Pages 30-31

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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The parish of Durleigh lies principally west and south-west of Bridgwater astride the Durleigh brook which since 1938 has been dammed to form Durleigh reservoir (77.5 a.). (fn. 1) The parish church and Durleigh Farm stand overlooking the dam on the south side of the brook c. 2.5 km. ESE. from the centre of Bridgwater. The sites of three houses, standing together on the north side of the stream in 1839, are now submerged below the reservoir. (fn. 2) The ancient boundary of the principal area of the parish is irregular, in part following the Durleigh brook and other watercourses. Part of the boundary with Goathurst, in the south-west, was marked in the earlier 18th century with stones. (fn. 3) Smaller parts of the ancient parish, linked by common ownership in the 11th century, (fn. 4) lay in and around Chilton Trinity village, north of Bridgwater, and included a substantial part of Chilton common and land further north beside the Parrett. There were also isolated fields in Wembdon and Bridgwater parishes, including arable strips in Haygrove and in St. Matthew's fields. (fn. 5) The total area of the parish in 1881 was said to be 886 a., evidently less than the true area because of an error over the boundaries of Chilton parish. In 1886 most of the detached parts of the parish were transferred: that part within Bridgwater borough (including 7 houses and 36 persons) became part of Bridgwater, unspecified lands were absorbed by Wembdon, and the remainder (including 8 houses and 36 persons) passed to Chilton Trinity. Durleigh gained West Bower, a detached part of Bridgwater largely surrounded by Durleigh, and in 1891 the total area was 755 a. (fn. 6) Modifications to the civil parish in 1933, by which land (162 a. and 20 people) was added from Bridgwater Without, and in 1952, when part of Durleigh was absorbed in the extension of Bridgwater borough, left the parish with 355 ha. (877 a.) in 1981, a figure which did not take account of further unspecified changes made in the same year. (fn. 7)

The principal part of Durleigh parish occupies undulating ground drained by the Durleigh brook and Cobb's Cross stream, their alluvial valleys below the 15-m. contour cutting through Keuper marl. Both north and south of the brook the land rises above 30 m. on harder Upper Sandstone, reaching over 46 m. on the northern boundary with Wembdon at a possibly prehistoric earthwork known in the 20th century as Danesborough and in the 16th as Castle Acre or Sturton's Castle. (fn. 8) Most of the outlying areas of the parish lay on alluvium and on the 'island' of marl around Chilton Trinity village. (fn. 9)

Two routes westwards from Bridgwater crossed the parish, the northern passing beside a site known as Durleigh Elms towards Spaxton, the southern crossing the Durleigh brook near Haygrove Farm in Bridgwater and running south of Durleigh church towards Enmore. In 1730 a turnpike trust was proposed for both roads, (fn. 10) the northern regarded c. 1758 as part of the London-Barnstaple route. A toll gate was then proposed at Three Crosses, east of Durleigh Elms. (fn. 11) Both roads were included in a second turnpike proposal in 1759, but in 1782 only the southern seems to have been adopted. (fn. 12) The northern route was described as a turnpike road in 1796 (fn. 13) although it was not maintained by the trust in 1839. (fn. 14) By 1782 a new route towards Enmore began at Three Crosses and ran south down Goose Pit hill and between Durleigh mill and the parish church. (fn. 15) Minor routes led from Durleigh Elms west to West Bower and south to the brook. Goose Pit hill also formed part of a north-south route from Chilton common through Greenway in Wembdon to Rhode in North Petherton parish. (fn. 16)

The names of three medieval settlements in the principal part of the parish, Durleigh, Rexworthy, and Everley, seem to indicate woodland clearings: (fn. 17) Durleigh and Rexworthy existed in the mid 11th century, (fn. 18) Everley as a settlement only in 1256. (fn. 19) The settlement at Durleigh comprised on the south side of Durleigh brook the church, Durleigh Farm, and the mill, and by the late 18th century a contracting group of dwellings in Durleigh street on the north side. By 1930 the street contained a single farmstead. (fn. 20) The house called Durleigh Elms was built and extended by the Gooding family on a site acquired by them in 1796. (fn. 21) From the later 19th century, and increasingly from the 1930s, houses were built in the north-eastern corner of the parish on the north side of Enmore Road as part of the suburban expansion of Bridgwater. (fn. 22)

