A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 7, Bruton, Horethorne and Norton Ferris Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1999.
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The principal part of the ancient parish of Shepton Montague lies at the northern edge of Norton Ferris hundred adjoining Bruton parish. (fn. 1) It is shaped like an irregular crescent c. 5.5 km. from west to east and no more than c. 1.5 km. deep, and comprises the hamlets of Higher and Lower Shepton in the west, Knowle in the centre, and Stoney Stoke, formerly Stoke Holloway, in the east. Two detached areas of the parish further east were formerly within the bounds of Selwood forest. (fn. 2) Interlocking boundaries in the south with Charlton Musgrove and Wincanton, and in the north with Bruton (fn. 3) suggest the existence of a large royal manor based on Bruton before the Conquest. (fn. 4) Some detached fields in the north were surrounded by Bruton parish, and their precise boundaries were agreed only in 1811. (fn. 5) They were not considered part of Shepton in 1839. (fn. 6) The area of the parish was given in 1839 as 2,428 a. (fn. 7) The two detached areas were transferred, with Folly Cottages (2 houses, 10 persons), to Charlton Musgrove in 1884-5, leaving a total of 2,168 a. in 1891. (fn. 8) A further transfer to Charlton Musgrove in 1982 left a total of 867 ha. (2,142 a.) in 1991. (fn. 9)
Much of the northern and part of the southern boundaries of the main part of the parish follow streams which flow into the river Brue. From the main stream and its feeders in the centre of the parish below the 70-m. contour the land rises to just over 400 m. on the boundary with Bratton to the south-west and to more than 450 m. in the west above Hadspen, all on limestone and clay with Fuller's Earth. In the centre of the main part of the parish is a small ridge of Forest Marble clay just over 120 m. above O.D. The clay ridge continues north-east to Stoney Stoke, where at a height of 114 m. it merges into Cornbrash limestone. The detached areas further east lie first on undulating ground over Oxford Clay and then on clay and greensand rising sharply to 793 m. on the Selwood ridge. (fn. 10)
The principal route through the parish seems to have been that from Bruton through Stoney Stoke to Wincanton and Gillingham (Dors.). That part within the parish was turnpiked by the Bruton trust in 1831 when Stoney Stoke was by-passed. (fn. 11) An ancient east-west route, presumably linking Stoney Stoke with Knowle and Lower and Higher Shepton, was diverted south in the earlier 18th century when Redlynch park was being planted. (fn. 12) Its route west from Higher Shepton has been traced to Yarlington. (fn. 13) A second westward route, from Redlynch, crossed into the parish at Lower Shepton and, bypassing Higher Shepton, followed the parish boundary towards Hadspen in Pitcombe. (fn. 14) There is some doubt when it was taken over by the Bruton trust, but certainly before 1831 when the improved route from Castle Cary to Bruton avoiding Pitcombe was adopted, which included a stretch of road in the extreme north of Shepton parish built after 1770. (fn. 15) The Bruton trust in 1818 also adopted a stretch of road in the west part of the parish, providing a route to Wincanton from Castle Cary. The same trust c. 1830 took over a route south-west from Higher Shepton and extended it to Bratton. (fn. 16)
In 1861 the Dorset Central Railway built a standard-gauge track from Cole in Pitcombe to Wincanton and Templecombe, largely in a cutting across the parish east of Lower Shepton. The track, taken over by the Somerset and Dorset Railway in 1862, was doubled in 1887. The line was closed in 1966. (fn. 17)
The eastern boundary of the most easterly of the detached parts of the parish, on the flat top of the Selwood ridge, ran through a univallate Iron Age hillfort. It was known in the 13th century as Penne berwe, Penburi, (fn. 18) or Pennebury. In the 19th century it was locally called Kennewilkins or Kenwalk's castle. (fn. 19) The site was ploughed in 1780. (fn. 20)
Shepton, Knowle, and Stoke had been established by the mid 11th century (fn. 21) and by the late 15th century Shepton had become two distinct elements, known then and in the 16th century as West and East Shepton, (fn. 22) and later as Higher, Upper, or Over and Lower Shepton. (fn. 23) An alternative name for Higher Shepton in the late 14th century seems to have been West Street. (fn. 24) Higher Shepton may have included the site of the manor house, (fn. 25) Lower Shepton the church. A tenement known as Southtown was mentioned in 1589. (fn. 26) In the 1780s Lower Shepton comprised 10 houses, Upper Shepton 22 houses. At the same date there were 10 houses at Knowle and 14 at Stoney Stoke. (fn. 27) Stoke Farmhouse, Stoney Stoke, dates from the 17th century and the former smithy from the later 18th century. Higher Shepton includes several farmhouses and cottages rebuilt by the Phelips family between 1897 and 1907.
