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

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alas, "the dilapidations had been assessed by Kingdon,
'a friend of Mr. Willis,' (the previous rector) and £%2
paid down, but the money was not sufficient to pay half
the damages." The west wing had to be pulled down
nearly to the ground and re-roofed. A stone central
wall four feet thick, running across the house for its
whole height, seems to have been the cause of much
difficulty, and " the only parlour belonging to the
house" was made into a brewhouse. A square and
high-walled court at this period shut in the back of the
house, while an orchard, surrounded by a high hedge,
lay in front of it. Mr. Williams pulled down this
hedge, as " interrupting one's prospect." The meadows
attached to the glebe were at this time drained, as

Selworthy Church. 63

well as " guttered and watered in the modern fashion,"
by which improvement it was hoped the rent would be
"considerably advanced." Mr. Williams repaired the
timbers of the chancel roof, and " tiled it anew from
end to end, and whitewashed the chancel inside," for the
apparently modest expenditure of £j, Mr. Williams
records the planting of many firs and beeches about the
house, and the sowing of acorns in the portion of the
wood below the house, which, to the extent of some
seven acres, then belonged to the rectory. This wood
was included in an exchange of lands which took place
between the last baronet and Mr. Stephenson.



HE benefice of Selworthy, in the tax-
ation ordered by pope Nicholas
(1291), was valued at six marks
and a half. In Exton's Thesaurus
we find a payment from the church
of All Saints at Selworthy of xk. to

the abbey of Athelney, and Dugdale in his account of
the property of Athelney Abbey, has : " Selworthye,
Penc Rcorce 2:0: o."

It is probable that this payment represented a
charge made upon the benefice in favour of the abbey
of Athelney, by Richard de Luccombe, circa 1200.
This payment was confiscated when the abbey was
dissolved. Until recently it was paid annually to a
family of the name of Tyrrwhitt, but within the last
few months this ancient pension has been purchased
by Sir Walter Orlando Corbet, bart.

Besides this payment to the abbey of Athelney,
another payment of twenty shillings is yearly paid
from the benefice of Selworthy to Eton College. This
was originally a charge by Ralph de Limeseio (or
Roger de Curcelle, who held Holnicote at the time of
the Conquest) on the manor of Selworthy in favour of

Rectors. 65

the priory of Stoke Courcy. The church of St.
Andrew and much land in Stoke Courcy were pre-
sented to the abbey of Lolley by William de Falaise,
(temp. Henry II) and a prior and some monks were
sent thence to settle at Stoke Courcy, and continue
the new priory as a cell to that foreign house. The
priory was suppressed with other alien priories by
Henry VI, and given to his newly founded college of
Eton. This payment is now made to the Merchant
Venturer's Company of Bristol.

Another payment of £1 4s. is made to the rector of
Luccombe for " Boar Tithing." First fruits to the
amount of £1 6s. are paid yearly to the Queen Anne's
Bounty ; and annates, procurations, etc., are yearly
due to the archdeacon of Taunton.

The living is valued in the king's book at £ 1 2 1 5 s. 40J.
The Valor Ecclesiasticus has the following particulars
concerning the benefice.

1535. Richard Denyse, rector.
Annual value of the demesne or glebe lands .£168
Tithes of wool and lamb ... ... 334

Predial tithes ... ... ... 800

Personal tithes and other casualties ... 3 15 o

16 5

Out of which sum there is paid : —
To the abbot of Athelney
Dean and Chapter of Eton
Archdeacon of Taunton
















66 History of Selworthy.

In 13 Edward II, 1326, Hugh de Luccombe, then
recently deceased, was found to have been possessed
of the advowson of this church. By another inquisi-
tion, taken in 4 Richard II, 1380, Oliver de St. John
and Elizabeth his wife were found to hold the advow-
son of the church of Selworthy as of the honour of
Pinkney. 1

We subjoin a list of rectors up to the present time,
to which we are for the most part indebted to Rev. F.
W. Weaver's Somerset Incumbents. A few vacancies
have been filled up from other sources.

