A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Brompton Ralph lies on the eastern edge of the Brendons immediately north of Wiveliscombe. It occupies a steep slope divided into spurs by deep combes and rising from 76 m. in the extreme southeast to 183 m. in the village and then more sharply to 393 m. by the northern boundary. The parish is trapezoid in shape and measures approximately 3.5 km. north to south and between 3.5 km. and 4 km. east to west. Most of the western, northern, and eastern boundaries follow roads. In the south-east the boundary follows two streams which converge south of Moor Mill Farm. (fn. 1) The northern boundary near Holcombe Water was confirmed in 1505 (fn. 2) and the southern was the subject of an agreement in 1437 or 1438. (fn. 3) The northern half of the parish is composed of Brendon Hill beds and the southern half of Morte Slates. (fn. 4) After the transfer to Tolland parish of a small detached part of Brompton Ralph called Brompton Cottage in 1883 the civil parish contained 1,107 ha. (2,736 a.). (fn. 5)
The earliest settlement in the parish was by the Brendon ridgeway where an unfinished Iron Age hillfort known as Elworthy Barrows survives. (fn. 6) Brompton or Bruneton, the farmstead by the Brendons, (fn. 7) was so called by the 8th century and presumably acquired the suffix Ralph from its lord, Ralph son of William, in late 12th century. (fn. 8) The village lies near the eastern boundary of the parish on the lower slopes of the Brendons. It consists of a scatter of cottages and farms, of various dates, around two greens. The larger, Brompton Green, lies beside the church and was allotted for recreation in 1845; the smaller was formerly the pound. (fn. 9) There are hamlets in the south at Pitsford Hill, which dates from at least the 12th century, (fn. 10) and Stone, mentioned in the 14th century, and in the north on the road to Elworthy Rooksnest and Colwell, the latter so called by 1327. (fn. 11) Scattered farms, mainly in the combes, include Westcott and Parswell, in existence by the 12th century, (fn. 12) Bowden, Hele, and Padcombe by 1327, and Burton by 1337. (fn. 13)
Most of the parish was inclosed by the 1380s, (fn. 14) but there was some common pasture on the Brendons until the 19th century. (fn. 15) A park and 'parkland' were mentioned in the late 14th century and the park formed part of the demesne of the Fulfords' manor in the 1440s and in 1568. (fn. 16) In 1614 both park and 'parkland' were let to tenants. (fn. 17) It is possible that there were two parks, a small one south of the village and a later addition occupied by the 19th-century farm called Parks. (fn. 18) There were 20 a. of woodland in 1086, (fn. 19) 28 a. in 1842, (fn. 20) and 48 a. in 1905. (fn. 21) Stone Wood in the south part of the parish is now part of a commercial woodland estate.
The parish was surrounded on three sides by turnpike roads but the village itself is served only by minor roads and lanes because of the precipitous nature of most of the ground. The turnpike from Wiveliscombe to Holcombe Water was opened in 1786 and followed the western boundary of the parish. (fn. 22) The old Bampton-Hartrow road, turnpiked by the Wiveliscombe trust in 1806, links the turnpike from Wiveliscombe to Holcombe Water with the Wiveliscombe-Elworthy road, also turnpiked in 1806, and forms the northern boundary of the parish. (fn. 23) There were tollhouses on the Elworthy road at Pitsford Hill and at the junction with the road to Tolland. (fn. 24) Several small lanes were laid out across Brendon Common when it was inclosed in 1845. (fn. 25)
In 1671 there was a 'drinkhouse' in the parish (fn. 26) and in 1721 two people were accused of selling beer without a licence. (fn. 27) The King's Head inn was established by 1823 (fn. 28) and may be the same as the Carpenters Arms at Pitsford Hill first recorded by that name in 1842, (fn. 29) which remained open until 1920; in 1981 it was a general store. (fn. 30) In 1851 there was a beer house in the parish, possibly the Jackass tavern, which stood on the western boundary road in 1842. (fn. 31) It is now a cottage.
