A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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(Eastern Part) BICKNOLLER
The parish of Bicknoller, on the south-western slopes of the Quantocks 4 km. south-east of Williton, lay within the probable minster parish of Stogumber. The boundary with Stogumber and Sampford Brett is formed by the Doniford stream, that with Holford by the Quantock ridgeway, and that towards Crowcombe by two streams. The ancient parish was irregular in shape, stretching for 3 km. from east to west and 2.5 km. from north to south at its widest points. (fn. 1) In 1883 Halsway in Stogumber (c. 500 a.) was added to form the civil parish of Bicknoller, which by 1978 measured 774 ha. (1,912 a.). (fn. 2)
Bicknoller village and the former hamlet of Thorncombe lie beneath the Quantock scarp; the ground falls sharply from 320 m. on Thorncombe Hill to 76 m. on the settlement line, and then more gradually to 46 m. at Woolston, just above the Doniford stream. The Devonian Hangman Grits of the Quantocks give way to valley gravels and Keuper Marls, with outcrops of sandstone, conglomerates, and pebbles. (fn. 3) Stone was quarried at Woolston and Newton by 1457 (at Woolston possibly in 1438). (fn. 4) Woolston quarry, with a limekiln, was still open in 1904. (fn. 5) Gravel was dug on Quantock Moor, between Thorncombe and Bicknoller Hill, until c. 1905. (fn. 6)
Trendle Ring on the slope of Bicknoller Hill may represent permanent prehistoric settlement. (fn. 7) In the 11th century the recorded settlements were Newton and Woolston, (fn. 8) the former perhaps an alternative name for Bicknoller, whose regular street pattern shows characteristics of a planted village. Bicknoller is first mentioned by name in 1243, (fn. 9) and the present hamlet of Newton may derive its name from the presence there of the Domesday mill. (fn. 10)
The survival of a few 'furlong' field names suggests open-field farming around Bicknoller village, but Yard, Chapmanscombe, Chilcombe, Upcott, Thorncombe, Cottiford, Ford, and Culverhayes were established settlements by the early 14th century, (fn. 11) and by the 19th the first five had become centres of consolidated holdings. (fn. 12) The compact, regular street pattern of Bicknoller, on the slopes of the Quantocks, and its surviving thatched houses, dating mainly from the 16th to the 18th centuries, together with modern building of quality, contribute materially to the picturesque character of the village.
The road pattern seems to have been of two parallel routes between the Quantock scarp and the Doniford stream with lanes from Bicknoller village to the outlying hamlets. The route nearest the scarp, linking Halsway with West Quantoxhead through Thorncombe, was stopped at Thorncombe in 1830. (fn. 13) The lower road, which became the main route between Taunton and Minehead, was turnpiked in 1807. (fn. 14) Where it forms the parish boundary with lower Weacombe in Stogumber, north of Woolston Moor, it clearly follows an ancient course, though it was redirected across the moor, away from the earlier route through Woolston, as part of the turnpike improvement. (fn. 15) The West Somerset Railway, opened in 1862, was cut through the parish and involved road alterations and new buildings at Woolston and Yard. (fn. 16)
The Bicknoller inn, formerly the New Inn, is mentioned in 1841 but there were two licensed victuallers in 1736. One of these licences appears to have been revoked by 1755. (fn. 17) There were clothing clubs from the mid 19th century, (fn. 18) and a parochial lending library in 1877. (fn. 19) Tennis, fives, and bowls were played in the 16th and 17th centuries, (fn. 20) and wassailing on Old Twelfth Night continued at least until 1870. (fn. 21) Church and village meetings in the 19th century were held in the school, the vicarage house and grounds, and from the 1890s to 1910 in the parish room, built on the glebe by Mrs. Trefusis of Thorncombe House. (fn. 22) In 1948 Henry Bickersteth Mayor left a site and endowment for a village hall and playing field. (fn. 23)
There were 40 households in the parish in 1563, (fn. 24) at least 107 adult males were recorded in 1641, (fn. 25) and 237 persons were taxed in 1667. (fn. 26) In 1801 the population of Bicknoller was 246, falling to 204 in 1811. The population reached a peak of 372 in 1871, but fell to 270 in 1891 and to 211 in 1901, in spite of the addition of Halsway to the parish in 1883. The numbers rose again in the 20th century and in 1971 the population was 317. (fn. 27)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
