A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The parish of Shepton Beauchamp, 2 miles west of South Petherton, has an area of 841 a. (fn. 1) It is roughly rectangular in shape, nearly 2 miles from north to south and 1¼ mile from east to west, and its boundaries are largely artificial except the stream which divides it from South Petherton in the east. The southern boundary follows in part an ancient road between Ham Hill and Castle Neroche, and in the extreme south-east there is a protrusion into South Petherton, shared with Seavington St. Mary, to reach Fouts Cross.
Most of the parish lies on the Yeovil Sands, with an area of Pennard Sands beyond a fault line in the north, and alluvium in the extreme north and along the stream which forms part of the eastern boundary. (fn. 2) Bricks and tiles were made on the northeastern boundary in the 19th century. (fn. 3) The highest ground lies above 300 ft. in the west, from which the land falls away to below 50 ft. in the north and east. The parish is watered by a brook, known as the Mill stream in 1613 and Washwell brook in 1807, (fn. 4) which flows north-east from the village to the former mill site, and thereafter becomes the Lambrook brook.
The village street follows the shape of the contours in the centre of the parish, and is known during its course successively as Lambrook Road, North Street, Church Street, Sheepway, and Silver Street (after the former Little Silver field). In 1841 North Street was divided between Trade Street and East Street, and Sheepway was called South Street. (fn. 5) From the cross-roads in the centre of the village, known as the Shambles, where the market was probably held, Great Lane (so called in 1747) runs west through a deep cutting to a second cross-roads, marked by an inscribed stone, no longer legible. (fn. 6) Lanes often bearing names of the furlongs run from the village to the fields. (fn. 7) In the 18th century the main route through the parish was the Taunton Higher Road, called the Muchelditch Highway where it passed through Muchelditch field. It was turnpiked in 1823 by the Ilminster trust, (fn. 8) but went out of use as a through route before the end of the 19th century.
Church and North streets seem to be the core of the settlement, with Love Lane (so called by 1807) forming a secondary medieval development off North Street and giving rear access to the eastern side of Church Street. The manor-house stood isolated to the south-west. More scattered settlement occurs by 1691 at Wash Cross; reached by Wash Way, so called in 1560. (fn. 9) Cottages on the waste both to the east and south of the village occur during the 18th century, (fn. 10) notably at Little Silver. All the older farms lay within the village, though Shells Farm, named after the medieval Shelves furlong, was a creation of the early 19th century. (fn. 11) In the 20th century there has been much building along Lambrook Road and to the east of Church Street.
Most of the houses in the centre of the village were built or reconstructed in the 19th century, and are of stone with tiled roofs. Sash windows predominate but a few houses have apparently inset stone-framed windows, and the Tudor House, although dated 1752 on the south gable, appears to be of the 17th century. A cottage in Love Lane has a thatched roof and at least one base cruck, indicating a late-medieval type. Shepton House, a gabled building in the Elizabethan style, was built c. 1850 for the rector, John Stratton Coles, by his fatherin-law Vincent Stuckey, the Langport banker. (fn. 12)
The former open arable fields occupied a major portion of the parish until 1807. Parts remained open and divided until after the middle of the century, and much is without fences or hedges. (fn. 13) Meadow and pasture lay principally in the northwest at Honeymead (so called in 1485), Broomhills (Bromefelde in 1482), Bakers Croft (Oxenleaze in 1561 and 1686), and Northway (an arable field in 1540); and also east of the village at Cowleaze. (fn. 14) A manor park, mentioned in 1485 and leased with the manor-house in 1512, lay in South Petherton parish adjacent to the eastern Shepton boundary and south of the lane from Wash Cross. (fn. 15)
A victualler was recorded in 1732, three in 1751, and four from 1754. It was probably c. 1754 that the house known by 1807 as the Duke of York was opened. (fn. 16) It formerly stood on a site immediately south of the present school in Church Street, but the landlord moved his sign to the present building at the Shambles c. 1860. (fn. 17) The Red Lion at Wash Cross was mentioned in 1754 and was recorded as the George Inn in 1839. (fn. 18) The New Inn, at the corner of Buttle Lane and Church Street, occurs in 1802; it closed c. 1960. (fn. 19) Behind it is an old fives wall with curved parapet and ball finials. (fn. 20) In 1839 the Swan inn stood in Sammys Lane and an unnamed public house on the south side of North Street. (fn. 21) Neither is mentioned thereafter. The efforts of the rector to start a temperance society in 1874 proved unsuccessful. (fn. 22)
There was a bowling green in 1602. (fn. 23) A friendly society called the Loyal Brothers was founded in 1802, when it met at the New Inn, and was reestablished in 1847, meeting subsequently at the National schoolroom. (fn. 24) Club day was on Whit Wednesday until 1873 when it was changed at the rector's request to Whit Thursday. (fn. 25) The Club continued to meet until shortly before the Second World War. (fn. 26) Attempts were made in 1873 and 1874 to revive the 'Old Shepton Play' on the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter, or Hocktide, when cider was given away in the street. The rector was successful in suppressing the play, the celebration of Old Christmas Day, and a fife and drum band formed in 1873. (fn. 27) Cecil Sharp published two folk songs recorded at Shepton Beauchamp in 1905. (fn. 28)
The parish has long had an unusually large population for its area, probably as a result of its medieval market and fair, although numbers did not markedly decline either when the market ceased or during the agricultural depression of the later 19th century. The parish was described in 1868 as a 'curious place, much over-populated, nearly a person to every acre'. (fn. 31) There were 21 tax-payers in 1327, a number second only to South Petherton and Barrington within the hundred, and the parish was the most populous there for its area in 1582. (fn. 32) The population was 439 in 1801, rising sharply to 559 in 1811 and to 648 in 1831. Thereafter it remained relatively constant until a further expansion to 696 in 1871. A period of fluctuation followed, after which the figures show a fall to 578 in 1931. Between 1951 and 1961 numbers declined from 579 to 533, but there was a slight increase to 545 in 1971. (fn. 33)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
The manor of SHEPTON, later known as SHEPTON BEAUCHAMP, was held in 1066 by Algar, but T.R.W. passed to the count of Mortain. (fn. 34) The overlordship of Mortain is not referred to again and by the mid 12th century the terre tenant was evidently Sir Robert de Beauchamp (II). (fn. 35) The manor had thus probably been granted by the count of Mortain to Robert son of Ives with the barony of Hatch Beauchamp and passed successively to Robert de Beauchamp (I) (fl. 1092–1113) and Sir Robert (II) (fl. 1150–81). (fn. 36) Thereafter it descended in the Beauchamp family like Stoke sub Hamdon. (fn. 37)
