A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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The parish of West Quantoxhead or St. Audries shares with East Quantoxhead the northern end of the Quantock ridge and the narrow coastal strip beyond. (fn. 1) Its 594 ha. (1,467 a.) extend nearly 3 km. from the coast to the top of Weacombe Hill, and it is between 1.5 km. and 2 km. wide. From Beacon Hill (310 m.) in the south-east, on the sandstone shales of the Quantocks, where Bronze Age barrows lie near the prehistoric ridgeway, the land falls gradually to the low cliffs of St. Audries bay in the north. Below the west-facing scarp, broken by the long and narrow Weacombe combe, the land levels out on gravels and marls. (fn. 2)
The main ancient settlement, the village of West Quantoxhead, lay at the head of a second, wider combe, sheltered from the east by Stowborrow Hill, where the land slopes to the coast over marls, shales, and limestone. A secondary Domesday settlement called Weacombe lay at the mouth of its combe. Landshire, in the north-east corner of the parish, seems to have emerged as a consolidated farm by the 14th century, (fn. 3) and Bidwell, north-west of Weacombe, occurs in the 13th century. (fn. 4) Quarries in the centre of the parish were extensively used in the 19th century, (fn. 5) and lime was burned near the coast in the 17th century and dug at Landshire in the 18th. (fn. 6)
There were two ancient, roughly east-west routes through the parish: the coast road from Stogursey ran from Perry in East Quantoxhead to Rydon in St. Decumans, passing just north of the manor house, and the Great Road over the Quantocks from Nether Stowey to Watchet. A third route under the scarp ran northwards, linking Weacombe with the main village, crossing the Great Road at Staple, the centre of population since the 19th century. (fn. 7) The name Staple occurs in fields from the early 17th century, and the Staple highway is referred to in 1626. (fn. 8)
The village of West Quantoxhead thus lay between roughly parallel through routes, the manor house standing at the northern end of the village street. The extension of the park south and west of the house from the late 1820s had a profound effect on the parish, and particularly on its road system. The first stage was to straighten the road between Staple and the village in 1770. (fn. 9) The second was to divert the coast road to run further north from the manor house in 1815. (fn. 10) More significant was the replacement of that coast road by a route cut into the rising ground east of the house which then followed the contour south and west in a gentle curve, cutting the village street between the church and the rectory house and joining the Great Road below Staple. The new route was formed by Act of Parliament of 1828 for adoption by the Minehead turnpike trust. (fn. 11) The village street thereafter gave access only to the manor house, (fn. 12) and its houses and cottages were gradually removed as tenants transferred to new homes at Staple. There were ten dwellings and other buildings there in 1761 and eight in 1835, a lease in 1783 having been conditional upon replacement of three dilapidated cottages by one dwelling. By 1840 there were only five dwellings, and by 1853 four, one having been removed to improve the view from the rectory house. (fn. 13) The park was thus gradually extended over the site of the village to the line of the turnpike road, and took its final form in the 1850s with a construction programme (fn. 14) involving the resiting and rebuilding of the church (1854–6), almost alone at the main entrance to the park, (fn. 15) and the building of four lodges (Fairfield Lodge 1850, another by 1851). (fn. 16) The school was built at the edge of the park in 1857, and St. Audries or Home Farm was removed from its former site beside the coast road to a new one near the shore in 1855. (fn. 17) The whole park was surrounded by ornamental ironwork fencing and was linked to the deer park beyond the turnpike road by a bridge. The bridge was demolished just after the Second World War to permit the passage of double-deck buses. (fn. 18)
