A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 10. Originally published by Boydell & Brewer for Victoria County History, Woodbridge, 2010.
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THE PARISH, which lies east of the Fosse way between Ilchester and Shepton Mallet, comprises the village of Babcary to the west, partly encircled by the river Cary, the hamlets of Higher and Lower Foddington on low hills to the east, Steart on the flatter ground to the south, and several farmsteads. The river Cary forms most of the northern boundary, the Fosse Way part of the north-western, and Steart Lane most of the south-western. From the alluvial floor of the Cary valley the land rises over Lower Lias clay to the Fosse Way on the west and on the east to three low hills of gravel terrace deposits of c. 45 m. (c. 150 ft) around Foddington. Wheatlawn farm north-east of Foddington stands on an outcrop of gravel in the alluvium. Gravel was dug in the 19th century. (fn. 1) South of Babcary village the valley widens and Steart stands at 27 m. (88 ft). The parish measures 3.5 km. east to west at its widest and nearly 4 km. north to south on the east side but only 1.5 km. on the west. In 1839 it was variously said to measure 2,393 a. or 2,652 a. (fn. 2) The Ordnance Survey assessed the acreage as 2,412 a. (975 ha.), which it remains. (fn. 3) Part of the former Whindles mead (12.2 ha. (26 a.)), north of the Cary, is a nature reserve and was notified as an SSSI in 1998 for its natural meadow flora. (fn. 4)
Lanes radiate out from the settlements to two major roads. In 1839 the network was listed as 28 roads, some foot or bridle ways, covering nearly 33 a. of land. (fn. 5) The Fosse Way from Ilchester largely follows its Roman course and was turnpiked by the Ilchester trust in 1753. (fn. 6) Steart Lane runs from the Fosse over the river at Steart Bridge and divides at Steart. One route follows the parish boundary over another Steart bridge to the Wincanton road and was the market way to Yeovil and Sherborne in 1611. (fn. 7) The other, from Steart to Babcary, formerly continued as Whindle and Lydford Lanes, rejoining the Fosse between West and East Lydford. Garston, now Babcary, Lane from the Fosse to Babcary village, crosses the Cary at Garston Bridge near the church, which is possibly the Babcary bridge repaired at a cost of nearly £27 in 1706. (fn. 8) Rebuilding bridges was a burden on the parish in the early 19th century. (fn. 9)
Lanes to East Lydford over Perry Bridge recorded in 1481, North Barrow, and South Barrow, via Sunny Hill farm, survive as roads. (fn. 10) Rubbery Lane, along the parish boundary from the Fosse to Hook Lane, was the market way from Foddington presumably to Ilchester or Somerton c. 1763, but was partly abandoned by 1839. (fn. 11) Its winding continuation east from Foddington, called the road to Wincanton in 1774, (fn. 12) was probably the market way from Babcary to Bruton via Castle Cary recorded in 1602 and 1611. (fn. 13) Newlands Lane along the boundary with South Barrow formerly continued to Queen Camel. (fn. 14) Its status was disputed from 1914 and it was blocked with barbed wire in 1923. (fn. 15)
SETTLEMENT AND POPULATION
There are numerous mounds near Foddington, which may be barrows. At Wimble Toot, near Steart, there is a barrow of unknown date, (fn. 16) perhaps the site of an early windmill (fn. 17) as it was called Wyndemilltowte in 1566. (fn. 18)
Several settlements were in existence by the 11th century: the main ones were Babcary, which lay roughly in the centre of the parish and was probably named from the river and a former owner; Foddington (or Farrington), which occupied a hollow, probably once used for grazing, in a hill to the north-east; and Steart, which lay in the south-west at the end of a low spur which causes the river to flow around it. (fn. 19) In 1086 the number of recorded households was 24 in Babcary, 13 in Foddington, and six in Steart. (fn. 20)
By 1066 there was no large unitary manor. Probably from an early date landownership was fragmented into several large demesne estates or farmsteads, each the focus of a settlement, the largest being Babcary itself, which included the parish church. By the 13th century a later manorial farmstead lay north of Foddington at Pury, later Perry. (fn. 21)
Babcary's former open fields, Hill, Westover, and Windhill or Whindle, later pasture, lay west of the village alongside the Fosse Way and to the south, and Pury and Foddington East fields lay between those settlements and the eastern boundary. A South field recorded in 1330 apparently belonged to Steart, which had its own fields in the south of the parish. Several common meadows lay along the river. (fn. 22)
In the 1780s the population was c. 300 and there were 38 houses in Babcary, 11 in Foddington, and three or five in Steart (fn. 23) several of which must have been quite recently built. (fn. 24) Foddington, by c. 1800 two hamlets, Higher and Lower, has shrunk to five farmstead sites. There are possible house sites on a holloway in Cothays field near Standerwick farm. There is evidence of early shrinkage at Steart in the south of the parish and in the north at Pury, which was abandoned in the 16th century or earlier, possibly because the site was wet. A platform survives surrounded by ditches and enclosures. (fn. 25)
Apart from a slight fall in 1811 the population rose from 337 in 1801 to a peak of 465 in 1841. (fn. 26) In 1839 Babcary village lay scattered east of the church along Main, or Chapel, and Church Streets and side streets Baker Street, formerly Frog Lane and East Street. North Street, formerly Gaston Street leading into Whindle Lane, was lined with cottages built on its eastern verge. (fn. 27) John Cannon, stone cutter, may have built c. 1840 part of the terrace, then known as Cannons Row, on the site of his tenements in Frog Lane. (fn. 28) The population gradually declined. In 1871 it numbered 407, inhabiting 91 houses, and in 1901 only 377 in 70 dwellings. (fn. 29) Several cottages were demolished or derelict in the 1920s and one near the inn was pulled down to improve the road junction. Some of the wayside cottages in North Street were replaced by new houses. (fn. 30) Local authority houses were built following a request from the parish council in 1926. (fn. 31) There were 72 houses in 1931 and no more had been built by 1947. No housing development was permitted in 1980 (fn. 32) but there have been several conversions and new houses built since that date. (fn. 33) The population rose from 180 in 1981 to 222 residents in 1991. (fn. 34)
Of the chief houses of Babcary's many estates only one, Standerwick which stands south of the village earthworks at Foddington, dates from before 1700. (fn. 35) Other manorial houses were Manor Farm, a 17thcentury house before rebuilding in the 1950s, and Bowers Farm and Steart Farm at Steart, rebuilt in the 18th century. Few houses in Babcary village predate 1900; the oldest is probably the 17th-century core of the Red Lion. Church Street has detached three-bayed 18th and 19th-century cottages as well as pairs and rows, some of which have been converted into single houses. All are built of lias and some still have thatched roofs. In North Street spaces between single cottages have been infilled to create rows and some have been raised from one and a half storey to two. The 18th-century Broadclose Farmhouse was enlarged in 17th-century style in or about 1895 when the new farmbuildings bearing that date were built. Farmhouses away from the village, including Foddington, Craddock and Uphill, are early to mid 19th-century, and at Greenhill farm farmbuildings have been converted to dwellings.
The pattern of landownership in Babcary is complex. Not only are there manors based on the separate settlements but two had been divided before the Conquest. Originally there seem to have been two fivehide estates: Babcary and Foddington and a smaller estate at Steart but by 1066 Babcary had been divided in two and Foddington into three. Steart manor, assessed at two hides, though unitary in 1066, was held by two subtenants in 1086, but seems later to have been undivided. The medieval lordships were probably weak as they continued to fragment and new estates emerged in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The five-hide Babcary estate had been divided into two parts both assessed at 2½ hides before the mid 11th century. One was held by Godric and valued at 50s., the other by Brune and valued at 40s.
Babcary: Godric's Share
In 1086 Godric's estate, was held by Robert son of Ivo from Robert, count of Mortain in 1086. (fn. 36) It may have been the Cary estate farmed out by the Crown in 1196, probably to Prince John, count of Mortain, later king, who took rents in 1206. (fn. 37) By 1200 Babcary was probably held by Hubert de Burgh (d. 1243) as a fee of the honor of Mortain. (fn. 38) In 1242–3 a half fee at Babcary was in the honor of Gloucester. (fn. 39) Hubert's grandson Gilbert of Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (d. 1295) (fn. 40) was accused in 1274 of having withdrawn the suit of half the tithing of Babcary from Catsash hundred. (fn. 41) However, that overlordship later lapsed.