In 1284, during the minority of John de Beauchamp (II) (Lord Beauchamp 1299, d. 1336), the manor was granted to John de Falevy who demised the custody in the same year to Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 38) On the death of John de Beauchamp (III) in 1361 the manor passed to his daughter and coheir Cecily Turberville (d. 1394), widow of Roger Seymour, (fn. 39) who leased it in parts, notably to Walter Clopton. (fn. 40) In 1394 the fee descended to Cicely's son Robert Seymour (d. 1413) and his wife Alice, (fn. 41) subsequently to their greatnephew Sir John Seymour (d. 1464), and thence to his grandson John Seymour (d. 1492). (fn. 42) Thereafter it evidently passed successively to Sir John Seymour (d. 1536) and his son Edward, duke of Somerset (d. 1552). (fn. 43) In 1553, during the minority of Edward's son, Edward, earl of Hertford (d. 1621), the custody of the manor was granted to John Dudley, earl of Warwick, but it was confirmed to the heir in 1581–2. (fn. 44) Edward was succeeded by his grandson William Seymour, marquess of Hertford (later duke of Somerset, d. 1660), and then by the latter's son William (d. 1671). (fn. 45) The manor passed with the dukedom to William's uncle, John Seymour (d. 1675), and then to William's sister Elizabeth (d. 1697), wife of Thomas Bruce, earl of Ailesbury (d. 1741). (fn. 46) Elizabeth was followed by her sons Charles, Robert, and James Bruce, who apparently had sold the manor by 1710 to John Johnson of Syon Hill, Isleworth (Mdx.). (fn. 47) The property was held in 1741 by Orlando, son of John Johnson the younger, who, after heavily mortgaging the manor, sold it in 1756 to Agatha, widow of his principal creditor Samuel Child of Osterley Park, Isleworth (Mdx.). Agatha was succeeded in turn by her sons Francis (d. 1763) and Robert (d. 1782), and on Robert's death the estate descended to his daughter Sarah Ann (d. 1793), wife of John Fane, earl of Westmorland. Sarah settled it on her daughter Sarah Sophia Fane, wife of George, Viscount Villiers (later earl of Jersey). (fn. 48) The Jerseys sold the estate in 1807, the lordship and what was later known as Manor farm being purchased by Thomas Naish (d. 1813) of Seavington St. Mary. (fn. 49) Naish left his property equally between his brothers, William (d. 1830) and John (d. 1830), and his brother-in-law, John Clark of Tintinhull, and by 1845 the manor was held jointly by William Naish's sons, Thomas, William, and John. (fn. 50) Thomas Naish was described as lord from 1861 until his death in 1875, when administration of his estate was granted to John and Thomas Naish, sons of his brother John. (fn. 51) William England occurs as lord between 1889 and 1894 and the trustees of the late James England in 1897. (fn. 52) James Lean (d. 1923) of Shepton House, son-in-law of the former rector, J. S. Coles, had acquired the lordship by 1902 and was succeeded by his son James Vincent Lean, who lived at Shepton House until 1947. (fn. 53) The manor is not mentioned thereafter.
The manor-house and curtilage were worth 12d. a year in 1343, and in 1408 Roger and Maud Seymour were licensed to hear mass at their oratory in the house. (fn. 54) Isabel Seymour's dower there in 1485 included the principal chamber above the parlour, the 'wythdraughtis' chambers, and half the middle chamber, bakehouse, and bunting-house. (fn. 55) The house was occupied by Sir John Seymour when sheriff in 1515–16, (fn. 56) but for the remainder of the 16th century was let to the Rawe family, the tenant in 1596 collecting the lord's rents and providing lodging for up to seven of his officers twice a year. (fn. 57) In 1633 the property was said to be 'almost ruined', (fn. 58) but a lease of 'the manor-house called the farm' made in 1724 included additional rent in lieu of entertaining the lord's officers when courts were held. Abraham Atkins held the farm between 1724 and 1755 but it was subsequently leased to Edward Rowswell. (fn. 59) At the sale of the manor in 1807 the house and 98 a. of land were purchased by the occupier, William Salisbury Rowswell. The house was then 'an ancient structure in stone surrounded by venerable elms and well worthy of being created a gentleman's residence', but only part was habitable. (fn. 60) By 1839 the house and a larger holding were owned and farmed by John and William Stephens, and Mountfields House, a plain classical house with a Tuscan porch, was built soon after 1840 to the south of the old house site. Among the farm buildings, which are otherwise largely of the 19th century, are the remains of a small 16th-century barn. (fn. 61) A fish pond, called the 'great pool' in 1485, lies to the south-east of the former manor-house, beside Silver Street. (fn. 62)
In 1301–2 Alice (later Sarazin) did homage to the lord for freehold lands as cousin and heir of John Sarazin. (fn. 63) Property of about 21 a. in Shepton was granted in 1338 by William and Alice Sarazin, held in right of Alice, to John and Elizabeth Sarazin, and two years later William did homage for a messuage and 72 a. of land within the manor. (fn. 64) In 1384 the property was sold by Richard and Thomas Sarazin and Elizabeth wife of John Rogus to John Denebaud. (fn. 65) Thereafter it descended with the Denebaud manor of Hinton St. George to the Poulett family, being known in 1518 as the manor of SHEPTON POULETT and later as the manor of SHEPTON. (fn. 66) During the 16th and 17th centuries the administration of the estate was combined with the adjacent Poulett manor of Stocklinch Ottersay and by the 18th century the lands were regarded as forming part of Stocklinch manor. (fn. 67) The manor was conveyed in trust for sale in 1805 and the Shepton element was evidently split up and sold in 1809, chiefly to the Naish family, lords of the main manor of Shepton. (fn. 68)
A tenement with a dovecot, which may have been the former capital messuage of the freehold, passed in 1559 to Cuthbert Rosse on the death of Joan Seager, widow. On Cuthbert's death in 1560 it descended to Elizabeth, daughter of Nicholas Rosse, who still occupied it in 1571. (fn. 69) It was held by Elizabeth's husband, William Bonner of East Chinnock, who referred in his will, dated 1611, to the timber work and glass in his hall at Shepton Beauchamp. (fn. 70)
In 1304 Sir John de Beauchamp endowed his college at Stoke sub Hamdon with half the tithes from Shepton demesne (excepting 12 a.) and from a further 11 a., granting to the provost himself half the tithes from his court at Shepton and of those paid by the cottars in respect of their beasts. (fn. 71) In 1540 ten tenants of the manor were stated formerly to have rendered 27 bushels of rye and 4d. in money to the provost of Stoke, mainly from demesne lands then leased to them. A further 5½ bushels of barley had been payable to the prior of Bruton by five other tenants although the origin of the Bruton render has not been traced. After the Dissolution the renders were ordered to be withheld, those belonging to Stoke being valued at 66s. 8d. in 1548. (fn. 72)