Traces of open fields survived in the 1830s northeast of the manor house, west of Staple, and southeast of Weacombe. (fn. 19) The grant of free warren to Philip de Cauntelo in 1267 (fn. 20) was the origin of the later medieval warren on the slope of Stowborrow Hill (Conyger Hill in 1418), (fn. 21) which in the 19th century had become the deer park. A park was part of the demesne let to farm in 1418 and was described as 'opposite' the manor house. (fn. 22) The name Park mead survived for a field in front of the house in the 19th century. (fn. 23)
Inventories of the mid 17th century imply houses with two or three ground floor rooms, their halls with rooms above. (fn. 24) One house, described as new in 1757, (fn. 25) remains beside the line of the former coast road north of the manor house. The houses at Staple date from the 1830s and include Staple Farm, described as new in 1835. (fn. 26)
The butts in the village were mentioned in 1529, (fn. 27) and wrestling in 1575. (fn. 28) A victualler was licensed in 1736. (fn. 29) The Windmill Country Hotel, formerly Quantock Barns, was established in the 1930s; (fn. 30) its successor, also called the Windmill, was rebuilt after the Second World War. A small harbour, begun c. 1835, (fn. 31) was built to import coal for the estate. (fn. 32)
The population of the parish was 103 in 1665. (fn. 33) In 1801 there were 192 people, a total which fell slightly in the next decade, rose to 225 by 1821, and then fluctuated, increasing to 278 in 1881 but falling to 139 by 1921. By 1931 the total had increased to 184. (fn. 34) Thereafter more houses were built at Staple, and by 1971 the total population had risen to 452, including resident pupils at St. Audries School. (fn. 35)
The Rt. Revd. C. R. Alford, bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, 1867–72, was born at West Quantoxhead rectory house in 1816. (fn. 36)
An estate called Quantoxhead, measuring 3½ hides, was held in 1086 by William de Mohun (I) as part of a fee held T.R.E. by Elnod the reeve, a fee which included Brompton Ralph and Heathfield. (fn. 37) William died after 1090 and his son William (II) (d. c. 1155) granted the fee to an unknown tenant before the end of Henry I's reign. (fn. 38) By 1166 it was held of William (III) de Mohun (d. 1176) by Roger of Newburgh. (fn. 39) The manor of LITTLE or WEST QUANTOXHEAD or ST. AUDRIES (fn. 40) which was part of this fee continued to be held of the honor of Dunster until 1788. (fn. 41) Roger of Newburgh had died by 1201, and was followed after a minority by his son Robert. (fn. 42) Robert died c. 1246, and c. 1270 his son Henry quitclaimed his remaining rights to John de Mohun (I). (fn. 43)
Robert de Cauntelo, who held the estate in fee from the Newburghs before 1215, was followed by his son Simon. In 1229 Philip de Cauntelo, to whom Robert had subinfeudated it, defended his possession. (fn. 44) This Philip, or another of the same name, was still there in 1267 and 1280, but was dead by 1284. (fn. 45) About 1285 the property was divided into three parts, possibly for three Cauntelo heirs, though the manor was said to be held in fee by Eve, wife of John de Pavely, from whom two parts were held by William de Ramsey and William de Pavely. (fn. 46) William de Ramsey still held his share in 1292, (fn. 47) but he does not occur thereafter, and his part seems to have been divided between the two surviving heirs between 1303 (fn. 48) and 1327. About 1292 Eve de Pavely married William de Welle or Welles and their son Roger atte Welle was in possession of half the manor by 1327. (fn. 49) He was still owner in 1346, (fn. 50) but probably not in 1349 when the advowson was exercised by trustees. (fn. 51) By 1378 the property had passed to Sir William Lucy, from whom the reversion was bought by Sir Baldwin Malet, to be settled on his son John and his prospective wife Joan, daughter of Sir John Hylle. (fn. 52) Lucy was evidently dead by 1382. (fn. 53)
John Malet, knighted by 1391, (fn. 54) died c. 1394, leaving his widow Joan and a daughter Eleanor, later wife of Sir Edward Hull. (fn. 55) Joan had a life interest in the property, described as half the manor and the advowson, and she married three times more. Her second husband, Simon Michell, occurs in 1402–3 and 1406–7, but was dead by 1409. (fn. 56) From 1410 until c. 1422 she was married to John Luttrell, and he was followed by William Cornu, who survived until 1442 or later. (fn. 57) A settlement made in 1425 established a life interest for Cornu, with remainder to Eleanor Hull. (fn. 58)
