A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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The parish of Crowcombe lies on the south-west slope of the Quantocks. Shaped like a lozenge, it covers 1,324 ha. (3,271 a.) (fn. 1) and stretches from the Quantock ridgeway in the north-east to the upper reaches of the Doniford stream. The stream divides the parish from Stogumber and was variously described as the water of Trowbridge in 1243, Leigh water in 1498, and later simply as Water. (fn. 2) A stream similarly divides Crowcombe from Bicknoller in the north-west. On the south and south-east the boundary crosses the former common of Crowcombe Heathfield and follows a lane and a bank through Triscombe, the probable course of the Saxon 'herpath' to the Brendons. (fn. 3)
Crowcombe village, which once included a borough and a market, lies in the centre of the parish at the foot of a combe from which it takes its name. Above it the scarp of the Quantocks rises over Keuper marl on the lower slopes, giving way to the Hangman Grits of the higher ground, reaching 337 m. on Great Hill and 335 m. at Hurley and Fire beacons. (fn. 4) Below the village there are large areas of sandstone with outcrops of valley gravel. Heddon common, in the extreme north-west, lay on an area of pebble beds and lower marls. (fn. 5) Sandstone was quarried by 1513 (fn. 6) and marl was used in the earlier 18th century for brickmaking. (fn. 7) Copper extraction was at least suggested in the 18th century. (fn. 8)
Three and possibly four Bronze Age barrows mark the course of the Quantock ridgeway, (fn. 9) but no direct evidence of prehistoric settlement has been found in the parish. Crowcombe village is a linear settlement along a road known in the 18th century as Taunton street. (fn. 10) At a bend in the centre of the street stands the church, church house, market cross, and former manor house, and the southern section, known as Church Town, probably represents the earliest phase of settlement. The area north-west of the bend was known as the borough, and was probably laid out by the early 13th century. (fn. 11)
The settlement pattern of scattered farmsteads, known c. 1600 as villages, (fn. 12) may be traced from the later 13th century, but its origin may be much earlier. Water and Leigh (Layaa) are mentioned in 1267, Triscombe in 1278, (fn. 13) Hurley (Hyerlegh), Cooksley, Roebuck (Ralbock, Rabbock) by 1327, (fn. 14) Lawford in 1352, Slough in 1353, Flaxpool in 1355, Wharncliffe (Wormeclyve) in 1360, Combe in 1363, Poundisford (Pouresford) in 1365, Little Quantock in 1391, and Roebuck Gate (Mounselysrabbok) in 1415. (fn. 15) Quarkhill was established by the 15th century. (fn. 16) Only Cooksley and Combe have not survived. The farmsteads vary in size according to the amount of land allotted to each farm during the later 18th century, when most of the principal farmhouses were rebuilt. (fn. 17)
There were probably several sets of open arable fields, some of which survived into the 15th century. (fn. 18) Common pasture at Heddon, Crowcombe Heathfield, and on the Quantocks, occupying together about a third of the parish, survived until inclosure in 1780. (fn. 19) On the Quantocks parts remain open for the grazing of cattle and horses. Some of the scattered woodland was felled in the 18th century to build Crowcombe Court. (fn. 20) Plantations were made on the lower slopes of the Quantocks, particularly during the 19th century, (fn. 21) and there were 484 a. of woodland in 1802 and 403 a. in 1905. (fn. 22)
A chase between the lord's court and 'Cricktenes Hull' was mentioned in 1295. (fn. 23) A park called Carew Park, evidently by c. 1600 used merely as pasture, lay south-east of the village towards Flaxpool, near the manor fishponds. (fn. 24) Sir John Carew was licensed to create a park and warren in 1616. (fn. 25) The park created west of the new house in the 18th century was stocked with fallow deer until 1820. (fn. 26)
The ancient Quantock ridgeway and a parallel road running beneath the scarp linking several hillside settlements were the two principal routes in the parish. As late as the 19th century the ridgeway continued in use for carriages when parts of the lower route were waterlogged. (fn. 27) The main route through the village, turnpiked by the Minehead trust in 1807, (fn. 28) then formed the principal road between Taunton and Watchet. There was a secondary route in the valley further west through Lawford, part of which was adopted when the village was bypassed in 1929. (fn. 29) An elaborate network of lanes gave access to the mills on the western boundary, to the scattered farms, and to the commons. The railway from Taunton to Watchet, running through the valley in the west part of the parish, was opened in 1862. Two stations, Stogumber and Crowcombe or Crowcombe Heathfield, stand within the parish boundaries. The line was closed in 1971, (fn. 30) but was reopened by the private West Somerset Railway Co. in 1977. (fn. 31)
There was an innkeeper in the parish by 1620 and a victualler in 1681, and by 1736 two inns had been established. (fn. 32) The Lions or Three Lions, recorded in 1747, has been known as the Carew Arms since 1814. (fn. 33) The Railway inn at Stogumber station was open by 1894 and closed c. 1970. (fn. 34)
There was a bowling green in the parish in 1733. (fn. 35) The Stogumber and Crowcombe Benefit Society was mentioned from 1812 and the Crowcombe Friendly Society, probably founded in 1858, was disbanded c. 1911. The latter held its feast day on Whit Monday. (fn. 36) An 'old-established' men's institute and reading room occupied the church house in 1908. (fn. 37) The Kesteven recreation ground was given to the parish in 1919 by Mrs. E. M. Trollope in memory of her son Thomas Carew Trollope, Lord Kesteven (d. 1915). (fn. 38)
The population appears to have fallen sharply as a result of the Black Death in 1349. (fn. 39) The parish contained c. 70 houses in 1791 but had formerly been 'much more populous'. (fn. 40) The population rose from 575 in 1801 to 691 in 1831, declined to 573 in 1861, and rose to 594 in 1871. There followed the normal abrupt fall to 440 in 1881 and 374 in 1901. The recovery thereafter was only marginal: 433 in 1921 and 1931, 405 in 1951, and 434 in 1971. (fn. 41)
