Fiddington: Economic history

Pages 100-101

A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1992.

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In 1086 Fiddington was taxed at 4 hides, of which the demesne answered for 3 hides. The whole estate was assessed at 6 ploughlands, and the demesne supported 2 teams. There were 21 a. of meadow, 80 a. of pasture, and 43 a. of moor. The recorded livestock comprised 12 cattle, 11 pigs, 60 sheep, and 40 goats and the value was unchanged from 1066. In 1086 there were 6 villani and 5 bordars sharing 3 ploughteams. (fn. 1) By the later 12th century there were two separate estates, Fiddington and Bonson. (fn. 2) In 1579 Bonson manor comprised a main farm of 210 a. and 10 other holdings, only two over 50 a. and the rest under 30 a., although additional overland was available. (fn. 3) Holdings remained small during the 18th century and in 1745 there were difficulties in renewing leases on Fiddington manor, possibly because the harvest was bad. In 1746 several tenants were in debt, some had abandoned their holdings, one man was in gaol, one in danger of imprisonment, and another was impoverished. The tenants were said to be mostly poor and estates fetched low prices although the manor was valued at over £331 a year. (fn. 4)

Inventories of the 17th century suggest mixed farming; in 1639 a farmer had 6 cattle, 22 sheep, 3 pigs, and 2 horses and had sold some young animals. A wealthy clothworker who also farmed had a flock of 60 sheep, 19 cattle and a dairy, 10 pigs, and 3 horses, with hay and corn worth £30. Rye and oats were grown besides wheat and barley, (fn. 5) and in 1685 a tenant of Fiddington manor was required to plant an orchard. (fn. 6) In the 1780s large quantities of flax were grown; in 1784 two men produced 385 stone on 9½ a., in 1786 output was 442 stone, and in 1787 one man produced 317 stone. (fn. 7)

In 1837 there were 408 a. of arable, 387 a. of meadow and pasture, and 39 a. of orchard and garden. Of the 17 holdings over 10 a., 9 were under 25 a., 4 between 25 a. and 50 a., 1 between 50 a. and 100 a., and 3 were over 100 a. but under 150 a. (fn. 8) Most of the tenants, however, occupied more than one holding. In 1851 four farmers worked most of the land in the parish and employed 23 labourers. Later in the 19th century only two farmers had less than 100 a. (fn. 9) By 1905 the parish had almost doubled in size and most of the land was laid to grass, which covered 1,055 a. There were 593 a. of arable. (fn. 10) In 1982 there were 12 holdings, half of which were worked part-time and 3 of which specialized in poultry. Eight holdings were under 50 ha. (123.5 a.) but one was over 300 ha. (741 a.). Arable land had increased to cover half the parish, with wheat on 215 ha. (531 a.), barley on 84 ha. (207.5 a.), and oilseed rape on 28 ha. (69 a.). Poultry numbered 241,736 birds of which 49,700 were laying hens. There were also 756 cattle and 692 sheep. (fn. 11) Poultry farming with egg packing remained an important industry in 1988.

Cloth was made in the parish in the 17th and early 18th centuries, giving rise to field names such as Weavers acre and Dyers close. (fn. 12) One woman in 1636 died in possession of a pair of looms and wool and she also kept a few sheep. A clothier was recorded in 1667. (fn. 13) Another died in 1670 with wool out for spinning and large quantities of wool, yarn, dyestuffs, soap, and fuel. He had a furnace, combs, scales, a warping bar, and other tools, together with 116 serges worth £260. A sergemaker's inventory of 1714 included two furnaces, scales in a warping shop, a shop fitted out with a counter, yarn, and white and coloured wool; 1,521 lb. of wool had been sold. (fn. 14) Tanners were recorded in the parish in 1638 and 1656, possibly at Inwood, where there were field names such as Tanhouse mead and Tanners plot. (fn. 15)


Two mills were recorded in 1086 paying 2s. (fn. 16) In 1242 the Fiddington miller died after falling under the wheel. (fn. 17) Fiddington manor mill, recorded in 1309, (fn. 18) was known in 1473-4 and 1518 as Galpin mill and by 1705 as Dunstone mill. (fn. 19) Manorial tenants still owed suit of mill in 1681. (fn. 20) In 1772 the mill was sold by Joseph Champion to the brothers Richard and Gregory Score. Richard (d. 1807) left his share to his brother who in 1819 gave the mill to his sons John (d. 1834) and William; William probably sold it to the miller before 1837. (fn. 21) It was in use in 1899 but milling seems to have ceased by 1906. (fn. 22) The mill was later demolished and the pond and leats were filled in. Bonson mill, recorded in 1403 and in 1458 when tenants of Bonson manor owed mill suit, (fn. 23) remained part of the manor until 1773 when Henry Rawlings sold it to William Kebby. The new owner had to repair the sluices and turn the water on the vendor's lands between Saturday evening and Monday morning. (fn. 24) During the 19th century the mill was kept by the Bowering family but it appears to have gone out of use by 1923. (fn. 25) It was driven by an internal overshot wheel. The mill building bears the date 1734 but it was totally rebuilt in the early 19th century.


In 1242 it was said that fairs were held at Fiddington and customs taken without warrant. (fn. 26) The fairs were not recorded again.


  • 1. V.C.H. Som. i. 494.
  • 2. Above, manors.
  • 3. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 243. Overland was land not part of a tenement.
  • 4. Devon R.O. 48/13/4/4/4, 7; 48/13/4/6/13, 19-20.
  • 5. S.R.O., DD/SP inventories, 1636, 1639, 1670.
  • 6. Devon R.O. 48/13/3/5/8.
  • 7. S.R.O., Q/RLh 6, 22, 55.
  • 8. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 9. P.R.O., HO 107/1924; ibid. RG 11/2371.
  • 10. Statistics supplied by the then Bd. of Agric., 1905.
  • 11. Min. of Agric., Fisheries, and Food, agric. returns, 1982.
  • 12. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 13. Ibid. DD/SP inventory, 1636; DD/DP 52/4.
  • 14. Ibid. DD/SP inventories, 1670, 1714.
  • 15. Taunton Archdeaconry Wills, ed. H. R. Phipps, 19; S.R.S. xxviii. 296; S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 16. V.C.H. Som. i. 494.
  • 17. S.R.S. xi, p. 320.
  • 18. Ibid. xii. 6.
  • 19. W. Suss. R.O., PHA 5370; W. Suff. R.O. 449/E3/15.53/2.17; Devon R.O. 48/13/4/6/1.
  • 20. Devon R.O. 48/13/3/5/18.
  • 21. S.R.O., D/P/fid 2/1/1; D/D/Rr Fid.; DD/DHR 10; ibid. tithe award.
  • 22. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1899, 1906).
  • 23. S.R.S. xxii. 8-9; Devon R.O. 2530 M/L 6/6/1.
  • 24. Above, manors; S.R.O., DD/BR/rd 3.
  • 25. S.R.O., tithe award; P.R.O., HO 107/1924; ibid. RG 11/2371; Kelly's Dir. Som. (1923).
  • 26. S.R.S. xi, p. 321.