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 Holton, a detached member of Whitley hundred c. 3 km. south-west of Wincanton, was highly irregular in shape. It interlocked on its eastern side with Lattiford in North Cheriton. (fn. 1) Both Lower Holton, its principal settlement, and Higher Holton lie on a south-facing slope while a few houses including an inn cluster beside a road on Cheriton hill across a small valley to the south. The parish measured c. 1.25 km. from north to south and 2.25 km. from east to west at its widest point in the south between the marsh and Whatcombe. In 1839 the parish comprised nearly 505 a. (fn. 2) In 1885 Lattiford (5 houses, 35 persons) was added from North Cheriton, and in 1886 Hatherleigh (5 houses, 25 persons) was transferred from Maperton, thus extending the parish eastwards to the river Cale, almost to Wincanton, and creating a civil parish of 1,270 a. (514 ha.). (fn. 3) In 1988 part of the ancient parish on Cheriton hill was transferred to North Cheriton. (fn. 4)
Most of the parish lies on Forest Marble clay but in Whatcombe there are strips of limestone and Fullers' Earth, in the village and on the south-eastern boundary some Cornbrash limestone, and in the marsh in the south-east Oxford Clay. (fn. 5)
In the earlier 18th century Holton village lay beside a north-south road from Bristol and Castle Cary to Poole (Dors.). (fn. 6) That route had evidently lost its importance by the mid 18th century when two other roads were turnpiked. In 1756 the Wincanton trust adopted an east- west route between Wincanton and Ilchester through the northern end of Holton village as part of the London road. A short bypass was made to the north of the village between 1822 and 1839. (fn. 7) That road was disturnpiked in 1874 and part was widened in the 1970s. It was replaced by a new road further north. The second turnpike road, part of the route between Wincanton and Sherborne, crossed the southern end of the parish over Cheriton hill. Lanes from the village led west through Whatcombe to Maperton, north to the fields, and south through North Cheriton to the Wincanton-Stalbridge turnpike. (fn. 8)
Two small open arable fields lay north and south of the village. (fn. 9) In the early 17th century fields on the Maperton boundary named Great park and Horne park (fn. 10) and a prominent ditch suggest a park separate from the larger one in Maperton. (fn. 11) Great park was walled. (fn. 12) Another field called Park lies near fields called Witherley implying a woodland clearing. (fn. 13) Before the 1620s there was a wood called High wood in the north of the parish. (fn. 14)
There was a victualler in the parish in 1675 and in 1686 an inn offered three guest beds and stabling for six horses. (fn. 15) Victuallers were licensed in 1753 and 1760. (fn. 16) The Windmill inn was in business by 1766. (fn. 17) It closed in the 1850s and the name was transferred to a new house nearby. That house closed between 1875 and 1885. (fn. 18) A fives wall survives from the earlier inn. The Old Inn was so named in 1813 and continued in business in 1994. (fn. 19) It may have been rebuilt in the 1870s when for a short time it was called the New Inn. (fn. 20)
There were 179 inhabitants in the parish in 1801. The total rose to 235 in 1821, fell to 209 in 1831, rose to a peak of 237 in 1851, and then fell for two decades until the addition of Lattiford. The population in the ancient parish continued to fall and was 137 in 1921 when the total for the civil parish was 223. In 1981 the figure was 203 and in 1991 174. (fn. 21)
Between 959 and 975 King Edgar gave 5 hides in Healtone to the thegn Byrnsige. Byrnsige gave them to Glastonbury abbey. (fn. 22) It is probable that the land comprised both Holton and Lattiford. Alnoth held HOLTON before 1066 and in 1086 it was among the estates of Humphrey the chamberlain, who also occupied Lattiford. (fn. 23) By 1189 Glastonbury abbey had regained its lordship of a fee which comprised Holton and Blackford and in 1341 the abbot took the homage of the new holder of the fee, which also included Lattiford. (fn. 24) No further claim to the overlordship has been found.
