A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 14, Malmesbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1991.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Great Somerford, (fn. 1) 5 km. south-east of Malmesbury on the Bristol Avon, (fn. 2) was called Somerford Mautravers from the later 13th century. From the 15th century the suffix, the surname of the lords of a manor in the parish, was gradually replaced by the prefix Broad or Great. (fn. 3) Both suffix and prefix distinguished Great Somerford from its smaller and less populous neighbour Little Somerford or Somerford Mauduit. The parish includes the hamlet of Startley. Under an Act of 1882 small parts of the parish were transferred to Little Somerford and Malmesbury. (fn. 4) Great Somerford thereafter measured 672 ha. (1,660 a.).
Most of the northern boundary is marked by the Avon and its tributary the Rodbourne stream. Failure to follow the river round the bend north of the village suggests that the Avon's course has changed. The stream, dividing Great Somerford from Rodbourne in Malmesbury, was a boundary in the late 11th century or early 12th. (fn. 5) To the east the boundary with Dauntsey followed what may have been an earlier course of the Avon until 1809, when it was redefined as a straight line west of it. (fn. 6) Elsewhere a road and a stream mark short stretches, but most of the west and south boundaries follow no prominent feature. The south is part of a line, presumably drawn at an early inclosure, which also marks the south boundary of Great Somerford's east and west neighbours.
Kellaways Clay, Oxford Clay, and Kellaways Sand outcrop in the parish, the clay mainly in the west, the sand mainly in the centre. To the east are extensive gravel terraces, and much alluvium has been deposited by the Rodbourne stream in the north-west and by the Avon in the north-east and south-east. The parish is almost flat. The highest land, c. 90 m., is in the north-west, the lowest, c. 60 m., at the south-east corner. (fn. 7) The extensive meadow land on the alluvium and the pasture on the clays have favoured animal husbandry in the parish, but tillage is also favoured by the gravel, and some of the clay has been ploughed. (fn. 8)
The parish is well served by lanes but no main road crosses it. The road between Little Somerford and Sutton Benger links Great Somerford village with the road from Malmesbury to Wootton Bassett and Swindon in the north and the Swindon—Chippenham road in the south. Its original course may have been across a ford north of the church, but in 1773 was further east across a bridge. The Avon was presumably bridged long before 1773; a new bridge, with a balustraded parapet, was built c. 1799. (fn. 9) The road was turnpiked in 1809 and disturnpiked in 1876. (fn. 10) Joining it in Seagry parish another north-south road, leading from Malmesbury, crosses the parish through Startley. An east-west road from Dauntsey ran through Great Somerford village to Startley, and in 1773 west of Startley towards Rodbourne. (fn. 11) In 1809, when that west part was no longer in use, the east part was made straight at inclosure. (fn. 12) A more northerly road that ran to Startley in 1773 (fn. 13) was, except at either end, a rough track in 1988. The Malmesbury railway, to link Malmesbury with Dauntsey station on the G.W.R. line between London and Bristol, was built across the parish and opened in 1877. A station called Somerford, later Great Somerford, stood north of the village in Little Somerford parish. Line and station were closed in 1933, (fn. 14) and the line south of the station had been removed by 1949. (fn. 15)
Artifacts of the early and middle Bronze Age have been found in the parish. (fn. 16) In 1377 there were 92 poll-tax payers of Great Somerford, one of the higher totals for Malmesbury hundred, and only 10 of Startley. (fn. 17) Taxation assessments in the 16th and early 17th century suggest that the parish was prosperous. The fact that John Yew, the owner of two manors in the parish and a clothier, lived at Great Somerford, may account for a higher than usual assessment in 1571 and in 1576. (fn. 18) Between 1801 and 1841 the population increased from 358 to 556. It fluctuated little between 1841 and 1891, when it was 530, but afterwards fell. It was 421 in 1921, 448 in 1931. Thereafter the building of private and council houses caused it to increase: it was 662 in 1971, 668 in 1981. (fn. 19)
In 1989 Great Somerford was a large village spread out mainly along the Little Somerford to Sutton Benger road, called Park Lane to the north, Top Street to the south, and along several streets east and west of that road. Some of the older buildings are timber-framed but most, and most 19th century ones, are of stone. The village grew up on the south bank of the Avon presumably near the ford from which it took its name. (fn. 20) A mound near the river is possibly the site of a motte-andbailey castle which may have been raised in the 12th century, and east of it the church was standing by the late 12th century. Fragments of 12th century masonry have been found in the mound. (fn. 21) A house called the Mount was built south of the mound in the later 16th century and, east of the Mount, a timber-framed building was erected, possibly as a house, in the early 17th century. The rectory house was built south of the church in the early 17th century, and Brook Farm in the 16th century on the east side of Park Lane. (fn. 22) At the junction of Park Lane and Frog Lane a house called Bevis has a long north-south range which was originally timber-framed and of early 17th century construction. At different dates the house was partly rebuilt in brick and stone. J. L. Osborn (d. 1940), a writer on Wiltshire topics, lived there 1910–24. (fn. 23) East of Bevis, a small symmetrically fronted farmhouse was built in the early 19th century, and on the south side of Frog Lane cottages were built of stone rubble in the late 18th. Further west, north of the junction of Top Street and Hollow Street, the Old Makings was built in the early 19th century, and west of the junction, the Close is a house built in the early 17th century, extended south and west in the early 18th, and much altered inside c. 1985. East of the junction a group of later 19th-century red-brick buildings includes a reading room erected in 1872 which became a chapel in 1882. (fn. 24) Mills Farm on the east side of Top Street was built in the 17th century, (fn. 25) and east of it and abutting Winkins Lane is a large barn of cruck construction. The Beeches, on the west side of Top Street, was built of stone in the later 19th century. (fn. 26)
In the 17th century or earlier farmsteads and cottages were built in West Street to form a group away from the main part of the village. The Manor House, Manor Farmhouse, and West Street Farm were all built in the 17th century, (fn. 27) and houses on both sides of the street incorporate timber framing and may have been built in the later 16th or earlier 17th century. West Street was diverted from the south to the north side of the Manor House between 1853 and 1885. (fn. 28)
Settlement began in Hollow Street after 1773. (fn. 29) The only older building, of the early 17th century, timber-framed, and partly rebuilt in brick, was apparently a farm building. Parsloe, formerly Church Farm, a small stone farmhouse, was built on the north side of the street c. 1800, in 1809 c. 10 houses and cottages stood beside the street, (fn. 30) and later a school was built. On the south side a pair of stone cottages with an east front of ashlar survives.
