A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The parish of Misterton lies immediately southeast of Crewkerne, its name, a contraction of 'Minsterton', indicating its former dependence on the mother-church of that town. (fn. 1) The village is sited about 1½ mile from Crewkerne on the main road to Dorchester. It has an area of 1,361 a. and extends for 2½ miles from NE. to SW. and up to 1½ mile from NW. to SE. The NE. boundary with North Perrott is marked by the river Parrett and the remainder of the eastern and part of the southern boundaries with South Perrott and Mosterton (both Dors.) are formed by a tributary of the same river known at successive points along its course as Brimble Water, Misterton Water, and South Perrott Water. The parish adjoins Seaborough (Dors. formerly Som.) to the SW. and has an irregular and evidently later western boundary with Crewkerne. (fn. 2)
The south of the parish is dominated by Knowle hill, which rises to 587 ft. The land falls away to 250 ft. in the area of the village and below 150 ft. on the northern boundary with the Parrett. The centre of the parish lies mainly on Inferior Oolite with clay in the NW. The SW. is principally undifferentiated 'head' with Yeovil Sands and small outcrops of Upper Greensand and Gault. (fn. 3) A number of limekilns and quarries, generally disused by 1903, were formerly worked in the SE. of the parish. (fn. 4) Apart from the Parrett and the stream along the boundary the principal water is the mill stream which rises in the SW. and flows NE. through the village, formerly powering mills at the present Mill Farm before flowing into the Parrett on the NE. boundary.
The most important route through the parish is the main Crewkerne-Dorchester road, turnpiked by the Crewkerne trust in 1765, which runs south as Station Road to Misterton cross roads, where it turns E. and then SE., continuing as Middle Street through the village and subsequently to South Perrott. It was along this road that the village developed, extending east from the neighbourhood of the church. Earthworks south of the 'Manor House' suggest shrinkage of settlement in this area. At the eastern end of the village expansion had taken place along Silver Street to the NE. by the 17th century. South-east of the village is a second cross roads where a turnpike gate and toll house were sited by 1770, still standing in 1903. (fn. 5) The road leading thence south to Mosterton and eventually to Bridport (Dors.) leaves the parish over Bluntsmoor bridge and was also turnpiked in 1765; the route north across the Parrett at Gray Abbey bridge (called Ree bridge in 1770) to North Perrott was adopted in 1825. From 1765 the Crewkerne trust had responsibility for a road west from Misterton cross roads over Cathole bridge to Roundham in Crewkerne and eventually to Chard. (fn. 6) Church Lane, running south to the church from Misterton cross roads, was diverted away from the 'Manor House' grounds in 1831 and a western access to Manor Farm in front of the 'Manor House' was replaced by one from the north. (fn. 7) Within the village Unity, formerly Clarks, Lane runs north, taking its name from Unity Cottages, built in 1866, (fn. 8) and Silver Street extends NE. from Middle Street, turning east to join the North Perrott road. From the west end of the village Knowle Lane runs south, then SW. to meet the Mosterton-Hewish lane in Crewkerne, which crosses the SW. corner of the parish. From Knowle Lane Ducks Field Lane runs across the Mosterton road at Ducks Field Crossing and continues to Seaborough. Green, Rose, Melancholy, and Swan lanes are all field access tracks.
Older Ham-stone building survives mainly around the church, along the west side of Silver Street, and beside the stream to the north and west, and there are a number of farm-houses of traditional 17th-century type in the two latter areas. Most surviving housing along Middle Street, linking the earlier development, is 19th century in date. At the NW. approach to the village the opening of Crewkerne station in 1860 on the Salisbury-Exeter line, (fn. 9) running east—west across the parish to the north of the village, has resulted in almost continuous development from Misterton cross roads along Station Road to Crewkerne. Most 20th-century building has been concentrated between Silver Street and the North Perrott road and in 1976 was continuing in that area. All the early farm sites lay within the village. Well Spring Farm, east of the village on the Dorchester road, had been built by 1886; (fn. 10) Langley Farm in the west and Knowle Farm in the south of the parish are both 20th century.