Roger Trigel did homage for freehold lands in 1340 for which he rendered 4d. and service as a hayward, and in 1343 he held 1/20 of a fee with John de Burgh of Shepton. (fn. 73) Other lands held by the Burgh family subsequently descended to the Denebaud family, and Trigel's holding may have merged with the later manor of Shepton Poulett. (fn. 74)
Before 1372 Cecily Turberville granted two houses and 86 a. to Richard Godscelyn and Joan his wife for their lives. In 1384–5 the property was assigned by the Godscelyns to John Rodberd of Kingsbury Episcopi and by him, in 1389, to Robert Veel and William son of Joan Fareways. Veel and Fareways subsequently acquired reversionary interests which had been granted in 1374 to Walter Clopton. (fn. 75) Veel purchased additional small quantities of land in the parish in 1400 and evidently obtained the freehold reversions from Cecily de Turberville and Robert Seymour. (fn. 76) By 1431 Robert Veel had been succeeded by his daughter Eleanor and her husband, John Coker of Worle and Mappowder (Dors.), who conveyed the estate to their son Robert (d. 1488) in 1449. (fn. 77) Robert's son John Coker (d. 1513–14) held the property by 1492 and leased it to Henry Havegod and Joan his wife in 1494. (fn. 78) By 1516 it was described as a decayed tenement called Cokers, leased to John Bowyar, and had passed to Henry Daubeney (cr. earl of Bridgwater, 1538), who held it in 1540. (fn. 79) The immediate descent has not been traced, but the property was acquired by the Rosse family, probably by purchase, and subsequently bought by Thomas Warre (d. 1682), living in Shepton by 1659. (fn. 80) The estate then descended in turn to Thomas Warre's son Thomas (d. 1685), in whose time it was still called Coker's farm, and to his grandson, also Thomas (d. 1737). (fn. 81) The last was succeeded by his daughter Jane (d. 1791) wife of Sir Robert Grosvenor, Bt. (d. 1755), whence it passed to Jane's second son, Thomas Grosvenor, and then to his son, Richard Erle-Drax-Grosvenor (d. 1819). Richard was followed successively by his son, Richard Edward Erle-Drax-Grosvenor (d. 1828) and daughter, Jane Frances (d. 1853), wife of J. S. W. Sawbridge (later Sawbridge-Erle-Drax) (d. 1887). (fn. 82) The property has not been traced further.
The house attached to the property was mentioned in 1494, when the tenant was charged with repairing the thatch over the hall, chambers, grange, and plastered house. (fn. 83) The building was probably occupied by the Cokers who were credited with building the north aisle of the church, where their arms could be seen in 1633. (fn. 84) The house was later occupied by the Warres, ancestors of the dukes of Westminster, and stood on the west side of Church Street, immediately north of its junction with Robins Lane. It was described as a 'large, ancient' building in 1791, was built round three sides of a courtyard open to the west, and was evidently demolished in the mid 19th century. (fn. 85)
In the mid 15th century a freehold paying 18d. rent was held by Richard Sargeant, who had been succeeded by William Sargeant before 1485. (fn. 86) In 1499 John Heyron of Langport (d. 1501) acquired lands in Shepton from William and Joan Sargeant, and on Heyron's death three houses and 50 a. of land passed to his son John (d. 1507). (fn. 87) The heirs of Heyron occur as freeholders until 1559 and it was probably this property which descended from one of the daughters of John Heyron (II) to the Rosse family, who assumed the Heyron coat of arms. (fn. 88) Cuthbert Rosse (d. 1560) was followed by his son Nicholas (d. 1562) and thereafter the premises passed through successive generations to John (d. 1617), James (I), and James (II) Rosse (d. 1670). (fn. 89) The Rosses also inherited lands in the parish from Agnes Wogan (d. 1575), a freeholder in 1560, who left them to her nephew John Rosse. (fn. 90) All the Rosse lands in Shepton were evidently sold to Thomas Warre (d. 1682), (fn. 91) and subsequently probably descended to the Grosvenors.
The name of the parish suggests an early dependence on sheep farming, (fn. 92) although there were only 64 sheep on the demesne in 1086. In that year the manor gelded for 6 hides and there was land for 4 ploughs. The lord held 4 hides less ½ virgate in demesne with 1½ plough worked by 3 serfs, and the remaining 2 hides and ½ virgate were occupied by 9 villeins and 3 bordars. There were 15 a. of meadow and, in addition to the sheep, stock comprised a riding-horse, 4 head of cattle, and 7 swine.
The value of the manor fell from £5 T.R.E. to £4 in 1086. (fn. 93) It was extended at £32 3s. 5d. in 1284, but by 1337 the value was £7 12s. 4d. (fn. 94) The fall may be partly explained by the creation before 1340 of three freeholds then held by William de Asshelond, Roger Trigel, and William Sarazin. Asshelond rendered only homage for his property, Trigel held his land for a rent of 4d. and service as hayward of Broadmead, and Sarazin paid 8s. rent and, besides agrarian services, had to provide an armed man to carry the lord's banner in time of war. (fn. 95) By 1343 the income from the manor had fallen still further, to £6 0s. 5d., although that figure may exclude dower. There were then 60 a. of arable, and 3 a. of pasture. Assized rents produced 62s. and customary works 14s. 11d. (fn. 96) The reversion of two houses and 86 a. of land was granted away from the manor in 1374, (fn. 97) but the estate had risen in value by 1382 when it produced £30 a year. (fn. 98)
There was little variation for the next three centuries. In 1465 the manor was worth £30 a year, less an annuity of 10 marks. (fn. 99) An undated rental of free and copyhold lands of the mid 15th century shows a total of £31 8s. 10d. being paid by 60 tenants, including customary renders of lardersilver from 19 tenants at Martinmas and chursett or church scot in chickens and hens by four tenants. There were then 16 a. of demesne leased to five tenants, and 26 cottagers. (fn. 100) In 1485 a grant of dower was valued at £6 13s. 4d., which seems to indicate a fall in the total income. The grant included 78½ a. of open arable demesne, lying in 22 named fields and leased to the tenants, four tenements of 20 a. each, four of 10 a., three of 5 a., and eleven cottagers, a total of 213½ a., with a third share in four freehold rents of £4 2s. 6d. (fn. 101) In 1492 the manor, then worth £33 6s. 8d., was subject to an annuity of 40s. (fn. 102)
The rental rose to £39 15s. 1¼d. in 1540, evidently as a result of letting the manor-house and demesne. (fn. 103) There were then 48 customary tenants and four freeholders, only John Rawe, holding the 85-a. demesne, held more than 30 a., and there were fifteen cottagers with no lands except those on which their houses stood. (fn. 104) In 1559 the income from the manor included 19d. paid for tenants' chimneys. (fn. 105)
The freeholders occupied nearly a quarter of the parish's total area. The lands held by the Asshelond family in 1312 comprised five cottages, 40 a. of arable, and 2 a. of meadow, worth £1 0s. 11d. (fn. 106) The Sarazin (later Poulett) holding was 72 a. in 1340 and 1498. (fn. 107) The lands later owned by the Coker family amounted to 86 a. in 1372. (fn. 108) The Heyron property comprised three houses and 50 a. of land in 1503. (fn. 109) The Rosse family as heirs of the Heyrons and Wogans owned and occupied 90 a. of land in 1602.
