Four Towers

Page 18

A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 7, Bruton, Horethorne and Norton Ferris Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1999.

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The extra-parochial district or place called Four Towers lay in the former Selwood forest between the parishes of Brewham, Charlton Musgrove, and Shepton Montague, on the western side of the Selwood ridge. (fn. 1) The estate was known as Old Lodge in 1739. (fn. 2) The four towers, hence the name Stavordale castle, were built possibly by Nathaniel Ireson in 1742. (fn. 3) The name Four Towers occurs in 1782 but Two Towers in 1822. (fn. 4) The district was triangular in shape, measuring 1 km. from north to south at its widest point and 1.5 km. from east to west. The northern boundary was a tributary of the river Brue and the south-eastern followed a lane from the Selwood ridge to Barrow in Charlton Musgrove. The land slopes from 200 m. (656 ft.) on the ridge in the east, where Greensand and silty clay give way to Oxford Clay, down to 130 m. (426 ft.) in the extreme west. (fn. 5) In 1889 the district contained 184 a. (fn. 6) In 1858 it was made a separate civil parish but in 1885 it was transferred to South Brewham. (fn. 7)

The district formed part of Selwood forest which was disafforested in 1629, (fn. 8) and included Stavordale wood and half of Blackslough wood. (fn. 9) The 18thcentury private coach road from Mere (Wilts.) to Redlynch was built through the district in 1745-6. (fn. 10)


Four Towers appears to have belonged to the lords of the manor of Castle Cary and was held of them by the Berkeley family and others. (fn. 11) It was sold in 1684 by Thomas, Lord Bruce, and his wife Elizabeth with her mother Mary and sister Theodosia and their husbands to Anthony Ettrick and William Player. (fn. 12) In 1686 Player sold his half share to Ettrick (d. 1703) whose son William (d. 1716) left the estate to his daughter Rachel. In 1739 Rachel sold it to Stephen Fox and it descended with the Redlynch estate. (fn. 13) In the 19th century the district was described as a manor owned by the earl of Ilchester and was a mixture of grazing and woodland. (fn. 14)

There was probably a house or lodge on the estate which had gone by 1739 (fn. 15) and unspecified ruins were recorded c. 1790. (fn. 16) In 1746 the earl of Ilchester reserved the right to build a house. (fn. 17) The four towers may have been erected as hunting towers and they were whitewashed in 1756. (fn. 18) About 1790 they were said to have been built for an 'object'; two were shells but two were habitable. (fn. 19) In the 19th century the earl's gamekeeper lived at Blackslough which was the only house after 1851. (fn. 20) It may have been near the site of Old Lodge. (fn. 21)


  • 1. O.S. Map 6", Som. LXVI. NW. (1885 edn.). This article was completed in 1995.
  • 2. Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 297.
  • 3. B.L. Add. MS. 51373A, f. 39v.; Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 103 (lease 1746).
  • 4. S.R.S. lxxvi, maps 1782, 1822.
  • 5. O.S. Map 6", Som. LXVI. NW. (1885 edn.); 1/50,000, sheet 183 (1989 edn.); Geol. Surv. Map, 1/50,000, solid and drift, sheet 297 (1972 edn.).
  • 6. Kelly's Dir. Som. (1889).
  • 7. Youngs, Local Admin. Units, i. 674. It was included in Brewham ecclesiastical parish in 1966: S.R.O., D/P/chi. t 22/3/2.
  • 8. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1629-31, 119, 141.
  • 9. O.S. Map 6", Som. LXVI. NW. (1885 edn.).
  • 10. Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 188, accts.; S.R.S. lxxvi, map 1822.
  • 11. S.D.N.Q. v. 315-17.
  • 12. Burke, Peerage (1949), 723; Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 297.
  • 13. Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 297; Som. Wills, ed. Brown, v. 58; Hutchins, Hist. Dors. (1861-70), 218-9; below, Bruton, manors.
  • 14. P.O. Dir. Som. (1875); Kelly's Dir. Som. (1889, 1906).
  • 15. Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 297.
  • 16. Ibid. box 170, survey c. 1790.
  • 17. Ibid. box 103.
  • 18. B.L. Add. MS. 51373A, f. 39v.; Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 189, accts. 1754-64.
  • 19. Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 170, survey c. 1790.
  • 20. P.R.O., RG 9/1651; RG 11/2399; Kelly's Dir. Som. (1889, 1897).
  • 21. Dors. R.O., D/FSI, box 319, survey 1857.