On Eleanor's death in 1460 the property passed to her father's half-brother Hugh Malet (d. 1465) and then to Hugh's son Thomas. (fn. 59) Thomas died in 1501, and was succeeded by his son Baldwin, later the king's solicitor. (fn. 60) Baldwin died in 1533, having bought out the Iver family's share of the other half of the manor. (fn. 61) His son Michael bought out the Jacob share and at his death in 1547 held the whole advowson. (fn. 62) Richard, Michael's son, was a minor at his father's death, and his step-grandmother, Baldwin's widow Anne Trevanion, had jointure in the manor. (fn. 63) Richard survived until 1614, and was succeeded by his son Arthur. (fn. 64)
Arthur Malet died in 1644, devising his estate to his so-called wife Joan, and then to Thomas Malet of Poyntington, great grandson of Baldwin Malet and a judge of the King's Bench. Sir Thomas succeeded in 1646 and died in 1665. (fn. 65) His son, Sir John, who lived for a time at West Quantoxhead, died in 1686. (fn. 66) Baldwin and William, Sir John's son and grandson, mortgaged their lands. (fn. 67) William Malet was dead by 1736 when the estate was owned by his brother Baldwin, then rector of Street, as heir at law of William's daughter Anne. Baldwin sold the property in 1736 to James Smith. (fn. 68)
Smith died in 1748 leaving West Quantoxhead to his daughter Lavinia, who sold it in 1764 to Robert Balch formerly of Bridgwater and probably lessee of the estate. (fn. 69) Balch died in 1779 and was followed by his sons Robert Everard (d. 1799) and George (d. after 1810) and his daughter Christiana. (fn. 70) She died in 1824 leaving as her heir Henry Harvey. Harvey sold the manor in 1831 to the Revd. Elias Webb, who in 1835 divided the property, selling Weacombe farm and some 70 a. to Thomas Cridland Luxton, and some 1,186 a. with common rights on the Quantocks to Sir Peregrine Fuller-Palmer-Acland. (fn. 71)
Sir Peregrine (d. 1871) bought the estate for his daughter Isabel (d. 1903), wife of Sir Alexander Acland-Hood, Bt., and they lived there after their marriage in 1849. Their eldest son Alexander (cr. Baron St. Audries 1911) died in 1917, and his son Alexander Peregrine, the second baron, sold the estate, though not the lordship of the manor, in 1925 to W. A. Towler of Littleport (Cambs.). (fn. 72) The lordship is assumed to have descended on the death of the 2nd Lord St. Audries in 1971 to his niece Elizabeth Acland-Hood, later the wife of Sir Michael Gass, K.C.M.G. The estate was divided, the mansion and parkland passing in 1934 to the Misses L. and K. D. Townshend, and Staple and St. Audries farms to individual farmers. (fn. 73)
The manor house, known as St. Audries, is a large mansion in the Tudor style. It appears to be mostly of the mid and later 19th century, but at least in its plan it retains the outlines of a medieval house. That had a central hall range, whose smoke-blackened roof survived until c. 1870. (fn. 74) By the late 18th century (fn. 75) upper floors had been put into the hall range, and the principal elevations had new and symmetrically arranged windows. By 1835 (fn. 76) the garden and park had been considerably improved, and elaborate Gothic porches had been added to the west and north fronts. (fn. 77) Between 1835 and 1870 the house was completely rebuilt or refaced. The first phase, under Richard Carver of Taunton, seems to have involved work on the dining room, and may have included the interior decoration of the rooms on the north side. (fn. 78) The second phase, in the early 1850s, (fn. 79) included a large service and stable court to the east, partly replacing earlier buildings. The north and south fronts were then refaced. About 1870 the hall range was rebuilt to provide a larger great hall; its cross wings were extended westwards, and an entrance tower was added. The architect for the last phase, and probably for the refacing work and the service additions, was John Norton of London, who was evidently at work on other parts of the estate in the 1850s. The latest work on the house, completed in 1870, provided a total of 42 bedrooms. (fn. 80)
Among the 19th-century garden improvements (fn. 81) were a large orangery (later converted for use as a school chapel), a grotto decorated with shells on the formal terrace garden, a sea grotto (fn. 82) near the cascade on the cliffs, and a conservatory, later removed, on the south side of the house.
