A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 8, the Poldens and the Levels. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2004.
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The ancient parish of High Ham, originally Ham, (fn. 1) occupies the highest part of a ridge which forms the southern boundary of King's Sedgemoor and which runs from Aller in the west to Somerton in the east. The main settlement, High Ham, lies towards the northern edge of the ridge; Low or Nether Ham, the centre of an independent chapelry, (fn. 2) occupies a terrace on the eastern boundary 2 km. SSE. Henley, which also had a chapel in the Middle Ages, (fn. 3) lies just below the 15-m. contour on the edge of King's Sedgemoor, 1 km. N. and NE. of High Ham, and derives its name from meadow land below the scarp mentioned in a perambulation of the late 12th century or later. (fn. 4) Beer, just above the 15-m. contour 1.5 km. WNW. of High Ham, is partly in Aller parish. (fn. 5) The hamlet and mill of Paradise lies 2.5 km. S. of High Ham village, on the boundary with Huish Episcopi; (fn. 6) and on the Langport- Somerton turnpike road is the hamlet of Picts or Picks Hill. The north-western and northern boundaries of the ancient parish, before the inclosure of King's Sedgemoor in 1795, followed the edge of cultivable land. The eastern boundary with Pitney is largely the Low Ham rhyne, which is followed southwards almost to the hamlet of Wagg in Huish Episcopi, forming a tongue of land occupying the eastern slope of Ham Down. The south-western boundary with Huish follows a watercourse above Wearne. The parish measures 7.5 km. from its northern boundary on King's Sedgemoor to the southern end of Wagg Drove and 4.5 km. at its widest point between Beer and Pitney Steart bridge. In 1838 the parish was said to measure 4,229 a. (fn. 7) Detached parts of Pitney and Huish Episcopi on King's Sedgemoor were added in 1886, but the total acreage of 4,869 a. was given in 1881 and 1891. (fn. 8) The acreage in 1981 was 2,030 ha. (5,016 a.). (fn. 9)
Most of the parish lies on a clay plateau, with limestone near the surface in places, largely above 76 m. and in the north-west above the 91-m. contour. From one edge of the plateau, at Turn Hill in the north-west, the land falls steeply over a narrow band of Keuper marl to a similar band of alluvium at the 15-m. contour and falls further, north-west and north, over the peat of King's Sedgemoor. North-east of High Ham village the descent to the moor is more gradual over Keuper marl. South-east of the village the clay plateau ends on a promontory called Sedgemoor Hill; south of the hill Keuper marl is followed by a gravel terrace where Low Ham village lies. The eastern boundary, with Pitney, follows a stream in a narrow band of alluvium and gravel. (fn. 10)
Before the inclosure and drainage of King's Sedgemoor there was no land route north from the parish and its road pattern was a network of lanes linking High and Low Ham and subsidiary settlements and the fields, all approached from Langport. (fn. 11) Access by water from the north was possible along a watercourse known by 1280 as Hardingsditch (fn. 12) which was said to be a watercourse belonging to the abbot of Glastonbury linking High Ham with Pendon. (fn. 13) It was still visible in the later 16th century. (fn. 14) The Langport-Somerton road, passing through the southern tip of the parish and turnpiked in 1753, was also the principal route into the parish. (fn. 15) By 1822 a road had been built across King's Sedgemoor to Pedwell via Henley Corner. (fn. 16) In 1826 a variation of the same route, more directly north over Cradle bridge, was turnpiked by the High Ham and Ashcott trust, whose jurisdiction stretched along a single road from Meare to Picts Hill. The road was disturnpiked in 1879. (fn. 17) A second route across the moor linking Beer with Othery had been built by 1885. (fn. 18)
In 1563 there were said to be 60 households in High Ham and 19 in Low Ham; (fn. 19) 67 households were recorded in the 17th century, and c. 1785 there were c. 113 houses and nearly 600 inhabitants. (fn. 20) The total had increased to 713 in 1801 and rose rapidly to 1,027 in 1831. Further increases until 1851 were partly due to the presence of the Langport union workhouse in the parish. (fn. 21) The total fell every decade until 1901, although the workhouse population also fell slightly from 1861 and sharply after 1881. (fn. 22) In 1901 the population reached 898, rose to 958 in 1911 but thereafter declined, to 766 in 1931 and to 666 in 1951. By the last date the workhouse had closed, but the decline continued until 1961 or later and was thereafter reversed; in 1991 the total was 781. (fn. 23)
SETTLEMENT AND BUILDINGS
Two Roman villas stood within the later parish, one near the south-western boundary near fields called Chester Hill. (fn. 24) The second, south-east of Low Ham, was begun c. A.D. 200 and extended c. 330, and was occupied until A.D. 367 or later. Both included mosaics, in the latter of high quality. (fn. 25)
High Ham village, the principal settlement by the Saxon period, includes houses around a green south of the parish church, a street running north and including the surviving inn and the village hall, a network of interconnecting lanes to the south-east and south, and others leading to the former common fields. Those fields, entirely surrounding the village, were inclosed in 1799. The green was mentioned in 1265, Green Street perhaps a little earlier, and North Street by 1667. (fn. 26) New Street, part of Glastonbury abbey estate and containing building sites, was mentioned in 1369. (fn. 27) Other sites for building, possibly to enhance land values, were mentioned several times between 1315 and 1529. (fn. 28) Low Ham village lies along three irregular lanes north and west of its surviving manor house and chapel. Henley Street was so named in 1667 but had building sites in 1350. (fn. 29) Fields called Morton, NE. of Low Ham, indicate a so-called manor of that name mentioned in 1355 (fn. 30) and furlongs named in 1779, (fn. 31) all suggesting the former existence of a settlement.
An unusually large number of houses survives from the 15th and the 16th century of which three are in Henley and three in Low Ham. (fn. 32) Almost all the pre-19th century houses are of lias, either coursed rubble or squared, though Henley farmhouse may be built of cob. In the earlier ones the windows have timber lintels and probably had timber mullions; the superior later houses, such as the E-plan Manor farmhouse, High Ham, and the L-plan Dairy farmhouse, Low Ham, have stone mullioned ones. The roofs, originally thatched, have jointed crucks, which were still being used for some roofs in the 18th century, for example at Dobbins, Low Ham. Clay tiles appear after 1600 for new houses and reroofing, though thatch continued to be used in modest dwellings. Poorer quality rubble walling survives in 18th-century houses, and sometimes faces a cob core as at Poplar farmhouse, Henley. Slate for roofs and brick used alone or with stone for walling, as at Holly House, were introduced in the mid 19th century.