Robert son of Ivo's tenancy probably passed with his honor of Hatch to Robert de Beauchamp (fl. 1113), Robert (fl. 1158), and Robert (d. 1195). The daughter and heir of the last married Simon de Vautort (d. 1199), presumably a scion of the family, which held one of the Foddington manors. (fn. 42) Their son Robert (d. 1264) took the name Beauchamp when he came of age c. 1212. (fn. 43) In 1236 Robert's half fee at Babcary was sublet to Henry of Erleigh (fn. 44) whose descendants continued to hold of the Beauchamps until 1363 or later. (fn. 45) By 1431 Babcary was held of Marston Magna manor, which Humphrey Stafford held as heir to the Beauchamps (fn. 46) and remained so held until 1604 or later but c. 1665 was said to be held of Lord Stourton's manor of Little Marston. (fn. 47)
Henry of Erleigh (d. 1272), brother and heir to John of Erleigh (d. 1231), lord of North Petherton, was followed by his widow Clemency (fl. 1290). (fn. 48) His grandson John, son of Philip of Erleigh (d. c. 1275), answered for the half fee. (fn. 49) In 1316 John (d. c. 1323) proposed settling land in Babcary on a marriage between his son John and Joan, daughter of Sir Nicholas Cheyny. (fn. 50) In 1329 the manor was settled on John and Joan, (fn. 51) who probably died childless, and later on John (d. c. 1337) and his second wife Elizabeth (d. 1361) by whom he left an infant son, also John. (fn. 52) Sir John (d. c. 1410) settled Babcary on himself and his wife Isabel (d. 1431) who married Sir John Rowden. She granted the manor to her daughter Margaret Erleigh (d. 1443) who married three times and left a grandson, Thomas Seymour, a minor in the king's ward. (fn. 53)
Thomas (d. 1489) settled Babcary in 1464 on his son John for his marriage to Elizabeth Chocke. (fn. 54) Elizabeth married Sir John Byconnel (fl. 1499) and died a widow in 1504 when her heir was Joan Seymour, infant daughter of her son William (d. 1503). (fn. 55) Joan, married as a child to William Drury, probably son of her guardian Sir Robert Drury, died in 1517. Her heirs were John Stawell and Edward Bampfylde sons of her father's sisters Anne and Margaret. (fn. 56) Edward Bampfylde (d. 1528) was followed in succession by his sons John (d. 1532) and Richard (d. 1594) (fn. 57) and John Stawell (d. 1541) by his grandson Sir John Stawell (fn. 58) who in 1598 bought the Bampfylde share from Richard's son Amias. (fn. 59)
Sir John Stawell (d. 1603) left the manor to his grandson John Stawell whose parents Sir John (d. 1604) and Elizabeth, later wife of Thomas Gryffin, held it during his minority. (fn. 60) By 1646 Sir John, a prominent Royalist, had suffered the sequestration of his estates which were sold in 1651 when Babcary was acquired by John Gorges. Stawell recovered his lands at the Restoration but died shortly afterwards in 1662. (fn. 61) He was followed in turn by his sons George (d. 1669) and Ralph (cr. a baron 1683, d. 1683). (fn. 62) Ralph's son John died in debt in 1692 and his estates were sold off under Act of Parliament. Francis Bennett bought Babcary in 1698 and sold the land (c. 840 a.), mainly to tenants. (fn. 63) He left the lordship, after his wife's life interest, to William, Lord Stawell (d. 1742) who was succeeded by his brother Edward (d. 1755) and Edward's daughter Mary (d. 1780), baroness in her own right and wife of Henry Bilson Legge and later of the earl of Hillsborough. (fn. 64) Mary left a son Henry, Lord Stawell (d. 1820) whose only child Mary married John, Lord Sherborne. In 1828 Lord Sherborne sold the lordship to Uriah Messiter who in 1839 conveyed it to the Revd William Twemlow, later rector. (fn. 65) There were many later claims to lordship, notably by the rector Thomas Sweetapple (d. 1867). (fn. 66)
Manor house Thomas Seymour, as lord of Babcary, and his wife Phillippa, who were allowed to have a portable altar in 1455, may have been resident. (fn. 67) By c. 1665 the manorial farm, which lay in Babcary village near the church, was divided and a tenant John Creech stopped up three of his six hearths. (fn. 68) In 1754 and 1784 Babcary farm, reputedly half the capital messuage and demesnes, belonged to the Chinnock family. (fn. 69) By 1805 it had been divided up. The largest part (146 a.) with a farmyard beside the church was bought by William Cruttwell whose widow was succeeded in the 1830s by the Revd Aaron Foster. (fn. 70) Later called Manor farm it was sold by the Revd Charles Cruttwell to Charles Cannon in 1898 (fn. 71) and passed through several hands. Buckler shows a house with a 17th-century gabled front and mullioned windows. It was renovated 'at great expense' before 1942 but was badly burnt and rebuilt in the 1950s. (fn. 72)
Montacute Priory estate In the 1180s Simon de Vautort gave to Montacute priory, where his brother Nicholas was a monk, one virgate in Babcary and 2s. rent to hold until the priory obtained a 10s. annuity from Babcary church. The gift was confirmed by Robert de Beauchamp and by John, count of Mortain. (fn. 73) The annuity was never received and Montacute retained possession until the Dissolution. (fn. 74)
In 1539 the estate was let to Dr William Petre. In 1542 Thomas Wyatt (d. 1542) obtained the reversion which he left to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Darrell, for life, and then to his son. (fn. 75) Following the attainder of Thomas Wyatt the younger (d. 1554), the Crown claimed it and in 1556 a 40-year lease was granted to William Petre. (fn. 76) A grant in fee was made to Christopher Hatton in 1576 (fn. 77) but Elizabeth Darrell, then wife of Sir Robert Strode, retained the reversion. (fn. 78) William Petre (d. 1556) had been succeeded by John, Lord Petre (d. 1613), who obtained the fee, held of the king's manor of East Greenwich as part of Tintinhull manor. John's third son Thomas (d. 1625) left his son Francis, a minor. (fn. 79) Francis (d. c. 1660) was followed by his son Francis but the Babcary land (c. 66 a.) appears to have been sold off piecemeal. (fn. 80)
Babcary: Brune's Share
The other part of the Babcary estate was held freely by Brune before 1066, and later attached to the lands of Brictric, son of Ælfgar, an important thegn whose holdings had been given to William the Conqueror's wife Matilda. By 1086 Brune's estate was held by Humphrey the queen's Chamberlain, presumably as a gift from the queen. (fn. 81) It descended like Lytes Cary to William son of John of Harptree. (fn. 82) An estate at Babcary was disputed in 1229 between William son of John of Harptree and Alexander Huscarl (fn. 83) who granted two carucates in 1235 to Robert Beauchamp. (fn. 84) However, in 1242–3 a half fee at Babcary was claimed by Robert de Gournay, grandson and heir of William son of John of Harptree (d. 1232). (fn. 85) It was not recorded again but in 1414 the heirs of John ap Adam, husband of Robert de Gournay's great granddaughter Elizabeth de Gournay claimed a fee in Foddington held of the Despencers. (fn. 86)
The five-hide Foddington estate, if ever unitary, had been divided into three before 1066. By 1086 the largest part, held by Alfward in 1066 and assessed at two hides and a virgate had passed to Hugh de Vautort and was held directly of the king. Hugh also received a second share, assessed at one hide and one and a half virgates and formerly held by Ceolred, but this was as tenant to Robert, count of Mortain, A third share, held by Beorhtweard in 1066, had passed to Schelin by 1086 and was again held directly of the king. (fn. 87) The descent of these estates is complex and unclear.
