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

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the daungers of the sease, so also the long myles bye lande,
yet God blessed us with as fyne weather as>we could wish for
both by lande and sea, which made our journye and vyadge
the more pleasanter. We are settled in the Derye in a verye
pretye litell house byldyd after the Indglesh (English) fashone,
but somewhat whith the lest for companye. We have our
fatte beefes and fatte sheepe brought in by our tennants as far
as we can use them, and we want no good companye as my
cosen William can show you, to helpe eate it up. I fynde
Derye a better plase than we thought we should, for there we
find manye of our countrye folkes both gentlemen and gentle-
women and as brave as they goo in ther apparel in Indgland.
I thanke God I like yet (Ireland) indifferante well this fare
(far). The most that I do mislyke ys that the Iresh doth often
troubell our house, and manye times they doth lend to us a
louse which makes me many times remember my daughter
Jane, which told me that if I went into Irlande I should be full
of lyce."

A sample of the " countrye flixe and threed " is sent
with the letter.

" The flixe ys v'\d. the pound and the threed xiirf. Although it
loukes of colare greene yet ys never the worse for that, but
they say that yet wilbe the whitter."

The letter is signed S. Montgomerye, and dated viiith
Oct. (1606). In the postscript we hear of two mem-
bers of the Stevens family, probably of Stowey, near
" Mr. Montgomery," his wife tells us, " hath manye thousande

Personal History. 143

acres ot as good land as anye in Ingland : yf yet were pepeled
yet were worth manye hundred pounds by the year : he hath
great sute made unto him bye dyvers for it."

On the 29th November, 1608, the bishop writes to
Mr. John Willoughby " from my chamber at Mr.
Mr. Cooper's over against the Commons." The king
seemed unable to do without his help, and now he is
sent for to act as :

" a Commissioner for the plotting and devyding of the contreye
(Ireland) which I feare will keep mee heere this Christmas
agaynst my will ; and agaynst my will it shall be indeed yf I
eat not som of my cosen's Beaumont's Christmas pyes and so
tell her I praye you." (Mrs. Beaumont lived at Gittesham
near Honiton.) " I hope," the good bishop goes on, " my sister
(Mrs. Willoughby) and she have receaved the water (i.e. strong
water) I sent them in a little runlet of a bottle, a quart for a

This was evidently a sample of Irish whisky. The
bishop seems to have kept about him a considerable
number of young men of birth, mostly apparently re-
lations. This letter mentions Alexander Steynings, son
of old Philip Steynings of Holnicote, who had at this
moment gone across to Ireland to bring Mrs. Mont-
gomery to England, and Philip, as well as the above
mentioned William, and Nicolas Willoughby. Some
of these young men seem to have been more than the
bishop could manage :

" I was loath my cosen Philip (who had accompanied him to
London) should staye here longe and therefore took order for
some odde items he owed here and hasted him away for feare
of trouble : for he walked openly against my will. He hath
taken tyme to be advysed by his friends what course to followe,
but let them set him in a course by times, before opportunity
to doe him good be past."

144 History of Selworthy.

Life, even for bishops and their retinues, seems to
have been rough in Ireland in the reign of James I.
Nicholas Willoughby writes in October, 1606, to John
Willoughby :

"The life which we lived in England is much altered, for
when we were in England when we had traveld hard all day,
at night we should have good lodging and good meat and
drincke which is a comfort to anie man : and here we shall
have barley bread and oaten cakes baked upon a brandice and
boniclabbor for our drinke, which is sweete milke and sower
mixt together, and excellent feather beds, everie feather a yard
longe : but God be thanked meat enough of all sorts, beafe
mutton porke and cockrels and all sorts of fish and fowle in-
differente cheape : but the extremitie that we indue is but
when we travell, but then we are in great danger of cutting our
throats, for you shall have in some places forty rogues together
hunting the woods and caves underground. This is the hardness
we indue. Now for the countre, if ther were good husbands
upon it, it would be almost as good as England : but the
people be so beastlie that they are better like beasts than
Christians. Here is land enough, but here wants stocke to
stocke it ; for I cannot blame them that are loathe to live here,
for he shall live as it were amongst beastes, and if he lives out
in the land, he shall be in danger of his life ; but all my Lord's
land for the most part is excellent good for fish and fowle ; if
one had but the tenth part of it in England, he might live more
like a prince than a subject ; so I for my owne part doe wish
all my friends, if they have anie living in England, never to
sell it, thinking to mend his pennons in Ireland."