The earliest houses were mostly of one storey plus attics. Most of those built after 1600 are two-storeyed but a few farmhouses, such as Poplar farmhouse, and cottages have one-and-a-half storeys. Although one or two houses are more complex, the usual pre-1650 plan has three ground floor rooms in line with a through passage, a form which continued in use throughout the 18th and early 19th century in about ten farmhouses built then, some with farm buildings in line. In the early 19th century private residences of fashionable form began to appear, particularly in High Ham village, including the Grange, a detached 3-bayed villa, ashlar-faced in Ham stone with a classical porch, and South End House, Field Road, of c. 1840, and, at Low Ham, Classeys. More were built after 1870, including the Gothic Wearne Wyche, north of Picts Hill, designed in 1875 by George Nattress for the Langport banker W. B. Paul, (fn. 33) the French Gothic New Manor House in 1877, and Ham Court in 1906. The larger mid and later 19th-century farmhouses, such as the three-bayed Yew Tree farmhouse and Tibbs House, Henley, were also designed as genteel villas. (fn. 34) Eight new houses were built between 1931 and the end of the Second World War. (fn. 35)
Nine illegal ale sellers were reported in Barnard tithing in 1311, 14 in 1364, 16 in 1365, and 8 in 1418. There were no more than 4 from Netherham tithing between 1364 and 1418, and between 2 and 6 from Abraham tithing. (fn. 36) Victuallers were in business somewhere in the parish in 1620 and 1732, and one at Beer in 1674. The How family had an inn called the Prince of Wales by 1788 and until soon after 1803, and the Thyer family were licensees of the King's Head by 1828 until the later 19th century. (fn. 37) The King's Head was open in 2000. There was a second inn in 1851. (fn. 38) The Butcher's Arms was in business in the 1860s, two cider houses in 1861 of which one survived as a beer and cider house until 1889 or later, and a beer house elsewhere between 1897 and 1914. (fn. 39)
A male friendly society was founded in 1852 and was disbanded in 1931. It met at the village school and an annual service was held on Whit Tuesday. (fn. 43) There was a Women's Benefit Society in 1891 and 1898. (fn. 44) A Women's Institute branch was founded in 1920, a year after a branch of the county library had been established at the school. (fn. 45) In 1965 there were also branches of the Mothers' Union, the British Legion, and the Conservative Association. (fn. 46) In 1979 a mobile library came every fortnight and there were scouting groups and a youth club. (fn. 47)
Archery butts were mentioned in 1527 in Barnard tithing. (fn. 48) A rifle range had been created in a valley in the south-western part of the parish by 1890. (fn. 49) In 2000 it was a Ministry of Defence range used by H.M.S. Heron, the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton. (fn. 50) Wrestling matches and races were held on Sedgemoor in the mid 16th century. (fn. 51) Sports were held at Low Ham from 1953 until 2001. (fn. 52) The Mid Somerset golf club made a course occupying the high ground to the south of Low Ham village c. 1905; it was evidently still in use in 1928. (fn. 53) It was thought there had been a fives court before the 1930s. (fn. 54) A football club provided the only organised recreation in 1947. (fn. 55) The village hall, designed by Philip Tilden, was opened in 1925. (fn. 56) By 1947 there was also a hall owned by the Women's Institute. (fn. 57)
For their defence of Langport in July 1645 the Royalists took up a strong position on the east side of Ham Down, in the south of the parish. From there George, Lord Goring, and his men were driven swiftly back through the town by the New Model under Sir Thomas Fairfax. (fn. 58) Richard Thomas, a Welsh soldier mortally wounded in the battle and found in a ditch, was buried at High Ham church. (fn. 59)
HIGH HAM MANOR
Glastonbury abbey acquired its estate at High Ham from King Edgar either as a single grant in exchange for Braunton (Devon) in 973 or as two grants, an earlier one in 965. (fn. 60) At the Conquest the abbey held just over half the land and three thegns, Leuric, Alwold, and Almar, held the rest of the abbey. The three had been replaced before 1086 by Serlo de Burcy, Robert de Odburville, and Gerard the ditcher (or trencher). (fn. 61) The Glastonbury estate continued in the abbey's possession until the Dissolution when it reverted to the Crown. In 1559 it was granted to Sir John Grey and passed on his death in 1564 to his son Henry, created Baron Grey of Groby in 1603, who died in 1614. (fn. 62) Henry was succeeded by his grandson, also Henry and a minor, who in 1628 was created earl of Stamford. In 1629 the earl sold the manor to Thomas Bennet (cr. Bt. 1660) and John Rolle. (fn. 63) By 1631 (fn. 64) Rolle had evidently been succeeded by his son Henry, of Beam (in St. Giles-in-theWood, Devon), on whose death in 1656 the Rolle estate passed to a distant cousin (Sir) John Rolle (d. 1706) of Marrais (in Week St. Mary, Cornw.). (fn. 65) By 1715 (fn. 66) Sir John's son John (d. 1730) of Stevenstone (in St. Giles-in-the-Wood, Devon) was in possession. In 1729 he settled the manor with other estates on his younger sons in succession, beginning with his second son John, later John Walter. John Walter held courts in the years 1742-8 but his brother Denys (d. 1797), who succeeded him, was granting leases in 1731 and holding courts from 1748. (fn. 67) After 1757 and probably before 1764 Denys sold the manor to John Galton (d. 1775), then a Bristol merchant but later of Birmingham, from whom it passed to his brother Samuel (d. 1799). (fn. 68) Samuel Galton was followed in succession by his son Samuel (d. 1832) and his grandson Samuel Tertius Galton (d. 1844). (fn. 69) Francis, son of the last, sold the manor house and land in 1854 to trustees for the Revd. Thomas Marriott Dodington, and thereafter Dodington was regarded as lord of the manor, (fn. 70) although members of the Galton family continued to own land in the parish until 1896 or later. (fn. 71) Dodington died in 1876 and was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1890) and by his grandson Roger (d. 1925), the last still recorded as lord in 1923. (fn. 72)
In the early 14th century the manorial buildings comprised a hall and chamber, the hall having a stone bench. Agricultural buildings included a barn with two porches, stables, an oxshed, granary, wood house, pound, and barton. (fn. 73)
Manor Farm, a substantial E-plan building in local stone, includes a door and two windows of the 15th or the 16th century evidently re-used when the whole structure was rebuilt in the 19th century.
LOW HAM MANORS
Nether Ham (Ham Burcy)
The estate of Serlo de Burcy (d. c. 1086), later known as Ham Burcy, Nether Ham, or Low Ham, (fn. 74) formed part of a group of fees held of Glastonbury and descended like Serlo's Blagdon barony to his daughter Geva. Presumably after her death it was held first by William FitzWalter before passing to Geva's son and heir Robert FitzMartin (d. 1159). William (I) FitzMartin (d. 1209) was followed by his son William (II) (d. c. 1216). Nicholas, presumably his son, died in 1282 leaving as heir his grandson William (III) (d. 1324). William FitzMartin (IV), son of the last, died without issue in 1326, leaving as his heirs two sisters, the elder married to Philip de Columbers (d. 1342), the younger to Nicholas de Audley. (fn. 75) Both Philip de Columbers and James, son of Nicholas de Audley, did homage to the abbot. (fn. 76) James was holding the fee in 1363. (fn. 77)
John de Kelly was evidently tenant of the fees of William FitzMartin in 1303. (fn. 78) In 1326 the fee at Ham was said, probably in error, to be held by John Burcy, but in 1346 Ralph of Middleney held it. (fn. 79) Ralph died in 1363 (fn. 80) and the holding passed under a settlement of 1355 to Maurice Berkeley (d. 1368) and his wife Catherine, Ralph's granddaughter, with remainder failing heirs to Maurice's father Sir Thomas and his wife, also Catherine. (fn. 81) Catherine, Sir Thomas's widow, had succeeded by 1377 and died in 1386 holding Ham Burcy as of the abbot of Glastonbury. (fn. 82) Her heir was her son Sir John Berkeley who died in 1428. (fn. 83) Sir John was followed by his son Sir Maurice (d. 1458), his grandson (Sir) Maurice (d. 1474), and by his great-grandson (Sir) William Berkeley (d. 1485), but the last was attainted for his part in the uprising of the duke of Buckingham and the manor was granted in 1484 to John Sapcote. (fn. 84) In 1485 the manor reverted to the Crown (fn. 85) but Sir William was eventually succeeded by his sister Catherine, first wife of Sir John Brereton, and she by her daughter Werburga, who married Sir William Compton (d. 1528) as her second husband. (fn. 86) Werburga died in 1524 when her heir was her son Peter Compton, then a minor. (fn. 87) Peter was still a ward on his death in 1544 but was succeeded by his posthumous son (Sir) Henry. (fn. 88)
Probably in 1596 (fn. 89) Henry sold the estate to (Sir) Edward Hext (d. 1624), whose heir was his daughter Elizabeth, wife successively of Sir Ralph Killigrew and Sir John Stawell, K.B. (d. 1662). (fn. 90) Nether Ham manor was sold in 1652 after sequestration of Stawell's estates but it was partially redeemed by Lady Stawell before 1656. (fn. 91) Sir John was restored to ownership in 1660 but his son George (d. 1669) (fn. 92) was said in 1662 and 1664 to hold jointly with Henry Seymour and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 93) George was succeeded by his brother Ralph (cr. Lord Stawell of Somerton 1683, d. 1689). Ralph's son John, Baron Stawell, died in 1692 heavily in debt (fn. 94) and his estate was conveyed to trustees who in 1723 sold to Edith, widow of Sir Edward Phelips (d. 1699). (fn. 95) It evidently passed on her death to her third daughter Edith (d. 1772), from 1744 wife of Carew Hervey Mildmay (d. 1784). (fn. 96) Carew left his estates to his great-niece Jane (d. 1857), from 1786 wife of Sir Henry Paulet St. John-Mildmay, Bt. (fn. 97) Sir Henry died in 1808 and was followed at Nether Ham by his second son Paulet (d. 1845). (fn. 98) Paulet's eldest son Paulet Henry Mildmay died without children in 1858 and was succeeded by his brother Capt. Hervey George Mildmay R.N., who in 1873-5 sold the manor or reputed manor of Nether Ham (fn. 99) to (Sir) Charles Wathen. (fn. 100) Wathen was succeeded on his death in 1893 by his daughter Marian, wife of Montague Blamire Williamson, subsequently archdeacon of Bodmin. Mrs. Williamson was still lady of the manor in 1919. (fn. 101) The property passed thereafter to trustees. (fn. 102) and was subsequently sold by the Williamson family. (fn. 103)
Robert de Burcy of Nether Ham, apparently the terre tenant, acquired his estate in free marriage with his wife Mabel, daughter of Martin de Cemais, presumably a descendant of the Martins, owners of the fee. (fn. 104) He is found between 1262 and 1280 or later, (fn. 105) had been succeeded by his son William by 1311, (fn. 106) and by William's son John by 1316. John survived until c. 1363. (fn. 107) John Burcy, perhaps son of the last, and his wife Agnes were in possession in 1377. (fn. 108) In 1412 Richard Burcy, son and heir of John, recovered possession against Christine, window of Richard Burcy. (fn. 109) No further trace of the family has been found.
