Durston: Economic history

Pages 262-264

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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An estate at Durston was taxed at 2¾ hides in 1086 and comprised land for 4 teams. The demesne farm, assessed at 1 hide 1½ virgate, had 1 ploughteam and was staffed by 4 servi. Four villani, 5 bordars, and 4 cottars occupied the remainder. There were 15 a. of meadow, 20 a. of pasture, and 20 a. of wood. (fn. 1) In 1312 Durston manor comprised 300 a. of demesne arable, c. 15 a. of meadow, 30 a. of pasture in a park, 15 a. of wood, and rents totalling 40s. from 2 free and 8 customary tenants. (fn. 2) Buckland manor and Cogload, which comprise most of the low-lying land in the parish, may represent ground brought into use after the later 11th century by drainage works in and around Curry moor, at their greatest in the later 13th century. (fn. 3) In 1338 the preceptory demesne estate at Buckland comprised 268 a. of arable land, 39 a. of meadow, and rents; the priory had 3 carucates of arable and 3 a. of meadow. (fn. 4)

An agreement of the mid 13th century gave Buckland priory the tithes of a meadow in Cogload and 'la Newmede' for horses, and limited grazing on the preceptory's fields called Oxenmoor and Cowmoor, the former for 36 oxen in return for carting manure there from their farmyard. (fn. 5) By 1338 the preceptory employed a hayward, a pig keeper, and a carter. (fn. 6) In 1539 the former preceptory demesne comprised 122 a. of wheat, 112 a. of rye, 114 a. of barley, 33 a. of oats, and 1 a. of beans. A further 39 a. lay fallow for one year and 113 a. for two, 8 a. were described as 'dunged with the corn', and 12 a. as 'dunged with the fold'. There were three meadows with hay in cocks. Among the farm buildings were rooms for male and female servants, a dairy, and a lime house, and there were pens for cocks, hens, and hawks, and cider-making equipment. (fn. 7) The site of the priory in 1542 comprised 117 a., apparently of grassland, which had been arable in 1338, and 10 a. of wood, the grassland in fields enclosed by polled elms and ashes, some said to be a hundred years old. (fn. 8)

There continued to be two main estates in the parish after the Dissolution: Buckland Priors, the former preceptory lands, measured over 300 a. in 1548. (fn. 9) By the mid 17th century Durston manor was mostly divided into small tenancies on long leases, but Henry Cheeke held the demesne farm of some 106 a. (fn. 10) The same holding, known as Lodge farm by 1766, (fn. 11) measured 112 a. in 1838. (fn. 12) Buckland farm and Cogload manor measured together 450 a. in 1725, (fn. 13) and by 1838 386 a. and 68 a. respectively when the several holdings of Cogload had been combined in the hands of Mrs. Anna Gatcombe to form Cogload farm. (fn. 14)

Inventories of the 17th century indicate smallscale mixed farming with crops of wheat, barley, peas, and small orchards of apples and pears. (fn. 15) Richard Weech (d. 1679) had at least 15 a. of arable, 2 yokes of oxen, 4 horses, 2 milking cows, 2 heifers and their calves, and 4 pigs. (fn. 16) John Slocombe (d. 1677) had a flock of sheep, a mare and colt, and some pigs, and held in store bacon, barley, cider, and clover seed. (fn. 17) Henry Bryant (d. 1693) had 22 a. under corn and a flock of 22 old sheep and 15 lambs, while Edward Sherwood (d. c. 1713) combined mixed farming with his profession as a wood carver. (fn. 18) The inn in 1687 also housed a tobacco shop. (fn. 19)

In the 18th century the two farms whose land lay on the moors in the south concentrated on cattle raising. In the 1750s the Ruscombe family of Buckland fattened oxen for sale in Salisbury and London. (fn. 20) John Kinglake (d. 1809), who farmed at Cogload and also in Stoke St. Gregory, similarly traded in cattle over a wide area between North Devon, Dorset, and Hampshire, and occasionally as far away as London. The arable land at Cogload in his time produced wheat and, in 1809, flax. (fn. 21)

Tenements in Durston manor were sublet in the early 19th century: the largest was called Drakes and Honey Groves and amounted to 62 a. in 1815 when it was let for seven years for £105, the undertenant covenanting not to convert grassland for tillage. (fn. 22) By 1838 three farms ranging in size between 39 a. and 61 a., (fn. 23) Hascoll or Hascoll's, Warr's, and Frog Lane, were sublet. The names, the first two based on 17th-century tenants, (fn. 24) did not indicate a single tenant for each farm, and still in 1873 three of the six named farms were held in multiple tenancies: Warr's farm was shared by 5 tenants, Lodge by 3, Frog Lane by 2. Samuel Kidner, who actually farmed most of Lodge, was then also tenant of 4 other holdings, his total acreage amounting to 210 a. (fn. 25) By 1851 the farmer at Buckland (375 a.) employed 20 labourers and Kidner had 8 labourers. (fn. 26) Kidner was involved in the experimental use of lime dressings in the 1860s, (fn. 27) and by 1881 held 300 a. on which he employed 6 men, 3 women, and 2 boys. (fn. 28)