Aelfric, the terre tenant in 1086, had been Glastonbury abbey's tenant at Lattiford before 1066. (fn. 25) In 1189 Henry Newmarch (d. 1198) held Holton and Blackford for 1 fee and ownership descended like Horsington to his sons William (d. c. 1204) and James (d. 1216). (fn. 26) Holton passed to James's daughter Hawise, wife successively of John de Boterel and of Nicholas de Moeles. Nicholas was in possession by 1234 and had died probably by 1260. (fn. 27) He was followed by his son Roger (d. 1295) and his grandson John. (fn. 28) John died in 1310 (fn. 29) and was succeeded by Nicholas (d. 1315-16) whose heir was his brother Roger. Roger died in 1316 and his brother John, his heir, in 1337. (fn. 30) On John's death the estate was divided between his two daughters, Muriel, wife of Thomas Courtenay, and Isabel, wife of William Botreaux. (fn. 31) Muriel seems to have acquired lands in Holton while the manor may have been held in dower by her mother. (fn. 32)
Holton manor seems to have descended like the second manor of North Cheriton and Lattiford. (fn. 33) On the death of Thomas Courtenay in 1362 (fn. 34) it passed to his son Hugh, who died while still a minor in 1369 and was succeeded by his sister Margaret, wife of Thomas Peverell. (fn. 35) Margaret died in 1422 when her heir was her daughter Katherine, wife of Sir Walter Hungerford, later Baron Hungerford (d. 1449). (fn. 36) From Sir Walter the manor descended like Holbrook in Charlton Musgrove to Henry Hastings, earl of Huntingdon (d. 1595), who in 1586 conveyed it to his brother Sir Francis Hastings. (fn. 37) In 1601 Sir Francis mortgaged and in 1603 sold the manor, advowson, and other property to Robert Harbin and his son John. (fn. 38) In 1622 the Harbins sold Holton manor and advowson to Nicholas Watts of Shanks in Cucklington, (fn. 39) and both properties descended with that estate (fn. 40) until in 1749 the executors of Elizabeth Gifford (d. 1747) sold them to Charles Plucknett, rector of both Holton and North Cheriton. (fn. 41) Charles died in 1785 and was followed by his son James (d. 1817). James left the estate to his widow for life, and on her death c. 1836 it passed jointly to their three sons Charles, William, and James. (fn. 42) James and William both died in 1868, each leaving a daughter, and Charles died unmarried in 1881. In 1884 the whole seems to have passed to Elizabeth, daughter of James, and to her husband Carl Fehn. (fn. 43) No mention of the lordship was then made.
A 'mansion or dwelling house anciently erected', evidently of three storeys, was standing in 1647. A new house was built beside it in that year when the demesne farm, later Holton farm, was divided. (fn. 44)
In 1305 Richard Lovel, Lord Lovel (d. 1351), held land at 'Wythele', (fn. 45) identified with fields called Witherley in the north part of the parish. (fn. 46) In 1361 it was held by Lovel's eventual heir, Nicholas Seymour, Baron Seymour, as of Thomas Courtenay, lord of both Holton manor and of Lattiford. (fn. 47) It seems to have been last mentioned as a separate estate on the death of Richard Seymour, Baron Seymour, in 1401. (fn. 48)
In 1086 the estate was taxed for 2 hides and had land for 2 ploughteams. In demesne were 1½ hide with one team. A villanus and 4 bordars had ½ team and there was a servus. There were 6 a. of meadow and 6 a. of woodland, and stock comprised a riding-horse, 2 cows, 12 swine, and 12 sheep. (fn. 49) In 1316 the demesne farm comprised 127 a. of arable, 11 a. of meadow, and 6 a. of pasture. (fn. 50) In 1337 John de Moeles's estate comprised 120 a. of arable, 11 a. of meadow, 6 a. of inclosed pasture, and a share of common pasture valued at 12d. (fn. 51) In 1452-3 the lord claimed 4d. for every 1,000 tile stones dug and the manor court presented a serf living away from the manor. (fn. 52) In 1535 tithes of wool and lambs were worth less than a quarter of tithes on crops. (fn. 53)
By the 1580s tenants were wanting to exchange and inclose arable and grassland, (fn. 54) and the north open arable field had probably gone by the turn of the century. High wood had been converted to pasture by the 1620s and inclosure and consolidation continued, (fn. 55) the process involving complaints when landshares were illegally ploughed out or hedges and gates destroyed. (fn. 56) The value of manorial rents fell from over £12 in 1583-4 and over £11 c. 1600 (fn. 57) to £9 12s. and a nominal 80 bu. of oats as heriots in 1650 and £9 9s. 7d. in 1693. (fn. 58) About 1560 the total value, including the demesne farm, was £40 4s. 6d., and demesne lands including woodland were let for large fines towards the end of the 16th century, much of the woodland for conversion to tillage and pasture. (fn. 59) The demesne farm continued to be let separately in the mid 17th century and was not included among the 16 tenant farms in 1650. (fn. 60) Among those farms were two of 43 a., one of 34 a., and six of over 20 a. (fn. 61) The demesne farm, let to two tenants from 1647, seems to have measured about 60 a. (fn. 62) The division of arable and grassland was then almost equal. Two farmhouses were built on the estate in 1647. (fn. 63)