Except for its eastern part, most of the parish was occupied by open arable fields, although their extents can be only approximately traced. (fn. 11) North of the village lay North field, south of the village South field, including Middle and Colebrooke furlongs, and possibly SE. of the village was East or Middle field, including the later Little and Lathalon fields. It was probably North field that by 1606 had been divided into the three fields of Nethertown and the remainder which in the same year formed the two fields of Overtown. (fn. 12) The name South field survives in a number of closes in the extreme SW. of the parish, but these may refer to Henley farm in Crewkerne which is bounded on the south by a 'hook' of Misterton land. The former open meadow and pasture in the east and NE. of the parish evidently once included a large low-lying area known as Marsh and a smaller tract between the Mill stream and Rose Lane called Eastbrooks. New Closes, to the NW. of the Mill stream, were probably also medieval meadow and pasture.
In 1672 the churchwardens paid for a warrant 'to warn away the new innkeeper'. (fn. 13) The 'little ale house going to South Perrott' occurred in 1729 and was probably the White Swan, mentioned in 1737. (fn. 14) The house shortened its name to the Swan by the late 18th century, (fn. 15) and in 1976 still stood on the south side of the road at the SE. limit of the village. The George was mentioned in 1770 and the Four Alls, which occupied part of the present Hillview Riding Stables in Middle Street, occurred from 1835–6 and had been converted to a reading room by 1903. (fn. 16) The New Inn was referred to in 1837–8, evidently lying in Silver Street, and the Globe Inn, standing in 1976 on the north side of Middle Street beside the mill stream, was mentioned in 1866. (fn. 17) The Masons' Arms at the northern end of Silver Street had opened by 1872 and was continuing in 1909, although the building was subsequently demolished. The Queen, later the Queen's Hotel, was opened in 1886 and stands beside the railway station on the northern parish boundary. (fn. 18) The number of inns mentioned from the 19th century reflects the importance to the village of traffic between Crewkerne and Dorchester. The churchyard contains a gravestone erected by subscription to the memory of Mary Gear (d. 1876) 'for the faithful discharge of her duties as messenger and errand woman between the village and Crewkerne'. (fn. 19)
A male Friendly Society occurs between 1881 and 1913, and its female counterpart between 1895 and 1902. (fn. 20) A 'house of help' was started c. 1902 by C. J. H. Locke, vicar 1901–14, for young girls who were 'homeless, rescued from bad surroundings, totally destitute, or those who need a helping hand'. It continued until 1909. (fn. 21) A War Memorial recreation ground was established in 1921 to the north of the village in Unity Lane. (fn. 22)
There were 40 households at Misterton in 1563. (fn. 23) The population was 368 in 1801 and remained fairly constant until it rose to 460 in 1831 and thereafter, gradually, to 588 in 1861. A slight fall to 556 in 1871 was followed by a sharp increase to 670 in 1881, probably the result of an influx of country people into the Crewkerne district during the agricultural depression. Subsequently the population was relatively stable, but fell from 681 in 1901 to 522 in 1931. Since the Second World War there has been a slow but steady rise to 530 in 1951 and 590 in 1971. (fn. 24)
The Revd. Arthur Collier (1680–1732), a writer of metaphysical and religious works, inherited the 'Manor House' estate from his mother, and may have lived and worked in the parish. (fn. 25) Helen Mathers (1853–1920), authoress of Comin' thro' the Rye and other novels, was born at Old Court and wrote some of her books there. (fn. 26)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
Misterton was part of Crewkerne manor in the Middle Ages. (fn. 27) A manor of MISTERTON was mentioned from 1465 until at least 1611, purely as a fiscal convenience, though no manorial administration distinct from that of Crewkerne ever developed. (fn. 28)
