A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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The ancient parish of Halse, which derives its name from the neck of land under which the village shelters, (fn. 1) was a detached part of Williton and Freemanors hundred. Roughly triangular in shape, it lies in the fertile vale of Taunton Deane, 1.75 km. east of the hundred boundary at Brompton Ralph, from which it was separated by Lydeard St. Lawrence and Fitzhead parishes. (fn. 2) In 1883 a detached part of Hillfarrance in the centre of Halse village and containing two houses was transferred to Halse, giving the parish an area of 534 ha. (1,320 a.). (fn. 3)
Halse is at the eastern end of a gently sloping sandstone ridge between two converging streams flowing down from the Brendons, which join just beyond the parish's south-eastern boundary. From the western limit at c. 95 m. the land falls away to the gravels and marls of the streams at c. 41 m. To the north, beyond the stream known as Halse water, a thin band of sandstone is overlain by Keuper Marl around the former hamlet of Stoford, and by less fertile conglomerate and Lower Marl as the parish narrows and the land rises to 169 m. at Common Down. Limekilns and quarries were worked at Common Down in the late 19th century. (fn. 4)
The parish boundary follows Halse water for a short distance on the east, a line which was the western boundary of Bishop's Lydeard by the late 10th century. (fn. 5) The boundary with Milverton and Fitzhead, on the open ground of the sandstone ridge, was the 9th-century limit of the manor of Taunton Deane, (fn. 6) and bears marks of regularity in an area of common-field cultivation. The division with Ash Priors on the north-east may in the 13th century have been the small stream about 500 m. east of the present boundary, when Kerdon was part of Halse manor and Denbury was part of Halse parish. (fn. 7)
Halse village lies mostly on the eastern side of a curving street from which roads lead steeply westwards to the fields. To the east the grassland, crossed by a series of ditches, slopes down to Halse water. Houses front directly on the street and have long gardens and orchards behind. Halse cross stood at the centre of the village, its site remembered in 1711. (fn. 8) Beside it was the 'accustomed block' through which water flowed from a spring, perhaps the origin of the name of four 'block houses' whose tenants were responsible for the repair of the village stocks. (fn. 9) The water still emerges through a culvert into a stone trough. The church stands at the southern end of the village in a large rectangular plot whose size and prominence suggest pre-Christian occupation. The medieval manor house and the parsonage barn stood in an apparently detached position south-east of the village. (fn. 10)
The house called Lower Stoford, 1 km. north-east of the village, represents the hamlet of Stoford, established by the end of the 13th century at the 10th-century crossing-place of Halse water. (fn. 11) Northway, by the late 19th century a group of farms along the road from Wiveliscombe to Bishop's Lydeard, was in the early 18th century a single large farm called Nurthy, established by 1650 and also known as Cheeks. (fn. 12) The original farm site may be represented by the former Higher Northway Farm, from the 1920s known as Tugwell, (fn. 13) and if so the name Northway is likely to refer to the direct route, which survived in 1981 as a footpath, leading north from the village to Common Down. A medieval settlement called Oldelonde or Oddolonde has not been found. (fn. 14) The early 17th-century house called Halsewater, on the edge of the parish adjoining Ash Priors, and the late 17th-century house known as 'Old Ground' on Whitmoor, (fn. 15) show that settlement in Halse had long been partly scattered.
The sandstone plateau west of the village was the site of the main area of open-field cultivation, strips surviving in furlongs at least until the 1880s. (fn. 16) Field names such as Pavilands, Buccombe, and Ridgeditch of the 1840s recalled Pulverlong and Bovecombe of c. 1240 and Rygwoysdich of 1382. (fn. 17) The name Headland, on the boundary with Ash Priors near the quarries, may suggest another open-field site. (fn. 18) Meadow and pasture lay in a broad band beside Halse water across the centre of the parish and beside its tributary in the south. The tributary was used to feed ponds: by 1821 Holywell meadow changed its name to Bathing House meadow, (fn. 19) and a large fishpond was later built a little further downstream. (fn. 20) Halse water was diverted at several points to drive a mill and to water the meadows. (fn. 21) Common land by the time of inclosure in 1857 was confined to the high ground at Common Down and to wet pastures in the south at Whitmoor. (fn. 22)
The winding and often narrow and sunken roads of the parish were of local importance only, but the 14th-century name Rygwoysdich suggests the existence of a ridgeway, possibly the Greenway of 1507. (fn. 23) The road from Fitzhead through the village towards Ash Priors and Bishop's Lydeard became part of the Wiveliscombe turnpike trust network in 1806. (fn. 24)
In the 17th century farm houses ranged widely in size from one, probably at Northway, with five chambers over a hall with internal buttery, kitchen, parlour, and entry, (fn. 25) and another with six rooms above hall, kitchen, old and new butteries, entry passage, and dairy, (fn. 26) to one with only hall and kitchen with a single room over, probably the late medieval Blake's Farm. (fn. 27) The first may be the house known as Tugwell, which dates from the early 16th century or earlier, with additions of the early 17th century and later. (fn. 28) Stoford, formerly Stoford Farm, is a medieval building with an arch-braced hall roof. In the early 17th century a floor was inserted and the ceiling plastered and decorated with Tudor roses and oak leaves. Moulded plaster decoration is also found at Halsewater, a much more humble house with hall and kitchen only, at Rock Cottage, and at Blake's Farm. (fn. 29) Later building included Mount House and the extension of a farmhouse to create a small mansion for the Hancock family called Blake's House early in the 19th century.