The income from the main manor was £44 13s. 7¾d. in 1671, of which £6 5s. 9d. represented the rent of the manor-house. (fn. 110) The rents of 73 customary tenants totalled £37 16s. 8¾d. in 1755, but a further 13 holdings which had been allowed to fall in hand were being leased at realistic rents to tenants at will and produced £141 15s. 6d. a year. The mean size of holdings was still relatively low, the consequence of a large population settled on a small acreage. The manor-house was let with nearly 90 a., two farmers held just over 60 a., two 36 a., and two over 20 a., but 62 tenants had less than 10 a. The manor was valued at £1,285 a year in 1796 when it comprised 670 a. (fn. 111) The policy of allowing lands to fall into hand was continued and had resulted in an increased rental of £991 when the manor estate of 629 a. was split up and sold in 1807. (fn. 112)
The open arable fields were being farmed on a three-year rotation in 1343, (fn. 113) although there were more than three open fields in the medieval period. Pasturage in the breached fields was calculated at two sheep per acre in 1540, when the stubble fields provided winter grazing for 778 sheep, in addition to 155 on fallow and pasture. Cowleaze accommodated 34 cows in the summer between Candlemas and Michaelmas. (fn. 114) In 1681 the stint of the stubble fields was reckoned as two sheep for every acre, an ox for every 2 a., and a horse for 4 a. This was revised in 1687 to give pasture for a bullock for every 4 a. and for a horse for every 5 a. In 1713 the breach of the fields was announced by the bailiff and grass haywards during divine service, and throughout the 18th century the overseers of the poor were responsible for maintaining certain field gates. (fn. 115) The limited pasture led to an order in 1788 limiting grazing to 25 sheep for each tenement, additional rights being granted at 4d. per animal. (fn. 116)
Small enclosures are recorded at an early date, and 16½ a. of demesne at Bromehill were inclosed in 1481–2, (fn. 117) but the parish was largely cultivated in common until the 19th century. Some areas, particularly in Stankley, had been fenced by 1755, and in 1796 a surveyor commented on the advantages of inclosing. The agent had allowed some farm-houses to fall in hand for that purpose, and at the sale of the manor in 1807 the manorial lands in each open field were sold with individual farmhouses: the manor-house was disposed of with 83 a., including Little Silver, Burgaston, White, and part of Cradle common fields, Muchelditch field of 30 a. was sold with a farm, later the site of the Methodist chapel, and the other fields were similarly conveyed away. (fn. 118) Complete inclosure, however, was dependent on the subsequent acquisition of strips held with the Poulett and former Grosvenor estates. Muchelditch field, for instance, was still open to 1853, although all the former common disappeared before 1886. (fn. 119)
A new farm-house, later Shells Farm, proposed in 1796, was built between 1807 and 1832, and in 1839 was held with 104 a. (fn. 120) In 1839 the Naish family owned 247 a., most of which was farmed in three units: Thomas at the later Manor farm with 86 a., William at Home farm with 77 a., and John Naish at Draytons with 59 a. The former Grosvenor freehold was occupied by Stephen Salisbury with 72 a., Hill farm had 70 a., and the manor-house or Shepton farm, later Mountfields, 141 a. There were 620 a. of arable compared with 145 a. of meadow and pasture, and the principal crops were wheat, beans, and flax. (fn. 121) Some conversion to grassland had taken place by 1905 but arable was still predominant. (fn. 122) During the later 19th century there were usually six or seven farms. In 1851 the largest was the former manor-house farm of 300 a., although it was sold in 1890 with only 126 a. (fn. 123) The farming units continued to be relatively small and this led to the formation of the Shepton Beauchamp and District Smallholders' Association, active between 1919 and 1931. (fn. 124) Only two properties had over 150 a. between 1931 and 1939: Manor farm and the Lean family holdings (including Mountfields) attached to Shepton House. (fn. 125) Since 1939 Mountfields has developed as the largest holding in Shepton. In 1975 350 a. were farmed from there although some lay in adjacent parishes. In the parish as a whole the land was divided equally between dairy and arable farming. Both Shells farm, recently acquired by the Barrington Court estate, and Manor farm were devoted to dairying and Home farm was predominantly arable. (fn. 126)
Relief paid to the poor was supplemented in 1801 by the purchase of barley, peas, and potatoes, which were sold every Wednesday to poor families at a one-third loss. In face of general shortages the parishioners resolved to reduce their consumption of bread, not to use flour for making pastry, and to ration the feeding of oats to their horses. (fn. 127) The vestry agreed to apply £25 towards the emigration of the poor in 1849 and labourers were leaving the parish for South Wales and America in the 1870s. (fn. 128)
A glover was mentioned in 1708 and a glovemaster, living at the eastern end of Great Lane, was active during the years 1837–47. (fn. 129) There were 126 female glovers in the parish in 1851, a number which increased to 139 in 1861 and fell to 122 in 1871 but rose soon after. (fn. 130) Gloving agents occur regularly in the late 19th century, and factories in Stoke sub Hamdon and Yeovil were both maintaining agencies in the parish by 1910. (fn. 131) The industry has been and is restricted to outwork from Yeovil and Stoke. In 1928 the trade was booming and the Shepton glovers were described as 'excellent workers'. (fn. 132) An attempt by a Martock glove company to establish a factory in Love Lane c. 1970 failed and the building was occupied by an electronics firm in 1975. (fn. 133)
Tailors were recorded at Shepton in 1625, 1657, 1668, (fn. 134) and at later dates, but there is little significant evidence of a cloth industry in the parish. A parchment-maker was mentioned in 1661, a barber in 1670, a mercer between 1734 and 1757, and a tobacconist in 1747. (fn. 135) There were weavers in Shepton by 1813, eleven of them in 1841, three in 1851, but none by 1861. (fn. 136) A variety of occupations in the mid 19th century included making straw bonnets, skirts, baskets, biscuits, collars, brushes, and mantuas. (fn. 137) The four girls who went in 1873 to work in Crewkerne were probably typical of a parish which then had insufficient employment for its high population. (fn. 138) A cycle-agent occurred in 1914, a motor-engineer and motor-cab proprietor in 1927, and a car and vanbuilder in 1939. (fn. 139) Shops in the village were mentioned from 1645 and there were at least nine in 1861, (fn. 140) although the number afterwards decreased to five.