Thomas Griffith, formerly cook to George II and probably later employed at Crowcombe Court, died in the parish in 1776. (fn. 42)
An estate at 'Cerawicombe', probably at Crowcombe, and described as of 6 hides, was held by Glastonbury Abbey in 854, when it was exempted by King Ethelwulf of the West Saxons from all secular dues as part of his second 'decimation'. In 904 ten manentes at 'Crawancombe' or Crowcombe held by the bishop of Winchester were granted to Edward the Elder in part exchange for the manor of Taunton, a transaction confirmed by King Edgar. (fn. 43) Thereafter the estate seems to have continued in the possession of the West Saxon kings, passing probably to Earl Godwin and, on his death in 1053, to his widow Gytha. In the same year she granted it to the church of Winchester, but the church lost it before 1086 when the manor had passed to Robert, count of Mortain (d. 1090). (fn. 44) His son William forfeited his lands in 1106 but the Crown did not regrant the overlordship of Crowcombe, and the manor was still described as of the fee of Mortain in 1428. (fn. 45)
In 1086 Crowcombe was held under the count of Mortain by Robert son of Ives, known as Robert the constable, the ancestor of the Beauchamp family. On the extinction of the Mortain holding the Beauchamps became tenants in chief, and the overlordship descended in the Beauchamp family like the manor of Stoke sub Hamdon. (fn. 46) After the death of Sir John de Beauchamp in 1361 the Biccombe half of the manor was assigned to his widow Alice (d. 1383) and the Studley half to his sister Cecily, widow of Roger Seymour. (fn. 47) Thereafter the overlordship passed to successive members of the Seymour family (fn. 48) and was last recorded in 1605, when Crowcombe was held of Sir Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford, as of his manor of Hatch Beauchamp. (fn. 49)
The terre tenant was possibly Wimond (I) of Crowcombe, who had died by 1130 leaving two daughters, the wives of Simon son of Robert and of Reynold Heirun. Simon and Reynold occur in 1158, and in 1166 Wimond (II) of Crowcombe and Reynold Heirun jointly held 1 fee in Somerset under Henry Lovell while Simon son of Robert held 1 fee under Robert de Beauchamp. (fn. 50) Wimond was still living in 1184. (fn. 51) His estate possibly passed to Richard of Crowcombe (fn. 52) and thence to Godfrey of Crowcombe, recorded from 1208, who was lord of a manor of Crowcombe by 1227 (fn. 53) and a prominent Crown servant. (fn. 54) Before his death by 1247, Godfrey granted what was later described as half the manor with the advowson to Studley Priory (Oxon.). (fn. 55)
The priory held the estate, known usually as the manor of CROWCOMBE STUDLEY, until its dissolution in 1539. In 1540 the Crown sold the manor to John Croke (d. 1554), controller of the hanaper. (fn. 56) Croke was succeeded by his son Sir John Croke, who conveyed it in 1598 to his sons, John and George. (fn. 57) A year later the sons jointly sold it to George, later Sir George, Kingsmill (d. 1606), justice of Common Pleas. From Sir George the manor seems to have passed in turn to his nephew Sir William Kingsmill (d. 1619) and the latter's son Sir Henry (d. 1624). Under Sir Henry's will the estate passed to his brother Sir Richard (d. 1663) subject to a lease of two thirds to his widow Bridget, the lease later causing financial difficulties. (fn. 58) Sir Richard Kingsmill was succeeded by Anne Kingsmill (d. 1682), widow of Sir Henry's son and heir Sir William, and then by her son Sir William (d. 1698). (fn. 59) William Kingsmill, son of the last and a lunatic, survived until 1766 when he was succeeded by his niece Elizabeth, wife of Capt. Robert Brice, R.N., who himself took the name of Kingsmill in 1766. (fn. 60) In 1789 Robert Kingsmill sold the manor to Sir Robert Bateson Harvey, Bt. (d. 1825), of Langley Park (Bucks.), (fn. 61) from whom it passed to his illegitimate son Robert Harvey (d. 1863), and then to Robert's son Sir Robert Bateson Harvey (d. 1887) and his grandson Sir Robert Greville Harvey. The last named sold the manor in 1894 to Ethel Mary Trollope of Crowcombe, owner of the other manor in the parish. (fn. 62)
That half of Crowcombe later known as the manor of CROWCOMBE BICCOMBE or CROWCOMBE CAREW was owned by Simon of Crowcombe in 1236. Simon of Crowcombe, probably Simon's son, may have died by 1280 and was succeeded by his son, also Simon (d. c. 1322). (fn. 63) The latter's eldest son Simon of Crowcombe died childless in 1349, when he was succeeded by his niece Iseult. (fn. 64) By 1353 she had married John Biccombe (fl. 1363), (fn. 65) who was succeeded before 1390 by Robert Biccombe (d. c. 1401). (fn. 66) Robert's widow Emme seems to have married Thomas Wooth (d. 1407), and he held his first court at Crowcombe in 1401 and had the marriage of Robert's heir Richard Biccombe. (fn. 67) Hugh Biccombe, son of Richard, succeeded in 1457 and was himself followed in 1459 by his son Robert (d. 1523). (fn. 68) Robert's son Richard died in the same year as his father, leaving the estate subject to the life interests of two widows. (fn. 69) Hugh (d. 1568), son of Richard, left two daughters, and Crowcombe was allotted to Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Carew of Camerton, subject to the life tenancy of Hugh's widow, also Elizabeth. (fn. 70)
