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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HUNTSPILL AND PURITON HUNDRED
Huntspill and Puriton hundred is the union of two adjacent manors which for much of their history were independent jurisdictions. Huntspill was described as a hundred in 1084 and constituted the hide there held by Walter of Douai which paid geld of 6s. A further three hides formerly in Loxley hundred had been added which paid at the same rate. (fn. 1) Those additional hides have been identified either as the land of the villagers in Puriton or as the holding of Alfred d'Epaignes in Woolavington. (fn. 2) The six-hide Puriton estate at the time was part of Loxley hundred, but may have been removed early because it was the only non-Glastonbury holding there. (fn. 3)
Huntspill and Puriton were variously described as manors, (fn. 4) free manors, (fn. 5) or hundreds (fn. 6) during the Middle Ages, and for fiscal purposes they were sometimes linked and sometimes kept separate in the earlier 16th century. (fn. 7) From 1569 onwards the two were usually treated locally as a single hundred, (fn. 8) but were regarded by central government as separate hundreds for much of the 17th century. (fn. 9) By the early 18th century the hundred had become established as a single fiscal unit. (fn. 10) In 1841 the hundred was defined as Huntspill parish with part of the tithing of Alstone, and Puriton parish. (fn. 11) Alstone had been said in 1371 to have been in Bempstone hundred. (fn. 12)
The lords of Huntspill and Puriton exercised jurisdiction within their holdings and the ownership of the hundred, confined to the proceeds of the twice-yearly sheriff's tourn, presumably belonged to the Crown which in 1652 took tithing silver and fines. At the same time the lords of the principal manors of Huntspill and Puriton took perquisites from the leets and three-weekly courts. (fn. 13) Lordship of hundred and manor were combined in the early 18th century and probably much earlier, (fn. 14) and Samuel Cockerell, lord of Huntspill, and the duke of Somerset, lord of Puriton, were joint owners of leets where constables of the hundred were chosen, (fn. 15) Later in the century John Cockerell seems to have been regarded as sole owner, (fn. 16) but thereafter no claim to ownership has been found.
Both manors appeared by juries of six at the assizes in 1242-3. (fn. 17) In 1280 the respective lords established their differing claims within each place but each had to send four men and a reeve to do suit twice a year at the sheriff's tourn. The site of the tourn was not then stated, although enquiries about Puriton had been made in the hundreds of Bempstone and Whitley. (fn. 18) By 1501-2 the tourn was described as the Highbridge tourn, (fn. 19) and in 1652 the sheriff's court for Puriton, Huntspill, and Bempstone was kept at Easter and Michaelmas on the high bridge over the Brue. By that date the sheriffs' courts were 'much discontinued' and few fines had been levied for 'divers years'. (fn. 20) A jury presentment to the court leet of the hundred survives for 1726. (fn. 21)