Frederick Hancock.

The parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history online

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1152318 I



GENEALOGY COL-LECTION



ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY



3 1833 00727 7640
















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THE PARISH OF SELWORTHY.



Two hundred copies only printed.



THE

PARISH OF SELWORTHY

IN THE

CO UNTY OF SOMERS ET

§>ome H3ote0 on its ^istorp



BY

FREDERICK HANCOCK, M.A., S.C.L., F.S.A.



RECTOR OF THE PARISH.



'Eatmron:

BARNICOTT AND PEARCE, FORE STREET
A 1897

ire-



f^r




BAKNICOTT AND PEARCE
PRINTERS



1152318



TO



THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
I

Sir T. D. ACLAND, Bart., P.C., D.C.L., etc.,

U

IN SLIGHT RECOGNITION OF MANY KINDNESSES,
THESE FEW NOTES ON A PARISH, THE BEST INTERESTS



OF WHICH HE AND HIS FOREBEARS HAVE ALWAYS

MADE THEIR ANXIOUS STUDY,

ARE RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED BY THE

WRITER.



ERRATA.

Page 20, line 22, for " Luccombe," read " de Luccombe."

Page 41, line 1, for "The Church of St. John the Baptist," read
" The Church of All Saints."

Page 64, line 9, for " Recorce," read " Recorie."

Page 48, for " Alicia," read " Johanna or Joan."

Page 57, line 1, etc., for " the elder William Blackford," read " the
elder William Blackford's father."

Page 168, line 9, for " 1689," read " 1690."

Page 210, line 28, for " Jane," read " Joane."

Page 246, last line and last but one, for "largely royalist," read
" much disturbed."

Page 256, last line but one, for " Sonicera Periclymenum," read
" Lonicera Periclymenum."

Page 258, last line but five, for " Campanula hederacea or Wahlen-
bergia," read " Campanula or Wahlcnbcrgia hederacea."

Page 259, line 9, for " Sarothanus scoparius," read " Cytisus scopi-
arius."



CONTENTS.



INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.
CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

APPENDICES
INDEX



ETYMOLOGY AND PREHISTORIC RE-
MAINS ....

MANORS .....

ANCIENT CHAPELS IN THE HOLNICOTE
VALLEY ....

SELWORTHY CHURCH

RECTORS .....

SELWORTHY REGISTERS .

PARISH ACCOUNTS .

PERSONAL HISTORY .

FOLKLORE ....

FLORA OF THE HOLNICOTE VALLEY

THE HOLNICOTE HERD OF EXMOOR
PONIES ....



PAGE

ix



i
i5


4 1
64

87
116
129
227
256

260
267
3°3



ILLUSTRATIONS.



SOUTH AISLE OF THE CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS, SEL-

worthy ...... Frontispiece

CHAPEL OF ST. LEONARD, TIVINGTON . . . 31

RUINS OF ST. SAVIOUR'S CHAPEL .... 33

LYNCH CHAPEL. ....... 36

CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS, SELWORTHY 41

GATEWAY TO STEYNING MANOR HOUSE (INTERIOR) . I2Q.

THE LADY HARRIET ACLAND ..... 184

SOME RARE FLOWERS FOUND AT SELWORTHY . . 256

THE HOLNICOTE HERD OF EXMOOR PONIES . . 260



INTRODUCTION.




HE writer primarily intended to in-
clude some account of the parish of
Luccombe and of the hamlet of
Bossington in the following notes,
but he is glad to think that the
history of these districts is now in abler hands than his.
He lays claim to little original research as far as the
more general subjects treated of in these pages are
concerned ; and for much that may be of original
interest in them he is indebted to the contributions of
kind friends. His thanks are due to Mr. ACLAND,
Sir A. W. Franks, K.C.B., F.R.S., Pres. S.A., Col.
Bramble, F.S.A., Mr. Bidgood, Mr. F. T. Elworthy,
Mr. L. Webber-Incledon, Mr. F. J. Rowbotham,
Mr. C. Birmingham, and Mr. C. Kille for valuable
assistance. And he is especially indebted to the Rev.
Prebendary HOOK for the correction of proof sheets ;
to the late Mr. WlNSLOW JONES and his courteous
executor, Mr. W. S. Battishill, for much of the
history of the manor of Selworthy, and of some of



x Introduction.

