A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 9, Glastonbury and Street. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2006.
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The ancient parish lies at the eastern end of King's Sedgemoor between Street and Somerton and includes the two villages of Compton and Dundon with the settlement of Castlebrook between them, and the hamlet of Littleton to the south. (fn. 1) A major landmark is the Hood monument on Windmill Hill (fn. 2) built by subscription in 1831 to the memory of Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood (d. 1814). It is a Doric column standing on tall steps surmounted by a crown of sails and sterns of warships. (fn. 3) The parish is irregular in shape, measuring up to 5 km from north to south and from east to west. Its north-eastern limit follows the wooded ridge separating the parish from Butleigh; parts of its western limit follow the river Cary, known in 1779 as the Perrott, (fn. 4) and its tributary the Redlake, but those boundaries may not have been established until inclosure. (fn. 5) The irregular boundary in the south with Somerton and with Butleigh may be the result of shared woodland. Alterations were made when King's Sedgemoor was inclosed under an Act of 1797. (fn. 6) In 1841 the parish measured 2,571 a. (fn. 7) A detached part of Charlton Adam parish in Copley wood, known as Cold Harbour lands, was transferred to Compton Dundon in 1887. (fn. 8) In 1991 the civil parish measured 1,115 ha. (2,755 a.). (fn. 9)
The eastern part of the parish lies on a wooded scarp beginning at the 40-m. (131-ft.) contour and rising to over 120 m. (394 ft.) in Great Breach wood above Compton. Below the scarp, the top of which is Rhaetic clay, the land falls gently to the moor, the Keuper marl of most of the parish giving way after a narrow band of alluvium below the 15-m. (49-ft) contour to the peat of Sedgemoor. Punctuating the fall to the moor and dominating the parish is a spur comprising the two peaks of Dundon (103 m. (338 ft.)) and Lollover (90 m. (295 ft.)), both topped with Rhaetic clay but the former with an outcrop of Lower Lias. Littleton has marl, clay, and lias to the west of the hamlet and on Castley hill to the south. (fn. 10)
The parish is divided by the Street-Somerton road, part of a direct route northwards from Roman Ilchester, (fn. 11) and in the later 17th century part of the Dorchester-Bristol road. (fn. 12) It was turnpiked by the Langport, Somerton, and Castle Cary trust in 1778 but disturnpiked in 1879. (fn. 13)
Settlement, Population And Buildings
On Dundon hill is a Bronze-Age bowl barrow, excavated c. 1831, (fn. 14) used as the site of a beacon in the 17th century (fn. 15) and possibly earlier for a windmill. (fn. 16) The barrow was enclosed within an Iron-Age univallate hillfort whose clay ramparts partly overlie one of timber and stone. (fn. 17) A legend of a dragon on the hill was current in the later 16th century. (fn. 18) There was settlement at Littleton shortly before the Roman conquest until the early 4th century, including a courtyard villa with mosaic floors. (fn. 19) Another Romano-British site has been found at Hayes, on the edge of the moor at the south-west corner of Lollover hill. (fn. 20)
Dundon, recorded as in existence in the 10th century, was probably the principal Anglo-Saxon settlement with parish church and manor house. Taking its name from its site between Dundon and Lollover hills, (fn. 21) it lies along a north-south road between those hills, called Dundon Street in 1659 and in part as Goose Lane in 1886. (fn. 22) At its northern end the road branches west to Dundon Hayes and east along Ham Lane to Castlebrook and Compton while its southern section curves eastwards around the base of Dundon hill. (fn. 23)
Compton, first recorded in the 8th century, is named from its situation in a shallow valley between the hills and the eastern ridge. (fn. 24) Lying along a single street, known as Compton Street, running north-east from the Street-Somerton road, it includes remains of a medieval cross at the junction with the main road, where until 1847 there was a medieval building, close to a surviving medieval barn; at Compton Street's northern end are some houses of medieval origin. (fn. 25) Since the late 19th century, the south-west of the village when it had an inn, and a Baptist chapel, has been known as Castlebrook. (fn. 26) Remains of the medieval cross had a tall shaft with a broached base on circular and octagonal steps in 1834 (fn. 27) but was said to have been destroyed by drunkards before 1877 and the steps have been replaced.
A further settlement, Littleton lies on a lane to the west of the Street-Somerton road and has some 17th and 18th-century houses, of which one, Bartletts Farm, occupies a site with medieval origins.
Compton, Dundon, and Littleton each had their own field system. Lynchets survive on Collard hill in the north, site of Compton West field, and on Lollover hill, site of Dundon West field. Parts of a large hedge bank survive around the former Dundon West field dividing it from the moor, probably giving rise to the names Hayes and Dundon Hayes. (fn. 28) There was a small park at Dundon by 1280. (fn. 29) It lay north-west of the Dundon manor house between the moor and the west field and measured 10 a. in 1343. (fn. 30) It may have been the warren where a hare was killed with greyhounds in 1468. (fn. 31)
In 1558 24 inhabited copyhold houses were recorded in Compton and Dundon, (fn. 32) 44 in 1616. (fn. 33) In the later 16th century new cottages were being built adjoining Sedgemoor (fn. 34) and there were a new house and cottages on the waste in 1616. (fn. 35) By the early 18th century, however, many cottages were in hand, some ruined, although c. 1730 some tenants were ordered to rebuild. (fn. 36) In the 1750s a large number of cottages were built on the edge of Sedgemoor, probably south of Ham Lane and at Dundon Hayes where a few survive. (fn. 37)
Of 110 houses in the parish c. 1785 many were said to be empty and ruinous. (fn. 38) The population rose from 446 in 1801 to a peak of 725 in 1851 and thereafter declined steadily to 422 in 1921. (fn. 39) The centres of both Compton and Dundon appear to have shrunk during the later 19th century although many 18th- and early 19th-century houses survive and a number of cottages were built or rebuilt. (fn. 40) In 1891 there were 132 houses in the parish, 70 of which had fewer than 5 rooms. (fn. 41) Although after 1921 the population rose every decade to reach 692 by 1991, by the mid 20th century several houses, including a cross-passage house at Dundon, were derelict or had been demolished. (fn. 42) Abandoned house plots at Compton remained empty until late in the century, (fn. 43) although local authority and other new houses had been built. (fn. 44)
Ten of the houses surveyed in 1558 were described as of over eight couples or bays, descriptions which probably included houses with separate barns and stables. (fn. 45) Some 44 houses, probably copyhold, were recorded in 1616, of which several appear to have incorporated malthouses, stalls, and hayhouses. Most houses were two-storeyed and most had three upper chambers; only six appear to have been single storeyed. Most houses had a standard ground-floor plan of hall, inner chamber, and kitchen, though a few of the larger ones had additional chambers and butteries. Two houses had more than four groundfloor rooms, thirteen had more rooms on the ground floor than above and one large new house appears to have had two gabled wings. (fn. 46) The houses described have not yet been identified and many that retain early features belonged to the freehold estates and were therefore not surveyed. (fn. 47)
Houses that survive, altered, from before 1616 are built of lias and thatch and had, usually, timber-framed partition walls. Lilac Cottage, Withies Cottage and Kerris, Compton, and Badger's Cottage, Dundon, all appear to date from the late 15th century and two retain evidence of open halls with roofs that have jointed crucks; indications of late medieval halls have also been recorded at Lockyer's Farm and at Lollover Cottage, Dundon, (fn. 48) and Tray's Farm has a fine parlour wing. (fn. 49) Fully storeyed farmhouses were built in both villages in the 16th and 17th centuries. In Compton for example, Orchard Leigh, Willeys Farmhouse, Coombe Hollow (former Middle Farm), Compton Randle, and the former Hare and Hounds, all have traditional crosspassage plans. Many houses were upgraded, notably Lockyer's Farm where a first-floor room has an oriel. After c. 1700 plan forms were more varied. On Ham Lane between Compton and Dundon a series of 18thcentury and early 19th-century houses are notable for contemporary or added service outshuts facing the road. At many farms extensive new buildings were erected in the second half of the 19th century, sometimes in addition to existing buildings. The earliest barn, which dates from the 13th century and has archbraces to true crucks, is at Castlebrook Farm. (fn. 50) There is a late medieval barn at Lockyers Farm, 17th-century barns at Willeys Farm and Coombe Hollow (formerly Middle Farm), Compton, and at Charity (formerly Littleton) Farm. The 18thcentury barns at Middle Farm and Lockyers Farm, Dundon, were supplemented by extensive buildings in the 19th century, including a new farmhouse at Middle Farm. At Laws Farm, where the farmhouse has a late 17th-century core, the farm buildings were completely replaced.