The four arable fields of Shepton, named east, west, north, and south because of their positions around Higher and Lower Shepton, survived into the 17th century. (fn. 28) A single open arable field is mentioned at Stoney Stoke in the mid 16th century, and one at Knowle in 1638. (fn. 29) There was common meadow in the late 16th century on Shepton moor, at the southern edge of the parish, south-east of Lower Shepton, (fn. 30) and also on Knowle moor, which was shared with Charlton Musgrove. The rights on Knowle moor were by 1839 represented by two detached fields in Charlton parish. (fn. 31)
There was a park at Knowle in 1397, (fn. 32) perhaps deriving from grants of free warren made in 1314 and 1317. (fn. 33) In 1569 the park was a mile in compass. (fn. 34) Redlynch park, north of Stoney Stoke, was named in 1617. (fn. 35) New park was formed out of land called Barnardscombe after the disafforestation of Selwood forest in 1627- 9. (fn. 36)
The parish was well wooded in the later 11th century (fn. 37) but woodland called Shortwood at its western end, still in existence in the later Middle Ages, (fn. 38) had long ago disappeared by 1840. (fn. 39) Woodland at the eastern end of the parish comprised by 1681 a wood known as Stoke wood, the southern part of Moorwood in Bruton, and a small coppice, both later incorporated into Redlynch park. (fn. 40)
There was an inn at Stoney Stoke, later named the Swan, by 1718, (fn. 41) one of two in the hamlet licensed between 1742 and 1765. Only the Swan remained in business there in 1788. A house in Shepton village was licensed between 1742 and 1755. (fn. 42) There was an inn at Higher Shepton in 1866, probably the house called the Montague inn by 1875. (fn. 43) It was still in business in 1994.
A friendly society was founded in 1853 and was still in existence in 1886. (fn. 44)
In 1801 the population was 365. Between 1821 and 1831 it rose from 367 to 452 and remained roughly at that level until after 1871. Then followed a rapid decline, to 249 by 1901. (fn. 45) There were further falls in the decade before 1921 and since 1931; in 1981 the total was 164 and in 1991 184. (fn. 46)
About 1648 Alexander Randal, a minister, was shot dead by soldiers at Shepton Montague. (fn. 47)
In 1066 Shepton was held by Toli and Stoney Stoke by Robert son of Wimarc. In 1086 they were both owned by Robert, count of Mortain, and were then considered a single manor, held of him by Drew. (fn. 48) Richard de Montagu, son of another Drew and probably a grandson of the Domesday tenant, died in or before 1166 and his son, known as Drew the younger, succeeded to the fee. His tenant was William de Montagu, probably his brother, who held SHEPTON for a little Mortain fee in 1212. (fn. 49) William died in 1217, having survived his son Drew, and he was followed by his grandson William de Montagu, who inherited as a minor. (fn. 50) William de Montagu died in 1270 and his son Simon attained his majority in 1280. (fn. 51) Simon held a fee until his death in 1317. (fn. 52) The fee descended like Chedzoy manor in the Montagu family until the death in 1415 of Elizabeth, widow of William de Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1397). (fn. 53) It then passed to her great-nephew Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1428), and from him to his daughter Alice (d. 1462), wife of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (d. 1460). (fn. 54) By 1431 the estate was assessed at ½ fee, possibly after the separation of Knowle. (fn. 55)
Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (d. 1471), inherited the fee from his mother and it descended to his daughter Isabel (d. 1476), wife of George Plantagenet, duke of Clarence (d. 1478). Their son and heir Edward Plantagenet, earl of Warwick, was attainted and executed in 1499, and the manor reverted to the Crown. (fn. 56) Edward's sister Margaret, widow of Sir William Pole, successfully petitioned for the restoration of her estates in 1513-14 and became countess of Salis bury. She retained Shepton manor until her attainder in 1539, when it again reverted to the Crown. (fn. 57)
In 1553 William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, bought the manor from the Crown and sold it in the same year to (Sir) James FitzJames. (fn. 58) He died in 1579 leaving as his heir his niece Thomasine, wife of Thomas Turbervile. (fn. 59) Three years later Richard FitzJames, brother of Sir James, sold the manor to Henry Bossevile. (fn. 60) In 1589 Bossevile sold it to Sir Henry Berkeley. (fn. 61) Sir Henry died in 1601 and was followed in succession by his son Sir Maurice (d. 1617) and by Maurice's son (Sir) Charles. (fn. 62) Sir Charles in 1651 conveyed the manor to Hugh Wyndham, to whom a mortgage on the property had recently been assigned, (fn. 63) and ownership descended like that of Stoke Trister manor to the Napier and Phelips families. (fn. 64)
A site at the west end of Higher Shepton may be that of the manor house, abandoned by 1344. (fn. 65)
KNOWLE was owned in the later 12th century by Walter of Ashley (d. 1195) in right of his wife Felice. (fn. 66) It evidently descended like Stoke Trister manor to Henry Lorty (d. 1321) who in 1284-5 held it in chief as part of his barony. (fn. 67) His widow Sibyl was still alive in 1324, (fn. 68) but no further trace of the family interest has been found.