There were at least 106 adult males in the parish in 1641 (fn. 32) and over 174 inhabitants in 1667, (fn. 33) a figure which rose to 406 in 1801. The population reached a peak of 530 in 1851, falling sharply to 436 in 1861 and then more gradually to 322 in 1901. Numbers continued to decline, reaching 179 in 1971. (fn. 34)
John Toms, glass stainer, was born in Brompton Ralph between 1813 and 1815. (fn. 35) His work can be seen in the churches at Clatworthy, Elworthy, Milverton, Monksilver, Nettlecombe, and Nynehead. (fn. 36)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
Frithogyth, wife of King Aethelheard, gave 5 hides at Brompton to Glastonbury Abbey c. 729. (fn. 37) By 1066 the abbey had lost the estate to Brictric. William I granted it to William de Mohun, of whose honor of Dunster it was held until 1627 or later. (fn. 38) William's tenant in 1086 was Turgis. (fn. 39) In 1166 the estate was almost certainly one of the 5½ fees held by William son of Durand (d. before 1194) under William de Mohun. (fn. 40) Ralph, son of William and grandson of Durand, who gave his name to the estate to distinguish it from Brompton Regis, married Yolande, sister of his overlord William de Mohun, and secured a remittance of scutage from his estate at Brompton. (fn. 41) Ralph, who may have been dead by 1212, had three daughters: Lucy, wife of William Malet, Hilary, wife of John FitzUrse, and Isabel, wife successively of Hugh Peverel and of Nicholas FitzMartin. (fn. 42)
Lucy's inheritance was the senior estate held of Dunster and the other two shares were held of her. (fn. 43) Lucy (d. c. 1259) was succeeded by her daughter, also Lucy, who married Simon of Merriott (d. c. 1276) and Thomas of Timworth (d. c. 1296). (fn. 44) Lucy the younger was dead by 1316 and her manor of BROMPTON RALPH descended to her second son Walter of Merriott, clerk (d. 1345), incumbent of Withycombe, and then to Walter's nephew Simon of Merriott. (fn. 45) Simon died before 1372 when his widow Margery was the wife of Thomas Wellington. Thomas purchased the reversion from Sir John of Merriott, Simon's heir, through trustees c. 1373. When Margery died c. 1390 Brompton Ralph passed in turn to Thomas Wellington's nephews, Ralph Wellington, who died a minor, and his brother John, who also died a minor and insane in 1396. (fn. 46)
John's heirs were his sister Isabel, wife of William Beaumont, and John Wroth, son of his other sister Margaret. Brompton Ralph passed to John, then a minor. John died still under age in 1412 and his widow Joyce conveyed the manor to John's sister Elizabeth (or Joan), wife of Sir William Palton. (fn. 47) Elizabeth (d. 1440) and Sir William (d. 1450) had no issue and their estate passed to Elizabeth's cousin Thomas Beaumont (d. 1451) and to his son William (d. 1453). (fn. 48)
William died without legitimate issue and his brother Philip (d. 1473) settled Brompton Ralph on William's widow Joan. In 1470 Philip transferred his estate to trustees and, under a settlement of 1485, Brompton Ralph was conveyed to Philip's half brother Thomas Beaumont (d. 1488) with remainder to Hugh and John, Thomas's brothers. (fn. 49) In 1500 John Basset, son of Philip Beaumont's sister Joan, was acknowledged as Hugh's heir at the request of Giles, Lord Daubeney (d. 1508), who intended to marry his son Henry to one of John's daughters. In 1504 Brompton Ralph was settled on Daubeney and his heirs with remainder to Sir John Basset and his heirs if the marriage did not take place. Henry Daubeney (cr. earl of Bridgwater 1538) did not marry a Basset and died without issue in 1548. The manor reverted to the Bassets. Sir John Basset's son John had died leaving an infant heir, Arthur, and in 1548 the estate was settled on John's widow Frances and her second husband Thomas Moncke. (fn. 50)
