A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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Dinnington is a small parish sheltering below the 300 ft. scarp now marking the northern boundary of Hinton Park, 3 miles SW. of South Petherton. In 1839 it measured 514 a., (fn. 1) but in 1885 this was increased to 584 a. by the absorption of detached parts of Kingstone. (fn. 2) The ancient boundaries with Kingstone to the north and west suggest a common estate and point to the ownership of both properties by Glastonbury abbey in the 10th and early 11th centuries. (fn. 3) The southern boundary, adjoining Hinton Park, is the creation of the early 18th century. Before that time Dinnington parish reached further south over the scarp to embrace the medieval warren, now a copse known as Old Warren. (fn. 4) Between 1704 and 1721 Earl Poulett created his New Park by buying out tenants both in Hinton and Dinnington, (fn. 5) and thereafter the park boundary seems to have been recognized as that of the parish. The total area lost to Dinnington may be represented by the 115 a. over which an agreement was made between Poulett and the rector. (fn. 6) A detached piece of land called the Castle Estate in the 19th century lay west of Allowenshay in Kingstone. It became part of Kingstone in 1885. (fn. 7)
Most of the present parish lies on the Yeovil Sands, the scarp of the park formed by Inferior Oolite topped with clay. (fn. 8) It is watered by a stream rising in the park towards the old warren which descends from the 300 ft. contour and drove a mill. In the 19th century a series of pools was constructed to provide power for a cheese and butter factory established at Pondhays farm by Earl Poulett. (fn. 9) Some of the buildings and sluices survived in 1973.
There were three and possibly four separate settlements in the ancient parish. Dinnington itself clustered on rising ground near the church, within a maze of deeply-cut lanes which characterize the western part of the parish. Pit Farm, on the Hinton road under the scarp, represents what remains of the hamlet of Pit, established by the 14th century, which included at least six dwellings in the 15th, and which was still a substantial cluster of cottages in the mid 19th century. (fn. 10) In the 15th century the manor also included the hamlet of Netherton, which had at least 5 tofts and 8 cottages in 1480. (fn. 11) This was probably the settlement on the lower ground beside the Foss, apparently intermixed with properties in Allowenshay manor in Kingstone, in which it formed a tithing. (fn. 12) A fourth settlement site, the detached Castle Estate west of Allowenshay, may have earlier origins. The personal name atte Castele occurs in 1327, and there was a site called Castellond in 1362, Castell place in 1568, and Castell in 1617. (fn. 13) Its elevated position above the manorial centre of Allowenshay, probably the core of the pre-Domesday estate which embraced both Dinnington and Kingstone, (fn. 14) suggests the possibility of a Saxon residence on the site.
The Foss Way runs through the parish, its course clear from the lower part of Dinnington village to the north-eastern boundary with Kingstone, but less so further south-west. Its route may have been via Nash Lane to Higher Chillington, or possibly further west. (fn. 15) Apparently a more important route in the Middle Ages, and certainly since, is the Ilminster-Crewkerne road. It was described in the 13th century as 'the way leading to St. Rayn's chapel', and until 1885 formed the boundary between Dinnington and Hinton at the edge of Hinton Park. (fn. 16)
In 1348 Nicholas Cadbury came to Dinnington to make a plan for building a hall for Thomas Chastelayne. (fn. 17) This house does not seem to have survived. Apart from the former parsonage house, now Parsonage Farm, the earliest buildings seem to be of the 17th century, including the Rose and Crown inn. The Orchard appears to have earlier ceiling beams but both the plan and the details of the stone work are of the early 18th century.