In the late 13th century the lord of Crewkerne granted two virgates of land to John and Joan Michel, formerly tenanted by Alexander de Wottesdone, to be held by them and their male heirs, and in default to revert to Crewkerne manor. This was evidently the holding whose fee passed to the Spoure family, later of Trebartha, Northill (Cornw.), by grant of 1399 and which was known during the Middle Ages as 'Sporisplace'. (fn. 29) Philip Spoure was succeeded by his son, William Spoure of Misterton, whose son Thomas married the heir of Trebartha and subsequently moved to Cornwall. Their grandson, Thomas Spoure, had a son Henry (d. 1603), who leased the estate to his brother Digory for three years in 1585. By 1599 it had been sold to Robert Merifield (d. 1608), who was succeeded by his son Edward (d. 1645). (fn. 30) Thereafter the property passed to the Hallett family of Misterton, probably through Katherine wife of Barnaby Hallett. Her son, Merifield Hallett (d. 1718), apparently held it by 1660, and was followed in turn by his brother Barnaby (d. 1724) and niece Grace (d. 1761–2), wife of William Cox of Crewkerne. (fn. 31) Her son, the Revd. William Cox (d. 1781–2), was succeeded by his son, the Revd. William Trevelyan Cox (d. 1812), and grandson, William Hody Cox (d. 1834), successively of Chedington Court (Dors.). (fn. 32) The son of the last, William Trevelyan Cox, sold the Misterton house to the Revd. Burges Lambert (d. 1843), whose son, William Charles Lambert, conveyed it to Viscount Portman in 1870. (fn. 33) During the 19th century it was usually known as Misterton Lodge, but by 1931 it had been given its present name, Old Court, by Major A. A. Crossley, who purchased it from Lord Portman in 1924. (fn. 34) Since that time it has passed through a number of different hands and been subdivided into separate dwellings.
The old house, which is depicted in a drawing of c. 1700, (fn. 35) comprised a north-south central range with end wings, that on the north being partly occupied by a barn. This plan still underlies the existing house, the southern range having been the service wing and that on the north, rebuilt in the 18th century, stables and outhouses. A new block was added in the centre of the south front in the 19th century to provide more spacious family rooms.
An estate emerged during the 17th century based on the union of several leasehold properties and farmed initially from Manor farm and later from the 'Manor House'. The nucleus of the property was probably created by William Curry (d. 1644–5), succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1663). (fn. 36) Thence it passed to William Elsdon, possibly husband of Thomas's widow, and between 1671 and 1674 to Ann Curry, who married the Revd. Arthur Collier (d. 1697) of Steeple Langford (Wilts.) in 1675. The son of the last, another Revd. Arthur Collier (d. 1732), was succeeded by Genevra Collier, widow, possibly his sister-in-law. (fn. 37) By 1743 the lands had passed to Margaret Collier, widow of Arthur, in which year she mortgaged them to Sir Edward Smyth. Smyth or his representatives foreclosed on the mortgage and in 1756 sold the estate to Thomas Hallett of Henley, Crewkerne (d. 1789). Hallett left the lands to John Hallett of Whitelackington (d. 1838), probably his nephew, subject to a life interest in the house for his widow Mary (d. 1790). On John's death the property was inherited by his widow, Maximilla (d. 1845), who in 1840 conveyed it to her son William (d. 1845), reserving to herself a life interest in the house. Thereafter it was held by William's widow, Sarah, until her death in 1855. (fn. 38) In 1856 the property was sold to W. C. Lambert who conveyed it to Lord Portman in 1871. Stripped of its lands, the house was purchased by the Portman agent, Henry Parsons (d. 1897), whose son, R. M. P. Parsons, was still holding it in 1932. (fn. 39) In 1976 the property was occupied as three distinct dwellings. An Lshaped portion of a 17th-century house became the service wing for a mid-18th-century house with five-bay fronts to the north and south. Additions to the west of the older range and in its angle were made in 1878. (fn. 40) To the south of the house is a large sunken walled garden, probably of 18th-century origin. (fn. 41) Manor Farm, (fn. 42) possibly the former capital messuage of the estate, is a substantial early17th-century house built on an L-shaped plan with two storeys and gable chimney-stacks. Later in the 17th century the interior was remodelled and a porch with room above was added in the centre of the main front. Extensive farm buildings, mainly 19th century in date, have been converted into dwellings.