In 1838 the balance of land use had been slightly in favour of arable in the titheable area of the parish, (fn. 29) but by 1905 there were 603 a. of permanent grass and 418 a. of arable. (fn. 30) In 1982 arable again took the largest share, most under barley and wheat but with significant areas of rape, beans, oats, and peas, and one holding devoted to horticulture. One of the farms was a specialist dairy holding. (fn. 31)

There was a single shop in the parish by 1824. (fn. 32) In 1851 there were 3 carpenters, 2 smiths, 2 basket makers, a dressmaker, and a butcher, and a father and son described as machine makers. (fn. 33) By 1861 there were 3 shops, a wheelwright, and a boot and shoe maker. (fn. 34) One shop had closed by 1875 and there was further contraction in the 1880s. (fn. 35) A wheelwright, a newsagent, and a chimney sweep were recorded in 1923, (fn. 36) and by 1930 there survived the village stores, the post office, a wheelwright, and a blacksmith. (fn. 37) By 1931 a petrol filling station was established at Durston Elms, and guesthouse accommodation was offered there. (fn. 38) Durston Elms garage and Durston (Somerset) Woodlands (founded in 1953) (fn. 39) were in retail business in 1985.

A windmill was built on Durston manor in 1324-5. (fn. 40) It stood on a mound south of Lower Durston village once thought to be a barrow. (fn. 41)


  • 1. V.C.H. Som. i. 494.
  • 2. P.R.O., C 134/81, no. 20.
  • 3. M. Williams, Draining of the Som. Levels (1970), 55-7.
  • 4. Knights Hospitallers in Eng. 17-19.
  • 5. S.R.S. xxv, p. 15.
  • 6. Knights Hospitallers in Eng. 18-19.
  • 7. P.R.O., LR 2/62, f. 182v.
  • 8. Ibid. E 315/214, ff. 33v.-34; SC 6/Hen. VIII/3137; Hugo, Mynchin Buckland, 162-3.
  • 9. Cal. Pat. 1547-8, 267.
  • 10. S.R.O., DD/PH 28.
  • 11. Ibid. Q/REl 29/4.
  • 12. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 13. Ibid. DD/SS, bdle. 8; West Devon R.O., Acc. 69 (Parker of Saltram), lease, 1726.
  • 14. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 15. e.g. ibid. DD/SP inventories, 1646/62; 1648/51; 1684/167; 1685/28, 56A, 96; 1691/82.
  • 16. Ibid. 1679/54A.
  • 17. Ibid. 1677/11.
  • 18. Ibid. 1693/4; 1714-15/8.
  • 19. Ibid. 1679/21.
  • 20. Ibid. Q/AD 2.
  • 21. Ibid. DD/X/VEA; Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. cxxix. 161-70.
  • 22. S.R.O., DD/CH 73/3.
  • 23. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 24. Ibid. DD/SP inventory, 1668/9; ibid. Q/REl 29/4; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Som. LXXI. 2 (1888 edn.); Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xlvii. 158.
  • 25. Photocopy of sale cat. in possession of Mrs. M. Miles.
  • 26. P.R.O., HO 107/1922.
  • 27. Jnl. Bath & West of Eng. Soc. 2nd ser. xii (1864), 353.
  • 28. P.R.O., RG 11/2365.
  • 29. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 30. Statistics supplied by the then Bd. of Agric. 1905.
  • 31. Min. of Agric., Fisheries, and Food, agric. returns, 1982.
  • 32. S.R.O., D/P/durn 13/2/1.
  • 33. P.R.O., HO 107/1922.
  • 34. P.O. Dir. Som. (1861).
  • 35. P.O. Dir. Som. (1875); Kelly's Dir. Som. (1883, 1889, 1894); P.R.O., RG 11/2365.
  • 36. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1923).
  • 37. S.R.O., DD/KW 20.
  • 38. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1931).
  • 39. Local inf.
  • 40. S.R.O., DD/SAS NP 2, m. 3.
  • 41. V.C.H. Som. i. 182; Proc. Som. Arch. Soc. xcvi. 235; O.S. arch. rec. cards.