The name of a furlong survived on Durleigh farm in the 18th century, (fn. 23) but in the 16th century the land around Durleigh village and stretching towards Goathurst had been divided into closes. (fn. 24) There was open arable belonging to Durleigh in 1540 in the east, west, and south fields at Chilton Trinity, evidently lying between Chilton moor and Chilton common and located in the parishes of Durleigh and Bridgwater. (fn. 25) Parts of Chilton common, which was divided and allotted in 1801, (fn. 26) lay in Durleigh parish because Durleigh tenants had grazing rights there. There were 26 a. of woodland in Durleigh and Rexworthy in 1086 (fn. 27) when none was recorded on the two estates called Chilton. In 1839 there were just over 11½ a. of wood. (fn. 28)

A tippling house was reported in the parish in 1623. (fn. 29) In 1664-5 there were 11 houses in the tithing of Durleigh and Duke Fee. (fn. 30) The population of the parish rose gradually from 104 in 1801 to 208 in 1881, with a slight fall in the 1830s, the rise from the 1840s the result of the expansion of Bridgwater suburbs into the parish. Boundary changes in 1886 seem to account for a reduction to 158 in 1891, and there was a significant fall from 396 in 1911 to 328 in 1921. (fn. 31) Meanwhile there had been changes in the number of houses in Durleigh village: in 1839 there were 2 cottages in Durleigh Street, 1 in West Bower Lane, 2 houses at Durleigh Elms, 1 cottage on Goose Pit hill, and 2 near the mill, together with farmhouses at Rexworthy, Durleigh Farm, and Moggs. (fn. 32) In 1909 there were 6 cottages near Durleigh Farm in Rhode Lane. (fn. 33) In 1931 the total population was 348. Between 1961 and 1981 the population of what remained outside Bridgwater rose from 300 to 517, the result of building along Enmore Road. (fn. 34)

Eight people from the parish were accused of complicity in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685. (fn. 35)


  • 1. West Som. Water Bd. Ann. Rep. 1963-4, 30. This article was completed in 1987.
  • 2. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 3. Ibid. D/P/gst 4/1/1 (1721).
  • 4. Below, manors.
  • 5. S.R.O., tithe award; cf. below, map on p. 192.
  • 6. Census, 1881, 1891.
  • 7. S.R.O., GP/D, box 19; Youngs, Local Admin. Units, i. 425; Census, 1981.
  • 8. O.S. Nat. Grid 269371; Cal. Pat. 1553, 54-8; S.R.O., DD/S/BW 5; DD/S/WH 2, 219; Longleat House, Seymour Papers, XII, rental (1540), f. 14v.
  • 9. Geol. Surv. Map 1", drift, sheet 295 (1956 edn.).
  • 10. 3 Geo. II, c. 34.
  • 11. S.R.O., DD/TB 17/8, 18/7.
  • 12. 32 Geo. II, c. 40; S.R.S. lxxvi, Day and Masters map.
  • 13. S.R.O., DD/BR/ely 5/20.
  • 14. Rep. Com. Roads, H.C. (1840), xxvii.
  • 15. S.R.S. lxxvi, Day and Masters map.
  • 16. O.S. Map 6", Som. LXI. NW. (1886 edn.).
  • 17. A. H. Smith, Eng. Place-Name Elements, i. 94, 130-1; ii. 21, 275-6.
  • 18. V.C.H. Som. i. 485, 521.
  • 19. S.R.S. vi. 176-7.
  • 20. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Som. L. 13-14 (1930 edn.).
  • 21. S.R.O., DD/BR/ely 5/20.
  • 22. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1894); S.R.O., DD/SAS (C/2273), 1/13.12.1.
  • 23. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 246.
  • 24. Ibid. 3, 5; DD/SF 942; Pole MS. 2753.
  • 25. Longleat House, Seymour Papers, XII, rental (1540), ff. 12-13v.; S.R.O., Bridgwater and Durleigh tithe awards.
  • 26. S.R.O., Q/RDe 29.
  • 27. V.C.H. Som. i. 485, 521.
  • 28. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 29. S.R.S. xliii. 97.
  • 30. Dwelly, Hearth Tax, i. 44-5; for Duke Fee, above, Andersfield hundred.
  • 31. V.C.H. Som. i. 341; Census, 1891, 1911, 1921.
  • 32. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 33. Ibid. D/R/bw 15/3/9.
  • 34. Census, 1931-81.
  • 35. S.R.S. lxxix. 204.