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 parish, which probably takes its name from its proximity to the boundary of a Saxon estate based on Sherborne (Dors.), (fn. 1) lies 7 km. north-east of Yeovil. It is irregular in shape and measures 3 km. from north to south and 2 km. from east to west at its widest point. The southern boundary mainly follows roads and, with most of the eastern boundary, forms part of the county boundary with Dorset. Rimpton village lies near the centre of the parish and the hamlet of Woodhouse, which was perhaps established in the 12th century, to the north. (fn. 2)
Most of the parish is below the 50-m. (164ft.) contour. To the west the land falls very gradually towards the 30-m. (98-ft.) contour; in the south and north-east there is a gradual rise, reaching 103 m. (338 ft.) on the southern boundary and 130 m. (426 ft.) on Corton Ridge in the north-east. (fn. 3) The parish covers 409 ha. (1,010 a.). (fn. 4)
The parish lies largely on Pennard sands, silts, and marls but the lower ground around the village consists of sandy loam with limestone gravel and the village itself lies on a narrow strip of alluvium formed by the stream, (fn. 5) known as Hay or Honey brook in the 10th century (fn. 6) and as Mill stream in the 19th, which flows west into the Yeo. (fn. 7)
Rimpton village lies at the junction of minor north-south and east-west routes, the first known as Milford Lane (fn. 8) or Mill Street and High Street, the second as Middle Street leading into Home Farm Lane to the west and Horses Lane, (fn. 9) later Church Lane, to the east. A back lane links High Street with Home Farm Lane. The village is linked only indirectly with Sandford Orcas (Dors.), Marston Magna, and Trent (Dors.), but the principal route, following the south-western boundary, leads south-east to Sherborne and less directly to the medieval markets at Castle Cary, Ilchester, and Yeovil. It was a 'herpath' in 938 (fn. 10) and was probably known as the Porteway in 1534. (fn. 11) An east-west route north of the village formed part of a 'herpath' linking Corton Denham and Marston Magna in the 950s. (fn. 12)
Most houses in the village are of stone and some are thatched. Among the older buildings are the Coign, dating from the 16th century, and a number of 17th- and early 18th-century houses including Crossland, Lower, Middle, and Higher Farmhouses, Clarke's Cottage, and the Nook. Rimpton House, at the western end of the village, has 17th-century origins but was largely rebuilt in the 19th. (fn. 13) There has been considerable infilling including local authority housing in Middle Street and late 20th-century development and farm building conversion.
A victualler was recorded in 1753. (fn. 14) The White Post inn on Rimpton Hill was in business from 1859 (fn. 15) and remained open in 1994. In the 1780s a revel was held in the village in October. (fn. 16)
In 1641 there were 94 poll tax and subsidy payers in the parish. (fn. 17) In 1801 the population numbered 193; it reached 223 in 1841 and 298 in 1851. It fell gradually to 257 in 1891, fluctuated, largely downwards, to 192 in 1961 but rose again; the resident population in 1981 was 238 and in 1991 was 252. (fn. 18)
In 938 King Athelstan gave 5 mansae at RIMPTON to Aethared and in the 950s King Edred gave them to Brichtric Grim who added a hide. In his will made before 980 Brichtric gave the whole estate to the Old Minster at Winchester. (fn. 19) From the 11th century (fn. 20) it was held of the king in chief by successive bishops of Winchester, (fn. 21) apart from 1551-8 and 1561-75 when it was held by the Crown, (fn. 22) and during the Interregnum. (fn. 23) In 1649 John Payne, one of the farmers of the manor, was described as lord (fn. 24) and in 1652 it was held by Robert Lockyer and others described as feoffees. (fn. 25) By 1661 it had been returned to the bishop. (fn. 26) In 1822 the bishop sold to Thomas Southwood (fn. 27) but appears to have retained the capital messuage and mill until 1864 or later. (fn. 28) Southwood died in 1830 leaving his estates to his servant Robert Mattock who in 1842 appears to have mortgaged them, probably including Rimpton, to his steward William Kinglake (d. 1852). Kinglake's sons Alexander and John were joint lords in 1866. (fn. 29) The manor was bought before 1872 by the chief tenant Henry Genge Andrews (d. 1875), and he was followed by his son George (d. 1902). (fn. 30) George's trustees put the land up for sale in 1924-5, but lordship was not mentioned. (fn. 31)