Thomas Carew, once suspected of complicity in the Babington plot, (fn. 71) died in 1604 and was followed in turn by his son Sir John (d. 1637), of Rifton in Stoodleigh (Devon), and Sir John's son Thomas (d. 1662). (fn. 72) John Carew, son of the last, died in 1684 and was succeeded first by his son Thomas and then by his brother, also Thomas, both of whom died in 1691. Thomas the elder was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1719) and by the son's son, also Thomas (d. 1766). (fn. 73) Thomas Carew was survived by two daughters, Mary (d. 1774) and Elizabeth (d. 1805), wife of James Bernard. (fn. 74) Bernard held the manor until his death in 1811, and was succeeded by Mary, daughter of his wife's first cousin, John Carew of Camerton. (fn. 75) Mary (d. 1852) married George Henry Warrington (d. 1842) of Pentrepant in Selattyn (Salop.), and Warrington took the additional name of Carew. He was followed by his son Thomas G. W. Carew (d. 1855) and his grandson G. H. W. Carew (d. 1874). The latter's son, E. G. Carew, died childless in 1886, and the estate passed to his sister Ethel Mary, wife of Robert Cranmer Trollope. On her death in 1934 Mrs. Trollope was succeeded in turn by her grandsons A. J. Trollope-Bellew (d. 1942) and Major T. F. Trollope-Bellew, lord of the manor in 1977. (fn. 76)
A manor house was mentioned in 1295. (fn. 77) By the mid 14th century the site, evidently immediately north or west of the church, included dovecots and a fishpond. (fn. 78) John Carew laid out a court and garden in 1676. (fn. 79) The house was pulled down in 1724 and was replaced by the present Crowcombe Court. (fn. 80) During demolition bags of silver were discovered behind panelling in the hall. (fn. 81)
Crowcombe Court, so named by 1741, (fn. 82) was built on a new site c. 250 m. from the old house. It is of brick and has been described as the finest house of its date in the county south of Bath. (fn. 83) Thomas Parker of Gittisham (Devon) began the design and building, taking advantage of the sloping site by placing the house at the east end of a courtyard flanked by long two-storeyed service and stable ranges. Some apartments were habitable by 1725, and by 1727 the roof was on and 'most of the rooms within doors finished'. (fn. 84) Nathaniel Ireson of Wincanton was engaged as architect and builder in 1734 and, apart from some internal panelling and other furnishings, had completed the house by 1739. (fn. 85) Because of the slope the elevation is of four storeys on the west and three on the other sides. The extent to which Ireson rebuilt or enlarged Parker's house is not clear. The five bays of the front towards the courtyard probably represent the width of the earlier house, but the line of the front may have been moved westward by one bay to incorporate an open arcade which is linked to the service ranges by quadrants. The extra bay extends the otherwise symmetrical south front of seven bays, which has a projecting centre of three bays with an entrance approached by steps. At the west end of the elevation a short two-storeyed wing was built against the back of the south quadrant and partly disguises the end of the stable range.
The main rooms and the staircase were richly fitted out with plasterwork and chimneypieces, but the two drawing rooms on the east front were replanned and redecorated by Edward Barry c. 1870. Barry also provided new entrance steps and may have made other alterations to the south front, lowering the sills of some of the windows and possibly altering the heads of those flanking the entrance. The staircase and centre of the house were damaged by fire in 1963, but after occupation as a school in the 1970s (fn. 86) the house was being restored in 1981.
Thomas Carew, who sold six manors to pay for the house, and spent £4,122 on the work up to 1734, (fn. 87) also laid out ornamental and kitchen gardens south of the house (fn. 88) and extended the park, planting the woods on the hillside to the east. After 1766 James Bernard built a hot-house and removed the ornamental gardens to achieve a naturalistic 'modern style'. He also laid out walks in the woods and the combe north-east of the house, where he set up a succession of weirs across a stream, a rustic bridge (dated 1776), and a cruciform 'ruin', using medieval tracery and doors, traditionally said to have come from Halsway Manor in Stogumber but perhaps from the former Crowcombe manor house. (fn. 89)
Part of the village, between the market cross and Townsend, north-west from the church, was described as a borough in the early 13th century. (fn. 90) No borough charter survives, but burgage holders owed rent rather than customary services. (fn. 91) The borough was attached to Crowcombe Studley manor by 1247. (fn. 92) A court called Crowcombe Burgus court met between 1633 and 1635 (fn. 93) but there is no other evidence of a borough court. A portreeve was elected in the Crowcombe Biccombe manor court between 1363 and 1495 and in the Crowcombe Studley manor court in the 18th century. Burgage tenants were liable for repair of the market cross in 1724 and for providing a pillory and stocks up to 1730. (fn. 94) The borough was conveyed by name with Crowcombe Studley manor in 1894, and 'borough' and 'burgage' survive in field and tenement names. (fn. 95)
The Domesday estate comprised 1 hide in demesne, with 3 ploughteams and 6 serfs, while the remaining 9 hides were farmed with 10 teams by 31 villeins and 10 bordars. Demesne stock included 26 beasts, 26 swine, 70 sheep, and 28 she-goats. There were 11 a. of meadow, 20 a. of woodland, and pasture 1 league long and ½ league broad. (fn. 96) Open-field arable survived until the early 15th century in parts of the parish, though the existence of the 'great field of Leigh' in 1352 may suggest separate sets of fields for some of the outlying farmstead hamlets. (fn. 97) An enclosure at Triscombe was still called after an earlier furlong in 1828. (fn. 98) By 1405 small plots of common on Quantock were ploughed, and by the 1430s parts of the commons at Heddon and Heathfield were similarly under cultivation, at Heathfield for growing rye. Land so ploughed was known as 'betelond'. Allotments of common were cultivated by 20 tenants in 1453, and 21 a. by 28 tenants in 1508. (fn. 99) It is not certain how long the practice continued, but early in the 18th century parts of the commons could be tilled on payment of a small rent. (fn. 100)
Common pasture on Quantock was subject in 1301 to annual renders of 12 slabs of iron to Stogursey Castle from as many tenants. (fn. 101) Parts of Heddon common were evidently inclosed for pasture by the early 16th century, (fn. 102) though the importance of the remainder for sheep grazing is clear from continuing disputes. (fn. 103) In the 14th and 15th centuries there were at least six areas of woodland. (fn. 104)