In 1066 the later parish of Bicknoller consisted of two estates: Woolston held by Britmar and Newton held by Alviet. By 1086 both were held by William de Mohun and they continued to be held of the honor of Dunster until 1620 or later. (fn. 28) The estate descended to William's great-granddaughter, Agnes, wife of William de Windsor, who apparently held it in 1201 and 1202. (fn. 29) After his death Agnes divided the estate, giving half to her daughter Godehuda, wife of Nicholas Rolland, in frank marriage. (fn. 30) In 1230 and 1236 Agnes resisted Geoffrey de Kitenor's claim to ¼ fee at Woolston, (fn. 31) evidently the remaining part of the estate. Godehuda brought her land after Nicholas's death to her second husband Richard de Wayville, (fn. 32) no later than 1227, and he was holding an estate described as half the manor of BICKNOLLER in 1243. (fn. 33) Agnes probably retained the other half of the manor until her death. The late 13th century saw much litigation involving the descendants of Agnes. The main claimants were Godehuda's sons by her two marriages, William Rolland and Henry de Wayville, and the Windsorfamily, descendants of Agnes's son William. In 1280 Richard de Windsor was said to be holding two fees and Henry de Wayville one. (fn. 34) In 1283 Robert Rolland successfully claimed an estate in Bicknoller as heir to his grandmother Godehuda, and was awarded half the manor, which he then granted in fee to Richard de Windsor. (fn. 35) In 1286 Richard was returned as holder of the whole estate. (fn. 36) Disputes continued until the Wayvilles were awarded half the manor in 1291, (fn. 37) and in 1303 the property was shared between Richard de Windsor and James de Wayville, son of Henry de Wayville, claimant in 1286. (fn. 38)
In 1327 Richard de Windsor granted his half manor to Robert de Cormailles, and in 1330 Robert's brother Roger gave it to the chapter of Wells. (fn. 39) The other half was held by Thomas de Wayville in 1346, by John Wayville in 1376, and by him or another John in 1403. (fn. 40) Richard Wayville of Rodmell (Suss.), son of John, died in 1417 leaving his estate to be sold. (fn. 41) His widow Agnes quitclaimed her rights to trustees in 1423 (fn. 42) and they in turn sold the estate to the executors of Nicholas Bubwith (d. 1424), bishop of Bath and Wells. It was acquired from the executors by the Wells chapter in 1430 and contributed to the maintenance of Bubwith's chantry in the cathedral until the 16th century. (fn. 43) The chapter held the united lordship from 1430 until 1857, when they were succeeded by the Ecclesiastical (later Church) Commissioners, the lords in 1977.
From 1622 if not earlier the manor house, called Wayfield, was let and from the 17th century until the 19th was occupied by successive manor bailiffs. (fn. 44) The house, in 1978 called Wayvile, is a late 16th-century house with late 17th-century additions. Further work was done in 1884 and 1904 when the rear was enlarged and the roof raised. In the 15th century the lessee of the manor held the manorial dovecot. (fn. 45)
In 1221 Agnes de Windsor granted in fee to Richard de Wechesford and his wife Maud an estate late of Richard of Thorncombe for the life of Maud. (fn. 46) It probably formed part of the lands Agnes gave to Godehuda her daughter, for in 1227 Godehuda and her husband Richard de Wayville held 1½ virgate in Thorncombe. (fn. 47) In 1281–2 Simon Brett, lord of Thorncombe, leased to his brother Adam Brett of Torweston an annual rent of £10 from his manor of THORNCOMBE and lands in Sampford Brett. In 1308, after obtaining a quitclaim from his mother Godehuda, John Brett, son of Simon, released to his uncle Adam Brett lands at Thorncombe and elsewhere. Simon Brett headed the subsidy assessment with Richard de Windsor in 1327. (fn. 48) John Brett held a virgate at Thorncombe of the Wells chapter's moiety of Bicknoller c. 1330. (fn. 49) By 1356 the Brett family had a substantial holding at Thorncombe (fn. 50) and early in the following century Thorncombe manor comprised lands and tenements in Bicknoller, Stogumber, and Crowcombe. (fn. 51) The estate continued in the hands of the Brett family throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1609 Alexander Brett, then living in Lincolnshire, sold the manor with rents in Stogumber and all his pasture in Over Stowey to John Sweeting. (fn. 52) Members of the Sweeting family already held considerable estates in Bicknoller but their principal residence hitherto had been at Sampford Brett. At some time between the purchase of the Thorncombe estate and the drawing up of his will in 1619, John Sweeting (d. 1628) moved to Thorncombe where his descendants lived for over one and a half centuries. (fn. 53) The Sweetings appear to have been clothiers who, having invested in land at Bicknoller, Sampford Brett, Torweston, and Stogumber, were able to rise to the ranks of the gentry. The estate was divided between two brothers, John, of Thorncombe (d. 1646) and Robert, of Sampford Brett. John's son, John Sweeting (III), was elected coroner for Somerset in 1652 but was prevented from holding office owing to ill health. He died in 1688. (fn. 54) His son Joseph (d. 1707) was succeeded by Joseph's son Joseph (II) and his grandson Joseph (III) who died without issue in 1772. He was the last Sweeting to live at Thorncombe. (fn. 55) The estate was sold and subsequently divided. (fn. 56) For most of the 19th century Thorncombe house was owned by the Norris family. (fn. 57)