Barns in the open fields were found by the late 17th century because space within the village was limited and several holdings had no farmhouses of their own. Manor farm barn incorporates jointed crucks. (fn. 30)
By 1691 there was an inn known as the King's Arms, occupying a house built in 1682. (fn. 31) It was owned by Philip Hancock, butcher, and by 1722 was known as the Butcher's Arms. (fn. 32) By 1738 its name had changed to the Red Lion, and by 1788 to the New Inn, though it almost certainly had a continuous history throughout the period, and in 1981 remained in business under the last name. (fn. 33) In the 1880s it was advertised as a 'family and commercial inn and posting house'. (fn. 34)
The population in 1801 was 383. Between 1811 and 1881 it fluctuated above 400, and in 1861 was as high as 453. By 1891 the total had fallen to 352, and it continued to fall rapidly, reaching 276 in 1921 and 252 in 1931. After a recovery in the 1950s to 284 in 1961 the next two decades witnessed further decline, to 210 at 1980. (fn. 37)
Frederick North, Lord North, later earl of Guilford (d. 1792), statesman, was probably a temporary resident at Halse in 1786. (fn. 38)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
Roger Arundel held HALSE, later known as HALSE PRIORIS or HALSE ST. JOHN, (fn. 39) of the Crown in 1086 in succession to Ailmar, the tenant in 1066, as part of his barony of Poorstock (Dors.). (fn. 40) Roger was succeeded by Robert Arundel, who in 1152 granted the manor to the order of St. John of Jerusalem. The grant was confirmed by Robert's son, Roger Arundel. (fn. 41) The manor remained in the hands of the Hospitallers as part of the preceptory of Buckland until 1540. (fn. 42) In 1374 Halse was said to be held in chief as of the manor of Hampstead Marshall (Berks.). (fn. 43)
In 1545 the Crown sold the former Hospitaller estate, including Halse, to William Hawley or Halley (d. 1567) of Buckland Priors in Durston, already farmer of the manor. (fn. 44) Hawley was followed successively by his sons Henry (d. 1573) and Gabriel or Geoffrey (d. 1603), and then by his grandson Sir Henry Hawley, son of his third son Francis. (fn. 45) Sir Henry died in 1623 leaving a son, also Henry, under age. (fn. 46) The manor was vested in trustees, holding on a nominal lease for 1,000 years, for the payment of Sir Henry's debts, and the unsold lands did not revert to his second but only surviving son, Francis (cr. Baron Hawley 1645), until 1639. Francis sold the manor to Thomas Wescombe of Halse in 1652. (fn. 47) In 1671 Wescombe assigned it to John Wescombe the elder, to be held in trust for members of the family, but after a suit in Chancery the manor was sold in 1688 to William Granger the younger of Milverton. (fn. 48)
Granger died c. 1714 and was followed by his only daughter Mary (d. 1733), wife from 1715 of Matthew Haviland of Langford Budville. (fn. 49) Matthew survived until 1738, when the lordship passed successively to his son, also Matthew (d. 1753), of Wellisford, in Langford Budville, and then to his daughter Mary (d. 1766), wife of William Webber, formerly of the Inner Temple. (fn. 50) In 1775 Webber sold the property to George Prior, formerly of Whitechapel (Mdx.) and later of Sydenham (Kent), already owner of land in the parish. (fn. 51)
George Prior died in 1814 and was followed in turn by his sons William (d. c. 1826), John (d. 1852), and Edward (d. 1859), and then by his daughter Mary, wife of Richard Alexander of Corsham (Wilts.). Mary's son, Richard Alexander, who assumed the name Prior, died unmarried in 1902, (fn. 52) and his property passed through his sister Mary, wife of Sir Gabriel Goldney, Bt. (d. 1900), to Sir Gabriel Prior Goldney, C.V.O., C.B. (d. 1925). Sir Prior's heir was his great-nephew Hugh G. E. Dunsterville, son of Evelyn or Eveline, third daughter of Sir Prior's brother, Sir Frederick Goldney. (fn. 53) The property was put up for sale in 1939 and was divided, but the lordship was not included in the sale. (fn. 54)
The medieval manor house was described as 'destroyed and much wasted' in 1338, and by 1627 only its site survived. (fn. 55) The site was still known in the 1790s, when it formed part of a small farm at the south-eastern edge of the village. The field name Court meadow there suggests its proximity. (fn. 56)
A house called Halse House was standing by 1677, when it was part of the holding of Henry Gooding. (fn. 57) The estate, sometimes called the Combe House estate, descended to Samuel Gooding by 1716, and then to his daughter Sarah, wife of William Paige of Fremington (Devon). (fn. 58) The name Halse House was normally used by the end of the 18th century, and in 1781 the house belonged to John Hancock the elder, in whose family it remained until after 1833. (fn. 59) By 1840 it belonged to the lord of the manor, John Prior, who had occupied it as tenant since 1830. (fn. 60) The house, by then called Halse Manor, a farm, and cottages were bought in 1939 by Violet Bucknell of Crowcombe, and, after use as a boarding school during the Second World War, the house was sold to the Ministry of Health in 1952. (fn. 61) In 1981 it was occupied by a hospital specializing in the psychiatric care of the elderly.