Simon de Montagu held the estate of Henry Lorty in the later 13th century of Cucklington or Stoke Trister barony (fn. 69) and his grandson William de Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1344), held it in chief as of Stoke Trister manor. (fn. 70) It was assigned to his widow for dower. (fn. 71) In 1397, on the death of William's son, also William, earl of Salisbury, the manor passed to John de Montagu, the latter's nephew. (fn. 72) It was forfeit to the Crown on John's attainder in 1400, (fn. 73) but in 1409 passed to his heir Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1428). (fn. 74) Thomas's daughter Alice and her husband Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (d. 1460), settled the manor in 1458 on their younger son John (cr. Marquess Montagu 1470, d. 1471) and his wife Isabel. (fn. 75) Isabel died in 1476 and her heir was her son George, duke of Bedford (d. 1483), then a minor. (fn. 76) Sir William Norris, second husband of Isabel, was given custody during the minority. (fn. 77) In 1487 the heirs of Isabel were declared to be her four daughters, (fn. 78) but no further trace of the lordship has been found.
Robert of Draycott was the terre tenant of Knowle in 1284-5. (fn. 79) He is said to have leased it to Humphrey de Waldene for life and to have been succeeded by his son John, (fn. 80) but John Champflower was holding Knowle and the hamlet of Stoke in 1316. (fn. 81) John of Draycott was alive in 1351 and was followed by his son Simon, and Simon by his daughter Eleanor, wife of James FitzJames (d. c. 1391). (fn. 82) Knowle then descended like Redlynch manor in Bruton until the death of Sir James FitzJames in 1579 (fn. 83) when his heir to Knowle, Shepton Montague manor and rectory, and half Stoney Stoke manor was his niece Thomasine, wife of Thomas Turbervile. (fn. 84) She was evidently dead by 1590 when her uncle, Richard FitzJames (d. 1595), was in possession. (fn. 85) From Richard, Knowle manor passed to his son John, who in 1618 settled it on his own son, also John. (fn. 86) In 1650 the estate belonged to George Grubham Howe (cr. Bt. 1660, d. 1676). Sir James Howe, son and heir of the last, died in 1736 and was succeeded by his nephew Henry Lee-Warner (d. 1760). (fn. 87) Henry's son, also Henry, died unmarried in 1804 and his heir was his cousin Daniel Henry Woodward (d. 1835), who assumed the name Lee-Warner in 1805. His son of the same name, a clergyman, was in possession in 1807 but by 1812 the manor had passed to Henry Stephen Fox-Strangways, earl of Ilchester (d. 1858). (fn. 88) The land, divided between Knowle Rock and Knowle Park farms and absorbed into the Redlynch estate, descended to successive earls until 1912 when it was sold. (fn. 89)
Robert son of Wimarc held Stoke in 1066 but by 1086 it seems to have been absorbed into Shepton manor. (fn. 90) It may be identified with the North Stoke mentioned in the later 13th century (fn. 91) and with an estate called Stoke Chavent, held by John Chauvente in 1335-8 as a fee of Shepton Montague manor. (fn. 92)
Hugh Lovel was holding North Stoke in 1271-80 (fn. 93) and it passed to his widow on his death in 1291. (fn. 94) His son Sir Richard (cr. Baron Lovel 1348) died in 1351 and was succeeded by Richard's daughter Muriel, wife of Nicholas Seymour, Baron Seymour. (fn. 95) Nicholas died in 1361 leaving his son a minor, and the estate, known as STOKE HOLLOWAY, was granted to Isabel, the king's daughter, from that date until 1376. (fn. 96) Nicholas, son of Nicholas Seymour, died under age later in 1361 when his heir was his brother (Sir) Richard. (fn. 97) (Sir) Richard Seymour, who came of age in 1376, and was summoned to Parliament from 1380, (fn. 98) held STOKE LANE or STOKE HOLLOWAY manor at his death in 1401 (fn. 99) and his widow held it in dower until her death in 1410, when her heir was her infant grand-daughter Alice. (fn. 100) The manor descended like Wincanton manor from Alice's husband William, Lord Zouche (d. 1462), to John, Lord Zouche. John was attainted in 1485 and the manor was granted in the following year to Sir William Willoughby (d. 1513). (fn. 101) Richard, Lord Zouche (d. 1552), had evidently recovered the estate by 1551 (fn. 102) and seems to have settled it like Wincanton on his younger sons Richard and Charles. The younger Richard held half the manor in 1555, (fn. 103) and in 1558 conveyed it to Sir James FitzJames (d. 1579). (fn. 104) In 1570 Charles conveyed his half to William Mogg alias Kyne. (fn. 105)
That half conveyed to William Mogg, known as STOKE HOLLOWAY or STONEY STOKE, descended on his death in 1597 to his heir John. (fn. 106) John, or another of the same name, conveyed it to John Keene in 1682, and John Keene to Charles Brawne in 1701. (fn. 107) Charles Brawne by will dated 1702 gave the half share to his son, also Charles, who in 1723 leased it to his brother Stephen. From Stephen's wife Mary, daughter of Robert Baker, ownership passed to various members of the Baker family from whom the earl of Ilchester bought it in 1768 to add to the other half he had acquired before 1756. (fn. 108)