In 1285 William de Pavely's share in the manor evidently derived from his wife as one of the heirs of Philip de Cauntelo. Probably a son of the same name held it in 1327 and 1332, (fn. 83) but between then and the early 15th century the estate was divided between three coheirs, represented by the families of Pavely, Rivers (otherwise Iver or Court), and Lambrook. An Adam, son of Adam Pavely, occurs in 1361 and 1366, (fn. 84) and Joan, widow of Adam Pavely, occurs in in 1406. She was credited with half the manor until 1416, and by 1420 was succeeded by William Pavely. (fn. 85) John Pavely was returned with ¼ fee in 1430 and ⅓ of ½ fee in 1431. (fn. 86) He was followed between 1442 and 1447 by Henry Pavely, variously described as gentleman and franklin, occupier of Over Weacombe. The two estates thereafter descended together. (fn. 87)
The Rivers share of the estate was owned at his death in 1406 by John Rivers. (fn. 88) He was succeeded by his son William, who did homage for ¼ fee in 1413. (fn. 89) Under the name William Court he was still in occupation in 1430, though by 1442 his widow Margaret Iver had succeeded him. She survived at least until 1447. (fn. 90) Richard Iver alias Court had a share in the advowson in 1475; (fn. 91) another Richard did homage in 1491, and David Iver, son of John Iver, was owner in 1504. (fn. 92) David was co-patron of the living in 1505, (fn. 93) and in 1515 conveyed all his property in the parish to trustees for sale to Sir Baldwin Malet. (fn. 94)
The second share was held in 1412 by John Lambrook (d. c. 1420), and then by another John in 1424. Eleanor, widow of John, occurs in 1429, and she was followed after 1432 by William Cloutsham, husband of her daughter Margaret. William occurs in 1447, (fn. 95) but in 1475 Margaret acted as co-patron of the living. (fn. 96) She died in 1491 and was succeeded by two daughters, Margaret Cloutsham and Elizabeth, wife successively of William Jacob and John FitzJames the younger. (fn. 97) Elizabeth acted without Margaret as co-patron in 1505 (fn. 98) and died in 1510, when her heir was her son John Jacob. (fn. 99) John's halfbrother, Aldred FitzJames, sold the estate in 1540 to John's widow's nephew Michael Malet (fn. 100) and thus the manor and advowson were reunited.