The house of 1677 had a four-roomed plan, a parlour, hall, buttery, and kitchen with four rooms above including a 'cross chamber'. (fn. 62) A symmetrical house facing south was added in the mid 18th century, for which garden works, probably including a brick Gothick garden house, were undertaken between 1758 and 1762. (fn. 63) Later in the century a drawing room was added in the north-west corner. The whole building was remodelled and extended in the early 20th century, when a service wing replaced the original house and canted bays were added to the front. (fn. 64) After 1831 a stable block replaced the garden house. (fn. 65) New buildings were added after 1952.
In 1548 John Barnehouse, who had been a free tenant of the manor of Halse since 1507 or earlier, (fn. 66) left half the manor of HALSE ARUNDELL to his two granddaughters, Mary and Elizabeth Southcote. The estate was held of William Hawley's manor of Halse St. John. (fn. 67) It may have derived its name from the family of William Arundell of Bagborough, who in 1568 sold lands in Halse and elsewhere to John Perry of Milverton. (fn. 68) John Perry, probably the same, and his son Robert in 1595 acquired from Ambrose Rowse and his wife Madeleine, probably as trustees, an estate called the manor of HALSE. (fn. 69) Four years later the Perrys, then of Halse, conveyed the estate to another trustee, Thomas Ridgeway of Torrwood (Devon), describing it as John's portion of Halse manor, lately the inheritance of Mary Ridgeway his mother, possibly granddaughter of John Barnehouse. (fn. 70)
In 1624 Robert Perry conveyed 'those parts of the manor of Halse alias Halse Arundell' lately held by Ambrose Rowse and Thomas Ridgeway to his sister Joan Jones of Stowey. (fn. 71) In 1681 Joan's son, Sir William, then of Gray's Inn, apparently sold the property to Abraham Hancock and Robert and George Comer of Halse, and any suggestion of manorial status was then and thereafter omitted. (fn. 72) Part of the land passed c. 1763 from William Scott to George Prior. (fn. 73)
Robert Arundel evidently included the rectory in his grant of the manor of Halse to the Hospitallers in 1152. (fn. 74) The property was thus included by the Crown in the sale to William Hawley in 1545, and by that time comprised the advowson of the vicarage and the great tithes. (fn. 75) Master Nicholas Halswell, esquire, presented to the living in 1556 and John Inglishe in 1562, (fn. 76) but by 1572 the property had come to John (later Sir John) Stawell. (fn. 77) The rectory descended in the Stawell family until the end of the 17th century, passing on the death of Sir John to his son, also John (d. 1604), and to his grandson Sir John Stawell, K.B. (d. 1662). From the last it descended to two sons, George (d. 1669) and Ralph Stawell (cr. Baron Stawell of Somerton 1683, d. 1689). Ralph's son John, Lord Stawell, died in 1692, leaving large debts. (fn. 78)
The Stawell estate was in the hands of trustees in 1696, and in the following year they sold the rectory to Richard Musgrave of Lyons Inn, London, later of West Monkton (d. 1727). (fn. 79) Two of Musgrave's trustees presented to the living, one in 1720, another in 1744, and Thomas Musgrave of Old Cleeve presented in 1753, presumably after succeeding to the estate. (fn. 80) Thomas's heir was his sister Juliana, wife of Sir James Langham, Bt., of Cottesbrooke (Northants.). The Langham family retained the advowson, but offered the corn tithes for sale in 1795, when they were worth by composition nearly £160 and 'capable of great improvement'. The purchaser was Robert Uttermare Bullen of Taunton. (fn. 81)
Almost immediately Bullen began to sell the tithes of individual farms, but a substantial amount passed in 1801 to John Weech, in 1805 to John Donne, and by 1817 to Donne's son Richard (d. 1831). (fn. 82) John Hancock (d. 1852), who married Richard Donne's daughter Mary, was paying land tax on the estate in 1832, but by 1840 the remaining great tithes were held jointly by Anne, second wife of John Hancock, and by Elizabeth Donne, possibly Mary Donne's sister. (fn. 83) A tithe rent charge of £218 16s. 6d. was agreed in 1840, (fn. 84) and by 1867 the income had been transferred to the benefice. (fn. 85) The parsonage barn was retained by the Hancock family. John Hancock was succeeded by his son John Donne Hancock, and the latter by his son Richard Donne Hancock (d. 1912). (fn. 86) Richard's widow conveyed the barn to trustees for use as a village hall in 1929. (fn. 87)