Misterton evidently lay under the tenurial and economic influence of Crewkerne throughout the Middle Ages. The whole parish was included within Crewkerne manor, the services and customary payments of its 22 villeins being valued at 30s. in 1274. (fn. 43) All that distinguished it from the parent settlement was a render of twelve ewes at Whitsun known as 'Hock ewe', recorded from 1292. Customary payments in wheat at the winter sowing and barley at the Lenten sowing were also being made by 1295. (fn. 44)
The only early freehold, later centred on Old Court, probably had its origin in a grant of two virgates c. 1300, which included common pasture for eight oxen in Crewkerne manor. The property conveyed to the Spoure family in 1399 was relatively small, having an area estimated at 50 a. in 1599 and at 100 a. a few years later. (fn. 45)
By the 15th century Misterton was being treated as an individual manor for fiscal purposes, valued at £20 10s. in 1484, although all court business continued to be transacted at Crewkerne. (fn. 46) Its net income totalled £36 11s. 6d. between 1515 and 1545, the only expenses being the 10s. paid annually to the reeve. (fn. 47) In 1599 there were 33 copyhold tenants holding nearly 1,450 a., paying rents of £36 14s. 3d., and one freeholder with 100 a. The two largest holdings of 90 a. and 86 a. were occupied by John Norris and Hugh Farnham respectively, both members of two of the oldest yeoman families in the parish. Of the remainder, 18 tenants had between 40 a. and 60 a. and 8 between 20 a. and 40 a. (fn. 48)
As at Crewkerne the subdivision of the manor led in the earlier 17th century to the progressive enfranchisement under 3,000-year leases of ¾ of each holding, the remaining ¼ being retained by the Poulett family and let out on 99-year leases for lives until sold to the tenants in 1810–11. (fn. 49) This acquisition of land by the farmers resulted in the creation of larger units and many more smallholdings. The principal estate was amassed by the Curry family and, when held in 1789 by John Hallet, contained at least 257 a. centred on the 'Manor House'. (fn. 50) The Poulett quarter of the manor produced rents of £160 10s. 1½d. in 1729 from 35 leasehold tenants and 3 copyholders. This figure fell to £115 12s. 11d. from 25 tenants by 1749, and rose slightly to £117 10s. 4d. in 1780. (fn. 51) By 1840 the Hallett property had grown to 402 a., of which 380 a. were leased to the occupier of Manor farm. There were only two other extensive holdings: lands retained by Lord Poulett of 148 a. and Maria Lowman's property of 141 a., and there were three other farms of over 50 a. (fn. 52)
There were 12 farmers in the parish by 1861, 11 in 1883, and only 6 between 1894 and 1919. Subsequently the number of farms increased to 10 in 1931, and in 1939 there were 3 of over 150 a. and 10 others. (fn. 53)
The three open fields of the late 16th century, North, South, and Middle or East fields, then totalled 593 a., although a further 71 a. were then described as recently inclosed, and other arable areas in South field and meadow and pasture in New Closes, Marsh, and Eastbrooks had evidently been inclosed not long before. (fn. 54) By 1606 the fields had been subdivided and open arable comprised the three fields of Nethertown and the two fields of Overtown. (fn. 55) Enfranchisement during the 17th century encouraged the allotment of open arable, and by 1770 there were only 39½ a. in four fields, the largest being North field with 28½ a.; there were a further 5 a. of meadow in Winterfield common meadow. (fn. 56) The amount of open arable had fallen to 36 a. by 1840 and the remaining strips were inclosed during the 19th century. (fn. 57) In 1840 there were 577 a. of arable and 702 a. of meadow and pasture, and by 1905 there was more than twice as much grassland as arable. (fn. 58)