A manor house was recorded throughout the Middle Ages. It had an open hall, chamber, and kitchen, and farm buildings included a dovecot. (fn. 32) The house was severely damaged in a storm in 1292, (fn. 33) the kitchen was rebuilt in 1244, 1336, and 1365, (fn. 34) and the hall in 1374 at a cost of c. £50. (fn. 35) Repairs were carried out regularly until the end of the 15th century. (fn. 36) The house was let from the 15th century to one of the farmers of the manor who sometimes acted as reeve. (fn. 37) During the 18th and 19th centuries it was occupied as a farmhouse. (fn. 38) Rimpton Manor, formerly called Court House or Court Farm, (fn. 39) is of local stone with Hamstone dressings, and was probably rebuilt in the early 16th century and remodelled later in that century and in the 17th. It has an L-shaped plan with a 2-storeyed, 3- bayed south front with central gabled porch and a cross wing at the west end. The house was extended to the rear in the late 19th or the early 20th century. (fn. 40)
By the mid 10th century cultivation was probably concentrated in the southern core of the estate, the boundary clauses revealing a still well wooded landscape in the north. (fn. 41) In the late 10th century the estate was said to be stocked with cattle, men, and 'all things'. (fn. 42) In 1086 the manor was assessed at 5 ploughlands; 2 hides and 1 virgate were in demesne with 3 ploughteams worked by 2 servi; the rest of the land was held by 8 villani and 7 bordars with another 3 ploughteams. There was 10 a. of meadow but no recorded pasture. Demesne livestock comprised one riding horse, 24 pigs, 20 cattle, and 60 sheep. The estate was worth £7. (fn. 43)
In the 10th century there was woodland on the western boundary including Eata's wood, and along the eastern at Wethergrove. (fn. 44) In 1086 woodland 4 furlongs by 1 was recorded. (fn. 45) Woodhouse hamlet was probably the final woodland clearance in the early Middle Ages. (fn. 46) Oakley, recorded in 1258, lay on the edge of Marston park in Marston Magna, but it had been cleared by the early 15th century. (fn. 47) Crucks were cut at Oakley in 1263 (fn. 48) and although most timber was bought in, (fn. 49) 13 oaks were felled to build an oxshed in 1348. (fn. 50) Underwood and thorns around the parish were sold during the 14th century (fn. 51) and 43 scrub oaks in 1438. (fn. 52) Loss of woodland by the end of the Middle Ages increased the value of such timber as remained. In 1541 a tenant forfeited a holding for making waste on five timber trees and the rector was presented for not doing repairs when he had been granted two timber trees worth 10s. (fn. 53) and for cutting ash and elm in the churchyard in 1546. (fn. 54) In 1598 the bishop's woodward sold the old timber and posts of the pound. (fn. 55)
The demesne farm was taken into direct management shortly before 1209. During the 12th century arable production may have fallen as only 142 a. was sown and two ploughteams were employed in 1209. (fn. 56) Thereafter, cultivation rapidly expanded and by 1249 the demesne arable had more than doubled in size with 332 a. sown and four ploughteams employed. (fn. 57) Rough pasture, meadow, and marginal lands were all converted to the plough as cultivation was extended north into former woodland pasture. (fn. 58) By 1232 the two former open north and south fields had been replaced by more widely spaced furlongs and closes in which a threecourse rotation was practised. (fn. 59) Wheat and oats dominated crop production, with smaller amounts of rye, barley, dredge, beans, peas, and vetch. Livestock included horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, geese, and chickens and the manor also had a dovecot, a fishpond, a warren, and beehives. (fn. 60) The manor house garden produced vegetables and fruit and was used for small-scale commercial production of flax and cider. (fn. 61)