There was an inn at Dinnington by 1732. The several licensees named in the 18th century may have used more than one building. (fn. 18)
In 1563 there were 20 households in the parish. (fn. 19) In 1801 the population was 219 and in the next decade it reached 259. Thereafter it fluctuated until mid century and then in general fell, rapidly in the 1850s but then more gradually, reaching 69 in 1961 and 59 in 1971. (fn. 20)
Siward the falconer held Dinnington in 1086. (fn. 21) Three virgates were held of Glastonbury abbey, what remained of the manor of Kingstone which had been lost to the count of Mortain. (fn. 22) Three hides, held by Edmar T.R.E., were held of the king's thegns. The separate identity of the Glastonbury estate survived in some degree until the late 14th century, (fn. 23) but the overlordship of the main estate became part of the honor of Gloucester. Roger de Clare had an interest in Seavington St. Michael in connexion with William the falconer c. 1201, (fn. 24) and by 1284–5 the manor was held of the earl of Gloucester. (fn. 25) It descended on the death of Gilbert de Clare in 1314 to the Despensers, (fn. 26) and from them (interrupted by forfeiture in 1400) (fn. 27) in 1439 to the Beauchamps on the death of Isabel, wife of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. (fn. 28) Through Anne (d. 1449), daughter of Henry Beauchamp, duke of Warwick, and wife of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, the lordship passed in 1474 to Isabel (d. 1476), wife of George Plantagenet, duke of Clarence, and then to their son Edward, earl of Warwick (d. 1499). (fn. 29) On Warwick's attainder the lordship reverted to the Crown, and the manor was said in 1527 to have been held of the king as parcel of the duchy of Gloucester and of the honor of Gloucester. (fn. 30)
Siward the falconer, tenant in 1086, was apparently ancestor of the Falconer family who in the early 13th century had disputes over land in Seavington St. Michael. William the falconer occurs c. 1201, (fn. 31) followed in 1208–9 by Robert the falconer. (fn. 32) In or before 1246 the Falconer estates were divided between Avice and Joan, evidently co-heirs. (fn. 33) Dinnington was the share of Robert de la Linde, husband of Avice, to whom he was married by 1243. (fn. 34) In 1284–5 Alexander de la Linde held the manor of DINNINGTON in serjeanty as falconer of the earl of Gloucester. (fn. 35) Thomas de la Linde succeeded by 1314, (fn. 36) and his son Ellis in 1362. (fn. 37) Ellis died in 1386, leaving a son Alexander a minor. (fn. 38) Alexander was still alive in 1465; his son, also Alexander, died without issue in 1480, and the manor passed to his widow Edith for her life with remainder to Sir William Poulett. (fn. 39)
The manor then descended in the Poulett family like the manor of Hinton St. George. Much of the property was sold by the 8th Earl Poulett in 1941 (fn. 40) and the remainder in 1968 (fn. 41) but the lordship of the manor was retained by the earl at his death without heirs in 1973. (fn. 42)
The Lindes appear to have been resident at Dinnington by 1246. (fn. 43) The manor-house, no longer occupied by the lords of the manor after its acquisition by the Pouletts, was let to members of the Brice family between 1571 and 1771, (fn. 44) and thereafter to other tenants, a lease in 1790 including the right to a pew in the parish church. (fn. 45) The house ceased to be described as the capital mansion after 1811 and subsequently was known as Frog Farm. (fn. 46) In 1724 the house, on an elevated position above the church, comprised a hall, 'mattin chamber' or parlour, kitchen, cellar, and dairy room on the ground floor, and evidently originated a century earlier. (fn. 47)
The manor of Dinnington measured 3 hides and 3 virgates in 1086, and included the small Glastonbury abbey property which was not recorded in detail. The manor proper had 2 hides in demesne, with one plough. Six villeins and 6 bordars had 2 ploughs. There were 8 a. of meadow, and pasture and wood both measuring 2 by 3 furlongs. The whole estate was worth 53s. 2d. in 1086, the larger holding having doubled in value in the previous twenty years. (fn. 48)
Between the 11th and the 16th centuries there is little evidence of economic activity in the parish. In 1387 there were said to be 60 a. of heath, (fn. 49) and the manor was extended at £15 in 1414. (fn. 50) By the early 16th century there were three freeholdings on the manor, held respectively by the Viel, Ousley, and Middleton families. (fn. 51) The Ousleys had been taxed at a higher rate than the lord of the manor in 1327, (fn. 52) though the size of their holding in the 16th century is not known. John Viel and Peter Brice, successor to George Middleton by 1559, (fn. 53) were also free tenants in the adjacent manor of Allowenshay in Kingstone. (fn. 54) The Brices were evidently the most substantial family in the parish in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 55) At his death in 1570–1 Peter Brice held not only the Middleton freeholding but 104 a. of barton (demesne) land by copy, including the capital mansion. (fn. 56) Hugh, his son, became armigerous from 1573; (fn. 57) Worthington Brice, grandson of Hugh, compounded for his estates in 1646, (fn. 58) and by c. 1665 three members of the family between them held nearly 170 a. of land from the manor excluding freeholds. (fn. 59) Their tomb-chests in the churchyard attest their prosperity.