Nether Ham (second manor)
In 1086 Robert de Odburville held 1¼ hide of Glastonbury abbey and land adjoining in Wearne in Huish Episcopi of the king. (fn. 110) The whole seems to have been the land called Ham and later Nether Ham which Henry II gave to his forester William FitzBernard (d. c. 1184) and which was held of the Crown with Newton Forester manor in North Petherton. (fn. 111) It reverted to the Crown on FitzBernard's death and was farmed until 1196 or later. (fn. 112) William Wrotham held it in 1212. (fn. 113) William's nephew Richard (fn. 114) died c. 1250 and his heir at Nether Ham was Custance, wife of John le Blound. (fn. 115) John's son, also John, succeeded in 1263. (fn. 116) William le Blound is said to have held some of the land under John of Taunton (abbot of Glastonbury 1274-91) and was succeeded by John le Blound. (fn. 117) Robert le Blound died c. 1290 and the unnamed heirs of John le Blound were recorded as owners of the estate in 1303. (fn. 118) Probably the sole heir by 1301 was Robert's daughter Sybil, a minor, (fn. 119) who by 1311 had married William le Venour and who settled it on their son John with remainder, failing children of John, to Sybil's right heirs. (fn. 120) By 1339 it had passed to Ralph of Middleney (fn. 121) and in 1346 was held jointly by Ralph and Geoffrey Cras. (fn. 122) Under a settlement of 1355 the manor passed on Ralph's death in 1363 to Maurice, younger son of his granddaughter Catherine, wife of Sir Thomas de Berkeley, or to Thomas and Catherine should Maurice not survive. (fn. 123) Catherine outlived both her husband and her younger son and died in 1386 holding Nether Ham manor of the Crown. (fn. 124) The manor then descended with Ham Burcy. (fn. 125)
A house known in the later 16th century as Burcy's Court and then or formerly occupied by a gentleman named Bartlett, may have been the manor house of the Burcy manor. A second house, then known as Low Ham Court and formerly occupied by the Walton family, may have been the capital messuage of the other manor. (fn. 126) Old Manor Farmhouse, Low Ham, may be identified with either manor. Its earliest phase is a high-status building of c. 1480, altered or added to c. 1625, c. 1750, and c. 1800. (fn. 127) The late 15th-century bays indicate that this house retained its high status from then into the early 17th century when it was reconstructed.
Sir Edward Hext, resident lord of the manor 1596- 1624, is said to have built a house 'thought one of the best ... in the West of England'. (fn. 128) Suggestions for its site on the hill to the south of Low Ham chapel (fn. 129) must be discounted since its successor immediately to the north of the chapel, included the kitchen and perhaps other service rooms of its predecessor. (fn. 130) Fragments of the Hext house, including a column, are incorporated in the present farm buildings on the site. That new building was begun by John, Lord Stawell, in 1688, and was still under construction in 1691, (fn. 131) but work probably stopped at Stawell's death in the following year. The 'Great House', (fn. 132) depicted in 1779 as a fivebay house of two-and-a-half storeys and facing westwards, (fn. 133) fell down shortly afterwards and was described as 'vast piles of a stately ruin' whose huge site, in length nearly 130 yd. and 30 yd. wide, may have been intended to include service and farm buildings. Three rooms at the southern end of house then had 'very magnificent painted ceilings now dropping down to rubbish'. A kitchen in the form of a 30-ft. cube with a hexagonal skylight and two fireplaces on the west side was still standing and was inhabited by a farmer, let with the remains of the former house. It still retained fixed benches and an oval table made from a single elm plank 7 ft. long and 5½ ft. wide. (fn. 134) That kitchen is depicted to the north-west of the house in 1779.
By 1779 the entrance to the site was flanked by large gate piers. (fn. 135) Two late 17th-century arches, perhaps giving access to a service court, were removed to the Mildmay estate at Hazlegrove in Queen Camel. (fn. 136) Another was still standing at Low Ham as a barn entrance in 1890. (fn. 137) In 1873-4 the two were rebuilt back to back as a single entrance arch for Hazelgrove House. Its design, and perhaps the design of the Stawell house, of segmental arch with pilasters and Ionic columns, could have resulted from the connexion between the Stawells and the architect William Taylor. (fn. 138)
The ground rising to the south of the Hext house was occupied in 1662 by 5 a. of warren and orchards and 2 a. of gardens. (fn. 139) John, Lord Stawell, was evidently interested in gardening, spending on glasshouses and orange trees. (fn. 140) About 1690 Jacob Bobart created for him a series of terraces evidently taking account of the existence of the warren. (fn. 141) That garden was probably never completed and in 1779 the area was part of a walled hare and rabbit warren. (fn. 142)
In 1086 High Ham gelded for 17 hides although there was land for 20 teams. The Glastonbury abbey demesne measured just over 5½ hides worked by 5 serfs, and stock comprised 2 riding horses, 17 beasts, 10 pigs, and 150 sheep. Twenty-two villeins and 21 bordars held nearly 3½ hides with 8 teams. Since 1066 the value had risen from £4 to £10. Three other holdings together comprised just over 4½ hides with 4 serfs and 2 teams. Two villeins and 14 bordars cultivated the rest of the arable land with 2 teams. In total there were 3 riding horses, 3 mares, 14 beasts, 13 pigs, and 103 sheep. The value had fallen slightly from 1066. (fn. 143)
Only the Glastonbury abbey manor is documented in the Middle Ages. In the 1160s and 1170s the size of the demesne farm is unknown but it was already predominantly arable and had small and varying numbers and types of stock: in one year 16 oxen, 8 cows, 20 pigs, a ewe, and a draught horse, in another 16 oxen, 10 cows, a bull, and a draught horse, in a third 3 draught horses, a cow, and 100 ewes. In 1189 there were 25 oxen, a bull, 7 pigs, and 2 draught horses and the lord employed an oxherd and a pig man; in 1196 a flock of 62 sheep; in 1201 100 ewes, only 8 oxen, 2 cows, and 2 sows. (fn. 144) In 1260 the demesne arable, spread over two fields, measured 540 a., and there were some 57 a. of meadow, in size probably unchanged from 1086. (fn. 145) The amount of land sown in 1257-8 represented about half the arable acreage, but the area had been increased to 340 a. by 1274-5 although the figure thereafter up to 1316 varied between 305 a. and 211 a. In the 1330s the amount sown was reduced still further, though the amount ploughed and kept fallow for more than one year suggests little overall decrease in size. (fn. 146)
Demesne leasing had begun by 1357; as many as 83 separate leases of one or two acres were granted in that year, followed by 1365-6 by leases of virgate and halfvirgate holdings. (fn. 147) By 1515 the surviving demesne farm, measuring 236 a., was let to one man and the rest was let in 85 separate units, described as overland demesne and measuring 214 a. (fn. 148)
The character of the demesne farm was evidently little different in the 13th and the earlier 14th century from the later 12th century. Wheat was the principal crop, usually covering four times the area of oats; small acreages of beans, peas, barley, and rye were planted from time to time. Plough oxen alone were the standard stock, with a flock of geese in the early 14th century and all other stock in single figures or absent except for chickens paid as church scot and usually sold. Other commodities occurring occasionally in the stock accounts included apples, cider, and wax. Lord and tenants shared a shepherd by 1352 and a demesne flock was kept until 1369 or later. (fn. 149)
In 1086 the rest of the Glastonbury manor had been occupied by 43 tenants. (fn. 150) In 1189 there were 8 virgaters, 12 half-virgaters, 26 cottars, and five other tenants, one the woodward, another the miller; (fn. 151) and in 1201 12 virgaters and 19 cottars were recorded. (fn. 152) In 1234 there were 9 virgaters, 13 half-virgaters, 22 holders of 5 a., and 5 free tenants, one of whom held 1½ virgate, another just over 1 virgate. (fn. 153) In 1260 the half-virgaters had been reduced by two. (fn. 154) By 1515 the tenanted land, increased by the dispersal of much of the demesne, was shared between 9 virgaters, 8 halfvirgaters, 16 ferdellers, 1 half-ferdeller, and 12 cottars. The freeholds had been reduced to four. (fn. 155)
Income from the manor was based on a simple rental which in 1274-5 was worth £7 13s. 7d., to which were added larder rents of 27s. 8d. and other small charges. Total receipts then amounted to £22 2s. 6d. which included perquisites of hundred and halimote courts totalling £6 6s. 3d. (fn. 156) Total receipts in 1300-1 rose to £30 14s. 10d. thanks to an aid of £3 10s. levied on villeins and some substantial fines. (fn. 157) Receipts in 1305-6 were inflated by a recognition paid to a new abbot and totalled over £42. (fn. 158) The total of over £79 in 1331-2 was caused by heavy entry fines and the sale of works. (fn. 159) Income and expenditure are unknown after 1335.