Although Frances had male issue by both her husbands the Brompton Ralph estate appears to have been sold. During the later 16th century it came into the hands of the Hobbes family of Stogursey and they held the chief manor in 1614. (fn. 51) In 1620 the property, described as half the manor of Brompton Ralph, was settled on Edward Hobbes and his wife Eleanor. (fn. 52) Edward (d. before 1642) was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1657), his grandson Edward (d. 1693), and his great-grandson John, and the last sold the estate to Nathaniel Brewer in 1711. (fn. 53) The purchaser was probably Nathaniel Brewer the younger (d. 1729). About 1721 Nathaniel's daughter and eventual heir Joan married David Yea the younger, whose family already owned land in Brompton Ralph through two earlier marriages into the Hobbes family. Joan (d. 1781) was succeeded by her eldest surviving son, Sir William, who settled the manor on his son William Walter (d. 1804). (fn. 54)
Jane Yea, widow of William Walter, died in 1829 and the estate was sold to Mary Stephens and her daughter, also Mary. On the death of Mary Stephens the younger in 1854 the property was sold to Samuel Mogg and four others. Mogg acquired the whole estate which he sold in 1861 to Edward Portman, Baron Portman, (fn. 55) who was said in 1872 to hold an equal third share in the manor. Lord Portman (cr. Viscount 1873) died in 1888 and was succeeded by his son William Henry, Viscount Portman (d. 1919). (fn. 56) The property appears to have been sold to George Elliot by 1923 and in 1931 it was in the possession of Ernest Henry Elliot. (fn. 57) No further reference to lordship has been found.
Hilary FitzUrse's share of the manor passed to her son Ralph (d. by 1269). Ralph's widow Isabel, later wife of William de Raleigh, held the share and survived her son John FitzUrse (d. c. 1280). On her death it passed to John's son Ralph (d. c. 1321), and descended like the manor of Williton Fulford, being divided into two shares after 1388. (fn. 58) James Durburgh (d. 1416) was succeeded in his share by his son John, and later by his brother Ralph, who seems to have conveyed his estate c. 1428 to trustees including John, parson of Bradford; John held the fee in 1429. (fn. 59) By 1433 the estate was sold to John Spencer (d. before 1472) who granted it in trust to John Monk or Mounhun, named lord in 1475. (fn. 60) By 1490 it had been sold, to raise portions for Spencer's daughters, to Sir Thomas Fulford and was thus united with the other share. (fn. 61)
The manor of BROMPTON FULFORD was settled on Thomas Fulford's son Sir Humphrey (d. 1508) and his wife Florence (d. 1524). Sir Humphrey died without issue and was succeeded by his nephew John Fulford (d. 1544). (fn. 62) John's wife Dorothy (d. after 1551) held the manor for life and was followed by her son Sir John (d. 1580), Sir John's son Sir Thomas (d. 1610), and Sir Thomas's son Francis. (fn. 63) In 1620 Francis Fulford and his wife Elizabeth sold Brompton Fulford to William Lacey of Hartrow, in Stogumber, in whose family it descended with Elworthy manor until 1811. (fn. 64) The manor was held jointly by two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary Escott, their respective husbands Daniel Blommart and Thomas Sweet Escott, and their heirs from 1811 until 1872 or later. (fn. 65) No further reference to the lordship has been found.
The capital messuage of Brompton Fulford was divided with the estate after 1388 and one share contained a hall with chamber adjoining, and a cellar (salarium) or undercroft beneath the two. (fn. 66) In the 16th century it was let to tenants (fn. 67) and in 1614 the barton was divided. (fn. 68) No further reference to the house has been found.
