A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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The ancient parish of Lilstock, the stoc of Lylla and his people, (fn. 1) occupied a band of coastline 2 km. long and 1 km. in depth, from the eastern end of which a narrow strip less than 1 km. wide ran inland for 2.5 km. Its boundaries with Kilton and Stogursey were regular, but there were detached areas of Lilstock in Stogursey until 1811. (fn. 2) In 1881 the parish measured 1,160 a. (fn. 3) In 1886 the parish was amalgamated with part of Kilton to form the civil parish of Kilton-with-Lilstock. (fn. 4) In 1933 the parish of Stringston was added to create the civil parish of Stringston. (fn. 5)
The parish lay on Lower Lias with pockets of clay and limestone; limestone has been quarried and burned there. (fn. 6) The land is mostly below the 30-m. contour, and the coastal band is bisected by a stream which runs northwards almost to the coast and then turns east behind the pebble bank, where a harbour was formed in the 19th century. (fn. 7) Two open arable fields, east and west fields, occupied the coastal band, divided from each other by Upper or Goose common and Lower or Horse common, a marshy area beside the stream. (fn. 8) About 210 a. of common land were inclosed in 1811. (fn. 9) By 1886 the valley was used as a rifle range. (fn. 10)
Lilstock village clusters on the west side of the valley. The remains of its church lie at its southwestern edge, but further south are house platforms and a field called Castle Ditch, an indication of more extensive settlement. (fn. 11) Roman pottery has been found on the cliffs to the north-west. (fn. 12) There was a secondary settlement at Honibere, to the south-east of Lilstock village, by the 11th century. It was the site of a manor house, (fn. 13) and was still described as a village in 1655, (fn. 14) but it is now represented only by Honibere Farm. The land around Honibere, south of Lilstock east field, seems to have been inclosed by the 12th century and may have originated in clearings in the wood and heathland which survived further south, in Kilton, into the 16th century. (fn. 15)
The village is served by a lane which leads from the road between Burton in Stogursey and Kilton. The straight section of the lane north from Honibere Farm was not fenced until after 1764 (fn. 16) and its northern end, running east and then north into the village, was created early in the 19th century, probably after the passage of the Inclosure Act in 1803. (fn. 17)
About 1820 Sir John Acland built a boathouse on the beach near the stream, (fn. 18) and cross-channel trade grew up. Coal was brought from Wales for domestic use on the Acland estate and to fire the large limekiln on the cliff. Pit props were the main export. (fn. 19) A harbour was built around the stream where it ran almost parallel with the beach. By 1848 there were resident coastguards, and by 1855 a customs officer. (fn. 20) About 1860 a stone pier was built from the northern side of the harbour wall, with a wooden awning and a butler's pantry at its end. (fn. 21) By 1886 warehouses were standing under the cliff beside the southern harbour wall. (fn. 22) A plan for a ship canal from Seaton (Devon) to terminate at Lilstock was considered by the Board of Admiralty in 1888. (fn. 23) The harbour was apparently abandoned and the pier subsequently destroyed after the First World War. (fn. 24)
About 1832 Sir Peregrine Acland created a private road between his house at Fairfield and the cliff above the harbour, and built a wooden house there for his delicate only daughter. (fn. 25) A promenade along the cliff became a recreation for local gentry, and in the 1860s and 1870s pleasure steamers plied between Lilstock, Burnham, Ilfracombe (Devon), and Cardiff. (fn. 26) A naval bombing range was established off the coast west of the village in 1954. (fn. 27)
A beer house called the Limpet Shell was in business early in the 20th century. (fn. 28)
There were 11 households in the parish in 1563, (fn. 29) 65 taxpayers in 1667, (fn. 30) and 12 inhabited houses at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 31) The population was 56 in 1801. It fluctuated considerably during the century, rising to 91 in 1811 and 94 in 1881, but falling to 48 in 1841 and 58 in 1901. (fn. 32) Later figures for the population of Lilstock alone are not available, but in 1977 there were 5 inhabited houses.
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATE.
In 1086 Ansger the cook held LILSTOCK of the Crown in succession to Bricsic. (fn. 33) Before 1107 William de Falaise gave part of the tithes of his demesne there to the monks of Lonlay (Orne). (fn. 34) William's lands, described as the barony of Stogursey, passed to his daughter Emme, and through her marriage to William de Curci descended to William de Curci (d. 1194). Alice, sister of the last, left two daughters, and by 1225 the barony was shared between them, Lilstock evidently passing to Joan, wife of Hugh de Neville of Essex (d. 1234). John, Hugh's son, died in 1246, and his grandson, also Hugh, in 1269. The latter was succeeded by his son John (d. 1282), and then by John's son, another Hugh, who came of age in 1298 and who died in 1335. (fn. 35) A fee at Lilstock was said in 1303 to be held of John de Neville, (fn. 36) but no further trace of Neville lordship is recorded.
