A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The parish of Wambrook had an area of 1,867 a. in 1901. (fn. 1) In 1966 573 a. were transferred to the civil parish from that of Chardstock (Devon, formerly Dors.). (fn. 2) Wambrook lies 1¾ mile WSW. from Chard, extending for 2¾ miles east to west and 1¾ mile north to south. Formerly in Dorset, the civil parish was transferred to Somerset in 1896. (fn. 3) It was included in Beaminster hundred by 1286, in Sherborne hundred in 1346, and by 1428 again in Beaminster, known as the hundred of Beaminster and Redborne in the 19th century. (fn. 4) Its northern boundary, once that of Somerset, marches with Whitestaunton and Weston, a detached area of Combe St. Nicholas. To the east it is bounded by Chard, to the south and south-east by Chardstock, and to the west by Membury (Devon).
The parish is divided in two by a north-south ridge which rises to over 825 ft. in the north, and formed the northern end of Bewley down. To the east the land falls away to a valley lying along a fault line on the sides of which lie the two principal settlements of Higher Wambrook and Lower Wambrook, the lowest point being at 350 ft. on the SE. boundary at Castle wood. Further east the ground rises again to over 700 ft. West of the ridge, in the NW. part of the parish, lie the settlement of Wortheal, Bickham wood, and another valley, at the foot of which the land drops to 400 ft. Most of the higher ground is clay, the two valleys lying on bands of Upper Greensand over Lower Lias. There are also outcrops of chalk between the 500 and 600 ft. contours on the east side of the parish, and on the lias and chalk both stone and marl were dug from the 13th century. (fn. 5) Arable land lies principally on the high ground in the NE., and the upper slopes of both valleys together with the area around Wortheal are well wooded.
The principal road through Wambrook enters from Chard in the NE. along the parish boundary before turning SW. across Bewley down and leaving the parish in the SW. for Stockland and ultimately Honiton (Devon). This road was adopted by the Chard turnpike trust as the main route to Honiton in 1776. (fn. 6) Another road, also from Chard and known as Haselcombe Lane in 1509, (fn. 7) enters from the east, running SW. through Lower Wambrook and then west to Linnington before turning north to Lancin to link with the old turnpike road. The present main road from Chard to Honiton followed the same course through the north-west of the parish at the beginning of the 19th century and, under the Chard turnpike trust, became the main route to Honiton in 1811. Two variations in its line through Bickham wood were introduced in 1813 and 1814. The road had reverted to its former course by 1828. (fn. 8) Bewley down was a maze of tracks before inclosure in 1816 and in the early 19th century a lane ran north from the Cotley inn at Lower Wambrook following the contour to fields in the NE. of the parish. Higher and Lower Wambrook are linked by a lane from north to south past the church and other lanes link the parish with hamlets in Whitestaunton, Membury, and Chardstock. Palfrey's Lane, evidently named from a 17th-century yeoman family of Wambrook, runs NW. through the eastern corner of the parish and crosses the northern boundary at Cockcrow or Cockcrowing Stone, so called in 1765. (fn. 9)
The original settlement was probably in the area of the church, north of which lay the manor-house. Immediately south and SE. lies Lower Wambrook, known as Haselcombe by the 13th century, which includes Dinnetts Farm, named after another 17th-century family. (fn. 10) The second, and possibly later, hamlet of Higher Wambrook occurs as 'Higher Wambrook next the rectory' in 1533, (fn. 11) and includes Drakes, Wilmington, and Wambrook farms. The parish also includes several scattered and early farm sites. Linnington, SW. of Lower Wambrook, takes its name from 'the hill called Lullindone', mentioned c. 1200 (Lyllyngedoone in 1520), and Box Cottage there is called the Box, presumably from its hedged enclosure, in the 13th century. (fn. 12) In the extreme south of the parish Castle wood is recorded in 1422, probably the home of Laurence du Chastel in 1311. (fn. 13) Lancin farm in the centre of the parish occurs as Londenesham or Londesham in the 13th century (Lansham in 1517) and Wortheal in the NW. as Wrthiale or Wurthihale c. 1200. (fn. 14) A circular embanked and ditched enclosure, with associated field system, has been traced SW. of Wortheal farm-house, possibly of pre-Roman Iron Age date. (fn. 15) Also in the NW. are Loomcroft, found as a field-name in 1550, the site of Colemans, mentioned in 1517, and Coombes farm, purchased by the Combe family in 1567. (fn. 16) Dearhams on the SW. boundary was referred to as Dorham in the 13th century. (fn. 17) The other farms in the parish were generally established in the 19th century on lands inclosed from Bewley down. Mancroft takes its name from fields called Mannecrofts inclosed in 1421–2, Salt Box was mentioned in 1838 and is now known as Mounters Hill, and Shaggs Flood is so called from the Segge or Shegge family, living in the parish by 1509. (fn. 18) Oatlands, Downlands, and Broad Oak are all mid-19th-century creations. Broad Oak was probably built c. 1850 by Brian Charles Bordes, purchased c. 1862 by Thomas Palmer Deane (d. 1873), and has since been held by members of the Eames family. (fn. 19) Beulah Cottage at Higher Wambrook, which occurs as Balah Cottage in 1865, (fn. 20) is a corruption of Bewley. Houses of 17th-century origin are Loomcroft, Lancin (two on either side of the road), Dinnetts, and Drakes farms. Apart from these, most of the buildings are 19th century.