A house at the junction of Winkins Lane and Dauntsey Road was built of rendered stone with brick quoins in 1766. (fn. 31) In the 19th century the village developed southwards along Top Street and around its junction with West Street and Dauntsey Road. South-west of the junction the Volunteer inn was open in 1822, (fn. 32) and from 1836 to 1912 a friendly society met there. (fn. 33) Further south, on the east side of the road to Sutton Benger, the New Inn later the Masons Arms, was open from 1841 until c. 1968. (fn. 34) Outside the village, Downfield Farm south of Dauntsey Road was built of stone c. 1824 to designs by Charles Fowler. (fn. 35) A keeper's house was built at the level crossing in Dauntsey Road c. 1877. South of the village at Seagry Heath a farmstead was built c. 1850 and another c. 1912. (fn. 36)
Council and private houses were built in all parts of the village in the 20th century. In 1932 six, and in 1938 ten, council houses were built along Dauntsey Road, and a new school was later built there. In Winkins Lane 16 council houses were built in 1949–50 and six bungalows for old people in 1951, and in 1955 four council houses replaced two cottages north of Hollow Street. Further west along Hollow Street a residential caravan site was opened beside the Avon in 1964. Two bungalows were built on the east side of Shiptons Lane in the 1960s and, north-west of the junction of Top Street and West Street, 15 bungalows in Manor Park were built 1969–70. (fn. 37)
Near its eastern edge the common called Startley marsh was crossed by the road leading from Malmesbury. According to tradition Startley hundred courts met on the common in the Middle Ages. (fn. 38) East of the road the common formed a wide verge, extending north of the junction with the road from Great Somerford first on the east side of the road and then on the west, and there was a further area of common, called Goose Green in 1773, (fn. 39) to the north-west. There was settlement round the edges of the common in the 17th century and later: Heath Farm, east of the road at the north end of the settlement, is a small 17th-century stone house of one storey and attics which was raised to two storeys and altered in the 19th century; the Cottage, west of the road at the south end, is a small timber-framed house built in the 17th century and cased in brick in the 18th; Marsh Farm, which apparently stood in 1809, (fn. 40) was rebuilt c. 1960; (fn. 41) Goose Green Farm was rebuilt of stone with a symmetrical south front c. 1800; and Grove Farm, at the north end on the west side, was standing in 1809 and rebuilt in brick in the later 19th century. By 1809 there had also been encroachments on the common, 2 or 3 cottages at Goose Green, c. 3 on the west side of the road at the north end, and c. 7 on the wide verge east of the road. (fn. 42) Those at Goose Green had been demolished by 1885. (fn. 43) The oldest of the others to survive is apparently Barn Gates, built near the north end of the settlement in the later 18th century and extended east in the 19th. After inclosure in 1809 Startley Farm was built on the west side of the road and White Lodge, with a symmetrical west front, on the east side, both in the earlier 19th century; a nonconformist chapel was built later; and in the later 19th century and the 20th houses and bungalows were built on both sides. Cottages north of Heath Road in 1773 (fn. 44) were rebuilt in the 19th century.
Manors and other Estates.
There were seven separate Domesday estates in Great Somerford. The equal size of Edwin's and Alnod's, and of Alwin's, Alwi's, and Saieva's, may imply the division of earlier large estates. In 1066 Edwin held 3 hides and 24 a. that became the manor of SOMERFORD MAUTRAVERS. Humphrey Lisle held the estate, with a house in Malmesbury, in 1086 (fn. 45) and it passed to his daughter Adelize, wife of Reynold or Robert de Dunstanville. From their son Reynold (d. 1156) the overlordship passed with the barony of Castle Combe in the direct male line to Walter de Dunstanville (fn. 46) (d. 1270). It passed to Walter's daughter Parnel whose husband John de la Mare held it until his death in 1313. From John it passed to Bartholomew de Badlesmere, Lord Badlesmere (d. 1322), who bought the reversion from Parnel's son William de Montfort in 1309. (fn. 47) On the death of Badlesmere's son Giles in 1338, it was allotted to Giles's sister Elizabeth (d. 1356), the wife of William de Bohun, earl of Northampton. (fn. 48) The overlordship was afterwards held by Elizabeth's nephew Robert Tybotot, Lord Tybotot (d. s.p.m. 1372), whose heirs were overlords in 1380, (fn. 49) but no later mention of it has been found.
