Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History S.

Proceedings (Volume 18) online

. (page 12 of 24)
Online LibrarySomersetshire Archaeological and Natural History SProceedings (Volume 18) → online text (page 12 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

or north front is tolerably straight and about 180 yards
long. The west front, about 168 yards, is formed by what
seems to have been a tributary stream called the Potwater,
which here joined the river nearly at a right angle. The
south and east fronts, of 340 yards, were formed by a
curved water course, probably artificial, which connected
the tributary, by a second junction, with the river, and
thus completed the circuit of the defence. The enclosure
was thus a sort of quadrant, the river and the brook being
each a radius, and the curved ditch the arc. The area thus
enclosed measures about seven acres, and lies between the
river and the town, which covers its east and south sides.

Within this area, occupying its north-east corner and
about a quarter of its extent, is the inner court or citadel
of the place, roughly rectangular, and measuring about


123 yards east and west, by 73 yards north and south.
Its east and north faces rest upon the main ditch and the
river, and its south and west faces are covered by a curved
ditch, artificial, which gives the eastern outer ditch a
second connexion with the river, and divides the outer
called " Castle Green " from the inner court. The position
was a very strong one, having the river, and beyond it a
morass, towards the north, or threatened side, and to the
south a ditch, in part double, and always filled with water.

The inner court is further subdivided into two parts, of
which the eastern half seems to have been raised into a
sort of platform upon which probably Ine^s actual resi-
dence was placed.

Mr. Warre speaks of a mound here, but as I cannot
make out that there is any record or tradition of a mound
in the technical sense, I presume that he calls by that
name the very considerable bank and contiguous platform
of earth, much of which is still seen. What occurred
here, and by whom occupied, or what changes took place
between the reign of Ine and the end of the 11th century
is not known, but the Normans, accustomed, as far as
practicable, to occupy the Saxon seats, soon perceived the
advantages held out by the position and earthworks at
Taunton, and William GifFord, who held the lordship as
Bishop of Winchester in the reign of Henry I., seems to
have decided upon building a regular Castle. His suc-
cessors. Bishops of Winchester, were much here, and the
Castle received much addition at their hands, especially in
the early Decorated period, of all of which traces more or
less considerable still remain. The outer ward is traversed
east and west by a road upon which were two gatehouses,
of which the western was till recently represented by a
fragment of wall and a stone bridge across the moat.


VyE^T VIeV or T^E E^^TEllN Cv\TE /^ IT /^PPE^^ED/XBoO"

'Rs^^i.cad. ^r-om. aDrawmg

inths, p aoialys Musevjm..


Traces of a barbican in part of timber, were discovered a
few years ago while digging on the counterscarp. Of the
eastern gatehouse the remains are still considerable. It
was of large size, the entrance passage being 60 feet deep,
with portals at each end, and at the outer end a large
square portcullis groove. The upper floor contained a fine
room, of which on the north side there remain two windows
in the early Decorated style, which is that of the whole
gatehouse. The gateway was placed just within the ditch,
on the counterscarp or town side of which some founda-
tions, probably of a barbican, were laid open a few years
since. The wall of the outer court is gone, save a small
fragment on the south-west quarter, neither are there any
of the ancient buildings remaining within the area. Bishop
Fox^s school, the oldest of them, is later than the period
when the defences were of much value.

The defences and contents of the inner ward are less
imperfect. The masonry here did not extend actually to
the river, the immediate bank of which, as at Leicester, is
very low, so that the enclosed ward occupied only about
two-thirds of the whole moated area. The walled part is
roughly triangular, the base being the east side, and the
truncated apex to the west. This area seems further to
have been divided by a cross wall into two parts, the
keep, hall, and gatehouse being in the western, and in
the eastern the earthworks, which favours the notion of
this having been the old English citadel. These earth-
works are two banks along the east and south fronts, ex-
panding at their junction into a rectangular platform of
about 80 by 120 feet. The banks have been used as
terraces or ramps, the Norman wall having been built
against them and along the river edge of the ditch. These
banks are about 18 to 24 feet broad and about 10 feet high.



Along the east face about 150 feet of the original wall
remains tolerably perfect, and is about 25 feet high outside.
This is returned along the river or north front, and near
the angle is a buried arch at present invisible, and which
may have been a postern or a sewer. From the south
face the wall has recently been removed. At the south-
west corner of this court is a dwelling-house, part of the
wall of which is old, either Norman or Edwardian.