In 1680 Matthew Pitman, whose family had been tenants of the manor by 1545, (fn. 64) took a farm of 56 a. and in 1693 he and Widow Pitman were among the three largest rent payers. (fn. 65) In 1707 only one farm was subject to a heriot. (fn. 66) In 1712 two tenants jointly took former Pitman land, much of which was copyhold, to make a farm of 87 a., (fn. 67) but in 1730 Richard Pitman took a 40-a. farm at rack rent as a sub-tenant. (fn. 68) By 1736 Matthew Pitman the younger occupied a farm of 133 a., some of which had been owned or held by the family over fifty years earlier. Only just over 30 a. was arable. (fn. 69) In 1755 part of that farm was let to another tenant for 5 years for the sum of £50, the landlord agreeing to spend £40, half in fencing, trenching, grubbing, and removing mole hills, half in repairs to buildings. The tenant undertook to plough a small named field and not to mow more than 15 a. (fn. 70) In the later 18th century the parish was described as mostly under good pasture. (fn. 71)
In 1839 there was one principal farm, Holton farm, of 152 a., and four others ranging between 66 a. and 32 a., of which one was known as Parsonage farm. (fn. 72) One tenant had occupied both in 1806. (fn. 73) Holton farm continued to be the principal holding in the 19th century, reaching 283 a. in 1871 and employing 13 people. By 1881 it was combined with a brick and tile manufacture outside the parish and measured 300 a.; the only other substantial farm was of 70 a. (fn. 74) By 1841 there were two dairymen in the parish (fn. 75) and in 1861 a cheese dealer. (fn. 76)
In the later 17th century a broad weaver and a clothier lived in the parish and linen and woollen weavers were tenants in the first half of the 18th century, together with similar textile craftsmen from other parishes. (fn. 77) A glazier was living there by 1724, a cheese cloth maker was mentioned in 1752, and a staymaker in 1756. (fn. 78)
The position of the village on two important roads is reflected in the number of tradesmen in the 19th century. In 1841 a carrier was in business and a shop open. (fn. 79) In 1861 there were four blacksmiths, a shopkeeper, and two master carpenters; (fn. 80) in 1871 a road contractor; (fn. 81) in 1875 four shops; (fn. 82) in 1881 an aerated water manufacturer, a coach body maker, and two shops, as well as butchers, bakers, and dressmakers. (fn. 83)
Tile stones were quarried in the 15th century (fn. 84) and building stone in the 18th and 19th centuries, both on Cheriton hill and immediately north of the village. (fn. 85) Lime was burnt at Whatcombe. (fn. 86)
There was a corn mill in 1422. (fn. 87) In 1612 it was still a water grist mill and was presumably driven by the stream south of the village flowing towards Lattiford. By 1650 it had been let to a man later described as a clothier and it may have ceased to grind. By 1701 it was occupied by a linen weaver and was last mentioned in 1707. (fn. 88) Windmill Hill on the southern boundary of the parish may be so called from a windmill mentioned in 1702. (fn. 89)
The township of Holton was within Whitley hundred in 1242-3. (fn. 90) In 1648 it was described as 'within' Blackford tithing and in 1650 was linked with Blackford, Wheathill, and Cary Fitzpaine in a single tithing. (fn. 91) In the later 18th century it was joined with Lattiford in North Cheriton as a unit for land tax collection. (fn. 92) The manor, part of the barony of Newmarch in 1295 (fn. 93) and part of a fee with Blackford and Lattiford in 1303 and 1346, (fn. 94) was by 1369 regarded as a member of Maperton. (fn. 95)
Rolls or books of the manor court survive for the years 1452-3, (fn. 96) 1529-30, (fn. 97) 1603-16, (fn. 98) and 1628-46, (fn. 99) and extracts, copies, memoranda, or presentments for 1602, 1615, 1618, 1621-49, 1675-85, 1694, and 1756-60. (fn. 100) Before 1616 courts were held two or three times a year but by the late 1620s only twice, in April and October. A hayward was presented by the jury for appointment each October and continued to be appointed until 1759 or later. Until the later 16th century a reeve occupied an acre on Wincanton moor in alternate years with the reeve of Maperton. A tithingman was appointed until 1759 or later in the court. In the mid 15th and the earlier 17th century the court was concerned with the maintenance of buildings, hedges, ditches, and roads and with exchanges of holdings.