A house at Thorncombe was mentioned in 1334 when John Brett was licensed to have an oratory there for a year. (fn. 58) Thorncombe house was built in 1744. (fn. 59) The 5-bay front was rebuilt in the 19th century and additions made to the south and rear later in the century. The late 18th-century front door has been reused as the present side entrance.
In 1086 the two Domesday estates, known as Woolston and Newton, together measured 5 hides. (fn. 60) By the 1330s (fn. 61) the estate of the chapter of Wells known as Bicknoller included 8 freeholdings in the parish, the largest of which was Thorncombe. There were 8 villeins each holding 24 a. for rent and services which included carting every other day, ploughing, mowing, harrowing, and making the water leat. (fn. 62) Seven 'lesser' villeins held 6 a. each, their services including mowing, driving the lord's cattle up to 240 miles, and taking turns at the office of oxherd. There were also seven cottars and 12 neifs. The neifs, two freemen, a cottar, and the tenant of Thorncombe owed 'slabbes' of iron. The chapter's demesne holding comprised a house and 75 a. of arable, with meadow, alder wood, and 'high' wood totalling a further 18¾ a., an area of waste on the hill for sheep pasture, and a further area there under cultivation. The whole estate was then worth £16 6s. 3½d. (fn. 63)
Actual receipts from the estate were usually much less than the valuation because the demesne was farmed in the 14th century. In the early 15th there were small receipts for wax and honey in addition to heriots and rents, including capons and cumin. After the acquisition of the entire manor by the chapter of Wells in 1430 the receipts rose to over £20. (fn. 64) In 1454–5 the chapter acquired a small estate in Bicknoller from Robert Bicknoller alias Jenkins whose family had held it since the 13th century. (fn. 65) In 1560 the communar of Wells received over £27 from the manor. (fn. 66)
The manor accounts do not provide particulars of the holdings. Until the mid 15th century the bailiff lived at Yard, a consolidated farm in the south-west corner of the parish, where the manorial bees were kept. (fn. 67) There were 25 holdings on the manor in 1571, excluding Idson in Stogursey, but including an estate of 300 a. which has not been identified. The capital messuage, Wayfield, was leased to a branch of the Sweeting family with whom it remained until the death of Giles Sweeting in 1692. (fn. 68) Yard was held at the same time with Causey's or Kensey's, a 17½-a. holding adjoining, and Ford farm was held with Chilcombe. Most of the holdings, however, contained between 6 a. and 20 a., similar to the medieval units. (fn. 69) In 1650 there were 8 freeholds, 2 leaseholds, Wayfield and Jenkin's Bargain, and 34 copyholds excluding Idson. (fn. 70)
The largest freehold was Thorncombe, a consolidated holding in the south-east of the parish with a small estate at Cottiford near Woolston. Cottiford was occupied by fellmongers and a clothier in the 18th century but was divided into three cottages by 1888. (fn. 71) Upcott and Chapmanscombe were consolidated freeholds south-west of Thorncombe, measuring 65 a. and 35 a. respectively. A small freehold at Culverhayes to the south-west of Upcott was part of the manor of Avil in Dunster in the 18th century. In 1744 a reversionary lease was granted to a merchant of Bicknoller on conditions which included sending a man to clear the mill leat every Whitsun Thursday and keeping a beagle or spaniel. (fn. 72) Woolston Grange and Bottoms, together 44 a., were the property of the Slocombe family in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 73) The 21-a. estate of Sir William Yea in Woolston was bought by Sir Alexander Acland-Hood in 1863. (fn. 74)
In 1838 the Thorncombe estate was 262 a. divided between two farms of over 100 a. and a smallholding. Wayfield, Upcott, and Yard each had about 60 a. of land; and there were 8 other holdings of between 35 a. and 50 a. (fn. 75) The number of houses in the parish increased from 40 in 1791 to 46 in 1831, and to 72 in 1877. (fn. 76)