In 1086 an estate at WEACOMBE was held under Roger de Courcelles by Geoffrey and William in succession to three thegns. (fn. 101) The lordship descended like Kilve manor. It was held in 1303 by Matthew de Furneaux of Cecily de Beauchamp as of Compton Dundon manor, and in 1346 formed part of the Kilve fee held by Simon de Furneaux. John Rogers (d. 1441) held it in 1428 in succession to Simon. (fn. 102) Henry Pavely occupied an estate called Over Weacombe by 1447, (fn. 103) and by 1455 had been succeeded by his two daughters Joan and Elizabeth. By 1459 Elizabeth was the sole heir. She probably married John Dobell, and her son Robert (d. c. 1531) was in 1520 holding an estate described as the manor of Over Weacombe. (fn. 104) Robert's son Giles sold it to George Harrison in 1552, and when George died in 1559 he left the capital messuage, subject to his widow's life interest, to his third son Alexander. (fn. 105) Alexander succeeded some time after 1581 and survived until 1622. (fn. 106) In 1606 his holding, which he then settled on his son Ames, included land at Weacombe held of George Luttrell, presumably part of the former Pavely estate. (fn. 107)
Ames was succeeded in 1622 by a young son Alexander (d. 1665). (fn. 108) Alexander's son Ames (d. 1690) was followed by Ames Harrison (d. 1731), whose daughter Frances (d. 1767) married Richard Cridland (d. 1757), an attorney of Combe Florey. (fn. 109) Thomas Cridland, younger son of Richard and also a lawyer, occupied Weacombe at his death in 1789. (fn. 110) The Weacombe estate, which included large holdings in Stogumber and elsewhere, (fn. 111) passed in trust to Thomas's sister Elizabeth and to his son, also Thomas (d. 1811). (fn. 112) By 1813 the estate was occupied by the Revd. Laurence Herd Luxton and his wife Frances, daughter of the elder Thomas Cridland. (fn. 113) Luxton was succeeded by his son Thomas Cridland Luxton, who bought some adjoining land from St. Audries manor in 1835. (fn. 114) Luxton held the estate until his death in 1850, when he was succeeded by his sister Frances (d. 1862), wife of Langley St. Albyn. (fn. 115) The St. Albyn crest appears in glass in the house and in stone on the lodge. Anne and Caroline, daughters of Frances, were owners in 1864, (fn. 116) but from 1865 the estate may have been let to a succession of tenants. (fn. 117) About 1871 it was acquired by the Revd. Ottiwell Sadler (d. 1899). His son Ottiwell Tennant Sadler (d. 1937) was succeeded by his niece Rachel, wife of William Territt Greswell (d. 1971). The owner in 1979 was Mr. A. J. Greswell. (fn. 118)
Weacombe Farm, an early 19th-century building, probably represents the capital messuage of the Harrison estate. Weacombe House (fn. 119) stands on a landscaped site c. 100 yards to the south-west of the capital messuage. The original building of the mid 18th century comprised a principal front of five bays and two storeys, the openings having heavily rusticated surrounds. Interior decorations are of high quality. A lower service wing on the east side was partly rebuilt in a similar style to the front in the later 18th century, and the staircase was renewed. Further additions were made in the 19th century which extended both the main accommodation and the kitchens. The principal front appears to have been originally roughcast, and was rendered in imitation of ashlar early in the 19th century, when a Tuscan porch was added to the main entrance.
Two Domesday estates in the parish together measured 4½ hides. Twothirds of the larger holding were in demesne, with 7 serfs and 3 ploughs, leaving the remainder to be farmed with 6 ploughs by 10 villeins and 4 bordars. Weacombe, measuring 1 hide, was shared by two tenants, with one bordar on the estate. Stock on the main holding included 200 sheep, and there was pasture measuring a league square, 16 a. of meadow, and 50 a. of wood. (fn. 120)
There were again 10 principal holdings on the main manor in 1407, comprising 5 free tenements and 5 farms of 24 a., their holders paying cash for rents and all services. (fn. 121) One of the free holdings was Landshire, possibly that occupied by William Poulett. (fn. 122) That farm perhaps originated in the 13th century or earlier from a rearrangement of holdings in the manor to consolidate the demesne. It remained in different ownership from the manor and was later divided between Higher and Lower Landshire until the late 18th century.