In 1260 Robert de Beauchamp was granted the right to hold a Friday market and two fairs, on the eve, day, and morrow of the feasts of St. Petrock (3–5 June) and St. John the Baptist (23–5 June). (fn. 141) St. Petrock's fair survived an attempt to abolish it in 1268. (fn. 142) By 1361 the market had been altered to Tuesday and only the St. Petrock's fair survived. (fn. 143) The rents from shambles in the market-place produced 2s. in 1482 and the tolls and customs of a fair on the feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr (10 Aug.) 3s. 4d. (fn. 144) A fair and court of pie powder were recorded in 1485 and the issues of the fair produced 10d. in 1537–8. (fn. 145) A statement in 1540 that the bailiff 'was wont' to pay 5s. a year for the profits of the fair and the shambles suggests that both fair and market had then ceased. (fn. 146) In 1575 it was mentioned that 'in time past' the first day of the fair (ascribed to St. 'Patrick's' day) had been chiefly for wool, the second day for all other wares, and that there had been a right to arrest for debt at the Tuesday markets. (fn. 147) A market stile on the south-western boundary of the manor was mentioned in 1575 and a market path in 1694. (fn. 148) The churchwardens were paying 2s. rent for the shambles by 1671 and until 1781, and repaired the premises in 1705 and 1743. (fn. 149) The area in front of the present Duke of York inn at the junction of North and Church streets is known as the Shambles and was probably the site of the medieval market and fair.
There was a water-mill worth 10s. by 1343, and it was occupied by Richard Miles in 1370. (fn. 150) It was repaired by the manor in 1481–2 and tolls went to the lord in 1485. (fn. 151) As a water grist mill it was let by copy in 1520 and passed in 1559 to Cuthbert Rosse (d. 1560) who agreed to rebuild it at his own charge. (fn. 152) In 1575 it was known as Shepton mill. (fn. 153) Thomas Forte took the mill c. 1615 and in 1621 agreed for its repair by Robert Ash and John Welchman, millwrights. Ash and Welchman, however, conspired with William Forte of South Petherton, forced the surrender of the mill to William, and engineered the imprisonment of Thomas Forte. (fn. 154) John Collins held the mill in 1669 and in 1715 it was known as Collins's mill. (fn. 155) By 1755 it was untenanted, and was valued at £3 although formerly let at £6. (fn. 156) It was held by copy (fn. 157) until the sale of the manor in 1807 when it was conveyed to James Daniel, mercer and draper, who by 1839 sub-let it. (fn. 158) Charles Best (d. 1877) occupied it as miller and baker 1861–77 and his family continued there until 1895. John Vaux was in business as miller and baker from 1902 until 1914, (fn. 159) when the mill ceased to grind, and its land and site were merged into Home farm. (fn. 160) The mill, on the eastern boundary of the parish, NE. from the village, was worked by an overshot wheel. The stones and wheel were removed c. 1928. (fn. 161) Ham stone footings and a small brick building marked the site in 1975.
Court rolls and books have been traced for the main manor for the years 1559–61, 1637, and 1681–1721, with a series of presentments for 1773–88. (fn. 162) The lord was holding two lawdays in 1340, and two lawdays with halmote at Michaelmas and Hockday and two other courts in 1481–2. (fn. 163) Between 1559 and 1561 the courts, held twice or three times each year, were described as curie manerii with a view of frankpledge on four occasions. In 1575 the lord was stated to have a lawday and court baron (fn. 164) and from 1637 the courts were called either curie baronis or visus frankplegii cum curia baronis and held once or twice each year. Business dealt with included the control of brewers, bakers, and millers, breaches of grazing customs, the repair of buildings, hedges, and ditches, taking felons' goods (1560), and cases of debt and trespass (1561).
In 1340 one of the free tenants, wearing white gloves and carrying a white rod, was required to superintend the mowing and stacking of hay in Broadmead. (fn. 165) Both steward and hayward were mentioned in 1481–2, the latter occupying his tenement rent free in return for his services. A tithingman was being elected by the court in 1560. The hayward (two in 1694) continued to be elected until at least 1788. Two grass haywards, called surveyors of the common fields in 1695, were appointed from 1682, increased to three in 1704, to four in 1714, and reduced to three in 1720 and 1721. Four were appointed from 1773, six between 1781 and 1785, and two in 1788.
Court rolls for the manor of Shepton or Shepton Poulett survive for 1518–19, 1523–4, 1532, 1552–4, 1559–73, (fn. 166) and 1651. (fn. 167) Courts were held for Shepton alone in 1518–19, 1532, 1566, and 1570, and at other times jointly twice a year with those for the adjacent Poulett manor of Stocklinch Ottersay. (fn. 168) When joint courts were held a separate homage jury continued to present for Shepton, and the court was said to be for Stocklinch Ottersay with Shepton in 1703. Thereafter courts were held at and for Stocklinch alone, although suit of court was demanded of Shepton tenants until at least 1767. (fn. 169) No manorial officers for Shepton were appointed by the court.