Pury and Foddington Manor
In 1227 the Vautort in Foddington holdings were claimed by Robert, Lord Beauchamp (d. 1264), lord of Babcary, presumably as the heir of his father Simon de Vautort. Thereafter they were held with Pury of the Clare earls of Hertford for a third of a knight's fee; (fn. 88) Pury is first coupled with Foddington in 1236. (fn. 89) Robert's rights were evidently complex. He also claimed the service of a thirteenth of a third of a knight for land at Foddington, held by Walter de Lattiford, who in turn granted the estates to John the Dane but who was still in possession in 1243. (fn. 90)
The Beauchamps' tenant at Pury in c. 1236 was Richard de Vaux. (fn. 91) By 1280 it was held by Ranulph Vaux (de Vallibus), (fn. 92) possibly in succession to Roland de Vaux suitor to Catsash hundred court in 1242. (fn. 93) Ranulph's son Roland was still in possession in 1327. (fn. 94) By 1337 the Beauchamp fee of Pury and Foddington had passed to Sir John of Erleigh, the Beauchamps' tenant at Babcary, who held it jointly with his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 95) The estate, about 344 a., (fn. 96) descended with the manor of Babcary until both estates were sold by Francis Bennett c. 1698. (fn. 97)
The Beauchamps were mesne tenants and overlordship remained vested in the Clare earls of Hertford until it passed to the last earl's great grandson, Edward le Despenser (d. 1375). (fn. 98) In 1431 it remained with Queen Katherine's honor of Hertford, (fn. 99) but in 1489 was held by Humphrey Stafford lord of Marston Magna manor. (fn. 100) In 1505 Pury was said to be held of Muchelney abbey and the Beauchamp land in Foddington of Athelney abbey. (fn. 101) In 1604 the overlord of the Pury estate was Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford. (fn. 102)
Another share of Foddington may have passed to William de Reigny before 1319 when he settled it on John de Reigny and his wife Mabel. (fn. 105) It was to this manor that the advowson of Foddington chapel belonged and from which its glebe land was probably taken. (fn. 106) In 1368 Foddington manor, held by Joan wife of John Ralegh for life, was settled on Sir Robert Ashton and his first wife Elizabeth Lorty, probably widow of William de Reigny, and their grandson John Berkeley. (fn. 107) Robert (d. 1384) held the manor of Sir Mathew Gurney, lord of Curry Mallet, who married Robert's widow Phillippa. The reversion had been given to Alice de Perrers, who forfeited it, and to her husband Sir William of Windsor (d. s.p. 1384). (fn. 108) In 1386 the king gave the manor to John of Windsor who held it in 1392. (fn. 109)
In 1396 the rose rent and reversion were claimed by the Reigny heirs including Joan daughter of William Banastre (d. 1395) (fn. 110) and in 1439 Foddington was settled on her daughter Cecily and her second husband Sir Thomas Keriell. (fn. 111) Cecily's granddaughter Genevieve (d. 1480), wife of Sir William Say (d. 1529), (fn. 112) was succeeded by the granddaughters of her father's sister Alice including Joan, wife of Thomas Say, whose daughters disputed Foddington with their half-sister who was not Joan's daughter. (fn. 113) The manor descended with East Lydford until 1784 or later when it belonged to Thomas Wyld but by that date was only one farm at Lower Foddington. (fn. 114) The farm was part of the Greenhill family estate between 1805 and 1905, (fn. 115) and known by 1861 (fn. 116) as Greenhill farm. The house, at Lower Foddington, was rebuilt in the 1880s (fn. 117) and by 1910 the farm had had been divided and sold. (fn. 118)
A capital messuage of Foddington, its lands and tithes, possibly formerly part of Pury and Foddington manor, were acquired by John Standerwick whose son John with his wife Mary sold or mortgaged them in 1719. Elizabeth, widow of Simon Welman, and Mary, daughters of Benjamin Hawkins, assigned a mortgage of the estates, later Standerwicks and Craddocks in 1723. (fn. 119) In 1734 the estate was in dispute in Chancery between William Phelps, owner or tenant of part of Craddock's and other lands at Foddington, and Beverley Butler, who had acquired Standerwicks and most of Craddocks, possibly through his wife Martha. In 1743 Phelps released his claim to Butler whose widow Martha left the estate in 1762 to her nieces Sarah and Elizabeth Cooke. Both died c. 1794 leaving their half shares to John Bellamy, probably their nephew. (fn. 120) John (d. 1795) was succeeded by his brother Richard who mortgaged the estate in 1812 and died in 1815 leaving an infant son Richard who died the same year and a daughter Eliza. His widow married the Revd Thomas Ayres in 1821. (fn. 121) By 1834 the estate, divided into Standerwick's (190 a.) and Craddock's (167 a.) farms named after earlier tenants, was held by Eliza Bellamy and her husband the Revd John Jenkyns Matthews. (fn. 122) Eliza (d. 1888) left her estate in trust for sale. (fn. 123) It was divided into several holdings including two farms called Standerwick. The house on one was demolished in 1911. (fn. 124) The other is L plan, stone-built and was thatched (fn. 125) and may be only a fragment of a larger house, which dates from the late Middle Ages. The two-storeyed part is an early 16th-century cross-wing containing a parlour with deep-beamed ceiling and elm partition, with above it a chamber reached by a staircase projecting north, and one bay of the hall range, which was extended north in the 17th century but which has some smoke-blackened roof timbers. In the 1960s the upper angle of the cross-wing was infilled and the lower north wing altered. A long drained pond to the east may have been part of a moat, which can be traced also on the west. (fn. 126)
Other Estates in Foddington and Pury
The FitzAdam family, lords of Charlton Adam, south of Babcary, held an estate in Foddington in the 13th century which was given to Bruton priory. (fn. 127) In 1316 Joan of Rodbergh held a fee in Foddington and John Everard an estate in Pury. The latter's holding may be the messuage and carucate of land in Pury which was held by John Bampfylde in 1329. Bampfylde settled it on his second wife Joan in 1336 (fn. 128) and did homage to Beauchamp for it in 1340. (fn. 129) In 1481 it was settled in trust for William, minor son of Walter Bampfylde (d. 1478). (fn. 130) It probably merged with the Bampfylde share of Babcary and Pury in the 16th century. (fn. 131)
Steart, held by Beorhtnoth in 1066, had passed to two porters from Montacute, presumably priory doorkeepers, under Robert, count of Mortain in 1086. (fn. 132) The porters held it until it escheated to the king in the later 12th century and was granted to Richard Robbe. Described as a free manor in 1219, (fn. 133) although later held by knight service, it remained in the hands of the Crown until 1628. (fn. 134)
Richard Robbe was succeeded by his son Henry de Champflower who was said to hold the manor in 1219 when a Matthew de Champflower (fl. 1219) was also recorded as lord. Henry de Champflower died c. 1256 leaving a widow Amabel and son Hilary, (fn. 135) also nephew and heir of Sir John de Champflower. (fn. 136) Hilary (d. c. 1277) was succeeded in the manor, sometimes called Steart Champflower, by his son Matthew (d. 1308), (fn. 137) who in 1280 resisted the claim of Margery, widow of a Henry de Champflower to dower. (fn. 138) Matthew's son John, (fn. 139) the largest taxpayer in the parish, (fn. 140) settled the manor on himself and his wife Emme in 1345. (fn. 141) He was responsible for work on the principal messuage; in 1330 he exchanged land with Bruton priory in order to acquire a strip of meadow c. 8ft wide and 8 roods long to make a dyke for a new enclosure before his court gate. (fn. 142) He was dead by 1354, leaving a son John, (fn. 143) but Emme held the estate with her then husband Roger Gys. (fn. 144)
In 1413 John Polayn and his wife Anne conveyed Steart to William Wollane of Hampshire (fn. 145) who let the manor for life and granted the reversion to Nicholas King and his wife Isabel without licence. The manor was taken into the king's hands before 1427 when the parties were pardoned and the manor was restored to them. Isabel was alive in 1431. (fn. 146) By 1456 Steart was held by John Gilbert (d. 1456) who was succeeded in turn by his sons William and John (d. 1499) and John's son Robert (d. 1538). (fn. 147) Robert's son Anthony (d. 1555 s.p.) settled the manor in 1540 on his brother George (d. by 1555), his wife Margaret (fl. 1558) and their son John (d. 1557). (fn. 148) John's son George (d. 1593) divided Steart selling lands to a large number of people in 1566 and 1568 and the house and demesne to James FitzJames in 1566. (fn. 149)
Although in the 1560s it was claimed that the parcels of land were held of the Crown in chief by knight service, (fn. 150) there was no reference to a lord of Steart manor after the division of the estate until 1627 when John Colles (d. 1627) held Babcary and Steart manor. His heirs were his young daughters Elizabeth, Margaret, Anne, and Dorothy. (fn. 151) Lordship had passed by 1632 to Margaret (d. 1660), wife of Gerard Napier (Bt. 1641, d. 1673) who mortgaged and sold the land. Their son Sir Nathaniel (d. 1709) (fn. 152) was followed by his son Nathaniel (d. 1728) who claimed quit rents in 1711. (fn. 153)
Sir James FitzJames sold the Steart demesne in 1568 to James Hodges and his son William who bought other former manor land in 1571. (fn. 154) William predeceased James (d. 1601) leaving an infant daughter Frances but the demesne, said to be held for a quarter fee, passed to James's daughter Mary (d. by 1638), wife of John Rosse. (fn. 155) In 1655 her son James Rosse sold the capital messuage with over 136 a. to James Powell alias Creech. (fn. 156) It descended in turn to Francis Creech (d. 1677), Francis's grand-nephew George Cheek (d. by 1686), and Edward Cheek (d. by 1703) whose daughter and heir Jane, with her husband Sir Thomas Webster and son Whistler, sold it in 1734 in trust for John Hutchings of Sherborne. (fn. 157) The estate, known as Steart farm, remained in the Hutchings family until 1821 when their heir, Sir William Medlycott sold it to John Whittle. (fn. 158) John (d. 1873) left it in trust for his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Samuel Palmer, and her six children, who in 1896 sold it through an intermediary to John Fever whose family had been tenants and owned the adjoining Bowers farm. John's widow held both farms in 1910. (fn. 159) John Hutchings may have rebuilt the house as in 1743 John Painter of Sherborne, carpenter, was at work on it. (fn. 160)
In 1566 Richard Lewis bought part of the curtilage of the capital messuage and land at Steart which had belonged to Bruton priory. (fn. 161) He settled his estate, later said to be held of the king in chief by knight service, on Thomas Lewis and his wife Agnes in 1598. Thomas (d. 1611) left Agnes and a son Robert, a minor. (fn. 162) By 1697 Robert had been succeeded by John (fl. 1719) (fn. 163) whose daughter and heir Mary married William Bower (d. 1724). (fn. 164) William's sons John Lewis (d. 1785) and Lewis (d. 1792), and daughter Mary died childless and their heir was Robert Lewis of Sherborne. (fn. 165) Robert (d. c. 1817) left a wife Albertina and sons Robert and John. Robert inherited the farm at Steart and John the other lands. John intended going to America in 1820 but still owned land in 1839. Albertina and Robert (fn. 166) agreed in 1828 to sell the farm to John Fever (d. 1833) who was succeeded by his son John (d. 1859) and the latter's sons John and William. In 1873, after the death of his mother Ann, William sold his interest to John. (fn. 167) The farm house, which lies in Steart hamlet, dates from the 18th century and is known as Bowers Farm.