In 1189 tenants owed ploughing, carrying, and stacking services; by 1260 additional works known as handayns were required and some tenants were obliged to work by summons to Glastonbury. (fn. 160) Threshing and autumn labour were being paid for by 1298-9 and ploughing and harvesting on the demesne in 1302-3. (fn. 161) The levy of chevage reached a peak in 1340 when 26s. 1d. was raised from 75 people. The average in the 1340s was reduced by one third in 1350 and by half by 1352. Between 14 and 19 paid in the later 14th century and among those who paid in 1352, four were described as drovers, one the common shepherd, one a carpenter, one a carter, and one a weaver. Two lived elsewhere. (fn. 162) By 1515 there were four nativi of whom two were members of the Growe family. (fn. 163) Philip Growe was manumitted in 1528. (fn. 164)
Entry fines like the £30 paid by Thomas Davy in 1347-8 indicate both substantial tenants and significant holdings. (fn. 165) Tenants farmers certainly kept sheep with the lord's flock by 1344, and the rector in 1365 had 40 sheep and employed a swineherd. (fn. 166) In 1515 there were 26 holdings of over 30 a. of which the largest was 91 a. (fn. 167)
Piecemeal inclosure of arable strips had begun by 1515 and continued slowly during the 16th century. (fn. 168) In the 1530s the balance of agriculture was still heavily in favour of corn-growing, the income from tithe of wool and lambs amounting to only £4 as compared with grain tithe of nearly £29. (fn. 169) William Balche, farmer of the demesne in 1515, held 252 a. of which 188 a. was scattered in the two arable fields and most of the rest was inclosed grassland. (fn. 170) He or a son of the same name was described as a gentleman in 1555; another William was one of the two most prominent residents in 1569. (fn. 171) Of similar status were members of the Walton family: John Walton (d. 1540-1) was occupier of a ½-virgate freehold in High Ham manor in 1515, auditor of Glastonbury abbey, debtor to the abbot of Glastonbury in 1539; (fn. 172) John's brother William was auditor of Glastonbury abbey in 1535, bailiff of Whitley hundred in 1538-9, and coroner in 1555; (fn. 173) and John's son Thomas (d. 1576) was purchaser of Shapwick manor in 1557 and with William Balche the two most prominent residents in the parish in 1569. (fn. 174) The Waltons, who were related by marriage to the Hexts and were said to have lived in a house called Low Ham Court, were still in the parish in 1666. (fn. 175)
High Ham manor in the year 1640-1 produced a total income of over £205, more than half from what were described simply as 'payments' made by twelve people, possibly as debts since some were made in at least five instalments. Rents and fines totalled nearly £57. (fn. 176) Low Ham Manor, restored to the Stawells after confiscation and leasing of the demesne for six years when the annual value was believed 'in good times' to be £135, (fn. 177) was surveyed twice in the 1660s. In 1662 the demesne farm was said to comprise 160 a. of arable and 262 a. of grass and tenants held a total of 918 a. divided between 5 holdings in Beer, 27 in Low Ham, 5 in Paradise, 7 in High Ham, 12 cottagers, and 7 'foreigners'. The largest tenant holding was Beer farm (125 a.); 8 farms in Low Ham measured between 68 a. and over 30 a. About 1665 the demesne was said to be 598 a. and the tenants were divided between 37 copyholders and 45 leaseholders. There were still 11 small freeholds. At least 12 copyhold tenants owed a day's work (one two days) at harvest, slightly fewer owed mill suit and heriots. (fn. 178) Some twenty years later the demesne was assessed at 573 a. (fn. 179) On High Ham manor in 1667 there were 20 farms measuring 35 a. and more, the two largest of 134 a. and 100 a. Nine were leasehold, eleven copyhold; eleven were held by women and seven of them included inclosed arable totalling 131 a. The total acreage was 1,966 a. Several cottages were described as lately built. (fn. 180)
In the earlier 18th century Low Ham demesne measured 300 a. The tenant, William Richards, subsequently absorbed several tenant holdings to make a farm of c. 500 a. There were still 10 leasehold and 8 copyhold tenements named among the other farms on the estate, nine of them ranging in size between 30 a. and 60 a. (fn. 181) At the beginning of the 19th century the pattern had changed little. There were 12 small freehold estates, 22 copyholds or leaseholds with small quit rents totalling nearly £13 comprising just over 428 a., and four rack-rented holdings including the former demesne. The last, called Netherham Manor and held by the Reynolds family, comprised 551 a. held on a 21year lease. John Sherrin held Beriam farm (120 a.) at will and another holding of 95 a. Window Sherrin held Beer farm (51 a.). (fn. 182)
The owner of Low Ham was buying large quantities of clover seed in the mid 1680s. (fn. 183) A small farmer in the 1720s, probably typical of his neighbours, had cattle including six plough beasts, horses, and pigs, and grew wheat, beans, and peas. (fn. 184) Tenants on Low Ham manor were ordered in 1709 to keep cattle in at night and were to plant French grass or clover on the third arable crop. (fn. 185) High Ham manor tenants were ordered in the 1740s not to tether cattle in the corn fields nor to keep more than 200 sheep on common arable. (fn. 186) In the 1780s farms in the parish were mostly small; oxen were used in ploughing but agriculture was 'very indifferently' understood although 'great crops' of wheat and fruit were produced. (fn. 187) 'Superior' crops' of wheat came from 449 a. in 1801; barley, peas, oats, and beans together covered 284 a. and crops were average or good. Turnips and rape were not grown until inclosure of arable in 1799 and continued to be unpopular. (fn. 188) In 1803-5 the main farms at Low Ham were said to be capable of great improvement or much neglected, and re-letting them into four 'good' units was recommended in order to reduce the scattered nature of the holdings. (fn. 189) Many houses and buildings were said to be going to ruin. (fn. 190) Rack renting had begun at the beginning of the 18th century, but still by its end heriots and harvest days were mentioned in leases and some copyholds and leases for lives persisted until the 1870s. (fn. 191) The lease of the demesne farm at Low Ham in 1786 included the stipulation that 40 a. were to be left fallow each year. (fn. 192) The inclosure of open arable in fields described as Beer, Red, West, and East fields, and Ham Down, and Low Ham, Huish, and Pitney moors was arranged under an Act of 1799. (fn. 193)
In 1838 there were two principal farms representing the two manorial demesne holdings, William Reynolds's 527 a. at Low Ham and William Hurd's 300 a. at High Ham. There were six other farms of over 100 a. and eleven of over 50 a. together with the glebe holding. (fn. 194) The two principal holdings remained in 1851, but by then there were two others of over 200 a., nine of over 100 a., and 14 more over 50 a. Twenty years later the two manorial farms still dominated, but reorganisations had reduced the total number over 50 a. to 17. (fn. 195) Harvesting apples, potatoes, and turnips provided employment for parish children in the 1860s (fn. 196) and were the cause of absenteeism from the parish school. In the 1870s the blackberry crop had the same effect. (fn. 197) Annual ploughing matches in High Ham, held by 1867 and continuing until 1936, emphasised the continuing importance of arable and the efforts made to maintain farming skill. (fn. 198)