The manor court presented failure to view bowls or ball games on feast days in 1595. (fn. 51) In 1753 there was a fives place in the churchyard (fn. 52) and a revel was held on the Sunday before old Michaelmas in the 1780s. (fn. 53) The Coronation Hall, the converted Baptist chapel, (fn. 54) was sold in 2000 and a new village hall was built in Ham Lane between Compton and Dundon. The Ivythorn Golf Club was established c. 1898 on land in the extreme north of the parish. There was a club house in 1921 and the course is said to have remained in use until the Second World War. (fn. 55) In the later 20th century there was a cricket team. (fn. 56)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES
For most of their history the manors never covered more than part of the parish. From the 13th century or earlier there were a large number of freeholds, many held as fractions of a knight's fee and with their lands apparently intermixed with those of copyholders. The Strangways family enlarged their estate, especially during the 17th century, extinguishing some freeholds and creating an estate which covered half the parish by the 1920s when it was broken up and sold. The Littleton estates remained geographically separate from the rest in the south of the parish.
Compton Dundon Manor
Five hides at Compton were said to have been given to the abbot of Glastonbury in 762 by king Cynewulf and were restored in 922 by Edward the Elder. They may be the five hides held by two monks in 1066 and by Roger de Courcelles in 1086 which were recorded as part of the abbey's estate at Walton. (fn. 57) Five hides at Dundon, said to have been given to Glastonbury by Edgar in the mid 10th century, (fn. 58) were held of the abbey by Algar in 1066 and by Roger de Courcelles in 1086. (fn. 59)
The Courcelles holdings in 1086 passed, possibly before the death of Henry I, to Robert Malet, and by 1166 Compton and Dundon are assumed to have formed part of the fees held by William Malet (fn. 60) and were later known as the barony of Curry Mallet. (fn. 61) They were part of the estate of the second William Malet, on whose death c. 1216 they passed with one third, subsequently one half, of the barony to his daughter Mabel. In 1235–6 her second husband, Hugh de Vivonia, held of her inheritance one fee at Compton. (fn. 62) In 1255 William de Forz, son of Hugh, did homage to the abbot of Glastonbury for the manor of Dundon on Polden, to which were attached ten fees formerly belonging to William Malet. (fn. 63) William died in 1259 leaving four daughters all under age. (fn. 64) Dundon manor had passed by 1265 to Cecily, (fn. 65) by c. 1277 the wife of John de Beauchamp (d. 1283). (fn. 66) By 1286 Dundon manor was considered the caput of a barony, (fn. 67) held of Glastonbury by knight service, the fees of which were reckoned variously as 10 or 8, (fn. 68) and included Chilton Polden, Edington, and Sutton Mallet and a group of estates in West Somerset. (fn. 69) Those fees were only occasionally mentioned in the Middle Ages, the last time in 1510. (fn. 70) The honor was last recorded in 1812–13. (fn. 71)
Cecily Beauchamp died in 1320 and was succeeded by her son John de Beauchamp. (fn. 72) He died in 1336 (fn. 73) and was himself succeeded by his son Sir John (d. 1343). The last left a son, also John, a minor. (fn. 74) Sir John's widow Margaret held the manor in dower (fn. 75) and on her death in 1361, a month after her son John died childless, her heirs were her daughters Cecily and (Sir) John Meriet, then the minor son of her deceased daughter Eleanor. (fn. 76) In 1368, after proving his age, (Sir) John Meriet obtained possession. (fn. 77) He died in 1391 leaving what was occasionally called Compton Dundon manor to his wife Maud for life and after her death to their daughter Elizabeth (d. c. 1395 s.p.), wife of Urry Seymour. (fn. 78) In 1396 George Meriet, half brother of Sir John (d. 1391), recovered it against his brother's widow, then wife of Sir Hugh Cheyne, (fn. 79) but in 1398 he restored her life interest. (fn. 80)
Thomas FitzAlan, earl of Surrey (d. 1401), and Sir Matthew Gournay (d. 1406), widower of Alice (d. 1383), formerly wife of John de Beauchamp, both made claims to ownership. (fn. 81) In 1406 George Meriet and Sir Matthew Gournay released the manor to Sir Humphrey Stafford (d. 1413), husband of Elizabeth d'Aumale, coheir of Sir John Meriet (d. 1369). (fn. 82) Sir Humphrey held the manor at farm from Lady (Maud) Cheyne, lady of the manor for life. (fn. 83)
The manor passed in 1413 to Sir Humphrey's son also Sir Humphrey Stafford (d. 1442), to the latter's son William (d. 1450), and to William's wife Catherine (d. 1479). The heirs to the whole estate on Catherine's death were the heirs of Alice, daughter of the second Sir Humphrey and wife of Edmund Cheyne, namely Elizabeth, wife of John Coleshill, Robert Willoughby, son and heir of Anne, Elizabeth's sister, and Eleanor, another sister and wife of Thomas Strangways. (fn. 84) The manor is said to have been held by Elizabeth Coleshill and after her death without children before 1497 it passed to Eleanor Strangways. (fn. 85)
Eleanor (d. 1501) was followed by her son Henry (d. 1504) and by Henry's son Sir Giles (d. 1547). The last was succeeded by his grandson, also Sir Giles Strangways (d. 1562), and he by his son John, a minor. (fn. 86) John (d. 1593) was followed in turn by his sons Giles (d. s.p. 1596) and John. (fn. 87) John Strangways was succeeded in 1666 by his son Giles and Giles in 1675 by his second son Thomas (d. 1713). (fn. 88) Thomas's son, also Thomas (d. s.p. 1726), left two sisters Elizabeth (d. s.p. 1729), wife of James, duke of Hamilton and Brandon, and Susanna (d. 1758), wife of Thomas Horner who took the additional name of Strangways. Susanna's daughter Elizabeth married Stephen Fox (d. 1776), who also added the name Strangways and in 1741 was created Baron Strangways and in 1756 earl of Ilchester. (fn. 89)
The manor descended with the earldom to Henry (d. 1802), Henry (d. 1858), William (d. 1865), Henry (d. 1905), and Giles Fox-Strangways. The last sold the estate, which comprised c. 1,480 a. in Compton Dundon, in 1921–2. Lordship was not mentioned. (fn. 90)
The capital messuage was recorded in 1283, and in 1287 the house comprised a hall with chamber, kitchen, bakehouse, and knights' chamber. (fn. 91) It may have been rebuilt before 1343. (fn. 92) Major alterations, possibly flooring the hall, (fn. 93) were carried out in the 1490s when timber was bought for the hall and great chamber. (fn. 94) In 1528 c. £11 was spent repairing the house. (fn. 95) By 1598 it was let to a tenant and had a hall, kitchen, buttery, and a great chamber over the kitchen and buttery. It stood in Dundon west of the churchyard and the lord reserved enough room in the hall to keep courts. (fn. 96) The house was described as utterly decayed in 1616, but a new house had been built, apparently within the walls of the old hall, which retained a moulded, arched doorway and two tall pointed windows. (fn. 97) It was known as Court Hall until 1791 (fn. 98) and was still standing in 1834 (fn. 99) but was probably a ruin by 1859. (fn. 100) By 1598 separate dwellings had been created out of the manor site including the great barn, (fn. 101) and other houses were built in the gardens in the 17th century. (fn. 102) The gatehouse, recorded in 1495, (fn. 103) was retained by Sir Giles Strangways (d. 1547) furnished with a bed, iron-plated coffer, table board, and a quantity of seating possibly for keeping courts. (fn. 104) By 1598 the gatehouse was let (fn. 105) and the property was later said to comprise four chambers over the gate, a little room on each side, stairs, and small paddocks, one of which lay between the stairs and manor hall. (fn. 106) It was in need of repair in 1617 and by 1621 comprised two chambers, probably the lower rooms let with the paddocks in 1624. The great gates survived in 1651 when the lord reserved the right to remove them. A cottage was built beside the gatehouse shortly before 1677 (fn. 107) and the gatehouse appears to have become a ruin which was let with Court Hall house. (fn. 108) Known as the Dungeon, parts were still standing in the early 19th century south-east of the house. The whole site, including the house, cottage, and remains of the gatehouse, was sold in 1866 and cleared to build a vicarage house. (fn. 109)