In 1086 Robert held the estate of Humphrey Lisle. (fn. 50) It was afterwards held by Roger son of Geoffrey. Roger's coheirs were his daughters Ela, wife of Richard of Herriard, and Alice (d. in or before 1180), wife of John Mautravers (d. 1200). In 1183–4 Alice's son Walter Mautravers (d. before 1201) was assigned the estate. He forfeited it after taking part in Prince John's rebellion of 1193, (fn. 51) and in 1194 it was apparently assigned to his uncle Richard of Herriard in right of Ela. (fn. 52) The estate was afterwards restored to Walter's brother John Mautravers (d. 1220). John forfeited it after joining the rebellion of 1215, but afterwards recovered it. The manor passed in the direct male line to John's son John (fl. 1242–3), (fn. 53) John (d. 1296 or 1297), (fn. 54) John (d. 1341), who was granted free warren in his demesne lands, (fn. 55) and John, Lord Mautravers (d. 1364). The manor passed to Lord Mautravers's relict Agnes (d. 1375) (fn. 56) and granddaughter Eleanor Mautravers, suo jure Baroness Mautravers (d. 1405), who married first John d'Arundel, Lord Arundel (d. 1379), and secondly Reynold Cobham, Lord Cobham (d. 1403). (fn. 57)
Eleanor was succeeded by her grandson John d'Arundel, (fn. 58) Lord Mautravers (d. 1421), whose relict Eleanor (d. 1455) married secondly Sir Richard Poynings (d. c. 1430) and thirdly Walter Hungerford, Lord Hungerford (d. 1449). (fn. 59) From that Eleanor the manor passed to her son William FitzAlan or Mautravers, earl of Arundel (d. 1487), (fn. 60) and descended from father to son with the Arundel title to Thomas FitzAlan (d. 1524), William FitzAlan (d. 1544), (fn. 61) and Henry FitzAlan (d. 1580).
In 1561 Henry, earl of Arundel, sold Somerford Mautravers manor to John Yew (fn. 62) (d. 1588). Yew was succeeded by his son John (d. by 1623), (fn. 63) and from the younger John the manor passed to his granddaughter Anne Long, who, with her father Gifford Long, sold it in 1623 to Robert Jason (fn. 64) (d. 1634). The manor descended in the direct male line to Sir Robert Jason, Bt. (d. 1675), and Sir Robert Jason, Bt. (d. 1687). The younger Sir Robert was foreclosed by the mortgagee, Sir Richard Hawkins (d. 1687), (fn. 65) whose trustees sold the manor in portions.
In 1699 John Smith (d. 1724) bought the manor house and demesne lands called Somerford farm. He was succeeded by his son John (d. 1765), who c. 1750 bought other parts of Somerford Mautravers manor. The younger John's daughter Elizabeth Smith (d. 1798) devised the estate to her kinsman William Jones (d. 1833), who took the name Smith in place of Jones in 1798, and to William's sister Mary (d. 1875), wife of Lazarus Birtill. (fn. 66) The estate was greatly reduced, apparently by sales in the later 19th or early 20th century, and 103 a. were sold in 1903 by the representatives of Mary Birtill's daughter-in-law Janetta Birtill, (fn. 67) who in 1910 owned only the Mount and 7 a. (fn. 68) The Mount was owned in 1927 by the Revd. W. J. Birtill, (fn. 69) from 1945 to 1955 by members of the Palmer family, (fn. 70) and from 1955 by Maj. P. W. G. Phillips, (fn. 71) the owner in 1988.
The Mount was built in the later 16th century as an L-shaped timber-framed house with a northsouth hall range, entered through a two-storeyed east porch, and a south wing extending to the east. In the early 18th century a staircase was built in the angle between the hall and the wing, and a partition wall with heavily moulded panelling was made on the first floor. In the early 19th century the south elevation of the wing was made into a symmetrical entrance front with a central pediment, and all the walls were roughcast. In the later 20th century some 18th-century fittings, including panelling in the hall and a carved stone fireplace in the south wing, were introduced.
In 1726 Richard Knapp and others sold 10 a., formerly part of Somerford Mautravers manor, to Nathaniel Houlton. (fn. 72) The land became part of Houlton's Seagry estate, was sold in 1785 to Sir James Tylney-Long, Bt., and descended as part of the Draycot Cerne estate. (fn. 73) In 1865 the owner, Henry Wellesley, Earl Cowley, bought a 60-a. farm at Startley from Mary Birtill, (fn. 74) and in 1870 c. 18 a. at Startley from the Revd. Stephen Demainbray. (fn. 75) In 1920 Christian, Earl Cowley, offered c. 88 a. around Startley, including Startley farm, 32 a., for sale. (fn. 76) Startley farm was owned in 1988 by Mr. Robert Dickinson. (fn. 77)
In 1066 Alnod held 3 hides and 24 a. that became the manor of SOMERFORD BOWLES or SOMERFORD EWYAS. Alfred of Marlborough held the estate in 1086 (fn. 78) and the overlordship passed like that of Teffont Evias manor with the honor of Ewyas to Robert Tregoze (d. 1265), who held it in 1242–3, (fn. 79) and to his son John Tregoze (d. 1300). John's grandson, John la Warre (fn. 80) (d. 1347), from 1307 Lord la Warre, was allotted 1 knight's fee in Great Somerford in 1306. The overlordship descended with the title to Roger, Lord la Warre (d. 1370), and John, Lord la Warre (d. 1398), and was last mentioned in 1370. (fn. 81) The manor was still considered part of the honor of Ewyas c. 1500. (fn. 82)
Siward held the estate of Alfred in 1086, (fn. 83) and Jordan Waters (de aqua) in 1275. (fn. 84) Between 1293 and 1300 it passed from Jordan and his wife Maud to John of Seagry. (fn. 85) John or a namesake held the manor in 1306, (fn. 86) and in 1321 John of Seagry and his wife Joan settled it on themselves and on John's son Simon. (fn. 87) The manor descended, presumably like a manor in Seagry, (fn. 88) to Emme Drew, who held it in 1384 and 1412, and Thomas Drew, who held it in 1451. (fn. 89) Like that manor it passed to John Mompesson (d. 1500), John Mompesson (d. 1511), (fn. 90) Edmund Mompesson (d. 1553), (fn. 91) and Anne Wayte. On Anne's death before 1571 it passed to her daughter Eleanor (d. 1592), wife of Richard Browning (d. 1573). Eleanor was succeeded by her son Richard Browning (fn. 92) (d. 1612), and Richard by his son Anthony (d. 1663). (fn. 93) Anthony's son Edmund in 1670 sold a farm of c. 217 a. to William Grinfield and in 1693 sold other portions of the manor to William Alexander, Michael Wickes, and Thomas Evans. (fn. 94)
The residue of Somerford Bowles manor, including the manorial rights and apparently the land called MANOR farm, was owned in 1751 by Richard Serle (fn. 95) and afterwards passed to his nephew Richard Goodenough who sold the farm, apparently c. 1772 to John Timbrell. In 1774 Timbrell sold it to William Randall (d. 1809), from whom it passed to his relict Mary, and then to his son William Randall and grandson William Randall. (fn. 96) In 1847 the third William Randall offered the farm, 80 a., for sale: (fn. 97) it may have been part of the estate of William Beak (d. 1873) and W. E. Beak 1858–88. (fn. 98) In 1910 and 1927 Manor farm, 120 a., belonged to the representatives of Benjamin Porter, (fn. 99) and 1945–56 to the executors of C. Porter. (fn. 100) It was afterwards sold in portions. Manor Farm is a timber-framed house built in the early 17th century. It was encased in stone and the north end was rebuilt in the 18th century; in the early 19th century it was extended southwards and eastwards and given a doublegabled south entrance front.