In 1833 John Hancock, besides owning the rectorial tithes, was tenant of Halse farm, the mill, and the Combe estate; his cousin, Richard Murford Hancock, owned Combe House (later Halse Manor) and its land. (fn. 88) In 1840, after extensive sales to the Prior family, the Hancocks still owned 198 a. including Blake's farm and occupied a further 380 a. including Manor farm and Higher Blake's. (fn. 89) John Donne Hancock farmed 451 a. in 1851. (fn. 90) From his eldest son Richard the estate passed to George Arthur Donne Hancock, eldest son of Richard's brother George. G. A. D. Hancock sold the estate, comprising some 365 a. and Blake's House, to the Southwick Rochecourt Estates, of Fareham (Hants), in 1948, and in 1981 it was divided between three large farms. (fn. 91)
The Domesday estate, assessed at 4 hides, had land for 7 ploughteams. The demesne farm, measuring 1 hide, had 2 teams, and 23 tenants with 3½ teams occupied the rest of the arable land. There were 8 a. of meadow, 12 a. of wood, and 20 a. of pasture, and the demesne farm supported 1 cow, 7 pigs, and 40 sheep. (fn. 92) Estates in the parish given to the Hospitallers in the late 13th century may derive from some of the Domesday tenant holdings; at least one estate, that of Richard of Stoford, included rents, reliefs, and wardships. (fn. 93) A late 13th-century grant by the Hospitallers at Stoford gave a life interest in 18 a. of arable subject only to a cash rent, limited suit of court, and a heriot, in return for marling and erecting suitable buildings. (fn. 94) By 1338 the demesne farm comprised 220 a. of arable, 80 a. of pasture, much of inferior quality, 18½ a. of meadow, and pasturage in moor and wood. Tenants' rents then amounted to £20 3s., but customary works were worth only 40s. and the manor house was in ruins. (fn. 95)
In 1501 John Verney of Fairfield, Stogursey, whose ancestor had held a small property in Halse in 1346, (fn. 96) took a 30-year lease of the whole of the Hospitallers' estate attached to the preceptory of Buckland, including Halse and two manors in Devon. (fn. 97) His two younger sons, John and George, were to succeed to his lease, (fn. 98) but they were replaced in 1508 by Edmund Mill of Wells and Anne his wife. (fn. 99) In 1516 Henry Thornton of Curry Mallet took a lease for 40 years, (fn. 100) a lease renewed for the same period in 1521. (fn. 101) In 1539 William Hawley succeeded Thornton, and as sitting tenant bought the estate from the Crown in 1545. (fn. 102)
On the death of Sir Henry Hawley in 1623 the estate was broken up because of his debts. (fn. 103) It passed first to trustees who subsequently sold land to raise money. (fn. 104) Already the parish had been divided into many small tenant farms, so that Sir Henry's widow in 1629 received six tenements totalling 212 a. (fn. 105) The Wescombe family, copyholders on the manor, in 1626 bought 3 small holdings and other closes, in all amounting to 128 a.; (fn. 106) John Perry, a prosperous yeoman and owner of the scattered estate known as Halse Arundell manor, (fn. 107) acquired c. 100 a. which later passed to the Haddridge family. (fn. 108) The site of the old capital messuage with 89 a. of largely customary land was bought by William Cox of Crewkerne, and part later passed to the Hancock family. (fn. 109) By the 1650s the parsonage was the most valuable single estate, though largely comprising the rectorial tithes. It was closely followed in value by that of Thomas Wescombe, worth £44 a year in 1653. Next came those of John Studdier (£20) and William Cade (£18), and after them three or four holdings worth between £12 and £14. (fn. 110)