The smaller or west court contains the chief remains in
masonry, and of these the most remarkable is the keep. This
is a well-defined though mutilated tower, standing upon
the enceinte wall, of which it forms the north-west angle.
It is rectangular, 50 feet north and south, by 40 feet east
and west, with walls about 13 feet thick. There is no
chamber below ground. The basement is vaulted with a
heavy barrel vault, apparently original, though this is
doubtful, and round headed. Outside are flat narrow
pilaster strips, dying into the wall at about 30 feet high.
There are traces of Norman loops in the wall, which may
have been 50 feet high, and probably included three stories.
At the north-east angle is a well staircase leading to the
battlements, probably in part an Edwardian addition. The
entrance is most likely to have been in the south face, no
doubt on the first floor, though there is nothing left to
shew this.

From the keep, along the north front, the original,
though much mutilated, Norman wall, with its flat pilasters
and the jamb of one original window, crests the rising
ground, as at Leicester, about 50 feet from the river, and,
also as at Leicester, evidently formed one side of the hall.
At the end of the wall, about 140 feet from the keep, is
a postern, with a segmental arch, possibly in substance
Norman, though mutilated.


In the centre of the south front, but at the south-east
corner of this section of it, is the gatehouse, a rectangular
structure, with an Edwardian portal, and some Perpen-
dicular additions, square portcullis grooves, gates, and
lodge. In the front are seen the holes for the chains sup-
porting the drawbridge, now replaced by a permanent
structure. Above the entrance passage is a chamber.

Right and left of the gatehouse the curtain extends
about 70 feet, terminating a short time ago in bold drum
towers, of which one is gone, and the other caps the south-
west angle of the ward, and connected this front with a
short curtain leading to the keep. Against this wall
stands a line of buildings ranging with the gatehouse.
Opposite^ against the north wall, is the hall, modern as to
its inner wall, fittings, and roof, but very evidently oc-
cupying the sight of the original Norman hall and domestic

The south-west drum tower has been rebuilt or faced,
but evidently represents the Edwardian or early Decorated
works that replaced the old Norman curtain. The ditch
along the west and part of the south fronts of this ward,
has been recently filled up. The drum towers, curtain, and
keep stood on its edge, and formed its scarp.

Here, then, we have a combination of earthworks dating
from the commencement of the 8th century ; walls and
keep the work of the early part of the 12th ; and towers
and gatehouses towards the end of the 13th or earlv in the
14th century. Bishop Langton executed some additions
here in 1490, and placed his arms outside the inner gate-
house. In 1496 the Castle was taken by the Cornish
rebels who rose against the close taxation of Henry VII.,
and here massacred the Provest of Penrhyn, Bishop
Home made further repairs here in 1557.


In the Parliamentary wars Taunton was first occupied
for the Parliament, then taken by Lord Hertford for the
King, and finally retaken for the Parliament by Blake,
who held it against a far superior force. The infamous
JefFeries held the " Bloody Assize '' in the present hall.

It has been thought that Ine's Castle was confined to
the inner ward. No doubt his strong house was there,
but the whole enclosure is not larger than Framlingham or
other Saxon holds.

The absence of a mound is rather peculiar, and it is
remarkable that the Normans should have placed this keep
on the lowest ground. Altogether, looking to its very
curious though scanty remains, and its very ancient history,
Taunton Castle is a work of unusual interest, and deserves
to be cleared and employed as a promenade or museum, or
for some public purpose, so that its walls and earthworks
may become an embellishment to the ancient town to which
it unquestionably gave rise.

®lic (i|ustoms of the Piiimii of
Staimtoii Mmu.


E are enabled by what
I think may be deemed
reliable, if not authentic
records, to carry back
the history of this Manor
to the earliest ages of
the history of Wessex.
Not long after the time
when Taunton was still
virtually a border-for-
tress, and the kingdom
of Ine westward did not extend far beyond
rhat afterwards became the boundaries of the
Manor of Taunton Deane, we find that this rich and fertile
district was bestowed upon the Church of Winchester.
From that time until a comparatively very recent period
the Bishops of Winchester continued to be the lords of
this Manor, and, in fact, they ceased to exercise their
manorial rights and enjoy its privileges here only when the
Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act came into force.