There were two licensed victuallers in the parish in 1720 and two inns there in 1753, the Old inn and the Royal Oak, both held by members of the Seaward family, innkeepers by 1723. The Old inn evidently changed its name to the Hare and Hounds between 1754 and 1757, being last recorded in 1760, and the Royal Oak was mentioned until 1759. References to other inns include the Rose and Crown (1761–70), the Red Lion (1762, later the White Hart, 1764), and the Bell (1765). (fn. 21) The New inn at Lower Wambrook, referred to in 1867, was known as the Cotley inn in 1975. (fn. 22)
The Cotley harriers, formed c. 1796 at Cotley in Chardstock by Thomas Deane, passed to his son Thomas Palmer Deane of Broad Oak in 1855. The hounds were subsequently kennelled at Broad Oak, the master in 1974 being Lt.-Col. R. F. P. Eames of Cotley, great-great-grandson of the founder. (fn. 23)
There were about 60 communicants in the parish c. 1600. (fn. 24) The population stood at 138 in 1801, rose sharply to 174 in 1811 and 201 in 1821, and then more gradually to 291 in 1871. Thereafter it declined to 201 in 1901, remaining fairly stable until a further drop to 174 in 1931. There was a slight increase to 177 in 1951 and numbers stood at 142 in 1961 and 167 (including the area transferred from Chardstock) in 1971. (fn. 25)
Sir Simonds D'Ewes (1602–50), antiquarian writer, born in Chardstock, was educated between 1611 and 1614 by Christopher Marraker, rector of Wambrook 1591–1621. (fn. 26)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
An estate of four hides at 'Awanbruth' was granted to the monastery of Sherborne (Dors.) between 802 and 839 by Egbert, king of the West Saxons. (fn. 27) The grant is probably to be linked with WAMBROOK, subsequently held with Chardstock manor, which had evidently been conveyed to Sherborne by King Cynewulf in the 8th century. (fn. 28) The possessions of Sherborne, formerly seat of a bishopric, were taken to endow the new see of Salisbury established in the 11th century, and Wambrook was probably included in the twelve hides assigned to Chardstock in 1086, when it was held by the bishop of Salisbury. (fn. 29) The bishop continued as overlord of the manor until at least 1540. (fn. 30)
The manor may have been held in 1086 by one of two knights, William and Walter, entered in Domesday under Chardstock. (fn. 31) It had been subinfeudated by the mid 12th century when the fee of Nicholas Oliver of Wambrook was quitclaimed to the bishop by Baldwin, earl of Exeter (d. 1155). (fn. 32) Jordan Oliver was holding one fee under the bishop of Salisbury in 1166 and the manor evidently continued in the Oliver family as a second Jordan Oliver was holding lands in Wambrook in the early 13th century. (fn. 33) The latter may probably be identified with Sir Jordan Oliver of Dorset, husband of Sibyl de Aumale, who was evidently succeeded by Jordan Oliver (III), a justice in eyre and sheriff of Somerset and Dorset 1239–40, who probably lived in the parish. (fn. 34) The latter was probably followed by his son Walter Oliver (fl. 1240–83). (fn. 35) The manor had passed by 1280 to an heiress, Sibyl Oliver, wife of Humphrey de Beauchamp of Ryme (Dors.), from whom she was divorced between 1287 and 1290. (fn. 36) By 1292 Sibyl had carried the manor to her second husband John de Aldham and in the following year Cecily, widow of John Beauchamp, Lord Beauchamp of Hatch, whose husband had acted as trustee for his brother Humphrey, unsuccessfully claimed dower in the estate. (fn. 37) In 1306 Sibyl Oliver granted the advowson and the reversion of the manor to John de Hertrugge and Nichole his wife, with a reservation for life to Sibyl's son William, and John and Nichole secured a quitclaim of the manor from Humphrey de Beauchamp two years later. (fn. 38) John de Hertrugge died in 1309 leaving a daughter Elizabeth, although Nichole retained her life-interest and was still holding the manor in 1330. (fn. 39) Sir John Streche (d. 1355) occurs as lord in 1346, possibly holding the manor at farm, and his son was born at Wambrook in 1341. (fn. 40) By 1354, however, the manor was held by John de Farnebergh and Elizabeth his wife, possibly daughter of John de Hertrugge, in which year they sold it to William son of John de Percy and Mary daughter of William Filoll (I) of Woodlands (Dors.) on their marriage, with remainder failing issue to the heirs of Willaim Filoll. (fn. 41) In 1390 the manor was quitclaimed to William Percy and Walter Clopton, Percy's tenant for life, by Thomas Beauchamp of Ryme, great-grandson of Humphrey, but Percy died in 1407 without issue. (fn. 42) Percy's widow Mary married secondly Richard Bannebury and in 1411 they granted the manor during Mary's life to William Filoll (II), grandson of William (I), for £20 a year. (fn. 43) William (II) and his wife Joan received a grant of the reversion from William's father John Filoll, and Joan entered on the manor after the death of Mary Bannebury. (fn. 44) Joan married secondly Sir William Cheyne and died in 1434, the manor descending on her death to her son John Filoll (d. 1468). (fn. 45) John's widow Margaret, who married secondly John Wroughton, evidently held a life-interest and in 1497 conveyed the lordship to her son William (later Sir William) Filoll (III). (fn. 46)
Sir William (d. 1527) left two daughters and coheirs, Anne wife of Sir Edward Willoughby and Catherine wife of Edward Seymour later duke of Somerset. (fn. 47) Catherine was 'repudiated' by her husband c. 1530, her children were disinherited, and the whole manor passed to Sir Edward Willoughby (d. 1540) and his wife. (fn. 48) Sir Edward's son Henry was succeeded by his son Sir Francis Willoughby. (fn. 49) In 1588 the latter sold the manor to Henry and George Drake of London to finance the building of Wollaton Hall (Notts.). (fn. 50) In the same year the Drakes, as a condition of their purchase, sold certain estates to nominees of Sir Francis, and in 1619 enfranchised most, if not all, of the lands within the manor. (fn. 51) Subsequently certain fractions of the lordship were claimed by the representatives of some of those purchasers.