The third of the original manor that was inherited by Isabel, wife successively of Hugh Peverel (d. c. 1259) of Ermington (Devon) and of Nicholas FitzMartin, was sold before 1277 to John of Heghton or Hetherton and his wife Christine of Washford. (fn. 69) Christine's conveyance of her estate in Brompton Ralph to Adam of Bawdrip was challenged by Thomas of Timworth and his wife Lucy, holders of the chief part of the manor, and by the heirs of John de Hetherton. (fn. 70) Adam's right was upheld and he was holding part of a fee in Brompton Ralph between 1280 and 1285. (fn. 71) Adam, who was coroner for Somerset, died c. 1296 leaving his heir John a minor. (fn. 72) In 1351 John of Bawdrip, probably grandson of John, granted his estate in Brompton Ralph to his mother Orange, widow of Hugh of Bawdrip, to hold in dower. She was holding it in 1359 when he sold the reversion in order to pay his debts. (fn. 73) By 1389 the Bawdrips' part of the manor was owned by Joan Sydenham, wife of Richard Cave, and Julian, wife of William Barwe. In 1429 an estate in Brompton Ralph was settled on Joan and her second husband Ralph Bosom for life and then on their daughter Joan, but John Hamelyn, possibly a trustee, was recorded as holding part of a fee in 1429 and 1442. (fn. 74) The younger Joan Bosom was probably Joan, wife of Martin Jacob, who died in possession of a share in the manor of Brompton Ralph in 1485. Her heir was her grandson John Jacob but her daughter-in-law Elizabeth (d. 1510), mother of John, held the estate for life. (fn. 75) John Jacob or his heirs sold the estate, known in 1510 as the manor of BROMPTON JACOB, (fn. 76) before 1541 to Michael Malet who in 1542 settled it on his wife Joan. Michael died in 1547 and Joan married John Fry. (fn. 77) By 1575 Joan had been succeeded by her son Richard Malet. (fn. 78) Richard was succeeded in 1614 by his son Arthur (d. 1644) who was in turn succeeded by his kinsman Thomas Malet of Poyntington (Dors.). (fn. 79)
Sir Thomas Malet (d. 1665) was succeeded by his son Sir John (d. 1686), by Sir John's son Baldwin (d. before 1704), and by Baldwin's son William (d. before 1736). (fn. 80) William's daughter Anne was also dead by 1736, leaving as her heir her uncle, Baldwin Malet, rector of Street, who probably sold the manor to Edward Dyke of Tetton, Kingston St. Mary. Most of the land had already been sold in the 17th century to William Lacey and John Hobbes, holders of the other two parts of the manor. Dyke's descendant, Thomas Dyke Acland, was in possession of a rent charge in Brompton Ralph in 1800. No further reference to the estate has been found and no rights for this share of the manor were claimed in 1842. (fn. 81)
An estate in the north part of the parish including part of Colwell (now Colwell farm) and Shorney (now Combe Shorney farm) was described as the manor of BROMPTON RALPH in 1602 when it was in the possession of Joan Saffin, widow (d. 1603), and her son Edward Saffin. After Edward's death without issue in 1621 the manor appears to have been held jointly by his widow Joan (d. c. 1657) with her second husband John Boys (d. before 1646) and Edward, son of John Saffin of Halberton (Devon), probably her first husband's nephew. Edward Saffin gave to his two brothers, John and Hugh, his half of the manor in 1656 probably in trust for his marriage. In 1674 Edward's brother or son, John Saffin of Halberton, sold the estates to the tenants free of any manorial services. (fn. 82)
A large freehold estate at Westcott, part of the manor of Brompton Fulford, came to be regarded as a separate manor and had its own courts by 1628. (fn. 83) From the late 16th century it was held partly by the Wyndham family and partly by the Dykes of Brompton Regis until 1648 when John Wyndham acquired the entire estate by exchange. (fn. 84) The property descended with Orchard Wyndham. (fn. 85) In 1763 Charles, earl of Egremont, referred to his manor of BROMPTON RALPH and demanded suit of court and heriots from his tenants. (fn. 86) By the 19th century claim to a manor was no longer made but in 1842 Egremont successfully asserted rights in the commons then being inclosed. (fn. 87)
