A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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Nether Stowey is a small parish beneath the north-east slope of the Quantocks about 5 km. from the coast and 10 km. west of Bridgwater. (fn. 1) It had a castle, a borough, and a market and fair. The ancient parish included detached areas at Radlet, in Spaxton parish, and Godsmoor, in Cannington parish. (fn. 2) The land at Radlet was transferred to Spaxton in 1880 and in 1886 Stowey Rocks (11 people in 2 houses in 1891) was transferred from Over to Nether Stowey. In 1971 the civil parish measured 446 ha. (1,103 a.). (fn. 3) It is roughly trapezoid in shape and measures 2 km. in each direction. The south-eastern boundary follows the Stowey stream. (fn. 4)
Most of the land is below the 91 m. contour, but the village lies at the western end of the parish where the land rises gradually to 137 m. Castle Hill rises to 110 m. in the west and Pinnacle Hill to 97 m. to the north-east. (fn. 5) Much of the parish lies on Keuper marl with a broad band of gravel along the stream. Castle Hill is composed of Ilfracombe slates and grits and the extreme southern edge of the parish lies on sandstone. (fn. 6) Marl was dug in the Middle Ages and quarries were established by the mid 18th century. (fn. 7) In 1758 and 1759 licences were granted for mining on land in the west end of the parish near Bincombe. (fn. 8) The Stowey stream flows down from Bincombe and formerly powered a mill, supplied a tannery, and ran along St. Mary's Street providing the village with water. From 1887 the supply came from springs in the grounds of Castle Hill House. (fn. 9)
The name Stowey derives from the 'stone way', part of the Anglo-Saxon 'herpath' or military road which crossed the river Parrett at Combwich and ran through Over Stowey parish and across the Quantocks to Exmoor. (fn. 10) The alternative names of Nether and Market Stowey, the latter used in 1795, (fn. 11) distinguish it from Over Stowey. East of the village lay a settlement called Budley, (fn. 12) where the way from Stowey to Fiddington crossed an ancient route between Spaxton and Stogursey. The township, whose church may have been adopted by Nether Stowey, (fn. 13) was still in existence in the 13th century and the name continued to be used for land in the eastern end of the parish until the 16th century. (fn. 14) That part of the parish suffered further depopulation in the 19th century and several farms, cottages, and a mill have been lost since 1839. (fn. 15)
Strips of land surviving south and west of the village in 1839 and still visible in 1981 were probably the remains of the medieval North and South fields. (fn. 16) A small piece of common at Redburrow, west of the village, had been divided by the mid 18th century between the manor farm and the glebe. (fn. 17) In 1839 the parish had less than 10 a. of woodland; (fn. 18) none was recorded in 1905 (fn. 19) and less than 1 ha. in 1976. (fn. 20)
A park was mentioned in 1222; (fn. 21) in 1248 Philip de Columbers was granted a park with free warren in his demesnes. (fn. 22) The park was stocked with deer in 1295, (fn. 23) and in the 16th century or earlier was divided between the red deer park and the fallow deer park. (fn. 24) The two together were said to be 3 miles in circumference in 1569. (fn. 25) By 1620 the red deer park (172 a.) had been divided into closes and by the 18th century the entire park had been converted into fields. (fn. 26) The park covered a rectangular area stretching from the northern to the southern boundary of the parish between the village on the west and the former Spaxton-Stogursey road on the east. There were deer leaps on the north and west sides. (fn. 27)
The Bridgwater-Watchet road was turnpiked by the Bridgwater trust as far as the middle of St. Mary's Street in 1759 (fn. 28) and westward beyond that point by the Minehead trust when it was enlarged in 1765. (fn. 29) A tollhouse survives in St. Mary's Street. Ancient routes to Fiddington and Stogursey are followed by modern footpaths, the first described in 1807 as the former market road to Bridgwater. (fn. 30) Other roads lead to Stogursey from the north end of Lime Street, and to Taunton from South Lane. The course of the main road east of the village has been altered many times since the 18th century, and in 1968 a bypass was built north-east of the village. (fn. 31) Plans in the 1880s and 1899 to build railways through Nether Stowey were abandoned. (fn. 32)
The village forms a Y of three main streets: St. Mary's Street (Fore Street in 1851) to the east, leading to the church, and Lime Street, so named by 1591, were part of the Bridgwater-Watchet road until the bypass was built in 1968, and Castle Street, recorded in 1477, led to the castle at the west end of the village. (fn. 33) The junction of the three streets formed the market place where the medieval high cross probably stood and there was later a market house. The west end of St. Mary's Street was known as High Street in 1547 and the borough street in 1647. (fn. 34) Part of the village may have been a planted settlement, for a borough had been established by 1225. (fn. 35) Burgage plots had been laid out in the centre of the village by the early 14th century, (fn. 36) the burgesses holding small paddocks and orchards along the edges of the adjoining open fields. (fn. 37)
Leland described Stowey as 'a poor village'. (fn. 38) No. 30 Castle Street survives from the later Middle Ages; (fn. 39) most of the remaining houses in the central area, forming terraces of two-storeyed buildings opening directly on the street, have fronts of the 18th or early 19th century in various materials including brick, roughcast, and stucco. The largest houses are in the wide centre sections of Castle and St. Mary's streets. Thomas Poole's house in Castle Street is a seven-bayed house of the 18th century, and there are several houses of similar date in St. Mary's Street including one of six bays. (fn. 40) In the centre of the village is the former Globe inn, now the Clock House, an early 19th-century stucco building with a flat-topped portico. The clock tower which dominates the central area was built in 1897 and restored in 1969. (fn. 41) Lime Street consists of small terraced houses with the remains of courts. There are several old cottages interspersed with later houses on Castle Hill. Castle Hill House, one of the few detached houses in the village, has a south range of the 17th century. It was remodelled c. 1800 when new windows were put in and additions, including a staircase hall, were made on the north side of the house. A coach house was built to the north-east in the mid 19th century. The west end of the house was demolished in the mid 20th century and a singlestoreyed extension has been built on its site. Stowey House, formerly Stowey Farm, (fn. 42) at the east end of St. Mary's Street is a large E-shaped 16th-century house. Residential development in the 1960s and 1970s has taken place in the north-west and in the south.