Sir James FitzJames was succeeded in the other half in 1579 by his niece Thomasine, wife of Thomas Turbervile. (fn. 109) Richard FitzJames, her uncle, was in possession by 1590 and his son John sold it in 1617 to Sir Robert Gorges. (fn. 110) The half descended with Redlynch, (fn. 111) although no reference has been found to lordship after 1812. (fn. 112)
Probably between 1166 and 1169 Alice de Piro gave the church to the canons of Bruton and Richard de Montagu added 40 a. of land. (fn. 113) The second grant was confirmed between c. 1174 and 1184 (fn. 114) but may not have been permanent since c. 1216 William de Montagu confirmed to the canons 'so much as belongs to the patron', and in 1235 Master Adam de St. Edmund, archdeacon of Oxford, was evidently compensated for loss of the rectorial estate. (fn. 115) The rectory, which was almost entirely tithes and which had been farmed by the FitzJames family before the dissolution of Bruton abbey, passed to the Crown and continued to be let. (fn. 116) In 1553 it was sold to William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, and was by him assigned in the same year to (Sir) James FitzJames. (fn. 117) Sir James died in 1579 and in 1582 his brother Richard sold the rectory 'for a great sum' to Silvestra Cottington, later the wife of Robert Daccombe. (fn. 118) Daccombe and his wife sold it to William Horton in 1592. (fn. 119)
In 1601 Horton sold the rectory to John Farewell (d. 1616) of Holbrook in Charlton Musgrove, (fn. 120) and it descended like Holbrook to Christopher Farewell. (fn. 121) In 1714 Sir Stephen Fox bought the rectory from Farewell in order both to increase the salary of the minister and also to support a charity school at Redlynch. (fn. 122) Ownership descended to successive owners of the Redlynch estate. (fn. 123) In 1839 Henry Stephen FoxStrangways, earl of Ilchester (d. 1858), received most of the tithes in the parish. (fn. 124)
Land called Barnardscombe in Selwood forest, said to measure 300 a., (fn. 125) was owned by Richard FitzJames in 1582 and by 1648, after disafforestation and the construction of a house there, had come to be known as New Park. (fn. 126) Ownership of the park descended like Bruton manor through the Berkeley family to the Hoares, and by 1839 it was held with Lower Stavordale farm in Wincanton. (fn. 127) New Park farm in the later 18th century measured 282 a. and later 243 a. (fn. 128) In 1892, when it passed from the Hoares to the Revd. L. R. M. Leir, it measured 194 a. and included some woodland. It was sold by R. M. Leir in 1920. (fn. 129)
A 'newly erected' house at Barnardscombe was mentioned in 1623, (fn. 130) and was said to be 'very fair'. (fn. 131) In 1664-5 the house was taxed for 16 hearths and was later described as of brick with stables, barns, and several large fishponds. (fn. 132) Some building was carried out there in the 1770s and 1780s, in part using materials from Bruton Abbey. (fn. 133) In 1793 the contents of the house were sold on the death of Hugh Clifford, Baron Clifford, the lessee. (fn. 134) The house was demolished after 1840 (fn. 135) and by 1863 the stables were converted to cottages. (fn. 136) The park was uninhabited in 1881. (fn. 137)
The three Domesday estates of Shepton, Stoney Stoke, and Knowle, all held by Drew of Montacute, comprised together land for 12 ploughs. There were 11 teams, of which 5 were on the demesne of nearly 5 hides. There were in total 50 a. of meadow, mostly at Shepton, 19 villani, 13 bordars, 1 cottar, and 14 servi. Stock comprised 2 riding horses, 4 cows, 7 beasts, 60 swine, and 260 sheep. There was woodland on each of the estates, measuring 10 furlongs by 5 furlongs, 4 furlongs by 3, and 2 a. (fn. 140) Stoke had been added to Shepton before 1086 but both it and Knowle remained separate manors. (fn. 141)
In 1254 Knowle manor was valued at £13 12s. 8d. of which nearly half came from rents and a quarter from the value of works. Demesne arable was assessed at 1 carucate and there was some underwood. (fn. 142) In 1270 Shepton manor was said to be worth only £5. (fn. 143) By 1320 Knowle was estimated at 154 a. of which half that year was fallow and the rest produced wheat, oats, and beans; income from rents and woodland was substantial. (fn. 144) During the winter of 1320-1 much of the wheat crop was delivered to the sheriff at Bridgwater, 47 a. were sown with oats, more than half bought in, and beans were bought and sown on 5 a. Maslin and small quantities of oats were given to a drover and a harrower. (fn. 145) By 1344 Knowle manor was extended at £9 2s.; (fn. 146) receipts were £7 15s. 4d. in 1360-1, £4 6s. in 1397-8, and £5 17s. in 1398-1400. (fn. 147)
