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 ancient parish of Stoke Trister lies immediately to the east of Wincanton. (fn. 1) Its second name, recorded from the 13th century, is thought to derive from the word tristra, a place for a hunting meet, (fn. 2) a suggestion supported by the close connexion between medieval lords of the manor and Selwood forest. (fn. 3) The parish, which includes the hamlet of Stoke Trister at its centre, the larger roadside village of Bayford to the north-west, and the former hamlet of Stileway to the south-west, was roughly square. It measured just over 2 km. from Riding Gate, on the edge of Leigh common in the north, to the edge of Horsington parish south of Stileway farm in the south; and from the top of Bayford hill in the west to the stream, known in 1208 as Sewardeslake, (fn. 4) which divides it from Cucklington to the east. Only that stream forms a natural boundary. The parish was increased in size by the addition of a detached part of Penselwood at Sunny Hill (2 houses, 9 persons) in 1885 and of the large detached part of Horsington parish called Horwood (7 houses, 30 persons) in 1886. In 1991 the parish comprised 670 ha. (1,090 a.). (fn. 5)
A ridge of clay and limestone, lying diagonally across the centre of the parish and known as Stoke or Coneygore hill, has governed much of the settlement pattern. It rises to just over 150 m. out of a broad valley of Oxford Clay. To the north-west, around Bayford, are areas of Cornbrash watered by a stream which flows north-west into the Cale on the Charlton Musgrove boundary. From its valley the land rises south-west up Bayford hill and north-east up Sunny Hill (136 m.) to a deposit of Forest Marble. (fn. 6)
The ancient road from Wincanton to Mere (Wilts.) and London runs through Bayford, mentioned in the 13th century, (fn. 7) and forms the northern boundary of the parish. It was turnpiked by the Wincanton trust in 1756. In 1946 it was recognised as a trunk road and was improved in 1977. (fn. 8) Its realignment within the parish, south of the original route and bypassing Bayford, was completed in 1992. Merrydown, Dewlish, Devilish, or Devenish Lane and another further north-east link Wincanton and Bayford with Stoke village. The second may have been called Sowells Lane, described in 1756 as a common market road, (fn. 9) which continues into Cucklington. Ford bridge was built at the entrance to Bayford on the London road by the early 18th century. (fn. 10) A stone bridge was built on the second lane at Sycamore Farm in 1821 to replace an earlier Sycamore bridge. (fn. 11) Breach or Beech Lane runs along the ridge from Stoke village to Leigh common. South of Coneygore Hill Stileway Lane from Wincanton through Horwood serves Stileway and joins the Stoke- Cucklington road in the south-east corner of the parish where it crosses the stream at Little Bridge. (fn. 12)
Evidence of Romano-British occupation has been found north of Sycamore Farm and possibly at Bayford, both on the north-western side of the ridge, and at its northern tip. (fn. 13) By the 1440s there were separate settlements at Stoke, Stileway, Bayford, and Leigh. (fn. 14) Stoke village, in 1547 comprised the church, manor house, and eleven farms and cottages. There were five small farms at Stileway, on the southern slopes of Coneygore Hill, in the mid 16th century. Bayford then included fifteen tenements, almost all the freeholds in the manor. (fn. 15) In the later 18th century several of the Bayford houses were 'very comfortable'. (fn. 16)
By 1547 there appear to have been six open fields in the parish, two attached to each of the three settlements. (fn. 17) Bayford west field was still common arable in 1632. (fn. 18) In the 16th century there was common meadow beside the stream flowing west from Sycamore Farm, known as Turnshes or Turneshawe, Longmead, and North mead. (fn. 19) There was a small area of common pasture on Leigh common, on the northern edge of the parish; most of the common was inclosed in 1821; (fn. 20) the rest was subject to regulation from 1913. (fn. 21)