The prices of agricultural produce were of a kind to
astonish us even in these days of agricultural de-

" If a man," Nicholas Willoughby goes on, " had monie lyinge
by him he might doe himself some good, as in buying salmon
and herrings, for you shall have it verie good and cheape : and

Personal History. T ^ *

you shall buy a fatte cowe for xxs. which is worth in England
much more, if the price of beafe continue as it was when I was
there : and you shall have a fatte pigge for 4s. but I speake of
the best sort : or in buying tallow you shall have it for id. a
pound, and sometimes whithin ; or in buying hydes : and send
those things into England, if one chance of a trustie friend to
order those things for him, one might doe himself some good,
and for to returne barley and wheate into the Dirrey, it is there
well sold 2d. one wine qt "

As a postscript Mr. Willoughby adds : —

" My paper is bad
My hand is worse
God send me some monie
To put in my purse."

Bishop Montgomery is still busy during this time
helping his relations :

" I am lyke," he writes to Mr. John Willoughby, " to make
you one of the surveyors of the Princes Lands in Devon and
Cornwall, which is a place of credit, though no greate benefit,
onlye it may be a step and entrance to some better place here-
after : it will be no charge unto you, for your charges are borne
when you goe about the service, and you are thereby acquainted
with the state of things to doe yourself or your frend pleasure
thereby, as occasion shall be offered."

He speaks again of his employment in :

" settling down and planting of the King's Lands in the North
of Ireland."

In July, 1608, the bishop was again in England,
as the king desired to consult him concerning the
f erection of byshopricks in the north."

"The whole winter will be required," he says, "for the work,
and it will be neere All Hallowtide before our survey is

146 History of Selworthy.

He is busy, too, at this time, providing a curate for
the living of Chedzoy which he still held with his
Irish bishopric.

Bishop Montgomery returned to Ireland, and we
hear no more of him until on the 16th February, 1614,
he writes from Dublin the following letter, endorsed

" To my right loving brothers and sisters and cousins, Mr.
Robert Steynings, Mr. John Willoughby, Mr. Philip Elley,
Mrs. Margaret Willoughby, Mrs. Ann Steynings, and to my
right loving cousin Mrs. Agnes Willoughby these and to any
and everyone of them,"

telling them of the death of his wife.

On the 20th August, 161 8, the bishop writes to John
Winbughby from the episcopal residence he had re-
cently built near Navan, announcing the approaching
marriage of his daughter.

" I have matched," he writes, " your cosen my daughter
unto a noble house, the best of the Pale of Ireland."

He then asks John Willoughby's help for his brother,
Nicholas Willoughby, who was on his way to England
to obtain funds wherewith to buy land in Ireland.

" Good brother use him kindly, and let him return cheerfully
and well pleased, and you and your children may happily find
in this kingdom a new colony of your own kindred in all the
four branches and families your children are nearest unto : of
Steynings, Willoughbyes, Culms and Fryes : and unto every
one of them I have given a friendly footing for a ground and

This is the last letter which has been preserved from
the bishop. On the 15th of January, 1620, he died at
Westminster, and his body was taken back to Ard-
braccan, to be laid beside his wife in the church of
Ardbraccan, which he had restored and beautified.

Personal History. \aj

Of the rest of old Philip Steynings' family, Charles
the eldest son married one of the ancient family of
Pollard of Kilve, but did not long survive his father.
The infant unborn at his death proved to be a son,
who was called Charles, after his father. Bishop
Montgomery writes concerning the child and his
mother in May, 1604 :

" if you will adventure upon his wardship in the King's sight,
and try the tytle and traverse Mr. Arundell's office, I will
procure the wardship to you at as easie a rate as any man in
England shall: my sister (Charles Steynings' mother) is de-
sirous of it, but will hazard no money, and I am loath to ad-
venture much without a sound ground."

This second Charles Steynings married Cicell, the
heiress of the Lucar family, the owners of the manor of
Blackford, which closely adjoins Holnicote, and on
which the Steynings family must long have looked with
a covetous eye. The old house has long since been
removed, but its dovecot still remains.