In 1066 Littleton was held by Almar, Osborn, and Godric and in 1086 by Norman of Roger de Courcelles. (fn. 110) It became part of the barony of Curry Mallet and by 1343 overlordship was claimed by the Beauchamps' honor of Dundon. (fn. 111) It remained part of the honor until 1363 or later. (fn. 112)
The estate was held by Robert son of Bernard (d. c. 1184), who granted it to his daughter Helewise, whose daughter Cecily married Philip de Columbers, lord of Nether Stowey. (fn. 113) A mesne lordship, variously described as a fee or half fee, (fn. 114) was retained by the lords of Nether Stowey until 1475 or later. (fn. 115) In 1497 Littleton was said to be held of Somerton manor, probably because suit was owed to that hundred court. (fn. 116) In 1696 it was said to owe suit to both Somerton and Dundon. (fn. 117)
The estate descended with Stockland Lovel in Spaxton, (fn. 120) to William's son Philip, also known as Philip of Stockland, who in 1262 granted his two thirds and the reversion of his mother Julian's third to Sir Hugh Fichet for 15 years, and in or before 1270 granted the estate in fee to Sir Hugh's son Robert. (fn. 121) Robert was dead by 1271–2 and was succeeded, not without opposition from the Columbers family, (fn. 122) by his son Hugh. The estate thereafter descended in the Fichet family and their successors the Hills and Waldegraves like Spaxton (fn. 123) until 1714 when James, Baron Waldegrave, sold the demesne and the lordship to John Strode of Glastonbury and other land to Mary Yeates.
In 1717 Mary Yeates released her land to Strode's son William, who had married her daughter Alice. Their son Yeates Strode succeeded on the death of his father c. 1740 and died in 1744 or later leaving it to his son William. (fn. 124) William died shortly before 1781 when his cousin and heir, William Dickinson, formerly a Langport victualler and then a naval gunner, sold the manor to John Norton of Somerton. (fn. 125) John Norton was still alive in 1816 and his son William Francis died in 1844, leaving his estate in trust for sale. (fn. 126) Some land passed to his nephews Francis North Erith and William Edward North Erith, who were in possession in 1870. The land was put up for sale in 1873 and 1884. (fn. 127)
The chief court was recorded in the later 13th century. (fn. 128) In 1696 the tenant of the capital messuage was required to entertain the lord's officers. (fn. 129) William Norton owned a house in 1816, probably the house, west of the Somerton road, known by the later 19th century as Manor Farm and now as Manor House, (fn. 130) which dates from the 17th century.
Other Littleton Estates
The Columbers claim to Littleton in the 1270s (fn. 131) may have resulted in some fragmentation, a quarter fee being shared in 1346 between Sir Simon Furneaux (d. 1359) and John and William Paulet. (fn. 132) The Furneaux share, described as a manor, had been held by the family at least since 1321 and probably by 1316 when Alexander Broun was tenant. (fn. 133) From Simon it passed, like Kilve manor, (fn. 134) to Lady Alice Stury (d. 1414). Lady Alice's heir at Littleton was Joan Farway, wife of Walter Stawell (fl. 1426). (fn. 135) Their son Robert (d. 1449) was succeeded by his grandson, also Robert Stawell (d. 1508), and by Robert's son John (d. 1541). John's heir was his grandson Sir John Stawell (d. 1603), who was followed by his son Sir John (d. 1604) and grandson Sir John (d. 1662). (fn. 136) Sir John was followed by his son George (d. 1669) and Ralph (cr. Baron Stawell of Somerton 1683, d. 1689), and by Ralph's son John, Baron Stawell, who died in 1692 heavily in debt. (fn. 137) His estate in Littleton was then known as Littleton farm and measured c. 84 a. It was sold in 1697 by Stawell's trustees to Francis Bennett of Cattistock (Dors.), who in 1700 sold it to his tenant George Crane of Somerton. (fn. 138) It remained in that family until after 1719 (fn. 139) but before 1761 had been acquired by the Strodes and in 1781, with the manor, was sold to John Norton. (fn. 140)
The Paulet share in 1346 may be identified with the house, 102 a., and rents held by Alice, wife of Luke Hatch, in 1280. (fn. 141) It was held by John Paulet and his wife Elizabeth in 1331, (fn. 142) and in 1342 it was settled by John Paulet in trust for his sons John and William, who held it in 1346. (fn. 143) It probably descended like the Paulet estate in Leigh, Street. (fn. 144) Part was sold by Sir Hugh Paulet in 1543 to John Godwyn and his wife Isabel, who held it in 1576. (fn. 145) Another John Godwyn sold the estate, described as a house and 90 a., to Edward Merriot in 1607. (fn. 146) Edward (d. 1610), who was to hold it of Somerton manor, was succeeded by his son Edward who sold some land in 1620 to Edward Wootton. In 1623 both Merriot and Wootton sold their Littleton lands to Sir John Strangways (fn. 147) and they descended with Compton Dundon manor, although the Merriot family continued as tenants. (fn. 148)
A large estate at Littleton had been acquired by the Pickfords by 1766, possibly bought from James, Baron Waldegrave, whose tenants they were from 1697. (fn. 149) Mary Pickford (d. c. 1788) left her estate to her nephew Richard Hasell. (fn. 150) Richard had been succeeded by 1832 by Samuel Hasell (d. 1852), who held over 300 a. in 1841. (fn. 151) The estate was sold in 1849 to Brooke Evans who in 1861 left it to his brothers Alfred (d. 1870) and Douglas (d. 1866). Alfred left the estate to Francis Blair and in 1877 it was put up for sale. (fn. 152) The house, now known as Littleton House, is an 18th-century stone and slate building with later extensions. In 1877 it had two kitchens, coachhouse, stables, and walled kitchen gardens. (fn. 153)
By 1619 12 a. in Littleton belonged to St. Margaret's hospital in West Monkton, possibly a recent gift. (fn. 154) Half had been lost by 1814 and only 6 a. remained in 1841 (fn. 155) and was sold to William Pinney in 1880. (fn. 156) Other land in the hamlet, probably a freehold held of Littleton manor by the Hussey family in the 1690s, (fn. 157) had been acquired by 1798 for a charity of Corfe Mullen (Dors.) which held a 61-a. farm in 1841, later known as Charity Farm. (fn. 158)
Compton Dundon Rectory had become a prebend in Wells cathedral by 1291. (fn. 159) By 1602 it was farmed by Gabriel Hawley who left it to his nephews Gabriel and Edward Hawley, (fn. 160) and it continued to be let, (fn. 161) from 1756 to the Lloyd family until c. 1844, when the prebend was vested in the Ecclesiastical (Church) Commissioners. (fn. 162)
The rectory was assessed at £10 in 1291, (fn. 163) and in 1298 it was valued at £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 164) In 1535 the glebe was valued at £2 13s. 4d. and tithes at £19 6s. 8d. (fn. 165) In 1650 there were 27 a. of land and tithes were worth £130. (fn. 166) In 1841 there were 26 a. and tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £319. (fn. 167)
The parsonage house was recorded in 1327. (fn. 168) In 1650 it was of stone with a slate roof and comprised a hall, parlour, and kitchen, with four chambers above. Beside it were a barn and stable, also of stone and slate. (fn. 169) The present Old Rectory is the same house, apparently rebuilt shortly before that date and extended in the 18th or early 19th century by the addition of a two-bayed extension to the east and the change to a tiled roof. The barn, standing in 1903, was a ruin by 1966. (fn. 170)
By the 1280s two freeholds in Compton, held of Dundon manor, were described as fractions of fees: a fifth of a fee held by William of Ivythorn and a tenth fee held by Nicholas Collewylle. Both were held without rent. (fn. 171) By the early 14th century those two part-fees were held respectively by William of Ivythorn and the heirs of Ralph Warde, and other part-fees in Compton were held by William Vocle, John Fraunceys, and the heirs of William Celepyn and of Adam Garscon. In Dundon a part-fee was held by Robert Waleys. (fn. 172) John Fraunceys also held land in Marston Magna of Dundon manor. (fn. 173) A namesake did homage in 1337 and was still in possession in 1343. (fn. 174) Thomas Fraunceys was owner of the fee by 1361 (fn. 175) which may have passed to the Milbornes.