Parswell was given between 1196 and 1204 by Ralph son of William to Canonsleigh Abbey (Devon). (fn. 88) Land called Hyndon, formerly belonging to Canonsleigh and possibly part of the same estate, was sold to Roger Bluet of Holcombe Rogus (Devon) in 1548. (fn. 89)
Property in the south part of the parish, including Moor mill, was among the possessions of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, probably as a result of a grant by Ralph son of William. (fn. 90) It later formed part of the senior third of the manor. (fn. 91)
In 1086 the estate included 3½ hides of arable, of which only 1 virgate was in demesne, worked by 7 serfs, and 6 a. of meadow, 20 a. of wood, and a league of pasture. Livestock included 12 she-goats and 107 sheep. (fn. 92) There were 16 villeins and two bordars in 1086 and the total of 20 taxpayers in 1327 suggests that the number of occupiers was then about the same. (fn. 93)
The largest individual farms on Maud FitzUrse's estate in 1383 were at Westcott, Hele, and Pitsford. (fn. 94) John Hale, a freeholder in 1389, had a messuage and carucate of land worth 10s. a year, and his goods included 9 qr. of rye and 60 qr. of oats. (fn. 95) The rental of Brompton Fulford manor in 1491–2 (fn. 96) included substantial rents from the demesne, let by 1440 and probably much earlier. (fn. 97) Evidence for farming practice is scarce, but the fields named in the division of the manor in 1383 were almost all inclosed. (fn. 98) Rye was grown in the Middle Ages and later. (fn. 99) Sheep were a common concern for the manorial court in the 16th century (fn. 100) and were grazed both on Brendon common (fn. 101) and also in the south part of the parish. In the early 17th century Middle Westcott Down was said to measure 60 a. and Higher Westcott Down 40 a. Names such as Sheep Washing meadow suggest the importance of sheep in the parish. (fn. 102) Farming inventories included a flock of 10 sheep in 1687 (fn. 103) and one of 36 sheep in 1730. (fn. 104)
By the early 19th century many of the downs had been divided into smaller fields and in some cases ploughed. In 1801 James Bernard, lord of Clatworthy manor, was awarded a silver goblet by the Wiveliscombe Agricultural Society for planting potatoes and turnips on 20 a. of Brendon common in Brompton Ralph. Bernard had offered it to the tenants 30 years before if they would till it but they preferred to use it for common pasture because they could graze the whole of the common. (fn. 105)
Very little consolidation of holdings had taken place and some holdings had been divided by 1842 when the largest farm was 143 a. and only four other farms measured over 100 a. Fourteen farms had between 50 a. and 100 a., 17 had between 20 a. and 50 a., and there were 13 farms with less than 20 a., in addition to several cottage holdings. Most of the farmhouses appear to have been rebuilt during the 19th century. (fn. 106) The pattern of holding remained little changed into the 20th century with many of the units let as hill farms and almost entirely given over to pasture. (fn. 107) In 1905 there were 1,117 a. of arable and 1,203 a. of grass, (fn. 108) but by 1976 a return relating to three quarters of the parish included only 250 a. of arable. Most of the farms in 1976 were small; only three were over 120 a. and they were devoted to dairying and sheep rearing. (fn. 109)
Agriculture was always the main occupation in the parish. In 1821 53 houses were occupied by 69 families of whom 57 were engaged in agriculture. (fn. 110) There was some cloth making in the late 17th century. In the 1680s there were weavers, a woolcomber, and a clothier at work. (fn. 111) The Brewers were clothiers in the parish in the 17th century. (fn. 112) Other craftsmen at this period were a carpenter, a cooper, a tailor, and tanners. (fn. 113) One tanner was also a shopkeeper, with stock in 1685 including sugar, raisins, tobacco and 'strong water'. (fn. 114) In 1851, in addition to masons, carpenters, a thatcher, and smiths, there were shoemakers, tailors, dressmakers, an ironmonger, drapers, a grocer, a baker, and a shopkeeper. In 1871 the parish was the home of a sculptor. (fn. 115)