A quarter of the manor was held by the Revd. Gamaliel Chase of Yarcombe (Devon) in 1677, when it was settled on his son, the Revd. John Chase, and the latter's wife Margaret for their lives with remainder to John's son Gideon. (fn. 52) It is not mentioned thereafter but probably descended with the advowson. (fn. 53)
A further quarter was evidently held by John Woolmington of Wambrook and Dorchester (d. 1717) and was divided between his daughters and coheirs, Frances and Mary. Frances married the Revd. Henry Hooton of Moreton (Dors.) who, with his daughter Frances wife of Thomas Hyde, conveyed his lands in trust for sale in 1768, when they passed to Sir Richard Glyn of London, Bt. Mary, the second daughter, married Robert Wadham of Poole (Dors.). Wadham was declared bankrupt in 1737 and his brother and assignee, Martin Wadham, disposed of the other moiety to Sir Richard Glyn, thus reuniting the quarter lordship. (fn. 54) Glyn (d. 1773) was succeeded in turn by his son Sir Richard Carr Glyn of Gaunts (d. 1838) and grandson Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn (d. 1868). (fn. 55) In the earlier 19th century this quarter is referred to as a moiety of the manor. (fn. 56) In 1881 Sir Richard George Glyn, nephew of Sir R. P. Glyn, sold his quarter to Sarah West, Richard Bowerman West, Richard John Bowerman, and Thomas Palmer Eames. (fn. 57) Evidently by virtue of this grant Richard B. T. West (d. 1900) occurs as lord in 1897 and his first cousin, Thomas Deane Eames (d. 1936), from 1902 to 1914. (fn. 58) This quarter was probably held in 1974 by the latter's nephew, Lt.-Col. R. F. P. Eames of Cotley, Chardstock. (fn. 59)
John Beviss (I) (d. c. 1791) was purchasing lands in Wambrook between 1764 and 1789 and acquired a share in the manor, termed a moiety in the earlier 19th century. He was succeeded in turn by his son John (II) (d. 1809) and grandson John (III) (d. 1840). The last left four sons between whom his lands and, presumably, his share of the manor was divided. (fn. 60) Manorial rights were claimed by the representatives of John Beviss at least until 1939. (fn. 61)
The manor-house and fruit and herbage of its garden were mentioned in 1309. (fn. 62) Repairs were made in 1421–2 to the chamber and hall of what was evidently the manor-house, and in 1508–9 and 1509–10 sums were spent on rethatching the courthouse. (fn. 63) In 1529 the churchwardens took a 60-year lease of the capital messuage and court barton for 4d. a year, and were ordered to repair their 'church house' in 1543. (fn. 64) A watercourse running to the court-house was mentioned in 1570, and a lease of the court-house to four persons was excepted from the sale of the manor in 1588. (fn. 65) When the manor was enfranchised the church house and Pounds Barton were sold with Drakes farm and continued to be mentioned at least until 1666. (fn. 66) The house evidently stood on part of Court mead north of the church.
On the break-up of the manor Drakes House, later Drakes farm, was sold in 1619 by Henry Drake to Simon Mathew of East Budleigh (Devon). Mathew settled the property on trustees for his granddaughters Honor, later wife of John Bowditch of Hawkchurch (Devon), and Mary, children of John and Agnes Drake. They, with their grandfather, sold the farm to Simon's daughter Honor Westcott in 1654, who conveyed it to her son Philip Westcott of Wambrook in 1661. Westcott sold it in 1666 to Richard Tirrel, a Chard sheargrinder. (fn. 67) By will proved in 1705 Tirrel left the farm to his granddaughter Rebecca, widow of John Smith of Honiton (Devon), subject to remainders in favour of the family of his nephew Michael Tirrel of Minehead. On Rebecca's death c. 1758 the property fell into moieties between John Hossem (d. 1778), a Dunster cabinet-maker and great-grandson of Michael Tirrel, and Thomas Warren, a Dunster carpenter and wheelwright, grandson of Michael Tirrel. The two moieties were purchased by Sir Richard Carr Glyn in 1796 from John Hossem's son John and from Thomas Warren, (fn. 68) and sold by Sir Richard George Glyn with his quarter of the manor in 1881.