Henry Lorty received a grant of free warren at Stoke in 1304, and hares, rabbits, pheasants, and partridges were stolen from the warren in 1333. (fn. 22) By 1566 it had been converted to pasture but a new warren had been created de campo, perhaps incorporating lynchets formerly part of an arable field. (fn. 23) A park had been made by 1208. (fn. 24) It lay in the valley immediately east of the manor house and by 1547 its 60 a. was surrounded by a pale and stocked with deer. (fn. 25) In Elizabeth's reign the pale was replaced by a double quickset hedge. (fn. 26) The park was still in existence in 1714, (fn. 27) but by 1789 had been divided into separate fields and absorbed into Stoke farm. (fn. 28)
Woodland lay on the top of the ridge in the centre of the parish where field names Grove and Marshwood survived in the 19th century although Marshwood had been converted to pasture between 1510 and 1529. (fn. 29) Musketts wood lay probably at the northern end of the same ridge and was within Selwood forest. (fn. 30)
The Bayford Good Samaritan friendly society was founded in 1800 and met at the White Horse inn. (fn. 31)
There was an inn at Bayford by 1673 (fn. 32) which was still open in 1686. (fn. 33) It was probably later called the Unicorn and stood on the north side of the road near the bridge and the later entrance to Bayford Lodge. It was still in business in 1783 but was known as the Old Unicorn in 1792. (fn. 34) By that date the name had been transferred to a house on the south side of the road, formerly known as the Peacock, which was still in business in 1992. (fn. 35) A second inn at Bayford had been licensed by 1731 (fn. 36) and by 1779 was known as the White Horse. (fn. 37) It was still in business in 1866 (fn. 38) but probably ceased trading soon afterwards. It was converted to a private dwelling and in 1992 was known as Springfield. There was another licensed house in Bayford in the 1770s and known as the Peacock in 1783. It was renamed the Unicorn. (fn. 39) A beer house at Hook near Stoke Trister village was called the Royal Oak in 1783 and may have been opened in 1770. (fn. 40) It was still open in 1875. (fn. 41)
At Christmas 1746 the Stoke Trister singers visited Redlynch House, and at Christmas 1784 the Bayford mummers performed there. (fn. 42)
About 1785 there were some 60 houses in the parish of which 30 were in Stoke and 27 in Bayford with a total of 320 inhabitants. (fn. 43) There were 336 people in the parish in 1801, 440 in 1851, and 421 in 1881. The total fell to 347 in 1911 and to 291 in 1931 and thereafter was stable, reaching 312 people usually resident in 1991. (fn. 44)
Edward III visited Stoke twice in November 1333. (fn. 45) Sir Robert Sanders (1867-1940), Baron Bayford of Stoke Trister, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries 1922-4, lived at Bayford Lodge from c. 1920 until his death. (fn. 46) Three men of the parish joined the rebellion of the duke of Monmouth in 1685. (fn. 47)
Two thegns held Stoke in parage in 1066, and in 1086 Robert, count of Mortain. Bretel de St. Clair held it of the count. (fn. 48) After the rebellion of William, count of Mortain, c. 1104 (fn. 49) his estate seems to have passed to his tenant, and became the caput of the barony of Stoke Trister or Lorty. (fn. 50) By 1212 Stoke and Cucklington together were held of the king for one fee Mortain, the then holder doing service with his body (cum corpore suo). (fn. 51) By 1380 and until 1630 or later successive owners of Stoke also claimed to hold the bailiwick, keepership, lieutenancy, or forestership of Selwood forest. (fn. 52)
Bretel de St. Clair was probably succeeded by one or more men named William de St. Clair. In 1172 the holder was Walter of Ashley (d. 1195), (fn. 53) whose wife Felice may have been a daughter of a William de St. Clair. (fn. 54) (Sir) Walter of Ashley (d. 1246), probably son of Walter and also known as Walter of Stoke, held Stoke and Cucklington in 1212. (fn. 55) Sir Walter's heir was his sister Mabel, widow of Richard Revel. (fn. 56) Sabina, Mabel's daughter and widow of Henry Lorty (d. 1242), succeeded in 1252 (fn. 57) and was followed on her death in 1254 by her grandson, also Henry Lorty. (fn. 58)