Bruton Priory Estate
Martin de Champflower and Walter Bricher were said to have separately conveyed lands and a messuage in Steart to trustees who granted them to the prior of Bruton, probably in 1276 when Hilary de Champflower confirmed the gift to be held of him with pasture for a wax and pepper rent and gave additional land. Nicholas of Bridport gave them a house and over 30 a. acquired from Walter Bricher and Hilary de Champflower. (fn. 168) The king confirmed the priory in possession in 1277 and 1330. (fn. 169) Bruton had previously acquired William FitzAdam's land in Foddington from William's son, also William, whose elder brother Adam had released it for a pair of white gloves. Bruton's estate in Babcary was valued at £1 in 1291. (fn. 170) John Champflower exchanged lands with the priory before 1330 and in 1345 (fn. 171) when Philip de Welleslegh and others were licensed to give Bruton a house and two virgates in Steart. (fn. 172) Bruton's estate, over 240 a., was let to Robert Gilbert, lord of Steart at the priory's dissolution. (fn. 173) In 1537 it was let to Robert's son George for 41 years but in 1545 John Gilbert bought the estate, described as a manor of Steart, in fee. It descended with the main Steart manor. (fn. 174) The Foddington land passed, as Priors, to the Craddock family before 1599 (fn. 175) and by 1723 was part of the Standerwick estate, known as Craddock's farm. (fn. 176)
Wells Hospital Land
Before 1280 St. John's Hospital, Wells had been endowed with 15 a. in Babcary by Adam de Borewe who held it of Nicholas of Bridport. (fn. 177) After the Dissolution the land was let by the Crown and in 1577 the fee was sold to John Fortescue and John Walker. (fn. 178) It has not been traced further.
John the Younger held an estate at Foddington and Babcary in 1335–6. (fn. 179) His daughter and heir Agnes married John Lottisham c. 1368 when her Foddington estate was settled on them and their issue. (fn. 180) In 1382 John Lottisham acquired the Foddington lands which James Mason inherited from his father Richard. (fn. 181) John died shortly before 1398 (fn. 182) and in 1400 Agnes granted her estate to her son Richard Lottisham. It descended in the Lottisham family (fn. 183) to Oliver Lottisham who with his wife Dorothy conveyed a capital messuage and lands, and possibly the chapel, (fn. 184) in 1602 to Bishop John Still (d. 1608). (fn. 185) He was succeeded by a namesake, John Still (fl. 1631), (fn. 186) but c. 1665 the estate, called Still's, belonged to Joseph and William Standerwick. (fn. 187) Joseph had been succeeded by his son John of Lyme Regis before 1677. In 1759 another John Standerwick left the estate to his kinsman William Standerwick of Broadway who in 1783 settled it on his son Thomas. (fn. 188) In 1792 it was assigned to by William Banger who in 1825 divided it for sale. The house and 71½ a. were bought by Thomas White of Castle Cary, owner in 1839. A further 21a. was acquired by Edward Ings before 1839 and added to his farm, later known as Wheatlawn. (fn. 189) By 1861 it was held by the Bond family, owners in 1910, but was usually known as Whites, later Uphill, farm. (fn. 190) The house was rebuilt in the 18th century.
An estate, probably near Babcary village, held by the Ledred family from the later 14th century (fn. 191) was inherited by the Strodes. (fn. 192) After the death of John Strode in 1581 (fn. 193) it was divided. Part was bought from William Tilley (fn. 194) by Hugh Parsons who held it of Babcary manor, partly by knight service. Other parts of Strodes were owned by Maurice Berkeley of Yarlington and the heirs of Andrewes Overton by c. 1665. (fn. 195) In 1708 Hugh Parsons' daughters, Joan and Mary, wife of William Coollen, partitioned his estate. Strodes was assigned to Joan for life and then to Mary's son William (fn. 196) In 1711 John Lewis of Steart bought part of their estate (fn. 197) and the rest was sold to John Naish, a Portsmouth shipwright. Naish (d. 1727) spent nearly £3,000 buying property throughout Babcary which passed to his nephew John Sweet Naish (d. c. 1782). In 1791 it was bought by Windsor apothecary Robert Battiscombe and measured 218 a. in 1839. (fn. 198) In 1823 Robert (d. 1839) settled his estate, later known as Underhill farm, on his son Richard's marriage to Ann Marshall. Richard (d. 1873) was succeeded by his son Robert Charles. (fn. 199)
John Gilbert (d. 1499) held Rawlins (fn. 200) of Babcary manor. (fn. 201) In 1604 Sir John Stawell, lord of Babcary manor, held it of the earl of Hertford as two messuages and 200 a. (fn. 202) By c. 1665 it was divided into three farms totalling 195 a. (fn. 203) It was further divided by 1684 (fn. 204) but most land was acquired in 1700 by Samuel Hutchings whose family had been tenants c. 1665. Samuel and his nephew John Hutchings bought further land in 1707 and 1724. (fn. 205) The estate remained in the Hutchings family until John Hutchings died in 1797 leaving an estate for life to his servant Hester Bartlett and any children she had by him provided she did not marry. (fn. 206) She forfeited the estate by marrying and in 1806–7 John's trustees sold the estate (283 a.) to several purchasers. (fn. 207) By 1839 only one farm remained intact, later known as Olive farm after Edward Olive who purchased it. (fn. 208)
Babcary was a largely arable parish until the 18th century, although there were some meadows along the river and streams. The land seems to have been productive; in 1633 Steart was described as 'extraordinary foulness and dirt recompensed with as much fertility'. (fn. 209) The farms were probably within the settlements until the later 18th century when new farmsteads were built on former arable. Existing farmsteads were also rebuilt at this period, an indication of considerable prosperity, and much of their land was laid to grass. By the late 19th century dairying and cattle rearing predominated and this continued into the later 20th century.
The 11th to the 16th Century
By 1066, the five-hide estates of Babcary and Foddington had been divided but the smaller estate at Steart remained a single unit. In 1086, although Babcary was said to have land for only six ploughs, eight were recorded. Of these, two were on each of the demesnes and the rest on tenanted holding: one worked by six villeins and four bordars on one estate, three worked by six villeins and three bordars on the other. The demesnes had 14 a. of meadow and 8 a. of pasture each; one had a horse, 10 beasts and 15 pigs, the other had only two horses. Between 1066 and 1086 the value of the two Babcary estates had increased from £2 10s. to £3 and from £2 to £2 10s. (fn. 210)
At Foddington two of the three estates were assessed at one hide and one and a half virgates each while the other was taxed on two hides and one virgate. There was land for seven ploughs, which were recorded. Most of the land and ploughs may have been demesne but only seven serfs were recorded of whom six were on the largest estate. The only tenants recorded were three villeins, two bordars and a cottar. The three estates had a total of 24 a. of meadow but no pasture was recorded although the largest estate had two horses, 20 cattle, 15 pigs, and 28 sheep. Between 1066 and 1086 the value of the one of the smallest estates remained stable at £1 while the other had fallen in value from £1 10s. to £1 and the third, the largest had increased from £1 10s. to £2. (fn. 211)
Steart according to the Domesday survey had land for three ploughs; by 1086 there were three ploughs on the demesne worked by four serfs and an additional plough worked by a villein and a bordar also had a plough. The demesne then had 16 a. of meadow, a horse, three cattle, 15 pigs, and 30 sheep. It was worth £1 10s in 1066 and £2 10s. in 1086. (fn. 212)
In 1206 the assize rents of Babcary manor were 22s. 10d., (fn. 213) while in 1212 the issues of Steart manor averaged 31s. 10d. a year. (fn. 214) The Pury demesne in 1284 comprised 86 a. of arable, 10 a. of meadow, and rents and works worth over £1. (fn. 215) Meadow may have been scarce, especially in Steart where in 1280 two holdings had only 1a. each. and where in 1308 the c. 142-a manorial demesne had only 12 a. of meadow; Bruton priory's estate had 5 a. of meadow and apparently no pasture. (fn. 216) This scarcity seems to have engendered litigation. In 1280 there was a dispute over common pasture in 6 a. of meadow at Foddington, (fn. 217) while in 1348 Bruton priory had successfully claimed several rights relating to grazing against the Champflower family. Those rights, which were said to belong to all the tenements of Steart manor, included grazing on two thirds of 240 a. of arable from harvest to sowing and on the other third all year, grazing on 16 a. of meadow after mowing, and pasturing cattle on 10 a. of pasture all year. (fn. 218)
In 1361 the Babcary demesne comprised 160 a. of arable, only half fit to be sown each year, a meadow open to grazing after the hay was carried, 30 a. of several pasture, and 26s. rents. Pury demesne included a dovecot, herbage of the garden, 120 a. of arable, half fit to be sown each year, 4 a. of several meadow, and a further 4 a. held in several from 2 February until the hay was lifted and then common. (fn. 219) A 3-a. wood was recorded at Steart in 1413 (fn. 220) and lands called Grove and Copse were recorded at Pury, Steart, and in the southeast of the parish. (fn. 221)