In accordance with the wishes of Sir Francis Willoughby, Henry and George Drake conveyed two tenements called Haselcombe and Linnington with 160 a. of land to Thomas Estmond (d. 1607) of Lodge, Chardstock, in 1588. The lands passed from Thomas to his son Nicholas Estmond and thence to his granddaughter Mary, wife of Humphrey Coffin. (fn. 69) The estate was sequestered during the Interregnum for Humphrey's recusancy. (fn. 70) Mary Coffin conveyed the premises to her son John Coffin of Wambrook in 1670, who sold them to Robert Smith of Hawkchurch (Devon), later of Salisbury, M.D. In 1690 Dr. Smith (d. 1694) settled the estate with some lands in Chardstock on himself and wife for their lives with remainder to Wadham College, Oxford. The first £20 of the income was to be paid to the college chaplains and the residue to the moderators. The college retained the property until 1875 when it was sold. It then comprised 185 a. in Wambrook and Chardstock based on Linnington Barton. (fn. 71)
In 1309 the manor was valued at £6 1s. 11½d. a year, and the demesne included 180 a. of arable, 8 a. of meadow, several pasture worth 3s. 4d., wood and underwood worth 3s., and a water-mill. (fn. 72) A number of freeholds had been created in the previous century and more, at Wortheal before c. 1200, Lancin and Haselcombe, and by 1309 7 freehold tenants paid 20s. 0½d., while there were 17 villeins, 2 cottars, and 4 tenants rendering chevage (capitagiarii), paying total rents of 43s. 3d. (fn. 73)
Demesne leasing from 1421–2 increased the income of the manor from £15 2s. in 1416 to £25 13s. 5d., but by 1435 the value had fallen to £14 2s. The demesne holding in 1435 was 200 a. of arable, 12 a. of meadow, 20 a. of inclosed pasture, and 200 a. of hill pasture. (fn. 74) The value fell slightly in 1468, to £13 6s. 8d., but had returned to its earlier level by 1508–9, when the income was £21 13s. 11d. based on a rental of £20 13s. 6d. (fn. 75) The rental remained constant until 1573–4, in which year entry fines totalled £430. (fn. 76) After 1574 the income cannot be ascertained. Sir Edward Willoughby (d. 1540) called Wambrook 'the best manor that I have by my wife' and the family sold it for £2,400 in 1588. (fn. 77)
In 1550 the number of freeholders had fallen to two (Wortheal, and Mangerton in Netherbury, Dors.) (fn. 78) and there were 18 customary tenants sharing the demesne. The largest holding was 150 a., 5 tenants held between 50 a. and 70 a., 3 between 25 a. and 50 a., and 7 under 25 a. There were 15 a. of copyhold land at Yarcombe, part called Olyver's mead taking its name from the medieval lords. (fn. 79) There was by 1550 no indication of open fields, though field-names included North, South, East, West, and Middle fields, probably existing in the north-east of the parish before the 15th century. (fn. 80) That area was also the site of Langland where in 1570 the tenants of Higher Wambrook were required to repair the way 'used for carrying grain from the fields' and not to use the way after grain had been sown or before it was harvested. There were three customary tenants holding arable in Langland in 1550. (fn. 81)
Woodland provided a small but constant income for the manor. (fn. 82) Tenants were forbidden to cut underwood in Bickham wood in 1517 and one was fined for shrouding and lopping ash trees there in 1566. (fn. 83) Castle wood had been partly leased by 1530, comprised 45 a. held by two tenants in 1567–8, and by 1606 had been developed as the site of Castle Wood farm. (fn. 84) Bere wood had shrunk from 26 a. to 22 a. by 1567–8 and was later converted to pasture. By 1619 the northern part was held with Drakes farm, and by 1667 the southern section had passed to Wilmington farm. (fn. 85) Bickham wood was common to the tenants by 1517 and contained 60 a. with 100 oaks, ashes, and alders in 1550, when John Drake had the right to cut holly there. It had fallen to 40 a. by 1567–8, continued as common until the 1816 inclosure, and in 1975 formed the principal area of woodland in the parish. (fn. 86)
Bewley down, the largest area of common land within the manor, was pastured by all the tenants. By 1509 the lord had leased common pasture there to three residents of Southay in Whitestaunton. (fn. 87) In 1561 the tenant of Wortheal was illegally stocking the lord's common and Chardstock tenants had over-stocked it. (fn. 88) The hedge forming the northern boundary with Whitestaunton and Whitestaunton gate there were constantly out of repair in the 16th century. (fn. 89) The common contained 524 a. of furze and heath in 1567–8 and, with Bickham wood, 680 a. when inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1816. (fn. 90) In 1513 intercommoning with Whitestaunton tenants was practised on Southay hill, and in 1772 the vestry agreed to prosecute any person carrying furze, fern, or turf out of the commons. (fn. 91)