13 10. JOH. DE ROGES. (Drok. 32J

1317. Thom. LE DENEYS, on the resignation of

J. de R. (Drok. 152, 19J
1364. Sept. 10. John Hatch, on the death of

T. le D. ; presented by Sir Oliver St. John.

(/slip's Reg., f. 42aJ
1402. Feb. 20. JOH. Russel, on the death of J. H. ;

presented by Henr. Sentilon dom. de Este-

luccombe. (Bowet, 2 2. J
1434. Feb. 24. Tho. Barry, LL.B., on the death of

J. R. ; presented by Ed. Seynt John. (Staff.,

1468. Aug. 4. Tho. Pawlyn, on the death of T. B. ;

presented by Will. Saynt John, arm. (Still.,

1473. Nov. 10. Tho. Steyning, on the death of
T. P. ; presented by Alicia, relict Will. S.
John, arm. (Still., 42.)

i Hundred of Carhampton, p. 186.

Rectors 6j

1485. Feb. 21. JOH. COLYNS, on the death of T. S. ;

presented by J oh. Fogg, mil., Custos Rob.

Arundel, Trerice, filii Joh. Arundel, Trerice.

{Still., 131.)
1492. Oct. 27. Rad. Henkes, on the death of J. C. ;

presented by Joh. Arundel, Trerice, arm.

{Fox, 5.)
1503. Dec. 29. Tho. Smyth, on the death of R. H. ;

presented by Joh. Arundel, Trerice, arm.

( Vac. King, 2.)
1535. Sir Richard Denyse ( Valor Eccles.)
1540. Sir Henry Puggsley. 1
1544. Sir William Morle. 1
1549. Sir William Nichols. 1
1560. Sir Robert Coope. 2
1570. Jan. 3. Will. Fleete, on the death of

R. C. ; presented by Elisab. Regina. {Bark.,

1617. Feb. 25. Hen. Byam, on the death of W. F. ;

presented by Joh. Byam, rector de Clat-

vvorthy, a.c. per Joh. Arundel de Trerice in

com. Cornubiae. {Lake, 5.)
1669. July 23. Joh. Wood, on the death of H. B. ;

presented by Geo. Hayman et Tho. Fugar.

{Peirs, 130.)

1. These three names were given to the writer some years ago by
a late eminent antiquary, but unfortunately without his authorities
for his statement. They must be therefore received with some doubt.
Puggsley appears to have been curate of Porlock in 1538.

2. Sir R. Coope is mentioned in contemporary wills as being
Curate of Selworthy.

68 History of Selworthy.

1687. Oct. 25. Solomon Cook, S.T.B., on the

death of J. W. ; presented by Joh. Arundel.

{Ken, 6.)
1692. June 16. JOH. Gaylard, A.M., on the death

of S. C. ; presented by Joh. dom. Arundel de

Trerice. {Kidder, 2.)

1724. June 15. RlC. PERCIVALL, LL.B., on the death

of J. G. ; presented by Joh. dom. Arundel de
Trerice. {Hooper, 50.)