In the 1330s there appears to have been a sheep flock on Shepton manor and in 1339 searchers of carcasses found 18 dead of murrain. (fn. 148) In 1355 there were 21 such deaths. (fn. 149) In 1354-5 the decay of 14 or 15 tenements and the sale of plots for short-term sowing or winter pasture suggests emergency measures to raise cash in face of lack of labour or vacant holdings. (fn. 150)
A freeholding called Botevylestenement in Shepton manor, named after William de Bettevill, clerk, tenant in 1344, (fn. 151) in 1401 comprised 80 a. of arable, 5 a. of meadow, and 16½ a. of pasture with some woodland. (fn. 152) A similar freehold was occupied by John de Chauvente by 1335; (fn. 153) by 1400 it was held with Stoke Holloway manor and comprised 3 messuages with a virgate of land, 360 a. of arable and 8 a. of meadow, all let to a single tenant on a 20-year lease. (fn. 154) From 1453 a man leased 30 a. of arable at Stoke for the lives of himself and his wife. (fn. 155) In 1397, also at Stoke, a man and his seven children were manumitted. (fn. 156)
By 1484-5 Shepton and Yarlington manors were being administered as one. Rents from Shepton amounted to £16 17s. and new rents and leaseholds produced a further £7 10s. (fn. 157) In 1509-10 net income and court perquisites were reduced, (fn. 158) but in 1529-30 the total income had risen to just over £30 although arrears on the two estates were increasing. (fn. 159)
By the later Middle Ages the considerable amount of woodland recorded in the later 11th century (fn. 160) was concentrated in the eastern part of the parish, where some was considered to be part of Selwood forest. (fn. 161) By 1472 part of that woodland, called Montagu's leaze, was let for pasture while birch and alders in neighbouring Barnardscombe were sold. (fn. 162)
In 1589 much of Shepton manor, comprising the western third of the parish, was occupied by 15 copyhold arable farms ranging in size between 22 a. and 67 a. scattered across four open fields. (fn. 163) There were also 19 leaseholds. Some represented half the former demesne estate, called Cattle Land and Pen Hill, amounting to 200 a. and let to 4 tenants. The rest, also mostly former demesne, included wood pasture. (fn. 164) That half of Stoney Stoke manor conveyed to Sir Robert Gorges, by contrast, in 1617 was largely under grass; one farm was reckoned at 52 a., the four next in size at no more than 19 a. each. (fn. 165) By 1674 the estate there comprised 6 tenements paying cash rents of £3 2s. 8d., 7 harvest days worth 6d. or 1s., and 6 eggs payable on St. Thomas's day. One further tenant held a substantial farm at rack rent on an annual lease. (fn. 166)
In 1638 two closes were said to have been 'lately' inclosed out of Knowle common field. (fn. 167) In the 1660s Hugh Wyndham continued the process of inclosure on Shepton manor by arranging exchanges and by dividing and letting his share of the former Cattle Land and Pen Hill. Thus in 1668 he conveyed to Thomas Farewell 40 a. of arable 'now butted and bounded out' in exchange for land in the common arable fields. The process was probably completed c. 1674, but open field names were still in use in the 1690s. (fn. 168)
In 1641 14 men in Shepton parish had goods or land worth £20, among them members of the Greenway and Mogg families. (fn. 169) A Mogg had held land in the parish by 1543 and a Greenway at least since 1589, (fn. 170) and probably before 1540. (fn. 171) In 1661 John Mogg, then owner of half Stoney Stoke manor, headed the parish list of gifts to the king, and was followed by William Greenway. (fn. 172) By 1701 William Mogg held 3 farms with a total of 144 a., part of Shepton manor which then measured 1,016 a. with a rental of £19 17s. from 11 farms. The land was still principally arable. (fn. 173) The same estate in the 1780s was still occupied by 11 farmers and smallholders among a total of 37 tenants including cottagers. Mrs. Barbara Wilmington held 111 a., the earl of Ilchester 97 a., and Mrs. Barbara Kingston 83 a., the earl and Mrs. Kingston holding partly by lease, partly freehold. (fn. 174) Rack renting had been introduced by 1784-5, and improvements included a new orchard of 98 trees in 1771, repairs to farmhouses in 1784-5, and planting hedges in 1795. (fn. 175)
In the eastern part of the parish, land use was affected by the expansion of the Fox-Strangways estate and specifically by the creation of Redlynch park. By 1681 the former deer park comprised 30 a. of pasture north of Stoney Stoke. (fn. 176) It still remained largely pasture in 1762, but by that date land to the west had become ornamental woodland and a new deer park whose southern bounds, erected in 1748-50, took in land formerly cultivated by farmers from Stoney Stoke and Knowle. (fn. 177) Much of the woodland had been planted c. 1740, (fn. 178) and by the later 18th century that part of the park within Shepton parish was heavily wooded. (fn. 179)
