A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1992.
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The ancient parish of Chilton, known by 1329 as Chilton Trinity, (fn. 1) lay in three principal and several smaller parts. The principal parts were the three Domesday estates of Pignes, Huntstile, and Idstock (or Edstock), to the last of which Beere had been united by common ownership by the later 14th century, although Idstock church had perhaps been independent in the early 13th century. (fn. 2) Chilton village, 2 km. north of Bridgwater, lay largely outside Chilton parish, only the church and Chilton Farm standing within its ancient boundaries. The largest area of the parish lay 3 km. north and north-east of Bridgwater on both sides of the Parrett, on the rich alluvial land which included the site of the 11th-century settlement of Pignes, a name which survived as a tithing into the 19th century. (fn. 3) Six km. WNW. from Chilton church, between Cannington and Fiddington parishes, lay Idstock tithing, otherwise known as Idstock and Beere. Six km. SSW. from Chilton church was Huntstile tithing, bounded on the west by Goathurst, into which it was later absorbed, and on the east by North Petherton. Other parts of Chilton parish lay within or adjacent to Wembdon parish, including allotments in Chilton common, north and north-west of Chilton church. About 1840 the tithe survey reckoned the ancient parish at 1,012 a. excluding the 304 a. of Idstock and Beere, then described as an extra-parochial chapelry (fn. 4) but in fact part of Chilton parish; (fn. 5) Idstock and Beere were sometimes regarded in the 19th century as part of Cannington and were treated as a separate civil parish between 1866 and 1886, when, with 3 houses and 21 persons, they were added to Cannington and (a small part) Otterhampton. Also in 1886 Chilton Trinity lost Huntstile, with 3 houses and 27 persons, to Goathurst and an uninhabited part to Wembdon, and gained parts of Bridgwater (9 houses, 44 persons), Durleigh (8 houses, 36 persons), and Wembdon (1 house, 9 persons). Those changes reduced the area of the parish from, apparently, 1,381 a. to 1,143 a. excluding foreshore and tidal water. In 1907 an uninhabited area of 32 a., called Chilton Common (it had presumably formed part of the common) and regarded as extra-parochial until 1858 when it became a civil parish, was added to Chilton Trinity, reckoned as 1,183 a. in 1911. (fn. 6) The parish was reduced in area to 799 a. in 1933, gaining 75 a. from Bridgwater Without and losing 436 a. east of the Parrett to Bridgwater Without and 23 a. to Puriton. (fn. 7) In 1971 the area of the parish was given as 324 ha. (801 a.); (fn. 8) the small increase since 1933 not accounted for by boundary changes, like that between 1886 and 1911, was presumably the result of reclamation of foreshore.
Most of the ancient parish lay on alluvium below the 15-m. contour. Chilton church and Chilton Farm, like the rest of Chilton village, occupy a small island of Keuper marl. Idstock and Beere, on gradually rising ground reaching just above the 30-m. contour, are partly on Keuper marl with a narrow ridge of sandstone. Huntstile is in a much steeper landscape, as its name may indicate, (fn. 9) on ground rising from 30 m. to 160m., from Keuper marl at its lower end through Upper Sandstone to Ilfracombe slates. (fn. 10)
The boundaries of the ancient parish were irregular. Those of Huntstile followed two streams flowing down from the Quantocks; Idstock's were in part two brooks and, at its western end across Wildmoor, a line of boundary stones. (fn. 11) The eastern boundary of the main part of the parish, around Horsey Level, may have followed one or more earlier courses of the Parrett. A silted-up meander south-east of Chilton village may outline the Newland reclaimed by the later 14th century. (fn. 12) On the west bank near Pignes farm 12 a. were reclaimed in the 1620s and more in the next decade, but tidal changes resulted over 30 years in the loss before 1637 of c. 40 a. on the west bank and a gain of only 4 a. on the east. (fn. 13) A petition from some local gentry in 1664 to remove a meander 'running a great compass' about Pignes may not have been successful, (fn. 14) and another by the owner of the farm, Sir John Morton, was opposed 'for silly reasons' by the town of Bridgwater. In 1673 Morton is said to have hired some sailors, who made a cut through the isthmus in a single night. (fn. 15) A second meander known as Viking's pill, also around part of Pignes and Horsey, was cut off by tidal action in 1679 and in consequence some 120 a. of Chilton, Bawdrip, and Puriton were reclaimed. (fn. 16)
Iron-age and Roman pottery have been found at Chilton village. (fn. 17) Chilton, Pignes, Huntstile, Beere, and Idstock were all settled by 1066. (fn. 18) The name Chilton implies a settlement for younger sons, Idstock a religious site or a secondary settlement, and Beere a woodland pasture. (fn. 19) Pignes, on the west side of the river, may suggest a meander. The settlement at Pignes may have been reduced to a single farm in the 14th century and was apparently abandoned, probably because of flooding, before 1723. (fn. 20) South of Pignes but on the east side of the Parrett stood buildings described in 1822 as Ship Pool. (fn. 21) Apparently the same site had become Hawker's (now Hawkhurst) Farm by 1829. (fn. 22) Chilton village increased in size after the establishment of the brick and tile works c. 1900 (fn. 23) and again, from residential development, in the 1970s. Houses in the village in the 17th century included two of standard three-roomed plan, one with an additional porch entry with a room above. (fn. 24) Chilton Farm is a large 19th-century building in brick, comprising a south range with two north wings behind. Beere Manor Farm and Huntstile are more substantial. (fn. 25)
No direct evidence of open-field arable has been found in the parish. In the earlier 16th century, however, there were small closes at Idstock and Beere which might have originated as arable strips. (fn. 26) Large pasture grounds evidently lay beside the Parrett by the later 14th century. (fn. 27) In the earlier 16th century some Idstock tenants had small pieces of meadow in Combwich marsh and Wildmoor in Cannington. (fn. 28) Chilton farmers had rights in Chilton common, formerly Wildmarsh, north and northwest of Chilton village. (fn. 29) Small detached parts of the parish near Harp common and Perry green, both locally in Wembdon, suggest origins in common rights there. There were 7 a. of underwood at Idstock in 1086 (fn. 30) and 6 a. of high wood and pasture at Huntstile in 1325. (fn. 31) In the early 18th century there were over 8,000 elms at Beere. (fn. 32) Huntstile was well wooded in the mid 18th century; and more trees were planted there in 1778 to form the eastern edge of Halswell park. (fn. 33)
There was a licensed tippler in the parish in 1674-5. (fn. 34) The Chilton revel was held on Trinity Monday in the later 17th century. (fn. 35) In the later 19th century a rifle range occupied part of Horsey Level in the parish. (fn. 36)
In 1563 there were 8 households at Chilton, 6 at Huntstile, and 2 at Idstock. (fn. 37) Fourteen houses were recorded in 1664-5 (fn. 38) and 14 families in 1749. (fn. 39) There were said to be only three houses in the parish c. 1788, a figure which probably omitted Idstock and Huntstile. (fn. 40) In 1801 the population was 50. It rose from 49 in 1831 to 74 in 1841, fell to 52 in 1851 and 53 in 1861, and rose again to 88 in 1881. The boundary changes of 1886 brought a net gain of 62 persons. The population of the then civil parish remained stable until 1921, when it was 156, rising to 182 in 1931. That of the parish as constituted in 1933 was 146 in both 1931 and 1971, but rose to 282 in 1981. (fn. 41)