Inventories and leases of the late 17th century suggest several substantial farms, perhaps the largest occupied by Henry Gooding (d. 1677), who had the Northway estate, Halse House, and land at Stoford. The capital value of his personalty, including a lease at Ash Priors, was £2,154. The farm buildings at Northway included a substantial house, a malt mill, a wring house, chambers for cheese and apples, and a cider house. Crops were wheat, barley, and peas, and clover was grown in quantity. Stock included 7 milking cows, bullocks, oxen, calves, 14 'field' pigs, and two flocks totalling 162 sheep, together with the cash for others recently sold. (fn. 111) Richard Winter, Gooding's neighbour at Winter's farm, had a flock of 66 sheep, and in store 110 bu. of barley and 45 'shears' of wool. (fn. 112) Agnes Hancock (d. 1691), widow, left 96 sheep. (fn. 113)
Regular manuring was required in a lease of 1714, and grain crops were limited to two consecutive years, to be followed by fallow, peas, or vetch. A field called Waterletts in 1630 (fn. 114) suggests irrigation which by 1840 had created 44 a. of water meadows and 33 a. of 'water pasture', fed by streams flowing from above the village to Halse water by means of a system of sluices. (fn. 115)
Four main holdings emerged during the 18th century, usually known as the Home estate (later essentially Manor farm), the Combe tenement or Halse House tenement (which included Northway farm), Blake's tenement, and a property which, in part at least, was the manor of Halse Arundell and included the mill. (fn. 116) By 1766 two men, John Hancock and George Prior, had begun to buy up parts of these holdings. The Hancocks had been prominent as butchers and farmers in the parish since the 17th century, (fn. 117) and were later to be well known as lawyers and maltsters at Wiveliscombe. (fn. 118) George Prior, the son of George Prior of Thurlbear, inherited land in Halse which represented part of Halse Arundell manor. (fn. 119) He bought the Home estate with the manor in 1775. (fn. 120) At his death in 1814 some of his property passed to his younger son Edward, but John, the elder, was by 1840 living in Halse House and owned 263 a. including Manor farm. Edward owned 226 a. The Hancocks owned or occupied 578 a. (fn. 121)
In 1803 John Hancock the younger had a farm with 134 a. under arable, nearly two thirds with wheat and nearly one third barley. His grassland supported 2,134 sheep, 23 young cattle, 5 cows, and 12 oxen. (fn. 122) Before 1814 Manor farm, then called Halse farm, comprised 186 a. of arable, 57 a. of meadow, 17 a. of pasture, and 15 a. of orchard. (fn. 123) Approximately the same proportions continued during the 19th century, grassland amounting to about a quarter of the arable acreage. (fn. 124) The parish was known for its wheat, barley, and root crops in the late 19th century, (fn. 125) and for the farming prowess of the Hancocks of Manor farm. J. D. Hancock employed 44 men, women, and boys on his 438 a. in 1851. (fn. 126) During the turnip season something like a gang system operated, and girls were brought in for bird scaring. (fn. 127) R. D. Hancock was a well known exhibitor of Devon cattle at the turn of the 20th century, while his neighbour, W. Greenaway, specialized in both Devon sheep and cattle. (fn. 128) By 1976 a gradual change in land use had increased grassland to about three fifths of the parish, shared between eight holdings, of which two were over 100 ha. One farm specialized in dairying, one in cattle and sheep, and one was a fruit farm. (fn. 129)
A clothier and two fullers were in business in the parish by 1631, and two Irish clothiers had property in the village until 1693. (fn. 130) A villager was reported in the manor court in 1706 and 1707 for building a dye house on the common. (fn. 131) In 1742 a complaint was made against pits for watering flax on Whitmoor common. (fn. 132)
There was a mill at Halse in 1086. (fn. 133) In 1630 it was let on long lease, and was occupied by members of the Blake and Crosse families in the 17th century. (fn. 134) By 1707 it had passed to the Risdons of Trull and Bradford on Tone. (fn. 135) Before 1761 it was acquired by William Scott, and passed from him to George Prior. (fn. 136) It descended with the Prior family estate until 1939. (fn. 137) The mill was rebuilt in 1801–2, when machinery was installed by Joseph Nation. (fn. 138) The mill, driven by a large overshot wheel, continued in use until c. 1948. (fn. 139)
The prior of the Hospitallers was granted a Monday market at Halse in 1290. (fn. 140) No further trace of it has been found.