Of the early freeholds Wortheal had 70 a. and was valued at 32s. a year in 1541 when it passed from John Hody to his son John. (fn. 92) When the tenements were enfranchised at the break-up of the manor, John Legg acquired 120 a. at Haselcombe, Lancin, and Linnington in 1588 which subsequently formed Lancin farm and were still held by the Leggs in 1696. (fn. 93) The estate of 160 a. purchased in the same year by Thomas Estmond, of Lodge in Chardstock, included Castle Wood farm of c. 40 a. which descended to his grandson, Christopher Estmond of Gillingham (Dors.). (fn. 94) In 1701 Estmond sold the lands to John Deane whose family retained Castle Wood until its conveyance to John Tanner in 1814. The Tanners still held the farm in 1869. (fn. 95) John de Wolminton was witnessing Wambrook deeds in the early 13th century, and the Woolmington family had acquired lands of 90 a. by 1667 which eventually became known as Wilmington farm. John Woolmington (d. 1640–1) at his death had 80 sheep, 13 head of cattle, and 3 horses. (fn. 96) Combe farm, purchased by John Combe of Chardstock in 1667, was sold by his grandson in 1735 to Henry Hooton of Moreton (Dors.). Wilmington, Coombes, and Drakes farms, a total of 280 a., were acquired in the late 18th century by Sir Richard Carr Glyn. (fn. 97) John Beviss, of Weston in Combe St. Nicholas, was from 1764 purchasing lands in Wambrook amounting to over 300 a. in all, the largest holding being 145 a. bought in 1789 from the heirs of Le Roy White (d. 1777). (fn. 98)
By 1844 the largest landowners in the parish were the Beviss family with 306 a., including the newlycreated Wambrook farm, and Sir Richard Glyn with 282 a. Thomas Deane held 228 a. based on Dinnetts and Box, and John Deane 119 a. at Lancin. Wadham College, Oxford, had 185 a. at Linnington, James Benjamin Coles 181 a., including Wortheal, Thomas Mallock 120 a. at Dearhams, and the rector 103 a. including Shaggs Flood and Downlands. The largest farming units were then Wortheal with 170 a., Linnington with 161 a., Wambrook farm with 152 a., Dinnetts with 140 a., and three others, Drakes, Wilmington, and Lancin, with over 100 a. each. The parish then comprised 822 a. of grassland, 800 a. of arable, and 130 a. of coppice and woodland. (fn. 99) The principal 19th-century crops were wheat, barley, oats, and apples; flax dressers occur in 1791 and 1795 and a flax merchant, Joel Dampier of Loomcroft, in 1817. (fn. 100) The farming units continued relatively unchanged in 1975, although some of the larger holdings, such as at Wortheal, 218 a. in 1975, (fn. 101) had been extended.
A lease of a tenement in 1285 included licence to burn lime on the hill at Haselcombe. (fn. 102) Robert Pinney paid 8d. a year from 1547 until at least 1576 to dig stone at Whiteland on the waste of the lord and to build lime kilns there. (fn. 103) There are repeated references to four common marl pits in the manor from 1588, one of which lay in a close called Charlepitt in 1619, (fn. 104) and the scars left by quarrying operations and former lime kilns can be seen northeast of Lower Wambrook on either side of the road to Chard there, on the southern boundary of the parish near Oatlands, in the field called Whiteland on the northern boundary, in fields called Brookland east of Higher Wambrook, and in those called Snowdon on the north-western boundary. A further source of limestone lay in Haselcombe mead immediately south of Dinnetts farm in Chardstock parish. Chardstock had fewer sources of limestone than Wambrook and that may explain the tortuous nature of the parish boundary near Lower Wambrook. (fn. 105)
Being close to Chard, Wambrook had links with the cloth trade. A weaver occurs in 1551, and in 1561 Roger Glade, a yeoman, left his broad looms to his son John. (fn. 106) A John Glade, weaver, was mentioned in 1589 and it was probably he who was described as a coverlet-weaver at his death in 1626. He then possessed a pair of coverlet looms and two pairs of cloth looms. (fn. 107) A hosier occurs in 1663, a tailor in 1764, and there were four dressmakers in the parish in 1851. (fn. 108) With those exceptions the parishioners were almost wholly engaged in agriculture.