The terre tenant of Lilstock in 1303 was John de Columbers, already occupier of Honibere and Heathfield in the parish. (fn. 37) John died in 1306 (fn. 38) and Lilstock passed first to his son and heir Philip (d. 1342) and then to Stephen de Columbers, clerk, Philip's brother. (fn. 39) The land descended, like Honibere, in the Columbers family to the Audleys, and in 1428 was held by James, Lord Audley. (fn. 40) The manor, with Honibere and Stowey, was settled on James's great-grandson, John, Lord Audley, in 1535, (fn. 41) and from the mid 16th century was united with Honibere as the manor of HONIBERE LILSTOCK. (fn. 42)
In 1086 Anscetil the parker held HONIBERE of the Crown in succession to Alviric. (fn. 43) It may be identified with an estate called Bura, the second tithes of which Robert de Chandos gave to Goldcliff Priory (Mon.) in Henry I's reign. (fn. 44) Maud de Chandos, Robert's granddaughter, and lady of Nether Stowey, granted Honibere in Richard I's reign to Walter de Castello, probably for a term of years, since it was to be held as Goslan held it. (fn. 45) Honibere thereafter seems to have passed to the descendants of Maud de Chandos by her husband Philip de Columbers (d. 1186). Their son Philip (d. 1215) and their grandson, also Philip de Columbers (d. 1257), were followed by another Philip de Columbers, who died in 1262 holding a fee in Honibere. (fn. 46) The latter's widow, Egelina, held it in dower in 1297. (fn. 47) Egelina's second son, John de Columbers, died in 1306 (fn. 48) and Honibere passed to John's second son Stephen, clerk, and then by 1337 to Stephen's elder brother Philip (d. 1342). (fn. 49) The manor then descended like Nether Stowey manor through the Audleys until the execution and forfeiture of James, Lord Audley, in 1497, when it was granted for life to John Arundell, knight of the body. (fn. 50) It was evidently recovered by James's son John, Lord Audley, in 1512, and was security for his debts to the Crown and the subject of litigation within the family. (fn. 51) In 1535 it was settled on John and his wife and their son George in tail, (fn. 52) but like Nether Stowey the manor passed in 1538–9 to Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford. (fn. 53)
After Seymour's attainder and death in 1552 the combined manor of Honibere Lilstock was granted by the Crown to John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, (fn. 54) and on his attainder in 1553 reverted to the Crown. It had been leased after Seymour's death to Hugh Benny; he was followed by 1560 by Nicholas Luttrell who, after disputes with undertenants, acquired the estate in fee in 1562. (fn. 55) Luttrell, a younger brother of Thomas Luttrell of Dunster, died in 1592 and was succeeded by his son Andrew, of Hartland (Devon). (fn. 56) Andrew settled it on his second son John, of Braunton (Devon), in 1611. (fn. 57) John died in 1617 but Elizabeth Luttrell, possibly his sister, (fn. 58) continued to occupy the house until her death in 1637. (fn. 59)
Under John Luttrell's will the manor was to be sold, and it had passed by 1635, the year of his death, to Sir Sampson Darell, himself descended from Margaret, wife of James, Lord Audley (d. 1497). Darell's heir in 1635 was his son Marmaduke, then a minor. (fn. 60) By 1650 the estate had passed to Sir Francis Dodington, (fn. 61) and it descended like Dodington manor. (fn. 62) In 1977 the owner was Lady Gass, niece of Lord St. Audries.
There was a capital messuage at Honibere in 1306. (fn. 63) According to charters surviving at Fairfield in the mid 18th century, (fn. 64) Philip de Columbers (d. 1342) granted a messuage and land which Agnes de Columbers had held to Eleanor, widow of John Amaury, and her sons in tail male. In 1488–9 John Amaury of Taunton conveyed land and a house called Honibere Court to John Verney (d. 1507) of Fairfield, and John's son Robert (d. 1546) (fn. 65) sold the estate to Humphrey Colles. Nicholas Luttrell is said to have bought the Colles holding, and to have made Honibere Court his residence in Edward VI's reign. (fn. 66) About 1610 Jane Luttrell granted to John Luttrell, grandson of Nicholas Luttrell, the greater part of the house and her land in return for an annuity and her maintenance there. (fn. 67) The house was still standing in 1729. (fn. 68) Its site is probably on or near the present Honibere Farm.