Charles Steynings' life must have been a troubled
one, for he was the owner of Holnicote during the
civil wars. The valley was strongly royalist, greatly,
no doubt, owing to the influence of that prominent
ecclesiastic, the Rev. Henry Byam, who held at the
time the two sister livings of Selworthy and Luc-
combe. Some fighting seems to have taken place
about Selworthy in those days, if cannon balls found
in the churchyard and a little further eastward are
any proof. Minehead was for the most part parlia-
mentarian, and the worthy Puritans of that ancient
seaport doubtless looked with no kindly eye upon the
royalist vaHey.

148 History of Selworthy.

The whole district must have been in those troubled
times in a state of strange confusion. Mr. Luttrell
held Dunster for the parliament, but his relations and
near neighbours, the Wyndhams of Orchard Wynd-
ham, and the Trevelyans of Nettlecombe, were for the
king. At Bagborough, Mr. Popham was marshalling
the trainbands against the royalists, while his neigh-
bour, Sir John Stawell of Cothelstone, " a man of
great possessions in those parts," was a supporter of
the throne. Every man's hand was against every
man's. A notable family were then living at Kents-
ford, the old Wyndham house which lies near the
railway, just below St. Decuman's Church. Sir
Thomas Wyndham of Kentsford, kt., had married
Christabella, the heiress of Hugh Pyne of Cathanger,
Somersetshire, a picturesque old house well worth a
visit. They had two sons, both of whom turned out bold
and brilliant soldiers, and did much for the royal cause.
Colonel Edmund, the eldest son, who was high sheriff
of the county at the time of the outbreak of the civil
war, was made by the king governor of Bridgwater.
Clarendon describes him as " being a gentleman of
fortune near the place, and of a good personal courage."
Colonel Edmund's wife had been nurse to the prince
of Wales, and retained a strong hold on his affections.
Her influence over him, however, seems to have been
used in the most unfortunate manner. " She had
many private designs of benefit and advantage to her-
self and her children, and the qualifying of her hus-
band to do all acts of power in control upon his
neighbours, and laboured to procure grants, or promises
of reversion of lands, from the prince." One of these

Personal History. 149

grants we find was of the foreshore and marshes at
Seaton, the property of the above mentioned John
Willoughby, Charles Steynings' uncle. Mr. Willoughby
was, however, evidently able to maintain his title to his
property, even in the face of the royal gift, as the pro-
perty is still in the hands of his representative, Sir
Walter J. Trevelyan. Mrs. Wyndham was "a woman
of no good breeding and of a country pride : ' Nihil
muliebre praeter corpus gerens,' " Clarendon tells us,
and she " valued herself much upon the power and
familiarity which her neighbours might see she had
with the prince of Wales : and therefore upon all
occasions in company and when the concourse of the
people was the greatest could use great boldness to-
wards him : and which was worse than all this, she
affected in all companies where she let her self out to
any freedom, a very negligent and disdainful mention
of the person of the king ; the knowledge of which
humour of hers was one reason that made his majesty
unwilling his son should go further West than Bristol,"
and the lords of the council took care that the young
prince should be removed from her company. Mrs.
Wyndham seems always to have retained her influence
on Charles II. Pepys tells us under date December 3,
1665 : " Dined with Captain Cocke and Colonel Wynd-
ham, a worthy gentleman whose wife was nurse to the
present king, and one that while she lived governed

him and everything else the old king putting

mighty weight and trust upon her."

Colonel Francis Wyndham was at the time of the out-
break of the civil war residing at Sandhill, an old house
near Washford, now in the possession of the Luttrell

1 5o History of Selworthy

family. He assisted considerably with his brother in
the early success of the marquis of Hertford and prince
Maurice in their march westward in June " Taunton,
Bridgwater, and Dunster Castle so much stronger than
both the other, fell before them." The marquis made
colonel Francis governor of Dunster, and he held that
castle for the king during the civil war, and had the
honour of lodging the king himself in that stronghold
during his visit to the west. " At the end of the war,
when all of the places were surrendered in that county,
he also surrendered that upon fair conditions, and
made his peace, and afterwards married a wife with a
competent fortune, and lived quietly without any sus-
picion of having lessened his affection towards the king." 1
His wife brought to him Trent Grange near Sher-
borne. Here he was living the life of a quiet country
gentleman, his heart no doubt afire at the news which
had reached him of the landing of the prince, with
whom he and his brother had so many ties, and then
of the fatal battle of Worcester, when one day he re-
ceived a visit from a stranger who declared himself to
be lord Wilmot, and who told him that the king was
in concealment at the house of a Mr. Norton not far
away, and anxious to speak with him. A meeting
was arranged in a neighbouring town, and the king
was conveyed by colonel Wyndham to Trent, where
he lay concealed, until colonel Wyndham at length
was able to arrange for a ship to take the king across
to France from Lyme. It is a matter of history how
after a perilous ride to Lyme, this scheme fell through
on account of the suspicions of the captain's wife, who

i. Hist, of the Rebellion, book xii, 1. 42.