Stone was quarried in several parts of the parish by the 1840s, partly for roads. (fn. 116) A limekiln, described as new in the 1840s, was probably producing lime for agriculture. (fn. 117) In 1845 a part of the common was inclosed as a parish quarry. (fn. 118) In 1872 and 1876 the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron, and Coal Co. was licensed to search for iron ore. (fn. 119) A mine was opened at Yeanon, in the north-west corner of the parish, in 1872 and an engine installed. A shaft was eventually sunk to 375 ft. with seven levels but work had ceased by 1877. (fn. 120)
There was a mill in Brompton Ralph in 1086 paying 30d., possibly that later known as Moor mill. (fn. 121) Moor mill was referred to in 1491–2. (fn. 122) In 1544 the mill, also known as Elsam mill, which had belonged to the Hospitallers, was granted to Roger and Robert Taverner and was probably the mill which was in the possession of the Hobbes family from 1587 or earlier. (fn. 123) The mill was referred to as Moor mill in 1636 and 1680 and as Elsam mill from 1776. (fn. 124) Pool mill is recorded in 1799. (fn. 125) Both Pool and Moor mills descended with the senior third of the manor and were still in use in the 1880s. (fn. 126) Milling had ceased at Pool mill by 1894 but Moor mill was still in use in 1902 and in 1906 was occupied by a wood turner. (fn. 127) The remains of the leats at Moor mill are still visible on both sides of the lane. The house at Pool mill in Stone wood was in a ruinous condition in 1981 when some walling, probably from the mill building, remained.
With the exception of the 'Temporal lands' in the north-east of the parish, which were possibly connected with the Templar estate in Williton and were held to be in the tithing and manor of Williton, (fn. 128) the parish was a single tithing.
In 1274 Simon of Merriott took all strays on his share of Brompton Ralph manor by ancient custom, and in 1280 Isabel FitzUrse claimed rights of warren, gallows, and assize of bread and of ale on her part of the manor. (fn. 129) Courts for Brompton Fulford were held by 1396, and records survive for 1568 and 1569 when courts appear to have been held twice a year; in the 17th century they were held in the upper room of the parish house. (fn. 130) Court records survive for Brompton Jacob in 1510 and for the Saffins' manor in 1602. (fn. 131) In the 18th century the only court was that for the chief manor and records survive for the years 1719 to 1788. A steward, bailiff, two constables, and a tithingman were appointed. (fn. 132) There was a pound in the 18th and 19th centuries and a new one was built in 1814. (fn. 133)
Accounts of the two churchwardens survive from 1767. (fn. 134) In 1608 the parish possessed a 'book to direct the overseers of the poor'. (fn. 135) The two overseers, whose accounts survive from 1795, distributed cloth, clothing, and pairs of cards for carding wool. In 1800 they employed a physician for the poor, and in 1828 paid a man to collect furze for the poor. (fn. 136) There were by 1838 two surveyors and an assistant responsible for 12 miles of parish roads. In 1840 the vestry decided to use part of the highway rate to clothe poor children. By 1865 the one surveyor or waywarden combined the office with that of parish guardian. (fn. 137)
A poorhouse was rented in 1803–4. (fn. 140) It was large and stood south of the village opposite the Congregational chapel. It was still called the poorhouse in 1842 when it was let by the owner to several people. (fn. 141) Brompton Ralph joined the Williton poor-law union in 1836; it was part of the Williton rural district from 1894 until 1974 when it became part of the West Somerset district. (fn. 142)