John Milborne the younger held a quarter fee in 1423 and 1428 in succession to his father and namesake. (fn. 176) Richard Milborne in 1457–8 paid a wax rent to the lord of Compton Dundon. (fn. 177) George Milborne (d. 1559) had an estate in 1545 (fn. 178) which passed to his son Giles (d. c. 1575). Giles left an infant son George and an estate called Compton Dundon manor (fn. 179) which was still held by George in 1616 as of the main Compton Dundon manor for 1 lb. of pepper. (fn. 180) By 1642 George had been succeeded by his son John (d. 1664), who in 1654 settled the estate on his eldest son William (d. c. 1662). (fn. 181) William's heirs were his brothers Charles and George. (fn. 182) After various family settlements and mortgages the estate came in 1691 into the hands of William Milborne, son and heir of George, who in the same year sold it to Thomas Strangways, the sale being confirmed by a fine in 1695. (fn. 183) Thereafter it descended with the main manor. (fn. 184)
The capital messuage was let in 1545 (fn. 185) and by the 18th century was known as Law's Farm (fn. 186) from the name of tenants in 1691. (fn. 187) The surviving house, west of Compton Street, is originally of the 17th century, perhaps remodelled in the 18th century, and the adjoining buildings are of the early 19th century.
William Carent (d. 1517) held an estate called the manor of Compton Dundon which he had inherited from his father John, who may have acquired it in 1479. (fn. 188) The estate may have derived from one or more freeholds. In 1536 William's son, Sir William, sold his estate in Compton, Butleigh Wootton, and Street to Edward Carne. (fn. 189) In 1545 Carne sold it to Robert Hyett (d. c. 1558), who was followed by his son Thomas. (fn. 190) In 1572 Thomas conveyed what was described as Compton Dundon manor, probably on mortgage, to Andrew Dyer, and in 1575 he appears to have sold it absolutely. (fn. 191) Dyer's estate was said to have been a house and 40 a. worth £13 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 192) The estate cannot be traced further.
A house at Compton and 140 a. were assessed in 1616 at a whole fee and held in succession by Sir Richard Rogers (d. 1605), his son Sir John (d. 1613), and by George Farewell (d. 1609). Sir George Farewell (d. c. 1647), son of the last, appears to have granted the estate in 1616 to Andrew Ham and it was divided between four tenants. (fn. 193) Andrew died c. 1616 leaving a son Andrew a minor, (fn. 194) and in 1622 suit was claimed from William Hull for the former Farewell estate. (fn. 195) In 1668 Andrew (d. c. 1680) settled the capital messuage on his daughter Joan for her marriage to George Smith. Their son, also George Smith, sold the estate in 1735 to Thomas Trayne, who by his will dated 1760 gave it to his daughter Mary and her children. (fn. 196) Mary died in 1764 (fn. 197) leaving an infant daughter Anne by her second husband John Dinnes or Dennis, who held the estate in 1767. (fn. 198) By her will dated 1800 Anne left her lands to her friend Frances Penny, whose son Robert sold the estate to the Revd. George Neville Grenville in 1829. (fn. 199)
The capital messuage, known as Tray's Farm, (fn. 200) is a late medieval house built of squared lias at the north end of Compton Street. Apparently of high status, its three-bay hall range, which incorporated an east service end, and separately-roofed west parlour wing form a T-plan. Moulded elements in Ham stone, notably a traceried oculus and the cusped head of another late 14th-century window, have been built into the masonry of the parlour wing. The hall range, which was floored in the late 16th century and extended east, was reduced in width in the mid-17th century. In the early 19th century both roofs were rebuilt and covered in clay tiles and, probably slightly later, the hall range was refenestrated. By 1842 the parlour wing had gone out of domestic use. (fn. 201)
The descents of other part fees have not been traced, but by the late 16th century some survived as freeholds, some very small such as a cottage and 7a. (fn. 202) Among them were 13 a. held by the Portmans by knight service between 1557 and 1767. (fn. 203) Quit rents payable from the holdings were mostly in arrears by 1767–8 and although some were recovered by 1783 most had been lost. (fn. 204) A few were still claimed in 1836, but as the list of tenants was largely out of date it is probable the rents were unpaid. (fn. 205) Two freeholds, one held by the Cabell family in the 16th century, were absorbed into the main manorial holding in 1838 and 1854. (fn. 206)
The hill slopes were under arable cultivation by the late 11th century, probably comprising half the parish. The hill tops and high ground to the north and east were wooded but later cleared for pasture. To the south and west large tracts of wet moor were exploited for fishing, fowling, and summer grazing before inclosure and drainage.