the families connected with it ; to the Rev. F. W.
Weaver for a good deal of valuable information, and
for the correction of proof sheets ; to Mr. C. E. H.
Chadwyck-Healev, Q.C., for extracts from the
Subsidy Rolls ; and to Miss Alice May for the notes
on the Flora of Selworthy, and the accompanying
illustration.

Put together during a series of some years, in odd
minutes stolen from more serious work, and at first
with no definite intention of publication, a number of
references have been lost in the earlier part of the
book, which unfortunately cannot now be replaced.

For local names, the principal authorities consulted
have been EDMUNDS'S Names of Places, I. TAYLOR'S
Words and Places, Leo's Local Nomenclature of tlie
Anglo-Saxons, and F. FERGUSON'S River Names. The
general histories principally used have been LlNGARD'S,
Green's, Hallam's, and E. Thomson's. From Mr.
Chester Master's admirable little book much in-
formation has been gained on the subject of Parochial
Registers. And a multitude of other books have been
read, bearing generally on the difficult subject of
parish history, too many in number to specify.



A HISTORY OF SELWORTHY.



CHAPTER I.



Etymology and Prehistoric Remains.




HE parish of Selworthy, until the re-
cent act of parliament amending the
parochial divisions for purposes of
taxation, was bounded on the north
and east by Minehead and a por-
tion of Timberscombe, on the south-
east by Wootton Courtenay, and on the south and
west by Luccombe. By the act referred to, however,
the hamlet of Bossington, and East Lynch, an out-
lying portion of Timberscombe, were made part of
Selworthy parish, so far as lay purposes are concerned.
As anciently defined, the parish consisted of 2,219
acres, of which about 804 acres were arable, 670 pas-
ture and meadow, and 358 common land. There are
308 acres of woodland, exempt from tithe by prescrip-
tion, and 54J acres of glebe ; 22^ acres of river bed,
roads, wastes, etc., are also exempt.

The parish is divided into two tithings — Allerford
and Blackford — and comprises the following hamlets :
Bossington, West Lynch, Allerford, Brandy Street,
Holnicote or Budleigh Hill, Blackford, Tivington, and



2 History of Selworthy.

Tivington Knoll. There are, besides, several detached
farms, with cottages attached to them.

It has been well said that much of the history of a
parish is written in its place names ; but it is with the
greatest diffidence that the writer approaches this diffi-
cult subject, which is yet in its infancy. As, however,
Old English names, like Greek and Hebrew names,
always had meanings attached to them, he ventures, in
writing down some of the older place names found in
Selworthy, to make a few suggestions as to their
possible derivations.

The names of the various hamlets and of the fields,
although we find here and there a trace of earlier settlers,
appear to show us that the Anglo-Saxons were the first
to regularly colonise and allot the land of our valley,
and many of the names have survived the long series
of centuries with scarcely a change. When our Old
English ancestors first invaded England they came in
tribes and families, headed by their patriarchal leaders.
Each tribe was called by its leader's name, with the
termination "ing" (signifying "family") appended;
and where they settled they gave their patriarchal
name to the " mark " or central point round which they
clustered. The Old English names were generally of
one syllable, and it was not until later Saxon times
that compound names came into use.

Beginning with Bossington, the derivation of the
name at once suggests itself; to "Boss," the name of
the original settler, add the patronymic termination
"ing," and again "tun," the homestead or settlement,
and we have our word " Bossington "—the homestead
of the family or tribe of the Bossingas. The name



Etymology and Prehistoric Remains. 3

Boss is derived probably from one of the Old German
words for " a bear," a root to which many of our every-
day names are to be traced.