Farming was geared to market production rather than home consumption and tenants owed carrying services to markets at Ilchester, Sherborne, Yeovil, and Castle Cary. Purchases of goods reveal similar local sources of supply. Demand kept arable production and manorial income buoyant until the agricultural crisis of the second and third decades of the 14th century. By the 1330s only three ploughteams were employed and the sown acreage fell to under 200 a. for the first time for a century. A steady decline continued until only 148 a. was sown in 1403. Although some of the land was abandoned, most seems to have reverted to woodland pasture and meadow for, as arable production faltered, so pastoral farming revived. (fn. 62) After 1350 the manor profitably diversified into the sale of young cattle for slaughter and the use of woodland pasture for fattening old and diseased sheep from the bishop's flocks elsewhere. (fn. 63) Direct management of the manor farm ceased in 1405 when the demesne was leased for £20 to two tenants, one a former reeve, for a period of twelve years, the lease including 16 oxen, 2 horses, 10 qr. wheat, 16 qr. oats, 6 hay ricks, and miscellaneous farm and house equipment. (fn. 64)
In the earlier 13th century the main tenant holdings comprised 7 virgates, 9 half-virgates, and 10 ferlings and were known as bondland tenancies. The tenants paid assized rents, owed heavy day-work labour services or service as full-time estate labourers, and were located within the nucleated village except for three holdings at Woodhouse. (fn. 65) There were few additions to the rent-roll during the Middle Ages, probably because of the expansion of the lord's demesne. Six cottages and a croft had appeared by c. 1250 and two further small plots of land were created in 1330 and 1335. Between 1330 and 1402 a further 17 plots of demesne land ranging from 1 a. to 14 a. were leased annually and when the whole demesne was leased in 1405 a further 10 parcels of land containing 33 a. were set aside as separate new holdings. Most of those new units were held for rent only and were described as overland tenancies. (fn. 66) Although labour services were still owed in the 15th century they were sold rather than exacted and by the mid 15th century the lease of the demesne farm had passed to a group of tenants. (fn. 67)
Inheritance was by Borough English and the widow's dower extended to the whole bondland holding which she could take with her upon remarriage. (fn. 68) As a result, from the early 13th century to as late as the mid 15th most of Rimpton's main customary holdings were transferred upon widows' remarriages. (fn. 69) That tenants brought extra workers to the harvest and had their own servants suggests that the long-term integrity of holdings created an underclass of sub-tenants and labourers on the larger holdings. (fn. 70) A largely hidden population probably provided most of the new tenants who filled all the vacant holdings after the Black Death, but the longer-term impact of repeated epidemics undermined local demographic resilience. By 1400 many holdings had ceased to be family farms and were engrossed into larger units comprising several bondland holdings and additional acres of overland. While larger bondland holdings generally continued to be transferred by customary rules, there developed a regular land market in ferlings, cottages, and parcels of the demesne. (fn. 71)
In the early 13th century the tenants made large payments for herbage in the wooded glades around Woodhouse. The demesne arable expansion probably caused a shortage of grazing and fines for trespass on the lord's pasture were frequent. (fn. 72) Pannage payments were not similarly affected, perhaps because the tenants' pigs were similar to the demesne 'field pigs' recorded in the 1260s. (fn. 73) In 1232 there were north and south fields, divided into furlongs. The common fields remained open in 1529 (fn. 74) and a west field was recorded in 1593, (fn. 75) but by 1534 inclosure had begun and was largely completed by 1638. (fn. 76)