By 1779 the total rental of the Fox-Strangways estate in the parish, which included the tithes, was over £336, and a few years later the estate included three dairy farms in Stoke measuring 165 a., 82 a., and 57 a. In 1797 all three tenants were prepared to accept substantially increased rents in return for repairs. The tenants of the two largest, John and Thomas Moger, with Charles Moger of a neighbouring farm in Brewham, also requested a limekiln. (fn. 180)
After the disafforestation of Selwood forest in 1627-9 attempts were made to keep it uninclosed, (fn. 181) but it became a private estate (fn. 182) and in the early 18th century supported some 20 a. of oak, ash, elm, and a few sycamores. Sir Richard Hoare's improvements at New Park after 1779 included grubbing up furze and planting hazel nuts, oats, and grass. Welsh steers were kept there in 1780. (fn. 183) By 1803 woodland there covered 155 a., but much of it had been felled by 1840. (fn. 184) In the western end of the parish c. 1782 there were over 4,300 trees in the hedges on the Phelips estate but no woodland. (fn. 185)
In the 1780s farming was thought to be better practised on the rich arable land in the parish than in some other places, for example by the hoeing of turnips. (fn. 186) The grassland at Knowle was found to be full of weeds and needed sunk fences before it could become part of Redlynch park. (fn. 187) In 1801 arable crops, grown on fewer than 400 a., were principally grain and all crops were said to be 'very abundant'. (fn. 188) In the 1830s turnips were said to do well in the west of the parish and large flocks of sheep were kept. (fn. 189) By 1839 there was twice as much grassland as arable, and over 140 a. of woodland, more than half belonging to the earl of Ilchester. (fn. 190) By 1857 the earl's woodland holding had increased to 108 a. (fn. 191) By 1905 there was only 413 a. of arable as compared with 1,498 a. of grass, and woodland amounted to 154 a. (fn. 192) By 1912 a large wood had been felled on the Redlynch estate and only 38 a. remained in the parish. (fn. 193) In 1988 the proportion of arable to grassland was roughly the same as in 1905. (fn. 194)
In 1839 the earl of Ilchester (1,066 a.) and William Phelips (763 a.) were the principal landowners, followed by Sir Henry Hugh Hoare owning 235 a. at New Park in the east and Henry Hobhouse with 63 a. in the extreme west forming part of the Hadspen estate. (fn. 195) The Hobhouse holding in the parish had begun with a reversionary purchase in 1824 and continued throughout the century. (fn. 196) The tenant farms remained largely stable in size, four of them measuring 200 a. or more until after 1871 and four more over 100 a. Welham farm had increased to 430 a. by 1881 (fn. 197) and by 1885, as a result of exchanges with the Phelips estate, Welham had become a substantial consolidated holding employing 12 men. Among its stock in 1885 were 38 shorthorn cattle. (fn. 198) The five farms on the Phelips estate, held until the 1850s mostly on leases for lives, were re-arranged for better working in 1873 (fn. 199) and by 1914, when the estate was sold, there were seven farms. (fn. 200) By 1857 there were five farms on the Redlynch estate; they survived in 1912. (fn. 201) In 1939 there were 13 farms in the whole parish (fn. 202) and in 1988 15 holdings, half concentrating on dairying. Wheat, winter barley, maize, and fodder crops were grown on 225 ha. (fn. 203)
A glover was living in the parish in the period 1636-8 (fn. 204) and a linen weaver in 1704. (fn. 205) In the 1780s there were a soaphouse, three barkhouses, and a tanyard at Stoke. (fn. 206) In 1834 14 families were said to be engaged in trade (fn. 207) but in 1867 most women were said to work in the fields when needed although most girls were employed either in service or in gloving for manufacturers in Milborne Port. (fn. 208) In the 1870s there were shops at both Shepton and Stoney Stoke and blacksmiths in both villages. (fn. 209) There were still two blacksmiths in 1939. (fn. 210)
Stone for tiles and paving was quarried north of Stoney Stoke in the 17th century and near Lushes Farm in Stoke in the 18th, and there were limekilns at Knowle and near Stoke, both of which were out of use before 1790. Clay was dug and bricks made north of Stoke from the 1680s, and marl was dug in the western part of the parish from the 17th to the 19th century. (fn. 211)
There were two mills on Shepton manor in 1086, one of which paid no rent, the other presumably working for the lord alone. (fn. 212) A mill was said to be in decay in 1354 (fn. 213) and 1484-5, (fn. 214) but was working in 1353 and 1405 (fn. 215) and may have been in use in 1623 when it was conveyed to Richard Adams. (fn. 216) In the late 18th century a millhouse at Stoke was associated with tanning. (fn. 217) Fields called Millhams and Mill Pitch or Pits north-west of Shepton church and Millhams west of Stoney Stoke survived in 1839. (fn. 218)