Adjoining Bossington, as we ascend the valley, is
the hamlet of Lynch. This word, which has an old
Norse sound, seems to point to some settlement of the
Norsemen here, or perhaps to some fortified post which
the Wyckings held for a while, in touch with their ships
in Porlock or Bossington Bay, as a convenient centre
for harrowing the neighbouring district. This name
is not an uncommon one in the district, and is gener-
ally met with near the coast. Further up the valley
we have other Norse words in the two Holts (N. a
" wood "), and Robin How (N. a " hill ").

Next we come to the largest of our hamlets, that of
Allerford. Aldheri was the name of the steward of
Queen Edith, who held the manor of Selworthy at the
time of the Conquest ; and it has also been suggested
that the name may be connected with the famous
CEligar. But the hamlet must have had a name be-
fore the time of Edward the Confessor, or before
earl CEligar ruled over our seaboard, and the name
seems to explain itself as Alderford, i.e., " the ford by
the alders." In Domesday it is Alresforda. The
vernacular " Aller," Mr. F. T. Elworthy tells us, is the
correct name of the Alnus ; and literary English cor-
rupted it so late as the eighteenth century. It was
air, aler, and olr in the Old English, and so it re-
mains in the mouths of the people. There are several
Allerfords in Somersetshire (two are mentioned in
Domesday), besides more than one place called Aller.
Alresford, in Hampshire, retains its old plural form.



4 History of Selworthy.

Adjoining Allerford is the hamlet of Brandy Street,
a picturesque cluster of houses nestling cosily beside
the Aller Water, amidst green meadows and sunny
orchards. The name seems to mark the place where
the Roman road along the coast passed on to Porlock.
And this suggestion is corroborated by the fact that
a little further on a few Roman coins were recently
found during some excavations. Brandy looks like
another Norse name. Brandi is the name of a North-
man in the Landnamabok. It means "the sword-
bearer," and is a common name in Iceland still.
Thus, then, the name of the hamlet may point to
another Norse settlement in connection with the one
at Lynch.

Next we reach Holnicote, which in Domesday is
written Hunecot. The Saxons were fond of borrowing
the names of neighbouring nations, and thus we find
" Hun " no uncommon name among them. Hun is
found in various German dialects, and signifies a
" giant," and to this word Grimm traces the name of
the Huns. To Hun add " cot," (A.S. a cottage), and we
have the cottage of Hun, or Huna, a name which is
found in an Anglo-Saxon charter of manumission.
Hun, too, was the name of the Ealdorman of the
Somersoetas, who was killed at the great battle of
yEllandun, which united England under king Egbert.

In the adjoining parish of Wootton Courtenay we
find Huntsgate and Hunsham, and it seems to the
writer very probable that Holnicote may have formed
part of the possessions of the same person from whom
Huntspill and Hunstile are named. The late Mr.
F. H. Dickinson raised on this point the interesting



Etymology and Prehistoric Remains. 5

question as to whether the Roman road from Mine-
head to Poriock crossed Holnicote, or turned off to
Bossington. " The submarine forest," he writes, " mark-
ed in the map along Poriock Bay, makes it possible
that, in Roman times, there was land — possibly much
land — where there is now sea ; and Bossington may
have been much more important than Poriock. There
are right angles in the roads towards Bossington at
Brandy Street, which makes me think of Roman men-
suration."

As we pass on towards Minehead we reach two de-
tached cottages called Stratford, which suggest again
the Roman road which must at one time have run
along this valley. A little further on is the hamlet of
Blackford, where an ancient manor house once stood,
and which gives its name to the tithing. The name is
probably an exact description, either of the blackness
of the stones in the river bed, or the deep shadow of
overhanging trees, although we are tempted to seek
its derivation in the O. E. personal name " Blaca," a
name found in the Liber Vita, and also in Domesday.