By the early 15th century most of the demesne was let. The income from fixed rents and court fees, normally about £8 5s., was increased by rents from demesne let as copyholds at will, bringing in c. £5 in 1417 and over £6 by 1435. The rector held a substantial share of the demesne and acted as receiver of the estate; the remainder was shared between 18 tenants, who held in addition to the closes mainly of grassland between the manor house and the coast, up to a total of 35 a. of arable on the hills for growing rye. (fn. 123) Individual holdings in the manor cannot be accurately assessed, though in 1418–19 the rector paid 29s. 5d. for his share of the demesne and c. 1422 John Holcombe paid 25s. 4d. (fn. 124) Eleanor Lambrook, also c. 1422, claimed to hold 6 messuages, 119 a. of land, 19 a. of meadow, and 20 a. of wood, her share of the whole manor. (fn. 125)
Seventeenth-century inventories suggest prosperous individual farmers whose holdings are traceable backwards for several generations. Michael Conibere (d. 1640) left property around Weacombe to the value of £327, a third of which was corn; (fn. 126) Henry Conibere (d. c. 1530) possessed a flock of at least 36 sheep. (fn. 127) Alexander Harrison (d. 1665) left goods and stock worth £169 including 72 sheep. (fn. 128) The Conibere and Harrison holdings survived until the late 18th century, together with Lower Landshire, which was bought back into the manor in 1774, (fn. 129) after at least two centuries in the hands of the Popham family of Porlock. (fn. 130) The lord of the manor, the rector, and the Harrisons were the leading resident owners in the 1640s and 1667. (fn. 131) Inventories of the 17th century suggest flocks of sheep commonly over 50. (fn. 132) A weaver's shop occurs in 1581, a clothier and shearman in 1642, and a clothier in 1738. (fn. 133)
The extension of the park was probably begun by James Smith (d. 1748). His trustees leased to a Bicknoller clothier not only the house and farm but a nursery for fruit trees, a new orchard, and some newly inclosed land on the edge of the common. (fn. 134) By the 1780s the small tenant holdings outside the park were being consolidated into farms at Bidwell, Landshire, Staple, and Weacombe, a process which continued well into the next century, and in 1835 they measured 79 a., 96 a., 59 a., and 65 a. respectively. (fn. 135) Consolidation involved in 1817 a rearrangement of the glebe. (fn. 136) By 1851 the four main farms outside the park had merged into three, Landshire (100 a.), Staple (140 a.), and Weacombe (151 a.). Some further rearrangement of holdings took place at the time of the removal of the home farm to a site near the coast in 1855, and the main farming units in the 1880s were Weacombe, Staple, and Rydon farms, the latter afterwards known as St. Audries or Home farm. (fn. 137) In 1840 about a third of the parish comprised commonable land on the hills, and half was equally divided between arable and grass. (fn. 138) Some 370 a. of grassland were reported in 1905 compared with 264 a. of arable. (fn. 139) In 1976 there were three major farms, two heavily involved in dairying and one concentrating on cattle and sheep. (fn. 140)
The development of the park around the house was accompanied by the creation of the deer park on the rising ground to the south-east. Woodland east of the church by 1761 was extended towards the coast by 1817 over the former warren, and by 1835 comprised a deer park of 66 a. (fn. 141) It was extended southwards over Stowborrow Hill, and by c. 1900 covered 350 a., stocked with 120 fallow and 25 red deer. (fn. 142) Some 50 a. had been planted with ash, elm, and sycamore in the 1890s, and in 1905 the whole parish had some 140 a. of woodland. (fn. 143) The existence of common rights over the high ground in the south prevented planting on an extensive scale by the Forestry Commission in 1927, (fn. 144) though in 1976 nearly 18 ha. of wood remained in the parish, some under the commission's control. (fn. 145)
Between 1836 and 1838 as many as 49 people were employed on improvements to the manor house and grounds, apart from the normal domestic and farm staff, the whole representing a significant contribution to the economy of the parish. (fn. 146) There were the usual village craftsmen - carpenter, tailor, cordwainer, blacksmith, baker, dressmakers, and strawbonnet maker - in 1851. (fn. 147) A holiday camp, known in 1979 as St. Audries Bay Holiday Hamlet, was established on the coast below Landshire by 1935, (fn. 148) and the Home Farm Holiday Centre, at Home Farm, was developed in the 1970s. (fn. 149)