1725. Feb. 4. Will. Willis, on the resignation of

R. P. ; presented by Joh. dom. Arundel de

Trerice. {Hooper, 56.)
1730. Nathaniel Blake Brice, on the death of

W. W. ; presented by Joh. dom. Arundel de

1780. Oct. 28. David Williams, on the resignation

of N. B. B. ; presented by the representatives

of Joh. dom. Arundel de Trerice.
1802. Joshua Stephenson, M.A., on the death of

D. W. ; presented by Sir T. D. Acland, bart.
1864. T. MULLER, on the death of J. S. ; presented

by Sir T. D. Acland, bart.
1874. A. G. GlLMORE, M.A., on the resignation of

T. M. ; presented by Sir T. D. Acland, bart.
1884. F. Hancock, M.A., S.C.L., on the death of

A. G. G. ; presented by Sir. T. D. Acland,


The first of the rectors mentioned on our list was a

member of the ancient family of Roges of Porlock, of

whom a full account is given in prebendary Hook's

recently published history of the church of St. Dubri-

Rectors. 69

cius at Porlock. 1 We find that John Roges, who was
perhaps a brother of the Simon Roges who, in 1306,
held the town and advowson of Porlock, was instituted
to Selworthy in 13 10. In the bishop's Register he is
described as John de Roges, and as holding the two
sister benefices of Selworthy and Luccombe ; for in the
next year, 131 1, John Roges was presented to the
benefice of Luccombe by John de Luccombe. To this
benefice Jo. de Wamberge had already been inducted
in the March of that year by the archdeacon of Taun-
ton, on the presentation of Lady Joan de Luccombe, 2
and a contest as to the patronage ensued between the
two rival patrons. It ended in the bishop commending
the benefice to Roges, who swore to indemnify the
bishop both in the king's court and that of Arches.
Roges held the benefice of Selworthy until 13 17.

In connection with the family of Roges, we find
that the bishop "at Whetecumbe juxta Frome," ad-
mitted George Roges acol. to the rectory of Porlock,
patron Henry Roges filius, in 1310. 3 In 131 1, one
year for study is granted to the rector of Porlock at
the request of Robert Fitzpaine. 4 In the case of very
young rectors, these licences to study away from their
cures were very common. Fitzpaine was probably
some relation of G. Roges, as in 1318 we find this
same Roges rector of Staple Fitzpaine on the present-
ation of Robert Fitzpaine. Roges appears to have
exchanged benefices with William de Wengrave, who

1. A History of the Ancient Church of Porlock. Rev. W. Hook, m.a.

2. Drokensford Register, p. 1.

3- lb. p. 36.

4- lb. p. 47.

yo History of Selworthy.

had been instituted rector of Staple in 1310. This
Wengrave was presented to Witheridge (Devon) by
R. Fitzpaine in 1317. 1 In 13 18 the bishop's Register
notes a dark shadow on the life of G. Roges. But it
is sufficient to say that he confessed his sin, bound
himself over in the sum of £10 to abstain from bad
company in future, and was at his own request fined
the sum of five marks.

The family of Roges must always have been of im-
portance, for in 1 188 the Lady Alicia de Roges gave
the church of Winsford to bishop Reginald for St.
Andrew's Church at Wells, and in 1410 we find
Christiana Roges sub-prioress of Canonsleigh Priory,
near Wellington. " Holcombe Rogus no doubt takes
its name from this family. The name is said to have
been corrupted into Rogers, but this, however, is not
probable, as the hard ' g ' in Roges would not become
soft." 2

John Hatche, who was inducted to the benefice of
Selworthy on Sept. 10, 1364, was in all probability a
member of the family of Hacche, then flourishing at
Aller, near South Molton.

The institution of Thomas Steyning, on the presenta-
tion of Alicia, widow of William Saynt John A.M., on
the 10 Nov., 1473, possibly shows that the Steyning
family, with whom the fortunes of the parish were so
long connected, were already settled at that period
in the parish. A question seems to have arisen at this
time about the payments to the abbey of Athelney

1. Drokensford Register, p. 126.

2. Canonsleigh Priory. F. T. Elworthy.

Rectors. yi

and the priory of Stoke Courcy before-mentioned,
and the patronage of the benefice. 1

Alicia Saynt John claimed the patronage of the
benefices of Selworthy and East Luccombe, which
were held together in demesne, " ut de feod. stalliato,"
and John Fogg, mil., who was acting on Alicia's
behalf, seems to have been successful in establishing
that lady's right.