In the late 16th century rye was being grown on Bicknoller Hill (fn. 77) and from the 17th century to the mid 19th there was a balance between arable and pasture farming. A joiner and farmer of Woolston in 1675 had a milkhouse and presshouse containing butter and 192 lb. of cheese, a ciderpress, corn, over 3 a. of hay, a clover rick, sheep, pigs, heifers, a cow, a horse, and seed for 5 a. of wheat. (fn. 78) Giles Sweeting of Wayfield (d. 1692) had a malthouse, salting house, milkhouse, horses, 12 cattle, 232 sheep, 12 pigs, ricks of wheat, barley, oats, hay, and peas, 10 a. of hay, 22 a. of wheat, and an assortment of implements. The total value of the inventory of his goods was £317. (fn. 79) The tithe award of 1838 listed 560 a. arable, 320 a. meadow and pasture, 75 a. houses, gardens, and orchards, and 340 a. of common. (fn. 80) In 1905 632 a. were under permanent grass, 356 a. were arable. (fn. 81) The main crops in 1883 were wheat, beans, barley, oats, and turnips. (fn. 82) Clearly there was a shrinkage of arable. There were at least 13 holdings in 1976, only one of which was over 50 ha. (c. 90 a.). Two were specialist dairy farms and another was a fruit farm. (fn. 83)
Common land played a significant part in the farming of the parish. In 1572 there were complaints of unlicensed grazing of sheep on the commons and of farmers forcibly rescuing their impounded animals. (fn. 84) In 1593 after a dispute with tenants it was agreed to 'view, lay out and bound the Common Quantock'. (fn. 85) In 1838 there were 340 a. of common land at Woolston Moor, Bicknoller Hill, and Quantock Moor, the last settled by squatters. (fn. 86) In 1860 614a. of enclosed land carried rights of common. (fn. 87)
There were 57 a. of wood recorded in 1086, (fn. 88) and timber from the rectory estate contributed to a barn and granary at Burnham in 1376. (fn. 89) Over 900 timber trees and several hundred saplings were growing on seven of the larger holdings in 1830, (fn. 90) and there were 25 a. of woodland in 1838. (fn. 91) By 1905 the area had been reduced to 16 a. (fn. 92)
Weavers, serge weavers, dyers, and clothiers occur in the parish from the early 17th century, and field names indicate racks in several places, besides a fulling mill or washing shed at Woolston. (fn. 93) A joiner who died in 1675 made shuttles. (fn. 94) George Taylor, a clothier, took an apprentice from Bathealton to learn the art of serge making in 1710 and Henry Pinn, a serge weaver, took two apprentices from North Petherton and Taunton. (fn. 95) Clothiers continued in business until the beginning of the 19th century, and included the Helliker family of Chilcombe. (fn. 96) Tanning and gloving were also carried out in the parish by the mid 16th at least until the late 17th century (fn. 97) and fellmongers continued at Cottiford until the 18th century. (fn. 98) In 1821 only 29 of the 50 families in the parish were employed in farming, and in 1831 9 were involved in trade and manufacture. (fn. 99)
There was a mill on the Newton estate in 1086 paying 3s. 4d. (fn. 100) It was divided with the manor in the early 14th century when half was worth 6s. 8d. (fn. 101) In 1367 the mill was farmed for 8s. In 1394–5 Thomas Mullward paid 6s. 8d. for the farm of the mill which was burnt down that year. (fn. 102) A new mill appears to have been built by 1420 when Richard Lawson was renting a piece of land on which it stood. The manorial mill was derelict. (fn. 103) There was a newly-erected water mill at Chapmanscombe in 1720, half of which belonged to Halsway manor in Stogumber. (fn. 104) It had disappeared by 1838 but Mill meadow and remains of a leat survived. (fn. 105) Robert Brett had a water mill on his manor of Thorncombe in 1536 but it may have been outside the parish and is not referred to after 1593. (fn. 106) In 1796 a small water mill was in existence at Cottiford but nothing more is known of it. (fn. 107)
There are court rolls for the Wells chapter holdings in Bicknoller from 1367 to 1831 with gaps. (fn. 108) The manor included less than half the parish but lands outside the parish, including Combe Sydenham in Stogumber and Idson in Stogursey, were held of it. (fn. 109) Courts were held every summer at the church house in Bicknoller, and in some years an additional court was held. By the 19th century the court was held in the Audit Room at Wells and was concerned only with leases. (fn. 110) The manor court for Thorncombe appears to have been concerned only with admissions; no court rolls survive but the steward is mentioned in leases. (fn. 111) Apart from maintaining a pound and the highways the Bicknoller manor court dealt mainly with transfer of tenancies and nuisances. In 1368 John atte Yerd gave 6s. 8d. for the office of reeve; by the 17th century that office was held by the lessee of Wayfield, the manor house. (fn. 112) In the early 18th century various gentlemen were appointed gamekeepers for the manor. (fn. 113) No other manorial officers have been found.