The tithings of Halse and Dodington were linked by the early 14th century because both were owned by the Hospitallers. They were regarded as a single tithing in 1569. (fn. 141) For the same reason Middleton farm in Huish Champflower and land in Skilgate, also belonging to the Hospitallers, were part of Halse tithing for land tax purposes until the early 19th century. (fn. 142) Dodington was claimed as part of Halse manor and its lord as a free suitor to the manor court as late as 1858, and the manorial rental included land in Skilgate, Bishop's Lydeard, Langford Budville, and Heathfield. (fn. 143) The tithingman was chosen at the Halse manor court, and by the early 18th century the office was served in regular rotation by the holders of particular tenements. (fn. 144)
A draft of a session at Michaelmas 1507 and extracts from courts in 1530 and 1611 are the earliest manorial records to be found, (fn. 145) but a tenant at Stoford in the 1280s held land in return for suit twice a year. (fn. 146) The valuation of the manor in 1338 included pleas and perquisites worth 40s. a year. (fn. 147) The manor court at Halse continued until 1861 or later, and court papers and presentments survive for the periods 1705–12, 1716–98, 1804, 1806–30, 1837, and 1843–61. (fn. 148) By 1705 the court met only in October each year, normally at Halse and in 1837 at the New Inn, though in 1738 a session was adjourned to the Red Lion at Wiveliscombe. Meetings were held in the morning and were followed by a meal. (fn. 149)
In 1507 the officers of the court were two constables, a reeve, a tithingman, and an ale taster. (fn. 150) The constables survived until 1842. By the 19th century there were also a bailiff and a tithingman, from 1824 the former also serving as hayward and pound keeper. The three offices had been separated by 1861. (fn. 151) The court assumed jurisdiction over encroachments and nuisances, and in the early 16th century over assaults. (fn. 152) From the early 18th century it maintained the pound but disclaimed responsibility for the stocks and the cucking stool. The stocks, formerly the concern of the tithing, were from 1720 to be repaired by the tenants of four 'block houses' in the village. The cucking stool was reported out of repair in 1722 and was said to be quite demolished by 1738. The stocks survived until 1848 when the vicar objected to their further repair. (fn. 153)
In the mid 18th century the two wardens and two overseers were elected by a small group of parishioners known variously as the vestry, Halse Easter meeting, or Halse meeting. (fn. 154) The overseers, whose accounts date from 1638, spent their income from rates and parish land normally in small weekly payments and on occasional gifts of clothing. They also administered the charity money and the charity school. (fn. 155) By 1701 they had taken over the parish house, which the wardens had rented from 1627 or earlier, but that house and others acquired later in the century were not used to house the poor. (fn. 156) Parish paupers, wearing red badges from 1707, (fn. 157) were generously treated. The overseers awarded themselves £1 a year each for expenses from 1774 and employed a parish doctor from 1789. (fn. 158) In 1809 they severely limited the practice of taking parish apprentices. (fn. 159) There was a single poorhouse in the village by 1840, (fn. 160) its site in 1981 a garden east of the Old School House. The parish became part of the Taunton poor-law union in 1836, the Taunton rural district in 1894, and Taunton Deane district (later Borough) in 1974. (fn. 161)
Robert Arundel gave the church of Halse to the order of St. John of Jerusalem. (fn. 162) A chaplain was serving the parish c. 1159, and a vicarage had been ordained by c. 1188, perhaps at the time the original gift received episcopal confirmation. (fn. 163) The living was declared a rectory in 1867 on the transfer of the rectorial tithe rent charge to the benefice. (fn. 164) It remained a sole cure until 1933, when it was linked with Heathfield. About 1960 it became a united benefice with Heathfield, and for a time until 1975 was held with Ash Priors and Fitzhead. From 1975 the living, severed from Heathfield, was held with Ash Priors alone. (fn. 165)
The advowson of the vicarage in the Middle Ages was held by the priors of the order of St. John and in 1422 was exercised by the preceptor of Buckland as locum tenens for the prior. (fn. 166) From 1572, and possibly in 1556 and 1562, successive owners or occupiers of the rectory estate exercised the advowson. (fn. 167) The Langham family retained the patronage after the sale of the rectory estate in 1795, (fn. 168) and the advowson descended with the baronetcy until 1960 when Sir J. C. P. Langham transferred it to the bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 169)
The vicarage was valued at £10 in the 14th century and was not regularly taxed. (fn. 170) It was said to be worth only 10 marks in 1445, (fn. 171) was taxed at £6 in 1532, (fn. 172) and in 1535 was assessed at the same sum. (fn. 173) By c. 1668 the reputed value was £40. (fn. 174) The living was augmented in 1761–3 by grants of £50 from the patron, Thomas Musgrave, £50 from Mrs. Horner's and £100 from Mrs. Pincombe's trustees, and £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty. The same trustees gave the same sums, the vicar, Nicholas Spencer, £50, and the Bounty £200 in 1796–8, and in 1810 the Horner trustees added £200 to a parliamentary grant of £300. (fn. 175) In 1861 Queen Anne's Bounty increased the endowment by £150 to meet a further benefaction of £200 from the Horner trustees. (fn. 176) The net income in 1831 was £174. (fn. 177)