There were two churchwardens in 1540, one chosen by the rector and the other by the parish in 1669. Two overseers of the poor held office by 1635 and two waywardens by 1657. The parish register appointed during the Interregnum was replaced in 1656 for being 'negligent in his office'. (fn. 170) The 19th-century vestry appointed two churchwardens, two overseers, one waywarden (two 1843– 6), a guardian, and a salaried assistant overseer from 1849. The appointment of a hayward to keep the pound was proposed in 1880. (fn. 171)
Half the former church house was in the hands of the parish by 1703, and probably much earlier, and the whole came to be used as an alms- or poorhouse. (fn. 172) By 1665 the overseers had acquired land formerly given to maintain church lights and the income was used in the 18th century to repair the building. (fn. 173) Most of the land was sold in 1887 and the house itself, divided into six cottages, was declared to be 'ripe for demolition' in 1934. It was sold in the following year and pulled down. (fn. 174) The cob and thatch building stood on the west side of Church Street. (fn. 175) The parish rented a house at Wash Cross between 1779 and 1806, probably for use as an additional poorhouse. (fn. 176) Shepton became part of the Chard poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 177)
The church was first mentioned in 1243 and the benefice was a rectory by 1254. (fn. 178) The advowson was probably held with the manor by 1304 and the patronage was so linked in 1325. (fn. 179) In 1348–9 the Crown presented five times during the minority of the lord, again in 1355, and, on the death of John de Beauchamp (III) in 1361, seized the advowson and assigned it in dower to his widow Alice. (fn. 180) She granted it to her brother-in-law, William de Beauchamp, and others in trust and William presented before 1373. (fn. 181) In 1374 the advowson was conveyed to Matthew de Gournay, second husband of Alice, and his wife, one half in tail, and the other half for the life of Alice. (fn. 182) On Alice's death in 1383 the advowson was divided between William Beauchamp and Cecily Turberville, sister of John de Beauchamp (III). (fn. 183) The Crown unlawfully presented in 1391 but two years later Cecily secured the whole advowson and a revocation of that presentation. (fn. 184) Subsequently the patronage descended with the manor. Alexander Linde, who held a rent of 10 marks issuing from the manor and advowson, was patron in 1425 and 1426. (fn. 185) The Crown again presented during a minority in 1555 and John Clifton, after a disputed collation, in 1570. (fn. 186) James Aysshe and Roger Forte were patrons in 1576 by grant for a single turn, as were Margaret, widow of Edward Kyrton of Castle Cary, in 1661 and the executors of the Revd. Simon Paget in 1723. (fn. 187) In 1807 the advowson was sold for £2,000 to Thomas Naish (d. 1813), also purchaser of the manor, and left by him to his brothers William (d. 1830) and John Naish (d. 1830) and his brotherin-law John Clark of Tintinhull. John Naish left his share to his nephew, the Revd. William Clark, and William Naish devised his equally between his four sons. (fn. 188) One turn was exercised in 1836 by the Revd. W. G. Parks Smith, of Bovey Tracey (Devon), and his wife Elizabeth, related to the former rector, Joseph Domett (d. 1835), and the families of Naish and Clark were still joint patrons in 1840. (fn. 189) The advowson was acquired before 1861 by the then rector, James Stratton Coles (d. 1872), left by him to his widow Eliza (d. 1897), and by her to her son V. S. S. Coles, the former rector. (fn. 190) In 1913 the last gave it to the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (Yorks. W.R.), the patrons in 1975. (fn. 191)
The church had an income of £5 6s. 8d. in 1291, which rose to £15 in 1535. (fn. 192) It was worth £14 in 1605 and was possibly over-valued at £120 c. 1668. (fn. 193) From a figure of between £50 and £60 in 1705 the value rose to £130 in 1755, c. £360 in 1807, and £373 net in 1831. (fn. 194) By 1481 the rector was receiving 4 bushels of rye from the lord of the manor for church scot. The payment was charged on a tenement held by the Cogan family between 1613 and 1635 and on the manor-house in 1807. (fn. 195)
Tithes on lambs, wool, and sheaves payable to the rector were valued in 1334 at £4 and those on hay with oblations and the glebe at 53s. 4d. (fn. 196) By 1535 predial tithes were worth £7 15s. 8d., tithes of sheep and lambs £1 4s. 4d., and oblations and personal tithes £5 7s. 2½d. (fn. 197) In 1613 a tithe modus of 3s. 4d. at Easter was payable from the mill. Tithes were assessed in 1635 on corn, hemp, hay, wool, lambs, calves, pigs, apples, and dovecots, when 2d. was paid for a cow, and 1d. for a heifer and for the fall of a colt. (fn. 198) The tithes were valued at c. £360 in 1807 and were redeemed for a rent-charge of £373 in 1839. (fn. 199) A tithe dinner was being held at Shepton House in 1873. (fn. 200)
In the 13th century the lord of Shepton held 5 a. of land at Compton Durville in South Petherton from Shepton church. (fn. 201) The glebe lands were valued at 12s. 9½d. in 1535 and comprised 16¼ a. in 1571 and 21¼ a. between 1613 and 1635. (fn. 202) The extent had dropped to 13½ a. between 1755 and 1807, rose slightly to 17 a. in 1839, and continued at about that area until at least 1883, the land being valued at £40 a year in 1851. (fn. 203) Between 1889 and 1931 there were 10½ a. and 8 a. between 1935 and 1939. (fn. 204) In 1975 there were nearly 7 a. of glebe, including the site of the parsonage house. (fn. 205)
The rectory house in 1571 had a barn, stable, and dovecot. In 1613 the house comprised a parlour, hall, buttery, kitchen, brewhouse, and six chambers. The dovecot was mentioned in 1635 but not thereafter. (fn. 206) The house stands on the north side of North Street and continued as the parsonage until 1874. Under the name of St. Michael's Home and Penitentiary it was used by Julia M. Coles from 1886 as a home for young girls employed in laundry and housework. It was still so used in 1914 but had closed by 1919. (fn. 207) It has since been a private house known as St. Michael's. The south block, probably the original parlour with a great chamber above, is of the 16th century and has an open timber roof of three bays. The north range, formerly containing the hall, may be of earlier origin, but is not certainly older than the 17th century and additions in traditional style were made c. 1939. The 19th-century service accommodation to the north has been made into a separate house.
In 1874 a large rectory, designed by R. W. Drew of London, was built west of Church Street by V. S. S. Coles as a clergy house for the rector, the vicar of Barrington, and visiting priests and students. It was described as 'rather plain and gaunt, with a central hall for meals, and an oratory without an altar but with a great crucifix and sacred pictures; where the "lesser hours" are said and confessions sometimes heard'. (fn. 208) The house was sold in 1938 and was used for a time after 1948 as a religious guest house. It was known successively as St. Raphael, Holy Cross House, and the Old Rectory, and in 1975 was occupied as two dwellings called Beauchamp Manor. (fn. 209)
St. Mary's Cottage in Church Street, the former home of Miss Julia M. Coles, was used as the rectory house from 1939. (fn. 210)
