Goathurst: Economic history

Pages 49-50

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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Goathurst manor in 1086 had 6 ploughlands and some woodland; neither meadow nor pasture were recorded although the demesne estate, which had a third of the arable and was worked by 4 servi, had 9 cattle, 10 sheep, 60 pigs, and 16 goats. Halswell was smaller with only 2 ploughlands, half in demesne with 2 servi, and some woodland; again no pasture nor meadow was recorded although 2 cattle and 10 sheep were on the demesne. All but 5 of the 23 tenants (15 villani, 8 bordars) were on Goathurst manor. (fn. 1)

Goathurst was taxed at only 9s. 6d. in 1327, less than half the total of Huntstile, and seven people out of nine paid the minimum tax. William of Halswell was assessed at 4s. (fn. 2) The Halswell demesne in 1597 consisted of a large number of small fields including oat and rye closes, meadow, orchard, a hopyard, and woodland. (fn. 3) Holdings were small in the 17th century, (fn. 4) and inventories show a high level of stock keeping but only small acreages under corn. (fn. 5) William Hite, rector (d. 1689), had cattle worth over £85 as well as horses, pigs, hay, and corn. He produced cider, cheese, and bacon. (fn. 6) Livestock continued to dominate inventories in the 18th century, and clover was recorded. (fn. 7)

The acquisition of parts of Goathurst manor by the Halswells from 1730 onwards and the expansion of the park from the 1740s led to changes in the balance of agriculture in the parish and to the reorganization of tenant holdings. The demesne farm in the early 18th century had surplus pigs, sheep, horses, and oxen for sale, and a dairy was maintained. (fn. 8) Cider was produced and a nursery garden established. (fn. 9) By the end of the century a wide variety of exotic fruit was grown in the hothouses. (fn. 10) In the 1760s, however, the home farm was not large enough to support the house, and barley for malting, oats, peas, and straw were bought in. At the same time timber on the estate was valued at £600 and rents from tenants produced £1,400. (fn. 11)

In the 1750s some farms on Goathurst manor were let at rack rents after enlargement, and a similar plan was proposed for Halswell. (fn. 12) By 1756 there were seven farms with over 50 a. in the parish, excluding the demesne holding, some tenants having more than one farm, while many small holding survived. (fn. 13) In 1846 the largest tenant holding was 155 a., four others were over 100 a., and a further four over 50 a. (fn. 14) Wheat, oats, clover, potatoes, and 5 a. of flax were subject to tithe in 1789. (fn. 15) In 1846 arable (579 a.) and grass (571 a.) were nearly equal in area. By 1905 the area under grass had much increased. (fn. 16) In 1982 there were at least four dairy farms, but arable had increased in importance through the conversion of much of the park. Grassland accounted for 266 ha. (657 a.) of the enlarged parish and arable for 221 ha. (546 a.). At least two farms were over 100 ha. (247 a.). (fn. 17)

A cooper combined a workshop with farming in the mid 17th century. (fn. 18) There was a smithy in the village and the blacksmith in 1684 had 1,262 lb. of new and old iron besides 98 lb. of spikes and nails. (fn. 19) In 1831 trade and manufacture supported 15 out of 58 families (fn. 20) and in 1851 there were a draper and grocer and a poulterer in the parish. (fn. 21) Other 19th-century occupations included a music teacher and fishmonger in 1861 and a basketmaker and threshing machine proprietor in 1881. (fn. 22) Large numbers of people worked on the Halswell estate: Lady Tynte employed 20 servants in 1787, (fn. 23) and there were 20 indoor servants in 1841. (fn. 24) During the 19th century estate workers included gamekeepers, gardeners, a lodgekeeper, bailiffs, a clerk of works, and a steward. (fn. 25)


There was a mill on the Halswell estate in 1314 (fn. 26) which was last recorded in 1597. (fn. 27) It may have stood on the stream west of Halswell House where a series of ponds was later made in Mill Wood. (fn. 28) Ely Mill on Goathurst manor was recorded in 1556. (fn. 29) There was a water mill on the manor in the 18th century but in 1780 it was decided not to let it and it was later taken down. (fn. 30) It may have stood north of the church. (fn. 31)


  • 1. V.C.H. Som. i. 495, 513.
  • 2. S.R.S. iii. 164.
  • 3. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 242.
  • 4. Ibid. DD/S/BW 5.
  • 5. Ibid. DD/SP inventories, 1648, 1677, 1683-4, 1692.
  • 6. Ibid. 1688.
  • 7. Ibid. 1734; MS. tithe receipts in possession of Miss B. Harris.
  • 8. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 252, 254, 258; DD/X/TCR 4.
  • 9. Ibid. DD/S/WH 34, 258; DD/SP inventory, 1721; MS. tithe receipts in possession of Miss B. Harris.
  • 10. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 267.
  • 11. Ibid. 262, 269.
  • 12. Ibid. 25, 269.
  • 13. Ibid. 248.
  • 14. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 15. Ibid. D/P/gst 3/2/2.
  • 16. Ibid. tithe award; statistics supplied by the then Bd. of Agric., 1905.
  • 17. Min. of Agric., Fisheries, and Food, agric. returns, 1982.
  • 18. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 146; DD/SP inventory, 1683.
  • 19. Ibid. DD/SP inventory, 1684.
  • 20. Ibid. D/P/gst 23/5.
  • 21. P.R.O., HO 107/1924.
  • 22. Ibid. RG 9/1622; RG 11/2373.
  • 23. S.R.O., DD/X/TCR 4.
  • 24. P.R.O., HO 107/929.
  • 25. Ibid. HO 107/1924; ibid. RG 9/1622; RG 10/2383; RG 11/2372; Kelly's Dir. Som. (1894).
  • 26. S.R.S. xii. 43.
  • 27. S.R.O., DD/S/WH 210, 242.
  • 28. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 29. Ibid. DD/S/WH 210.
  • 30. Ibid. 25, 147, 225, 248.
  • 31. Ibid. tithe award.