Misterton's proximity to Crewkerne led to the development of small-scale industry. Tallow chandlers and soapboilers occurred in 1566, 1706, 1728, and 1732, (fn. 59) and clothiers, sergeweavers, and woolstaplers regularly from 1678. The clothing trade occupied some of the leading families in the parish, including the Farnhams, Daubeneys, and Brices. (fn. 60) A fishmonger, probably supplying Crewkerne market, was mentioned between 1694 and 1699, and a sack-cloth maker of 1705 was evidently linked with the same trade there. (fn. 61) Weavers were common in the earlier 19th century and there were 47 in the parish in 1851. In the latter year there were also twenty glovers, two tinmen, a girth manufacturer, and a dog-breaker. (fn. 62) The opening of the railway in 1860 and the siting of Crewkerne station within the parish led to a number of the railway employees moving into the village and also to the development of trading depots around the station site itself. Bradford and Sons and the Somerset Trading Company, both dealers in coal, timber, and slate, had premises there by 1894. They had been joined by two oil traders and the West of England Sack Hiring Company by 1914; in 1939 there were four cattle-food manufacturers and a corn merchant. (fn. 63) Other traders referred to included a gravestone cutter, John Potter (d. 1880), whose handiwork is perpetuated in the churchyard, an accountant in 1882, a 'professor' of music in 1885, a haulier in 1902, and an estate agent in 1906. (fn. 64) A firm making 'poultry, pigeon, and cage-bird appliances, rope, twine, and nets' had opened by 1914 and was installed by 1923 in the Enterprise works, specializing in the manufacture of sports nets. (fn. 65) The Misterton egg-packing station occupied an extensive site east of the village in 1976.
A mill known as Paddokeslake was mentioned in 1292. (fn. 66) In 1548 half of this mill formed part of the endowment of the chantry of the Virgin in Crewkerne churchyard, when it was occupied by William Ash, and in 1549 it was sold to Robert Wood of London. (fn. 67) It continued to be occupied by the Ash family until at least 1611–12, when 3,000-year leases of ¼ of the mill were purchased. (fn. 68) By 1618 it had passed to Henry Palmer, who then took a further 3,000-year lease on ½ of the mill. The remaining ¼ continued to be leased under the Poulett family until 1811. (fn. 69) The ownership descended to the Lidden family, bought out in 1694 by Barnaby Hallett, who sold it in 1699 to Ralph Gillingham (d. 1729) of Yetminster (Dors.), who subsequently became the Misterton miller. (fn. 70) The Gillinghams held the mill until another Ralph (d. 1802) left it to his nephew William Daubeny. By 1811 the existing mill, called Gillingham's mill, had been demolished, and in 1819 Daubeny leased the site to John Hopkins Brice, miller, on condition that Brice should build a stone mill-house and a flour mill with all necessary machinery. This had been completed by 1821 when a further agreement was drawn up for the building of a dwelling-house and bakehouse oven. (fn. 71) Brice was still there in 1840, although the premises were occupied in 1851 by Thomas Stembridge. (fn. 72) Robert Lawrence was miller there between 1861 and 1894, and Henry Newberry, also a farmer and cattle dealer, between 1897 and 1902. The mill had evidently ceased operating by 1906 (fn. 73) and since that time has been known as Mill Farm. The present mill building is probably that built by Brice c. 1820.