Apart from annual variations in receipts for pannage and entry fines, the manorial rents and farms remained fixed at nominal sums from the late 15th to the early 19th centuries. (fn. 77) The demesne was divided between 8 tenants from 1441 (fn. 78) and by the early 16th century until the 19th between 16 tenants. (fn. 79) The shares were held with existing copyholds and although the same rent was due for each share they were of unequal size, between c. 18 a. and 30 a. (fn. 80) During the 16th and 17th centuries there were about 25 copyhold tenants, divided between virgaters or yardlanders (30 a.), half-virgaters, farthing holders (10 a.), holders of 5 a., and cottagers. Each tenant paid a hearth penny for his house, a fixed sum in lieu of works, and other payments in proportion to the size of holding. (fn. 81) As well as copyholds and shares of the demesne, most tenants also held small acreages of overland, not attached to any tenement. (fn. 82) In the 1530s few tenants held more than one holding but from the late 16th century local gentry served as reeve and took large numbers of tenancies to sublet. (fn. 83)
The tolls taken at the mill in the period 1246 to 1306 included wheat, mancorn, (fn. 84) malt, and gruel. (fn. 85) Heriots commonly provided horses, oxen, and cows, but also younger cattle, pigs, sheep and, on occasion, small amounts of grain and cash. An annual maintenance agreement upon the transfer of a farthing in 1292 gave the retiring tenant a stipend of 5 qr. wheat, 1 qr. beans, ½ qr. mixtill, and two linen garments as well as residence in the principal chamber. (fn. 86) In 1638 tithes were payable on grain, hemp, flax, hay, lambs, calves, pigs, milk, and apples. (fn. 87) In 1801 the land was largely under grass. There was c. 60 a. of arable, mainly under wheat but also barley, oats, peas, beans, and potatoes. (fn. 88)
In the 1820s the manor was still divided into customary yardlands and farthing lands with nominal acreages; they were said to be as valuable as freeholds and most tenants had at least two holdings. (fn. 89) The old measures of land appear to have been dropped between 1830 and 1848. (fn. 90) In 1836 there were said to be fine orchards (fn. 91) and from c. 1840 until the 1930s the Marden family were noted for their cider. (fn. 92) In 1840 there were 109 a. of arable, 39 a. of orchard, and 723 a. of grass. There was no common land. Of the 20 largest holdings nine were under 25 a., two between 25 a. and 50 a., seven between 50 a. and 100 a., and only two over 100 a. (fn. 93) Some amalgamation of holdings had taken place by 1851 when there were four farms of over 100 a. and nine employed 47 labourers. (fn. 94) In 1861 Henry Genge Andrews farmed 600 a. and employed about 36 labourers; the Mardens had two farms totalling nearly 200 a. and there was one smallholding. (fn. 95) In 1868 George Genge Andrews farmed about half the parish and was president of the Somerset Chamber of Agriculture. (fn. 96) By 1881 the Andrews' holding had been replaced by three large farms, making a total of five in the parish, and with three smallholdings employed c. 30 labourers. (fn. 97) The Western Counties Creamery was begun in 1889 at Home farm before moving to Marston Magna in the 1890s. (fn. 98) In 1905 there were 89 a. of arable and 966 a. of grass. (fn. 99) During the 20th century farms specialized in dairying and pig fattening. (fn. 100)
Court fines show that brewing was a widespread activity in the Middle Ages, whilst surnames indicate that some villagers worked as smiths, carpenters, millers, and tailors. (fn. 101) Stone was quarried in 1397, probably in the field known as Grittesputtefurlong on Rimpton Hill, (fn. 102) which gave its name to Great Pit Lane. (fn. 103) In 1836 it was said that dowlais and sailcloth had formerly been manufactured in the parish and that there was some gloving and candlewick making. (fn. 104) In 1841 two glovers were recorded and in 1871 four. (fn. 105) A shop was in business in 1841 and a timber merchant in 1891 when three men were employed on the railway. (fn. 106) In 1947 there were neither industries nor services (fn. 107) but the village shop remained open in 1994.