The derivation of the name of the hamlet of Tiving-
ton, which now forms the principal portion of this
tithing, does not at first seem quite so obvious. But
here, evidently, are the patronymic ending " ing," and
the O. E. tun, " the garth " or " enclosed place." But
what was the name of the leader who established his
colony where this hamlet from under the shelter of its
wooded hills looks down over Holnicote to the sea ?
Possibly he possessed a name akin to our familiar
names Tye, Tighe, Tyson, Tuson, etc., which are de-
rived from the name of the Teutonic god of war — the



History of Selworthy.



god from whom we have our word Tuesday — Ty, or
Tyr, according to the Scandinavian or Frisian form,
the Anglo-Saxon of which is Tiw or Tye. The
followers of Tye would call themselves Tivingas, and
their residence would be the " tun," or enclosure.
Perhaps, also, the name of the hamlet which gives its
name to the parish, Selworthy, may be thus derived.
The O. E. " worth," an estate, farm, etc., is some-
times found alone, as in Worth, and very often in
compounds, as Wordsworth, Charlesworth, etc. (I.
Taylor, Place Names.) Sel was a common name
amongst our Old English ancestors. Here then,
perhaps, came Sel with the early settlers, and, where
beneath the coombe the hillside spreads out fair and
fertile to the southern sun, took up his abode ; and
the hamlet where he lived was called after him,
Selworthy. The name, however, may be Sealworthe,
"the willow field." In Domesday it is written Sel-
eurda.

Subjoined is a list of some other place names in the
parish.



Lower Lynch.
Higher Lynch.
East Lynch.
Hoopers.
Farthings.
Troytes.

[Perhaps from com-
mon Celtic root, " tre,"
a " dwelling," cp. Tre-
ves, Trieste, etc.]



Farms.
Selworthy Farm.



Vickerys.
Cockerhill.
Home's.
Baker's.
Staddon's.
Barley Ground.
Higher Lynch.
Gribble's.
Mene.
There are two Menes lying contiguous to one



Adams.

Double Tene-
ment.
Zeal's.

[Here again, per-
haps, is the name Sel,
or Seala. The farm
lies at the bottom of
Selworthy Coombe.]



Etymology and Prehistoric Remains. 7

another, one in Selworthy parish the other in Mine-
head parish. These two farms are situated on top
of the precipitous cliffs behind Selworthy Beacon.
The name has a British sound, and it suggests that
some of the earlier inhabitants of the valley, driven
from their ancient homes, perhaps, when that great
soldier king Ine (688 — 725) crossed the marshes of
the Parret, hitherto the boundary of west Wales, and
planted the fortress of Taunton on the banks of the
Tone to protect his conquest of what is now Somerset,
still held their own amidst the fastnesses of the North
Hill.

It is a question, however, whether our own inac-
cessible borderland did not remain in the hands of its
ancient owners until the battle of Burford, in 758, had
settled the division of Britain between the three equal
powers of Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex. Then
Offa of Mercia turned his arms against his Welsh neigh-
bours, and drove their king, Powys, from his capital,
Shrewsbury ; and the West Saxons, following his ex-
ample, made themselves masters of the Welsh territory
of Dyvnaint (which still retains its name of Devon),
and thus advanced their boundary to the Tamar.

Hills.

Bossington Beacon, 800 feet. Selworthy Beacon,
1,014 feet. Bury Castle ; an ancient camp.

Valleys.

The parish consists mainly of a wide valley, which
starts from beneath Grabhurst Hill and runs down to
the sea. The following coombes in the North Hill
range belong to Selworthy parish, and run south and



8 History of Selworthy,

south-west into the valley :— Lynch Coombe, Allerford
Coombe, Holnicote Coombe ; while, running north-
west and north, down to the sea, are Hurlestone
Coombe, East Coombe, Henner Coombe, Grixy

Coombe.

Streams.

Allerford Water. Horner Water. This stream,
which bounds for some distance the parish on the
west, seems to possess a very ancient name. It is an
undisputed fact, we believe, that no words have resis-
ted time so firmly as river names. New comers change
the names of places, but those of rivers, " coming they
knew not whence, and speeding on they knew not
whither," remained unaltered, save that sometimes we
find two names given to one water, the later nation
adding its own name to the river, in addition to its
older one.