*#* The initial letter embraces a view of the Exchequer Chamber,
Taunton Castle, where the documents relating to the Manor are kept.


It was Frethogyth, the Queen of -^thelheard, who first
endowed the see of Winchester with lands in this district,
^thelheard was the immediate successor of Ine, and he
was brother to -3^thelburh the Queen. Thus it was quite
possible that some of the tenants who first did homage to
the princely prelate of Winton might have taken part in
the siege of Taunton, under Queen -ZEthelburh, when the
rebels had seized it in 722 ; or at least they might well
have remembered seeing in their boyhood the flaming ruins
of the castle which ^Ethelburh had set on fire, in order to
dislodge the rebel chieftain and his followers.

It is hardly necessary to observe that I am now speaking
of a time when the diocese of Exeter did not exist ; when
the diocese of Wells had not been formed ; when, in fact,
the see of Winchester was co-extensive with the West-
Saxon Kingdom, I am aware that in 705 the province
was divided, and the western portion made into the diocese
of Sherborne. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe
that the imperial city of Winchester continued to be the
metropolis alike of civil and ecclesiastical rule ; and no one
would be more willing to acknowledge the supremacy than
the Bishop of Sherborne himself. Accordingly when (as
stated in the Saxon Chronicles) Forthere, Bishop of
Sherborne, and Queen Frethogyth went together on a
pilgrimage to Rome, nothing would be more natural for
the Queen and nothing more agreeable to the bishop, than
the endowment of the Mother Church in token of her
gratitude and devotion.

And thus we find it stated in early Saxon charters that
Queen Frethogyth bestowed the Manor of Taunton on the
Church of Winchester. The genuineness and authenticity
of some of those charters may be doubtful. I know that
Kemble, in his Codex Diplomaticus, marks them as such.


Yet I see no reason whatever to doubt the principal fact
on which they are based, namely, that tlie grant of the
Manor was first made by the Queen of .^thelheard and
the sister-in-law of -(Ethelburh.

So, when we come to the charter of ^thelwulf of
Wessex, granted in a.d. 854, we are quite prepared to
accept the statement there expressly made in these terms :
— " I have enlarged the boundaries of the land in Tantun
which Frethogyth the queen gave to the Church of Win-
chester in former times" [amplicavi spacium telliiris in
Tantun quod Frethogyth regina Wentance eccelesice priscis
temporibus dedit,)

This charter of ^thelwulf is especially interesting,
inasmuch as that it specifies the additions made, consisting
of lands in " Risctune '^ and in " Stoce aet orceard -" and
also gives the various objects and places which mark out
the boundaries of the Manor at the time the charter was
made. The boundaries given are clear enough to enable
us to take a general view of the extent of the Manor at
that time. Many of the spots may be identified with
those which bear much the same names in the Ordnance
Maps of the present day, and I have no doubt that re-
ference to parish maps and local usages would enable us to
identify many more.

Guided by this charter our course in " beating the
bounds " would be as follows : —

Starting from where Blackbrook enters the Tone in the
parish of Ruishton (Blackan-hroce on Taan), we come
to Ash-cross {ad veterem. fraxinum) ; thence over the hill
to the borders of Ash-hill forest : {trans montem in alterum
fraxinum); and on to the high road from Broadway to
Honiton (ad viam puhlicam) ; thence over the Blackdown-
hills to Otterford (ad vadum quod Otereford nominatur),


following the course of the stream to Otterhead (usque ad
caput fontis). Crossing the hill we come into the Culm
valley (ad Columbarem vallem), and then on westward until
we arrive at Ashbrittle (quemdam fraxinum quern imperiti
sacrum vacant), and following the course of the river, we
come to the boundaries of Wiveliscombe (juxta terminos
Wifelescombe) ; thence along the old road leading to Monk-
silver, until we come to the source of the Willet stream
fad originalem fontem rivuli qui Willite nominatur) ; thence
by alha gromia, now called White Moor Farm, we come
to Lydeard St. Lawrence (ad Lidgeard). From here
crossing the valley, we come to the foot of Triscombe (ad
occidentalem partem vallis qui Truscomhe nominatur) ; thence
eastward to Rugan Beorh, which I suggest should be
Bugan Beorh or Bagborough, for immediately we are
taken along the horse-path over Quantock to j^scholtes.
Afterwards we pass piscis fontem ('Bishpool Farm), and so
on to Holwell Cavern (sic ad Elwylle). Crossing the
Quantocks again, and descending into the valley of the
Tone, we come by the stream which passes by Kingston
fad rivulum qui Neglescumh nominatur), and which gives
name to the Hundred and Hamlet of Nailesburne. Going
eastward we skirt Hegsteldescumh, which I take to be
Hestercombe, and passing by Scechbrock, which 1 take to
be Sidbrook, we come again to the Tone where we started
(et sic in Jlumine quod Tan nominatur), et sic perveniatur
if.erum in Beadding-broch, or Bathpool.