The George inn mentioned in 1616 (fn. 43) was a building of the 16th century or earlier on the south side of St. Mary's Street, and had a bowling green and a fives wall. (fn. 44) It had closed by 1781 and was rebuilt in 1843 as a private house, which retained a yard of decorated cobbling. (fn. 45) A new George inn had opened by 1804, probably on its present site; in 1899 and 1906 it had assembly rooms where theatrical entertainments were given. (fn. 46) The Crown, from 1687 the Rose and Crown, also existed in the early 17th century, when the poet John Taylor (1580–1653) complained of its bad service. (fn. 47) The George and the Rose and Crown were both in business at the centre of the village in 1981. The Swan was recorded from 1647 to 1740, but by 1743 it had been renamed the Globe. (fn. 48) It was the meeting place of the Dean's peculiar court and of the local magistrates, and closed c. 1850; (fn. 49) the building survives as the Clock House. The Globe's name was transferred c. 1894 to a public house in Castle Street which closed c. 1964. (fn. 50) The Three Mariners was named in 1691 and closed c. 1786. (fn. 51) The First and Last, first recorded by name in 1871, (fn. 52) was still in business in 1981 at the north end of Lime Street. (fn. 53) Coleridge's Cottage, opposite the First and Last, was a public house for a time, and the Bakers Arms was recorded in Castle Street in 1871 and 1881. (fn. 54)
A friendly society for working women was founded c. 1807 by Thomas Poole. (fn. 55) The society was wound up c. 1975 but the annual service and procession survive. (fn. 56) The Nether Stowey friendly society was established in 1839 and met in the Rose and Crown. The society was dissolved in 1912. (fn. 57) Poole also started the Stowey Book Society in 1793. (fn. 58) Until 1899 or later the Mutual Improvement Society maintained coffee and reading rooms. (fn. 59)
In 1377 there were 63 taxpayers in Nether Stowey. (fn. 60) There were 226 people recorded in the borough in 1667 with a further 131 in Bincombe tithing, part of which was in Nether Stowey parish. (fn. 61) In 1791 there were 106 houses in the village (fn. 62) and in 1801 the population of the parish was 586. The population rose rapidly during the early 19th century and reached a peak of 876 in 1861. By 1901 numbers had fallen to 581 but the total rose sharply from 688 in 1961 to 1,031 in 1971. (fn. 63)
Robert Parsons, the Jesuit, was born in Nether Stowey in 1546, the son of a blacksmith, and was assisted in his education by the vicar, John Hayward. (fn. 66) Thomas Poole (1765–1837), a self-educated tanner, was not only responsible for setting up the school and other local institutions, but also gathered around him at Stowey a circle of literary and scientific visitors including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who lived for a while in Lime Street, the Wordsworths, Sir Humphry Davy, Robert Southey, Charles Lamb, and Thomas Wedgwood. (fn. 67) Samuel Grose (1791– 1866), designer of a steam pumping engine, was born in Nether Stowey while his father was managing the Dodington copper mines. (fn. 68)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATE.