The manor included a water-mill worth 6s. 8d. a year in 1309 but the mill was not mentioned thereafter. (fn. 109) A pasture called Millewere and Courteorchard, evidently near the manor-house, was mentioned in 1513 and demesne meadow called Mylmede in 1520. (fn. 110) A lease of a way called the Milleway with the 'mill stream' was granted in 1552, and in 1841 fields called Millway lay west of the church on either side of a stream there. (fn. 111)
Manor court rolls survive in broken series for 1506–33, 1543, 1559–61, 1565–73. (fn. 112) Courts, described as curie or curie manerii, were usually held twice a year in April or May and September or October by 1422, and there was an isolated reference to a three-weekly court in 1414. (fn. 113) Apart from normal tenurial matters court business included repairs to buildings, common gates, and hedges, the scouring of ditches and watercourses, subletting without licence, entertaining persons of evil reputation, and the sale of pannage and windfall timber. No manorial officers were appointed by the court, which was summoned by a man serving as both bailiff and rent-collector. He was receiving a stipend of 6s. 8d. a year between 1509 and 1521, raised by 1550 to 13s. 4d. with the sale of branches of trees. A woodward occurred in 1521. (fn. 114)
There were two churchwardens from 1530 but only one from the late 17th century. (fn. 115) In addition to the wardens there were two economi between 1597 and 1610, possibly to be identified with the two sidesmen who occur in 1638. (fn. 116) There were also two overseers and a constable in 1642. (fn. 117) A poundkeeper was appointed by the vestry from 1772 and two 'reeves' between 1789 and 1792. From 1840 there were two churchwardens, two overseers, two waywardens, and a guardian. A salaried assistant overseer was appointed from 1878. (fn. 118)
In 1772 the churchwardens sold what was probably a poorhouse on Bewley down for £13 10s. and devoted the money to the use of the poor. (fn. 119) There was a poorhouse lying south of Wortheal farm by 1814 and another immediately south-west of the New Inn by 1844. (fn. 120) One of them, described as the parish house, was repaired by the churchwardens in 1841, and the poorhouse near the inn was occupied by a labourer, his family of four, and a lodger in 1851. (fn. 121) The poorhouse was repaired and rethatched in 1877–8 and the materials of an old cottage, probably the same building, were sold in 1897. (fn. 122) The parish became part of the Chard poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 123)
The chapel, later church, of Wambrook was first mentioned in a deed of 1215–20 by which Philip of Yarcombe, chaplain, probably the parish priest, acknowledged that the chapel was a member of the prebendal church of Chardstock. It had evidently formed part of the grant of that church to Salisbury cathedral by Gerbert de Percy before 1158. (fn. 124) As a member of the prebend the parish had to repair part of Chardstock churchyard wall in 1573 and payments for the repair of the wall and church 'hatches' there continued at least until 1811. (fn. 125) The benefice was a rectory by 1306 and so remained despite a fruitless attempt to treat it as a free chapelry and dissolve it in 1551. (fn. 126) The rectory was united with the livings of Combe St. Nicholas (where the incumbent lives) and Whitestaunton in 1974, and then transferred from the diocese of Salisbury to that of Bath and Wells.
The advowson was held with the lordship of the manor by 1306 and descended with it. (fn. 127) Rectors were presented by the Crown in 1416, presumably by lapse, and for single turns by George and John Swallow in 1555 and by William Estmond and Bernard Prince in 1591. (fn. 128) The patronage was granted to Alexander and Ann Brett of Whitestaunton in 1594, presumably for a single turn, and c. 1611 to George Thornhill of Thornhill in Stalbridge (Dors.). (fn. 129) The advowson was sold by the lord c. 1620 to John Chase of Membury (Devon) (d. 1641), who presented his son Gamaliel (rector 1621–45), when the rectory was stated to be held of the earl of Bristol as of Sherborne Castle. (fn. 130) Chase left the rectory to Gamaliel but the patronage was exercised by the Dorset Standing Committee in 1650. (fn. 131) The advowson passed from Gamaliel Chase's son John (rector 1648–9, 1662–81) to John's son Gideon Chase of Chard and Upottery (Devon), and in 1710 Gideon's son John sold it to William Bragg, of Sadborow in Thorncombe (Devon formerly Dors.), his mortgagee since 1706. (fn. 132) William (d. 1713) was succeeded in turn by his grandsons, William (d. 1726) and John Bragg (d. 1749), and from the last the advowson passed to his son John (d. 1786), and his grandson, John Bragg, all of Sadborow. (fn. 133) John Bragg sold the patronage to Charles Edwards of Chard (d. 1813) in 1796; Martha Edwards (d. 1842) presented in 1818, and Charles's son Henry (rector 1818–50) in 1850. (fn. 134) The son of the last, Henry Edwards (rector 1850–81) apparently sold the advowson to the Revd. H. H. A. Smith (assistant curate 1857– 62), patron from 1859 until at least 1880. (fn. 135) The advowson was held in 1882 and 1888 by Admiral John William Dorville of Great Malvern (Worcs.) and in 1894 by Dorville's executors. By 1901 it had passed to the Revd. Melville Russell Moore, by 1906 to the Revd. Frederick Williams, of Bettiscombe in Charmouth (Dors.), father of the rector presented in 1901, and between 1919 and 1921 to Williams's daughter, Mrs. Agnes Elsie Eames, who presented until 1948. The patron from 1952 was Mrs. Eames's son, Lt.-Col. R. F. P. Eames of Cotley, Chardstock, who became joint patron of the united benefice with the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1974. (fn. 136)
