was rebuilt in the 15th century, and bears traces of painting as well as sockets for the rood screen. Perhaps at the same time the roofs were renewed, though this may not have happened until the nave windows were altered to their present squareheaded form in the later 16th century. A gallery, approached by an external stair against the porch, was put into the west end of the nave probably in the 18th century, (fn. 128) but was evidently removed in 1909, when the 15th-century style tracery was inserted into the older opening of the west window. The vestry probably belongs to the restoration of 1842. (fn. 129) A further and extensive restoration took place in 1909, when the chancel roof was replaced, the organ chamber constructed, and the font largely renewed. The pews date from 1912 to 1935. (fn. 130) The organ came from Bickenhall in 1973. (fn. 131)
The church has two bells in its western bellcot, both by Thomas Bilbie (II) and dated 1782. (fn. 132) The plate includes a cup and cover of 1573 by 'I.P.' and a cup of 1800. (fn. 133) The registers date from 1750, but there are gaps in baptisms and burials between 1761 and 1780. (fn. 134)
Between 1670 and 1682 two Quakers were imprisoned for refusing tithes. (fn. 135) Two houses were licensed for worship in 1695. (fn. 136) In 1776 there were said to be 'a few' Presbyterians in the parish. (fn. 137) A group of Bible Christians began worshipping there in 1824, and a house was licensed in 1828. The cause was disbanded in 1835 but was revived between 1843 and 1851, when it finally ceased. (fn. 138)
By 1835 there was a Sunday school for 36 children who paid ½d. a week, a mistress being supported by subscriptions. (fn. 139) A day-school for 30 children had been established by 1846 and was supported by subscriptions and school pence. (fn. 140) It was affiliated to the National Society by 1861. (fn. 141) The buildings were owned by the lord of the manor, and by 1903 were also used for a Sunday school and for other meetings. (fn. 142) In 1903 there was accommodation for 41 children, and there were 31 on the books. (fn. 143) By 1938, when senior pupils had been transferred, there were 65 on the books, with an average attendance of nineteen. (fn. 144) The school was closed in 1971 and the pupils were transferred to Ilminster. (fn. 145)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
A charity worth £12, evidently used as a loan charity, the foundation particulars of which were unknown, ceased in 1779 when the capital was in the hands of an insolvent tradesman. (fn. 146)