In 1066 Earl Harold, Alwi Banneson, and two thegns, Oswerd and Ailward, shared the estate called Stowey, but in 1086 the whole was held by Alfred d'Epaignes. Oswerd and Ailward continued as Alfred's undertenants, but Alwi's land was held by Robert and Herbert. (fn. 69) Alfred's daughter Isabel married Robert de Chandos (d. 1120) and was followed by her son Walter (d. by 1156) and Walter's daughter Maud, wife of Philip de Columbers (I) (d. c. 1185). Maud was returned in 1212 as holding STOWEY of the king in chief as the head of an honor of 10 fees. (fn. 70)
Maud was succeeded in the manor of NETHER STOWEY by her son Philip de Columbers (II) (d. c. 1216), her grandson Philip (III) (d. 1257), and her great-grandson Philip (IV) (d. 1262). (fn. 71) When Philip died his estates, including Stowey, passed successively to his eldest son Philip (V) Columbers (d. 1277), and to his second son John (d. 1306). (fn. 72) John was succeeded by his son Philip (VI) (d. 1342), whose wife's sister, Joan Martin, married Nicholas Audley, Lord Audley. Philip made Joan's son, James Audley, Lord Audley, his eventual successor by settling his estates on his wife, Eleanor (d. 1343), and her heirs. (fn. 73) James, Lord Audley, died in 1386 and was succeeded by his son Nicholas (d. 1391), and then by Nicholas's wife Elizabeth. (fn. 74) Elizabeth was followed on her death in 1400 by two heirs, Nicholas's sister Margaret (d. 1411), wife of Sir Roger Hillary, and John Tuchet (d. 1408), later Lord Audley, grandson of another sister, Joan. (fn. 75)
Margaret was childless and Lord Audley's son James (d. 1459) succeeded to the whole estate. (fn. 76) James was followed by his son John (d. 1490) and John's son James, Lord Audley (d. 1497). (fn. 77) James was executed in 1497 and the escheated manor was leased to Sir Richard Pudsey (d. 1499) and later to John Bourchier, Lord Fitzwarren, brother-in-law of the attainted Lord Audley. (fn. 78) In 1512 John Tuchet (d. 1557), son of James, was restored to his father's land and title and in 1535 he settled Nether Stowey on himself and his wife with remainder to his son George and George's son Henry. (fn. 79) John Tuchet the younger, John's half-brother, claimed the estate under his father's settlement of 1492. (fn. 80) His claims passed to his brother James who sold the estate to Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford, later duke of Somerset, in 1538. (fn. 81) Audley was forced to give up the manor because of Somerset's 'great power' and the duke continued to hold Nether Stowey until his attainder in 1552. (fn. 82) Humphrey Colles leased the estate from the Crown in 1552 but in the same year the manor was granted to Sir Edward Seymour, eldest son of the duke of Somerset. (fn. 83) It reverted to the Crown by exchange in 1553, and was immediately granted back to Lord Audley. (fn. 84) Audley was succeeded in 1557 by his son George (d. 1560) and George by his son Henry (d. 1563). (fn. 85) Henry was followed by his son George, earl of Castlehaven (d. 1617), and George's son Mervyn, earl of Castlehaven. Mervyn sold the lordship to Angel Grey in 1627 after disposing of some of the land. (fn. 86)
Angel Grey was succeeded by his son George (d. by 1676) and George's daughter Christiana (d. 1747), wife of Edward Topp. Christiana's daughter and heir Susanna married Robert Everard of Spaxton. In 1745 Everard settled the manor on Robert Balch (d. 1779) of Bridgwater, husband of Everard's daughter and heir Susanna. (fn. 87) Balch was succeeded by his sons Robert Everard (d. 1799) and George (d. 1814), and by his daughter Christiana (d. 1824). (fn. 88) Christiana devised the estate to Henry Harvey who in 1838 sold some land and the lordship to Sir Peregrine Acland and the remaining land to Henry Labouchere, later Lord Taunton, whose estate, centred on Over Stowey, was afterwards called the manor of Over and Nether Stowey. (fn. 89) The lordship of Nether Stowey descended in the AclandHood family but was not mentioned when the estate was dispersed in 1952. (fn. 90)
Stowey Court lies east of the village beside the church. Leland referred in 1542 to 'a goodly manor place of the Lord Audley's standing exceedingly pleasantly'. The house was being enlarged in stone when Audley was executed in 1497. (fn. 91) It was leased by the Crown to Lord Fitzwarren in 1510 and to Humphrey Colles in 1552. (fn. 92) It is supposed to have suffered by fire during the Civil War when it was used as a royal garrison. (fn. 93) All that survives of the late medieval house is some of the walling of the courtyard between the house and the church, and two gateways in its southern side. The southern part of the present house was built probably in the later 16th century (fn. 94) and has a main east-west range of two storeys with attics and a short cross wing. The entrance was on the north side, and in the angle between the ranges on the south side there was a stair turret. Adjacent to, but not aligned with, the west end of the main range a row of cottages incorporates part of another 16th-century domestic building which may be older than the main house.
In the 18th century several rooms were redecorated and a kitchen block was built a short distance north of the cross wing. Additions at various times in the 19th century converted the intervening space into an entrance hall and made other service rooms. In the mid 20th century the house was divided into two dwellings and in 1981 a major restoration was beginning.
The outbuildings include a 16th-century stable just outside the south-east corner of the courtyard, and a two-storeyed brick summer house of the mid 18th century. The layout of the 18th century gardens can still be traced and the raised walk, which forms the north side of the courtyard, and three large fishponds survive.