In 1086 the estate at Compton was assessed at 5 hides, that at Dundon 5 hides, and that at Littleton at 3 hides, all 3 single holdings, although Littleton had been divided into 3 manors in 1066 and Compton had been shared between 2 monks. Details of demesne and tenants are not available for Compton, but both Dundon and Littleton had land for 4 teams. The demesne at Dundon measured 3 hides and ½ virgate and 4 serfs worked it with 2 teams; 5 villeins and 10 bordars worked the rest of the land with 3 teams. The demesne at Littleton also measured 3 hides (fn. 207) and 3 serfs worked it with 2 teams. Four villeins and 3 bordars with 1 team worked the rest. There were 20 a. of meadow at Compton and twice that much at both Dundon and Littleton. Stock comprised a riding horse, 2 beasts, 46 sheep, and 49 goats at Compton, 5 unbroken mares, 2 riding horses, and 9 pigs at Dundon, and 120 sheep at Littleton. (fn. 208)
In 1283 the combined estates of Compton and Dundon had demesne measuring 330 a. of arable, 52 a. of meadow, 7 a. of several pasture, and pasturage and underwood in a park. Rents were worth £8 5s. and works and customs £5 8s. (fn. 209) In 1287 only 226 a. of arable in two fields were recorded, with 69 a. of meadow and unspecified pasture in commons, park, and woods. Six free tenants held c. 130 a. Customary tenants comprised 10 half-virgaters, 16 ferling holders, (fn. 210) and one halfferling holder. Works were heavy, although those tenants with legal duties such as summoning tenants to court were more lightly burdened and the reeve, hayward, smith, ploughman, and shepherd were quit of works. In addition to the usual agricultural labour, tenants were required to fence the park and woods, ditch, carry as far as Bridgwater, Yeovil, and Lymington, or drive cattle. In return they received food, corn, and hay. One tenant was required to find food for the lady of the manor or her representatives. Twelve householders, including William the cowherd and one cottar, held for rents and suit only, and two of the other tenants had overland. The value of manor was c. £39, depending on which of the two fields was sown. (fn. 211)
By 1321 the demesne was reduced to 257 a. of which 210 a. was arable. The number of tenants remained the same but all except the half-virgaters were classed as ferling tenants. Rents totalled £12 14s. 11d. (fn. 212) The demesne had shrunk again by 1343 when there were 40 a. of arable under winter and Lent wheat and 20 a. fallow and in common. The 30 a. of meadow lay in common after mowing and there was only 6 a. of pasture. The park measured 10 a. but the pasture was poor and there was no underwood. Rents had fallen to £6 a year and works were worth only 13s. 4d. (fn. 213)
Little similar information survives for Littleton manor, although the tenant in 1262 paid in wheat, rye, barley, oats, and white beans. (fn. 214) A leaseholder there c. 1338 had to provide a man and a woman for one day of haymaking and one day of reaping. (fn. 215) By 1414 Littleton manor's income was almost entirely from rents totalling £10 14s. 8d. supplemented with small sums from the sale of church scot hens and strays and from court profits. (fn. 216) In 1445 rents totalled £10 4s. 1d. excluding a small payment for hill pasture. (fn. 217) By 1476 tenements on one third of the manor were farmed out for high annual rents totalling £3 5s. 5d. (fn. 218)
Servile status on Compton Dundon manor was questioned in 1437 and a neif was manumitted on Littleton manor in 1477. (fn. 219) By 1457 Compton Dundon manor rents had risen to over £36 and hay and overland were sold. (fn. 220) In the 1490s the dovecot was in hand, surplus squabs and underwood from the park were sold, but rents provided most of the income, which varied between £40 and £60 a year until the 1550s. (fn. 221)
Mid 16th Century to 1800
By 1558 there were at least 16 customary tenants at Compton and 9 at Dundon, some holding former demesne. Some holdings were known as farthinglands, presumably from the medieval ferlings. There were at least six empty or ruined cottages and one roofless tenement indicating amalgamation of holdings. Most arable still lay in the open fields, two each at Compton and Dundon, but there was some inclosed arable and closes of meadow and reed by the moor. (fn. 222) About 54 tenants were listed in 1598, most holding small parcels of demesne, park, or wood by lease in addition to their copyhold tenements. One tenant had all the lord's waste. (fn. 223)
New cottages built on the edge of the moor in the late 16th century suggest an increase in population, (fn. 224) but by contrast a few years later some tenants had more than one house. Others, then recently built on the waste, (fn. 225) imply an influx of landless people, and in the later 17th and early 18th century there was pressure from stock owners for grazing on the open arable fields. (fn. 226) Early in the 17th century some meadow at Compton had been inclosed. (fn. 227) Some inclosure had also taken place at the same period in the three arable fields at Littleton. (fn. 228) Among the stock in the later 17th century were Welsh pigs. (fn. 229)
By the early 18th century there had been no increase in the Compton Dundon rental except by purchase of the Milborne and Merriot estates (fn. 230) but c. 1730 some holdings were split up. (fn. 231) In the 1750s plots of land were being inclosed for cottages, probably south of Ham Lane and at Dundon Hayes. (fn. 232) In the second half of the 18th century many leases for lives were made at substantial rents without consideration (fn. 233) and by 1791 22 holdings were rack rented and 99 let for lives. (fn. 234) Agriculture was said to be indifferent c. 1785 with no marling and few turnips grown. The land was evenly divided between tillage and pasture, the former worth 5s.–18s. (fn. 235)
Nineteenth Century to Present
By 1810 several named farms had emerged at rack rents but only 3 were over 100 a. and about 40 holdings were under 25a. (fn. 236) One of the more substantial farmers died c. 1815 worth over £3,000, having made money by renting out land and keep for livestock. (fn. 237) In 1829 the remaining open arable was inclosed (fn. 238) and new farms were established such as Redland on former open arable in the east. (fn. 239) About 1830 there were 960 a. in Compton, of which 425 a. was arable and 925 a. in Dundon of which 346 a. was arable. Over 346 a. had been reclaimed from Sedgemoor, where average yields were higher by up to a third than in old inclosures, but only in the first six years after conversion from grass and provided there was no flooding. The land then had to be put back to grass and rested before burning and ploughing again. The poor, however, continued to plough long after the land had ceased to be profitable. One wealthy farmer used ten times as much manure as his neighbours and got better crops. The main crops were wheat, beans, barley, oats, peas, and vetches. (fn. 240) Labourers were only partly employed and badly paid and poor tenants had bad crops and could not pay their rents. They were said to neglect manuring and fencing and their farms were in worsening condition. It was suggested by Littleton landowner Samuel Hasell that landlords should employ labourers on improvements and that the earl of Ilchester should spend up to £60 on drainage. (fn. 241)
In 1841 there were 1,416 a. of arable in the parish and 1,289 a. of pasture. All three villages had extensive orchards. Most holdings remained small: 27 were under 25 a., 16 between 25 a. and 50 a., 5 between 50 a. and 100 a., 4 between 100 a. and 200 a., and two, Littleton and Laws farms, over 200 a. (fn. 242) By 1851 there were 6 farms of between 100 a. and 200 a. and Littleton farm covered 360 a. and had 18 labourers. (fn. 243) The tenant of Littleton farm grew mangolds, rape, and swedes, and raised sheep. He put sheep on the green crops and gave them hay and 1 bu. of oats per sheep. Sedgemoor was still subject to flooding and dense weed. It was usually cropped with wheat, oats, and potatoes or beans until foul and was then sown with clover which was grazed or mown. Although the moor could produce up to 45 bu. per acre of wheat and 80 bu. of oats for the first year or two the quality was poor. (fn. 244)
By 1861 there were two farms of over 300 a. in Compton and Dundon and some of the smallest had been absorbed. (fn. 245) The rental on the earl of Ilchester's estate, amounting to about three quarters of the parish, was over £2,600 gross in 1863, of which c. £40 was collected at the manor court. (fn. 246) The cottages were overcrowded although they had good gardens. Men received 9s. a week and cider and women, all of whom worked in the fields in summer, threshing, bean planting, turnip hoeing, weeding corn, or apple picking, received 8d. and 3 pints of cider a day. Boys kept sheep or led the plough. (fn. 247)
In 1870 there were only 26 holdings on the manor, 11 of less than 25 a. One farmer borrowed money, probably from the estate, for a cowstall and another for drainage. In 1875 over £250 was spent by the estate on repairs to farms and cottages. (fn. 248) In 1881 of 21 farms recorded in the parish 8 were over 100 a. and a further 4 over 300 a. but 6 were under 25 a. Only the large farms employed labourers. (fn. 249) By 1905 arable had shrunk to 796 a. and grass land had increased to 1,820 a. (fn. 250)
In 1877 Littleton farm had cellarage for 400 hogsheads of cider, 4 cowyards with stalls for 42 cows, piggeries, and an enclosed stack yard. (fn. 251) One of the larger farms, Hayes farm on the edge of the moor west of Dundon, built c. 1853 with six bedrooms, cellar, and milkhouse, had 230 a. in 1883 mostly in a ring fence and comprising 114 a. of arable and 116 a. of grass and orchard. It was said to be very fertile. (fn. 252) In 1921 there were three farms at Hayes, Lower Hayes, possibly established c. 1710 but rebuilt in 1910, Hayes specializing in dairying, pigs, and sheep, and a third, a small mixed holding. Most of the farms on the Ilchester estate were dairying or dairy and sheep farms, many had cheeserooms, and some had apple and potato stores. One farm in Compton had stalls for 32 cows and an engine house. (fn. 253) A dairy farm in 1942 had enginedriven milking apparatus and a milking plant to refrigerate milk and fill churns. (fn. 254)