In 1254 Sabina's lands were seized by the Crown (fn. 59) but in 1259 STOKE TRISTER manor was leased by the Queen to the heir, Henry Lorty, probably then a minor. (fn. 60) Henry was evidently in full possession by 1276. (fn. 61) He died in 1321 when his heir was his son (Sir) John Lorty. (fn. 62)
In 1332 John gave Stoke with Bayford and Cucklington, then described as three separate manors, in a pre-nuptial settlement, to Elizabeth Child. Soon after John's death in 1340 Elizabeth sold the manors to Sir John Molyns, (fn. 63) who later in the year granted Stoke manor in fee to William Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1344). (fn. 64) Shortly afterwards the manor was forfeit to the Crown but was regranted to Molyns in 1345. (fn. 65) Molyns secured undisputed possession against Montagu's heirs in 1346. (fn. 66)
In 1351 Molyns sold the manor, with Bayford and Cucklington, to Roger Beauchamp. (fn. 67) Before 1379 Roger conveyed them to Sir John Arundel (d. 1379) and his wife Eleanor, Baroness Mautravers. (fn. 68) Eleanor, who married Sir Reynold Cobham (d. 1403), died in 1405, when her heir was her grandson John Arundel, Baron Mautravers (d. 1421). (fn. 69) John Arundel's heir, also John and a minor, was summoned to parliament first as Baron Arundel and in 1433 as earl of Arundel. (fn. 70) He died in 1435. Humphrey, his heir, was then a minor, and died still in ward in 1438. The manor and his other land, held in trust since 1430 and subject to the dower of his grandmother Eleanor, widow of John Arundel (d. 1421), passed with the earldom to his uncle William. (fn. 71) Eleanor, who had married successively Sir Richard Poynings and Walter Hungerford, Baron Hungerford, died in 1455. (fn. 72) The manor remained in trust in 1465. (fn. 73)
William, earl of Arundel (d. 1487), was followed in succession by his son Thomas (d. 1524), Thomas's son William (d. 1544), and by William's son Henry, earl of Arundel (d. 1580). (fn. 74) In 1559 Henry and John Lumley, Baron Lumley, husband of Henry's only surviving child, sold the manor to William Herbert, earl of Pembroke. (fn. 75) The manor descended to successive earls until 1652 when the trustees of Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke (d. 1650), sold it to Hugh Wyndham. (fn. 76) Wyndham, subsequently knighted and appointed a judge, died in 1684, (fn. 77) leaving as his heirs his two daughters, Blanche (d. 1695), wife of Sir Nathaniel Napier, Bt., and Rachel (d. 1709), wife of John Digby, earl of Bristol (d. 1698). Rachel died childless and the manor descended in the Napier family to Blanche's son Sir Nathaniel (d. 1728) and to his sons Sir William (d. 1753) and Sir Gerard (d. 1759). Sir Gerard, son of the last, died childless in 1765 leaving his Somerset estates including Stoke to his uncle Edward Phelips. (fn. 78)
The manor descended like Montacute (fn. 79) on the death of Edward Phelips in 1797 to his son William (d. 1806), to William's son John (d. 1834), to John's nephew William Phelips (d. 1889), and to William Robert, son of the last. William Robert Phelips died in 1919 and was followed in succession by his grandsons Edward Frederick (d. 1928) and Gerald Almarus Phelips (d. 1940). Gerald was succeeded by his distant cousin Cdr. Harry Phelips, great-grandson of William Phelips, rector of the parish 1812-33, and grandson of Richard Colston Phelips, rector 1833-62. Cdr. Phelips was succeeded on his own death in 1958 by his son David Edward Phelips, lord in 1992. (fn. 80)
The manor house, later known as Stoke Farm, stands on an east-facing slope above a park, with the site of the medieval parish church immediately to the north. There was evidently a house on the site in the 1330s, (fn. 81) and the present building, in rubble and squared stone, incorporates part of a house standing in 1566. (fn. 82) That house then comprised a large, single-storeyed hall of three bays, roofed with stone tiles and having a central louvre. A two-storeyed entrance porch seems to have given access to the southernmost bay. To the south was a low, two-storeyed range with a central bay window, perhaps the old parlour mentioned in 1509-10 (fn. 83) and north of the hall was a three-storeyed cross wing. A detached kitchen stood west of the main range and to the east was a walled courtyard.