From the 16th century the parish had two churchwardens, two overseers, and a tithingman. (fn. 114) The tithingman was responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining parish armour, weapons, the butts, a beacon, and stocks and issuing passes and warrants. During the Civil War he levied money to relieve Taunton and Langport and employed a trained soldier, either for defence or training purposes. (fn. 115) There were highway surveyors from 1768 and waywardens in 1846, (fn. 116) although in some years only one was elected or the office was combined with that of overseer. In 1854 a perpetual overseer and waywarden was elected but the following year two overseers and two waywardens were elected as usual. The vestry appears to have met only once a year at Easter. In 1854 a parish constable was chosen, from 1855 a poor law guardian, (fn. 117) and by 1873 a salaried assistant overseer. (fn. 118)
Paupers were given relief in cash or in kind (fn. 119) and parishioners in gaol were also relieved when necessary. In 1648 a prisoner was moved to Taunton house of correction which was more convenient than Ilchester for the parish officers to send him relief. (fn. 120) All parishioners with £50 a year had to take an apprentice, and the parish allowed 20s. each for clothing. (fn. 121) In 1836 the poor were supplied with furniture marked with the parish monogram. (fn. 122) The overseers in 1859 provided a man with a brass and leather armcap to enable him to work, presumably after an amputation. (fn. 123)
The parish took over the church house for paupers in 1580. (fn. 124) It was still occupied by poor people in the 1860s and continued to be repaired by the parish. (fn. 125) In 1888 it was occupied by the sexton, though a decade later it was used only to house pigeons and store wood. (fn. 126) The house stood by the pound on the north-western boundary of the churchyard and was of two storeys. The site was annexed to the benefice in 1900 and was planted with shrubs. (fn. 127) In 1836 the parish became part of the Williton poor-law union, and it remained in the Williton rural district until becoming part of the West Somerset district in 1974. (fn. 128)
Bicknoller church probably originated as a manorial chapel and the chapter of Wells as lord of Bicknoller paid towards the repair of the chancel in 1445. (fn. 129) Ingram of Bicknoller, chaplain, recorded in Edward I's reign, (fn. 130) probably served the church, which has not been found mentioned by name before 1368 when it was a chapel of Stogumber. (fn. 131) Since there was an endowment for the chaplain (fn. 132) the living was technically a perpetual curacy, (fn. 133) but it was called a vicarage in 1661 (fn. 134) and in the 19th century. (fn. 135) In 1975 the living was linked with Crowcombe, and from the end of 1977 formed part of the united benefice of Bicknoller with Crowcombe and Sampford Brett, of which the incumbent is styled rector. (fn. 136) From 1368 or earlier the chaplain or curate was appointed and paid by the vicar of Stogumber; (fn. 137) the vicar continued to appoint to the living until 1977, when he became one of the patrons in turn of the united benefice. (fn. 138)
The chaplain of Bicknoller was paid £5 6s. 8d. in 1535 (fn. 139) and £7 or £8 by 1574. (fn. 140) There was a small endowment by 1571 (fn. 141) and in 1656 the income was increased to £50. (fn. 142) In 1661 it was worth only £20 (fn. 143) and £15 in 1754. (fn. 144) In 1815 it had risen to £143, the result of an augmentation in 1770 by the trustees of Mrs. Pincombe and Mrs. Horner. (fn. 145) Further additions were made in 1864 and 1882, and a fund was set up in 1937 to ensure, by a voluntary rate, an income of £150. This fund, continued into the 1960s, was designed to prevent the union of the parish with a neighbour. (fn. 146)
By 1812 the perpetual curate of Bicknoller received tithes worth £104. (fn. 147) These tithes must have been given by the vicar of Stogumber, perhaps the result of a petition for augmentation in 1686. (fn. 148) In 1838 the small tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £78. (fn. 149)
In 1571 the glebe consisted of 1 a. of orchard, ½ a. of meadow, and the herbage of the churchyard. (fn. 150) It was increased in 1774 when 21½ a. in the parish of St. John, Glastonbury, were purchased. Some of that land was sold in 1920, (fn. 151) and none remained in 1979.
