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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Bawdrip parish lies on the south side of the Polden ridge 5 km. north-east from Bridgwater. (fn. 1) It stretches for 5 km. along the slope from Dunball in Puriton on the west to Stawell village on the east, and for 2.5 km. from the Polden ridgeway which forms its northern boundary to Chedzoy in the south. The stream which forms its western boundary may have been a tributary of the Parrett; the southern boundary is also a natural watercourse. (fn. 2) The parish includes the village of Bawdrip and subsidiary settlements or former settlements at Knowle and Crook to the west, Horsey to the south-west, Bradney and Peasy to the south, and Ford to the east. It covered 768 ha. (1,898 a.) in 1981 before minor changes were made. (fn. 3)
Bawdrip village, Knowle, and Ford shelter below the 30-m. contour on marls between alluvium and the Blue Lias of the Polden ridge which rises to over 61 m. above Knowle. (fn. 4) There may have been quarrying on the hillside in the 15th century (fn. 5) and lias was dug in the early 19th. (fn. 6) There were limekilns at Ford in 1840 (fn. 7) and at Knowle in 1841, (fn. 8) and lime was being extracted and processed in the extreme western tip of the parish under Puriton Hill by 1886 and until 1973 in association with the cement works at Dunball. (fn. 9) Salt was extracted in the early 20th century. (fn. 10) Bradney, Crook, and Peasy, their names implying slight elevations on the flat alluvial moors, are on 'islands' of marl, and Bradney is also partly on an area of Burtle Beds which extends from Chedzoy. (fn. 11)
King's Sedgemoor Drain crosses the parish from south-east to north-west, passing between Bawdrip village and Peasy Farm and under Crandon bridge. Completed by 1798 and widened during the late 19th and the 20th century, (fn. 12) it followed, at least in part, a 'great drain' which had been made in the late 16th century from the moors to Crandon bridge. (fn. 13) That drain, in the 17th century known as Peasy rhyne or Black Ditch, flowed from Great Lake near Parchey in Chedzoy. (fn. 14) It was thought to have been part of the Cary river, (fn. 15) and the lords of Bradney and Bawdrip paid rent to Castle Cary manor for the 'use' of Cary Water in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 16) Below Crandon bridge the river was evidently navigable in the Roman period. (fn. 17) Navigation was proposed in 1829 and the owner of Knowle Hall had a sailing boat for use on it. (fn. 18) Other watercourses in the parish include the stream from Stawell through Ford which flows west through Bawdrip Level and was known in the 17th century as Bawdrip Brook. (fn. 19)
A Roman road from Ilchester followed the Polden ridge and descended to the river west of Crandon bridge where a port was in use between the 1st and the 4th century A.D. (fn. 20) At the bridge, mentioned in 1614, (fn. 21) roads from Bristol and Glastonbury to Bridgwater converged and the route from the bridge was causewayed and maintained in the early 17th century jointly by Bridgwater and Bawdrip parishes. (fn. 22) The roads were turnpiked in 1730 by the Bridgwater Trust. (fn. 23) A new route from Bristol to Bridgwater avoiding Crandon bridge was built in Bridgwater parish in 1822 but the old route was retained and in 1971 was improved to provide access to the M5 motorway. (fn. 24)
Just south of the Roman ridge road on the Poldens and east of the present Bawdrip village stood a Romano-British homestead overlying an Iron-Age site; and a site at Bradney was occupied from the Iron Age until the 4th century A.D. A bronze hoard of the 1st century A.D. was discovered, probably near Crandon bridge, in 1800. (fn. 25) Bawdrip, Bradney, Crandon, and Crook were centres of estates in the 11th century. (fn. 26)
Bawdrip village may have originated as a roadside settlement on a route along the edge of the moors from Crandon to Stawell. In the 19th century most of the cottages there stood along the road, with the church and the remains of a small green to the north. Two lanes east and west of the churchyard led north to more widely spaced farmhouses and yards and to a second east-west route between Knowle and Ford which, as Eastside Lane, was built up in the 17th and in the 18th century. (fn. 27) In the 20th century houses were built along the abandoned railway track and within Bawdrip village. Arable fields called west, middle, and east fields, and Furthenfield lay on the slope north of the village, and the first three seem to have been divided by the early 17th century into north and south 'laynes'. (fn. 28) Small scattered plots, including two called North and Dock fields, two others called Middle and Higher furlongs, and several landshares persisted into the 19th century. (fn. 29) Bawdrip tenants had common rights until the mid 16th century (fn. 30) in Bawdrip moor, south-east of the village and later known as Bawdrip Level, on marshland between the village and Bradney, (fn. 31) and on King's Sedgemoor, where c. 300 a. were used by Bawdrip and Bradney tenants in the 17th century. (fn. 32)
Bradney hamlet had about 12 houses in 1841 but in 1988 consisted of a farm and a few cottages built mainly of brick. North field there was mentioned in 1635 (fn. 33) and Southfield Lane was so named in the later 19th century. (fn. 34) The settlement at Crandon may have been replaced by Knowle, first recorded by name in 1567. (fn. 35) A house appears to have been built at Crandon between 1430 and 1450 and may have been standing in the early 16th century. (fn. 36) Knowle Farm, (fn. 37) now called Manor Farmhouse, is an 18th-century house with a Tuscan portico. Houses have been built along the Glastonbury road at Knowle during the 20th century. Crany or Crandon and West Crandon fields were still worked in common in the early 17th century. (fn. 38) Crook seems to have been abandoned as a settlement after the 11th century. (fn. 39) There was a house at Ford c. 1300, (fn. 40) possibly on the site of the later Ford Farm.
In the 20th century a group of houses beside the Bath road on the western edge of the parish has been named Horsey after the farm and former manor to the west in Bridgwater parish.
In 1890 the Bridgwater Railway Co. opened a line between Bridgwater and Edington Burtle to link the town with the Somerset and Dorset line. The track was constructed through the middle of Bawdrip village. A passenger halt was built there in 1923. The line closed in 1954 and at least one house has been built along part of its course in the village. (fn. 41)
Two acres of underwood were recorded at Crandon in 1086, (fn. 42) and in 1324 the lord of Bradney had a willow copse. (fn. 43) Plantations on Knowle Hill to screen the new hall and park accounted for most of the 45 a. of wood in 1841. (fn. 44) In 1905 there were 34 a. of woodland. (fn. 45)
Three people were presented for breaches of the assize of ale in 1479, (fn. 46) two tapsters were recorded in 1538 although only one was licensed in 1543, (fn. 47) and an unlicensed ale seller was presented in 1612. (fn. 48) There was only one licensed house in the parish, held by one family between 1618 and 1657 and said to be used by travellers on the highway. (fn. 49) It was almost certainly the Knowle inn, so named by 1663, (fn. 50) part of Bawdrip manor until it was sold to the tenant in 1770. It was then called the Bull but had resumed its old name by 1806. (fn. 51) It remained open in 1988.
There were 90 communicants in 1548. (fn. 54) The population rose from 244 in 1801 to 372 in 1821, then to a peak of 472 in 1861, falling to 340 in 1891. Numbers remained stable until the 1950s when new housing brought the total to 510 in 1961. There were 504 persons normally resident in 1981. (fn. 55)
Fifteen men from Bawdrip were fined for involvement in the rebellion of 1497. (fn. 56) The duke of Monmouth's army marched through the parish on the night of 5-6 July 1685, taking a route along Bradney and Marsh lanes and across North moor to Langmoor in Chedzoy before engaging the royal forces. (fn. 57)