Tithes and oblations of the vicarage in 1535 were worth £5 18s. 4d. largely from wool, lambs, and personal offerings. (fn. 178) The tithes in 1613 were described as Easter oblations, tithe of lambs on St. Mark's day, of wool at shearing time, of grass of certain meadows, tithe corn from Hemplands, and the tithe of orchard fruit, later identified as pears, apples, and hops. (fn. 179) In 1840 the vicar was awarded £131 as a rent charge in lieu of vicarial tithe which since 1788 had been almost entirely subject to compositions. (fn. 180)
Vicarial glebe was worth only 20d. in 1535. (fn. 181) It amounted to 2 a. beside the vicarage house in 1571. (fn. 182) Land was purchased at Churchstanton (Devon) in 1763 with augmentation money, and more was held by the 1820s in Milverton and Heathfield. (fn. 183) Higher Willand farm, Churchstanton, was sold in 1916. (fn. 184)
In 1634 the vicarage house comprised a hall, parlour, and kitchen, with chambers over parlour and kitchen. Beside the house stood a milk-house, dovecot, barn, and stable, and nearby a herb garden. (fn. 185) The house was replaced by a stone building, presumably on the same site, in the later 19th century, and in 1964 by a brick house further west. (fn. 186)
The parish priest in 1316 was accused of various irregularities including clandestine weddings and doubtful acquisition of his orders. (fn. 187) Hugh Grobham, vicar 1457–64, was at the same time a brother of St. John's hospital, Bridgwater. (fn. 188) In 1532 there was a parish curate as well as the vicar. (fn. 189) The parish closely followed the liturgical changes of the Reformation, the cost being found from the proceeds of the Roodmass ale and by collecting a due called 'hogneng' or hoggling money. The vicar, Thomas Cockes, contributed handsomely towards an English Bible c. 1546. (fn. 190) The south wall of the church contains painted extracts from the Prayer Book. (fn. 191) There were several complaints against Robert Harris, vicar 1601–44, for not preaching, (fn. 192) but in his time there were normally seven communion services each year, and the parish bought a cloth for the communion table and erected the royal arms in 1634 in due order. (fn. 193) Francis Nation, vicar from 1644, was deprived c. 1651, and is said to have taken a military command. (fn. 194)
During the 18th century the parish was served by resident vicars, and the fabric was regularly maintained. (fn. 195) Nicholas Spencer, vicar 1793–1840, nominally domestic chaplain to Earl Spencer and for a short time chaplain to the English factory and embassy at St. Petersburg, continued the tradition of residence. In 1815 there was a service with sermon each Sunday. (fn. 196) By 1828 Spencer was also serving Ash Priors. (fn. 197) He bought a barrel organ for Halse in 1830. (fn. 198) Quarterly celebrations were usual until the 1840s, and by 1843 there was service twice a Sunday. (fn. 199) On Census Sunday 1851 attendances were 125 in the morning, including 35 from the Sunday school, and 180 in the afternoon, with 40 children. (fn. 200) By 1879 there were celebrations each month and at festivals. (fn. 201)
In 1374 it was claimed that there had been a chantry in Halse church until twelve years earlier, and that it had been founded by Roger Arundel who had given the manor to the Hospitallers to support it. There appears to have been confusion of Roger with Robert Arundel, who not only gave the manor to the Hospitallers, but also granted land at Ash Priors for the use of Halse church, where his body was due to rest, to support a priest there. (fn. 205)
The church of ST. JAMES (fn. 206) stands on high ground at the south end of the village. It is built of local sandstone with Hamstone dressings and comprises a chancel with north chapel, nave with north aisle and south porch, and west tower. Until 1867 or later it was plastered and whitewashed externally. (fn. 207) The rear arch of the south door, the font, and a fragment of carved stone beneath the east window survive from the 12th-century church, which may have included the Arundel family chapel on the north side of the chancel, though the corbels in the present arch between chancel and chapel are of the 13th century. The plain tower has elements of 14th-century work and contains one, and formerly two, 15th-century bells from the Exeter foundry. (fn. 208) The north aisle was built c. 1546 by the mason John Harris. (fn. 209) The porch, which houses fragments of a late medieval cross, has large square-headed windows. The rood screen, once stretching across both nave and aisle, contains original work only across the nave. 'Old wooden work' above it was removed in 1803. (fn. 210) The north end of the screen was built c. 1903. (fn. 211) By 1771 there was a singing gallery in the aisle. (fn. 212) Additions in the 19th century included the glass of the east window of the chancel, incorporating panels made in Florence by artists from Bruges, one piece of which is dated 1548. The glass was given by the Revd. John Sanford to his wife's uncle, the vicar Nicholas Spencer. (fn. 213) A thorough restoration began in 1900, during which the chancel arch was replaced by a wooden rood beam, the gallery was removed, the bench ends were designed and carved locally, and murals decorated aisle and chancel, all in the Arts and Crafts style. (fn. 214)
By 1845, and possibly by 1831, (fn. 217) there was a society of Bible Christians at Halse, (fn. 218) and a chapel was built in 1847. On Census Sunday 1851 there were 61 people at the afternoon service and 57 at the evening. (fn. 219) The chapel formed part of the Milverton and Taunton, later the Taunton, circuit, and became part of the United Methodist Church in 1926. (fn. 220) It closed in 1964. (fn. 221) The building was later converted to a garage.