There was a house for the curate by 1626 (fn. 152) which was pulled down c. 1634. The vicar of Stogumber was accused in 1636 of not rebuilding it. (fn. 153) A replacement, said in 1815 to be 'a small cottage only', was then occupied neither by the incumbent nor his assistant curates. (fn. 154) In 1868 a wing was added to the 2-storeyed, thatched building which stood in the village street south-west of the church. (fn. 155) The wing alone survived a fire in 1883. A new house was built in 1883 (fn. 156) and continued as the benefice house until 1956 when it was sold. A house was built in Trendle Lane to replace it in 1962.
The curate in 1554 was deprived for marriage, and the church was still without rood and tabernacle in 1557. (fn. 157) At least two curates in the early 17th century served without licence and no quarterly sermons were preached. (fn. 158) John Baynham, vicar of Stogumber, served the cure in person until 1642. Bartholomew Safford signed the parish register in 1643, but Thomas White signed as curate from then until 1645. Safford was minister in the parish from 1646 until 1662. (fn. 159) In 1686 the parish was said to be 'neglected and ill-supplied'. (fn. 160) During the 18th century there was a rapid succession of curates, and between 1784 and 1811 the living was vacant. (fn. 161) William Phelps, who held the benefice from 1811 until 1854, was also vicar of Meare, a botanist, and author of a History of the Antiquities of Somerset. (fn. 162) His curate lived at and also served Stogumber, holding services at Bicknoller in 1840 alternately morning and afternoon and every Sunday evening. (fn. 163) In 1851 morning and afternoon services were attended by 72 and 145 people respectively, including Sunday school children. (fn. 164) Under W. H. Hunnybun (1867–9) daily services and weekly celebrations were held at Bicknoller and weekly services at Woolston. J. E. Vernon (1869–77) found the Woolston services better attended than those of the parish church, and introduced cottage lectures and vestments. W. B. Wood (1877–1910) abandoned vestments and daily services. (fn. 165)
There was a church house at Bicknoller. By 1580 it had been acquired by the parish as a poorhouse. (fn. 166)
In Edward I's reign land was given for three masses a year for Henry de Wayville and his family. (fn. 167) In 1504 the tenant of the land was required to find a taper before the figure of Our Lady at Bicknoller during daily mass, a torch at 'sacring time', and 3d. a year for the priest to pray for the souls of the Wayvilles whose names were specified in the mass book. (fn. 168) The charge continued until 1547. (fn. 169) There were endowed lights in the church by 1530 including one called St. Saviour's light. (fn. 170)
The church of ST. GEORGE, of local stone with Ham stone dressings, has a chancel with north chapel, nave with north aisle and two-storeyed south porch, and a west tower. The small size of the nave and the thickness of its south wall, which is unbuttressed, suggest a 12th-century origin, which may be corroborated by a 12th-century pillar piscina in the chancel. The tower was added in the 15th century and at about the same time the chancel was refenestrated and may have been rebuilt. The porch, the nave window to the west, and the north aisle and chapel are of the early 16th century.