Surviving timbers in the former hall and kitchen suggest that the house was built in the earlier 15th century. (fn. 84) The north cross wing may have been added later. The south range was demolished soon after 1566 and was replaced by a taller range whose ground floor room has a framed and moulded ceiling. Early in the 17th century the cross wing was removed and the hall both shortened and made narrower. Probably in the later 17th century the former kitchen was connected to the main house. (fn. 85)
At his death in 1848 Uriah Messiter owned a farm of c. 150 a. attached to Bayford Lodge. (fn. 86) By 1875 John Bradney, who bought the estate in 1871, was one of the three principal landowners in the parish. (fn. 87) He remained in possession until c. 1918 (fn. 88) and was followed c. 1920 by Sir Robert Sanders, later Lord Bayford, who held the estate until his death in 1940. (fn. 89)
The oldest part of Bayford Lodge, so named in 1802, (fn. 90) is a rear wing on the west side which may be of the 17th century. Its existence probably determined the irregularity of the five-bay front which was added to the south before 1785 and probably before 1782 for Charles Phelips. (fn. 91) There was some internal refitting in the early 19th century and in 1871 an attic floor and an eastern block were added by John Bradney. (fn. 92) In the present century a large bay has been added to the western end of the south front and the house has been divided.
There are extensive walled gardens to the west of the house and by 1792 there was a summer house. (fn. 93)
In 1086 Stoke gelded for 3 hides but there was land for 5 ploughteams. The demesne was assessed at 1½ hide and was worked by 7 servi with 1 team. Three villani, 8 bordars, and 5 cottars worked the rest of the land with 2 teams. Stock comprised 1 riding horse, 11 beasts, 20 swine, 70 she goats, and 8 unbroken mares. There were 15 a. or 16 a. of meadow and woodland measuring a league by a furlong. (fn. 94)
In 1254 the estate of Sabina de Lorty in Stoke and Cucklington, known simply as Stoke, was valued at £22 2s. 9d. The demesne farm comprised 4 carucates of arable, worth £8, small areas of pasture and gardens, and pannage rights. Rents of free and customary tenants amounted to £9 16s. 8½d.; works were worth 55s. 9½d. (fn. 95)
Under a new rental drawn up in 1424 the income of the whole manor comprised quarterly rents and commuted autumn works, together with sales of grain, cumin, eggs, and poultry paid as customary rents, and underwood and court perquisites including chevage. One third share of the manor was worth nearly £15 gross in 1442-3. (fn. 96) In the early 16th century total income included rents of nearly £40, £8 from leasing the demesne, and increased rents of over 71s. (fn. 97) Among the regular charges were the maintenance of the park and from 1509 the feeding of the deer. By 1529 the bailiff took chursets to cover the charges of the park.
In 1547 the income of Stoke manor comprised rents of 24s. 11d. and 35 eggs from 10 free tenants and £16 6s. and 55½ eggs from 27 customary, mostly copyhold, tenants. The two largest farms were the former demesne, measuring 132 a. and held on a 21 - year lease from 1546, and the copyhold estate called Leigh manor measuring 73 a. A few of the holdings were large, up to 47 a., but about half were under 20 a. including all five at Stileway. About 400 a. was in open arable fields. Musketts wood comprised 310 oak and ash trees 200 years old and the park included 1,000 oak and ash up to 500 years old. Tenants had free common for all kinds of cattle in Selwood and in Horwood. (fn. 98) In 1566 some 60 a. of grassland were described as newly inclosed. (fn. 99) A few acres had been taken from the former arable fields, the rest from the former warren and from other open pasture on the high ground, some of which seems earlier to have been woodland. (fn. 100) By that date the customary holdings had been reduced to 21, nearly half of them at Bayford. One at Stoke had increased in size to 60 a., three others were each over 40 a. (fn. 101) Inclosure continued in the early 17th century. (fn. 102)
The disafforestation and inclosure of Selwood forest in 1627-9 affected 10 freehold tenants in Stoke and Bayford, depriving them of grazing for a total of 141 rother beasts, 23 horses, and 2 colts. (fn. 103)
In the mid 17th century the manor comprised 31 tenant holdings of which the largest seven were between 32 a. and 49 a. and the total acreage was just over 500 a. All were held on leases for lives and some tenants paid poultry or grain rents in addition to cash. Only four of the farms had more arable than grass. (fn. 104) In 1783 the manorial estate measured 331 a. divided between 15 tenants, most still holding on leases for lives. The largest holding was Leigh farm (62 a.); the rectory estate (53 a.) was shared between three tenants. (fn. 105) The largest farm outside the manor was the former demesne, called Stoke farm, which in 1789 measured 333 a. (fn. 106) Snag, Sycamore, and Bayford farms had developed as freeholds by the 1790s, the last measuring c. 84 a. by 1792. (fn. 107) Hook farm was named in 1791 and there was also a specialist dairy, perhaps developed from the milking barton at Bayford mentioned in 1765. (fn. 108)