There was a watermill by 1208. The manor sometimes employed a miller but preferred to farm out the mill. (fn. 108) The mill appears to have been largely rebuilt in 1470 and the house in 1472. (fn. 109) A weir was made in 1494. (fn. 110) The mill was usually let with the manor house in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 111) It was rebuilt in the later 18th century and in 1838 had three storeys with two pairs of stones. It was often short of water in the summer. (fn. 112) It went out of use in the early 1900s. (fn. 113)
Two manor courts with tourns or leets were normally held annually from the early 13th century until the 18th. Thereafter courts appear to have been held once a year. The last recorded court was in 1850. (fn. 114) Court rolls or presentments survive for the manor for 1494-7, (fn. 115) for various years between 1508 and 1639, (fn. 116) for the periods 1647-1702 and 1706-21, and for most years between 1724 and 1849. (fn. 117) Apart from tenancy changes, the court in the 15th century was concerned with tenants' pleas, nuisances, sales of meat at excessive prices, and breaches of the assize of ale. (fn. 118) The 16th-century courts were concerned with repairing the highways and the tenants were required to repair the roads with stone in 1518, 1534, 1543, and 1575. (fn. 119) In the 17th and 18th centuries nuisances and living off the manor were presented. (fn. 120) In 1566 the tenant of the capital messuage had to provide accommodation for the steward and his entourage twice a year. (fn. 121) The reeve and tithingman were elected at the manor court from the 15th century to the 18th. (fn. 122)
Until the 1590s or later all tenants had to pay 100s. to each bishop of Winchester in his first year and needed permission to marry or to live off the manor. The bishop was required to provide a meal for the tenants at Christmas but by the mid 13th century that became a customary expense of 4s. recorded until the 1490s. (fn. 123) Most tenants paid either churchscot or Peter's Pence, and all paid tuth or tithing money to the manor court. (fn. 124) In 1257-8 a man was fined for concealing the discovery of six gold rings. (fn. 125)
The pound was repaired in 1376 and rebuilt in 1504. (fn. 126) During the 18th and 19th centuries it was regularly presented for being out of repair. (fn. 127) By 1900 it was in the hands of the churchwardens who rented it out until 1939 or later. (fn. 128) It lay south of the manor house adjoining the present Pound House.
The churchwardens acted as overseers and kept joint accounts 1746-9. (fn. 129) The church house may have been used as a parish poorhouse in the mid 18th century (fn. 130) but in 1798 charity money was laid out on building a new poorhouse adjoining the rectory garden. It remained in use in 1840. (fn. 131)
In 1836 the parish became part of Sherborne poor-law union, in 1896 of Yeovil poor-law union and rural district, and in 1974 of Yeovil, later South Somerset, district. (fn. 132)
There was a church at Rimpton by 1291 (fn. 133) but tenants had paid churchscot from 1215 or earlier. (fn. 134) The living remained a sole rectory until 1932 when it was united with Marston Magna. (fn. 135) From 1980 the united benefice was also held with Queen Camel, West Camel, and Corton Denham, but from 1987 with Chilton Cantelo, Ashington, and Mudford. (fn. 136)
The advowson was held by the bishops of Winchester, apart from the period between 1561 and 1575 when it was held by the Crown or by Sir Francis Knollys as lessee. (fn. 137) In 1852 it was transferred to the bishop of London, (fn. 138) patron at every third turn after 1987. (fn. 139)
In 1291 the church was valued at £12 (fn. 140) and in 1535 at £9 19s. 9½d. net. (fn. 141) It was reputed to be worth £80 c. 1670 (fn. 142) and in 1742 the gross income was £107. (fn. 143) In 1829-31 the average income of the rectory was £298 gross. (fn. 144) In 1535 the tithes were valued at £8 10s. and in 1840 were commuted for a rent charge of £221. (fn. 145) In 1535 glebe was worth £2 (fn. 146) and in 1638 there was 48 a., mainly in closes. (fn. 147) In 1743 the rector claimed to have 56 a. which was let out, apart from 15 a. of poor land. (fn. 148) In 1840 the glebe measured 48 a. (fn. 149)
In 1638 there was a rectory house with bakehouse, kitchen, and various outbuildings. (fn. 150) The house was probably rebuilt in the 18th century and was fit in the early 19th (fn. 151) but in 1867 it was extensively altered and enlarged, and was further enlarged in 1876. (fn. 152) The house was sold after the benefice was united with Marston Magna in 1932. (fn. 153) The Old Rectory is a 2-storeyed house with a 3-bayed front and attic dormers.