The boundaries which 1 have here briefly sketched in-
clude one of the richest tracts of country in the kingdom,
and any one who knows the country cannot fail to be
impressed with the immense value and importance of such
a Manor. In fact, judging from the valuation-lists recently
issued by the Union Assessment Committees, the Manor


originally embraced a district, the annual rental of wliich,
in the present day, cannot fall far short of £200,000 !
This immense sum would not, of course, correctly represent,
even comparatively, the value of the estate at the time to
which we refer. Great allowance is to be made for the
extent of forest. The panagium porcoruin (that is, the
mast for pig-meat in beech and oak groves) would not be of
the same value as corn crops grown on the cleared ground.
The extent of this forest is clearly shown by the very
name which the district bears — Taunton Deane — a name
older even than the kingdom of Wessex, and one always
associated with forests. The Arduenna Silva of Csesar, the
Arden of ^YarwickshIre3 the Forest of Dean, in Gloucester-
shire, still called by the Cymri "y Ddena" all serve to
confirm this view. But making all the allowances possible,
this Manoi' was a princely inheritance, even after large
portions of it had been granted by the Conqueror to some
of his favourites, and other portions had come to be held
on knights' service, under the Bishop of Winchester as
superior lord.

I am sorry I shall have to pass over all that relates to
this Manor in the Exon Domesday, the examination of
which would be extremely interesting and valuable, but
somewhat dry.

I can also only refer briefly to a very curious and in-
teresting MS. Customary of this Manor, which I had the
good fortune to discover under a great heap of court-rolls
in the Exchequer. It supplies examples of tenure under
the Manor in olden times which are very curious, and
which deserve to be treated of and discussed by themselves,
but they are not incorporated in the Customs to which
this paper is specially devoted. I will, therefore, only give
two or three cases by way of illustration. Thus, lands in



Hillsbishop and Staplegrove are held on a small fixed rent,
and the ordinary services of ploughing and sowing and
reaping so man^' acres of the loi'd's land. In addition to
this the tenants were required to carry the lord^s corn to
market at Ivelchester or Langport, and what is still more
curious, they were bound to carry the lord^s corn as far as
Topsham, and there to place it in ships for exportation !
Cariabit bladum (Tni usque ad Toppisham si d'nus voluerit
transietare et ponere ibidem warnesturam suam in naves.
Why the bishops preferred Topsham to Bridgwater is
partially explained by another clause, in which it is pro-
vided that if the bishop should desire to have his wine
conveyed from Exeter or Topsham to Taunton, the tenants
were bound to bring back the same at the rate of 2s. per
cask. Et si dominus voluerit cariare vinum suum ab Exon
vel Toppisham d'nus Episcopus dabit pro quulibet doleo
cariando ii.s. By the same conditions of tenure the tenant
was not allowed to give his daughter in marriage, nor to
sell a horse, without leave from the bishop.

The entire Manor of which I have hitherto spoken ap-
pears to have been divided at an early period into two
parts, known as the Out-faring Division, and the In-faring
Division. It is to the latter of these only that the
Customs of Taunton Deane apply. There is, besides, the
Hundred of Taunton Borough, which stands by itself and
will require to be treated by itself

The In-faring Division, or The Five Hundreds of
Taunton Deane, consists of ( 1 ) The Hundred of Hoi way,
including portions of the parishes of Ruishton, Taunton
St. Mary, Stoke, Wilton, Ninehead, and Rimpton ; (2)
The Hundred of Hull, including the parishes of Trull,
Bishop^s Hull, and a portion of Pitminster; (3) The
Hundred of Nailesburne, embracing the parish of Kingston;


(4) The Hundred of Poundsford, including the parishes
of Pitminster and Corfe, and (5) The Hundred of Staple-
grove, including the parishes of Staplegrove, Taunton St.
James, Combe Florey, and Lydeard ^St. Lawrence. In
the observations which are to follow on the Customs, it
will be understood that by the Manor is understood The
Five Hundreds of the Manor of Taunton Deane.