By the 1720s a parish meeting nominated the single churchwarden and continued to do so until the arrival of a resident rector over a century later. By the 1760s the meeting was known as a vestry, and comprised five or six people as well as the curate. By 1760 the vestry nominated two people to serve as overseer, of whom one was chosen at the meeting. The parish paid house rents, and for fuel, clothing, and tools for the poor, and by 1768 rented a parish house or poor house from the lord of the manor. (fn. 101)
The parish became part of Wincanton poorlaw union in 1835, of Wincanton rural district in 1894, and of Yeovil (later South Somerset) district in 1974. (fn. 102)
The church was described as a chapel in 1316 but from the beginning of the following year the living was known as a rectory. (fn. 103) It remained a sole benefice but between 1881 and 1886 it was annexed to North Cheriton. (fn. 104) Between 1938 and 1976 it was united with Bratton Seymour and in 1982 it became part of the Camelot Parishes team ministry and its incumbent a team vicar. (fn. 105)
The patronage belonged to the lords of the manor until the death of John de Moeles in 1337 when it passed to his daughter Isabel, wife of William Botreaux (d. 1349). (fn. 106) The Crown presented in 1316, 1350, and 1353 during minorities after the deaths of Roger de Moeles and of William Botreaux, (fn. 107) and again in 1408 when the heirs of William, Baron Botreaux (d. 1395), were also under age. (fn. 108) The bishop collated in 1454 by lapse. (fn. 109) William, Baron Botreaux (d. 1462), was succeeded by his daughter Margaret (d. 1478), wife of Robert Hungerford, Baron Hungerford. She died in 1478 and was succeeded by her great-great granddaughter Mary, Baroness Botreaux and from 1485 Baroness Hungerford and Moleyns, wife successively of Edward Hastings (d. 1506) and Sir Richard Sacheverell. Mary presented in 1508 and 1509 and with her second husband in 1530. She died before 1532 when her heir was her son George Hastings, earl of Huntingdon. (fn. 110) The patronage was thus again held with the lordship of the manor. (fn. 111) James Sutton presented in 1626 by grant of Robert Harbin, and Thomas Farewell and his son Thomas were patrons in 1667. The Crown presented by lapse in 1724 and John Gibbs in 1785. (fn. 112) In 1808 Nathaniel Dalton sold the patronage to the Revd. James Plucknett (d. 1817), who left it to his son Charles, rector from 1833 until his death in 1881. (fn. 113) The Revd. Joseph Stanton was said to be patron in 1875, (fn. 114) but after the death of Charles Plucknett the advowson was held by the two successive rectors, Thomas Garniss (1886- 8) and Thomas Dunn (1888-1901). The Revd. Samuel Jenkins Johnson was patron by 1902 and he was succeeded by S. T. Johnson in 1907. (fn. 115) Priscilla Mary Darley transferred the advowson in 1920 to the Church of England Temperance Society. (fn. 116) The bishop had acquired the patronage by 1924-5 but by 1938 he had exchanged the advowson for another with the Martyrs Memorial and Church of England trust. That trust was represented on the patronage board of the team ministry. (fn. 117)
The living was not valued in 1291 but was taxed at £4 in 1445. (fn. 118) It was worth £8 os. 2d. in 1535, £30 c. 1670, £25 6s. 1d. in 1707, and an average of £100 net in 1829-31. (fn. 119) In 1734 the living was augmented with a capital sum of £200 by John Gifford, matched by a similar sum from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 120) In 1902 the net income was said to be £80, in 1938 £282. (fn. 121)
In 1535 the tithes were assessed at £4 16s. and in 1707 at £15 10s. (fn. 122) In 1606 tithes were payable on land in Horsington, Maperton, Wincanton, North Cheriton, and Blackford. (fn. 123) In 1839 the tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £120. (fn. 124) Glebe was worth £2 6s. 8d. in 1535. (fn. 125) In 1606 the rector had 21 a. of glebe but a further 14 a. were 'detained' by two farmers. (fn. 126) There was nearly 39 a. of glebe in 1839. (fn. 127) Nearly 5 a. was sold before 1916 and more in 1920 and 1922, leaving just over 22 a. in 1942 and slightly less in 1978, partly in North Cheriton. (fn. 128)
About 1583 the rectory house was said to have been 'hardly used' by the rector, who had sold roof slates and replaced them with thatch. (fn. 129) In 1815 the house was described as a poor cottage which appears not to have been occupied by the rectors. (fn. 130) It was declared 'unfit' in 1835. (fn. 131) In 1888 it was very small, 'hardly more than a cottage and deficient in accommodation' and was then extended. (fn. 132) It remains in use as a benefice house.