Of the early rectors, Benedict de la Lade, rector by 1254 until at least 1266, had licence to study in 1266 and farm his church. (fn. 211) Pain FitzWarin, rector 1318–19, only a subdeacon when instituted, received a licence to study for a year, renewed for a further twelve months in 1319. (fn. 212) Robert de Upton, rector 1320–5, because of 'parochial strife' for which he was not responsible, in 1323 leased and two years later exchanged the living with Walter de Hulle, rector 1325–35, then rector of Binegar, from 1324 rector of Cricket St. Thomas, and later commissarygeneral to the bishop and subdean of Wells. (fn. 213) Hulle's successor, John de Middleton, rector 1335–7, was also commissary to the bishop. (fn. 214) Henry de Shelford, rector from 1391 until at least 1395, was described as a king's clerk in 1393. (fn. 215) John Champernon or Champney, rector 1511–31, held the living in plurality, first with Kingsbury Episcopi and later with Orchardleigh. (fn. 216) Thomas Rawe, rector 1532–54, was deprived of his benefice on Mary's accession; (fn. 217) William Owsley, rector 1577– 1630, founded exhibitions at Oxford in 1626 for boys from Crewkerne grammar school. (fn. 218) James Dugdale, D.D., rector 1630–45, 1660–1, held the living in plurality with Evercreech and, as chaplain to the marquess of Hertford, lord of the manor and leader of the royalist forces in Somerset, he was involved in a skirmish at Witham House in September 1642. Taken prisoner, he was brought before the House of Commons and imprisoned. The marchioness of Hertford (later duchess of Somerset) procured his release as her chaplain and he was living at Oxford when it surrendered in 1646. His benefices were sequestrated and he was persecuted during the Interregnum. (fn. 219) James Eliot occurs as parson between 1645–6 and 1659 and witnessed the Presbyterian Attestation of 1648 as of Shepton, although he was not presented until 1651. (fn. 220) Robert Rowswell was recorded as a minister in the parish on his marriage in 1656 to Ann Eliot, probably related to the intruded rector. (fn. 221) Joseph Barker, rector 1661, Dugdale's son-in-law, was also chaplain to the duchess of Somerset. (fn. 222) John Paget, rector 1698–1723, Henry Newman, rector 1753–98, and Joseph Domett, rector 1798–1835, were pluralists, the last living at Bovey Tracey (Devon). (fn. 223) James Stratton Coles, rector 1836–72, was succeeded by his son Vincent Stuckey Stratton Coles, rector 1872–84, a leader of the Tractarian movement, subsequently librarian and principal of Pusey Hall, Oxford, and a hymn-writer. Coles maintained his links with the parish, retiring there to live until his death in 1929. (fn. 224)
In 1540, and probably by 1474, ½ a. of empty ground, probably in the open fields, was devoted to maintaining 'the church sport', possibly the 'old Shepton play' at Hocktide whose revival was attempted in 1873 and 1874. (fn. 225) In 1554 there was no pyx and the stone altar, removed c. 1547, was withheld. (fn. 226) Holy Communion was administered three or four times a year between 1706 and 1785. One sermon was preached each Sunday in 1815 and two by 1827, and Holy Communion was celebrated once every six weeks and on feast days by 1843. (fn. 227) On Census Sunday 1851 there were congregations of 129 in the morning and 184 in the afternoon, with Sunday school attendances of 85 and 86 respectively. (fn. 228) On the arrival of James Stratton Coles as rector in 1836 there were only five regular communicants and confirmation had been administered in the area only once in seven years. Coles introduced hymns, frequent celebrations of the Holy Communion, daily Matins, weekday sermons, and coloured altar frontals for the different feasts. (fn. 229) When V. S. S. Coles succeeded his father as rector in 1872 he introduced weekly Communion services, daily Evensong, and the use of linen vestments for the Eucharist, but held separate communicant meetings for the wives of tradesmen and for those of labourers, and would not recognize a couple as farmers by sharing their wedding breakfast. There was opposition to Coles's introduction of confessions and complaints were made to the bishop in 1873 about the change to high church ritual. In the same year he founded the guild of St. Gabriel, still meeting in 1928, to encourage regular attendance at Holy Communion, and attempted to start a lodging house for young single men of the parish. The high church tradition was continued by the former curate, Arthur Lethbridge, rector from 1884, who met with opposition in 1904 over the use of silk chasubles, the wearing of red cassocks by the servers, the over-frequent celebrations of Holy Communion, and the emphasis placed on choral eucharists and the confessional. The bishop ordered a temporary return to white vestments. 'A Protestant spy' from the Royal Commission on Disorders in the Church attended at a Celebration in the same year, and the Kensitites held a meeting in the Shambles in 1905. An apparently unsolicited petition from 198 communicants in 1907 led the bishop to withdraw his objections to coloured vestments. (fn. 230)
In the mid 15th century the churchwardens held a brewhouse from the manor. (fn. 231) This may be identified with the church house held by the churchwardens in 1540 and by the parishioners in 1548. Also in 1548 there were 2½ a. of land given to maintain lights. (fn. 232) Both these properties were confiscated by Edward VI's commissioners and in 1553 sold to London agents. (fn. 233) The church house was later used as an alms- or poorhouse until its demolition in 1935. (fn. 234)
The church of ST. MICHAEL (fn. 235) stands on a slight rise east of Church Street close to its junction with North Street. It is built of lias and Ham stone and has a chancel with north chapel and vestry, aisled and clerestoreyed nave with north and south porches, and west tower. No part of the fabric can be ascribed with certainty to a date before the end of the 13th century, but it is probable that the nave preserves the outline of the building which then existed. A transeptal tower was built against its north side c. 1300 marking the first stage of a relatively short but important period of rebuilding. Next a south transeptal chapel was added, then the chancel was rebuilt, and finally aisles were added to the nave. In the earlier 16th century a tall and richly-decorated west tower was added. Whether it was the west tower or the old north tower which was presented as being in ruinous state in 1547 (fn. 236) is not certain. The latter is perhaps more likely, for the scars of its demolition are still visible and the rebuilt north wall and porch are in a very late Perpendicular style. The north chapel, in the angle between the chancel and the tower base, is probably contemporary with the aisle wall. The restoration of 1865 by G. E. Street involved the rebuilding of the south aisle with an increase in width of 6 ft., the reconstruction of the south arcade, the heightening and refenestration of the clerestories, the installation of new roofs to all but the north aisle, and the rebuilding of the chancel arch. The floors were tiled, new furniture was provided throughout the church, and a new organ was inserted in the north chapel. (fn. 237)
There are eight bells: (i and ii) 1905, Mears and Stainbank; (iii) 1798, J. Kingston of Bridgwater; (iv) 1738; (v) blank; (vi) 1738, Bilbie; (vii) blank; (viii) 1738, Bilbie, inscribed 'Hang me right and ring me well, they'll hear me sound at Hamdon Hill'. (fn. 238) The plate includes an Elizabethan cup and cover of 1573 by 'I.P.', and a chalice designed by G. E. Street in 1874. (fn. 239) The registers date from 1558 but lack baptisms for 1775–83, marriages for 1693–1701, 1753–4, and burials for 1679–94, 1778–83. (fn. 240) During the Interregnum marriages were usually solemnized at Middle Lambrook in Kingsbury Episcopi, and on one occasion in 1655 banns were called in South Petherton market. (fn. 241)
Henry Pope, a Quaker of the parish, was imprisoned in 1661 for refusing the oath of allegiance. (fn. 242) Private houses were licensed for dissenting worship in 1691, 1695, 1703, and 1789, and there were two or three Presbyterian families in the parish c. 1776. (fn. 243) In 1776 Thomas Coke, curate of South Petherton and an avowed Methodist, was refused the use of the church, and preached in a private house. There followed a 'nocturnal broil' between his supporters and their opponents, and a critical pamphlet was published by John Thomas, the Shepton curate. (fn. 244)
The Wesleyans were meeting in the parish by 1812, probably registering the houses in that year and in 1820. (fn. 245) A Methodist chapel, owned by John Naish, was licensed in 1828, and was replaced by a second chapel built 1833–4. (fn. 246) There were attendances there of 48 in the morning and 40 in the evening on Census Sunday 1851, with a Sunday school of 20 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. (fn. 247) A series of 'special sermons' at the chapel reduced parish church attendances in 1873, but chapel congregations subsequently decreased and the last service was held in 1940. (fn. 248) The small chapel, at the corner of Buttle Lane and Church Street, was being used as a store in 1975.