By 1566 the Steart demesne was in closes, (fn. 222) which were laid to grass by 1602. (fn. 223) By contrast an estate at Babcary although largely inclosed in 1566, was still arable and Reedland or Redland, Westover, and Windhill or Whindle fields lay open. (fn. 224) By the 1590s Foddington East field remained open but Pury East field and parts of Pury mead and Foddington moor were in closes, the meads also carrying grazing rights. Closes called Newlands and Water Furrows lay in the south-east by the Dyke brook. (fn. 225)
There was a mill at Steart in 1345 but there is no later record of a mill in the parish although the name Wyndemilltowte was given to a barrow. (fn. 226)
The 17th and 18th Centuries
Inclosure, already underway in the late 16th century, accelerated in the early 17th. The rectorial glebe was fully inclosed between about 1620 and 1639, but in the open fields the process was less advanced. The arable in Windhill and Westover could be described as 'lying together' in 1620, the former having recently been divided from neighbouring land by a ditch. (fn. 227) In 1632 Babcary manor court ordered a view of a ploughed out landshare in Westover field. (fn. 228) Steart's East field had been partly inclosed for pasture by the 1650s. (fn. 229) By the early 18th century the parish seems to have been largely inclosed, including the common meadows, which probably lay along the river Cary and were known as Common Mead, Farmers Moor, Duck Moor, and Smith Hams, (fn. 230) Even so one estate claimed common pasture in 1758 (fn. 231) and sharing arrangements for some meadow survived until 1775 and for some pasture even later. (fn. 232)
By the later 17th century the parish contained a number of prosperous farmers with substantial houses and well-stocked farms. (fn. 233) Elsewhere, however, subdivision of holdings had led to the existence of several overland or roofless tenements, holdings with no house, often former demesne, continuing into the 19th century. (fn. 234) On the Stawell's Babcary manor, valued at over £455 in the 1660s, holdings were generally small and subdivided, many without houses. Two tenants, however, held over 100a. each. Most of the land (846 a.) was held on lease, only 62 a. being copyhold. On Pury manor, c. 344 a. of leasehold land was valued at £247, of which only c. 76 a. was copyhold. A further 294 a. of freehold land paid quit rents, as against only c. 80 a. on Babcary manor. Two freeholders held 120 a. and 140 a. respectively. Several of the tenanted holdings had been split up, leaving the largest holding at 36 a. (fn. 235)
Inclosure apparently encouraged the building of new farmsteads. Caleb Dickinson of Kingweston was prepared to demolish a house and build a new homestead in the early 1760s for a good tenant to whom he later the unnamed farm, probably in Babcary village. (fn. 236) It was at this period that arable was replaced by grass. A farm at Lower Foddington, later Greenhill farm, was almost entirely grass in 1774 including fields called Wheatlands and had only a small barn. (fn. 237) Orchards too, make their appearance in the 18th century. Shortly before 1734 two orchards were planted when a 60-a. close of pasture was converted to arable. (fn. 238) A farm was let in 1782 with several rows of cider apples. (fn. 239) A quarter of Craddock's farm in Higher Foddington, recorded in 1620, was arable in 1800, including four fields adjoining a marlpit, and there was 6 a. of orchard around the farmstead. (fn. 240) Babcary probably never had much woodland. In 1698 a former paddock was said to be well-planted with trees, (fn. 241) and faggots were made in Windhill in 1750. (fn. 242)
The 19th and 20th Centuries
Farming in the parish was primarily pastoral by the early 19th century. In 1801 only 36 people were employed in agriculture (fn. 243) and only 293½ a. of crops were recorded. Wheat was produced on 167½ a. and there were 66 a. of oats, 43 a. of turnips or rape, and fewer than 10 a. each of barley, potatoes, peas, and beans. (fn. 244) A farm of over 100 a. auctioned in 1806 had no arable. (fn. 245) In 1839 grass covered 1,795 a. and arable 850½a. (fn. 246) Orchards remained significant. Around 1828 102 a. of orchard and garden were recorded and before 1867 an orchard had been planted on 2 a. of headland to a former arable field. (fn. 247) In the early 19th century, John Fever, owner of Bowers, the manorial farm at Steart, grew wheat, barley, and beans and made cider. His livestock in 1833 comprised 318 sheep, 29 cattle including 15 cows, 15 cart and hackney horses, and 20 pigs. In 1873 Bowers farm had a cheeseroom, cider house, stalls for 20 cows, and young cider orchards. (fn. 248)
In 1839 some former arable, by then pasture, was still in strips known as Common Field, south of the village. The largest landowner was Revd John Matthews who had 316½ a. Eight farms were over 100 a., including the later Underhill farm with 218 a., while another eight were over 50 a., 14 between 20 a. and 50 a., and 6 with 10 a. to 20 a. Below this lay many owner occupiers of one field or house. (fn. 249) In 1841 only eight farmers were recorded, together with two cattle dealers and 49 agricultural labourers, while in 1851 the number of farmers had risen to 17, of whom ten had over 100 a. (fn. 250) In 1861 when only seven farms were recorded, there were several retired farmers and 68 labourers. (fn. 251) In 1871 there were 17 recorded farms, seven with over 100 a., but only 50 labourers and five dairy workers, two timber merchants, an agricultural seedsman, and a market gardener. (fn. 252)
New farms were being established throughout the 19th century. They included Wheatlawn farm created in the 1830s from three parcels of land formerly Whitelands, north of Foddington, (fn. 253) Broadclose farm, created before 1861 by John Cannon out of several smallholdings, and enlarged in the 1890s, (fn. 254) Dickinson's Church farm created out of two holdings before 1881, (fn. 255) and Little Steart probably built shortly before 1886. (fn. 256) Charles Durston enlarged Overton farm, also known as Ashfords, before 1861. (fn. 257) There were, however, many difficult farming years at this period because of cold weather which resulted in disease; nearly 2,500 sheep were said to have died in the parish in 1879 alone. (fn. 258)
In 1883 two men were dairy farmers, while a third combined farming with keeping a shop and post office with an assistant. There were horse, cattle, and pig dealers. (fn. 259) The Cannon family prospered by cattle dealing throughout the 19th century and were able to purchase cottage property and later farms. (fn. 260) The number of agricultural workers, including carters and stockmen, fell to 30 in 1901 and the number of servants in farmhouses also fell from nine in 1891 to none in 1901. (fn. 261) In 1899 of the fourteen recorded farmers three were at Higher Foddington, two at Lower Foddington, and two at Steart. (fn. 262) By 1905 there were 1,911 a. of grass and only 179 a. of arable and 11 a. of wood, despite the planting of a large copse on former arable. (fn. 263)
The parish remained dependent on livestock farming in the 20th century. (fn. 264) Of eight farms with over 100 a. in 1905 one was divided by 1909 and in 1910 there were many smallholdings. (fn. 265) The principal farms included Foddington farm at Lower Foddington, a 117-a. dairy farm in 1914 consisting of ring-fenced pasture, a third of which had been arable in 1839. It still had a large granary and 5-horse stable as well as stalls for 16 cows. Overton farm, sold with 100 a. in 1914, included a 53-a. dairy farm with stalls for 13 cows. (fn. 266) Church farm was a small dairy farm in 1930 with stalls for 28 cows, two stoned yards, two piggeries, and a manure tank. (fn. 267)
In 1942 Manor farm was a 75-a. dairy farm with stalls for 29 cows and cheeseroom but had ploughed 28 a. of pasture. Broadclose farm, a 99-a. dairy farm with stalls for 22 cows and loose housing, had 27 a. of ploughed pasture; elsewhere, a further 50 a. of accommodation grassland had been ploughed. (fn. 268) In 1952 Manor farm (97 a.) had a modern dairy supplied with river water through a pump and stalls for 26 cows but 65 a. were arable. When it was sold again in 1965 the land was mainly pasture and ley but there were two river meadows, a withy bed, and kale had been grown. There were 42 stalls and modern milking equipment. (fn. 269) A 31-a. farm sold in 1964 had accommodation for 17 cows, calves, and 400 hens with a modern concrete dairy. (fn. 270) In the late 20th century some farms were abandoned or sold as private houses but several farmsteads were built on new sites. In 2000 there were c. 10 working farms, mainly dairy but with some arable and sheep. There was also one fruit farm, and a short-lived deer farm. (fn. 271)
TRADES AND SERVICES
Crafts and Industry
A glover had been in the parish 18 years by 1673, (fn. 272) a tailor was recorded in 1701, (fn. 273) a mercer in 1698 and 1702, (fn. 274) and a tallow chandler in 1739. (fn. 275) A former soldier had set himself up as a linenweaver in 1785 and in 1809 a cordwainer and a stone mason admitted they had never been apprenticed. (fn. 276) In 1801 there were 19 people employed in trade or craft. (fn. 277) In 1841 there were four stone workers and one in 1851, probably working Keinton stone. In 1841 there were four glovers, rising to eight in 1851 and ten in 1861, but only one in 1881. (fn. 278) Two plasterers were recorded in 1859, (fn. 279) a cabinet maker in 1871, (fn. 280) and a coachbuilder in 1872. (fn. 281) In 1947 agriculture provided the only employment and a sweep the only service. (fn. 282) Attempts were made to set up small workshops in the late 20th century (fn. 283) and a floral design business started in 1991 was still in existence in 2003.