By the mid 20th century there were 1,075 cattle on 1,548 a. of permanent grass and 83 sheep on 93 a. of rough grazing. Other livestock included 160 pigs and 9,255 poultry. There were 237 a. of temporary grass, 262 a. of fodder, 95 a. of wheat, 41 a. of barley and potatoes, 56 a. of fallow, and 88 a. of orchard. No farms had more than 200 a. and several holdings were under 5 a. (fn. 255) Dairying remained important in the late 20th century with intensive pig and poultry production and pheasant and game rearing. (fn. 256)
In 1086 woodland six furlongs by one was recorded at Compton, 40 a. of underwood at Littleton, and 10 a. in Dundon, probably the later Park Wood. (fn. 257) Bradley and Hallywell woods were recorded in 1287, the former probably near Littleton and the latter on Dundon Hill. (fn. 258) In 1343 the park, north-west of Dundon, was covered in great trees. (fn. 259) Sales of underwood from it and Hallywell provided a small regular income for Compton Dundon manor in the 15th and 16th centuries. (fn. 260) Parcels of land in the woods and Dundon park were already let by 1558 (fn. 261) and by the 1580s the park was let in small lots, but reserving the timber trees at 16 per acre and requiring replacement of damaged trees. Bradley wood and Hallywell coppice were similarly let. (fn. 262) In 1616 there were over 2,750 trees on Compton Dundon manor, about half in the park, including standard oak, although 1 a. had been grubbed out for pasture and apples. There were said to be over 35 a. of woodland at the park and 10 a. at Hallywell. Bradleywood had been inclosed with a hedge; it was a hazel coppice worth 33s. 4d. an acre and felled every 10 to 12 years. (fn. 263) There was about 60 a. of oak, ash, maple, and hazel in four woods c. 1785, with good elm in Littleton. (fn. 264) In 1810 c. 44 a. of wood was in hand (fn. 265) and in 1837 sales of wood on the Ilchester estate totalled nearly £500 although costs, mainly for faggots from oak coppice, were very high. (fn. 266) In 1840 five men and women produced 17 dozen hurdles and production continued into the 1860s or later. (fn. 267) In 1841 there was 133 a. of wood mainly at Park wood (28 a.), Halwell or Hallywell wood (12 a.), and Callow wood (7 a.) at Littleton. There were small plantations on Dundon hill and around the Hood monument on Windmill hill. (fn. 268) Three timber throwers had come to work in the parish by 1881. (fn. 269) In 1905 53 a. of wood was recorded, (fn. 270) mainly mature oak, but plantings of fir and larch at Dundon hill increased the total woodland acreage on the Ilchester estate to at least 90 a. in 1921. (fn. 271) In 1955 Scots pine was planted on abandoned sheep pasture along the hill slopes in the east of the parish, (fn. 272) but in the late 20th century conifers were removed from Dundon hill. (fn. 273)
Little is known of the medieval exploitation of the moor and it was not included in estate surveys but in 1558 reed was recorded. (fn. 274) About 1618 25 tenants of Compton Dundon manor kept 96 oxen, 98 cows, 123 beasts, 112 horses, and 1,980 sheep on Sedgemoor. In 1619 it was proposed that 548 a. of the moor be allotted to the manor under an inclosure scheme. (fn. 275) The moor remained open, although subject to some encroachment including land called Reeds south of Dundon hill. (fn. 276) A rhyne called New Lake was illegally dug in 1778 from Redlake to the river to drain the moor. (fn. 277) In 1791 a total of 143 holdings in Compton Dundon claimed rights on Sedgemoor but under an Act of 1797 90 claims were made, some tenants having more than one. (fn. 278) Over 500 a. of moor was allotted. (fn. 279)
The moor was rich in wild fowl and in 1695 Thomas Strangways built a five-pipe (fn. 280) duck decoy on meadow at Dundon adjoining the moor. Duck, teal, and widgeon were taken for the Strangways family and also for sale to local people, at market, or to higglers or dealers, some of whom supplied the London market from Salisbury. Maintenance was expensive, accounting for over half the income of £72 in 1719, and included £10 to the decoyman, food for the dogs, hempseed for the fowl, nets and tunnels, powder and shot, and repairs to the decoy house. By 1729 the decoy was let out, in 1780 for £50 and in 1785 for £23 a year, the tenant to supply the earl of Ilchester with duck at 2s. a couple or teal and widgeon at 1s. 6d. Rhyne cutting in 1778 was said to have drained parts of the moor used by wildfowl and the earl claimed that inclosure and drainage would destroy the decoy, said to be worth £150 a year. (fn. 281) However, the decoy was still let out in the early 19th century and by 1841 was part of Decoy farm, where a single-unit, one-and-a-half storey house, perhaps built c. 1695, survives as part of a larger farmhouse. (fn. 282) It was still in existence in the late 19th century although disused (fn. 283) but has since been ploughed out and infilled, although two pipes could be traced in 1995. (fn. 284)
A miller had land in Compton in the late 12th century. (fn. 285) There was a windmill by 1287, and Compton Dundon manor had two windmills in 1321, although one was ruinous by 1343. (fn. 286) By the 15th century the windmill, on Windmill Hill near the boundary with Butleigh, and a horsemill on the manor were let, the latter giving its name to Horsemill Lane. It was probably out of use by the 1490s. (fn. 287) In 1558 the tenant of the windmill was required to build a horsemill in a barn. The horsemill was last recorded in 1598 and by 1613 the windmill was decayed. (fn. 288) By 1616 the windmill was a ruin even though the parishioners had no other convenient mill and the manor court repeatedly demanded its repair. (fn. 289) In 1620 it was let on condition that the tenant rebuilt it. (fn. 290) It appears to have been worked in 1622. (fn. 291) It was last leased in 1677, and by 1714 it had been blown down and was not rebuilt. (fn. 292)
There was a plaster of Paris quarry on Littleton manor in the 1340s but it was then out of use. (fn. 293) A plaster pit, on the hillside east of Compton where the Rhaetic clays meet the Keuper marl, was known in 1815. (fn. 294) Stone quarries, probably on Dundon Hill, produced tiles and stone for sale in 1494 and 1535, but in most years none was sold and they were used for repairs. (fn. 295) In 1616 land at the tile quarry was under corn and when it was let stone was reserved to the lord. (fn. 296) About 1785 the quarry produced road stone, blue lias for lime, and white stone which was split for building. (fn. 297) In 1837 the expenditure on raising pavement and good stone was many times greater than the proceeds of selling road stone, the quarry presumably being used to supply the estate. (fn. 298) Masons and stonecutters were recorded in 1881 (fn. 299) but the quarries probably went out of regular use before the end of the century. They were re-opened briefly for building stone in the 1920s and 1970s. (fn. 300) There were also quarries in the 19th century on the ridge in the north-east above Compton at Collard Hill. (fn. 301)
In 1815 attempts were made to find coal in the east of the parish. A trial shaft was sunk (fn. 302) which gave its name to fields called Coal Pits in 1841 and to Coalpit Lane. (fn. 303) A soil map produced in 1815 was probably connected with the project and shows a profile of the boring. (fn. 304)
Manufacture and Crafts
There was a clothier in the parish between 1687 and 1701 and a linen maker of the same family in 1722. (fn. 305) A weaver was recorded in 1698 (fn. 306) and some spinning was carried out c. 1785. (fn. 307) A smith in 1737 had flue and vice chambers beside his shop. (fn. 308) A shopkeeper was recorded in 1786. (fn. 309) In 1841 there were a cooper and a machinist. (fn. 310) A glover was at work in 1851 and 1861, and in 1891 there were several shoe workers. (fn. 311) Some girls worked at gloving in the 1860s. (fn. 312) In 1947 there were a blacksmith, a sweep, and bicycle and shoe repairers. (fn. 313)
Retail Trades And Services
Somerton, and since the early 19th-century Street, probably provided the parish with sufficient retail services although in 1841 there were two shopkeepers and a higgler (fn. 314) and in 1881 there were two general dealers, three grocers, and a confectioner and one of the innkeepers was also a grocer. (fn. 315) During the early 20th century there were two shops at Compton and one at Dundon. (fn. 316) In 1947 there were two general shops but in 1982 only the post office with shop, which remained open in 1999. (fn. 317)
Fourteen brewers sold ale in illegal measures in 1388. (fn. 318) In 1586 an unlicensed brewer held illicit games in his house and in 1601 the tenant of the court hall was an ale seller. (fn. 319) The Inn, probably in Compton, was recorded from 1686 (fn. 320) and there was a licensed victualler between 1687 and 1690. (fn. 321) From the mid 18th century there was a licensed public house, probably that earlier known as the Inn but by 1782 known as the Hare and Hounds. (fn. 322) It remained open north of the Cross until c. 1964 when it became the Old Tavern tearoom. It later became a private house. (fn. 323) It is an 18th-century building of lias and thatch which also served as a farmhouse in the later 19th century. (fn. 324) A second licensed house, in existence in 1767, was probably that recorded at Dundon in the 1780s, but not thereafter. (fn. 325) By 1841 a beerhouse had opened in Compton. (fn. 326) It was known as the Fox Hound or the Fox and Hounds, and was kept by the same family between 1859 and 1910 when renewal of its licence was refused. (fn. 327) The Castlebrook inn, opposite the Fox Hound, probably originated as a beerhouse open in 1866 and known as the Inn in 1881. (fn. 328) It remained open in 1999. The building may have medieval origins.