The church at Brompton Ralph, a rectory, was established by 1291. (fn. 143) The advowson descended with the FitzUrse manor, and after the division of that estate in 1388 the two owners presented in turn. (fn. 144) The advowson continued to descend with Brompton Fulford manor, although presentations were occasionally made by lessees, until 1811 from which time the Sweet Escotts and Blommarts presented alternately until 1895. (fn. 145) From 1896 until c. 1899 William Hancock was patron and in 1901 the advowson was held by the rector, A. E. Wansborough. Mrs. Ethel Wansborough was the patron until her death c. 1938, after which the advowson passed to the bishop. (fn. 146) In 1961 the Lord Chancellor acquired the advowson by exchange, and he was patron in 1980. (fn. 147) From 1926 the benefice was held with Tolland, but since 1969 it has formed part of a united benefice with Monksilver and Nettlecombe, which since 1977 has been held in addition with Stogumber. (fn. 148)
In 1291 the church was worth £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 149) but it had increased in value to £17 10s. 3d. by 1535, (fn. 150) and to £100 c. 1668. (fn. 151) The net income was £347 in 1831. (fn. 152) In 1535 the tithes were worth c. £14 10s. (fn. 153) In 1626 the rector and parishioners declared that no tithe went out of the parish, but in the same year the rector of Clatworthy claimed tithe wool from a close called Farthings in Brompton Ralph. (fn. 154) In 1842 the tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £410. (fn. 155)
The glebe was valued at 40s. in 1535 (fn. 156) and in 1626 it comprised closes, orchard, and garden totalling 108 a., the area in 1842. (fn. 157) The glebe remained intact until the 20th century and was increased to 113 a. with one allotment of inclosed land in 1845. (fn. 158) Some land had been sold by 1923 when only 88 a. remained. (fn. 159) It probably formed the nucleus of Glebe Farm which lies north-west of the rectory house.
The parsonage house was said to be ruinous in 1547. (fn. 160) In 1626 there were three houses on the glebe; the rector lived in a house beside a green, and one of the other houses, perhaps an earlier residence, adjoined the churchyard. (fn. 161) A large house, nearly 1 km. north-west of the church, may be identified with the early 17th-century residence. (fn. 162) It was described as fit in 1831 (fn. 163) but was not suitable for the 'numerous family' of Thomas Sweet Escott, who lived at his family home at Hartrow. (fn. 164) In 1862 a new house was begun in the Gothic style immediately south of the old one. It was completed and occupied in 1864 by a curate. In 1884 the house was let out with the glebe lands. (fn. 165) It was sold c. 1969.
The first known rector of Brompton Ralph was John FitzUrse (1316–1329), son of the patron, who was licensed to be absent for study 1316–22. (fn. 166) Dr. Thomas Hope, rector 1454–72, a native of Worms, was a pluralist who appears to have spent most of his time at the papal curia. (fn. 167) Thomas Trebyll, instituted in 1524, was deprived in 1554, (fn. 168) and his successor, Richard Lambert, remained rector until his death in 1587. (fn. 169) John Hite, rector from 1643, was ejected in 1647 but restored in 1660. (fn. 170) Three generations of the Camplin family were rectors from 1689 until 1781; Thomas, rector 1752–81, was also vicar of Chard, and archdeacon of Taunton from 1767 until 1782. (fn. 171) During his time communion was celebrated quarterly. (fn. 172) Between 1781 and 1895 the benefice was, with one exception, held by members of the Sweet Escott family. (fn. 173) In 1815 two services were held each Sunday, a pattern which still continued until 1870, when the number of celebrations a year had increased to six. (fn. 174) In 1851 morning and afternoon services were attended by 140 and 158 people respectively, including 50 Sunday-school children. (fn. 175) Average attendance in 1862 was 81 in the morning and 83 in the evening. (fn. 176)
In the 1530s there were lights of the High Cross and All Souls and in 1548 an endowed lamp. (fn. 177)
There was a church house by 1598 part of which was leased by the parishioners from the lord of Brompton Fulford. (fn. 178) In 1641 it was described as the parish house on the south side of the churchyard, and the upper chamber was reserved as a courtroom. (fn. 179) It was said to be in a dangerous state in 1772 and in the following year had fallen down. (fn. 180) In 1780 the churchwardens employed a man to dispose of its materials. (fn. 181)