Two estates, called Bodeslege and Lege, may both represent a later holding called BUDLEY. The first was held by Winegod the priest in 1066 and by Roger de Courcelles from Glastonbury Abbey in 1086. (fn. 95) The Glastonbury lordship is not mentioned again. Lege was held by Dunn in 1066 but in 1086 by Alfred d'Epaignes and of him by Hugh. (fn. 96) During the 12th century Roger de Paris gave 1 a. of land at Budley to the church of Stowey, a gift confirmed by Maud de Chandos, lady of the manor of Nether Stowey. (fn. 97) Matthew de Paris appears to have had property at Budley in 1299, (fn. 98) and a Matthew Paris was described as of Budley before 1443. (fn. 99)
Edward Walker (d. 1565) held property in East Budley, probably including Roobies farm, and he is said to have had a lease of the castle and part of the park c. 1528. (fn. 100) He was succeeded by his son John (d. before 1635), John's son Edward (d. 1636), and Edward's son John (d. 1658). (fn. 101) A younger brother of John, Sir Edward (1612–77), was secretary to Charles I and Charles II, Garter King of Arms, and an author. (fn. 102) John Walker was followed by his son Edward (d. 1682) and Edward's son John. (fn. 103) John died without issue in 1718 leaving his estates to his widow Elizabeth. (fn. 104) She survived until 1739 when Roobies passed for his life to her late husband's cousin Sir Hugh Clopton of Stratford-on-Avon (Warws.), and on his death in 1752 to his nephew Edward Clopton of Clopton (Warws.). (fn. 105) Edward (d. 1753) was succeeded by his daughter Frances who, with her husband John Parthewicke, sold the estate to Robert Everard Balch in 1758. (fn. 106) The farm descended with the manor of Nether Stowey until 1952 when Roobies was sold to the tenant. (fn. 107)
Roobies Farm, formerly known as Rowbart's or Rowbear, was described as a capital messuage in 1774. (fn. 108) The house is of the 17th century, but has since been greatly altered.
The castle at Nether Stowey, on a steep outlier of the Quantocks west of the village, was built probably in the early 12th century. It was the caput of an honor of 10 fees which descended with the manor and was recorded until 1624. (fn. 109) Plud Farm in Kilton, held of Nether Stowey manor, was called the Constable's House until the late 16th century and may have been connected with the constable of the castle. (fn. 110) The castle had been abandoned by 1485 when the site was let for pasture. (fn. 111)
The castle comprises a motte and two baileys. On the motte are the foundations of a small rectangular stone keep with inner dividing walls and a smaller outbuilding, possibly an entrance. The steep baileys, a triangular one on the east and another on the northeast, are divided by a ditch, but the surrounding banks and ditches have been partly quarried away. (fn. 112) The site slopes very steeply to the north and west. It was known as Castle Hill or Old Castle in 1620 when it was sold to Charles Steynings of Holnicote in Selworthy. (fn. 113)
A borough was established possibly in 1157–8 when Philip de Columbers (I) paid 10s. de uno burgriht; by 1225 the borough answered separately at the eyre. (fn. 114) It was described as a free borough in 1274, when the lord's steward was accused of offences infringing the borough charter, referred to as ancient, including seizure of burgages. (fn. 115) The lord in 1280 claimed assize of bread and of ale in the borough time out of mind, and in 1306 the barony of Nether Stowey included 26 burgages. (fn. 116) In 1485 the borough produced an income from burgage rents worth over £4, pasture of the castle, lardersilver, and court profits, but no tolls. (fn. 117) A free burgage was held as of the manor in 1501. (fn. 118)
The extent of the borough in the Middle Ages is uncertain but probably coincided with the later borough tithing which covered the north-western part of the parish. (fn. 119) By the 18th century the borough included the village, the mill, Castle Hill, the glebe and other lands in the north-west, Blindwell and other lands along the Taunton road, and Portery meadow in Over Stowey parish. The borough was still a separate tithing in the mid 19th century. (fn. 120)
The western part of the later parish of Nether Stowey was included in a group of Domesday estates called Stowey, of which one became the parish of Dodington (fn. 121) and others extended into Over Stowey parish. (fn. 122) The eastern part of Nether Stowey parish may have been the Domesday estates of Budley and Lege. (fn. 123) The total demesne holding of the Stowey estates excluding Dodington amounted to nearly 7 hides with 4½ ploughteams in comparison with just over 1¼ hide occupied by 14 villeins and 11 bordars with 3 ploughs. Budley and Lege had no demesne holdings, 9 bordars sharing the land. The Stowey estates together included 100 a. of pasture and extensive woodland on the Quantocks.