This was notoriously the case with hills and moun-
tain strongholds, e.g. Dunkery, in which case the O. E.
" Dun " is prefixed to the British " curig." In Horner
we seem to trace the Sanscrit root " var," to " bedew,"
cp. the Greek ipa-q, and the Gaelic " uaran." The endings
" en," " er," " is," appear often to be phonetic.

Fords.
Venniford. Allerford. Stratford.

Blackford. New Bridge. [The ford where the

Roman road passes.]

Brandy Street. Green Bridge.

Roads and Lanes.
Eight Acre Lane. Luccombe Lane.

Tivington Lane. Dean's Lane, pronounced

Long Lane. " Danes."



Etymology and Prehistoric Remains. 9

Dane's Lane leads down from the cliffs and the
moor to East Lynch, and marks, perhaps, the route of
some Danish incursion. The cross-way above East
Lynch is called " Danes Cross," and the fields about
the cross-way, " Danes Fields."

At Cross Roads.

Tivington Cross. Danes Cross. Allerford Cross.

Venniford Cross. Long Lane Cross. Pylles Cross.

Mills.

Lynch Mill. Pylle's Mill. Pill means a " tidal ditch,"
and the derivation raises the interesting query as to
whether the Allerford Water was at one time tidal.

Commons and Moors.

North Hill. Heddon (High Down)

Tivington Common. Common.

Woods.

Tivington Plantations. Selworthy Plantations.

Hanger Wood. Holnicote Plantation,

[o. e. " Hanger," a wood.] North Hill Plantation.

Venn Plantation. Allerford Plantation.

Whitemans Moor. Brakeley.

[Witmans, cp. Wistmans wood

on Dartmoor.] Stratford Wood.

Road Wood. The Paddocks.

Brakeley Wood. Ebbs Hill Wood.

Great Wood c ^ - OE " " E b Da >" a personal name.

Cockers Hills.

Some older Field-names.
Great How (cp. O. N. " haughr," a mound or burial
place) a field on Lynch.



io History of Selworthy.

Ham Meadow. There were two " Hams" in O. E. ;
one has become the modern home, but the other re-
mains in the very common west country name for a
flat, alluvial piece of meadow land, usually bordering
a river.

Rydery, cp. O. E. " rud," or O. N. " raudr, " red,
whence, perhaps, the common local surname, Ridd.
The stone from the quarry of this name is of a red
colour.

Dove Cot, the site of the ancient manorial dove-cot
on Blackford, still standing.

Witch. Witch is the M. E. name for an Elm, now
surviving in Witch Elm, Witch Halse, etc.

Long Hale and Broad Hale. Hale probably means
" hollow," indicating the concave shape of these fields ;
or it may be derived from " helan," to cover, hence
Long Hale may be " long furrow," but "long hollow"
is more probable.

Wrex Park, i.e. Rushy Paddock.

Dippit. Minners. Stoopers. These names refer,
perhaps, to old mining operations.

Burrow Landshare.

Cockershill, perhaps from O. E. personal name,
" Cuccwin " ; cp. Cockerington, Lincolnshire, and
Cockington, Devonshire.

Horridge, O. E. " hor," grey.

Rexham=Rushy Meadow.

Hangermead. The mead by the wood, O. E." hanger,"
a wood.

Holbridge. O. E. " hoi," a low place or hollow.

Higher Walls. Higher Walls is a field on Mene
Farm (see above). Does the name mean Higher



Etymology and PreJiistoric Remains. 1 1

Welsh, and indicate a possession held by the earlier
inhabitants after the O. E. settlement ?

Sanctuary, part of the glebe.

Conygarth, on Troytes Farm, appears to mark the
site of an ancient rabbit warren ; cp. " Conygar," at
Dunster. This warren, which is not far above Black-
ford, probably formed a portion of that manor.
Hanger. Lamb Park. Hamstile.

Needle. Oxenledge. Kenibeere.

Rylands. Boobies. No Man's Land.

Pritty. Bloomham.

Existing Roads.