From 1323 several rectors were given licence to be absent for study or to serve the bishop of Winchester. (fn. 154) About 1530 there was a stipendiary priest (fn. 155) but Thomas Master, rector 1529-55, appears to have been resident in 1546 and 1554. (fn. 156) Robert Bennett was accused in 1612 of having leased his benefice, insulted the parish officers, and allowed the chancel windows to fall into disrepair. (fn. 157) His successor William Todd was accused in 1635 of refusing the sacrament to parishioners who could not recite the creed or commandments. (fn. 158) Later rectors were probably non-resident and Thomas Bateson in 1742 deplored the unhealthy state of the parish and described his parishioners as 'proud, drunken people'. (fn. 159) There were 8-12 communicants in the 1780s (fn. 160) and until c. 1802 only one Sunday service. (fn. 161) Richard Burney, rector 1802-36 and nephew of the writer Fanny Burney, was at first resident but left the parish to a resident curate in 1815 because of the 'pernicious quality of the waters of Rimpton'. (fn. 162) There were three celebrations of communion in 1840 and two Sunday services when the minister was at home. (fn. 163) By 1873 communion was celebrated 12 times a year. (fn. 164) In the mid 20th century there were two Sunday services and c. 30 Easter communicants. (fn. 165)
In 1506-7 the churchwardens rented a plot of land probably near the manor house and churchyard and built a dwelling for a parochial chaplain. About 1530 the house became a church house, (fn. 166) and continued to be rented for the purpose in 1635. (fn. 167) It was later used as a poorhouse but by 1825 was let. (fn. 168)
The church of ST. MARY is built of local stone and comprises chancel, nave with north transept and vestry, south chapel, and porch, and west tower. The chancel appears to have been built in the late 13th century and the north doorway of the nave and the tower are of the late 13th or early 14th century. The south chapel was added in the 15th century at which time the nave was refenestrated. In the early 17th century the church was in poor condition: the unpaved chancel floor was said to be too wet in winter for the parishioners to kneel. (fn. 169) The chancel was partly rebuilt between 1770 and 1783 but retained its screen c. 1785. (fn. 170) A gallery was built in 1785 (fn. 171) and in 1827 the church was 'repaired and beautified'. (fn. 172) In 1875 the church was 'one of the few blots' remaining in the deanery and restoration was planned under Henry Hall. A north transept with vestry was built and a new window inserted in the west end in place of a doorway. The west gallery was removed and the porch rebuilt. (fn. 173)
Wesleyans met there in 1829 and again from 1853, (fn. 181) and there may have been a chapel in 1861. (fn. 182) A chapel was built at the southern end of High Street in 1891, (fn. 183) and was used until 1950. It was later converted to a garage. (fn. 184) A Primitive Methodist cause had six members in 1849 and was last recorded in 1860. (fn. 185)
In 1818 there was a day school with 45 pupils and a Sunday school for 32 poor children supported by the rector and the S.P.C.K. (fn. 186) Both were open in 1833 but each had fewer than 20 pupils. (fn. 187) In 1843-4 a church day school was built (fn. 188) which had 26 pupils in 1846. Some children attended on Sundays. (fn. 189) By 1902 there were 44 children on the books and there was a small endowment. (fn. 190) Average attendance fell from 38 in 1915 to 15 in 1925 and from 1926 the school took juniors only. (fn. 191) Although a number of evacuees attended in the 1940s (fn. 192) average attendance was c. 16 until 1951 when the school closed and pupils transferred to Queen Camel. (fn. 193)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR
Before 1619 Humphrey Wootton gave £3 6s. 8d. to provide a stock for the poor but in that year the overseers refused to pay the interest. (fn. 196) The charity appears to have been lost by the 19th century and probably much earlier. Five small gifts made between 1640 and 1702 and totalling £25 were lent out at interest which until 1781 was distributed to the poor at Christmas. By 1798 the capital had been invested in building a poorhouse. (fn. 197) In 1859 Silas Feaver gave £95 15s. to the poor. (fn. 198) The income of £4 was distributed annually in cash in 1889 but by 1931 the income had fallen and was distributed only every two years. (fn. 199) The charity appears to have been lost. (fn. 200)