The house of James Tolman was licensed by dissenters in 1816, and that of James Rowsell, the 'housekeeper and minister,' by Calvinists in 1836. (fn. 249)
Thomas Stuckey was licensed to teach grammar in the parish in 1586. (fn. 250)
In 1723 Thomas Rich left 6 a. of land in Merriott, 5s. of the income for cakes for twelve poor boys on St. Thomas's day and the residue for teaching the same children reading and the catechism. Two of the twelve were to be taught to write and cast accounts, and any surplus was to be spent on books. In 1751 Elizabeth Morgan, in accordance with the wishes of her deceased sister Anne Warre, gave £200 in trust, the interest to teach six boys, born and living in the parish, reading, writing, and arithmetic, to apprentice them, and provide 10s. for books. Parents were not to be in receipt of poor-relief and the pupils were only admitted when aged 8 or over and when they had learnt their primer. (fn. 251) William Mannin, schoolmaster, who died in 1785, probably taught under those charities. (fn. 252) In 1819 an income of £20 from both sources was paid to a parish schoolmaster, but the school was 'very badly attended, in consequence of the misconduct of the master'. (fn. 253) In 1835 there were 27 children in the school, the charity income being augmented by parental contributions. (fn. 254)
A small schoolroom was built on the SE. corner of Love Lane and North Street in 1838. (fn. 255) In 1846 this housed three schools, the infants there having 'been taught to think, but not too much'. (fn. 256)
A National school was built nearly opposite the church in 1856. (fn. 257) In 1868 there were 100 on the register, all under 10, with an average attendance of ninety. (fn. 258) In 1873 the rector's sister converted St. Gabriel's Cottage in North Street into a teachers' house, which was also used until 1899 for training girls of the parish for domestic service. (fn. 259) The National school had an average attendance of 117 in 1894. (fn. 260) By 1903 numbers on the register had risen to 155 and pressure on the limited space available resulted in the addition of a further room in 1909–10. (fn. 261) Gardening was added to the curriculum in 1912. The practice of taking children under 5 to relieve mothers engaged in gloving out-work was criticized in 1927 and the provision of a crêche suggested. (fn. 262) By 1938 numbers stood at 146, of which 41 were infants. (fn. 263) The income from the Rich and Morgan charities continued to be paid to the school until 1886 when, under a Scheme consolidating all the parish charities, between £12 and £25 was allotted to the advancement of education of Shepton children in the school, for the school's general maintenance, for rewards and prizes, or in paying a capitation grant of 2s. 6d. for each child. (fn. 264) The old custom of egg shackling, recorded at the school in 1891, was continuing in 1975. (fn. 265)
Efforts made by the curate to establish a Sunday school in 1818 were unsuccessful, although one with 100 pupils had 'recently' started in 1835, evidently held in the day-school room. The Wesleyans also then had a school. (fn. 266)
By 1868 two night schools for boys and girls, started by the rector's daughter, Julia Coles, were held in winter; reading, writing, the Bible, and the catechism were taught. (fn. 267) In 1872 Miss Coles and her brother, then rector, began four night schools for men, older and younger boys, and girls, and in 1873 a master from Bath was engaged for them and the Sunday schools. A night school for younger boys was revived in 1874 but discontinued in 1876 because of poor attendances. (fn. 268)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
In 1481–2 the reeve of the manor bought bread for 'the charity of St. Nicholas' with rent of a piece of land. (fn. 271) No other reference to the charity has been noted.
William Owsley, rector of Shepton (d. 1630), left £45 to buy ½ a. and build a hospital at Shepton for four poor men. (fn. 272) The charity is not mentioned thereafter but the bequest may have led to the use of the former church house as an alms- or poorhouse.
In the early 17th century William Drew and John Cogan purchased an annuity of £3 from the manor of Chedington (Dors.), then held by William Owsley, evidently for charitable purposes. From 1625 the annuity was distributed annually to the poor before Christmas Day. It was being paid to the second poor c. 1776. (fn. 273)
In 1641 the inhabitants of Shepton, having £160 for the poor, bought a rent-charge of £8 4s. 4d. from an estate in Curry Rivel. In 1824 the income was distributed to the second poor. (fn. 274)
Henry Wherriott of Shepton Beauchamp left £100 for apprenticing or to be distributed to the poor of the parish. The money was lent out to individuals and income of £6 was distributed to the poor in 1683. During the late 17th century £3 was usually given with each apprentice and the last distribution to the poor, for want of an apprentice, was made in 1695. In 1733 an annuity of £4 a year was purchased from an estate in South Petherton. The annuity was apparently not paid between 1755 and 1786, but after Chancery proceedings, the income continued to be used for apprentices. (fn. 275)
William Glanfield (d. 1732) left 9 a. of land in South Petherton in trust, the profits to be spent after his wife's death, which occurred in 1745, in binding poor boys as apprentices. In 1787 the income was £12 18s. 8d., subsequently rising to £24 c. 1800. The charity was misspent before 1824 'by binding out the worthless portion of the children . . . in the neighbouring parishes in order to get rid of the burthen'. At the same time there was nearly £262 in hand, more than half held by an insolvent trustee who could only pay 4s. in the pound. It was then suggested that any surplus from the charity might be devoted to the education of the poor. In 1881 the income stood at £23 a year. (fn. 276)
The charities had a long history of maladministration, the curate stating in 1819 that they were 'most flagrantly abused, as the feoffees embezzle the profits to the amount of a great many hundred pounds'. (fn. 277) In 1881 the charities together were producing an income of £45 9s. 4d. including bequests for education and £7 5s. used for the maintenance of the church house. Under a Scheme of 1886 all existing sources of income were consolidated under the title of the Shepton Beauchamp charities. From the income, £12 to £25 was reserved for education, up to £15 was to be spent on the deserving poor, and the residue used to apprentice poor children and to outfit those under 21 entering any trade or service. The church house was sold in 1935. The rentcharge on lands in South Petherton was redeemed in 1959, and land was sold in 1887, 1967, and 1969. In 1966 the income from investments and land totalled £85 19s. 8d. In that year £5 was granted for education, £15 for apprenticing, and £30 distributed to the poor at Christmas. (fn. 278)
Under the will of F. W. G. D. Robins (d. 1934) £200 was left to his trustees to pay £4 to the bellringers for a muffled peal on All Souls Day, to provide sweets for the infants of the parish on their birthdays, and for egg shackling, the residue to be devoted to general charitable purposes within the parish. (fn. 279) Surplus revenue from the charity, known as the Robins Trust, was used in 1953 to install electric lighting in the village streets. (fn. 280) The donor's intentions were being fulfilled in 1975.