The sale of the Low Ham estate in 1873 (fn. 199) and agricultural depression resulted in division of holdings into 40 separate farms by 1906 and one or two farmers diversified, offering labour and equipment such as a threshing machine or drills. There were two dairies, and one farmer specialised in poultry and another in pigs. (fn. 200) A year earlier three quarters of the parish was under grass. (fn. 201) Immediately after the First World War there were said to be over thirty farms and by the late 1920s High Ham was said to be a parish of small owners and smallholders. (fn. 202) In 1931 there were 28 farms, in 1939 45 with only 5 over 150 a. One farmer in the second year hired out cars and was a ploughing contractor and there were also 3 poultry farms. The former workhouse had become an egg and poultry packing station whose owners also dealt in pigs, calves, and lambs and slaughtered horses. (fn. 203)
In 1086 there were 60 a. of meadow and 20 a. of pasture in the entire estate of Ham. (fn. 204) In 1260 there were just over 57 a. of demesne meadow on the abbey manor, probably a fair reflection of the small acreage of grass except on King's Sedgemoor. The abbot claimed grazing for 32 beasts on the moor. (fn. 205) Small increases in rents in the later 13th century were charged for land, by the 1280s amounting to c. 40 a., considered to be part of the abbey manor and recovered from the moor. (fn. 206) By the mid 14th century watercourses on the moor had become important for transport and as fisheries, and by the 1530s banks were being repaired by tenants, stones laid along the tracks, and at least one set of floodgates was built. (fn. 207) Only one fishery was in use in 1515. The moor, used by the free and villein tenants of all the Glastonbury estates which surrounded it, was for grazing, for turves for their hearths, and for sedge for their own use. (fn. 208) The right to collect sedge and to graze all the year was declared after the Dissolution, (fn. 209) and tenants continued to use the moor in the 17th century. (fn. 210) In the 1530s they were ordered to make baulks on the moor, presumably to counter flooding. (fn. 211)
Proposed allotments of the moor in the earlier 17th century suggested a total of over 970 a. to be divided between the lords of High and Low Ham manors. (fn. 212) Later in the same century the fishery in the moor was shared between four tenants. (fn. 213) The moor was finally inclosed in 1795. (fn. 214) Between 1861 and 1897 there was a willow grower and dealer in the parish, and between 1875 and 1894 a farmer sold turves dug in the moor. (fn. 215)
In 1086 there were 16 a. of woodland, all on the Glastonbury abbey manor. (fn. 216) In 1260 there were 36 a. of underwood and a wood and garden next to the manor buildings measured 8½ a. (fn. 217) A small wood at Henley had been planted by 1282. (fn. 218) In 1515 the abbey demesne included Blackham wood, measuring 10 a., to be felled every ten years, and in which all tenants had rights to cut underwood for spars, and there was a grove of 200 oaks planted by Abbot Selwood (abbot 1456-92). (fn. 219) There was also wood pasture with 112 oaks in 1515 and 50 at the Dissolution, thought to have been over two centuries old. (fn. 220) Blackham wood measured 12 a. in 1667 and in 1746 the right to cut spars, stretchers, and wattle was confined to a 1-a. wood called Parish Acre. (fn. 221) Woodland covered some 250 a. in 1838 (fn. 222) and 137 a. in 1905. (fn. 223) Most was located on the western and northern slopes overlooking King's Sedgemoor and comprised Breech, Beer, and Blackham woods.
There was a mill on Glastonbury abbey's estate in 1189. (fn. 224) A watermill described as at Wearne in the earlier 13th century (fn. 225) may be the precursor of the mill belonging to Low Ham manor which was mentioned in 1651 and in 1725 was known as Paradise mill. It was ordered to be repaired 1745-8 and its site was let for rebuilding as a mill in 1804. (fn. 226) It was sold with the manor in 1873 (fn. 227) and continued in business until soon after 1910. (fn. 228) The building is of the 18th century, stone built and of two two-bayed, two-storeyed sections with attics and casement and iron-framed windows.
A windmill attached to Low Ham manor was mentioned in 1322, 1428, and 1651. (fn. 229) It stood on Turn Hill at Beer and was let with Beer farm. (fn. 230) It may be identified with Lord Stawell's windmill mentioned in 1684. (fn. 231) An oak was cut in 1352 for the upright of a post mill on the Glastonbury abbey estate. (fn. 232) The mill, in Barnard tithing, was apparently not in use in 1364- 5. (fn. 233) A windmill built by Abbot Bere occurs in the same tithing by 1515 until 1531. (fn. 234) It may have stood at South Cliffe, the possible site of a windmill in the west field of High Ham which was let to Mary Higgs in 1616, the tenant finding sheets and sails. It was still in use in 1670. (fn. 235)
In 1590 there was a windmill in the west field of Low Ham known as Blagdon's. Before 1662 it was let to John Barker and was still in use c. 1677 (fn. 236) but was in decay in 1779. (fn. 237) In 1667 Catherine Walton held a windmill of High Ham manor. (fn. 238) It may have been the mill standing in the east field of High Ham, south-east of the village, in 1797. (fn. 239) It was replaced in 1822 by a new mill slightly to the south-west, subsequently known as Stembridge Tower Mill. Steam had been introduced by 1894 and was the sole power after the cap jammed in 1897/8. Milling ceased soon after 1910. (fn. 240) In 1969 the mill, cottage, and garden were acquired by the National Trust under the will of the last private owner, Professor H. H. Bellot. (fn. 241) The mill is of local limestone, with four floors, and a thatched cap.
A horse mill was working in 1356 on High Ham manor. It was removed without licence in 1388. (fn. 242)
Lime was extracted on Ham Down by 1662 (fn. 243) and there were four limekilns in the parish in 1838. (fn. 244) A brickyard had been opened north of High Ham village by 1798. (fn. 245) Stone quarrying was of significance by the 1860s. In 1861 a mining contractor was living in High Ham village and two alabaster miners from Cornwall were lodging there, possibly working at Beer, locally in Aller, where spoil tips and a bore hole have been found. A stone cutter and quarrymen, also resident in 1861, were presumably working the outcrop of limestone on the slopes above Low Ham. (fn. 246) By 1872 a mine for 'plaster stone' had been opened by Barham Brothers of Bridgwater, and in 1881 five stone cutters were living in the parish, (fn. 247) but no further reference to the quarry has been found.