Fair and Market
In 1289 Cecily Beauchamp was granted a Thursday market and a three-day fair at the feast of St. Mary Magdalene (22 July). There is no evidence that either was ever kept. (fn. 329) There is said to have been an August fair, probably for entertainment only, before 1914. (fn. 330)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND WELFARE
Compton Dundon parish comprised the tithing of Compton Dundon in Whitley hundred, sometimes divided into Compton and Dundon for tax purposes, and Littleton tithing in Somerton hundred. (fn. 331) In the 15th century Littleton tithing appeared at the Somerton foreign court and in the 16th century at the Somerton three-week court. (fn. 332)
By 1287 and until 1337 or later there was a 'foreign' three-week court at Dundon at which tenants of the Dundon barony owed suit, summons being issued by tenants, for fees west of Bridgwater and as far as Dorset. (fn. 333)
The Beauchamps claimed assize of bread and ale for their Compton Dundon court. (fn. 334) Court rolls and papers survive for 1387–9, (fn. 335) 1446–9, 1468, 1475–9, 1492–1501, 1523–9, 1531, 1543–4, 1583–1629, and 1656–1860. The courts were mainly leets with views of frankpledge and courts baron, usually held three times a year during the Middle Ages but reduced to two in the 16th and 17th centuries and to an annual court from c. 1730. In addition to the usual business and pleas of tenants, the lord took goods of felons and fugitives. (fn. 336) Separate haywards were elected for Compton and Dundon from the late 16th century, although the offices were held by one man from 1859, and two presenters of ditches for each were also appointed. By 1812 haywards were compelled to perform their duties under penalty of £5. (fn. 337) In 1699 it was ordered that all those over 16 should attend court. (fn. 338) Extracts of court rolls for various dates between 1337 and 1410 survive for Littleton and court rolls for 1423–4 and 1426–7. Courts were held twice a year in the early 15th century. (fn. 339) The tenant of the capital messuage was required to entertain the lord's officers during the 17th and early 18th centuries. (fn. 340) The Milborne family demanded suit of court from their tenants in the 16th century. (fn. 341)
A pound was recorded in 1478 and a pound at Dundon in 1524, probably near the church. (fn. 342) There was another in 1885 at the end of the road from Dundon to Compton. (fn. 343) A pound was built at Littleton in 1445. (fn. 344)
The prebendary of Compton Dundon had peculiar jurisdiction in the parish. There are 18th-century prebendal papers concerning tithes and probate, (fn. 345) churchwardens' presentments for 1742–56 and for various years between 1800 and 1829, (fn. 346) appointments of registrars 1773–1820, 18th-century register transcripts, marriage licences 1746–1863, (fn. 347) and lists of wills 1738–46. (fn. 348) The visitation dinner was usually the heaviest item of church expenditure, often accounting for at least half the churchwardens' income in the later 18th century. (fn. 349)
There were two churchwardens, by the later 18th century one chosen to represent Compton and one Dundon, two overseers of the poor, and two waywardens. (fn. 350) There was a resident police constable between 1861 and 1891. (fn. 351)
The wardens gave casual relief to strangers including two men from America in 1776. In 1798 they paid for a new pair of stocks. (fn. 352) Poor relief in the 18th century was mainly in cash, although in 1800 a large number of poor persons were given peas, and the overseers paid for nursing, funerals, and inoculations. In the 1770s one of the overseers was a woman responsible for female paupers. The overseers also paid for bridge repairs and prosecutions. (fn. 353) Between 1776 and 1791 they rented a poorhouse and later paid some house rents. Some decisions on payment to paupers were made by the vestry, mentioned in 1816, (fn. 354) and in 1833 a man's pay was stopped when his apples became saleable. In 1822 a committee was set up to examine the state of the poor in the parish, and in 1824 a select vestry was established of 13 substantial householders. (fn. 355) The waywardens accounted separately for the Compton and Dundon roads and from 1838 kept separate accounts and rates. (fn. 356)
Compton Dundon formed part of the Langport poor-law union from 1836 and from 1894 was part of Langport rural district. That was absorbed into Yeovil, later South Somerset, district in 1974. (fn. 357)
Charities For The Poor
Sir John Strangways (d. 1666) is said to have left £50 to the poor of Compton Dundon of which £20 had been lost by 1732 when £30 was entrusted to the overseers of the poor. Annual distributions to c. 20 people were made by the overseers between 1731 and 1768 (fn. 358) and by the churchwardens between 1772 and 1836. (fn. 359) In 1825 the capital sum was still £30 but by 1840 was only £18; donations then brought it up to £40. (fn. 360) In 1922 the parish was given land in trust and in 1965 the charity was registered as the Earl of Ilchester's gift or Sir John Strangways' charity. Both Strangways charities remain in existence with a total income in 1999 of c. £45. (fn. 361)
Anne Dinnes or Dennis of Castle Cary by will proved 1801 left £60 to the poor of Compton Dundon. Her personal estate would not cover her funeral but one of her tenants paid £3 a year to the poor at the request of the devisee of her real estates until 1825 or later. (fn. 362) The charity has since been lost.
The ancient yew tree beside the church has been professionally estimated to be 1,700 years old, therefore the churchyard may be a pre-Christian site. (fn. 363) However, the most likely reason for the choice of site was its proximity to the manor house at Dundon.