All owners of property being parcels of the Manor of
Taunton Deane, are tenants of the Lord of the Manor,
and hold their respective estates subject to certain dues,
rents, and services fixed and determined by the customs of
the Manor. These holdings are of two kinds, viz., Bond-
land Tenements, beinff land on which ancient dwellings are
known to have stood, and Overland Tenements, where such
dwellings were not known. Fealty, suit, service, fines on
surrender and admittance, and fixed rents were incident
to both kinds of holdings ,• but, as might be expected from
the necessary character of feudal tenures, the estates on
which ancient dwellings had stood (that is. Bond-land
Tenements) were subject to the obligation of residence on
the property while the tenant was living, and to the pay-
ment of heriot when he died.

On every change of tenancy, whether by sale or deed of
gift, or mortgage, the Customs require that the property
shall be formally surrendered into the hands of the lord for
the uses and purposes specified in the surrender ; and in
case of the death of a tenant intestate the property falls
into the hands of the Lord of the Manor, for the uses of
those who, as heirs, are entitled to inherit by the Customs.
Entries of these surrenders, and also of admittances of
tenants are made in the records of the Manor by the
steward ; and these entries are virtually the title-deeds of


the property. It is, however, to be observed, that while
no change in the tenancy can take place without the
authority and consent of the Lord of the Manor, yet, as
long as certain conditions are fulfilled the tenants are vir-
tually independent, and the lord has no power of restraining
or limiting any disposition they may please to make of their

These Records of Surrenders and Admittances are kept
in a room called the Exchequer. This room lies over the
principal gateway to the Inner Bailey of the Castle, and
belongs not to the Lord of the Manor, but to the tenants.
When the late Lord of the Manor sold the Castle he could
not sell and had no power to convey the room which stands
over the principal entrance into it ; and as far as I am able
to judge from the Customs of the Manor, I do not see how
he could have sold this hall* without reserving to the tenants
the right they had in olden time to hold their Law-courts
within its walls.

The earliest Eecords of Surrenders and Admittances in
the Exchequer begin with the reign of Edward VI., and
from that period to the present day the series appears to be
almost perfect and complete. The Pipe-rolls, containing
all the receipts and expenses arising from this Manor, are of
a much earlier date ; and as they specify the amount of fines
paid, and also describe the persons and estates on account
of whom the payments were made, they carry back the
history of the Manor to a much earlier date.

During my investigations in these interesting records I
could not fail to observe that the power of the superior lord
became less and less every succeeding age, and that there
was a corresponding increase in the privileges and freedom

* I.e., tlie room in whicli the paper was read, formerly the old Hall
of Taunton Castle,


which the tenants claimed and secured. Many feudal cus-
toms, inconsistent with the growing liberties of the people,
had been allowed to fall into disuse long before they were
abolished by the Commonwealth, and subsequently repealed
by Charles II. When questions arising from high views of
feudal rights were raised in the reign of Queen Elizabeth,
and submitted to the Grand Inquest of the Manor, I find
almost invariably that the judgments given were in favour
of the tenant rather than of the lord.

I cannot find any evidence of the existence of any
authentic code of laws or customs earlier than that which
was drawn by a jury empanelled by order of Parliament in
1647, a very early, if not a contemporary copy of which in
MS. I have now the pleasure to exhibit. In my present
notice of the Customs, however, I purpose to confine my
observations to such only as I have found entered and illus-
trated in the records themselves; and I take this early
opportunity of expressing my great obligation to Mr.
Meyler, the deputy-steward of the Manor, and a zealous
and valuable member of our society, for the facilities he has
kindly afibrded me in my investigations in the Exchequer.
I feel it is utterly impossible to lay before you anything like
a complete account of all that is peculiar in the Customs of
this Manor within the limit of time properly assigned on
these occasions. I will content myself, therefore, with

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibrarySomersetshire Archaeological and Natural History SProceedings (Volume 18) → online text (page 12 of 24)