TRADES AND CRAFTS
From the 1830s gloving provided employment for women and girls at home and reached a peak in the 1860s. In 1861 nearly eighty were employed and later in the decade the work was done for a Taunton manufacturer. (fn. 248) By 1881 there were only a few glovers, (fn. 249) and still in 1965 eight people were engaged in gloving. (fn. 250) Other village crafts in the 19th century largely supported agriculture. Willow growing and turf dealing occupied two families in the second half of the 19th century and several members of the Lavis family worked as wheelwrights, evidently for a wide clientele. The family continued in business until 1940. (fn. 251) The relative isolation of the parish, combined with a large population, gave business to a blacksmith who in 1872 was also an ironmonger, an oil and colour merchant, and a grocer, and other people diversified, including a farmer who hired out a threshing machine and sold groceries and beer, and a wheelwright who also sold groceries and kept a post office. Six general shopkeepers were recorded in 1851 together with a combined grocer and draper. The number declined towards the end of the century but one remained at Henley until after the First World War. In the later 1920s the parish was served by two grocers, a baker, a butcher, and the business of Messrs. Mears and Hunt, grocers, outfitters, drapers, and stationers, who also kept the post office. (fn. 252) A cycle agency, a laundry, and a haulage business were established at Picts Hill by 1914, taking advantage of the Langport-Somerton road, and an antique shop there in 1935 was still in business in the late 1960s. (fn. 253)
There were no public utilities in the village in 1947 but there were two general shops, one including drapery and the post office, and a separate bakery. Car and shoe repairs could be undertaken and there was a gentlemen's hairdresser, but there was no public transport. A bus service had been introduced by 1950. (fn. 254) In the mid 1960s there were still two general stores and a garage as well as travelling shops but in 1979 there was only a small general shop and the post office had recently closed. (fn. 255)
High Ham was associated with Ringoldsway hundred in the 11th century, (fn. 256) but appeared alone at assizes in the mid 13th century and formed by the early 14th a hundred comprising the tithings of Abraham, Barnard or Bernard, and Nether Ham, although in 1316 it was considered with West Monkton as part of Whitstone hundred and in 1327, still linked with Monkton, was independent. (fn. 257)
Rolls for leet courts for Ham hundred survive for 1311, 1314-15, 1364-5, 1418, 1527-33, and 1536. (fn. 258)
Courts were held twice a year, nominally at Michaelmas and Hockday. A hundred bailiff was mentioned in 1364 and two constables from 1529. The court dealt with illegal brewers and overcharging millers, from 1528 gave orders for repair of targets in the butts, and in 1536 expelled two families for quarrelling. Repairs were ordered in 1536 to stocks and tumbrel. There was an ordeal pit in 1311. (fn. 259)
High Ham had become part of Whitley hundred for tax purposes by the later 16th century, (fn. 260) and in the mid 17th century was described as an out hundred. (fn. 261) By 1667 Abraham and Barnard tithings were also known as north and south tithings, (fn. 262) by 1715 the three were called north, south, and out, (fn. 263) and by the late 1720s north, middle, and out tithings. (fn. 264) Nether or Low Ham was in the later 17th century reckoned as forming with Cathanger in Fivehead, North Newton in North Petherton, and Exton a complete tithing in Williton Freemanors hundred. A deputy tithingman 'for the place only' was chosen at the Low Ham Michaelmas court. (fn. 265) By the 1760s until 1791 Low Ham was reckoned for land tax purposes as in Williton Freemanors and Carhampton hundreds. (fn. 266) In the earlier 19th century Low Ham appointed a tithingman rather than a deputy (fn. 267) but it and part of Paradise were still considered part of Williton and Freemanors hundred in 1841. (fn. 268) In 1841 part of Beer was said to be in Pitney hundred and part of Wagg in Huish Episcopi parish in Kingsbury East hundred. (fn. 269)
Halimote courts for the Glastonbury manor of Ham were held twice a year, at Michaelmas and Hockday, and in the earlier 16th century were held on the same day as the hundred court. Rolls survive for 65 sessions between 1262 and 1536. (fn. 270) Courts were concerned with tenancies, repairs, drainage, roads, the collection of chevage, and the control of neifs. Officers included a hayward for the manor alone as distinct from a hayward for the whole vill, (fn. 271) until the later 1350s a granger, (fn. 272) and in 1369 a shepherd. (fn. 273)
Courts were kept at the manor house and in the 1740s its officers were two constables, three tithingmen, a hayward, and three viewers of presentments. In 1777, apart from the constables and tithingmen, there were two affeerers, a hayward, and a man described as reeve and hayward. Business included oversight of the fields and highways, maintenance of watercourses, house repairs, and for a short time the offer of bounties for killing sparrows, to be paid by the churchwardens.
In the later 17th century the lord of Low Ham manor had a court leet which met at Michaelmas and Lady Day. (fn. 277) Scattered papers including admissions at courts baron and summonses survive from 1695, presentments are found for the period 1745-65, draft minutes 1789-1814 and 1826-8. A hayward and a tithingman were regularly appointed in the 18th century and from 1754 to 1756 the hayward was also the waywarden. (fn. 278) From 1588 or earlier courts were held in the hall of a house known as Newhouse 'at the usual table there standing' until c. 1699 and thereafter, certainly from 1709 in part of the abandoned mansion, where the tenants were to provide the steward with food and lodging twice a year. (fn. 279) The tenant of the demesne farm, by 1806 known as Manor Farm, continued to be responsible for the courts held there until the early 19th century. (fn. 280)
Two churchwardens, two overseers, and two constables were responsible for parish administration in the later 17th century, (fn. 281) and a chapel warden for the maintenance of Low Ham chapel. (fn. 282) The vestry in the earlier 19th century comprised the rector, churchwardens, overseers, and four or five others. Meetings were held in the school house. (fn. 283)
Three cottages beside the churchyard on High Ham manor land were built before 1667 by the parish for aged poor. (fn. 284) The parish became part of Langport poorlaw union in 1836, of Langport rural district in 1894, and of Yeovil (later South Somerset) district in 1974. (fn. 285) The Langport union workhouse, subsequently Hamdown House, was built on Ham Down within the parish in 1842 (fn. 286) and there was an associated isolation hospital by 1911. (fn. 287)
CHURCH AND CHAPELS
HIGH HAM CHURCH
There was a church by 1168. (fn. 288) Probably in the 13th century a vicarage was created for a short time, (fn. 289) but the living was otherwise a rectory, served as a single cure until 1976 when it was linked with Huish Episcopi and Pitney. It became a member of the Langport Area Churches team ministry in 1978. (fn. 290)
Patronage and Endowment
The advowson was owned by Glastonbury abbey until the Dissolution (fn. 291) and then passed to the Crown, which granted it in 1542 to Sir Thomas Wyatt and in 1544 only the next presentation to Sir Anthony Browne. (fn. 292) The Crown presented in 1553. (fn. 293) In 1559 it was granted with High Ham manor to Sir John Grey (fn. 294) and descended for a time like High Ham manor. (fn. 295) In 1631 Hugh Fortescue and (Sir) Henry Rolle presented to the living and were followed by Henry's son (Sir) Francis (d. 1686). (fn. 296) The Rolle family in the persons of Francis and John Rolle presented until 1773, by which date the advowson had passed to William Barrett, a Bristol surgeon. (fn. 297) In 1797 the patrons were Susanna, Anna, and Sophia Barrett. (fn. 298) By 1835 the patrons were the master and fellows of Worcester College, Oxford; (fn. 299) their rights were subsumed in the patronage board of the team ministry in 1978.
The rectory was taxed at £18 in 1291 (fn. 300) and was then subject to a pension of £2 granted in 1189 for the support of the precentor of Glastonbury abbey; in the 1530s it was paid towards the fabric. (fn. 301) In 1535 its net value was £38 19s.; (fn. 302) c. 1670 the reputed value was £120; (fn. 303) and in the early 1830s the average net income was £583. (fn. 304)
Tithes were valued at £42 10s. in 1535 (fn. 305) and in 1838 those belonging to High Ham rectory were commuted for £455 and those belonging to Pitney rectory for £21. (fn. 306) Glebe was valued at £3 in 1535 (fn. 307) and in 1638 comprised c. 60 a. and 18 small tenements or cottages. (fn. 308) In 1784 the estate was called a rectorial manor and comprised 10 cottages and c. 100 a. of glebe excluding the site of the rectory house. (fn. 309) In 1907 the total estate comprised 193 a. of which nearly 116 a. were sold in 1934. (fn. 310) What remained, regarded as glebe, was sold in 1959. (fn. 311)
The rectory house was a high status building of the late 14th century much altered in the early 16th. It was restored in the later 16th century (fn. 312) and was described in the early 19th century as fit. (fn. 313) In 1863 it was replaced by a new house designed by John Norton on a site between the old house, which was demolished, a barn, and stables. (fn. 314) That house, in Gothic style, banded in lias and red sandstone, was sold in 1977. (fn. 315) No. 2 Mill Road was bought for a vicarage house in 1983. (fn. 316)
The rich benefice was at least three times the object of papal nomination (fn. 317) and was until the later 16th century often held by absentees, (fn. 318) among whom were John Sudbury, rector 1417-44, for some of that time beneficed in London and in the service of the bishop there; (fn. 319) Walter Lyhert, rector 1444-6, dispensed to hold in addition the mastership of St. Anthony's Hospital, London, and the provostship of Oriel College, Oxford; (fn. 320) John Kyrkby, rector 1446-59, licensed to be absent and to let his benefice to farm; (fn. 321) Richard Nykke, rector 1499-1501 and a considerable pluralist; and Bernard André, rector 1501-15, blind French Augustinian friar, poet laureate, and historiographer to Henry VII. Lyhert and Nykke both resigned on appointment as bishops. (fn. 322) John Merke alias Helpe, rector c. 1550-2, had been a Glastonbury monk, a member of the Westminster bishopric foundation, and a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, but lived on his benefice. (fn. 323) His successors for nearly twenty years were absentees. (fn. 324)
Adrian Schaell, rector 1570-99 and a German, was resident for the whole of his incumbency but his successor was an absentee. (fn. 325) Robert Kingman, appointed in 1631, was also rector of Crowcombe from 1641 and was sequestrated in 1645. He was restored to High Ham in 1660 and died in 1668. (fn. 326) His successor after 1645, Matthew Randall, was described as a 'covetous, contentious, and ignorant person'. (fn. 327) Later rectors included Joseph Shaw, rector 1803-51, who in 1848 was employing two curates, (fn. 328) and William Knight, rector 1862-74, successively scholar and fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, secretary of the Church Missionary Society, and chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 329) Knight built the new rectory house and school and restored the church.