There was a school in the parish by 1603. (fn. 222) By 1750 six poor children were being taught at the expense of parish charities and a charity school continued until 1824 or later, tuition and a clothing allowance being given to children attending church and catechism. (fn. 223) The vestry appointed the master or mistress. (fn. 224) In 1818 there were 24 pupils. (fn. 225) A Sunday school was started in 1819, (fn. 226) and by 1832 was receiving the money formerly given to the charity school. (fn. 227) By 1835 three day schools, one a recently established National school, the others for 'very young' children, had 47 pupils between them. The Sunday school then had 56 children. (fn. 228) In 1847 the only day school was the parochial school with 44 children, including infants; 34 of those children also went to the Sunday school, which had a total of 58 pupils. (fn. 229) By 1851 there was also a Sunday school for c. 30 children at the Bible Christian chapel. (fn. 230)
In 1853 Edward Prior, lord of the manor, endowed the National school and gave a new building, completed in 1856. (fn. 231) The building was held on lease from his successors until 1939, when it was conveyed to the Diocesan Board of Finance. (fn. 232) In 1903 there were 66 children on the books. (fn. 233) By 1940 numbers had fallen by half, and from 1950 senior pupils were no longer taken. The school was closed in 1960 when there were only 14 children on the books. (fn. 234) In 1980 the school was a private house.
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
About 1636 Christopher Norman of Heathfield gave £10 for the poor, the payment of interest secured on land already owned by the parish. (fn. 235) The income was distributed in cash at Christmas and Easter each year. By 1649 the capital had been augmented by a capital sum of £5, the accumulated rent paid for parish land. (fn. 236) The two charities were apparently absorbed in the endowment made by Edward Wescombe of London, merchant, member of a prominent local family, who before 1687 gave £200 for the benefit of the poor. (fn. 237) By 1721 the total income was £8 9s. 6d., and in the 1730s was distributed at Christmas and Easter. (fn. 238) By 1739 the capital was invested in an estate of c. 14 a. at Common Down, and by 1744 the income was £14 13s. 4d. (fn. 239) From 1756 the charity accounts were apparently separated from the overseers, and trustees seem to have controlled the original parish land and, by 1783, three cottages which had come to the parish in return for financial assistance to their owners. The trustees also supported the charity school. Until 1770 payments were made each Christmas, but thereafter throughout the year as needed. (fn. 240) Before 1786 Baker's charity had been founded with land near the church worth £4 10s. a year. (fn. 241) By 1826 it had been absorbed into the Wescombe and parish endowments, to which two more houses were added in 1805. The parish field was converted to garden allotments in 1831. The total income of the combined endowments was £42 10s. in 1826 (fn. 242) and £52 in 1978. (fn. 243)
The sum of £50 was given to the parish before 1786 by George Tiffin, or Vivian, a former parish apprentice, half for the support of a school. An unsound title prevented the parish from claiming the bequest. (fn. 244)
By will proved 1859 Edward Prior of Halse House gave £100 for the poor. The annual income in 1965 was £2 9s. and in 1977 £2.44. (fn. 245)
Spiring Spurway Baker of Halse by will proved 1878 gave £200 for the poor. The income was distributed in coal between 1881 and 1886 and from 1887 in cash. In 1941 small sums totalling £5 4s. were given to 42 people. (fn. 246) The income in 1977 was £5. (fn. 247)
Lucilla Maria Spurway gave £50 by her will proved 1859. The income was normally administered with Edward Prior's charity, and was distributed in cash in May each year. In 1894 the sum of 4 guineas was shared between 64 parishioners. Nothing was given between 1944 and 1964 in order to allow cash to accumulate. The sum of £15 was given to 15 parishioners in 1973. (fn. 248) The income in 1977 was £1.20. (fn. 249)
Major-Gen. Nathaniel Thorn of Halse, by will proved 1857 left £300, the income to be used after repair of family tombstones to buy bread and clothing for distribution in April and December in church. In the 1950s the charity was paid by means of tickets at local shops. In 1977 the income was £7.48. (fn. 250)
The Halse Relief in Need Charity was formed in 1978 by the amalgamation of the surviving five charities, and its income, including investments after the sale of land at Common Down, amounted to c. £450 in 1980. It was available to people in need with longstanding connexions with the parish. (fn. 251)