Although it was a distinct civil and ecclesiastical parish, Misterton was a tithing within Crewkerne manor. No courts appear to have been held for Misterton but in 1599 a reeve was elected at Michaelmas by the homage of Misterton and Crewkerne Parva to collect the rents for both tithings. (fn. 74) 'The four men' of Misterton appear to have taken administrative decisions c. 1600. (fn. 75)
The parish had two churchwardens by 1576 and until 1704, two sidesmen in 1628 and 1634, two overseers of the poor by 1644, and two waywardens by 1659. (fn. 76) A single churchwarden was appointed from 1705, replaced in 1754 by a man serving as a salaried deputy churchwarden and overseer, an appointment which continued until 1810. Thereafter a people's warden and a vicar's warden were nominated. The 19th-century vestry appointed two overseers of the poor, one waywarden, and, in 1852, two constables. The officers were augmented by a salaried waywarden from 1843 and a salaried overseer from 1844. (fn. 77)
In addition to normal items of expenditure the churchwardens were frequently charged for highway repairs in the 17th century and also for relieving the large number of travellers, which rose to 130 in 1668, and 138 in 1675. (fn. 78) From 1687 no further payments were to be made to travellers, for killing vermin, or for briefs. (fn. 79)
Poorhouses were mentioned in 1683. (fn. 80) In 1840 the poorhouses stood at the western end of the village in Silver Street. In 1845 the vestry agreed to lease them, and the houses were last mentioned in 1853. (fn. 81) They survived in 1976 as converted dwellinghouses. The parish joined the Chard poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 82)
The existence of a chapel (later church) of Misterton may be presumed from at least the mid 13th century, when tithes and other dues were payable by the parishioners to the mother church of Crewkerne. (fn. 83) The incumbents, known by that time, most unusually, as rectores curati, had acquired both glebe and a share of the tithes. (fn. 84) By 1317 they were admitted by the bishop and not by the rector of Crewkerne, even though the chapel was a dependency of the mother church. Until the 15th century they were appointed by successive members of the Courtenay family as patrons of Crewkerne. (fn. 85) Between 1428 and 1517 the curacy was apparently suppressed and annexed to the third or subdeacon's portion of Crewkerne rectory. (fn. 86) It was probably served by curates acting for the normally absentee rectors, but after the suppression of the rectory of Crewkerne in the mid 16th century the incumbents of Misterton, again known as rectores curati, (fn. 87) were appointed and paid by the lessees of the Crewkerne rectory estate. In 1633 the patronage was disputed and the farmer of Crewkerne rectory and two Crown nominees were involved. (fn. 88) Henry Masters was instituted in 1633 but during his tenure Nathaniel Nosse obtained letters patent as 'rector curate' in 1634. Nosse, however, was never instituted and Masters occurs as rector between 1637 and 1642, trying vainly in 1641 to establish his claim also to the advowson. (fn. 89) From 1661, when the Crown presented, incumbents have been called vicars. (fn. 90) Later the patronage was exercised like that of Crewkerne, in 1681 by the farmer of the rectory and thereafter by the Winchester chapter. In 1908 the gift was transferred from the chapter to the Lord Chancellor, patron in 1976. (fn. 91) The living was suspended in 1971 and was served with Haselbury Plucknett and North Perrott in 1976.
The church was valued at 5 marks in 1315 and 1377. (fn. 92) In 1575 the curate's stipend was £10. (fn. 93) He was obliged to pay £3 a year from his tithe income c. 1600 to relieve travellers and for other 'necessary uses'. (fn. 94) The benefice was augmented in 1658, in 1733 by the then incumbent, Nathaniel Forster, and in 1784 by Mrs. J. Perceval's trustees. (fn. 95) In 1733 the stipend from the third portion of Crewkerne was said to provide £49 11s. (fn. 96) The value was c. £170 in 1815, of which £40 was to be paid to an assistant curate. By 1827 it had risen to 'under £300' and the curate's stipend to £140. (fn. 97) The net income was given as £162 in 1831. (fn. 98) The living was again augmented in 1858, by £500, and was worth £196 in 1861. (fn. 99)