The farm bought by William Grinfield in 1670 passed to his son Edward (d. 1759). Edward's son Steddy Grinfield sold it in 1775 to John Pyke (fn. 101) (will dated 1778), who devised Bridge, later BROOK, farm to his son John. (fn. 102) The younger John was succeeded by his brothers William (d. 1794) and Thomas (d. 1815). Thomas devised the farm for his children, including Thomas (d. s.p. 1839), John (d. s.p. 1842), and Henry (d. s.p. 1888). Henry Pyke devised it in undivided shares to Joseph, Isaac, and William Hanks and Ann Belcher, the children of his sister Elizabeth Hanks. (fn. 103) In 1896 Brook farm, 243 a., was sold to Sir Henry Meux, Bt. (d. 1900). Meux's relict Valerie offered the farm, 143 a., for sale in 1906. (fn. 104) It was owned in 1910 and 1939 by Frederick Cole, (fn. 105) in 1945–6 by W. G. Greenwood, (fn. 106) 1947–85 by Peter Sturgis, in 1988 by Mr. T. R. Sturgis. (fn. 107) Brook Farm has a main north—south range with north and south wings to the east, all of stone rubble. The oldest part of the house is the south wing which survives from a 16th-century building: its roof has re-used smoke-blackened rafters. The main range and the north wing are 17th-century. The west elevation was encased in ashlar to make a symmetrical entrance front for Thomas and Winifred Pyke in 1803, (fn. 108) and, also in the 19th century, the space between the wings was built over.
BLANCHARDS, the portion of Somerford Bowles manor bought in 1693 by William Alexander passed with his other land in the parish at his death in 1724 to his granddaughter Elizabeth Alexander (d. 1790), wife of John Smith (d. 1765). It was added to Smith's part of Somerford Mautravers manor. (fn. 109)
In 1695 Michael Wickes conveyed his part of Somerford Bowles manor, MAYO'S farm, c. 34 a., for charitable purposes in Malmesbury, including St. John's almshouse and the free school. (fn. 110) The land was sold in 1920. (fn. 111)
GROVE farm, Startley, the part of Somerford Bowles manor bought in 1693 by Thomas Evans, was sold in 1720 by his relict Ann Evans to Edward Yate, who charged it with £15 yearly for a dissenting minister in Malmesbury. Yate devised the farm to Abraham Sperring, who sold it to Thomas Hobbes in 1735. Hobbes devised it to his nephew Giles Bennett, who sold it in 1758 to John Pyke (fn. 112) (will dated 1778). Pyke devised Grove farm to his son William (d. 1794) (fn. 113) and it descended like Brook farm. It was held c. 1900 by Joseph Hanks, (fn. 114) whose representatives sold the 92-a. farm in 1910 to Wiltshire countv council, (fn. 115) the owner in 1988. (fn. 116)
In 1066 Scirold held an estate of 3½ yardlands in Great Somerford. Edward of Salisbury held it in 1086, when a house in Malmesbury was held with it. (fn. 117) The overlordship of the manor of SOMERFORD descended in the direct male line to Walter of Salisbury (d. 1147), Patrick, earl of Salisbury (d. 1168), and William, earl of Salisbury (d. 1196), and afterwards passed to Williams daughter Ela (d. 1261), wife of William Longespee, earl of Salisbury (d. 1226). Although the overlordship was last mentioned in 1242–3, (fn. 118) the manor was still considered part of the honor of Trowbridge 1653–64. (fn. 119)
The manor was held by Kington St. Michael priory in 1242–3, of Geoffrey de Sifrewast, and at the Dissolution. (fn. 123) In 1538 the Crown granted it to Sir Richard Long (fn. 124) (d. 1546), (fn. 125) who in 1544 conveyed it to his brother Robert (d. 1564). Robert was succeeded by his brother William, (fn. 126) who sold the manor to John Yew in 1570. (fn. 127) Yew sold it in 1577 to Sir John Thynne (fn. 128) (d. 1580), and it descended in the direct male line to Sir John Thynne (fn. 129) (d. 1604), Sir Thomas Thynne (fn. 130) (d. 1639), and Sir James Thynne (fn. 131) (d. s.p. 1670). Sir James was succeeded in turn by his nephews Thomas Thynne (d. 1682) and Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth (d. 1714). From Lord Weymouth the manor passed to his grandnephew Thomas, Viscount Weymouth (d. 1751), and in the direct male line to Thomas, Viscount Weymouth (cr. marquess of Bath 1789, d. 1796), and Thomas, marquess of Bath (d. 1837), who in 1810 sold the estate, three houses and 123 a., to John Parsloe (d. 1849). (fn. 132)
In 1853 Parsloe's trustees offered for sale the manor and other land owned by Parsloe in the parish, a total of 223 a. (fn. 133) William Beak (d. 1873) (fn. 134) was the owner in 1856. (fn. 135) His son W. E. Beak sold the estate, including Manor House and its 18-a. park, in portions in 1888. (fn. 136)
The Manor House was built of stone rubble in the mid 17th century. A long service range was built on the east side in the later 18th century. In the early 19th century, apparently for John Parsloe, (fn. 137) a tall block containing an entrance hall and staircase was built on the south side of the 17th-century block: it was extended eastwards in the later 19th. The 17th-century block was heightened and refronted c. 1900 to match the early 19th-century extension, and in the early 20th century a long north-south service range was built from the south side of the 18th-century range. Fittings of the 18th century were introduced into the house in the mid 20th century. The late 19th century part of the house was demolished and the inside of the house rearranged and divided into two c. 1977. Stables were built north of the house in the earlier 19th century. To create the park south of the house in the later 19th century West Street was diverted to run between the house and stables, (fn. 138) a lodge was built on the Sutton Benger road c. 1900, and an avenue was planted across the park between it and the house.