Land holdings in the two open arable fields were partially consolidated by the 15th century (fn. 124) and the demesne was farmed by 1492. (fn. 125) The income of the manor was £30 19s. 10d. from agricultural rents in 1485. (fn. 126) From the later Middle Ages there was probably a concentration on cloth production and there is very little surviving evidence for farming. A flax pit was recorded in 1513, a dyehouse in 1517, and a tucker's rack in 1571. (fn. 127) During the late 16th and early 17th century weavers, clothiers, clothworkers, fullers, shearmen, and mercers worked in the village. (fn. 128) Racks were standing east of the castle by the 18th century, (fn. 129) when serge was being woven in the parish, (fn. 130) and silk was manufactured in the 19th century. (fn. 131)
Potters in 1275 paid 20s. for the right to work in Nether Stowey. (fn. 132) A kiln and potsherds of the 13th century were found in Portery field, south of the castle in Over Stowey parish, in 1969. (fn. 133) By the early 17th century a potter held land beside the Stogursey road, (fn. 134) and a kiln in use between c. 1550 and 1620 was discovered in 1968. (fn. 135)
A slaughterhouse in operation by 1593 (fn. 136) produced meat for the market and skins for local tanners and glovers. (fn. 137) The Poole family was tanning from at least the early 18th century (fn. 138) and Thomas Poole (d. 1837) extended his father's tannery and built a barkhouse and mill north of Castle Street. (fn. 139) There were at least four glovers at work in the 17th century. (fn. 140) Candlemaking and malting were also practised in the 18th century, (fn. 141) and there were three malthouses in 1839. (fn. 142)
By the 17th century the commercial importance of the market attracted business from Aisholt and Stogursey. (fn. 143) A mob converged on the village in a dispute over corn in 1795 (fn. 144) and there was unrest over corn prices in 1801 involving a hundred people from Stowey. The magistrates ordered the overseers of the parishes in the area to provide a stock of food for the poor. Some farmers agreed to reduce their prices but there were accusations that grain was being withheld from the market. (fn. 145) It was not easy for labourers to produce their own food; during the 1830s potato ground was let out by farmers at £8£10 per acre. Wages, however, were slightly higher than average and piecework enabled men to earn up to 18s. a week in summer. (fn. 146)
In 1839 only half the farmland was arable and the rearing of cattle was clearly important. (fn. 147) The Stowey and Spaxton Cattle Plague Association was formed in the late 19th century. (fn. 148) The largest holdings in 1839 were Court farm (424 a.), Roobies farm (176 a.), Stowey farm (104 a. besides land in Over Stowey), and the glebe (51 a.). A further 8 holdings measured between 20 a. and 45 a., 19 between 3 a. and 20 a., and the remainder under 3 a. (fn. 149) In 1851 the tenants of Court and Stowey farms employed 30 and 15 labourers respectively. The remaining farmers had fewer than 5 employees. (fn. 150) In 1905 there were 612 a. of grass and 469 a. of arable. (fn. 151) By 1976 at least 367 ha. (880 a.) were under grass, and livestock included nearly 1,000 cattle, 1,485 pigs, and 1,375 sheep. Holdings remained small: only two measured over 50 ha. (120 a.), and specialized in dairying and rearing livestock. (fn. 152)
Clocks and watches were made at Nether Stowey during the late 18th and the 19th century. James Cole (d. 1808) made a clock for Enmore church and his sons James and Thomas were to become internationally renowned clock and watch makers, most of their work being done in London. (fn. 153) James Cole the younger made the Nether Stowey school clock in 1813 when he was only 15 years old. Watch making was continued by the Thristle family and Edward Browning. (fn. 154) Other tradesmen in the early 19th century included apothecaries and chemists, and in 1818 a surgeon's practice in the parish was sold. (fn. 155)
Of 155 families in the parish in 1821 there were 66 employed in agriculture and 72 in trade. (fn. 156) In 1851 the largest groups of non-agricultural workers were in the building trade and in the manufacture of clothing and shoes. There were also leatherworkers including a saddler, shopkeepers, blacksmiths, a silk throwster, a confectioner, a cooper, maltsters, a tallow chandler, and a straw-bonnet maker. Professional men included a surgeon, a solicitor, and an excise officer. Although the market had ceased by the late 19th century the retailers and craftsmen probably continued to serve the surrounding villages. (fn. 157) The increase in population in the 1960s and 1970s has ensured the survival of a variety of shops and services in the village.
The Quantock Savings Bank was established in Nether Stowey in 1817 with agents in neighbouring parishes. It closed in 1884. (fn. 158) The building was an antique shop in 1981.
In 1304 John de Columbers received a grant of a market on Tuesdays and a yearly fair on 7 and 8 September. (fn. 159) There were shambles south of the market place in 1608 and in the 1680s and 1690s sheep, corn, meat, and manufactured articles could be bought. (fn. 160) In 1713 the lord of the manor received 15s. from market rents. (fn. 161) A market house was built in the centre of the village, probably on the site of the medieval high cross, before the mid 18th century. (fn. 162) In 1791 it was an octagonal building with eight columns around a central stone pillar topped by a clock, a sundial, and a bell in a wooden belfry. The sundial was said to have been placed on the building by Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829). (fn. 163) Another market house with a colonnade of seven bays was built over the pavement south of the market place c. 1810. (fn. 164) Both buildings were demolished in the late 19th century. (fn. 165) A market house and tolls were offered for sale with the manor in 1828 but did not form part of the conveyances to Sir Peregrine Acland and Henry Labouchere in 1838. (fn. 166) Tuesday and Saturday were market days in 1830 but the market had been discontinued by 1839. (fn. 167)