The heavily recut font is of the 15th century and there are fragments of medieval glass reset in the north window of the chancel. (fn. 171) The much-restored chancel screen, probably of c. 1500 and said to have come from Huish Champflower in 1726, (fn. 172) before 1842 included a rood loft. (fn. 173) A rood stair in the south wall is evidence of a screen in a similar position in the later Middle Ages. There are bench ends of the earlier 16th century and others of similar design were put in in 1932. (fn. 174) Two ancient stone altars have been lost; (fn. 175) the present altar is the top of a tomb chest which was brought in from the churchyard in the 1950s. (fn. 176) A gallery was built before 1781 (fn. 177) and removed in 1871 during restoration by J. D. Sedding which included the removal of the plastered waggon roof and most monuments. (fn. 178) Further restoration and refurnishing took place in the 1920s and 1930s. (fn. 179)
There are four bells, the oldest of c. 1420–60 by Robert Norton of Exeter. (fn. 180) The plate includes an Elizabethan cup made in Exeter. (fn. 181) The registers date from 1557 and are complete except for burials 1640–76. (fn. 182)
One recusant is recorded in the early 17th century and two in 1642. (fn. 183) An Anabaptist was presented in 1664, (fn. 184) and in 1669 people were meeting at several houses in the parish. In 1670 Hannah Safford, widow of the former minister Bartholomew, was convicted of allowing a conventicle in her house with over 40 people, under her brother-in-law Thomas Safford. The tithingman was convicted for not giving assistance in suppressing the conventicle. (fn. 185) The vicar of Stogumber recorded the baptism of a child at a 'chimney church' at Upcott in Bicknoller in 1672. (fn. 186) In the same year Thomas Safford was licensed as a preacher anp ministered in Bicknoller and the neighbouring parishes until his death in 1704. (fn. 187) The first licensed places of worship were the houses of Hannah Safford and Richard Gillinge in 1672 (fn. 188) followed by others in 1689, 1697, 1700, and 1726. The newly-erected house of William Cornish was licensed as a Presbyterian meeting-house in 1734. (fn. 189) In 1834 Wesleyan Methodists decided to introduce preaching into Bicknoller but abandoned the scheme in the following year. A preaching place was established at Woolston in 1869. (fn. 190) In 1894 the Wesleyans held an afternoon meeting at Cottiford, (fn. 191) and between 1895 and 1897 they held services at Woolston. (fn. 192) In 1883 the Salvation Army held meetings in Woolston and Bicknoller. (fn. 193)
In 1609 the curate was accused of teaching without licence. (fn. 194) An infant school was started in 1828 and a day school in 1832; by 1835 they took 32 children together. (fn. 195) In 1846–7 there was a Sunday school, held in the church and united with the National Society, which was supported by subscriptions and took 42 children. A dame's school, whose 14 children attended the Sunday school, was supported by school pence. The educational wants of the parish were then said to be deplorable. (fn. 196) There was a day school in 1859. (fn. 197) The vestry in 1855 rejected the vicar's motion to start a school for the 'labouring class', (fn. 198) but in 1863 the Wells chapter gave a site for a school. (fn. 199) There were said to be 106 pupils enrolled in 1881 (fn. 200) but by 1893 there were only 35 children on the books and the average attendances were much lower. (fn. 201) In 1905 average attendance had fallen to fourteen and in 1912 the school was closed. (fn. 202) A night school was held in the parish on Tuesdays and Thursdays in 1868. (fn. 203)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
In 1718 the parish held £32 in trust and in 1771 received a further £20 under the will of Giles Jenkins for the aged poor. (fn. 204) Distributions of cloth were made in 1783 and 1785. (fn. 205) By 1815 £15 capital had been lost and the two benefactions produced only £1 17s. a year. (fn. 206) By 1826 Jenkins' bequest had been lent out on private security and lost and £1 10s. was being paid out of the poor rate. (fn. 207) Eliza Warrington (d. 1901) gave the residue from £300, after the upkeep of a grave, to be divided between poor churchgoers. (fn. 208) By 1974 no distribution had been made for many years as there was 'little or no poverty' in Bicknoller. In the 1960s some of the income had been used to augment the funds of the clothing club. (fn. 209)
The Bartholomew Thomas almshouses at Woolston were founded under a bequest by Lucy Thomas (d. 1902). She gave £3,000 for four almshouses for poor protestants of 55 or over of good character who were unable to work. Each inmate was to receive 5s. or 7s. 6d. a week. Six cottages were demolished to make way for the almshouses which were completed in 1905. (fn. 210) In 1908 there were couples in three of the almshouses and the fourth was divided between two single people. (fn. 211) Doles ceased by 1935, and in 1976 the occupants were contributing up to £4 a week. (fn. 212)