By 1838 other farms were named including Stileway, part of the estate of the Bailward family of Horsington, who held on a 1,000-year lease from 1656. (fn. 109) The Bailwards had 218 a. in the parish including Hook as well as Stileway, Thomas Grove had 390 a. (Stoke and Sycamore farms), Uriah Messiter 82 a. (Bayford farm), and William Stacey 62 a. (Leigh, later Riding Gate, farm). By that date the parish was predominantly grassland. (fn. 110) Some land on the hill above the church was 'much encumbered with furze' in 1776 and in 1836 was exchanged with the owner of Snag farm for more valuable land in Cucklington. (fn. 111)
In 1851 Snag and Mitchell's farms concentrated on dairying and 13 people in the parish worked in dairies. (fn. 112) Ten years later only one dairyman was mentioned; one farmer was a cattle dealer, another a horse trainer. (fn. 113) By 1871 some former holdings had been broken up. About 1860 Stoke farm was divided and sold, creating a smaller Stoke farm and Stoke Hill (later Church) and Higher Sycamore (later School) farms. There were also two manure manufacturers, one at Riding Gate employing 12 labourers. (fn. 114)
By 1905 arable in the parish had been reduced to 4 a. with 1,667 a. under grass. (fn. 115) There were 13 farms in 1939. (fn. 116) In 1988 there were 15 separate holdings, one over 100 ha., three over 50 ha., and six between 10 ha. and 20 ha. Seven were predominantly dairy farms, one specialized in sheep rearing, one in pigs and poultry. Six were worked part time. (fn. 117)
Bayford seems to have housed some of Wincanton's cloth makers, perhaps from the early 17th century. (fn. 118) Thomas Light, linen manufacturer, had a yarn barton there in 1807 and died in 1814 owning a workshop with looms. (fn. 119) He was succeeded by his son Samuel. (fn. 120) Other manufacturers and tick weavers are mentioned between 1819 and 1827, (fn. 121) and the production of dowlais and ticking continued until 1831 or later. (fn. 122) There were two weavers in the parish in 1851 together with carpenters, shoemakers, seamstresses, shopkeepers, and other tradesmen, most of whom probably lived in Bayford. (fn. 123) In the 1860s and 1870s a rake and hurdle maker and a corn dealer were both in business. (fn. 124) Limestone was quarried in several places, notably at the northern end of the ridge above Leigh common, and there were kilns in the 19th century there and south-west of Hill Farm. (fn. 125)
There was a mill in 1086. (fn. 126) By the mid 16th century there was a mill called Buckmill. (fn. 127) In 1791 it was held as a working mill with a farm of 210 a., evidently in Cucklington. (fn. 128) It probably ceased working between 1866 and 1871 but the mill house remained in use as a dwelling. (fn. 129) Buckmill was driven by the stream which formed the boundary between Stoke and Cucklington a short distance north of Little Bridge. (fn. 130)
Windmill field, on the hill opposite the present church, in which Church farm stands, was so named in 1789. (fn. 131)
Stoke formed a single tithing in 1225 (fn. 132) but later in the century seems to have combined with Cucklington and Bayford. (fn. 133) In the 15th and 16th centuries the whole estate was called Stoke Trister manor, (fn. 134) and in 1547 it was described as 'a liberty of itself' whose lord had 'all manner of waifs, strays, felons' goods, and fugitives'. (fn. 135) In 1566 it was described as a free franchise and had a view of frankpledge in Stoke, Cucklington, Bayford, and Stileway, with waifs and strays, escheats, felons' goods, and all royalties. (fn. 136) Lawday courts were permitted at Easter and Michaelmas and manor courts twice a year or oftener for customary tenants. In 1632-4 separate views of frankpledge and manor courts were held twice a year, in March and September. In September 1632 the court met at Stoke and in September 1633 a tithingman was chosen. (fn. 137) Copies of court roll also survive for 1641, 1647, 1656-7, 1674, 1685, and 1687. The court in 1656 met at Westminster. (fn. 138) By the early 18th century courts leet with view of frankpledge and courts baron were held at Cucklington in October each year. Stoke business included orders in 1712-16 that Ford bridge and the highway at Killpit be repaired by the surveyors of Stoke and that tenants at Bayford should not attend the three-week court in Wincanton. The pound was reported in decay in 1714. (fn. 139) Courts continued to be held at Cucklington until 1764 or later; Stoke business included an order that Nathaniel Ireson should lay one of his hedges where it bordered a common market road. (fn. 140)