The existence of a borough, market, and fair by the 13th century indicates an attempt to expand the potential value of the estate. (fn. 105) Crowcombe Biccombe manor after 1247 was entirely rural. (fn. 106) By 1342 rents amounted to £8 15s. 3d., there were four free tenants, and the demesne farm comprised 2 carucates of arable, 20 a. of meadow, 20 a. of woodland, and 3 a. of moor. (fn. 107) The annual value had fallen to £3 2s. by 1349 and rents were only 5s. because 'the tenants were dead of the plague', (fn. 108) though there was partial recovery by 1352 when the income included cash from the sale of summer pasture at Leigh and elsewhere and from the sale of grain. (fn. 109) The four free tenants occupied farms on the parish boundary: Roebuck, Cooksley, Water, and 'Haynelond'. Roebuck was held by the Mansels possibly by 1342 and descended through the Orchards and Sydenhams to the Laceys of Hartrow. (fn. 110) Water was occupied by the Stradlings between 1462 and 1606, and 'Haynelond', north of Triscombe farm, was held by the Bretts from the 15th century. (fn. 111) Grimes farm, formerly Grimes Hays or Grimesland, was held by the Steyning family as a freehold of Crowcombe Studley manor from 1462 until the 17th century. (fn. 112) Customary tenants on Biccombe manor numbered at least 38 in 1414. Some tenants there were still described as neifs until 1360 or later. The demesne of Biccombe was being leased by 1479. (fn. 113)
By c. 1600 the demesne on Biccombe manor totalled 356 a. which were held in hand with the manor house. There were in addition 45 tenant holdings amounting to over 560 a., the largest being two at Roebuck. (fn. 114) Income from the estate rose from £20 in 1605 to £241 9s. 10d. in 1655, largely because the demesne was let. (fn. 115) Customary services and renders were still required of tenants: in 1614 one agreed to supply a man for a day's work on the demesne farm at three days' warning, to provide a fat capon at Christmas and a fat hen at the Purification, to replant three trees for every one felled for building and two for each cut for firewood, and not to take pheasant or partridge. (fn. 116) Similar covenants were required of another tenant in 1646. (fn. 117) In 1644 the lord was still receiving capons, hens, and geese from 26 tenants. (fn. 118)
Rack renting was evidently introduced on both manors in the later 17th century. By 1720 Biccombe manor had 35 tenants, and of the total rent of £536 William Shurt paid £169 for Leigh mills and the Barton. (fn. 119) By 1724 Crowcombe Studley comprised 832 a. shared among 69 tenements, the largest amounting to 47 a. (fn. 120) Holdings were gradually combined thereafter, and by 1761 there were only 19 tenants. (fn. 121) The Biccombe estate had been allowed to run down, (fn. 122) and Thomas Carew had been gradually inclosing common pasture on the hillside above the village to form the park attached to his new house. (fn. 123) James Bernard's improvements to the estate involved the creation of new and larger leasehold farms and the inclosure of most of the commons in the west of the parish. At Roebuck seven tenements were combined and a new farmhouse was built, to create a holding of 120 a. in 1767. A new farmhouse was built at Hurley in 1777 around which a farm of 119 a. was formed in 1791. At Flaxpool several tenements were united with part of the manor farm and let; in 1793 a further farm was added to create a holding of 425 a., the largest in the parish. The farmhouse, newly built in 1789, was expensively altered in 1793 'by way of inducement for a good farmer from Norfolk to come down and settle here, in order to introduce the Norfolk and other good husbandry'. The farm was for a time called Norfolk farm. In contrast several small leaseholds still survived. (fn. 124)
The common at Heddon and Crowcombe Heathfield and part of that on Quantock, 600 a. in all, was inclosed in 1780 under an Act of 1776. (fn. 125) The soil there had been described some years earlier as 'very indifferent' for want of manure, but areas already then inclosed were 'good fertile land'. (fn. 126) Nearly half the inclosed land was in tillage in 1791 although the ground in general was 'capable of very considerable agricultural improvement'. (fn. 127) Part of Heddon common was planted with wood. (fn. 128)
By 1828 both main estates had been reorganized to give four large farms and a number of small holdings: Flaxpool, Water, Hurley, and Roebuck belonged to Crowcombe Biccombe, Little Quantock, Lawford, Quarkhill, and another farm at Flaxpool to Crowcombe Studley. (fn. 129) In 1842 the Biccombe estate was 1,418 a. and the Studley estate 1,382 a., the largest farms being Hurley (253 a.) and Little Quantock (335 a.). The only large freeholds were Heathfield (81 a.), created from former common, the glebe (63 a.), Slades (57 a.), and Brewers Water with Grimes (49 a.). (fn. 130)
In 1851 there were 12 farms of over 100 a., the two largest being Roebuck (340 a.) and Quantock (270 a.). (fn. 131) During the later 19th century there were minor changes in the size of some holdings (fn. 132) and a major change when the two manors were united in 1894 to create the Crowcombe Court estate. (fn. 133) In the same period the acreage under arable declined, from 1,190 a. in 1842 to 763 a. by 1905. (fn. 134) By 1976 over 84 per cent of the farmland was under grass. (fn. 135) Dairying increased sharply, with only 60 cows in 1828 (fn. 136) and well over 1,000 in 1976. Among specialist holdings was a fruit farm at Quarkhill. (fn. 137)
The mid 14th-century fulling mill suggests early cloth manufacture, and tailors are found in the parish from 1615. (fn. 138) In 1617 a weaver founded a charity with money to be lent to clothiers and weavers of the parish, and Robert Pyke, clothier, was prosecuted in 1631 for not pressing his cloth. (fn. 139) Weavers, a dyer, and a woolcomber were working in the 17th century, (fn. 140) and a clothier was still renting the fulling mill in 1673. (fn. 141) The trade seems to have declined thereafter.