In 1086 Alwin the priest, Alwi, and Saieva each held 2½ yardlands, and Edward held ½ hide. (fn. 139) Those estates were afterwards acquired by Edward of Salisbury and assigned to his daughter Maud, wife of Humphrey de Bohun. (fn. 140) The manor of GREAT SOMERFORD passed like Wilsford manor in Swanborough hundred to Maud's son Humphrey de Bohun (fl. 1131 X 1146), grandson Humphrey de Bohun (d. 1181), and great-grandson Henry de Bohun (cr. earl of Hereford 1200, d. 1220). (fn. 141) It afterwards descended with the earldom (fn. 142) and Humphrey de Bohun (d. 1373) was overlord of ½ and 1/10 knight's fee in Great Somerford. His daughter Mary, (fn. 143) wife of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby (Henry IV), was assigned ½ knight's fee in 1384. (fn. 144) No later mention of the overlordship has been found.
In 1242–3 Reynold of Somerford, probably Reynold son of William, held 1 knight's fee in Great Somerford of Humphrey, earl of Hereford. (fn. 145) Richard of Somerford's heirs held ½ knight's fee in 1275. (fn. 146) Great Somerford manor was held in 1373 by Thomas Drew, (fn. 147) in 1401–2 by Emme Drew, (fn. 148) and in 1428 by Thomas Drew. (fn. 149) It passed like a manor in Seagry to Isabel Drew, wife of John Mompesson (d. 1500). It was held for life by Agnes Trye (d. 1499), relict of John's and Isabel's son Drew Mompesson, and after her death like Somerford Bowles manor by her son John Mompesson (d. 1511). (fn. 150) The manor was afterwards held in moieties by Christopher Mompesson and Thomas Mompesson, brothers of John Mompesson (d. 1511). Christopher's moiety apparently passed to Thomas, (fn. 151) who held the entire manor at his death in 1560. The manor passed to his son Thomas (fn. 152) (d. 1582) and grandson Thomas Mompesson (d. 1612). (fn. 153)
In 1610 Thomas Mompesson sold land including WEST STREETfarm to Nicholas Barrett (d. 1610), who devised it to his father Hugh in trust for his brother-in-law William Bayliffe. In 1617 Hugh Barrett and Bayliffe sold the farm to Hugh's son Richard, who in 1621 sold it to Edward, son of Nicholas Barrett. Edward sold it in 1627 to John Wells. The farm was afterwards owned by Henry Grayle, who in 1654 charged it with £10 yearly for apprenticing poor children of Malmesbury. In 1687 Grayle's grandson and heir Thomas Davys sold the farm to William Alexander (fn. 154) (d. 1724), and it descended to William's granddaughter Elizabeth Alexander (d. 1790), wife of John Smith (d. 1765). (fn. 155) West Street farm descended in the Smith and Birtill families to the representatives of Mary Anne, relict of Henry Birtill, who sold the 154-a. farm c. 1910 to Rowland Woolford (fn. 156) (d. 1935). (fn. 157) The farm was owned in 1965–6 by C. T. Ll. Palmer (d. 1978), (fn. 158) and in 1988 by Mrs. C. T. Ll. Palmer. (fn. 159)
West Street Farm was built of stone rubble as a long east—west range in the 17th century. In the 18th century a new block was built at the north-east corner. In the 18th century or early 19th the west end was heightened and the west end of the south front was encased in ashlar and decorated with bands of 12th-century chevron ornament, some medieval roundels, and a shield of arms, possibly of the Mompesson family. Further alterations were made and a north wing was built at the west end in the later 19th century. The house was extensively restored c. 1988.
In 1610 Thomas Mompesson owned a small estate called CULVERHOUSE place (fn. 160) which was owned by Robert Jason in 1634 (fn. 161) and, with an additional 20 a., by Sir Robert Jason in 1673. It descended with Somerford Mautravers manor to Sir Richard Hawkins's trustees, (fn. 162) who sold it to John Pyke c. 1699. From Pyke it descended to his son Henry (will dated 1764), who devised it to his son John (will proved 1778). That John Pyke bought MILLS farm, 20 a., formerly part of Somerford Mautravers manor, from Mary Leet in 1767. (fn. 163) Culverhouse place and Mills farm, together called Home farm c. 1815, descended in the Pyke family with Brook farm, (fn. 164) were held c. 1900 and in 1910 by Ann Belcher, (fn. 165) and, as Mills farm, 60 a., by Dee Bros. in 1927. (fn. 166)
Mills Farm was built of stone in the 17th century as a north-south range of one storey and attics. It was heightened to two storeys and attics in the later 18th century and a short wing was built at the centre of the east elevation. The wing was extended north in the early 19th century, perhaps for the school kept in the house, (fn. 167) and again c. 1985. The interior of the house was being altered and restored in 1989.