On the death of John Colyng, Ralph Henkes was
presented by John Arundel, and was instituted (by
proxy of John Glover) at Wells, and inducted by the
archdeacon of Taunton, Oct., 1492. 2

For a hundred years the rectors of Selworthy seemed
to have pursued very quietly the even tenour of their
ways, leaving no mark behind them. The list gives
no hint of any sudden changes, and we wonder how
they passed through the stormy times of the Reform-
ation. With William Fleete, instituted on Jan., 1570
on the presentation of the crown, we are on firmer
ground. From his brass, still in the chancel of Sel-
worthy Church, the inscription on which is recorded
in Chapter IV, we learn that he was educated at
Winchester and New College, and that he lived at
Selworthy forty-eight years. In his time the chalice
still used in Selworthy Church was purchased from
John Legh, a noted silversmith of the period at

William Fleete was a friend, possibly a school friend,
of the famous bishop Montgomery, whose history is

1. " Processus inquisicionis factae deet super jure ecclesise paro-
chialis de Selworthy." Bishop Fox's Register, p. 18.

2. Bishop Fox's Register, p. 20.

72 History of Selworthy.

treated fully in Chapter VIII. We shall see how the
vicar of Chedzoy, as he was then, ran Fleete's mare
for him one winter, and how Mr. Montgomery sent
the rector of Selworthy a medicine to cure the " melan-
choly " from which he suffered. The quick-witted
statesman, even then in the rush and turmoil of the
political life of the day, sympathised, perhaps, with
Mr. Fleete's somewhat dull life amidst the lonely
coombes of West Somerset, somewhat as Aratus
mourned for the poet-schoolmaster Diotimus.

" I mourn for Diotimus who sits among the rocks
Beating their ABC into infant Gargantuan blocks."

And yet Mr. Fleete was not entirely without neigh-
bours. At Porlock, sturdy Robert Brocke, who held
as tightly to his benefice during those troubled times
as the vicar of Bray did to his, had been obliged at
length to give way to Thomas Washington, A.M. At
Luccombe was canon John Bridgwater, a notable
man in his time, who was succeeded in 1573 by Will.
Maskall ; and after Maskall quickly followed Laurence
Byam, the father of Henry Byam the most famous
ecclesiastic our valley has produced.

At Holnicote worthy old Philip Steyning, the
vigorous head of a vigorous family, was living in the
old manor house, the gateway of which alone remains.
He had married a daughter of William Frye, of Mem-
bury, near Axminster, a man of large possessions and
ancient family, whose picturesque old home has only
of recent years been burnt down. No doubt there
was much coming and going between the two houses
at Membury and Holnicote, and Mr. Fry would have



had much to tell of the great Devonshire men so much
at that time to the fore. Perhaps he would have
brought with him a few of the curious tubers which
Hawkins or Raleigh had brought from South America,
for trial in the valley, and thus first introduced potatoes
amongst us ; or we can picture him relating some of
the wonders he had seen on board the ship of his
neighbour, Drake, when in 1580 that high admiral re-
turned from circumnavigating the world ; or narrating
how great a favourite at court Sir Walter Raleigh had
become ; or holding his audience spell-bound as he
told of the doughty deeds of Martin Frobisher.

Henry Byam, the son of Laurence Byam, who
succeeded Mr. Fleete, was born at Luccombe in 1580.
In 1 597 he entered at Exeter College, and two years
afterwards obtained a studentship at Christ Church.
He was a brilliant scholar, and soon became a famous
preacher. In 161 2 he took the degree of B.D., and in
1614 he succeeded his father as rector of Luccombe on
the presentation of Edward Byam, advocatione con-
cessit pro hac vice per Joh. Arundel, A.M. He
married a daughter of William Fleete, whose benefice
he added to his own by the presentation of his brother
Joh. Byam, rector de Clatworthy, a.c. per Joh. Arundel
de Tresise (Trerice), on the death of Mr. Fleete in
161 7. Henry Byam must have been sixty-two years
of age when the great rebellion broke out, but he at
once became a marked man on account of his strong
royalist opinions.

The prominence of Byam probably helped to bring
the storm upon our valley, which at so early a date in
the civil war broke over it. We can imagine how he

74 History of Selworlhy.

urged Mr. Steyning at Holnicote to be true to the
king, and both in the pulpit and out of the pulpit ex-
horted the yeomen and labourers of Selworthy and
Luccombe to do likewise. He not only bore the prin-
cipal part in raising a regiment of cavalry on the
king's behalf, but his five sons were all officers in the
royal army. On the outbreak of the civil war, " hunc
seditiosi cum rebellare ccepissent, comprehenderunt,
atque in publicam custodiam incluserunt," he was at
once seized by the parliamentarian party, thrown into
prison, and his property confiscated. The name of
" Henry Byam, clerk," appears amongst the list of
Somersetshire men who compounded for their estates.
The sum he paid to the Sequestrators as composition
was ^49 4s. 8d.