Bark from the woodlands supplied tanners in the 17th century, one of whom in 1676 leased the 40-a. Watermans wood. (fn. 142) In 1725 the bark of 500 oaks felled in the same wood for the building of Crowcombe Court was offered for sale. (fn. 143) A tanhouse at Leigh was mentioned in 1741 and a tanyard in 1809. (fn. 144) Tan House meadow survived as a field name south of Lawford in 1828, and in 1842 there was an extensive tanyard west of the village street behind the house called Timewell in 1977. (fn. 145)
A quarry had been opened by 1513. (fn. 146) A tenant of Biccombe manor in 1646 was required to do one day's work each year with a man and horse carrying tile-stones from the quarry (fn. 147) and limestone quarries at Lawford and Townsend Lane provided stone and lime for building Crowcombe Court in 1725. The bricks used for the Court were made in the parish, probably in the Brickfield, near the southern end of the village, by John and Richard Newick, brickmakers, and fired by furze cut in Crowcombe Heathfield. (fn. 148) In 1727 bricks were being fired in kilns thatched with reed and those surplus to Thomas Carew's needs were sold. (fn. 149) Carew allowed the rector clay to make bricks and gave him a kiln to rebuild part of the parsonage house in 1733. (fn. 150) A lease of the Roebuck lands in 1756 licensed the tenant to quarry stone for limeburning on the premises. (fn. 151) There were further quarries at Halsway, Little Quantock, and Triscombe, and the sites of limekilns are suggested by field names south-east of Trowbridge mill and at Lawford. (fn. 152)
Reference to other occupations include a glover in 1710, a staymaker in 1794, and a land surveyor, Charles Chilcott, practising from the parish between 1797 and 1837. (fn. 153) A horse breaker was recorded in 1836, a grocer and ironmonger had opened a shop by 1839, and there was a surgeon in 1843. (fn. 154) A veterinary surgeon was there in 1859, three resident hawkers in 1871, two road contractors and a coal dealer in 1897, and a cattle-food agent in 1914. (fn. 155)
Market and Fairs.
In 1227 Godfrey of Crowcombe was granted the right to hold a weekly market on Fridays and an annual fair on the eve, day, and morrow of All Saints (31 October to 2 November). The day of the market was altered to Monday in 1230, (fn. 156) and the market and fair tolls were included in the grant of half the manor to Studley Priory before 1247. (fn. 157) They were nominally conveyed with Crowcombe Studley manor in 1599, but both market and fair had then probably long been discontinued. (fn. 158)
Thomas Carew revived the market, probably in 1764, and provided stalls for butchers and bakers and tubs for corn and fruit free of charge. The concession was to continue for one year from 31 October, the first day of the medieval fair. By 1767 the fair had been revived and another established on the first Friday in May, principally for the sale of cattle and drapery. (fn. 159) By 1791 the market had been 'dropped for many years' although the October fair then continued. (fn. 160) A market house adjoining the Carew Arms was converted to a stable for the inn in 1799, (fn. 161) and no later reference to either fair or market has been traced.
The 14th-century cross at the south-eastern end of the borough may mark the site of the medieval market.
Two mills were mentioned in 1342, and a water grist mill formed part of the Crowcombe Biccombe manor in 1349. (fn. 162) The latter was probably Leigh mill, leased from 1353 for the rent of one bushel of corn a week and to which the tenants owed suit of multure. The mill was ruinous in 1438–9 and the tenants had failed to scour the leat. (fn. 163) In 1641 the mill was held with a hopyard and a wood above the mill pond. (fn. 164) Manor leases by 1646 required tenants not only to grind corn and malt and make their 'pillcorn' at Leigh mill, but also to provide a man for between one and three days each year to repair the weirs and scour the leat, pond, and mill tail. (fn. 165) The miller complained in 1676 of the diversion of the mill stream as far away as Triscombe. (fn. 166) By 1745 the mill had three wheels. (fn. 167) In 1778 mill and mill house were burnt. (fn. 168) The property was rebuilt by a Stogumber miller by 1780, and was renamed New mill. (fn. 169)
In 1803, as a precaution against invasion, the miller undertook to supply two sacks of flour a day in summer and four in winter, and to bake 120 quartern loaves daily. (fn. 170) A new miller in 1840 agreed to allow water to be taken to drive a threshing machine at Roebuck Farm. (fn. 171) The mill had apparently ceased to grind by 1875. (fn. 172) The mill house, leat, and pond survived in 1977, when the house was known as Leigh Mills Farm. The mill itself, an extension of the house to the north, had long been demolished. (fn. 173)
A fulling mill on Crowcombe Biccombe manor was leased in 1353. By c. 1423 it was ruinous. It apparently continued in use until c. 1720 (fn. 174) but was not mentioned thereafter. It was described c. 1600 as at Leigh under Heddon, and field names indicate that it lay near the present Leigh Farm. (fn. 175)
There was a mill at Trowbridge near the northwest corner of the parish, in 1498–9. (fn. 176) A grist mill and malt mill called Trowbridge mills with a former dye house, converted to a kitchen, and 'fire house' were let in 1691. The mills formed part of Crowcombe Studley manor and the tenants of that estate owed suit of multure to them. The building of head weirs and sluices and failure to scour the leat were presented in the earlier 18th century, and a sluice at Water Farm prevented the mill from grinding between 1741 and 1742. (fn. 177) The mill was held with Quarkhill farm in 1897 and later with Kingswood mill in Stogumber. (fn. 178) After a fire c. 1914 had gutted the mill the upper part of the building was demolished (fn. 179) and in 1977 the remainder was used as a barn. The course of the leat can be traced, and apparently drove an overshot wheel.