In the 13th century the 'rector curate' received from most of the parish tithes of wax and honey, apples and other fruit, leeks, onions, grass, and 'other things' from all but cottars, the personal tithes of cottars, tithes of servants' wages, and the sheaves of his own glebe. Tenants and cottars of 'Sporisplace', a freehold centred on Old Court, paid half the tithe of lambs and wool to Misterton and half to Crewkerne. (fn. 100) In the time of Mark Winter, curate 1585–1607, composition payments were levied on hemp, apples, kine, and calves. (fn. 101) Customary moduses payable to the vicar in the earlier 19th century included 8d. for a cow and calf, 3d. for tithe hay from every piece of ground of 24 a., 1s. for the fall of a colt, 1d. for a garden, and 1d. for a cock. At the commutation of tithes in 1840 £205 was awarded to the impropriator of Crewkerne rectory for the great tithes and £70 to the vicar of Misterton. (fn. 102)
Glebe land in 1606 comprised 28¼ a. in the open fields and 8 a. in closes, and totalled 33 a. in 1840. (fn. 103) The figure had fallen to 22 a. by 1883, rose to 62 a. between 1889 and 1923, and dropped to 4½ a. between 1931 and 1939. (fn. 104) There were 2 a. of glebe in 1976. (fn. 105)
A parsonage house was mentioned in 1606 and was described as 'ancient' in 1628, when it included a hall with chamber over, a buttery with a kitchen and chamber over, a barn adjoining the kitchen, and a pigstye, garden, and orchard. (fn. 106) Its dilapidation was regularly mentioned between 1800 and 1806, and it was described in 1815 as 'a mere hovel' occupied by paupers in which no minister had lived for 120 years. (fn. 107) In 1840 it was referred to as a cottage let for £5 a year, and in 1861 it was purchased by the lessee, W. C. Lambert of Old Court, demolished, and the site used to extend the churchyard. (fn. 108) In 1859 £500 was raised by mortgaging the glebe and tithes to build a new parsonage house south of the village. (fn. 109) This had been converted to a private dwelling by 1976.
Of the incumbents William Gregory, rector from 1350, and Richard Abbot, rector 1410–14, were both acolytes at their institutions. (fn. 110) Thomas Vyall, curate, was accused of fornication in 1528 and Robert Bearde of serving the cure without licence in 1576. (fn. 111) Richard Baylie, rector curate 1607–25, held the living with Eastham, Crewkerne. (fn. 112) Henry Masters, rector from 1633, was 'kept out' until c. 1636 by Nathaniel Nosse, former master of Chard grammar school, who obtained letters patent as rector curate in 1634, although Nosse was never instituted and Masters occurs as rector between 1637 and 1642. (fn. 113) The benefice was probably held with Crewkerne during the Interregnum by Jacob Tomkins, vicar 1661–80. (fn. 114) Faithful Ashe, vicar 1708–20, occupied the vicarage with Seaborough, and Nathaniel Forster, vicar 1720–52, successively with Stawley and Whitchurch Canonicorum (Dors.). (fn. 115) Robert Hoadley Ashe, vicar 1775–1826, was perpetual curate of Crewkerne and master of Crewkerne grammar school, and his successor, Richard Lowe, vicar 1826–52, also held the benefice with that of Crewkerne, but lived in 1827 at Leamington (Warw.). (fn. 116)
A lecturer was mentioned in 1653, Holy Communion was being celebrated thrice yearly in 1662, and petitions were presented by the parishioners in 1667 and 1668, apparently vainly, to obtain a resident minister. Sunday services were held alternately in the morning and evening between 1827 and 1840. (fn. 117) Two services, one with sermon, were held in 1843, and Holy Communion was celebrated four times a year. By 1870 there were two Sunday sermons and Communion was administered on about eight occasions. (fn. 118)
In 1548 the churchwardens held 1 a. of land to maintain a light in the chapel. A lease of the land was granted to Henry Middlemore in 1572, and the freehold was then sold to Percival Gunston of Aske (Yorks. N.R.). (fn. 119)
The church of ST. LEONARD, so dedicated by 1530, (fn. 120) stands at the western end of the village, in Church Lane. The former church comprised chancel, nave, north and south aisles, and south porch, with a bellcot at the junction of nave and chancel. A gallery for the singers was built at their expense and by voluntary contributions in 1772. The chancel was rebuilt in 1811–12 and the church re-roofed in 1822. A private pew or room behind the pulpit was appropriated to the owner of Old Court in 1825. The building was evidently too small for the parish and in 1837 plans were prepared for extending the church to the north to provide additional seats. The decision to rebuild the church was taken in order to obtain a grant from the Diocesan Building Society. (fn. 121)
The present church was designed by Sampson Kempthorne of London and built in 1840. (fn. 122) It has a chancel, north vestry, nave with gallery, south porch, and a bellcot at its western end.