Lilstock was assessed at 5 hides and Honibere at 1 in 1086; there were 2 ploughlands at Honibere, but the size of the arable at Lilstock was not recorded. Lilstock had a demesne farm of 3 ploughlands, and the tenants' holdings, occupied by 11 villeins and 7 bordars, measured 1¾ hide. There were two areas of woodland, but no meadow or pasture was recorded. The value of the estate had remained stable at 100s. since 1086. Honibere, farmed with 3 bordars and 1 serf, included 60 a. of pasture, but its value had been reduced from 20s. to 5s. (fn. 69) By 1306 the Columbers family occupied a demesne farm of 159 a. of arable and 24½ a. of meadow, described as at Honibere but probably the demesne of their entire holding in the parish. There were 16 customary tenants and 3 cottars. (fn. 70) In 1327 the parish was assessed at a higher figure than most of its neighbours, largely because of the stock of Alice de Columbers at the manor house. (fn. 71) By 1386 the Audley holding comprised a farm of 218 a. of arable, 55 a. of meadow, and 24s. 6d. rent. (fn. 72) By 1484–5 the whole estate was let for cash rents worth £21 18s. 6d. (fn. 73)
By the early 17th century the main survivals of medieval farming were the common pasture at Honibere Heathfield and the two open arable fields on the coast divided by marshes. The common pasture at Honibere, located in Kilton parish, included 30 a. for Lilstock tenants alone. (fn. 74) Three free tenants held by military service, including the Verneys of Fairfield, and heriots were payable on 13 tenements. About 1615 there were two farms of over 80 a., two of 70 a., two of c. 50 a., and one of 40 a., in all 11 separate holdings and 5 cottages. Thomas Engram was the most substantial tenant, with 88 a. by lease dating from 1562. (fn. 75) Apart from the common at Honibere Heathfield, tenants had oxen and bullock leazes ('shuts') in North Marsh and horse leazes in Rexway. (fn. 76) A tenant of 40 a. in 1683 had rights to cut fuel in Honibere wood for frith staves and spars like the other tenants of the manor and to take seaweed and fish. Those rights were not mentioned when the same farm was leased again in 1721. (fn. 77) A lease of a small farm in 1706 included a share in the seaweed and sea fishery. (fn. 78) The weirs to catch red mullet along the foreshore are survivals from the 19th century. (fn. 79)
Produce on which tithes were payable in 1633 included grain, seaweed, lambs, sheep, piglets, calves, horses, and milk. (fn. 80) Two tenants shared a flock of 22 sheep in 1637. (fn. 81) Holders of land in the late 17th century included a Stogursey yeoman, a clothier from Over Stowey, a fuller from Stogursey, a Dodington weaver, and a butcher, besides Lilstock yeomen and husbandmen. A Lilstock soapboiler, established at Honibere in 1692, undertook to dress his land with soap ashes, and agreed not to grow more than two grain crops without manuring. (fn. 82)
The number and size of farms remained largely static until the late 18th century, but the owners of Fairfield manor extended their holdings north and west of the house into the parish. (fn. 83) Elsewhere from 1780 onwards leases for lives were converted to 7and 14-year leases, and several small and decayed holdings were consolidated. (fn. 84) Lilstock farm, a union of three ancient holdings, was let for 14 years, with penalties against growing flax or hemp and encouragement to sow clover or grass between two arable crops. Two further ancient holdings were added to the farm in 1786, and the whole was let in 1795 for 7 years. (fn. 85)
Under an Act of 1803 the common holdings in the two open fields and in the marshes which divided them were inclosed. (fn. 86) Lilstock farm was the largest to emerge, followed by the newly created Glebe (later Park) farm (83 a.), Bartlett's or Upper farm (65 a.), and Honibere (31 a.). (fn. 87) By 1824 some further reorganization had taken place, creating Manor farm from part of Lilstock farm and increasing the size of Upper (116 a.) and Honibere (99 a.) farms. (fn. 88) By 1851 there were four main farms, headed by Honibere (170 a.). (fn. 89) By the 1880s there were two principal holdings. (fn. 90) The land was fairly evenly divided between grassland and corn on the two farms which occupied the whole of Lilstock in 1977.