Thomas Colford held a 'little' mill on Crowcombe Biccombe manor in 1414, (fn. 180) not afterwards recorded.
Apart from a plot of arable at Leigh, regarded as part of Whitley hundred in 1353, (fn. 181) the parish was evidently divided in the Middle Ages into two tithings corresponding to the two manors. (fn. 182) Crowcombe later constituted a single tithing within Williton hundred, the tithingman being chosen at both manor courts. (fn. 183) Godfrey of Crowcombe was said to have withdrawn suit from the hundred court and the gift of his manor to the prioress of Studley before 1247 was quit from suit of court to the county, sheriff's tourn, and hundred. (fn. 184) The Studley estate in 1276 was thus described as a 'free manor', with right to gallows and assize of bread and of ale (fn. 185) and in 1327 was considered among the free manors. In 1370 Studley claimed the assize, the chattels of felons and fugitives, waifs and strays, and infangthief and outfangthief, although the Crown challenged those liberties. (fn. 186) In the 16th century the same estate claimed strays from all commons in the parish. (fn. 187)
A court book for Crowcombe Studley manor covers the period 1717–42. The court, described as court baron, sometimes with view of frankpledge, met usually once a year in October, and a constable, portreeve, and tithingman were elected annually. (fn. 188) The constable, mentioned from 1642, had responsibility for the repair of the pound, the stocks, and the armour of the parish. (fn. 189)
Court rolls and books for the manor of Crowcombe Biccombe survive in fairly complete series for the years 1350–66, 1400–26, 1451–85, 1494– 1508, 1513–14, 1527, (fn. 190) 1606, 1648–55, and 1674– 81, (fn. 191) and court papers for 1788–1839. (fn. 192) In the 14th century three courts were held each year, decreasing to two lawday courts usually held at Hockday and Michaelmas by the 15th century. Court business was largely concerned with dilapidated buildings and breaches of common rights and customs, particularly taking furze and felling trees, and scouring and maintaining watercourses. The courts appointed a hayward until the mid 17th century, a tithingman until 1832, and one portreeve, and occasionally two, between 1363 and 1495. The court was apparently still being held in the church house in 1876. (fn. 193)
There were generally two churchwardens and four, but by 1642 two, overseers of the poor. The overseers were again increased to four in number by 1742, after which the churchwardens sometimes served as additional overseers. (fn. 194) Waywardens were mentioned in 1689 and two were nominated during the period 1839–45. (fn. 195) An assistant overseer was appointed between 1820 and 1830. (fn. 196) The vestry issued badges to the poor in 1707, agreed in 1767 to prosecute the overseers if they relieved any pauper not wearing a badge, (fn. 197) and subsidized the emigration of poor families to Australia in 1849 and 1854. (fn. 198)
The former church house was used as a poorhouse by 1696 and two cottages at its southern end were later devoted to the same purpose; during the 18th and 19th centuries the ground floor housed paupers. (fn. 199) The parish joined Williton poor-law union in 1836, was part of Williton rural district from 1894, and since 1974 has been in West Somerset district. (fn. 200)
A rector of Crowcombe was mentioned in 1226. (fn. 201) Godfrey of Crowcombe granted the advowson of the rectory in or before 1247 with his half of the manor to Studley Priory. (fn. 202) After the Dissolution the patronage descended with the manor of Crowcombe Studley, though the presentation was rarely made by its owners. (fn. 203) Parliamentary commissioners appointed a rector in 1645. (fn. 204) At least one turn was granted to John Farthing, rector 1672–97, and in 1707 two turns were given to John's son Samuel, rector 1700–32. Samuel's son-in-law Henry Lockett, rector 1732–91, surrendered the second turn in 1773. (fn. 205) The lord of the manor presented twice in 1779 and in 1806 Thomas Galley presented his own son. (fn. 206) The advowson was not sold to the Carews with Crowcombe Studley manor in 1894, and by 1901 had been conveyed to Mrs. E. M. Young of Crowcombe House, who presented her son H. C. Young in that year. Young succeeded his mother and on his death in 1943 he was followed by his brother and sister, Dr. B. Michell Young and Miss L. Young, as joint patrons. They held the advowson until c. 1949 when it was transferred to the bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 207) The living was held with Bicknoller from 1975, and both livings were united with Sampford Brett in 1978. The patronage of the united benefice is exercised jointly by the bishop and the vicar of Stogumber. (fn. 208)
The church was valued at £10 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 209) In 1535 it was assessed at £33 5s. 8½d., but in 1576 it was said to be worth £60 though the patron was apparently holding the benefice at farm and paying the rector £22 a year. (fn. 210) The living was valued at £100 c. 1668 and in the mid 18th century at over £150. (fn. 211) In 1815 the income was given as 'over £150' and between 1861 and 1883 as £450. (fn. 212)
The tithes of corn with oblations and obventions were worth 53s. 4d. in 1341. (fn. 213) By 1535 predial tithes produced £16 12s. 10d., tithes of wool and lambs £8 0s. 4d., and personal tithes and oblations £6 12s. 6½d. (fn. 214) In the mid 17th century claims were made to mortuaries and to moduses of 4d. an acre on ancient meadow and 1d. in the shilling on rents paid by 'foreigners'. (fn. 215) Tithes were farmed by the early 18th century, but disputes c. 1760 followed the rector's attempt to collect them for his own use. (fn. 216) In 1826 the tithes were worth £275 net and included customary payments on stock. They were commuted in 1842 to a rent charge of £358 10s. (fn. 217)
The glebe was valued at 40s. in 1341 and 1535, (fn. 218) and there were 30½ a. by 1606. (fn. 219) Allotments of nearly 36 a. at Crowcombe Heathfield in lieu of common pasture made a total of 63 a. in 1842. (fn. 220) Sales in the 1930s had reduced the total to 45 a. by 1940. (fn. 221)
A parsonage house was mentioned in 1385. (fn. 222) In the early 17th century it comprised entry, hall, parlour, kitchen, buttery, and cellar or inner buttery, with six rooms above, together with farm buildings, some of which were described as lying 'at both ends' of the house. (fn. 223) The south front was rebuilt in brick in 1733, evidently after a fire. The house was extended, refitted, and reroofed in the 18th and 19th centuries (fn. 224) but retains a medieval hall of three bays and the remains of an arch-braced roof. It was sold in 1976 (fn. 225) and has since been known as the Old Rectory.