Two wardens and two overseers were mentioned in 1670, (fn. 141) and in the 18th century there were separate waywardens for Bayford and Stoke. (fn. 142) In 1799-1800 the vestry comprised five or six members. The overseers made regular monthly payments to the poor and 'extraordinaries' which included funeral expenses, clothing, and cheap bread. (fn. 143) There was a poorhouse in the parish in 1778 which a year later was supplemented by another to house victims of smallpox. (fn. 144) In 1796 the lord of the manor let a cottage in Stoke to the overseers in trust for the use of the poor. (fn. 145) It was probably destroyed by fire and was replaced by one in Bayford, said to have been built in 1811. (fn. 146) In 1838 the parish owned the Bayford poor house, garden, and nearly 2 a. of land. (fn. 147) The parish became part of the Wincanton poor-law union in 1835, the Wincanton rural district in 1894, and the Yeovil (later South Somerset) district in 1974. (fn. 148)
There was a church at Stoke by 1225. (fn. 149) It was described as a chapel in 1317, (fn. 150) and 1344, (fn. 151) perhaps because there seems to have been a separate chapel at Bayford whose priest was referred to in the 13th century (fn. 152) and 1343. (fn. 153) The living was usually known as a rectory and was often until the 18th century called the rectory of Stoke or Bayford. (fn. 154) The rectory was amalgamated with that of Cucklington in 1767 and since 1980 has been held with Charlton Musgrove. (fn. 155)
The advowson was held by successive lords of Stoke manor, (fn. 156) although the bishop collated in 1510, (fn. 157) and the Lord Chancellor presented in 1862, 1870, and 1878 because of the lunacy of the patron. (fn. 158) Cdr. Harry Phelips made over the patronage to the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1953. (fn. 159)
The rectory was valued in 1445 at £5 6s. 8d., (fn. 160) at £7 15s. 1½d. net in 1535, (fn. 161) at c. £35 c. 1670, (fn. 162) and at £48 19s. 6¼d. net in 1708. (fn. 163) The average net value of the united benefice 1829-31 was £609. (fn. 164) Tithes were worth 93s. 4d. in 1535 and offerings 50s. (fn. 165) Tithes and offerings, partly in composition, partly in kind, were worth £40 in 1708. (fn. 166) The gross rent charge of the united benefice in 1838 was £632. (fn. 167)
Glebe was valued at 17s. in 1535 (fn. 168) and at £8 in 1566, when it measured c. 37 a. and lay entirely within the parish. (fn. 169) It measured 40 a. in 1571, 52 a. in 1606, (fn. 170) and c. 60 a. in 1626, the increases due to inclosure. (fn. 171) In 1705 the glebe was described as poor and scattered. (fn. 172) In 1836 19 a. was exchanged for 8 a. of more valuable land in Cucklington. (fn. 173) In 1838 the glebe of the united benefice measured just over 97 a. (fn. 174)
The parsonage house was at Bayford, where the aged rector in 1482 was allowed to have a portable altar. (fn. 175) In 1626 it comprised a hall, kitchen, buttery, and dairy with chambers over. (fn. 176) It was still occupied in 1705, (fn. 177) but appears to have been demolished between 1805 and 1838. (fn. 178) It stood on the north side of the main road in Bayford, immediately west of the former White Horse inn. (fn. 179)
The rector was assisted by a parochial chaplain in 1450 and a curate in 1533. (fn. 180) There was an endowed light in the church in 1548. (fn. 181) No pyx had been set up by 1554 and the deprived rector evidently took away some of the church goods. (fn. 182) John Batt, minister by 1650, was ejected in 1662 but continued to live and preach in the parish. (fn. 183) After the union with Cucklington in 1767 (fn. 184) the rectory house was in that parish although Benjamin Symes, the first rector of the united benefice, actually lived at Musbury (Devon). (fn. 185) There were 15 regular communicants in the 1780s (fn. 186) and in 1827 one service each Sunday, alternately morning and afternoon. (fn. 187) On Census Sunday 1851 the afternoon congregation numbered 122 adults and 47 children; the average morning congregation was 60 adults and 70 children. (fn. 188) By 1866 and until the end of the century the rector employed a curate who usually lived at Bayford. (fn. 189) By 1870 there was a service each Sunday and monthly celebrations of communion. (fn. 190)
There was a church house at Bayford in 1593 and 1622. (fn. 191) A room was built at Bayford c. 1834 where in 1851 weekly lectures were held for c. 40 people. (fn. 192) A mission room was built in the hamlet in 1881 by James Phelips, the rector, (fn. 193) which was in use in 1995.