The benefice was valued in 1334 at £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 137) By 1405 an annual pension of £1 was payable by the rector to the prebendary of Chardstock, evidently in lieu of tithes, and in 1535 8d. was being paid to the vicar of Chardstock. The value of the church in the latter year rose to £8 7s. 0½d. net, (fn. 138) a total which fluctuated between £7 10s. and £9 until c. 1600. (fn. 139) The rectory was 'of mean value' in 1646 and provided £41 3s. 4d. gross in 1650. (fn. 140) Between 1831 and 1864 the living was stated to be worth £262, although the figure evidently referred only to the tithes, the gross income standing at c. £324 in 1879 and in 1883 at £317. (fn. 141) The payment of £1 a year to the owner of the great tithes of Chardstock was still continuing in 1795. (fn. 142)
Despite the parish's dependence on Chardstock all tithes belonged to the rector. In 1334 the tithes of mills, milk, oblations, and obventions were valued with the glebe at 27s. 10d. (fn. 143) By 1535 the income from tithes was £6 16s. 7d. (fn. 144) In 1612 the rector was claiming tithes in kind on corn, hay, wool, lambs, pigs, geese, hops, and apples, 1d. for the fall of a colt, and 4d. for a cow and calf. (fn. 145) The tithes were valued at £30 a year in 1650. Compositions agreed between 1789 and 1798 amounted to £53 6s. 6d. (fn. 146) The tithes were commuted in 1844 for a rent-charge of £264. (fn. 147)
Glebe land was mentioned in 1334, and in 1405 comprised 20 a. of arable and ½ a. of meadow. (fn. 148) Glebe rents produced 24s. 9d. in 1535, there were 17 a. of glebe in 1551, and two orchards and 24 a. of arable and pasture in 1612. (fn. 149) By 1650 there were 18¾ a. of glebe worth £11 3s. 4d. and the lands were leased for £10 a year between 1789 and 1798. (fn. 150) The rector received 12½ a. under the Inclosure Award of 1816, and in 1844 the glebe amounted to 26 a. (fn. 151) The lands were valued at £60 a year in 1879 and £48 in 1883, and comprised 27 a. in 1880. (fn. 152) Estimated at 29 a. in 1897 and 1919, the area had been reduced to 10 a. by 1923. (fn. 153)
The parsonage house was described in 1612 as having a hall, a buttery outside the entry, a chamber within the hall, a kitchen, and three chambers on the first floor. There was a barn, a stable for four horses, a stall for cattle, two gardens to the east of the hall, and two orchards west and south of the house. (fn. 154) It was called 'a handsome thatched house' in 1650 when it was valued at £2 a year. (fn. 155)
It was under repair in 1788 but was in a poor state in 1800, and in 1808 it was 'pulled down and rebuilt at very great expense by the patron Charles Edwards', so that 'but few houses belong to the church equal to it'. (fn. 156) The house, some distance from the church at Higher Wambrook and now a private dwelling called Oren, was replaced by a rectory-house built in 1907 and extended in 1932. (fn. 157)
John de Fordington, rector by 1310 until at least 1312, was ordained deacon only after his institution (fn. 158) and no rector is known to have been a graduate in the Middle Ages. Both John Loder, rector c. 1507–22, and Henry Staple, rector c. 1535 until at least 1551, served as receivers for the lord, and John Marraker, rector 1555–91, was probably related to the manor bailiff of 1565, Hugh Marraker. (fn. 159) John Marraker was evidently unpopular with his flock. About 1570 he was accused of not catechizing and in 1576 for preaching while unlicensed 'neither having knowledge therein'; he failed to read the service clearly, and was presented for immoral behaviour with a female parishioner. Between 1582 and 1585 he still did 'not read distinctly and with a voice intelligible to all the people' and, because of his 'insufficiency', most of the parishioners did not receive Communion three times a year. (fn. 160) Gamaliel Chase, rector 1621– 45 who held the living in plurality with Yarcombe (Devon), was imprisoned by the Parliamentary authorities for buying land from a royalist in 1641. Having surrendered part of the purchase money he was then imprisoned by the Royalists for so doing. On his release he fled to Exeter where he lived until its capitulation in 1646. Most of his personal effects and books at Wambrook were seized by the sequestrators and in 1646 he was fined for delinquency. (fn. 161) An appeal from Chase's wife and four children for their fifths out of his estate was denied while he continued to officiate at Yarcombe. (fn. 162) Henry Backaller, rector c. 1645–8, was allowed £12 2s. 1½d. from the rent of Chardstock manor in 1646 (fn. 163) but had removed to Somerset by 1648. The Dorset Standing Committee presented John Chase, Gamaliel's son, in 1648 but he was also sequestered for delinquency in the following year and William Randall, 'an idle, sottish fellow', was presented in 1650. (fn. 164) By 1662 Randall had been ejected and John Chase restored, and the Chases continued to occupy the rectory until 1716. (fn. 165) Assistant curates occur regularly from the 17th century until c. 1882, (fn. 166) and served the parish in the absence of the rectors during the later 18th century. (fn. 167) Henry Edwards the elder, rector 1818–50, was involved in 1829 in a pamphlet battle with Richard Towers, a Roman Catholic priest of Taunton, about James Il's complicity in the Bloody Assizes. (fn. 168) Edwards's son, Henry, rector 1850–81, was non-resident and held the living with Churchstanton. (fn. 169)
In 1405 the church goods included a latten cross, at least ten service books, and, among other vestments, a frontal embroidered with beasts. (fn. 170) By 1552 the incumbent held a silver chalice parcel gilt, two copes, and five banners (one of silk), most of them seized by Edward VI's commissioners. (fn. 171) Between 1582 and 1585 it was presented that Holy Communion was often not celebrated three times a year, that the curate had failed to administer it to a sick woman, and had refused it to one couple at Easter. (fn. 172) In 1663, after the Restoration, the Communion table needed repair, and in 1674 the church was without a Communion flagon. (fn. 173) From 1736 Holy Communion was usually administered three or four times at the major feasts and in 1743 payment was made for guarding 'a lunatic person for interrupting the congregation in time of service'. (fn. 174)