Field names Mill mead and Wood mill, occurring in 1761, suggest the site of a water mill west of Home Farm. (fn. 150) A water-driven mill was included in the new buildings at St. Audries Farm in 1855. (fn. 151)
Court rolls for West Quantoxhead manor have been found for single sessions in 1491 and 1493. (fn. 152) Four courts were held each year in the 1430s. (fn. 153) Leases of 1783 and 1785 mention suit of court, but no evidence of sessions has been found. (fn. 154) In both November 1491 and May 1493 a reeve and haywards were appointed. (fn. 155)
By the end of the 18th century the parish was administered by two wardens and two overseers, the latter serving by rotation in an eight-year cycle. A vestry, so named by 1786, nominated wardens and overseers by 1818. Overseers' accounts were signed by only three or four men in the 1780s, and wardens' accounts at first by the rector alone, and then in the 1820s also by the tenant farmers. (fn. 156)
The vestry in 1786 refused money to paupers not badged; by 1787 it was paying for inoculation, and in 1808 bought canvas for paupers to work. The church house was occupied as a poorhouse by 1785 until 1817 or later. (fn. 157) The wardens made new stocks in 1791. The parish became part of the Williton poor-law union in 1836, the Williton rural district in 1894, and the West Somerset district in 1974. (fn. 158)
A church had been established by 1265 when the bishop appointed a rector on the direction of the king's council during the Barons' War. (fn. 159) The rectory remained a sole benefice until 1977, and in 1978 it became part of the newly formed united benefice of Quantoxhead. (fn. 160)
The advowson was owned by the lords of the manor in the late 13th century and by the joint owners, possibly acting alternately, at least until 1319. (fn. 161) Ownership remained divided until 1378 or later. (fn. 162) During the 15th and early 16th centuries the owners of one half of the manor, represented in 1434 by William Cornu, husband of Joan Malet, in 1491 by Thomas Malet, and in 1519 by Baldwin Malet, presented alternately with the owners of two shares of the other half of the manor. (fn. 163) Thereafter, until the 18th century, the Malets normally exercised patronage, though in 1559 the young Richard Malet was joined by his mother and her second husband; and in 1617 the patron was William Evans, lessee of the estate. (fn. 164) Malet trustees presented in 1733, and James Smith was patron in 1736. (fn. 165) Successive owners of the manor continued thereafter to be patrons until 1831, when Henry Harvey retained the advowson on selling the estate. He sold the patronage to the new owner, Sir Peregrine Fuller-Palmer-Acland, in 1836. (fn. 166) The property then descended in Sir Peregrine's family to Lady Gass, who in 1978 was joint patron of the benefice of Quantoxhead. (fn. 167)
The rectory was taxed at £4 6s. 4d. in 1291 and at £11 8s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 168) In 1434 its poverty was noted. (fn. 169) It was by 1291 charged with a pension of 7s. to the priory of Stogursey, a charge which remained at least until 1569. (fn. 170) The living was worth c. £60 by 1668 and £232 net in 1831. (fn. 171)
The tithes amounted to £8 4s. in 1535. (fn. 172) They were redeemed for a rent charge of £227 2s. 6d. in 1840. (fn. 173) The glebe in 1341 was worth 30s., and 26s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 174) It measured c. 35 a. in the early 17th century and in 1817, when the rector exchanged some 27 a. with Miss Balch. (fn. 175) In 1840 the total was just over 38 a. (fn. 176) In 1855 nearly 3 a. were sold to enlarge the churchyard, and a small exchange was made in 1875. (fn. 177) The tithe barn at Staple was sold in 1840. (fn. 178)
The rectory house was described as fit in 1835. (fn. 179) It was about to be improved in 1840, and was evidently then or later extended. (fn. 180) In 1977–8 it was sold. The house, in local stone, stands on rising ground overlooking the church and park.