The ancient parish church, dedicated to St. Andrew, stood to the north of the manor house and comprised a chancel, nave with south porch, and west tower. It had square-headed windows said to have been coeval with the whole building, suggesting a late-medieval date. The nave ceiling was coved and in the chancel was a plaster altarpiece with Tuscan pilasters. In the 1830s the embattled west tower leaned eastwards. (fn. 194) The nave was galleried (fn. 195) and the wooden pulpit was panelled. (fn. 196) The church was demolished c. 1841 because of its dilapidated condition, small size, and inconvenient site, and was replaced by the present building.
The church of ST. ANDREW, comprising chancel with north vestry, nave, and west tower with south porch, was designed by George Follett of Cucklington and was consecrated in 1841. (fn. 197) It was paid for largely by parish rates. (fn. 198) It was repewed and altered in 1878, (fn. 199) and most of the windows, by Clayton and Bell, were installed in 1895. (fn. 200)
There are five bells, the oldest dated 1751 by William Cockey. (fn. 201) The plate includes a cup of 1774 by William Grundy, and a paten of 1718 by 'L. E.', both evidently given for use at Bayford in 1838 and transferred to the new church in 1841. (fn. 202) The registers begin in 1751 and are complete. (fn. 203)
In 1665 John Batt, ejected from the rectory in 1662, lived in Bayford in the house of an elder of a Presbyterian classis of 1648. Batt and John Bolster, master of a grammar school, both preached at conventicles and 'strangers from all parts' preached frequently in private houses. (fn. 204) A house was licensed for use by Presbyterians in 1672. (fn. 205) A house at Bayford was used by Independents from 1786. (fn. 206) John Wesley preached at Bayford in September 1764. (fn. 207) Wesleyans held fortnightly services at Bayford in 1827-8 (fn. 208) and three houses were licensed in 1830, one occupied by the minister of Wincanton Congregational church. (fn. 209) Another house was licensed in 1831 and 1832. (fn. 210) Primitive Methodists met in both Bayford and Stoke from 1862; they had ceased to meet in Bayford in 1866 and in Stoke in 1867. (fn. 211)
A grammar school was kept by a nonconformist in 1665, (fn. 212) and a dissenting teacher was buried in the parish in 1756. (fn. 213) By 1818 there was a Sunday school supported by the rector. (fn. 214) A school at Bayford had 14 pupils in 1825-6. (fn. 215) Another Sunday school was begun in 1828 and by 1833 there were three day schools with a total of 33 children taught at their parents' expense and the Sunday school with 38 pupils taught free. (fn. 216) The Sunday school may have been re-founded in 1833 and by 1841 there was a schoolroom at Bayford, (fn. 217) perhaps the room built c. 1834 and used for lectures. (fn. 218) As many as 140 children from the Sunday schools attended the consecration of the new church in 1841. (fn. 219) There was a National School at Bayford by 1846 (fn. 220) but it has not been traced further. A school was built in Stoke in 1873 and in 1905 there were 70 children on the books. (fn. 221) Two years later average attendance was 30, and in 1927 it was closed. The 13 children were transferred to Wincanton. (fn. 222)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR
Sir Hugh Wyndham (d. 1684) by will bequeathed a rent charge of 10s. on land in Cucklington to be shared among 20 of the poorest in the parish on Christmas day. (fn. 223) Two other rent charges on small pieces of land in the parish, each of 40s., were distributed by 1824 in coals at Christmas. (fn. 224) Before 1786 the overseers had land which produced £1 12s., (fn. 225) perhaps represented by one of the rent charges. From 1844 the churchwardens distributed a total of £4 10s. from the manor, land in Bayford, and the parish plot. (fn. 226) Those three charities were still in existence in 1992 and distributed a total of c. £110 to pensioners at Christmas. (fn. 227)