In 1842 morning and evening Sunday services were held alternately with attendances of 100–150 on summer evenings and half that number in the morning. Holy Communion was being celebrated three times a year and the average number of communicants was about fourteen. The rector then had difficulty in getting the poor to attend, as the farmers paid their labourers on Sundays and the women stayed at home to prepare meals. (fn. 175) By 1864 both morning and afternoon services with sermons were being held, with attendances of 50 in the morning and 150 in the afternoon in fine weather, the number of communicants having risen to 30. The two services attracted similar attendances in 1870 and 1879 and monthly celebrations of Holy Communion had been introduced by the former year. (fn. 176)
The former manor-house was leased to the churchwardens as a church house for 60 years in 1529 and continued to be called the church house between 1543 and 1666. (fn. 177)
The church of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY was described as so dedicated in 1362; (fn. 178) in 1405 it was said to be undedicated but the principal altar was consecrated to the Virgin's honour. The church is built of Ham stone rubble with ashlar dressings and has a chancel, nave with north and south porches, and west tower. The chancel is of 13th-century origin but has been much rebuilt in the 19th century. The nave, porches, and tower were all built or rebuilt in the 15th century but are also much restored. There was a bell tower by 1405. (fn. 179) In the 1560s the roof was thatched and shingled, but it was leaded by 1613. (fn. 180) Proposals for rebuilding the church in 1860 were evidently not executed, and in 1892 a faculty was obtained for taking down the chancel, with the exception of the south wall, renewing the roof and upper part of the wall of the nave, and building a vestry room to the north of the chancel. At the same time most of the furniture and fittings were replaced. (fn. 181)
In 1552 there were four bells in the tower, a lych bell, and two sacring bells. (fn. 182) In 1975 there were five bells: (i and ii) 1892, John Warner and Sons, London; (iii and iv) early 14th century, Bristol foundry; (v) 1509–46, Thomas Jeffries, Bristol. The first and second bells were recast from the old tenor, a 15th-century bell, probably from the Exeter foundry. The third and fourth are the earliest bells in the old county of Dorset. (fn. 183)
The plate includes a silver chalice of 1621 inscribed inside 'given to this challis by me Cristover Maricker pastor of Wambrook the some of xxxv s.' (fn. 184) The registers date from 1653 but there are gaps in the marriage register for 1715–18, 1720–30, 1734–54, and in the burial register for 1733–76. (fn. 185)
Two persons were presented in 1665 for not coming to church or receiving communion, and were called 'schismatical' in the following year. One of them was declared to be 'inconformable' in 1667 and continued to be presented at least until 1683. John Coffin, gentleman, was presented as a popish recusant in 1674. (fn. 186)
Bible Christians met once in the parish in 1825, and there was one Baptist in 1864, although she was also 'a regular attendant at church and communion'. (fn. 187) There were 'very few' dissenters in 1879. (fn. 188) Wesleyan Methodists met in the kitchen of Loomcroft Farm from c. 1900 and built a small chapel in 1908 in the north of the parish, west of Higher Wambrook, on the Chard road. The building, derelict in 1975, seems also to have served Whitestaunton. Services had ceased by 1961 when it was sold. (fn. 189)
Christopher Marraker, rector 1591–1621, was taking private pupils in 1614. One of them commented that, although an excellent teacher and a man of learning, Marraker 'had no regard to the souls of his scholars . . . never causing them to take notes of his sermons in writing, or so much as to repeat any one note they had learned out of them'. (fn. 190)
In 1818 there was no school in the parish and the farmers were averse to a Sunday school. (fn. 191) There was a Sunday school by 1842 and a school-house had been built on a site north of the church by 1845 for a National school. (fn. 192) A new school was built on the same site c. 1862, on land given by Sir R. P. Glyn. (fn. 193) Evening schools were opened during the winter of 1863–4 and again in 1868–9, 1869–70, and 1878–9. The average attendance at the dayschool was 22 in 1870, although the children were then leaving at the age of 8 or 9. (fn. 194) The buildings were enlarged in 1875, and by 1903 the average attendance had risen to 36, when there were 47 children on the books. In 1903 the school had two teachers, there was a teacher's house, two schoolrooms, and an evening school was again being held. (fn. 195) Numbers on the books rose to 57 in 1918 but fell to 45 in 1928. In 1935 the school took juniors and infants; older children were transferred to Combe St. Nicholas. After the Second World War the number of pupils remained fairly steady at about fifteen. The school was closed in 1963 and children have since attended school in Chard. (fn. 196) The buildings were unoccupied in 1975.
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
In 1842 there were stated to be no charitable endowments, but there was 'a small and inconsiderable property', the income from which was devoted to the use of the poor. (fn. 197) Thomas Deane Eames, by will proved in 1936, left £500 in trust for the repair of the church or its general benefit and the relief of the poor. The income, which was over £22 in 1966, has been used for church repairs and other expenses, there being insufficient money to assist the poor. (fn. 198)