Personal History. I c i

commanded at home if her husband did on the sea.
With difficulty Charles regained Trent, whence he at
length made good his escape into Normandy.

Charles Steynings was still a young man when the
wave of civil war broke over the land, and its eddies
reached even to our secluded valley. He must have
been troubled what to do. Should he side with Mr.
Luttrell and the Clubmen of Dunster and Minehead,
or should he attach himself to the royalists, and throw
in his lot with the Wyndhams and the Trevelyans ?
Much influenced, no doubt by Henry Byam, Charles
Steynings seems ere long to have made up his mind,
for in 1643 we find him writing to George Trevelyan
of Nettlecombe :

" Noble Sir, I heere present you with a man and horse for
his Majesties service, sooner I conveniently could not, neither
yet is my rider soe well accommodated with military neces-
saries as it is fit hee should bee which I will furnish him with
all, as soon as possibly I can procure it : in the interim I
hope you will excuse the defects. The horse is not so readdy
nor hath beene soe well ridden as I could wish for the service,
but yf you please to send it with your approbation, I will en-
deavour to gett another in exchange of this, which perchance
may bee more serviceable and lesse troublesome, for I doubt
this horse (by means of his mettle and defect of discipline) will
ride very hott amongst a troope, and soe not please so well as
a cooler horse : but this I leave to your choyce and dispose :
as hee is, I commend him to your command. Even soe, with
my humble and best respects to your selfe and worthy
consort I rest,

" Yours unfeynedly to serve you,

« Cha. Staynings.
" Holneycott.

"To my much honoured freind and Kinsman George Tre.
velyan Esqre. at Nettlecombe, present these."

152 History of Selworthy.

Mr. Trevelyan was at this time straining every nerve
to raise a regiment of twelve hundred men under a
commission sent him by Charles I. We should like to
have had preserved for us the name of the Selworthy
man who went out for the king. In this parish the
same names can be traced back to " the spacious times
of queen Elizabeth," or as far as our parochial records
go back, and no doubt the collateral descendants of
this bold trooper still remain amongst us.

Mr. Trevelyan seems to have been successful in his
efforts to raise his regiment, for on June 30 of this
year, 1643, we find the famous royalist general Sir
Ralph Hopton writing to him from Frome, congratu-
lating him on his having levied " a good part of his
troope," and sending him an officer to drill them.

" For your better assistance I have here sent you an able
souldier to serve you as a lieutenant which I heare you want ;
he is a man that understands horse well, and hath commanded
before in good service," writes Sir Ralph.

We know nothing of Charles Steynings' history
through the next few years, but we know that it was
a troubled time enough for our valley. In the late
autumn of 1648 we find Mr. Steynings tired out by the
local troubles, and half ruined by the exactions of the
parliamentarian forces, anxious to leave Holnicote
and settle in Exeter. He writes to his uncle, John
Willoughby, who had been busy procuring a house for
him in Exeter :

" The winter is so suddenly taken upon us by means where-
of I cannot with conveniency remove and carry my household
stuff, nor make any provision for wood and other necessaries,
and being yet uncertain of a house too, I must .... content

Personal History. 153

myself to winter in my own house; but God willing at the
spring of the year, I will remove either to Exon or elsewhere
out of our country ; in the interim (if it please God) I will give
you a visit, but cannot as yet for I am far back in sowing, and
of late our poor parish have been troubled and infested with
billetting and quartering of soldiers, one whole month together
3 men and horse falling out to my share, and yet we are like
to have them again when it comes to our turn, for they intend
to take up their quarters this winter upon five parishes only
within our hundred, viz. : Mynehead, Wootton, Timberscombe,
Luccombe, and Selworthy, so that our poor country is like to
be exhausted and indeed undone, remedy or relief or ease in
this pressure and burden we are like to have none. They are
in number some 7 or 8 and 40, and most horsemen. Dragoons
at least 40, and they will not only have hay but oats too for
their horses, so that we shall hardly " eat hay with our horse "
as the old saying is ere winter overpass. This is a part of Sir
Hardresse Waller his brigade under the command of one Cap-
tain Fulcher. I could enlarge myself upon this subject as
showing you their abuses in their quarters, but time nor paper
will not permit me "

This quartering of the dragoons took place as Mr.
Steynings feared. At the end of January of the next
year he writes again to his uncle from Holneycott:

" Lewes Steynings has a desire to present you with a
few chestnuts which he got out of a ship that was bulged in on
the sands near the quay at Mynehead : she was wholly laden
with French wines and chestnuts, of which she had abundance,
in so much that the country folk fetched away divers horse-
loadings for many days together, to feed their hogs withal.