William de Montagu (d. 1270) withdrew suit to the sheriff's tourn and refused to pay an annual rent, but his son Simon restored both suit and rent. (fn. 219) The tithing of Shepton continued to attend the hundred court until 1627 or later. (fn. 220) Knowle and Wyke Champflower formed a tithing in Bruton hundred in 1327, possibly because John Champflower was tenant of Knowle in 1316. (fn. 221) Knowle was in Hadspen and Honeywick tithing in Bruton hundred in 1569. (fn. 222)
Courts leet for Shepton Montague manor were held four times a year in the 14th and 15th centuries, at or near the quarter days, and rolls survive for the years 1335-6, 1338-9, (fn. 223) 1353-5, 1404-5, and 1471-2. (fn. 224) By 1484-5 courts were held only twice a year. (fn. 225) There are also rolls for 1542-3 and 1547, (fn. 226) a copy from a manor court for 1719, rolls for courts baron for 1760 and 1762, and a reference to a court in 1765. (fn. 227) In 1405 a halimote court was held on the same day as the Easter leet. (fn. 228) By 1335 and until 1398 or later a court for tenants of Montagu fees outside the manor and parish was held after the manor court. (fn. 229)
Officers of the court in the 14th century were a reeve, a hayward, a shepherd, and inspectors of carcasses, and in the later 15th century woodwards. The court was concerned with maintenance of buildings, hedges, and ditches, control of strays, and offences against statutes. In the 1330s its records included losses from the sheep flock and in the 1350s sales of pasture, licensing of nativi, and the levy of chevage.
Courts were held for Knowle manor in the 13th and earlier 14th centuries (fn. 230) and rolls survive for sessions in August, September, and October 1397, the last described as a court leet. Business included fines for trespass, damage to the park, and tree felling, and there were pleas between tenants. (fn. 231)
There was a common pound for the whole parish in Over or Higher Shepton by 1628. (fn. 232) By 1764 a cottage in Stoney Stoke was let to the overseers. (fn. 233) In 1857 a building there was used as the parish coal house. (fn. 234) In 1835 the parish became part of the Wincanton poor-law union, in 1894 Wincanton rural district, and in 1974 Yeovil, later South Somerset, district. (fn. 235)
Probably between 1166 and 1169 Alice de Piro granted the church to the canons of Bruton. (fn. 236) The grant of 'so much as belongs to the patron' was confirmed c. 1216 and the patronage was confirmed to the canons of Bruton in 1236. (fn. 237) The church was presumably appropriated and a vicarage had been ordained by 1317. (fn. 238) The living remained in the patronage of the canons until the Dissolution, but after 1498 no formal institutions were made and from 1519 the living was effectively a perpetual curacy. (fn. 239) Successive owners of the rectory usually appointed curates, although Edward Burton is said to have presented in 1671. (fn. 240) Curates were regularly appointed from 1715. (fn. 241) In 1912 Giles Stephen Holland, earl of Ilchester, transferred the patronage to his trustees, the Cavendish Land Co. They conveyed it in 1913 to W. F. Pepper, and in 1914 Pepper conveyed it to the bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 242) The living was united with Pitcombe in 1929 (fn. 243) and in 1976 also with Bratton Seymour. In 1985 it became part of the Bruton and District team ministry. (fn. 244)
The living was valued in 1291 at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 245) In 1519, on the grounds of its poverty, the canons of Bruton took over the vicarial tithes and glebe and awarded the vicar a house and a pension of £8 1s. (fn. 246) to which a small piece of glebe had been added by 1535 to give a total income assessed at £8 15s. (fn. 247) In 1636 the pension of £8 was still evidently paid. (fn. 248) In 1707 the net income of the living was £26 2s. 8d. comprising glebe worth £20, tithes worth £5, and Easter dues of £2 10s. (fn. 249) In 1715 Sir Stephen Fox agreed to pay the incumbent £30 and to repair the chancel. (fn. 250) About 1796 the curate received £31 10s. (fn. 251) The living was augmented by Queen Anne's Bounty in 1803, 1820, and 1825 (fn. 252) and was worth £46 in 1815, (fn. 253) £62 net in 1829-31, (fn. 254) and £60 8s. 8d. in 1851. (fn. 255) The living was further augmented in 1863-4, (fn. 256) and the net value in 1889 was £88. (fn. 257)
In 1636 the only glebe comprised 4 a. of meadow. (fn. 258) The chaplain of Shepton had a house in 1242-3. (fn. 259) In 1519 the vicar was confirmed in possession of a house on the south side of the church by the graveyard or offered another suitable dwelling, the house to be maintained at the cost of the patrons. (fn. 260) Vicars were resident until c. 1560 or later. (fn. 261) In 1715 the patron undertook to rent a house if a cheap one could be found. (fn. 262) A house was rented from that date until 1751 (fn. 263) but by 1765 curates were living outside the parish and the house was sublet. (fn. 264) There was no benefice house in 1815. (fn. 265) A house was built between 1861 and 1866. (fn. 266) It was sold when the living was united with Pitcombe and became a private dwelling.