In 1920 Charles and Ernest Porter bought the glebe, Downfield farm. (fn. 170) The owner was C. E. Porter in 1945–6, (fn. 171) A. Ll. Palmer 1955–67, (fn. 172) and Julian Sturgis in 1988. (fn. 173) Broadfield farm was formed from several small portions of land in the 1960s by E. F. Porter, the owner in 1988. (fn. 174)
Great Somerford was unusual for Wiltshire because it had seven estates in 1086. The estates had 4 hides in demesne on which were 2 ploughteams and 2 servi, and there were 3 villani, 12 bordars, 32 coscets, and 2 cottars, with a total of 5 ploughteams. Two of the estates, Humphrey Lisle's and Siward's, were assessed equally and each had 2 hides in demesne with 1 team: on the remaining 1 hide and 24 a. of each Humphrey had 7 bordars and 16 coscets with 2 teams, and Siward had 3 villani, 2 bordars, and 8 coscets with 2 teams. Humphrey's estate included pasture 3 furlongs by 1 furlong, Siward's included woodland 2 furlongs by 1 furlong. Edward's estate of ½ hide could support ½ ploughteam but, because he had no tenant, may have been uncultivated. The seven estates had a total of 33 a. of meadow and, apart from Humphrey's, a total of 19 a. of pasture. (fn. 175)
Apart from small pastures in the village it is likely that in the Middle Ages all Great Somerford's land was in open fields and common meadows and pastures. The arable was in the centre of the parish, east, west, and south of the village. East, West, and South fields were so called in the later 13th century when the road to Sutton Benger may have divided East and West. (fn. 176) By the mid 16th century East field had been divided into Broad and Down fields. (fn. 177) By 1809 c. 700 a., nearly half, of the parish had been inclosed: west and south-west of the village arable had apparently been inclosed into fields averaging c. 7 a., northwest of the village many of the inclosures, south of the Rodbourne stream and averaging 2–3 a., were much smaller and were presumably of meadow land. (fn. 178) The main period of inclosure seems likely to have been the earlier 17th century (fn. 179) and the farmsteads in West Street and Heath Farm, Grove Farm, and Goose Green Farm at Startley may have been built then on newly inclosed land. (fn. 180) North of the Rodbourne stream and beside the Avon east and south-east of the village meadow land remained in common, and there were common pastures west of Startley called Startley marsh, c. 120 a., and east of Great Somerford village. All the remaining open field and common meadows and pastures were inclosed in 1809 by Act. (fn. 181)
Somerford Mautravers and Great Somerford manors are known to have consisted of demesne and copyhold. In 1622 Great Somerford manor included demesne of 94 a. and copyholds of 21 a. and 16 a., all presumably with extensive rights to feed animals in common: the copyholds had become leaseholds by 1748. (fn. 182) At inclosure in 1809 the rector was allotted land to replace his tithes. South of Dauntsey Road the rector thereafter had c. 215 a., most of which were in the farm called Downfield for which new buildings were erected c. 1824. He was also allotted 99 a. of Startley marsh which became Marsh farm. Other allotments included 269 a. to William Smith for Somerford Mautravers manor and 207 a. to Thomas Pyke, but most were of fewer than 100 a. each: they seem to have been added to existing farms rather than used for new ones, and most of the parish continued to be worked from farmsteads in Great Somerford village. (fn. 183)
In 1867 only a third of the parish was ploughed: grain, chiefly wheat, was grown on two thirds of the arable, and root and fodder crops on the remainder. Of the two thirds of the parish under pasture, clover and grasses in rotation were grown on only a small acreage. There were 329 cows, 533 sheep, and 346 pigs on farms based in the parish. From 1876 to 1956 most of the parish was grassland. In that time an average of c. 270 a. was arable, and dairy farming increased at the expense of both sheep farming and pig keeping. After 1966 more land was ploughed. In 1985 c. 700 a. were arable, and wheat and barley were the chief crops. There were only 210 cows. (fn. 184)
Apart from Downfield, 186 a., West Street, 154 a., Brook, 143 a., and Manor, 120 a., the farms in the parish were of less than 100 a. in 1910, and some land was worked from outside the parish. All the farms based at Startley were small. (fn. 185) In 1927 Wiltshire county council owned 142 a. in four small farms based there, and a co-operative farming society, begun in Great Somerford c. 1911, owned 70 a. there. Goose Green farm, first named c. 1907, was then worked with Downfield farm, a total of 286 a. (fn. 186) In 1988 farms based at Startley were Goose Green, 60 a., Grove, 142 a., Heath, 65 a., and Startley, 32 a., and in and around Great Somerford village Broadfield, 140 a., Downfield, 215 a., Brook, 300 a., and West Street, 500 a. Mixed farming was practised on all except Startley, an arable farm, Goose Green, a pasture farm, and Grove, a dairy farm. (fn. 187) Broadfield farm, created in the 1960s, included a chicken farm, a market garden, and a commercial fishery, and in 1988 a 5-a. lake for trout fishing. (fn. 188) Also in the 1960s a chicken battery farm was established at Startley to supply the Sutton Benger factory of Buxted Chicken Ltd. (fn. 189) The only woodland in the parish was the extension of Seagry wood in the south-west corner: that woodland, 34 a., was presumably planted soon after the land became part of the Draycot Cerne estate in 1865. (fn. 190)
John Yew (d. 1588), who bought Somerford Mautravers manor in 1561 and lived at Great Somerford, and his son John were Bradford clothiers. (fn. 191) In 1831 most men living in Great Somerford were farm labourers, and some of the 21 described as tradesmen may have worked elsewhere. (fn. 192) Members of the Parsloe family were brewers at the Old Makings by 1848 and until 1865 or later. (fn. 193) A building firm begun by George Martin and specializing in making ornamental pinewood brickmoulds for use at Rodbourne brickworks was based at Startley from the late 19th century: in 1988 it was a general building firm. (fn. 194) Bowprine Ltd., a firm of building contractors, was based at the Manor House in 1988.
In 1086 there was a mill on Alfred of Marlborough's estate. Each of five other estates then included a share in a mill but in what mill or mills is obscure. (fn. 195) No mill site in the parish is known.