Babcary fair was recorded from 1609 in September and attracted people from Devon. (fn. 284) The profits, called coverage money, were sold with Babcary capital messuage in 1754. (fn. 285) The fair was not recorded again.
The Cannon family were shopkeepers or dealers in the 1820s and 1830s (fn. 286) and there was a grocer in 1836. (fn. 287) One shopkeeper was recorded in 1841, (fn. 288) three in 1859, (fn. 289) but only one in 1872. (fn. 290) There was a family of licensed hawkers in the late 19th century. (fn. 291) In 1883 there were three shops and a post office. (fn. 292) There was a grocer in 1947 and in 1980 the post office was part of a general store (fn. 293) which also sold petrol but closed in 1985. A community shop was open one afternoon a week in 2000. (fn. 294)
A tippling house was suppressed in 1649. (fn. 295) Two licences were issued in 1746 but one thereafter and none after 1775. (fn. 296) No public house was recorded in 1840 but one was said in 1843 to be quiet during divine service. (fn. 297) That was probably the Red Lion which had recently opened in a pair of houses east of the village street. (fn. 298) It changed hands frequently and its keeper usually had another trade including shoemaking and shopkeeping. (fn. 299) It was altered and extended in the 19th and 20th centuries (fn. 300) and remained open in 2000. (fn. 301) A second beerhouse, recorded in 1851, was probably the Swan in Gaston Street in 1861 which had closed by 1866. (fn. 302)
Babcary seems to have included a number of prosperous resident farmers from the medieval period onwards. Six taxpayers were recorded there in 1327 (fn. 303) and 15 in 1558, taxed mainly on goods. (fn. 304) In 1514 John John, a well-to-do farmer, bequeathed oxen, bullocks, cows, and sheep amongst his family and servants, the parish priest of Babcary, and Babcary and Wedmore churches. (fn. 305)
There were farms of over 100 a. throughout the 17th century. Their owners, who included the Bowers, Overtons and Whittles, were commemorated on many of the late 17th to early 19th-century tomb chests in the churchyard. In 1641 the 33 taxpayers included Andrewes Overton, probably then as later tenant of Babcary manor, (fn. 306) assessed at £100. A further four taxpayers were assessed at £50 in 1641, one of whom died in 1642 with assets of £190 but with debts of over £355. (fn. 307)
The lord of the manor, Sir John Stawell of Cothelstone (d. 1662), was a leading local Royalist and his sympathies were clearly shared by Babcary's elite, including the rector, Amias Hext, whom Stawell had presented, and Andrewes Overton. A lieutenantcolonel in the Royalist army, Overton was taken prisoner by the Parliamentarians at Bridgwater, and fined over £400 in 1647 although that was later reduced. (fn. 308) Stawell's estates had been sequestrated by 1646 when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and thereafter the sequestrator had to hire two men to collect arrears of rent because of the 'extraordinary malignancy of the place'. (fn. 309)
In 1664–5, Overton had a house at Babcary, presumably the manor house, with eight hearths. A further 16 out of the 36 houses recorded had three hearths or more, but five were too poor to be rated. (fn. 310) The number of freeholds probably accounted for the large number of local men on jury lists. (fn. 311) In 1839 there were 79 landowners, of whom 37 were owner occupiers. (fn. 312) By then a prosperous local farmer such as John Fever (d. 1833) at Steart could have a well-furnished house and own a gig and at least seven farm waggons and carts. (fn. 313)
By the early 19th century the relative lack of large houses meant that there were few resident servants although the rector employed up to three. The parish contained several small houses as well as many poor cottages built on roadside waste. (fn. 314) In 1801 63 houses were occupied by 337 people in 75 families and two households numbered 10 or more persons. By 1811 the situation had worsened; 69 families lived in 52 houses. (fn. 315) Several divided houses were recorded in 1839 including one divided into four but there were many owner occupied cottages. (fn. 316) In 1871 there were still houses occupied by two families. (fn. 317) These had disappeared by 1891, although 26 of the 79 houses had fewer than five rooms and two of those had only two rooms each. The two-roomed dwellings were still occupied in 1901. (fn. 318)
Between 1849 and 1856 at least five labouring families emigrated to Australia. One couple revisited Babcary in 1853 having made £3,000 in the goldfields. (fn. 319) Although the 1904 railway line from Castle Cary to Langport bypassed Babcary, many navvies lived in the parish, their children attended the school, and there was concern over policing. (fn. 320)
In 1818 two dame schools taught c. 20 children and 40 children attended a Sunday school. (fn. 321) A Wesleyan schoolmaster was recorded in the 1820s. (fn. 322) The Sunday school was said to have 30 boys and 40 girls in 1825 (fn. 323) and 20 children in 1835 including Wesleyans. A day school taught 15 boys at their parents' expense, (fn. 324) probably the school for which a book of arithmetic exercises survives from 1825. (fn. 325) The National school was built in 1841 with two rooms. (fn. 326) In 1846 day and Sunday schools were attended by 10 boys but only four girls; a further five boys and one girl attended only on weekdays, and 16 boys and 21 girls attended only on Sundays. The two dame schools taught 14 boys and 13 girls. (fn. 327)
The National school, which the vestry had agreed to support in 1886, (fn. 328) was transferred to a Board of five members in 1890. It then had 57 pupils, but many were later enrolled who had not attended school previously. An extra classroom was built in 1891 to accommodate 110 children although attendance in the 1890s was c. 70 and fell as low as 37 in 1903. By then an evening school was held twice a week. (fn. 329) In 1905 the Board refused to increase the salaries of the two teachers, who were said to be often absent and unpunctual leaving infants in the care of older children who abused them. Absenteeism was aggravated that year by the diphtheria epidemic, which closed the school for five months. By 1910 there were only 13 infants and the sewing teacher was discharged. Bad school reports in 1913 and 1914 led the county council to recommend closure. The school, however, was reprieved and the Board supported the same teachers, father and daughter, about whom they had complained earlier. Absenteeism continued as both boys and girls obtained release on labour certificates during the war and other children followed the hunt or picked blackberries.