In 1488–9 John Amaury conveyed a mill at Honibere called Ameris mill to John Verney, and before 1546 Robert Verney sold it to Humphrey Colles. (fn. 91) A mill-house at Honibere was converted c. 1692 to a soap-boiling factory. (fn. 92)
No court rolls for the manors of Lilstock, Honibere, or Honibere Lilstock have been found, but the Audleys held courts twice a year in the 1490s for an estate called Honibere (fn. 93) and by the early 17th century the lord claimed to hold courts leet and baron with the royalty of felons', outlaws', and pirates' goods, deodands, and wrecks. (fn. 94) In 1824 courts were said to have been held regularly. (fn. 95) Suit of court was occasionally required of leasehold tenants. (fn. 96)
The tithing of Honibere comprised the whole parish of Lilstock and part of Fairfield in Stogursey. (fn. 97) No records of parish administration have been found, but two wardens and two overseers served in the 17th century. (fn. 98) The parish became part of the Williton poor-law union in 1836, of the Williton rural district in 1894, and of the West Somerset district in 1974. (fn. 99)
Between 1100 and 1107 William de Falaise gave to the monks of Lonlay (Orne) the church of Stogursey and the tithes of two thirds of his demesne in Lilstock. (fn. 100) The advowson of Lilstock was confirmed to Lonlay between 1161 and 1171, in practice a confirmation to the alien priory of Stogursey which had by then been established. (fn. 101) In 1251 the church was appropriated by the priory, and passed to Eton College on the dissolution of the house c. 1442. (fn. 102) The status of Lilstock was not clear from the 16th century, and the church was described variously as a chapel (fn. 103) and as a parish church, (fn. 104) the living as a rectory (fn. 105) and as a benefice consolidated or united with the vicarage of Stogursey. (fn. 106)
The monks of Stogursey appointed a chaplain under the appropriation of 1251, (fn. 107) but the vicar of Stogursey had to find one in 1465. (fn. 108) Eton College took responsibility soon afterwards, (fn. 109) but the vicar of Stogursey was paying the priest at Lilstock by 1535. (fn. 110) The living was usually served by curates appointed by the vicar of Stogursey in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (fn. 111) In 1881 the chapelry of Lilstock was separated from Stogursey and annexed and united with Kilton. (fn. 112) From 1947 the united benefice was held with Kilve, Stringston, and East Quantoxhead, and from 1978 became part of the united benefice of Quantoxhead. (fn. 113)
No separate valuation of the living has been found until 1827, when it was said to be worth £105. (fn. 114) In 1851 the income was £97, (fn. 115) and in 1879 £85 12s. (fn. 116) The parochial chaplain was paid £6 in 1535 (fn. 117) but in the 1570s he received for the cure only 6s. 8d. (fn. 118) In 1827 the curate had £50. (fn. 119)
Apart from a house and the churchyard there was no glebe in 1633, but tithes payable to the vicar of Stogursey included personal offerings of 1d. at first communion, thereafter 2d., 3d. for a married couple, and 3½d. for a widow or widower. (fn. 120) Under the inclosure award of 1811 tithes on all but the Honibere estate were replaced by an allotment of 136 a. of land. (fn. 121) The Honibere tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £13 10s. in 1846. (fn. 122) By 1851 the value of the glebe was £84. (fn. 123) In 1881 just over 68 a. of glebe were transferred to the vicarage of Stogursey and some 10 a. of glebe in Stogursey and the tithe rent charge were transferred to the new benefice of Kilton-with-Lilstock. (fn. 124)
In 1557 the parsonage house needed repair. (fn. 125) In 1633 it comprised a porch, hall, and inner room, with lofts. (fn. 126) In 1715 the vicar was suspended, partly for not repairing the house. (fn. 127) Only part of a wall was standing in 1827. (fn. 128)
In 1554 the chancel needed repair and the nave windows were 'greatly ruined'. (fn. 129) In 1557 there was no priest. (fn. 130) By 1827 the parish was served by a curate who lived at Kilve and who also served Stringston. (fn. 131) By 1831 the vicar of Stogursey claimed to take part duty at Lilstock. (fn. 132) Services in the 19th century were held every Sunday, alternately morning and evening, with communion four times a year. (fn. 133) In 1881, on the annexation of the parish to Kilton, the church was demolished save for the chancel, which was rebuilt to serve as a mortuary chapel. (fn. 134) The chancel was declared redundant in 1980. (fn. 135)
The church of ST. ANDREW, so dedicated by 1532, (fn. 138) consisted of chancel, nave with south porch, and embattled west tower. The east window was evidently of the 14th century, while those in the nave may have been inserted or have formed part of a rebuilding in the early 16th century. (fn. 139) A 12th-century font remained in the former chancel until its removal to Stogursey church in 1981.
There were said to be four bells in 1791, but only two survived in 1881. (fn. 140) A cup and cover by 'R.O.' of 1574 are at Kilton. (fn. 141) The registers begin in 1654; those for marriages end in 1869 and for baptisms in 1881. The last burial was in 1974. (fn. 142)
There were chaplains at Honibere in 1174. (fn. 143)
A Presbyterian teacher had 14 hearers in a house in the parish in 1669. (fn. 144)
In 1577 John Culverwell was licensed to teach in the parish. (fn. 145)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
By will dated 1643 Alexander Standfast of Kilve charged land in Lilstock with 6s. 8d. to be paid to poor householders at Easter in the parishes of Kilve, Kilton, and Lilstock. Payment was refused by 1786–7, and the charity was lost. (fn. 146) A 'small benefaction' was 'duly applied' in 1840, but no further details are known. (fn. 147)