Geoffrey Lavington, rector, was licensed to be absent to study in 1320 and his successor John de Shiplake, rector from 1326 until 1331 or later, was licensed to be absent in Hugh Audley's service. (fn. 226) John Caam had licence to let his church to farm in order to study at Oxford in 1335 and James de Molton was granted a papal licence to hold the prebend of Howden (Yorks. E. R.) with the rectory in 1343. (fn. 227) William Tybard, rector 1459–70, held the living while president of Magdalen College, Oxford, and occupying two other benefices. (fn. 228) John Baker, rector 1513–20, was also canon of Salisbury and held at least three other livings while rector. (fn. 229) In 1523 Crowcombe was the first living to be given to Richard Pates, later bishop of Worcester. (fn. 230) In 1577 it was claimed that the rectors had not resided for 30 years. (fn. 231) Robert Kingman, rector 1641–5, and also rector of High Ham, was deprived of Crowcombe by the parliamentary commissioners in favour of Henry James, rector 1645–73, who had suffered financially as vicar of Kingston St. Mary because of the sieges of Taunton. (fn. 232) Henry Lockett, rector 1732–91, was also rector of Clatworthy and prebendary of Wells. He acted as unpaid bailiff for his friend, Thomas Carew of Crowcombe Court, until 1755 when they quarrelled over the conduct of Carew's steward. Their petty disagreements, continuing until Carew's death in 1766, involved most facets of parochial life, including tithes, charities, and school. (fn. 233) Charles Galley, rector 1806–21, was non-resident because of his wife's illness. (fn. 234) Under Daniel Campbell, rector 1827–53, the living was sequestrated for debt, and in 1828 the patron, Robert Harvey, apologized to G. H. W. Carew for 'having introduced such an unpleasant rector among you'. (fn. 235) Edwin Hotham, rector 1853–75 and related to Harvey, was nonresident because of sickness from 1864 until 1869. (fn. 236)
Chaplains were serving the parish in 1450 and 1468, and there was a curate and a stipendiary in 1532. (fn. 237) There were two guild lights in 1530 and in 1534 there was a brotherhood attached to the church. (fn. 238) In 1577 the church lacked a bible of the 'largest volume' and quarterly sermons. (fn. 239) During the 18th century communion was celebrated three or four times a year. (fn. 240) By the early 19th century services were held twice on Sundays, and there were sermons at each by 1840. (fn. 241) The dilapidated state of the chancel had been twice presented by 1843 but no repairs could be undertaken while the rectory was under sequestration. (fn. 242) The living was still under sequestration in 1851. In that year 164 people attended morning service and 227 were present in the afternoon. (fn. 243) By 1870 there were monthly celebrations of communion. (fn. 244)
Hugh Biccombe and the prioress of Studley were supposedly the founders of a charity which included the later church house, and which may therefore have existed by 1459 when Hugh died. (fn. 245) A house and garden opposite the churchyard, jointly held by the lords of the two manors, were granted to a group of parishioners in 1514, and a condition was made in 1515 that the house should be rebuilt within four years. (fn. 246) The new building, known as the parish or church house, was sublet between 1657 and 1669 and was later used as a poorhouse and a school. (fn. 247) In 1908 the first floor became a parish room and the ground floor a men's institute and reading room. The property was requisitioned for an army canteen between 1940 and 1944, but by 1977 the whole building was used as a parish hall. (fn. 248) The building, of local red sandstone, retains evidence of its original use in the separate entrances on the ground floor for the brewery and bakery and the external stair giving access to the first floor hall.
Simon of Crowcombe, perhaps a relation of the lord of the manor, was licensed in 1344 to have divine service celebrated in his oratory at Leigh. (fn. 249)
The church of the HOLY GHOST, in local red sandstone with grey stone dressings, stands in the centre of the village, beside a former entrance to Crowcombe Court. The dedication, recorded in the 18th century, was alternatively given as the Holy Trinity in 1861 and the Holy Cross in 1869. (fn. 250) The building comprises chancel with south chapel, nave with north chapel, south aisle, and south porch, and a west tower. The tower with its former spire was built in the 14th century, but the remainder, with the exception of the north chapel and the 14th-century north wall, probably belongs to the early 16th century and includes a sumptuous south aisle and fan-vaulted porch. Bench ends with folk carvings, Renaissance details, and the arms of Crowcombe, Biccombe, and Carew, include the date 1534, but were evidently added throughout the 16th century. The north chapel was built by Thomas Carew in 1655 as the manor pew above a family vault. (fn. 251) Lightning struck the church in 1725, severely damaging the 80-ft. spire, tower, and bells, the debris destroying the screen, rails, altar, and much of the glass. The present screen, rails, altar, and pulpit were made in 1729 by Thomas Parker, architect of Crowcombe Court. (fn. 252) The upper section of the former spire, placed on top of the tower until the 1950s, stands in the churchyard east of the church. A singing gallery was built by subscription in the tower arch in 1785 and removed in 1856. (fn. 253) The building was restored in 1869–70, when all the roofs were renewed following the designs of those restored after the storm of 1725. (fn. 254) The font is of early 16th-century date and carries carvings including figures probably of a prioress of Studley and a lord of Crowcombe Biccombe. A wrought iron chandelier by James Horrobin of Roadwater was given in 1974. Monuments to seven servants of the lords of Crowcombe Carew manor, 1730–1815, are set on the outside walls of the north chapel.