The process of inclosure at Dinnington closely paralleled the pattern of its neighbour Kingstone. (fn. 60) There is evidence for seven distinct areas of common arable cultivation in the 1560s, some of which were earlier the separate furlongs of former medieval arable fields. Inclosure had already disposed of North field, between Allowenshay mead and Netherton, parts of which were under pasture by 1532. The same process had affected East field, between Pit and the Foss. Inclosure of the remaining common arable was achieved in the 1560s by committees of tenants in the manor court, appointed to measure holdings, arrange exchanges, and create closes. By this process the great western field was permanently divided, though its site remained largely arable. The common field called Vanly in the late 16th century may have lain in that part of the parish taken into Hinton Park. (fn. 61) By 1570–1 the most substantial holding in the parish contained no common arable land, (fn. 62) and by 1593–4 the perambulation was evidently abandoned because the hedges and pales impeded progress. (fn. 63) In contrast the common meadow remained uninclosed until after 1839. (fn. 64)
Conversion of copyholds to leases for lives was well advanced by the mid 17th century. (fn. 65) The Brices held nearly a third of the manor, John Brice having a farm of 116 a. (fn. 66) The farm next in size was 61 a. (fn. 67) Some of the Brices seem to have settled elsewhere at the end of the century, Worthington (d. 1719–20) becoming a clothier at Shepton Mallet. (fn. 68) Though continuing tenants on a smaller scale, (fn. 69) and retaining occupation of the manor-house until 1771, (fn. 70) they gave place to the Easons, Hutchinses, Becks, and Donnes in the 1720s and to the Darbys in the 1750s. (fn. 71)
The manor in the 18th century was worth less than £29, (fn. 72) but between 1791 and 1819 rackrenting gave place to improved rents. (fn. 73) Pondhays farm was at first the largest holding. In 1819 it measured over 140 a., not all in the parish, and was let at £300 a year. (fn. 74) By 1851 there were five farms centred in Dinnington, the largest later known as Knott's farm. Between them they employed 10 men, 16 boys, and 3 women. (fn. 75) The parish was then equally divided between arable and grassland, with over 80 a. of wood and over 40 a. of orchards and gardens. (fn. 76) By 1905 grassland had increased, partly at the expense of wood, though dairying came later to the parish than to some of its neighbours. (fn. 77) Dinnington was largely under grass in 1973.
In 1851 flax was still grown and gave employment to six flax-dressers. (fn. 78) A flax-grower was still in business in 1871. (fn. 79) Men dealt in pigs, poultry, eggs, and potatoes, evidence of mixed farming on a small scale. (fn. 80) The village had two shops in the mid 19th century. (fn. 81) Women were employed in a variety of occupations including gloving (18), dress-making (4), and making smock frocks and straw bonnets. (fn. 82) By 1973 farming was the only occupation within the parish.
There was a water-mill at Dinnington in 1086, valued at 8d. (fn. 83) It was mentioned in 1480. (fn. 84) This mill may have been rebuilt shortly before 1566. (fn. 85) It was held by the Brice family in the 17th century and in 1653 was described as 'two water grist mills called Dinnington mills'. (fn. 86) The mill evidently stood on a site which was taken into Hinton Park in the early 18th century; its precise location is not known, but it was adjacent to the medieval warren of Dinnington, the position of which is represented by woodland called Old Warren. (fn. 87) The mill presumably ceased to exist on or before the formation of the park.
Extracts from court rolls survive intermittently for 1523–54 and continuously from 1559 until 1573, (fn. 88) and there are court books for 1651–77, 1703–10, and 1715–26. Copies of court baron entries survive until 1815. (fn. 89) There were two courts annually in the 16th century, usually described as manor courts but occasionally as courts leet, apparently with no distinction of business. Apart from usual control over farming practice and local custom, the court appointed a committee to deal with inclosure in 1569 and deprived a copyholder of his land for immoral behaviour in 1533. (fn. 90) From 1566 the office of hayward was held in rotation among the tenants. (fn. 91)
No records of parish government survive, though there were two overseers in the 17th century. (fn. 92) In the 18th century there were parish poorhouses at Pit. (fn. 93) Five freehold cottages formerly used as poorhouses were sold in 1837. (fn. 94) The parish became part of the Chard poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 95)
A church had evidently been established in Dinnington by c. 1207. (fn. 96) Throughout the Middle Ages it was a chapel of Seavington St. Michael, though incumbents in 1254 and 1538 were described as rectors of Dinnington, (fn. 97) and the rectory house was within the chapelry. From c. 1575 the chapel was served by the rector of Hinton St. George, and was temporarily regarded as annexed to that benefice. (fn. 98) Thereafter it returned to the jurisdiction of the rectors of Seavington St. Michael who, between 1779 and 1861, were also rectors of Hinton St. George and lived there. (fn. 99) Since 1913 the chapelry has been separated from Seavington and joined with Hinton. (fn. 100)
The tithes of Dinnington were normally reckoned with those of Seavington St. Michael. (fn. 101) They were commuted to a rent-charge of £147 in 1839. (fn. 102) Just over 25 a. of benefice land lay in Dinnington in 1617, including the glebe house, two barns, two stalls, and a stable. (fn. 103) The size of the glebe remained constant until after 1635, (fn. 104) but an exchange was effected in 1709 in connexion with the extension of Hinton Park. (fn. 105) By 1839 the area of the glebe had been reduced to nearly 14 a., (fn. 106) worth in 1851 £38. (fn. 107) In 1840 the glebe house and land were let as a small farm. (fn. 108) By 1886 it was known as Parsonage Farm, and was so named in 1973. (fn. 109) The house incorporates the remains of a medieval hall, with parlour to the south and later kitchen to the north.