Robert Amys, appointed rector by the Crown in 1316 when only 'meanly learned', was ordered to find a good chaplain in order to pursue his studies. (fn. 133) In 1344 the rector was appointed guardian (curator) of the rector of Bratton. (fn. 134) John Wegge, rector 1408-54, was the first of six rectors to serve the parish for forty years or more. (fn. 135)
Hugh Davidge was deprived in 1554 for being married. (fn. 136) In 1568 the rector was reported for requesting prayers for all Christian people. (fn. 137) Robert Dicke (rector, 1593-1626) several times failed to preach or catechise, (fn. 138) and Edward Sutton (rector, 1626-66) was replaced in 1654 but returned in 1660. (fn. 139) Nathaniel Dalton was already rector of Cucklington when appointed rector in 1681. (fn. 140) Charles Plucknett, lord of the manor and patron from 1749, (fn. 141) was rector from 1734 to 1785. (fn. 142) His successor Joseph Legge, rector from 1785 to 1833, lived in Wiltshire in 1815 where he served three cures. (fn. 143) James Plucknett, son of Charles, served the parish as curate for Legge between 1777 and 1800, (fn. 144) and in 1815 services, alternately morning and afternoon, were taken by Paul Leir, rector of Charlton Musgrove. (fn. 145) Charles Plucknett, eldest son of James, was assistant curate 1818-24 and rector from 1833 until his death in 1881. (fn. 146) The rector of Maperton served the parish for Legge in 1827. (fn. 147) In 1840 the rector lived in the parish but had let the rectory house. One service with sermon was held each Sunday, with communion four times a year. (fn. 148) In 1851 the morning attendance on Census Sunday was 50 adults and 19 children; the average for adults at afternoon services was 64 and there were usually 27 children at each service. (fn. 149) By 1870 services were held both morning and afternoon and there were five celebrations a year. (fn. 150)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS, so dedicated by 1505, (fn. 153) comprises a chancel with north vestry, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and an unbuttressed west tower. Nave, chancel, porch, and tower were built in the 14th century. In 1887-8 the north aisle, for seats removed from the chancel, and organ chamber were added and the vestry rebuilt to the designs of W. J. Willcox of Bath. (fn. 154) The font probably dates from the 12th century. In 1736 a communion table was bought and the minister's desk was removed from the chancel to the north side of the church where a window was inserted to provide extra light. (fn. 155) A gallery, recently built c. 1785, (fn. 156) housed the 'choiristers' who visited Redlynch at Christmas 1782. (fn. 157)
The three bells, probably of the 15th century, are from the Salisbury foundry. (fn. 158) The plate includes a cover of 1570 and a cup of 1573. (fn. 159) The registers begin in 1558; some baptisms and marriages between 1738 and 1773 were entered in North Cheriton records. (fn. 160)
In 1669 two ejected ministers had 50 'hearers' in a house in the parish. (fn. 161) In 1822 a house was licensed for nonconformist worship. (fn. 162) A chapel built in 1831 and licensed in 1832 was used by Bible Christians in 1851 when the average attendance was 30 in the afternoon and 50 in the evening. (fn. 163) It was used by Baptists from 1873, (fn. 164) but it was no longer in use in 1923. (fn. 165)
In 1666 John Day of the parish was licensed to teach in a grammar school. (fn. 166) In 1818 there was a Sunday school for 30 boys and girls. (fn. 167) In 1825-6 there were 12 boys and 14 girls there. (fn. 168) By 1835 there was a day school for 16 boys and 11 girls who were taught mainly at their parents' expense. Some were paid for by the rector, who had recently started a free Sunday school for 24 boys and 21 girls. (fn. 169) The Sunday school continued in 1846-7 with smaller numbers (fn. 170) and was still held in 1875. (fn. 171) There was still a small day school in 1859 (fn. 172) and perhaps until 1871. (fn. 173) By 1875 children attended a day school at North Cheriton. (fn. 174) The Marchant-Holliday school, occupying the former North Cheriton House but located in Holton parish, was opened in 1959 and continued in 1994. (fn. 175)