The church of the ASSUMPTION OF OUR BLESSED LADY, so dedicated by 1532 (fn. 182) but later known simply as the church of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, comprises a chancel with north organ chamber and vestry, nave with north aisle and south porch, and west tower. The south doorway and tower arch are of the 15th century and the large window in the south aisle dates from the 16th century. The church was said to have been largely rebuilt in 1738, (fn. 183) and much work was done on the church and tower in 1797 and 1804. (fn. 184) A gallery existed in 1814 and 1826 and the north aisle was built in 1847 by William Sweet Escott, rector 1842–54 and 1879–84. (fn. 185) A singing gallery was erected in 1854. (fn. 186) The church was restored in 1880–1 by Samuel Shewbrooks. The chancel was completely rebuilt to a new plan. (fn. 187)
Some of the original fittings remain, including a 16th-century font with a carving of the green man and a 17th-century cover, 16th-century benches, and an early 19th-century pulpit. The 15th-century Welsh-style screen was taken to Hartrow by the rector during the restoration of the church in the 1880s. Some pieces were recovered early in the 20th century and incorporated into a reconstructed screen designed by F. Bligh Bond in 1913. (fn. 188) The communion rail is dated 1677.
There are two pre-Reformation bells, one of which, named Gabriel, was probably made in Exeter in the 14th century and bears an inscription in English. (fn. 189) The church possesses a chalice and cover of 1573. (fn. 190) The registers date from 1558 and are complete. (fn. 191)
The Congregational chapel was opened in 1840 with the assistance of the ladies of the chief manor of Brompton Ralph, following open air and cottage meetings. (fn. 195) In 1851 the chapel was described as an 'out station' of Wiveliscombe Independent chapel and the average attendance at evening service was 60 people. (fn. 196) The chapel, at the crossroads south of the village, is a plain whitewashed building with narrow lancet windows. In 1974 it was registered as an independent chapel (fn. 197) and was still open in 1981 with c. 8 members and a small Sunday school. (fn. 198)
In 1606 children were taught by the parish clerk. (fn. 199) From 1792 the churchwardens paid a man 2d. a week to teach six poor children. (fn. 200) By 1819 a Sunday school had been established but only 20–30 children attended. (fn. 201) In 1826 there was a day school with 28 boys and a Sunday school for 40 girls, (fn. 202) but in 1835 only 22 children went to the day and Sunday schools, which were supported by the rector and small weekly payments from parents. (fn. 203) By 1847 there were 88 children at the day and Sunday schools. (fn. 204) Both schools were still in existence in 1851, endowed from 1844 with £11 a year. (fn. 205) In 1859 there was said to be a small day school for girls. (fn. 206)
A school board for Brompton Ralph and Tolland was formed compulsorily under an order of 1875, and a school built in 1877 on the Elworthy-Wiveliscombe road was conveyed to the board in 1878. (fn. 207) There were 67 children on the books in 1903 but numbers fell rapidly and by 1960 there were only 18. The school closed in 1966 and in 1981 was a private house. (fn. 208)
The Sunday school room, north of the church, was purchased in 1927 for use as a parish institute. (fn. 209)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
A sum of £36 given by several people was held by the Yea family in the 18th century, and payments were made to the poor during the 1730s, but not after 1757. (fn. 210) Mary Stephens (d. 1854), lady of the chief manor of Brompton Ralph, left £150 to provide blankets for people not in receipt of public relief. Payments in money or groceries were made during the 1960s and 1970s. By 1981 the charity income of c. £4 a year provided Christmas puddings for the elderly. In 1947 the Medlands charity existed as a clothing club and probably accounted for a sum of £105 invested in war stock. (fn. 211) It had been lost by 1981.