Origins And Endowment
The church was in existence by 1291, when the endowment had passed to Wells cathedral. (fn. 364) A vicar had been appointed by 1315, (fn. 365) although no vicarage seems to have been formally ordained until 1327. (fn. 366) The chancel of the present church was built about that time. The living remained a sole benefice until 1976 when it was held with Somerton. In 1981 it became part of the united benefice of Somerton with Compton Dundon, the Charltons, and Kingsdon. (fn. 367) Successive prebendaries appointed vicars until 1852 when the advowson passed to the bishop of London. The bishop appoints on the fourth turn in every five to the united benefice. (fn. 368)
The rectory was assessed at £10 in 1291 (fn. 369) and in 1535 the vicarage was assessed at £19 6s. 10d. gross. (fn. 370) Its value was £18 in 1650, (fn. 371) increased to £21 in 1655, (fn. 372) and to £25 c. 1670. (fn. 373) In 1718 the benefice was augmented with a capital sum of £200. (fn. 374) The average gross income c. 1830 was £201 (fn. 375) and it was augmented in 1863 by a grant of £80 from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 376) In 1931 the gross income was £434 including £297 from endowments. (fn. 377) In 1535 tithes and offerings at £9 4s. provided most of the vicarage income (fn. 378) and in 1841 vicarial tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £129 4s. (fn. 379) Glebe was worth 2s. 10d. in 1535 (fn. 380) and measured 7 a. in 1613. (fn. 381) There were c. 8 a. in 1841. (fn. 382) In 1866 part of the glebe was exchanged for the site of the former manor house beside the church. (fn. 383)
In 1327 part of the parsonage garden, east of the high street, was given for a site for a vicarage house. (fn. 384) In 1638 the vicarage house comprised hall, parlour, buttery, and kitchen with three lofts above. Beside it stood a dovecot, barn, and stable. (fn. 385) No house was attached to the living in 1807. (fn. 386) A vicarage house was built adjoining the west side of the churchyard c. 1872. (fn. 387) It was sold c. 1976. (fn. 388)
Pastoral Care And Parish Life
There was a chapel at Compton in 1283. (fn. 389) In 1558 the chapel was let by the lord of the manor and in 1578 was said to be part of the demesne. (fn. 390) By 1585 it was occupied as a cottage (fn. 391) and in 1616 comprised a small hall and another room with three little chambers above. (fn. 392) It was last recorded in 1639 (fn. 393) but may have been the house with large blocked east window with pointed arch, similar north doorway, and buttresses standing near the cross in 1847 but demolished soon afterwards. (fn. 394) A large late 13th-century barn survives behind the site. (fn. 395) There is no record of a chapel at Littleton but a field there has been known as Chapel Hay since 1615 or earlier. (fn. 396)
William Rowle, instituted by proxy in 1462, was declared unfit and his admission was postponed until he was literate. He was given two years to study with the vicar of Butleigh. (fn. 397) In 1497 the vicar, John Kynman, was fined £20 for involvement in the rebellion that year with 26 of his parishioners. (fn. 398) His successor, John Walgrave, a pluralist, left the parish to be served by curates. (fn. 399) Thomas Smith, incumbent during the Interregnum, was supported by the trustees for the better maintenance of ministers. (fn. 400)
The early 19th-century vicars were non-resident for lack of a house and the parish was served by curates who were also non-resident. One service was normally held each Sunday. (fn. 401) In 1836 the church held only 225 and many absented themselves for want of comfortable seating. (fn. 402) On Census Sunday 1851 66 adults attended morning service and 172 in the afternoon. Sunday schoolchildren attended both services. (fn. 403) In 1870 two Sunday services continued to be held with monthly communion by 1873. (fn. 404) Services had increased to three by 1925 when there were 38 Easter communicants. Between 1934 and 1942 the celebration was described as mass and the choir was usually for men only. There were 69 Easter communicants in 1944. In 1945 Sunday services reduced to two. (fn. 405)
The church of St. Andrew, so dedicated by 1527, (fn. 406) has a chancel with vestry, four-bayed nave with opposing doorways, and west tower, all built of lias with mainly Ham stone dressings. The nave is roofed with clay tiles and has on the north side an eaves course of stone slates, perhaps the remnants of a stone-slated roof covering apparently replaced in 1804 by clay tiles and, probably temporarily, thatch. (fn. 407) Tiles on the chancel were replaced by slates in the 1970s. (fn. 408) Some reused 12th-century stone has been found at the base of the tower (fn. 409) but otherwise the surviving evidence is the two-bayed chancel which was rebuilt in the late 13th or early 14th century. It has windows with Decorated tracery, a north vestry and south doorway, and a group of triple sedilia and piscina; the north-east window is square-headed and slightly later. (fn. 410) Gifts of money in 1413 and 1493 may be associated with rebuilding work on the four-bay nave and the plain three-stage tower, which have Perpendicular windows. (fn. 411) The nave roof, south doorway, south porch, font, the corbelling and stairs of a pulpit, pews, and the stained glass in the heads of some windows (fn. 412) belong to this phase. A low stone wall built against the jambs of the chancel arch probably formed part of a rood screen, since dismantled, to which a high south window and door to a rood stair are related. There is a late medieval chest.
In 1600 the church was in decay and the Compton Dundon manor court ordered the parishioners to repair it. (fn. 413) Kneelers with carved faces on the north side may date from the 17th century, possibly contemporary with the stone slates. (fn. 414) There was neither pulpit cloth nor cushion in 1605 (fn. 415) though by implication there was a pulpit, perhaps the medieval one from which the stone corbel survives, now supporting a timber pulpit assembled from pieces, one dated 1628. A 17th-century chest was stolen in 1991. (fn. 416) There are bells of 1630 and 1668 by Robert Austen and of 1729 by Thomas Bilbie. The fourth bell was recast in 1777 by William Bilbie, and Thomas and James Bilbie recast the tenor in 1793–6. (fn. 417) The former stone rope guides survive, one dated 1692. (fn. 418) The belfry was separated from the nave in 1733 (fn. 419) but the division has since been removed. In 1781 the church was ceiled, painted, and tiled. A reading desk and clerk's seat were rebuilt in 1752. (fn. 420) In the 1780s the altar was a deal table but the old rails survived. The gallery was painted blue with black panels. (fn. 421)
A great deal of repair work was carried out in the early 19th century including walling up the north door in 1825 and the provision of new pews. In 1814 a new coat of arms and a commandment and other boards were bought for £20, the old ones having been removed in the 1750s. (fn. 422) Despite the new seating the church only held 225, which was said to be inadequate in 1836. A new gallery was suggested. (fn. 423) By 1900 the church was dilapidated and was restored under Edmund Buckle of London, the work including removal of the gallery, replacement of pews except for the ancient seats, and provision of a new nave floor. (fn. 424)
In 1929–31 W. D. Caröoe repaired the porch and the tower, which in the 1820s and 1845 had a pyramidal cap, (fn. 425) and rebuilt the tower battlements. (fn. 426) In 1936 he designed a font cover and new altars; the present altar was made from a 17th-century table, probably at the same period. (fn. 427) By the early 20th century the bells could not be rung but in 1936 they were rehung for chiming. (fn. 428) The plate includes a cup and cover of 1570. (fn. 429) The registers date from 1682. (fn. 430)
Houses were licensed for Independents in 1811 and 1813. (fn. 431) In 1836 there was said to be one meeting house in the parish, its denomination unspecified, but there were few dissenters. (fn. 432) An Independent chapel was built near the Cross at Compton in 1842 with seats for 70. On Census Sunday 1851 11 people attended in the morning and 53 in the afternoon. (fn. 433) It closed in 1856, probably for rebuilding, as an Independent chapel was registered in 1857. (fn. 434) It remained Independent in 1888 (fn. 435) but by 1896 was in the hands of Particular Baptists. (fn. 436) The Baptists used but did not re-register the chapel and it closed probably by 1953 to be used as a village hall. (fn. 437)
Three houses were licensed for worship in 1814, 1817, and 1819, at least one probably for Methodists who met in the parish between 1816 and 1821, starting with 20 members. (fn. 438) A building in Ham Lane was acquired and registered as a Wesleyan mission hall in 1887. (fn. 439) A new organ was installed in 1942 but by 1949 services could not be maintained and the chapel closed. The trustees continued to maintain it until it was sold c. 1956. (fn. 440)
In 1819 a Sunday school with 30–40 children was supported by subscriptions and a day school had 30 children taught at their parents' expense. (fn. 441) Only the latter continued in 1825. (fn. 442) By 1833 three more day schools had opened and a total of 25 boys and 38 girls were taught daily at their parents' expense. Church and Independent Sunday schools had 40 and 48 children respectively, (fn. 443) the former probably that affiliated to the National Society in 1837. (fn. 444) In 1847 44 children were in dame schools and 100 more attended Sunday school only. (fn. 445) In 1851 there were 88 children at the church Sunday school. (fn. 446) In the 1860s it was said that 'great ignorance' prevailed and a school was badly wanted. The church Sunday school was poorly attended but a few children went to school at Butleigh Wootton. (fn. 447)
A National day school with two classrooms, built on land given by the earl of Ilchester, opened in 1873. In 1903 there were 69 children on the books and two teachers. (fn. 448) Average attendance fell from 80 in 1905 to 62 in 1925. (fn. 449) From 1929 the school took juniors only and in 1946 accepted voluntary controlled status. (fn. 450) In 1955 there were 45 children on the books, rising to 73 in 1975. Numbers fluctuated thereafter, falling to 49 in 1998. (fn. 451)