The high road from Minehead to Porlock enters the
parish of Selworthy at the bottom of Venniford hill,
and continues through the hamlets of Budleigh Hill,
Holnicote, and Brandy Street, across the Allerford
Water, and continues its course to the west, skirting
the hamlet of Allerford. It was, perhaps, a Roman
road, carried across what must have been in earlier
days an extensive marsh occupying the greater por-
tion of the valley, as the names of Venniford, Black-
ford, and Stratford appear to show.

At Venniford is a three-cross-way, from which a
road branches to the left, and winds through Tivington
into the parish of Wootton Courtenay, whilst the lane
on the right runs up the hill, and, dividing after a few
hundred yards, sends a branch to the right, back to-
wards Minehead, from which another branch ascends
the hill and issues on Hindon Down. The branch to
the left passes the ancient homestead of East Lynch,
and, turning to the right, also ascends the hill, and ere



1 2 History of Selworthy.

long meets the narrow road which leads through Hin-
don along the hillside to Selworthy Church. This cross-
way is called Danes Gate, and records, perhaps, the
descent by some body of Danes who had left their
ships anchored in one of the little bays which indent
the North Hill on the sea side.

The narrow and ancient road, which from this point
passes on to Selworthy Church, is paved in places, and
commands fine views of land and sea. Below are the
green meadows and waving woods of Holnicote, across
the valley the dark moor slopes up to distant Dunkery,
and ahead are the grey waters of Porlock Bay. This
road passes by the rectory and its ancient tithe barn,
leaving Selworthy Green on the right hand, and soon
reaches a cross-way. On the right the road winds
along the hill side, paved here and there, while the
remaining branch, arched over with ancient trees, runs
steeply down to join the main road at Holnicote.
Another road branches off the highway at Allerford,
and pursues its course to Bossington. A foot-path
crosses from this road to the Porlock road.

Other lanes are : —
Eight Acre Lane. Cross Lane.

Long Lane. Watery Lane.

Clay Hill Lane. Highway to Porlock.

Selworthy Lane. Highway to Bossington.

From the ancient farm house, now divided into
cottages, just above Tivington farm house, a lane, the
course of which can still be traced under the orchard
hedge, ran up to meet the lane which, branching off to
the left from the top of Venniford, drops down to
Troytes farm just below the chapel of St. Leonard,



Etymology and P rehistoric Remains. 1 3

and passes on to Tivington Square. It then turns to
the right and meandering on past Blackford meets the
road from Porlock highway to Luccombe.

Besides these public roads, there are the many miles
of walks which wind over the moor and through the
woods down to the sea, and, reaching the shore, pass
on from cliff to cliff and bay to bay. These walks,
forty miles of which it is said open from the little
wicket gate on Selworthy Green, have been made
almost entirely by the late Sir Thomas Acland and
his son, the present baronet. The late Sir Thomas,
with the artistic taste which he possessed in so
eminent a degree, planted the many acres of moor
and common between Selworthy and the sea, and
then began the vast network of walks which now
intersect these woods, and traverse the moor and cliffs.
Sunday after Sunday, as the villagers like to relate,
he used to climb the coombe from Selworthy Church
with his children and grandchildren, training them, as
the touching memorial to him at the head of the
coombe records, " in all things pure and true."

A bridle path starts by the church and runs up
Selworthy Coombe, meeting the lane ascending from
East Lynch. These two form a rough road which
runs towards East Meyne, and then turns to the right
across the moor, to Minehead.

A well-defined camp, which looks as if it had been
a stronghold of an earlier race, adapted by the Romans
for the purpose of commanding the road along the
valley, crowns the steep hill above Selworthy Church.
Its area is nearly two acres. It is strongly fortified by
a rampart of stone and earth, and protected by a ditch



14 History of Selworthy.

on every side except on the north, where the ground
falls very precipitously. On the moor side is another
large rampart, which must have formed an outwork for
the principal fortification. On the north-east side of this
camp, Savage relates, " a part of the rampart has been
thrown into the fosse, which it has more than filled,
and it now forms a small mound of barrow-like form.
It may be supposed that the principal work had been
taken by storm by an enemy, the slain being thrown


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Online LibraryFrederick HancockThe parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history → online text (page 1 of 21)