In 1350, presumably because of a shortage of clergy, the rector of Seavington St. Michael was licensed for four months to celebrate mass on Sundays and feast days at Dinnington despite having done so at Seavington on the same days. (fn. 110) The rector employed a curate in 1532, (fn. 111) and by 1535 the curate enjoyed a fixed stipend of £4 13s. 4d. as chaplain of Dinnington. (fn. 112) The chapelry was served by curates from c. 1567 until c. 1575, (fn. 113) but in the early 17th century was apparently served by resident rectors. Nevertheless Edward Barret, rector 1580–1632, was in 1623 accused of failing to preach monthly sermons, not catechizing, and not reading prayers on weekdays at Dinnington. (fn. 114) The complaint about catechizing was repeated in 1629, though it may have been done by the curate from Seavington. (fn. 115) Peter Glasbroke, rector 1652–76, also served Seavington St. Mary and Lopen in 1654–5. (fn. 116) There were 17 communicants in the parish in 1776. (fn. 117) From 1779 there has been no resident clergyman, though Henry Stambury, 1789–1837, served Dinnington in person and in 1815 held a service each Sunday and celebrated the Holy Communion three times a year. (fn. 118) On Census Sunday 1851 the afternoon congregation numbered 100, besides 24 Sunday-school pupils. (fn. 119) By 1870 two services were held each Sunday. (fn. 120)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS, so dedicated by 1348, (fn. 121) is a small building of Ham stone and ashlar and has a chancel with north vestry and a nave with south porch and a western bellcot. The building was much restored in 1863 but the features appear to reproduce the original detail. (fn. 122) The small chancel was of the 14th century, the chancel arch, nave, and south porch were of the 15th, but the basic structure of the nave was probably earlier. The 13th-century font has been recut. During restoration a gallery was removed, together with a dormer window. (fn. 123) The chancel contains a large incised slab commemorating Worthington Brice (d. 1649) and the churchyard has several 17th- and 18th-century tomb-chests.
The plate includes a cup and cover by 'M.H.' dated 1574. (fn. 124) The two bells were recast in 1870 by Llewellins and James of Bristol. (fn. 125) There are registers for baptisms, marriages, and burials for 1593–1611 and 1696–1752, for baptisms and burials from 1759, and for marriages from 1754. In 1789 the marriage registers were reported 'as incomplete and mutilated as the rest'. (fn. 126)
There were 10 dissenters in 1776. (fn. 127) In 1808 a house was licensed for worship, and in the following year was used by a group of Wesleyan Methodists. There were 15 members in 1810, but the cause seems to have lapsed c. 1822. (fn. 128) From 1824 until 1830 a group of Bible Christians met at Pit, and, after revival in 1838, there were 11 members in 1841. (fn. 129) On Census Sunday 1851 there were congregations of 26 in the afternoon and 46 in the evening in a room which held 35. (fn. 130) A chapel was erected c. 1873 and it continued in use by Methodists until 1956. (fn. 131) From c. 1964 it was used by a branch of the Elim Pentecostal church at Merriott. (fn. 132) The small plain building of local stone has window-frames of cast iron and retains its original fittings.
In 1818 the curate had a dayschool for about 20 children, who were also taught the catechism on Sundays. (fn. 133) By 1866 a day-school was held by the wife of the parish clerk and shopkeeper. It was still open in 1872. (fn. 134)