Byam appears soon after his seizure to have found
means to escape and to join prince Charles at Oxford,
where he was made a doctor of divinity. He accom-
panied that prince in his flight from England, and
was with him in the island of Scilly and then of
Jersey, and he remained at Jersey until that island
was reduced by the parliamentarian forces. Hearing
of his safe escape from the country, his wife and
daughter gathered together all the property they
could, and endeavoured to escape from the persecutions
of their Puritan guards, and join him. They reached
the sea-board safely, but their boat went down in a
great storm which caught them in mid-channel, and
Mrs. Byam and her daughter with their maidservant,
were drowned.

Hamnet Ward, prebendary of Wells, the editor of
Byam's sermons, speaks of him as "the most acute

Rectors, 75

and eminent preacher of his time." His sermons are
certainly very racily written, and full of curious learn-
ing. Of those extant, " most of them were preached
before his majesty king Charles II in his exile," in the
u island of Jersey," at " St. Hiliar," and elsewhere.
They are full of the political thought of the day, and
of unsparing denunciations of the ruling power in
England. Here is a sketch of the predominant
parties of the time, in which Byam compares Charles
II to Josiah crowned after the death of Amon : —

" Where be those of his people we would have him brought
unto (to crown him) ? Shall the Presbyterians be the men ?
'Twere strange they should. They that brought the first fewel
to that prodigious fire : they that swore against him, fought
against him, betrayed, sold their Innocent Master ; they that
disavowed that cement, by which the church of Christ hath
been firmly knit together ever since there was a Church
Apostolick upon the earth : I mean the Episcopacy. The
Independents can be none of them. They have cut them-
selves off from all Communion with the Holy Catholic Church
by their professed factious fractions and independencies.
They cut off that Sacred Head, and, quantum in ipsis, all future
hopes, that Root and Branches should ever bud forth and
sprout again. Both these have sold themselves to work
wickedness. And though their heads look several ways, like
Samson's foxes, yet each carries fire in his tail to burn the
Church and Commonwealth. Both Anti-Monarchical and the
kingdom's bane : both can agree together to divest the Lion of
Judah from his innate and just authority. To give these men
the capital Right Hand of fellowship, to joyn with either of
these, were to partake of their Sins, and render ourselves
guilty of that Sacred Blood their hands have spilt. Where
are those people that our Judah must be brought unto?
What ? to Complyers and Compounders, whose moneys have
fermented these wars, and their examples have encouraged the

j6 History of Selivorthy.

rout of Rebels in their wickedness ! I fear these are some of
Gomer's Children in the first of Hosea. Sure in that glorious
martyr's phrase if not imbude yet are they besprinkled with
Royal Bloud. Oh poor Compounders ! I pity their case.
God give them grace to relent, repent, and make their compo-
sition with God too. But truly they are in sad condition !
Laodiceans, nor hot nor cold ; vespertilios or Bats, nor mice
nor birds ; Populus and no Populus : I am sure not Populus
suus ; never cut out to be Martyrs for religion, not truly loyal
to their Sovereign."