The post of monitress was suspended between 1923 and 1926 as numbers fell to 14 in 1925. From 1928 the school took juniors only, the older children transferring to Keinton Mandeville. (fn. 330) Incoming junior children raised numbers temporarily to 32 in 1931. Frequent staff changes and building problems probably caused numbers to fall to 11 in 1944, after the evacuees had left. In May 1945 the school closed. (fn. 331) It became a village hall and after 1959 a private house. (fn. 332)
Hester Bartlett kept a private day school in the Cary road in 1861 and in 1871 was assisted by her daughter. (fn. 333)
Gifts by Mr Cheek (1690), (fn. 334) Richard Cooper (1710), and Revd Jonathan Colmer (1728) totalling £9 1s. were said to be lost in 1824. Colmer's £3 had been vested for a rent charge of 3s. which was paid until c. 1806 when the new landowner refused to pay as the parish had no documents. (fn. 335) In 1895 the new parish council could not identify the land. (fn. 336)
POOR LAW AND SOCIAL WELFARE
In 1631 Somerton was accused of sending its poor to Babcary and later a poor man from East Lydford tried to build a house without licence. (fn. 337) Overseers' rules were drawn up in 1706 because the charge of the poor had increased over the previous twelve years. Paupers were to wear badges on their outer garments and be paid each Sunday. Casual relief was limited to 5s. p.a. per person and the poor must find the cost of making clothes out of any cloth they were given. Recipients of house rent were to receive additional poor into their homes. Paupers on relief were to nurse the dying and those without families who had had smallpox were to look after sufferers. The property or goods of paupers on relief or deceased must be sold by the overseers. (fn. 338) In 1723 a labourer was allowed to build a cottage on the waste, to be used by the poor after his death. (fn. 339) In 1798 a pauper's goods included a spinning wheel, scythes, reaphooks, and pictures. (fn. 340)
Large numbers of poor children were apprenticed: 28 between 1728 and 1787, often in clusters or three or four in a single year. A pauper apprenticed in 1791 later had an illegitimate child who was in turn apprenticed out. (fn. 341) From the 1780s the overseers were paying for medical attention and funerals as well as providing shoes and clothing. (fn. 342) There were at least 15 paupers on relief in 1851. (fn. 343)
A church house, recorded in the 1660s, (fn. 344) may have been the poorhouse in the south-east corner of the churchyard, apparently two empty cottages in 1839. (fn. 345) It was demolished before 1885. (fn. 346)
A Babcary Friendly Society was instituted in 1845. (fn. 347) There was no support for a reading room in 1897 and although the school was used as a village hall and library in the 1950s the parish was unable to buy the building. There were no social events or groups in 1947 but a recreation ground was given to the parish in 1976 and there was a cricket club in 1978. (fn. 348) Events have since been established by community and playing field committees and running races were begun in 1997. (fn. 349)
Babcary was described as a half tithing in 1279 when it was said to have been withdrawn from Catsash hundred court for four years by the earl of Gloucester's bailiff and appropriated to Northover. (fn. 350) Steart was a free manor and not part of Catsash hundred during the Middle Ages. (fn. 351) In 1569, however, the parish was recorded as a single tithing. (fn. 352) In the 1590s although presentments were made at Catsash courts, tithingmen did not attend. (fn. 353) The tithingman was chosen from a rota of nine holdings but subdivision of holdings led to disputes which were settled by the holders of parts of tenements paying one of their number to serve. (fn. 354)
One court record survives from Foddington manor for 1433. (fn. 355) Sir John Stawell demanded suit to the manor of Babcary and Pury from Oliver Lottisham in 1594 (fn. 356) and his successors claimed suit to Babcary twice a year from their tenants in 1691. (fn. 357) Court records survive for Babcary and Pury manor for 1603 (fn. 358) and 1632. There were a large number of defaulters; business was agricultural, and a hayward was appointed. (fn. 359) John Colles demanded suit to Steart manor in 1627. (fn. 360)
In 1706 rules were drawn up for the parish overseers and another set of undated rules required them to account in a book to be produced at the Easter vestry. (fn. 361) A highway surveyor repaired a bridge for which Quarter Sessions ordered a rate to be levied in 1706. (fn. 362) There were two wardens and a salaried clerk in the 1840s. (fn. 363) In 1879 there were also four overseers and a waywarden. By 1898 one warden was appointed by the incumbent. (fn. 364) Two overseers served by rota in the 1900s but a salaried assistant was appointed from 1906. (fn. 365)
A vestry was meeting by 1706 when the rector and five others signed the overseers' rules. It was agreed that the churchwardens and overseers should meet monthly in the church vestry on Sunday afternoon to relieve the poor. (fn. 366) A larger vestry meeting agreed in 1765 that every parishioner should draw a load of stone for the roads for every £10 in value of his estate. (fn. 367) A parish pound stood between Manor farmyard and the old rectory house in 1839. (fn. 368) The vestry met in the church in 1843 (fn. 369) but by 1870 in the school. (fn. 370) By 1879 there was usually an annual general vestry and occasionally one other consisting of the rector in the chair and three other members. (fn. 371)
A public meeting in December 1894 elected the rector and four men to form a parish council. The waywarden took the chair, the overseers were made responsible for collecting rates, and it was reported in 1895 that no civil or charity records survived in the parish. The council, which met at the school later the village hall, took over the parish pound, which was still in use in 1903. (fn. 372) It was concerned with the insanitary drainage system and the state of footpaths, but rejected a mains water supply in 1931 as too expensive. Electricity was provided in 1947 but water was not supplied until the 1950s when it was said that dairy farmers could not be accredited without a water supply. Sewerage remained a serious problem in the 1970s and mains drainage was not provided until 1992. (fn. 373)
The church was recorded in 1200. (fn. 374) During the Middle Ages Babcary parish also had two chapels which may have served as chapels of ease for Foddington and Steart. Babcary remained a sole rectory until 1977 when it was united with Alford, Hornblotton, Lovington, and North and South Barrow as the Six Pilgrims benefice. (fn. 375)
The advowson was disputed in 1200 between John Cumin, archbishop of Dublin, who had presented his kinsman Gilbert, and Hubert de Burgh, guardian of Robert, heir of Simon de Vautort. Hubert won, because the archbishop did not defend his unstated claim, and the advowson descended with Babcary manor until the 1860s when the Revd Thomas Sweetapple appears to have transferred it to his wife. (fn. 376) It was subsequently held by relations or trustees of the incumbent (fn. 377) but before 1923 it was transferred to the Church Association, later Society, which holds one turn in the united benefice. (fn. 378)Income and Property
In 1291 and 1308 the church was valued at £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 379) and in 1535 at £14 1s. 4d. gross. (fn. 380) The living was said to be worth £13 10s. c. 1660 but £70 c. 1666; (fn. 381) it was let for £100, apart from the house, in 1764, (fn. 382) and valued at £343 gross in the 1830s. (fn. 383) The glebe was worth 10s. in 1535 when tithes and offerings were valued at £13 11s. 4d. (fn. 384) but it covered 49 a. in 1620. The rector also had a tenth share in 10 a. of meadow. (fn. 385) Tithes were only valued at £1 7s. ½d. c. 1660 (fn. 386) and by the 1780s were paid by composition. (fn. 387) They were said c. 1828 to be worth £700 (fn. 388) but in 1839 were commuted for £400. Most glebe was conveyed by exchange to Francis Dickinson before 1839 to become Church farm. The new glebe measured c. 39 a. (fn. 389) Some land was disposed of between 1940 and 1950. (fn. 390)
In 1325 the rectory barn was also being used to store the crops of Steart manor. (fn. 391) In 1448 the low house with chamber over, adjoining the rectory kitchen, were given to the resigning rector for life. (fn. 392) The house was in decay in 1554. (fn. 393) The rector resided in the early 17th century when there were two barns, a stable, a stall, and 2 a. of curtilage. By 1639 he had built a new stable and outhouses for wood and coal. (fn. 394) The house had five hearths in 1665, (fn. 395) was used by the curate in the 18th century and may have needed repair in 1765. (fn. 396) It continued to be occupied by curates until the 1830s, was repaired and reroofed in 1821, but was empty in 1840. (fn. 397) By 1839 it had been exchanged for fields north-west of the church on which to build a new house, although the formal exchange did not take place until 1841. (fn. 398) The old parsonage house became Church Farm and remained part of the Dickinson estate until the early 20th century. (fn. 399) The new house had farm buildings, together with a coach house, stable, parish room, detached laundry, and pump house for water. (fn. 400) In 1944 it was badly damaged by fire. (fn. 401) After 1977 it was redundant and became a private house called Old Rectory. (fn. 402) The incumbent of the united benefice lived at Ansford in 2004.Pastoral Care and Parish Life
Nicholas Gaylard, who held the rectories of Babcary and Curry Rivel in 1308, (fn. 403) in 1318 surrendered Babcary on the grounds of pluralism. (fn. 404) His successor was allowed to let his benefice for four years from 1325 but was replaced in 1328 by a kinsman of the patron. (fn. 405) In 1398 the rector was in dispute with his parishioners over mortuaries. (fn. 406) John Smyth, rector 1424–48, was assigned a pension of £5 6s. 8d. out of the living on account of his great age together with part of the house. (fn. 407) The incoming rector was an acolyte; although he was ordained priest and obtained an M.A. in 1449, he was an absentee and the parish was served by a chaplain. (fn. 408) The church was rebuilt in the late Middle Ages, and a late 14th-century bell from the Bristol foundry, (fn. 409) a silver paten and a perpendicular wine-glass font survive from this period. (fn. 410) A 16th-century openwork screen also survived until the early 19th century.