No rector before 1519 is known to have been a graduate, though Robert Pavely, rector 1319–47, was licensed to study for a year at Oxford. (fn. 181) John Skelton, rector 1519 until after 1532, was a pluralist, (fn. 182) and curates served in the absence of rectors early in Elizabeth's reign. (fn. 183) Gawen Evans, rector from 1617, was removed c. 1647 when Silvester Harford was intruded, but lived in the parish until his death in 1660. (fn. 184) Rectors were normally resident in the 18th century even though employing curates regularly. (fn. 185) There were c. 20 regular communicants in 1776. (fn. 186) Under Charles Alford, rector 1814–72, services were held twice each Sunday, and the communion was celebrated four times a year in 1843. (fn. 187) By 1870 there were two Sunday services and monthly celebrations. (fn. 188)
A church house occurs by 1757, and may be that given by John Jacob in 1518–19. (fn. 189) It was used as a poorhouse by 1785. It stood in the north-west corner of the churchyard, and was sold to Sir Peregrine F.P. Acland in 1843. (fn. 190)
By 1530 the church had a light of St. George, and five years later a mortuary light. (fn. 191)
The church of ST. ETHELDREDA, designed in a late 13th-century style by John Norton and built in 1854–6, (fn. 192) comprises chancel with north aisle, nave with north and south aisles and south porch, and north-west tower. It replaced a medieval church which had a chancel, said to have been rebuilt c. 1583, (fn. 193) a nave with south chapel and south porch, and a west tower. That building had details of the 13th and 14th centuries in the chancel and of the 15th century in the nave and tower. (fn. 194) Interior furnishings of the former church included a screen now at Exford, an elaborate three-decker pulpit, some plain late-medieval benches, and 18th-century box pews. (fn. 195) The church was galleried in 1787. (fn. 196) The new church was paid for by Sir Peregrine Acland and Sir Alexander Acland-Hood. The family arms occur in the decorative tiles in the chancel and initials in the pierced parapet of the tower. The church is richly decorated and includes piers of Babbacombe marble. The plain 12th-century font survives from the previous church.
There are five bells including two from the medieval Exeter foundry. (fn. 197) Registers from 1558 survive in a 17th-century copy, which appears to have no break during the Interregnum, when marriages by Justices of the Peace were recorded. (fn. 198)
A small Wesleyan society was formed in 1827, but it failed to find a permanent meeting-place 'independently of the Baptists', and services ceased. There were attempts to re-establish the group in 1835, and regular services were held between 1841 and 1844. (fn. 199) Summer services were arranged by Methodists at St. Audries Bay Holiday camp from 1956. (fn. 200)
There was an unlicensed schoolmaster in the parish in 1623. (fn. 201) A school for c. 40 children had been founded by 1818, (fn. 202) and by 1825 there was a day school with 51 children and a Sunday school with 68. (fn. 203) By 1835 there were two day schools for a total of 30 children, one partly supported by subscribers including Sir Peregrine Acland who paid a mistress to teach 6 children. A Sunday school for 35 children was also supported by Sir Peregrine. (fn. 204) By 1846–7 a day school had 30 children and a Sunday school 15. (fn. 205) A schoolroom, mentioned in 1829– 30, (fn. 206) was replaced in 1857 by a new building given by Sir Alexander Acland-Hood, and possibly designed by John Norton, on a site just within the park below Staple. (fn. 207) West Quantoxhead Church of England school was given aided status when transferred to the county council in 1903, and it then had an average attendance of 42 children. (fn. 208) From 1928 seniors were no longer taken, and in 1962, when Doniford army camp was empty, the juniors and infants were transferred to Watchet and the school closed. The building was sold to St. Audries School in 1964. (fn. 209)
St. Audries boarding school for girls was established in the mansion in 1934 on its move from Weston-super-Mare. In 1944 it was vested in the National Society, together with an estate of 83 a. of park and woodland. In 1978 there were 250 pupils ranging in age from 8 to 18 years. (fn. 210)
CHARITY FOR THE POOR.
By will dated 1756 a Dr. Lucas of Wells gave £30, interest to be paid at 5 per cent for the second poor. Until the 1820s the interest was distributed in cash on St. Thomas's Day in sums of 1s. or 2s., but none was paid by 1869. (fn. 211)