In the churchyard south of the church stands a 14th-century cross with a restored head and three figures identified as a bishop, St. John the Baptist, and a woman, possibly a prioress of Studley. (fn. 255)
The plate includes a paten of 1719, a large flagon of 1729, and a chalice and dish of 1734. (fn. 256) There are six bells including one of the second quarter of the 15th century perhaps by John Gosselin of Bristol and another of the period 1410–40 by Robert Norton of Exeter. (fn. 257) The parish registers date from 1641 but lack entries for the period 1642–53. (fn. 258)
Two ministers were teaching in the parish in 1669. (fn. 259) There were eight Anabaptists in 1776, and a Roman Catholic and his widow died in 1784 and 1785 respectively. (fn. 260) Private houses were registered for nonconformist worship in 1842, 1844, and 1845, the last two by the Baptist minister from Stogumber. (fn. 261) A small Baptist chapel or mission room was built in 1890 and stands in the village street at right angles to the road. It was closed in 1916, 'there being no nonconformists resident in Crowcombe'. In 1921 the Somerset Congregational Union bought a site for a chapel, but it was never built on and the land was sold in 1961. (fn. 262)
There was a schoolmaster in the parish before 1687. (fn. 263) From 1704 until 1758 the overseers paid the interest on £10 given by John Liddon to teach one or two poor children. (fn. 264) They were presumably sent to an existing school until the parish charity school was founded under the will of the Revd. Dr. Henry James (d. 1717), son of a former rector, who gave £100 to buy land. (fn. 265) The school was open in 1718 when it took 4 boys and 1 girl, the master receiving rent from land in Bishop's Lydeard. (fn. 266) A second endowment, originally made by Elizabeth Carew of Stoodleigh (Devon) by will proved in 1669 for the general benefit of the poor, was appropriated by Thomas Carew to support the school. (fn. 267) Carew himself, who had been paying the schoolmaster since 1732 (fn. 268) or earlier, in 1733 added a further endowment, and is said also to have appropriated the bread charity of William Gill. (fn. 269) In 1759 the school had 36 boys and 6 girls, (fn. 270) and Carew's endowment taught and clothed 15 boys and taught 4 other boys. (fn. 271)
By 1776 the school had 48 boys and girls of whom 15 boys were still clothed by Carew's charity. (fn. 272) The master, James Bowden, had in the 1750s and probably later also taken private pupils. (fn. 273) By 1787 the income from the James charity was being used to teach 12 girls, and the endowment continued to be so used until after 1835 when there were 21 girls, of whom a few were taught writing by the schoolmaster (fn. 274) and the rest taught to read and work by mistresses. (fn. 275)
By 1835 the parish had four day schools with a total of 97 pupils, and the James and Carew charities supported three, paying for 36 pupils. (fn. 276) A free Sunday school, supported by voluntary contributions and founded by 1825, (fn. 277) took 10 boys and 20 girls. (fn. 278) Two schools for girls continued to be supported by the James charity in the 1840s, (fn. 279) and in 1847 with a third dame school taught a total of 72 children; the Sunday school then had 49 children. (fn. 280) In 1851 there were 57 Sunday school children at morning and afternoon services at the parish church. (fn. 281) From 1854 the two charities supported the sole remaining school, continuing to clothe 15 boys and paying cash to the schoolmaster until 1882. The charities subsequently augmented school funds and in 1977 the income was spent on school prizes. (fn. 282)
In 1872 the day school was transferred from the upper floor of the church house to a new building on the southern edge of the village, and was thereafter linked with the National Society. (fn. 283) Average attendance was 75 in 1883 but fell to 55 in 1889. There were 69 children on the books in 1902 and numbers declined gradually to 49 in 1940. From 1951 children over 11 travelled to school in Williton. The number on the books fell to 37 in 1970 and from 1971 children left at the age of 9; there were 29 on the books in 1976. (fn. 284)
In 1789 John Tucker transferred his boarding school from Cannington to Crowcombe. (fn. 285) It may have occupied the cottage called Timewell and its neighbour, traditionally said to have been a private boarding school.
Brympton school, an independent boys' boarding school formerly at Brympton d'Evercy, occupied Crowcombe Court between 1974 and 1976. (fn. 286)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
In 1617 William Couch, a Crowcombe weaver, gave £60 to be lent out at interest to provide an income of 4d. a week each for four poor spinsters or widows. (fn. 287) By 1720 careless administration had reduced the income and from 1771 efforts were made to recover the capital. The overseers retrieved £50 and gave it to James Bernard, lord of Crowcombe Carew, who agreed to pay 4 per cent interest. The trust descended with the manor until 1833 when £50 was returned to the overseers and later deposited in a savings bank. (fn. 288) It has since been lost.
Elizabeth Carew of Stoodleigh (Devon) left £200 by will proved in 1669 for the benefit of the poor of Crowcombe. Land called Tuthill in Bishop's Lydeard was bought in 1673, the income to be divided between Stoodleigh and Crowcombe. By 1733 the Crowcombe income was converted to support a charity school for boys. (fn. 289)
William Gill of Flaxpool by will proved in 1725 left £2 to the overseers, the interest to be spent in buying bread for eight poor people at Easter. (fn. 290) For a time in the 1730s it was said to have been diverted for the charity school. Four widows received bread in 1938 but the charity has since been lost. (fn. 291)
Mary Anne Luxton, sister of T. G. W. Carew, by will proved in 1880 left £100, the interest to buy blankets for the six oldest deserving poor at Christmas. Elizabeth Carew (d. 1881) left c. £100 for the poor and Elizabeth Louisa Carew (d. 1887) left £100 to provide money or clothing for the six poorest parishioners. These charities have provided groceries, gifts, and a Christmas party but in 1977 were not distributed regularly. (fn. 292)