Records of courts, usually called views of frankpledge with courts of the manor, and possibly held twice a year, survive for 1513 and the period 1570–1652 for Kington priory's and the Thynnes' Somerford manor. Business included the election of a tithingman, the repair of tenements, the impounding of straying animals, and the overstocking of the common pastures. In 1652 the court required a copyholder, as a condition of admission, to plant fruit trees and oaks, ashes, or elms yearly until his holding was restocked, and to kennel for the lord a hound or a spaniel. Copyholders from Chipping, Little, or Old Sodbury (Glos.) and from Sevington in Leigh Delamere owed suit at the court in the earlier 17th century. Courts were held until 1748 or later. (fn. 196)
The amount spent on poor relief by Great Somerford was large for a parish of its size. In 1802–3 £302 was spent on continuous outdoor relief for a third of the inhabitants and on occasional relief for another 21. (fn. 197) In the years 1812–15 an average of £397 was spent on continuous relief for an average of 43 adults and on occasional relief for 18, (fn. 198) and later the amount spent varied between £259 in 1816 and £455 in 1830. (fn. 199) Other attempts to help the poor included the provision of allotment gardens and a poorhouse, (fn. 200) and subsidies to local farmers who employed paupers in 1822. The vestry assisted paupers to emigrate to Canada in 1831 (fn. 201) and to North America in 1849. (fn. 202) The parish was included in Malmesbury poor-law union in 1835. (fn. 203) It became part of North Wiltshire district in 1974. (fn. 204)
A church stood in Great Somerford in the late 12th century. (fn. 205) The benefice was a rectory, and in 1967 was united with the benefices of Little Somerford and Seagry. The benefice of Corston with Rodbourne was added to the united benefice in 1986. (fn. 206)
Between 1194 and 1198 Richard of Herriard, apparently lord of Somerford Mautravers manor, granted the advowson to Kington St. Michael priory. (fn. 207) The advowson was disputed in 1323–4 by the prioress and John Mautravers (d. 1341), and in 1334 it was adjudged that it belonged to Mautravers. (fn. 208) The lords of Somerford Mautravers manor thereafter presented rectors except in 1405 and 1421 when the king presented during minority (fn. 209) and in 1637 when the king presented because Sir Robert Jason was in the Fleet prison. Jason's right to present was unsuccessfully challenged by Edmund Browning c. 1676. (fn. 210) In 1699 the trustees of Sir Richard Hawkins sold the advowson to the rector, Edmund Wayte. In 1702 Wayte sold it to William Lake, whom the mortgagee presented as rector in 1702. Lake sold the advowson in 1704 to Robert Reeks, whose son Isaac was presented that year by the mortgagee. Later in 1704 Robert Reeks sold it to Richard Hutchins, who in 1708 gave it to Exeter College, Oxford, to provide a living for a fellow. (fn. 211) In 1967 the college was assigned the second and fourth of four turns of presentation, and in 1986 joint presentation at the first, third, and fifth of five turns. (fn. 212)
In 1291 the church was valued at £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 213) The rector took all the tithes and in 1341 had ½ yardland and 2 a. of meadow. (fn. 214) The rectory was worth £13 5s. 8d. in 1535, (fn. 215) £100 in 1650. (fn. 216) The glebe was c. 55 a. in the 17th century. (fn. 217) At inclosure in 1809 the rector was allotted 302 a. to replace the tithes, and 22 a. to replace the open arable and pasture rights of the glebe. In the late 19th century he owned 322 a. in the parish. (fn. 218) The average income of £347 in the years 1829–31 made the benefice one of the richer in Malmesbury deanery. (fn. 219) All the land except 6 a. was sold in 1920. (fn. 220)
The rector had a house in 1341. (fn. 221) A new house, of stone with two storeys and a cellar, was built in the early 17th century, and in 1671 had newly built attics. (fn. 222) It was enlarged in stone to the south-west in the early 19th century and a service wing and yard were built on the west in 1863–4. (fn. 223) A new rectory house was built in 1974 and the old one was sold. (fn. 224)
In 1494 the church contained lights in honour of St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and St. Nicholas. (fn. 225) What was presumably a fourth light was endowed with a cottage and 2½ a., later called St. Mary's lands. In 1575 St. Mary's lands were bought from the Crown through agents for the parish. The income, 6s. 8d. yearly in 1721 and 1828, was used for church repairs. After 1828 only part of the income was so used. (fn. 226)
John Cholsey, rector from 1384 to c. 1400, was also a canon of Wells. (fn. 227) In 1413 a parishioner, John Fleming, was absolved from a sentence of excommunication imposed for his support of heretics. (fn. 228) Thomas Arnold, rector 1537–54, was deprived for his protestant views. (fn. 229) Several later rectors were pluralists and, from the 17th century to the 19th, curates either assisted them or served the cure. (fn. 230) William Lake, rector 1702–4, was also vicar of Chippenham, rector of Hardenhuish, and a canon of Salisbury. (fn. 231) Thomas Seale, rector 1728–71, was also rector of St. Clement's, Jersey, 1734–46. (fn. 232) From 1728 to 1951 the rectors were either fellows or graduates of Exeter College. (fn. 233) In 1783 William Tonkin, rector 1771–98 and a physician, held two services on Sundays, occasional weekday services, and administered the sacrament to c. 30 communicants on Christmas day, Easter day, Whit Sunday, and the Sunday after Michaelmas. (fn. 234) Stephen Demainbray, rector 1799–1854, was a chaplain to George III, rector of Long Wittenham (Berks.) from 1794, and astronomer at the royal observatory, Kew, 1782–1840; (fn. 235) he was an early proponent of village allotments. At Great Somerford he was usually assisted by curates. (fn. 236) In 1832 the curate lived in the rectorv house and held two services on Sundays. (fn. 237) Congregations averaging 216 attended the three services on Census Sunday in 1851. (fn. 238) F. H. Manley, rector 1887–1945 and a canon of Bristol, wrote and published articles on the history of Great Somerford and other Wiltshire parishes. (fn. 239) The rectory was held in plurality with that of Little Somerford 1952–67, (fn. 240) and from 1967 the incumbent of the united benefice lived at Great Somerford. (fn. 241)