In 1544 there was a high altar, suggesting one or more subsidiary altars, a high cross light, and a brotherhood. (fn. 330) The curate in 1629 was accused of adding words of his own to the Book of Common Prayer. (fn. 331) About 1780 there were 50 communicants. (fn. 332) In 1815, when the rector was absent because of ill health, services were held once each Sunday by his curate, who lived at Huish Episcopi and who was also incumbent of Compton Dundon. (fn. 333) In 1827 the rector also served Long Sutton. (fn. 334) In 1840 services were held both morning and afternoon; there was a resident curate and communion was celebrated at least three times a year. (fn. 335) The number of celebrations had increased to six times a year by 1843. (fn. 336) On Census Sunday 1851 there were 200 adults and 60 Sunday school children. (fn. 337) In 1870 the resident rector conducted two services each Sunday and preached at both, and communion was celebrated after morning prayer c. 14 times a year. (fn. 338)
By 1515 the parish or church house on the south side of the churchyard had been leased by the churchwardens from Glastonbury abbey's manor of High Ham. (fn. 339) It was said to have been 'sumptuously builded' but was demolished in the later 16th century and was replaced by the parish school. (fn. 340)
The church of St. Andrew, an impressive building of squared lias, enriched with Ham stone details including carved figures, stands on the north side of the Green in the centre of High Ham village. The five-bayed nave with a tall clerestory and aisles, and the large threebayed chancel appear 15th-century, the result of rebuilding a church with an aisleless nave and broad, stocky tower, from which a little 12th-century fabric survives. The font, on a stem with rope moulding, is also 12th-century. The tower, and probably the chancel which has a steep-pitched roof, were mostly rebuilt in the early 14th century. The third stage of the tower was added or rebuilt in the 15th century. The chancel was perhaps remodelled and the nave rebuilt to a consistent grand design within, it is said, the year 1476, the nave by parishioners with the help of John Selwood, abbot of Glastonbury, and the chancel by the rector, John Dyer. (fn. 341) The chancel, distinguished by pinnacled buttresses and especially large traceried windows, is appropriately grander than the nave. It has a panelled chancel arch and (damaged) tabernacles on the east wall, as well as some medieval glass in the east window. (fn. 342) The nave aisles are of typical Somerset form. All the richlymade roofs rest on carved corbels, that over the nave with a ceilure over the elaborate screen and roodloft, perhaps slightly later than the rest of the building. (fn. 343)
Enrichment at the east ends of the aisles indicate former chapels. What may be the remains of the rood beam is fixed above the chancel arch. The carved bench ends, cannibalised for chancel stalls, are less fine.
Some work may have been done in the 17th century, for instance the aisle east windows (cf. Low Ham) and the round arch and plain parapet of the south porch. A pulpit was made in 1632 and communion table, rails, and seat for the rector in 1633. (fn. 344) The parish chest and coffin stools are also 17th-century. In the late 18th century the pulpit was 'painted light stone colour' and there was a singers' gallery at the west end with a railed front. (fn. 345) The gallery, box pews round the outer walls, and the central benches were replaced in 1868 with open seats as part of restoration by Foster and Wood of Bristol, who also provided a new pulpit; a planned north-east vestry and organ chamber were not built. (fn. 346) Stained glass was inserted in the later 19th century, including that made by Ward & Hughes of London in 1890-1 for two windows in the chancel. The font cover, designed by F. E. Howard, was made in 1934. (fn. 347)
There are five bells: the second is by Robert Austen (1641), the third also of the 17th century, the fourth and tenor by Bridgwater makers Thomas Bayley (1763) and G. Davis (1795). The treble is by Llewellins and James of 1877. (fn. 348) The plate includes a cup and cover of 1570 and 1571. (fn. 349) The registers date from 1569 but with gaps 1653-60. (fn. 350)
LOW HAM CHAPEL
There was a chapel at Low Ham, probably in the 13th century (fn. 351) and certainly by 1316 when a chantry recently granted there for the benefit of one landowner was suppressed in favour of an earlier foundation for another. (fn. 352) In the later 16th century it was thought that the founder was a gentleman named Bartlett in association with a house known as Burcy's Court. (fn. 353)
Patronage and Endowment
By the earlier 15th century the advowson of the chapel was owned by Sir John Berkeley (d. 1428) (fn. 354) and the rector in the later 16th century continued to accept its private status but appointed a chaplain at will. (fn. 355) It remained essentially a private, family chapel in the time of the Hexts and the Stawells, both of whom expressed their ecclesiastical opinions within it. (fn. 356) By the later 17th century seating was provided for all the inhabitants of Low Ham, all tenants of the Stawells. (fn. 357)
In 1622 Sir Edward Hext, a loyal Anglican and no puritan, gave land in Aller in trust to provide a sermon every Sunday morning, (fn. 358) producing a stipend of c. £35. (fn. 359) In the mid 17th century it was claimed that according to the terms of a composition agreed in Henry VIII's reign the sum of £3 6s. 8d. should have been paid by the rector, a payment refused by Matthew Randall. (fn. 360) In 1851 the land brought an income of £28; (fn. 361) in 1876 the stipend was increased to £63 but in 1895 reduced to £50. (fn. 362) In 2000 the endowment was vested in the Diocesan Trust and managed by the Friends of Low Ham church.
Successive lords of Low Ham appointed preachers, in the early 18th century the rector of Pitney, (fn. 363) though the rector of High Ham signed chapelwardens' accounts and may have shared duty there from the 1730s. (fn. 364) In the later 18th century the rector served the chapel one Sunday in the month, leaving the rest to the minister. (fn. 365) In 1800 William Hill Newbolt was appointed preacher for life. (fn. 366) The chapel was served by a succession of stipendiary curates appointed by the lords of the manor, most of whom served parochial cures in the neighbourhood other than High Ham. (fn. 367) Rectors of High Ham served the chapelry from 1914. (fn. 368)
In 1827 services were held alternately morning and evening. (fn. 369) On Census Sunday 1851 morning attendance was 80 adults and 60 children; 60 children attended in the afternoon. Numbers were said to have been reduced by an epidemic. (fn. 370) Monthly communion was requested in 1895. (fn. 371) Weekly services continued until the later 1950s, and thereafter were held occasionally. (fn. 372)
Low Ham chapel, which has no dedication, stood close to successive manor houses, but the removal of the Stawell mansion left it isolated and unfenced in a field close to a modern farmyard. It is of local lias with Ham stone dressings in a self-conscious Gothic style and its chancel, three-bay aisled nave, and west tower appear to be of a single build. Overall it resembles a Perpendicular church in miniature, but all the windows are filled with freely interpreted Decorated tracery. An inscription, visible in the chancel window c. 1785 and subsequently misread, described George Stawell as having founded and finished the building on 20 May 1668. It was consecrated in the following year. (fn. 373) The north door of the chancel includes the arms and initials of George Stawell, and an altar frontal formerly in the chapel bears the date 1669. (fn. 374) The association of the style at that date with high church practice is borne out by the range of furnishings, which include a chancel screen with a cornice like that of a rood loft in miniature bearing on one side a quotation from the Bible entirely consonant with royalist thought: My sonne feare God and the Kinge and meddle not with them that are given to change (Proverbs 24. 21). There are some fragments of 15th-century glass; the east window is of c. 1690. (fn. 375) The plate includes a cup, paten, and flagon of 1664 and a dish of 1669, all by 'T. R.' and silver gilt. (fn. 376) The pulpit and benches are contemporary but more Jacobean in style. Seating plans of 1677 and 1699 describe places for men on the south side of the nave and in the south aisle, for women on the north side of the nave, and two 'great pews' in the north aisle. (fn. 377) There are effigies of Sir Edward Hext (d. 1624) and his wife in the north aisle and a conventional Baroque monument to Ralph, Lord Stawell (d. 1689), on the east wall of the south aisle, as if an altar. The elaborate Gothic tower screen of the early 19th century was removed from the Mayor's chapel, Bristol, and was installed by (Sir) Charles Wathen (d. 1893). (fn. 378) The two bells, the first by Thomas Hey and dated c. 1350 and the second from the Salisbury foundry and also of the 14th century, (fn. 379) may have come from the previous chapel on the site; so also the fragments of medieval glass. (fn. 380)
A chapel at Beer, served annually at Midsummer by the rector of Pitney, was pulled down in the earlier 16th century by William Balche. (fn. 381)
A Roman Catholic was reported c. 1780, but no dissenters. (fn. 382) Petitions for the use of private houses for public worship for protestants were made in 1811, 1812, and 1815 (fn. 383) and a chapel was built in Low Ham in 1815 for some of the earliest petitioners, evidently Wesleyan Methodists. (fn. 384) The building was acquired by Independents in 1827 and was rebuilt in 1884 at the cost of (Sir) Charles Wathen. (fn. 385) On Census Sunday 1851 the afternoon congregation totalled 47 compared to the average number of 60. (fn. 386) An independent church was formed in 1860 and the building was registered in 1861. It subsequently came under the care of the minister at Langport. (fn. 387) In 2000 it was described as an Evangelical Congregational church.