In 1514 a parishioner left a cow to the church and two bullocks to the rector. (fn. 411) Walter Sydenham, rector 1522–47, and his successor Hugh Sydenham were graduates and pluralists. (fn. 412) The former was assisted by a chaplain and the latter who held three other livings, had a curate who was deprived for marriage in 1554. (fn. 413) There was protracted litigation in the 1550s between Hugh and William Machaut who both claimed the living under different grants of presentation. (fn. 414) In 1554 the parsonage, church, chancel, and churchyard were in decay and in 1557 the parish was without a priest. (fn. 415) William Machaut, who had become rector by 1563, was a multiple pluralist of mediocre learning, who appears to have resided briefly before leaving the parish to curates. (fn. 416) In 1594 the curate was presented for not wearing a surplice. There were repeated presentations of the rector for not making a perambulation and of parishioners for not attending church or paying rates. (fn. 417) Three women were accused of witchcraft in 1612. (fn. 418)
Rectors were normally resident in the 17th century. (fn. 419) John Wilkinson (d. 1629) bought property in Babcary and asked to be buried there with a stone recording his 40 years of godly care for the parish. (fn. 420) During his incumbency two bells were cast in 1610 and 1611. (fn. 421) His successor Amias Hext (d. 1653) found several church furnishings defective or missing. He installed a new pulpit in 1632 and improved the rectory. A Royalist, Hext was ejected in 1646 and imprisoned, but his wife maintained the rectory and employed Mr Yarrow as curate. (fn. 422) In 1653 Samuel Cox was appointed and in 1655 Richard Squibb, (fn. 423) who was ejected in 1660 but returned c. 1662 and remained until 1677. A curate was licensed in 1662 (fn. 424) and a churchhouse was recorded in the 1660s. (fn. 425) Records of baptisms between 1648 and 1688 are preserved among the North Perrott registers, the earliest such records to survive for Babcary. (fn. 426)
The parish has a plain communion cup of 1730 by Thomas Mason with a paten cover. During the 18th century the parish was normally in the care of curates. (fn. 427) The registers date only from 1754, 1802 for burials. (fn. 428) The diarist James Woodforde served from 1763 to 1764 for £5, rising to £30 and the use of the parsonage. He spent little time there and only took one Sunday service or arranged for another clergyman to do so, having other curacies and being required to spend time in Oxford to obtain his M.A. He was accused of playing fives in the churchyard in 1764. (fn. 429)
Although there were only ten communicants c. 1771, (fn. 430) by the 1780s the church had a singers' gallery and had evidently been refurbished about this time. The church pavement was said then to be recent and a canopy over the chancel entrance was painted to represent the sky with clouds and stars; the 16thcentury screen was also painted to represent marble, as were the 17th-century pulpit and the front of the gallery. (fn. 431) The chancel roof was said to be decayed in 1780, (fn. 432) seems to have been repaired in 1804, with 8 ton 10 cwt of tile brought from Ham Hill and ten loads of stone from Keinton. (fn. 433)
In 1815 and 1827 the rector, the Revd John Whicher, was absent by licence to serve Petersfield, Hants., but the curate resided and rented part of the glebe. He was paid £75, rising to £95, and took two Sunday services. (fn. 434) In 1843 communion was celebrated six times a year. (fn. 435) In 1851 58 people and 18 Sunday school children attended morning service with 180 people and 27 children attending in the afternoon. The curate said that morning congregations were small especially in bad weather. (fn. 436)
In 1855 the church, which had been in need of repair since 1843 if not earlier, was repewed and the chancel roof replaced. (fn. 437) In 1875 the vestry decided the church was dilapidated and money was raised for restoration to plans by Benjamin Ferry at a cost of over £1,000 which would also provide an additional 55 seats. Work continued until 1877, and included the removal of furniture including seats in the chancel and sanctuary, the west gallery and the platform with children's seats under the tower. (fn. 438) The design and furnishing of the church after 1875 suggests low churchmanship, which is possibly related to the large number of small farmers, the presence of a nonconformist chapel, and the later creation of a school board. (fn. 439) In 1898 the parish expenses exceeded income and the rector lent a harmonium. There was a choir by 1900. (fn. 440) In 1921 the peal of bells was increased from five to six by Warner and sons. (fn. 441) In 2000 the church had one Sunday service and was served by a retired clergyman. (fn. 442)Church Building
The church lies at the far west end of the village close to the manorial site (Manor Farm) in a churchyard much enlarged in the 19th and 20th centuries when cottages and poorhouse were demolished for it. It was rebuilt in a simple Perpendicular style during the 14th century or early 15th with nave and south porch, chancel, and threestage west tower with staircase turret. The chancel, which has a tall piscina, may have been rebuilt first. It was in decay in 1554 and its windows in 1557, (fn. 443) but the medieval features were retained in subsequent repair.
The restoration between 1875 and 1877 saw the addition of a north aisle, built re-using one north window and the reslating of nave and porch, which retained their medieval roofs. The Perpendicular font was reset on a new base, the nave benches had their poppy heads removed, and a tower screen was erected to create a vestry. Very plain furnishings included a table, rails, pulpit (incorporating some panelling with the date 1632 from the earlier pulpit), and desk. The chancel arch seems to have been altered then. (fn. 444) The chancel screen, said to have been used to make an outer door for the porch c. 1815, (fn. 445) has been replaced by a smaller door made of early 17th-century woodwork. Major repairs were needed again by 1955 especially to the tower and restoration was carried out over the next fifteen years, (fn. 446) including replacement of pews with chairs. (fn. 447)Foddington Chapel
The date of the founding of the free chapel is unknown but its first recorded patron was Sir William de Reigny (fl. 1319). By 1312 it was endowed and its incumbent was described as rector. (fn. 448) The advowson appears to have descended with Reigny's manor of Foddington although John Barrow presented in 1406 (fn. 449) and the bishop by lapse in 1458 and 1485. (fn. 450) In 1515 John Maudleyn of Nunney presented, but the new rector promised to resign if another patron was found (fn. 451) and by 1533 the lords of Foddington were again exercising the advowson. (fn. 452)
The first recorded rector was John Babcary who in 1312 was given a salary of 50s. until he should be beneficed. He resigned Foddington in 1325 to become warden of St Katherine's. (fn. 453) One of his successors was given licence to serve William Cheyny for a year in 1335. (fn. 454) There was a vacancy of several years in the 1440s (fn. 455) and another of shorter duration in 1458. (fn. 456) Despite being listed as a free chapel to be suppressed in 1548 it retained its rector and a new one was presented in 1558. (fn. 457)
In 1535 the chapel had great tithes worth £2 (fn. 458) but in 1548 that was the value of the whole chapel, the tithes of corn, hay and small tithes being worth £1 4s. 8d. The chapel also had 27 a. of land, mainly arable. (fn. 459) In 1553, the chapel having been abandoned, the land and tithes were sold to William Webb and William Bruton presumably on behalf of Thomas Duport who conveyed them to Thomas Phelips of Montacute the same year. (fn. 460) Tithes appear to have been sold to landowners in Foddington such as the Lottishams. (fn. 461) Before 1677 John Luffe, tenant of Standerwick farm (fn. 462) and owner of the chapel, assigned tithes on 60 a. on a long lease. (fn. 463) In 1719 one family owned tithes on c. 140 a. (fn. 464) Foddington tithes were last recorded separately in deeds of 1800 (fn. 465) and 1825. (fn. 466) In 1829 and 1834 land at Foddington was described as tithe free. (fn. 467) In 1838, despite claims that the whole parish was titheable to the rector of Babcary, no rent charge was assessed on c. 57 a. at Foddington. The tithes of 55 a. called Chaffey's, consisting of four fields near Foddington and two near Steart, hitherto in the hands of local landowners and possibly part of the former Bruton priory estate, were then commuted for £8 15s. (fn. 468)
Foddington chaple was said in 1548 to be fallen down and decayed, without plate or ornament. (fn. 469) It may have been acquired by Oliver Lottisham and sold by him in 1602 to Bishop John Still with its tithes. (fn. 470) In 1631 the bishop's heir John Still with his wife Anne sold the chapel to John Luffe. (fn. 471) Before 1677 Luffe sold it to Joseph Standerwick and in 1783 the chapel and glebe were settled by William Standerwick with the rest of his estate, later Uphill farm. (fn. 472) His son Thomas and grandson John and their wives conveyed it to John Palmer the same year, presumably in trust, but it was not recorded again. (fn. 473) Its site, which was shown on early maps, was probably near Uphill and Standerwick Farms. (fn. 474)Steart Chapel
The free chapel of St Mark's, Steart, was recorded in 1552 when it was leased to Henry Middlemore but had no property. (fn. 475) Its site allegedly lay near Steart farm where foundations of a building survive but are said not to be of a chapel by archaeologists. (fn. 476)
Several people were presented for non-attendance at church in the early 17th century. (fn. 477) A Quaker was recorded in the 1660s. (fn. 478) A house was licensed for worship by an unspecified congregation in 1695. (fn. 479) Before c. 1730 a local man was a member of an Anabaptist meeting. (fn. 480) A building licensed in 1824 was probably for Bible Christians as one of their ministers signed the certificate. (fn. 481)
A dissenting meeting was opened in Steart farmhouse in July 1807 by people surnamed Watts and Whittle, according to the rector because they objected to the tithe being raised. The meeting later moved to the house of Daniel Whittle on the street, possibly near the later Methodist chapel (fn. 482) which members of the Whittle family attended. (fn. 483) Two houses, licensed for use by Methodists in 1807, may be connected with the above meeting, although the householders' names were different. A Methodist chapel was licensed in 1811 (fn. 484) and a baptism took place there in 1825. Several local people were Methodists in the 1820s and 1830s including two prosperous farmers, a grocer, and a schoolmaster. (fn. 485) The house of a Wesleyan Methodist was licensed for worship in 1837, probably while the chapel was being enlarged. (fn. 486)
The Wesleyan chapel lay on the street east of the church. It had seats for 145 in 1851 when 42 people attended in the morning and 95 in the evening, but there was no Sunday school and the chapel was served by visiting ministers. (fn. 487) In addition to the two Sunday services, in 1843 there was a Tuesday evening service. (fn. 488) The chapel, which was part of the Glastonbury, later Somerset, Mission Circuit, had 12 members in 1869. Membership declined and in 1895 the chapel's contribution to the minister's stipend was halved. From 1891 the chapel rarely had any income, but it remained in the circuit. (fn. 489) In 1902 members were said to have died or moved but the chapel trust was renewed and services revived with six members in 1903. In 1932 it was proposed to discontinue services but attendance improved and the chapel was kept going mainly by the members of a family who no longer lived in the village. Major repairs were needed by 1963 when the last service was held. In 1965 there were no members, and permission was given to close the chapel, which was by then unsafe. (fn. 490) The stone and tile building is now a house, the north end of which may be the original 1811 chapel.