The fair, which existed in the late 17th century, (fn. 168) was held in the later 18th and the 19th century on 18 September. (fn. 169) In 1936 it was said to have had a long and uneventful history and to have ceased a generation earlier, probably before 1888. (fn. 170)
In 1086 a mill on Alfred d'Epaigne's estate at Stowey paid 4d., (fn. 171) and in 1275 the burgesses complained that their horses were taken when going to a mill outside the vill. (fn. 172) The manor mill was farmed for 20s. in 1485. (fn. 173) By 1560 there were two corn mills on the manor. (fn. 174) In 1620 Stowey mill was sold by Mervyn, earl of Castlehaven, to Charles Steynings with the mansion house later known as Stowey Farm. (fn. 175) A mill, possibly Stowey mill, was described as the town mill in 1691. (fn. 176) The mill appears to have been reconveyed to the lord of the manor before 1703. By 1760 it was ruinous and was let to a mill carpenter who was to repair it within three years. (fn. 177) The mill lay on the Stowey stream north of the castle and was in use in 1839. (fn. 178) Milling ceased between 1872 and 1875, (fn. 179) and the site was occupied by a farmyard in 1981. A fragment of wall, the sluices, and the site of the mill pond survive. The pond was fed from a higher pond by the castle and both have been filled in. There was a mill on the Stowey stream in the east end of the parish in 1839 but milling had ceased by 1851 and no other trace has been found. (fn. 180)
The government of the parish was divided until the 19th century between the manor and the borough. By the early 16th century manor courts were held twice a year, and records survive from 1507 to 1522. The officers were a bailiff and an elected tithingman. (fn. 181) Borough courts were held twice a year in the late 15th and early 16th century. The borough was administered by a bailiff, a reeve, two constables, two aletasters, and two weighers of bread. (fn. 182) By the 18th century borough and manor jurisdictions were probably united. (fn. 183) Manor courts were held until c. 1842 but no records have been found. (fn. 184)
The parish was divided between two tithings, the borough in the west and the detached part of Bincombe in the east including Court farm and the parks, part of Stowey farm, Budley, and Roobies farm and its neighbours. (fn. 185)
By the 19th century the two constables were elected by the vestry. (fn. 186) Stocks were kept at the market place in the early 19th century (fn. 187) and the lockup was demolished between 1938 and 1948 to make way for a bus shelter. (fn. 188)
There were two churchwardens and two sidesmen in 1613. (fn. 189) The vestry employed an assistant overseer in 1825. There was a poorhouse by 1784; it stood at the west end of the village and was occupied by three families in 1839. (fn. 190) It was still known as the parish house in 1863 though not then owned by the parish. (fn. 191) Nether Stowey formed part of the Bridgwater poor-law union and from 1894 was part of the Bridgwater rural district. Since 1974 it has been in Sedgemoor district. (fn. 192)
A Domesday estate held by Winegod the priest (fn. 193) may be identified with the former settlement of Budley, east of the present church of Stowey. (fn. 194) The ownership of the estate by a priest, (fn. 195) the existence later of one and perhaps two dependent chapels, Dodington (fn. 196) and St. Michael's by the castle, (fn. 197) and claims to tithes in Otterhampton, (fn. 198) are characteristics of minster status. It was known by 1189 as the church of Stowey. (fn. 199) The living remained a sole cure until 1973, when it was united with the rectory of Over Stowey. (fn. 200)
Robert de Chandos (d. 1120) gave the second tithe (redecima) of his demesne at Stowey to Goldcliff Priory (Mon.) (fn. 201) which he founded in 1113 and which he later gave to the Norman abbey of BecHellouin (Eure). (fn. 202) Walter de Chandos (d. c. 1166), Robert's son, gave 1 or 2 carucates of land in Stowey to Goldcliff. (fn. 203) Walter's daughter Maud de Chandos gave the church to Wells cathedral, a gift confirmed by the bishop, by the King in 1189, and by the pope in 1190. (fn. 204) Goldcliff Priory seems to have challenged Maud's gift, in 1201 beginning a plea against her concerning unspecified land in Somerset, (fn. 205) and she was witness to a compromise whereby the cathedral acknowledged the priory's right to the church in return for an annual pension of £2 to the cathedral. (fn. 206) Maud's agreement strongly suggests that the gift of Robert de Chandos had included the church as well as the tithes on his demesne. The pension was paid until 1560 (fn. 207) or later, and Nether Stowey remained in the peculiar jurisdiction of the dean of Wells. (fn. 208)
Goldcliff's claim against Wells cathedral was successful in respect of tithes and second tithes, but it had to return to Philip de Columbers (III) in 1222 the land which Walter de Chandos had granted. (fn. 209) The possessions of Goldcliff Priory, as an alien house, were granted in 1441 to Tewkesbury Abbey (Glos.) (fn. 210) which, notwithstanding grants of 1451 and 1467 to Eton College (Bucks.), (fn. 211) remained in possession (fn. 212) until 1475, when they were granted to St. George's Chapel, Windsor (Berks.). (fn. 213) St. George's retained Nether Stowey rectory until 1719 (fn. 214) or later. The rectory passed into the hands of the vicar of Nether Stowey, who was paying the land tax on it in 1766. (fn. 215) The rectory was commonly let at farm after 1335; (fn. 216) in 1462 the vicar, as tenant, held the corn and hay tithes of the parish, all the tithes of Dodington, tithes of wood and grazing in Lord Audley's park, and a barn and some land. (fn. 217) In 1562 the rectory was leased to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, (fn. 218) who in 1567 assigned the lease to George Sydenham of Combe Sydenham in Stogumber. The Sydenhams, who held the freehold during the Interregnum, (fn. 219) continued as lessees until 1716. (fn. 220)