" We are all in health, I thank God heere, but the soldiers
will have a care to keep us from wealth, having a charge of
£15 per week imposed on our little hundred toward the quar-
tering of a hundred soldiers of Colonel Popham his company,
relating to the castle at Dunster : and not long before we had

1 54 History of Selworihy.

in our parish, for a month's space, 40 dragoons and upwards of
Sir Hardross Waller his brigade under the command of one
Captain Fulcher."

We hear no more of Mr. Steynings, and we hope
when the war was ended, he was able to return to
Holnicote and live peaceably for the rest of his days
on his property. At all events, he did not suffer so
much for the royal cause as his " much honoured
friend and kinsman," George Trevelyan. Colonel
Trevelyan was in a sad condition indeed when the
parliament gained the upper hand. He had foes on
every side, and at Nettlecombe rectory was roundhead
Mr. Gay, a bitter enemy of the royalist cause, who
especially was determined to give him no peace. Gay
is said to have led on in person the attack on the
court house, which ended in the destruction of the
barton and outbuildings. But for the powerful pro-
tection of his uncle, Mr. Luttrell, who returned to
Dunster Castle after it had been given up to admiral
Blake in April, 1646, things " would have gone badly
indeed with Colonel Trevelyan." Mr. Luttrell writes
himself, somewhat sternly, on the 5th May of that
year, " I have hitherto preserved your estate from
plundringe in hope that you will be yeeldable unto
such conformity as all other of your neighbours have

George Trevelyan was fined the large sum in those
days of ;£ 1,560 for bearing arms against the parlia-
ment. The fine fell hardly on him, as he had already
raised every shilling he could on the remnants of the
once extensive Raleigh estate in Glamorganshire for
" the present relief of his majesties armies," and the

Personal History. 15c

parliamentary forces had robbed him of all his farm
stuff and horses. But there was no mercy for so de-
termined a malignant, and as no horses could be ob-
tained, his wife, Margaret Trevelyan, travelled to
London in a coach drawn by six oxen, to pay the fine
at Goldsmiths' Hall. Mrs. Trevelyan got safely to
London, but caught the small pox on her way home
and died at Hounslow, where her monument is still
to be seen.

From the letters from which so much of these notes
has been compiled, we get an interesting list of the
arms which a horse soldier had to have in those days,
such as Mr. Steynings would have supplied the Sel-
worthy man with who went out with George Trevelyan.
It is comprised in an order to Mr. John Willoughby
to provide a " lyghte horse." J

" Whereas," writes Mr. Prydeaux, " the Lord Lieutenant
hath received direction from the Lordes of the Counsell for
the increase of horse for his Majestys service, his lordship
have thought fit to set you to one light horse, to be verye suffi-
cient : the rider to be armed with his curate, 2 headpiece,
powderans, vanbrace,3 and cusses,^ also his sworde and
Frenche pistoll rather with a fier lock than snaphance, 5
and a bigge saddle with bitte and good furniture."

Accoutrements of all kinds became exceedingly dear
just before the Civil War broke out, when men saw

1. Trevelyan Papers, iii, p. 194.

2. Curate, a curet breastplate. Later used for a whole suit of

3. Vambrace, or vanbrace, from the French avantbras, armour
for protection of arms.

4. Cuisses, armour for the thighs.

5. The lock of the pistol.

1 56 History of Selworthy.

that trouble was at hand. John Turberville of Gaul-
don in the parish of Tolland, whose ancient house is
still to be seen, and who married Mr. Steynings' first
cousin, Bridget Willoughby, in 1639, writes to his
father-in-law, John Willoughby, from Clerkenwell, in
September, 1640 :

" Your buff coat I have looked after and the price ; they are

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Online LibraryFrederick HancockThe parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history → online text (page 10 of 21)