Osbert the chaplain was murdered by burglars in 1242-3. (fn. 267) Two canons of Bruton served successively as vicars up to 1498. (fn. 268) From c. 1560 to c. 1576 the chaplain of Redlynch served the cure 'of good will'. (fn. 269) Matthew Bulgin (d. 1669), both priest and surgeon, was curate from 1645 until his death. (fn. 270) During the later 18th century the church was served with Redlynch (fn. 271) and in 1815 the perpetual curate lived at Bruton and also served Brewham; services at Shepton were then held each Sunday, alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 272) In 1827 the curate was resident rector of Charlton Musgrove and held services each Sunday at Shepton. (fn. 273) H. C. Leaver, vicar by 1851, was resident rector at Penselwood. (fn. 274) By 1866 and until 1929 vicars were resident (fn. 275) and by 1870 services were held twice each Sunday and communion was celebrated monthly. (fn. 276) The former schoolroom at Stoney Stoke was used for services between 1894 and 1927 or later. (fn. 277)
The church of ST. PETER, destroyed by fire on 27 November 1964, (fn. 278) comprised a chancel, and a nave with a south porch tower. After the fire only the walls and the tower were left standing, and it was subsequently decided not to rebuild the chancel, but to lower the height of its walls and form a garden on its site. Demolition revealed fragments of 12th-century carved stone embedded in the walls of the 13th-century chancel. The 13th-century capitals and columns of the chancel arch and the contemporary font were destroyed in the fire. The present building, re-ordered and furnished in 1965-6 to the designs of Kenneth Wiltshire, (fn. 279) now comprises the nave of the original church, refenestrated in the later Middle Ages, with the original Perpendicular south tower. In the 18th century the nave roof was coved and the chancel roof ceiled, and a singers' gallery had a painted panelled front. (fn. 280) The north wall was also said to have been rebuilt 'in the Italian style'. (fn. 281) The building was restored in 1854 and 1893. (fn. 282) Over the entrance door is an inscription perhaps referring to St. Thomas of Canterbury. (fn. 283)
There are three bells, the first of 1661 by Robert Austen II, the second from the medieval Salisbury foundry, the third of 1620 by Robert Austen I. (fn. 284) The plate includes a cup and cover of 1573 by 'I.P.', and a paten made in 1684 and renovated in 1848. (fn. 285) The registers, which date from 1560, were extensively damaged in the fire of 1964. (fn. 286)
Recusants were reported in the parish in the late 16th century and 1629. (fn. 287) A licence was issued for an unspecified congregation in 1704. (fn. 288) Wesleyan Methodists were meeting in 1824 and a house was licensed, probably for their use, in 1829. (fn. 289) Hope Congregational chapel was opened in 1869 as a mission station from Wincanton. It was rebuilt in 1904 and was closed between 1965 and 1971. (fn. 290)
In 1818 there were two small day schools each with 12 children and a Sunday school with c. 30 children. (fn. 291) One of the day schools seems to have been run by the church by 1825, (fn. 292) and presumably became the National school, built beside the churchyard in 1846, which in 1846-7 had 25 children attending on weekdays and Sundays. There was also a school at Stoney Stoke for 30 children which was held on weekdays and Sundays. (fn. 293) By 1851 it was supported by the earl of Ilchester, and continued until soon after 1872. (fn. 294) In 1867 it was reported that an evening school for boys was held in the winter months at the vicarage house. (fn. 295) The National school was enlarged in 1895 and had 48 children on the books in 1903. By 1915 it had 21 and in 1919, when it closed, only 11. The children were transferred to Pitcombe. (fn. 296) The former school was used in 1993 as a village hall.
CHARITY FOR THE POOR
Hugh Wyndham (d. 1684) by will gave a rent charge of 10s. on his manor of Shepton Montague to be paid to the poor at Christmas. (fn. 297) Twenty people were said to be recipients in 1787-8, (fn. 298) but by 1824 the charity had been lost. (fn. 299)