An incumbent rector was recorded in the late 12th century, (fn. 221) and presumably the rectory was not appropriated when Maud de Chandos granted the church to Wells cathedral. Goldcliff Priory had evidently appropriated it by 1222 when it held the church, the tithes, and the second tithes. (fn. 222) A vicarage had been established by 1311, when the priory presented a vicar. (fn. 223) Later in the 14th century the Crown presented when the priory was in its hands because of the war with France, (fn. 224) and Tewkesbury Abbey presented in 1462, 1468, and 1473. (fn. 225) The Sydenhams presented vicars up to 1716 as lessees of the dean and canons of Windsor, (fn. 226) who presented at every vacancy from 1722, (fn. 227) and from 1973 were alternate patrons of the united benefice. (fn. 228)
In 1535 the vicarage was valued at £5 2s. 7d. net. (fn. 229) About 1668 it was assessed at c. £100, (fn. 230) and by the early 19th century was worth £400 a year. (fn. 231) In 1831 the net value was £334, (fn. 232) and was £455 in 1871. (fn. 233)
By 1535 the tithes said to belong to the vicarage were worth £5 9s. 3d. (fn. 234) The tithes of the parish, with moduses on ancient meadow and gardens and on cattle, all held by the vicar, were commuted for £300 in 1839. (fn. 235)
In 1535 land was worth 40s. to the vicarage. (fn. 236) By 1571 there were 52 a. attached to the living, more than half of which was let to Edward Walker. (fn. 237) By 1725 there were c. 63 a. of glebe, (fn. 238) the extra land probably former rectorial glebe. Some was sold in 1799 (fn. 239) and in 1839 there were 51 a. (fn. 240) More had been sold by 1911, and in 1939 there were 47 a. (fn. 241)
The vicarage house was mentioned in 1461. (fn. 242) The site included a barn, garden, and orchard in 1571 and a hopyard in 1613. (fn. 243) The present Old Vicarage includes two rooms from a substantial late 17th-century building, one bearing the date 1681. (fn. 244) The house probably extended further south and southeast, and was of three-roomed plan with a detached kitchen. (fn. 245) Additions had been made by 1753 (fn. 246) and a further block survives to the east close to the southern end, built in the late 18th century. In 1815 it was said to be a 'very good' house, (fn. 247) but further alterations and additions were made in the early 19th century, probably for Benjamin Pope, including a new staircase hall and drawing room in the angle between the older buildings. By 1872, however, the house was thought inadequate. It was replaced in 1957 by a new house erected in the grounds. (fn. 248)
Paul Bushe, rector 1574–87, was non-resident and the parish was served by a curate. (fn. 249) Gregory Syndercombe, 1631–59, was ousted from his benefice in 1648 by Edward Bernard but bought back the living for £200 although Bernard kept a large part of the glebe. (fn. 250) Most of the 18th- and early 19th-century vicars were canons of Windsor and did not live in the parish. (fn. 251) Joseph Hunt, 1716–22, resigned to become master of Balliol College, Oxford. (fn. 252) During the 1720s communion was celebrated seven times a year and collections were taken for the poor or for the provision of books. (fn. 253) Henry William Majendie, vicar 1790–3, was later bishop of Chester (1800–9) and of Exeter (1809–30). His successor John Fisher, tutor to Edward Augustus, duke of Kent, and to Princess Charlotte, was later bishop of Exeter. (fn. 254) Fisher's successors William Langford (1796–1801) and Edward Northey (1801–20) were pluralists, and Langford was also a master at Eton. (fn. 255) John Keate, vicar 1820–4, was headmaster of Eton, (fn. 256) but during the early 19th century there were two services on Sunday taken by a resident curate. (fn. 257) Benjamin Pope, vicar 1824–71, was conduct at Eton; (fn. 258) he held two other livings and a minor canonry at Windsor in 1831, at a time when there was no curate in the parish. (fn. 259)
A church house was mentioned in 1691. (fn. 260)
The church of ST. MARY, so dedicated in the late 12th century, (fn. 261) comprises a chancel with north vestry, nave with north and south aisles and south porch, and western tower. The medieval church was a small building, with a nave of three bays, its last additions evidently dating from the 14th century. (fn. 262) The roodloft and screen survived until the 18th century. (fn. 263) A gallery was added before 1642. (fn. 264) Before 1722 the chancel was ceiled and wainscotted, and a vestry was built on its north side. (fn. 265) An attempt to enlarge the church in 1791 failed, but a long transept was built on the north side of the nave in 1814. (fn. 266) Pressure for a further extension resulted in the complete rebuilding of the church with the exception of the tower in 1849–51, probably to the designs of C. E. Giles. (fn. 267) The church was extensively refitted in the 1950s and 1960s. (fn. 268) Two representations of mitres, set on brackets in the chancel, commemorate the two vicars who became bishops. The carved royal arms are of Queen Anne. (fn. 269)
There are six bells of which five date from the 18th century. They were recast in 1914, when the treble was added, and restored in 1953. (fn. 270) The registers date from 1640 and are complete. A note of 1720 on the earliest register declares that an older volume was burnt at the 'great house' during the civil war. (fn. 271)
A church dedicated to ST. MICHAEL is said to have stood near the castle, which was known as St. Michael's Hill in 1620. (fn. 272) A piece of masonry that was possibly a 12th-century cushion capital was discovered on a site south of the castle called Smith's close. (fn. 273)