Bible Christians were using private houses in the parish from 1824 and Siloam chapel was built in Eastfield Road in 1841. (fn. 388) It was licensed in 1847 and registered in 1854. (fn. 389) In 1851 the Census Sunday congregation numbered 30 in the morning and 60 in the afternoon, though the afternoon average was 80. (fn. 390) In 1907 it became part of the United Methodist church (fn. 391) and in the Glastonbury circuit. In 1967 services were held every Sunday evening and on alternate Sunday mornings. The chapel was closed c. 1972. (fn. 392)
Zion chapel in Henley was built by Independents in 1841. The afternoon congregation on Census Sunday numbered 51 with an average of 60. (fn. 393) In 1896 the building was renovated and enlarged. (fn. 394) It was still open in 1965 when a Sunday school was held every Sunday afternoon and a service every Sunday evening. (fn. 395) The Salvation Army was said to have been active in High Ham in the 1930s. (fn. 396)
Adrian Schaell, rector 1570-99, left £120 to teach poor children. (fn. 397) James Brayne, curate of Low Ham and schoolmaster, was buried in 1643. (fn. 398) Peter Harbin, licensed to teach grammar in the parish in 1662, (fn. 399) may have taught at that school. Thomas Osmonton, rector 1668-98/9, added a further £30 to its endowment, (fn. 400) a schoolmaster was named in 1696, (fn. 401) and teachers at an English school in the parish were licensed in 1704 and 1753. (fn. 402) In 1819 it was reported that the endowed school had 20 pupils, the master being paid from interest from the endowments. There were then three other schools having a total of 20 children. (fn. 403) In 1825 the children were taught without charge to read and write; arithmetic and needlework were paid for. There were also in the parish two or three dame schools and one man taught the very young. (fn. 404) About the same time there was a Sunday school with 39 girls and 49 boys. (fn. 405) In 1833 the endowed day school had 50 children and nonconformists a day school for 12 pupils. The nonconformists had a Sunday school for 40 pupils. (fn. 406) In 1847 the endowed school had 87 children on weekdays and 90 attended on Sundays. There were then five dame schools. (fn. 407)
By 1867 there were 145 children on the books in the parish school but average attendance was 87 and the schoolmaster was often paid in kind. (fn. 408) A night school was begun in 1869. (fn. 409) In 1903 there were 140 on the books in the parish school with an average attendance of 102; staff comprised 4 teachers and a monitor. (fn. 410) Average attendance between 1905 and 1925 fell from 127 to 81 and the average number on the books from 82 in 1935 to 53 in 1945, at which date the school took juniors only. Subsequently the school adopted voluntary controlled status and remained of similar size until the later 1970s. In 1992 the average number on the books was 134, in 1998 140. (fn. 411)
The school house, on the site of the former church house on the south side of the churchyard, was built by Adrian Schaell (rector 1570-99) on a site leased from the lord of High Ham manor. (fn. 412) It is a twostoreyed building of domestic character with coped gables and end stacks, one of them associated with a staircase. To two bays of c. 1600 a third seems to have been added later in the 17th century. Heavy 20th century restoration is recorded by the inscription 'Old School House 1598-1937'. It remained in use as a school until 1865 and for other parish purposes until 1937. (fn. 413) A new school, with a house for the teacher and designed by John Norton, took pupils from 1866. (fn. 414) It was extended in 1927. (fn. 415) The present school was entirely rebuilt in 1988 but incorporates in its hall the original entrance arch. (fn. 416) Cookery classes were held in the former school in the 1920s and by 1931 courses in dairy work were held in the village hall. Some senior pupils transferred to the new secondary school at Huish Episcopi in 1939 and the remainder in 1944. (fn. 417)
There was a school at the union workhouse on Ham Down until after 1881. (fn. 418) In 1847 there was a dame school at Low Ham with 23 children and a Sunday school with 60 children. (fn. 419) There was a small private school on the Green in High Ham village in 1861 and 1864 (fn. 420) and a school for infants at Low Ham was open in 1864-66. (fn. 421) A cottage at Beer known as Old Schoolhouse may have been used as a school in the 19th century.
The former Rectory was occupied as a boarding house for Millfield school, Street, from 1960 to 1977 and from 1978 until the later 1980s was Tor International school, its first pupils coming from South America. (fn. 422)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR
Adrian Schaell, rector 1570-99, by will proved 1599 gave £50 to provide woollen cloth for men's greatcoats at Christmas. (fn. 423) Distributions were made in the 18th century (fn. 424) but by 1825 the cost of cloth had outstripped the income, which was supplemented by trustees from 'other charities'. (fn. 425)
John Dollen, Adam Whiteheare, and John Paddock, probably in the earlier 17th century, each gave £10 for the provision of linen cloth on Easter Monday. (fn. 426) Payments were made in the 18th century (fn. 427) and in 1825 were usually given to indigent mothers. (fn. 428) Robert Kingman, son of the rector of the same name who died in 1668, gave £20 to be distributed on Easter Monday to poor not on parish pay. (fn. 429) That sum was never invested, but in 1825 the sum of 20s. was distributed each year. (fn. 430)
In 1772 Charles Morgan, rector 1739-72, bequeathed £20, the interest to be distributed in bread on 27 December each year. (fn. 431) Mary Clayfield (d. 1798), one of his daughters, gave £20 for bread on 1 January. A second daughter, Arabella Morgan, gave £20 in 1807 for a bread distribution on 27 December. (fn. 432) Arabella Morgan, by will proved 1828, left £50, the interest to be distributed on 8 December in bibles, prayer books, or clothing. (fn. 433) The wishes of the testator were followed until 1841 but thereafter up to 30 sheets were distributed each year until 1893. (fn. 434) The Morgan family charities seem to have been combined from 1894 when the two churchwardens were replaced as administrators by two parish councillors. Distributions of sheets on 27 December and of bread on 2 January continued until 1940 or later. (fn. 435)
In 1632 Denise Hext gave £100 to apprentice poor children from High and Low Ham. (fn. 436) A further £100 was added under the will of Ralph, Lord Stawell (d. 1688), to be administered by the Hext trustees, to apprentice two children each year from Low Ham, or failing them, from Somerton. (fn. 437) Apprentices continued to be bound with the help of charity money until 1865 (fn. 438) or later although by 1825 the income of £10 was only enough for one apprentice a year and when no master could be found the money was given either to the school or to the poor. (fn. 439)
Under a Scheme of 1906 all the charity endowments of the parish were consolidated into a capital sum of nearly £568, one third of which was to be for educational purposes. (fn. 440) In 1941 the annual income was £11 7s. (fn. 441)
Under the endowment of Denise Hext (d. 1633) two men from High and Low Ham had places in the Hext almshouse at Somerton. (fn. 442) In the 1940s High Ham parish council appointed some of the trustees of the Sir Edward Hext charity. (fn. 443)