There are two bells: (i) uninscribed; (ii) Llewellins and James, Bristol, 1908. In 1975 gramophone records of bell ringing were being broadcast from the bellcot and the second bell was stored in the gallery. (fn. 123) The plate includes a cup and cover bearing the Exeter hall mark and dated 1635. (fn. 124) The registers date from 1558 but were evidently poorly kept during the years 1643–9. (fn. 125)
The churchwardens visited Chard to present papists in 1678. (fn. 126) Quakers in the parish were gaoled for not paying tithes in 1659 and for failing to attend church in 1662. (fn. 127) Further fines on five persons, probably Quakers, were levied by the churchwardens for non-attendance between 1682 and 1684. (fn. 128) A Quaker burial ground had been established at Cathole mead adjoining the south side of the road to Roundham, Crewkerne, by 1705, which probably served the Crewkerne congregation. It was abandoned between 1777 and 1840. (fn. 129)
Several houses were licensed in the early 18th century. (fn. 130) Baptists from the parish were worshipping at Yeovil by 1720, but the Methodists began a cause in 1754 and Presbyterians in 1760. (fn. 131) Bible Christians came in 1824 and registered a private house for worship in 1825. (fn. 132) None seems to have survived for long.
In 1866 the Baptists built a mission chapel on the south side of Middle Street, still in use in 1976. A Wesleyan mission chapel was opened on the north side of the main street near the school in 1891. It was closed in 1931, and in 1976 used as the Women's Institute hall. (fn. 133)
About 1565 the curate was teaching Misterton boys their 'A.B.C. book'. (fn. 134) In 1819 the vicar paid for the instruction of such children as he could gather together, (fn. 135) and by 1835 there was a mixed day-school with 14 children and two Sunday schools with 40, all supported by subscription. (fn. 136) The day-school was probably that kept in 1851 in a house in Middle Street where the vestry met from 1861. A schoolmistress was recorded in the parish in 1861. (fn. 137)
The decision to build a National school and teacher's house was taken in 1870 and these were completed in 1874 on glebe land on the south side of Middle Street. (fn. 138) Average attendance was 113 in 1883, and in 1895 a new classroom was added and the infants' room enlarged. (fn. 139) Thereafter attendances rose from 108 in 1894 to 141 in 1899, and in 1905 there were 5 teachers. (fn. 140) Later numbers fell sharply to 74 in 1915, 59 in 1935, and 58 in 1946. From 1972 children over nine went to Crewkerne, and in 1975 there were 48 pupils in the books. (fn. 141)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
William Owsley (d. 1630), rector of Shepton Beauchamp, left £45 to be accumulated from his rent from the manor of Eastham, Crewkerne, to buy land in Misterton on which was to be built a hospital for four poor men. (fn. 142) There is no evidence that these intentions were carried out but Owsley's name is traditionally linked with the purchase in 1644 by the parish officers of half Willdens tenement and 50 a. of land for £200. (fn. 143) In 1823 the endowment comprised 20½ a. of land. It produced £38 14s. 6d. which was distributed twice yearly to the second poor. (fn. 144) The income has not changed since that time. It amounted to £39 in 1970, when it was distributed to poor people by the parish council. (fn. 145)
William Norris of Finchley (Mdx.) (d. 1895) left in trust the income from £500 railway stock, half to be paid equally to five of the 'oldest and most deserving' women, preferably those not receiving poor relief, 3/10 to the poor of the parish generally, and the rest to the costs of maintaining his father's grave. The bequest was subject to a life-interest still in being in 1906. In 1974 the income was 59p. from stock valued at £11.49 and was not distributed. (fn. 146)