Ten recusants were reported in 1591, and in 1613 the Walker family were said to have been recusants for 12 years. (fn. 274) In 1641 three men refused to sign the Protestation and five recusants, including the Walker family, paid the higher subsidy. (fn. 275)
In 1669 a nonconformist teacher had 18 hearers, and in 1672 a house was used for Presbyterian meetings. (fn. 276) Another house was licensed for worship in 1689 and in 1731 there was a newly erected Presbyterian meeting house. (fn. 277) A house, probably in Castle Street, was described as a meeting house from 1784 to 1793. (fn. 278) The Cornish miners working in Dodington included several Methodists, notably the Grose family. (fn. 279) Samuel Grose supported an application for a licence granted in 1795, and another supporter was Robert Williams, who occupied the Independent meeting house in 1806. Licences were issued for other houses in 1792 and 1819. (fn. 280) The latter may have been for the Methodists who had eight members in Nether Stowey c. 1818. Services appear to have ceased by 1823. (fn. 281)
The Congregational chapel for 200 was built in 1807 on the site of two cottages in the yard of a house, later to become the manse, at the north end of Lime Street. It was conveyed to trustees in 1808. The trust property included the chapel and house and a second house described as a former meeting house. (fn. 282) The chapel continued in use until c. 1974, but was then closed and in 1980 was demolished. (fn. 283)
A Baptist minister was resident in the village in 1851. (fn. 284)
A Sunday school was begun in the parish c. 1789 and was endowed with £100 under the will of Richard Stephens, vicar 1753–90. (fn. 285) In 1792 a 'school of industry' was attached to the Sunday school. (fn. 286) Further endowments were made in 1794, 1809, and 1845. (fn. 287) In 1826 up to 50 poor children attended the Sunday school and in 1835 there were 120. (fn. 288)
In 1812 a schoolroom, similar to that designed by Richard Carver for Nettlecombe in 1819, was built by Thomas Poole and in the following year a day school was opened; it soon had 118 children with two teachers. (fn. 289) The school was maintained by subscriptions and fees. In 1826 the school taught reading, writing, and arithmetic to 130 children including some from neighbouring parishes, and by 1835 there was a separate infant school. (fn. 290) The school was united with the National Society by 1847, when there were three separate buildings, though only two paid teachers, with 112 children attending daily. (fn. 291) There were 55 children and 38 infants on the register in 1903, though by 1912 numbers were falling. (fn. 292) An evening school was begun in 1917 and in 1925 an extension provided accommodation for a total of 130 children. In spite of the removal of senior pupils in 1957 numbers continued to rise with the increasing population of the parish. (fn. 293) A new school was built among new houses west of the village in 1979. The old schoolroom became a public library, museum, and exhibition centre in 1980. (fn. 294)
In 1792 a private boarding school was kept by the curate where boys were taught Latin, Greek, English, and geography for £20 a year, and for an additional fee might learn arithmetic, writing, and dancing. (fn. 295) In 1795 a French emigré priest was teaching French in the village. (fn. 296) A day school started in 1826 had 25 children in 1835 but there are no further references to it. (fn. 297) An academy for both sexes was kept by a Miss Brown in 1840 and there was a ladies' boarding school in St. Mary's Street during the 1870s. (fn. 298)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
John Hodges of East Quantoxhead (d. 1703) gave half the rents of two tenements in Cannington, for the term of a lease, to 12 poor people in Nether Stowey. (fn. 299)
In 1708 a sum of £100, comprising gifts by Charles Steynings, a Mr. Dyer, Jane Walker, and her sister Mary Marshal, and a donation from the parish, was used to purchase Budley meadow for the benefit of the poor. A rent of £6 was originally received for the poor but from 1811 a large part of the income, probably representing the proceeds of the parish donation, was diverted to parish funds. (fn. 300) In 1868 the charity was distributed to widows and orphans and in 1870 the meadow, then known as Poor's meadow, was given to Sir Peregrine Acland in exchange for land in South Lane. (fn. 301) By 1899, when the Budley charity became part of the Nether Stowey United Charities, the income from the land was £13 8s. (fn. 302)
By will dated 1709 Joseph Cooke, rector of Spaxton, left £3 a year from land in Stogursey to be distributed in bread to the respectable church-going poor of Nether Stowey for 1,000 years. The charity continued to be distributed throughout the 19th century. (fn. 303) Thomas Landsey left £100 to the parishes of Over and Nether Stowey under his will dated 1801, the income to be divided equally between the poor of both places. In the 1860s the money was given to widows and orphans. (fn. 304) By 1865 Landsey's charity was worth £166, of which Nether Stowey had a half share. Sums of £109 and £106 given to the poor by Francis Poole (d. 1832) and Elizabeth Sykes (d. 1863) were distributed in coal in 1911. Those charities were united with the Budley charity in 1899. (fn. 305)
A coal charity distributed in the 1860s was probably based on subscriptions. (fn. 306) Jenkin Buller's endowment of 1794 for the poor men's club was converted to a coal charity in 1913. (fn. 307) The Mary Stanley Sick Poor Fund, begun c. 1920, is used to send gifts to people in hospital. The Nether Stowey United Charities and Jenkin Buller's charity are distributed in cards and gifts to the elderly every second Christmas. (fn. 308)