And in his sermon on " The Danger of Ignorance,"
Byam breaks out : —

" ' Prodidistis, Abnegastis, Trucidastis,' betraying, denying,
killing the Lord's Anointed ; more traitorous than Judas, than
Peter; more killers than Pilate, and all under the Cloak and
vizard of Religion. A Cloak and a short one, 'tis not ad tales,
none of those o-roAcu the Scribes did wear, or if it be, a cloven
foot will be seen under it, and too much of the Devil will
appear. The Cloak is Religion, but such a Cloak, such a
religion as is pernicious and destructive to Church and
Monarchy. All ornaments, Donatives, all Anathemata, all
consecrated things . . . these all have the pretenders to
this new reformed, refined religion seized upon . . . Epis-
copacy, the constant practice of all Christian Churches from
the Apostles down to these very dayes : yet do our Hesterni
cry down this for Anti-Christian ; and suppressing one Pope
at Rome, they labour to erect a world of Popes in every place.
Sure, if we would look upon the end of many of our Incen-
diaries and bloody Traitors slain, shot, hanged, or otherwise
cut off, we might see with what fears and terrors of conscience
they took their part in it. Their Souls were required of them
as 'twas said of his, in Luke xii. God knows much against their

It appears to argue much for the clemency of
Cromwell and his party after the Commonwealth

Rectors. yy

government was established upon a sound basis, that
Dr. Byam appears to have been allowed to be at large
at Luccombe and Selworthy once more. We find
him preaching the funeral sermon of Colonel Deyer,
of Brushford, in 1654; and an eloquent discourse on
" Baptism " in 1656, " upon Thursday the 19th day of
March, at the Christening of T. L., son and heir to
Fra. Luttrell of Dunster Castle, Esquire." The
mother of this child was a co-heiress of John Tregon-
well, and married, secondly, Sir Jacob Bancks. She
lies buried in the Bancks aisle of Milton Abbey
Church, in Dorsetshire.

A sermon of some interest is one entitled " A Re-
turn from Argier. — A sermon preached at Minehead
in the county of Somerset, the 16th of March, 1627,
at the re-admission of a Relapsed into our Church."
The poor creature, who appears to have been taken
prisoner by the Turks and compelled to profess the
Mahommedan religion, and then to have escaped and
returned to Minehead, seems to have had to endure
this long discourse standing in the church of St.
Michael, clad in the Turkish costume in which he had
escaped. The preacher addresses him directly in one
part of his sermon : —

" You whom God suffered to fall, and yet of His infinite
mercy vouchsafed graciously to bring home, not only to your
country and kindred, but to the profession of your first faith
and to the Church and Sacraments again : let me say to you
(but in a better hour) as sometime Joshua to Achan : ' Give
glory to God, sing praises to Him who hath delivered your
soul from the nethermost hell.' When I think upon your
Turkish attire, that embleme of apostacy and witness of your
wofull fall, I do remember Adam and his figleave breeches :

7 8 History of Selworthy.

they could neither conceal his shame, nor cover his nakedness.
I do think upon David clad in Saul's armour. How could
you hope in this unsanctified habit to attain Heaven ? "

Dr. Byam would seem to have been hard upon the
poor Minehead lad, who probably had to embrace the
creed of Islam or die ; and we are glad to see that the
preacher protected him against the witticisms of the
young Minehead of the day.

" Let not what is said or done encourage any of you to re-
joyce in your neighbour's fall nor triumph in his misery."

Dr. Byam denounces the " unspeakable Turk " in
the strongest language, and declares him " with the
learned Zanchius and many others " to be " the Anti-
christ of prophecy," for

" he reigneth in that seven-hilled city of Constantinople, and
sitteth in the very Temple of God. Hierusalem is his, and a
great part of the World runs after him." He is " the very
scourge and plague of Christendom and Hammer of the world,
who shares his lies with the Devil. The one seek the body,
the other the Soul. Oh might I live to see the time when our
Roberts', Godfries', Baldwin's would set foot in stirrop again,
and might I be one of the meanest Trumpetors in such an
holy expedition."

Here is a passage from his sermon on colonel Deyer,
who "died early of consumption " : —

" We have a consumption as he; his was patens ours latens,
and the more dangerous ; his in januis ours in insidiis : his
was open, our's in secret, and yet not so secret but every man
may run and read the Character of Declining writ on our fore-
heads, and every limb can tell there's something works within
it to our end ; and every day can tell another we are worse
than when he found us."



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Online LibraryFrederick HancockThe parish of Selworthy in the county of Somerset, some notes on its history → online text (page 5 of 21)