The church of ST. PETER AXD ST. PAUL, so called in 1494 (fn. 242) and 1763 (fn. 243) but St. Peter's in 1421, (fn. 244) is of ashlar and rubble and consists of a chancel with north vestry, a nave with north aisle and south porch, and a west tower. The late 12th century church was completely rebuilt between the later 14th and earlier 16th century, (fn. 245) although the nave retains what may be a 12th-century plan. The aisle, four-bayed arcade, and chancel arch were built in the later 14th century or earlier 15th. In the later 15th century the tower was built and the chancel rebuilt, and in the earlier 16th the south nave wall was rebuilt and given new windows, the porch was built, a turret with a square bottom stage and a semi-octagonal upper stage was built to enclose a rood stair at the nave's outer south-east corner, and a stair turret of similar design was built in the south angle between the nave and tower. A north gallery was erected in 1826. (fn. 246) The church was restored in 1865 under the direction of J. H. Hakewill, (fn. 247) and the porch c. 1903 under that of Harold Brakspear. (fn. 248) The chancel ceiling was painted in 1901 to F. C. Eden's designs. (fn. 249) The royal arms of 1814 hang in the church. (fn. 250)
In 1553 the royal commissioners took 2 oz. of plate and left a chalice of 7 oz. In 1988 the parish had a chalice hallmarked for 1743 and a paten hallmarked for 1735. (fn. 251) In 1553 there were four bells, of which one, cast at Bristol in the 15th century, survives. The others were replaced by bells cast in 1634 by T. and W. Wiseman, 1663 by Roger Purdue, and 1731 by Abraham Rudhall. The bell of 1663 was recast in 1897 by Llewellins & James of Bristol. A treble, cast by Mears & Stainbank using a bell from Holy Trinity church, Bristol, was added in 1977 and became the second when another treble, cast by Taylor of Loughborough from a bell formerly in St. Barnabas's church, Bristol, was added to the peal in 1984. (fn. 252) The registers survive from 1707. (fn. 253)
Quakers, including members of the Sealy family, lived in Great Somerford 1656–1783, (fn. 254) and there were eight nonconformists in the parish in 1676. (fn. 255) Independents certified houses at Startley in 1797 and 1817 and at Great Somerford in 1827 and 1834. (fn. 256) A congregation of c. 30 Independents attended a chapel in Great Somerford in 1851, (fn. 257) but later record of it has not been found. A New Apostolic church was opened in 1953 but had been closed by 1971. (fn. 258)
A house in Great Somerford certified in 1829 (fn. 259) was probably for Primitive Methodists. In 1882 Primitive Methodists bought for a chapel the village reading room, (fn. 260) and Methodists held services in it in 1988.
Primitive Methodists certified a building at Startley in 1843, (fn. 261) and in 1850–1 an average congregation of 90 attended services held on Sunday afternoons. (fn. 262) A chapel was built in 1854 and enlarged in 1860. (fn. 263) In the later 19th century half the families in Startley were nonconformists, (fn. 264) presumably Primitive Methodists. The chapel was closed in 1985. (fn. 265)
In 1808 a few children attended a school in the parish. (fn. 266) There were two schools attended by a total of c. 20 children in 1818. The rector then considered that widespread child employment and the scattered nature of settlement made it unlikely that a free day school would be well attended. (fn. 267) A cottage built in Hollow Street on St. Mary's land c. 1828 was used as a school. (fn. 268) A new schoolroom was built on the west in 1853 and extended in 1874: (fn. 269) 40–50 children were taught there in 1859, (fn. 270) and in 1871 on return day 49 children attended. (fn. 271) Between 1906 and 1938 attendance was highest, at 65, in 1911–14, lowest, at 39, in 1937–8. (fn. 272) The school was closed, and the Walter Powell school opened in Dauntsey Road, in 1982. The new school was attended by children from Great and Little Somerford, (fn. 273) and in 1988 there were 77 children on roll. (fn. 274)
A boarding school for c. 26 girls was opened in the parish in 1819. (fn. 275) It was kept in Mills Farm from 1841 or earlier to 1899 or later, by Ann Williams in 1855, by Jane Williams 1859–85, by the Misses Brown in 1890, and by Mrs. L. Cockey 1895–9. (fn. 276)
Charities for the Poor.
In 1828 the cottage and 2½ a. called St. Mary's lands (fn. 277) were declared to be for general charitable purposes in the parish. That declaration was reiterated by a Scheme of 1983. A schoolhouse replaced the cottage c. 1828. Most of the land was sold c. 1954 and c. 1964. In 1985 investments produced £2,419, of which £1,000 was given to the school, £600 to parish youth organizations and clubs, £ 400 to the church, and £200 to the Methodist chapel. (fn. 278)
At inclosure in 1809, possibly at the instigation of the rector Stephen Demainbray, c. 2 a. at Seagry Heath and c. 6 a. south of Dauntsey Road, called the free gardens, were given as allotments for paupers. A poorhouse was built on part of the Dauntsey Road allotments after 1809. In 1835 it was converted to two cottages, the rent of which was paid to the overseers of the poor until 1867 and to Great Somerford school until 1894. From 1896 the cottages and allotments were administered by the parochial church council. There were 49 allotment holders in 1905. (fn. 279) The cottages were let for c. £40 1954–5 (fn. 280) and sold in 1978. By a Scheme of 1981 the income was used for general charitable purposes and in 1986–7, from income of £3,238, payments of c. £300, c. £180, and £100 were made for, respectively, the upkeep of the free gardens, the upkeep of the churchyard, and old people's Christmas parcels. (fn. 281)
From 1967 inhabitants of Great Somerford were entitled to be admitted to an almshouse in Dauntsey. (fn. 282)