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against all rivals throughout the length and breadth of our
English world.

The place is associated in the minds of many of us with
still further charm — memories of holiday rambles in early
days of boyhood, when it was a favourite haunt of those
whom the varied avocations of after life have since dis-
persed far and wide, as well as of occasional visits when the
wanderers have returned to the old scenes of enjoyment,
and lived over again the hours which the well-remembered
objects have vividly recalled. And Hestercombe is able
to do this in a far greater degree than most other localities.
It has ever had a strange fascination and sino^ular influence
on those who have known it best — an almost indescribable
atmosphere peculiarly its own. It has been in the recol-

VOL. XVIII., 1872, PART II. s


lection of most of us a shadowy thing of the past rather
than a reality of the living and breathing present. For
more than half a century little has been done even to pre-
serve what was once so regularly ordered and so exactly
arranged. The woods have about them a primeval aspect,
the lawns are overgrown with varied vegetation, the paths
where a hundred years ago the feet of fair ladies wandered
amid a very paradise of delights are now in some places
all but obliterated, while those which are tended the best
have entirely lost the evidences of that courtly care which
was once so lavishly and lovingly expended on them.
The visitor has oftentimes to gaze on landscape beauties
through an umbrageous screen which all but hides them
from his view, and to investigate the works of its old
possessors, the urn or the alcove, through a labyrinth of
thicket, where his foot is impeded at every step, and the
air is dense with sylvan odours and heavy with the atmos-
phere of the forest and its verdure. Many of its vistas
and winding glades have indeed a weird aspect, and trans-
port us to old regions of nursery romance where a spot
which had not been visited for long generations was once
more traversed by wayfaring feet and revealed to the gaze
of living men. Such, in all its mystic, dreamy, proud,
and stately beauty, is the Hestercombe of to-day.

But to us there is yet another point of interest to which,
except by a hint of the antiquity of the house, I have
not yet adverted. The place has a long and interesting
history. It is, of course, the history but of a private
estuLe. Happily it was the site neither of Abbey nor of
Priory, whose alienation brought down the doom which
the sin of sacrilege never fails to attract. The larger part
cf its annals necessarily consists but of a list of its suc-
cessive possessors ; but there are various episodes in it,


never until now presented to the modern reader, which
most agreeably savour of medieval usage, and bring it
within the circuit of the all-engrossinjj charm of which
that portion of our national history is full. It is to these,
of which too many of our modern historians have had little
or no knowledge, for which I would specially bespeak my
reader's attention.

The first notice that we possess of the place is that it
was parcel of the lands of the Abbey of Glastonbury.
So it was in the time of Edward the Confessor. Four
tenants held it under the Abbey, with the ordinary ser-
vices, as presently related. Norman WiUiam took it from
the monks and gave it to the Bishop of Coutances, in
whose hands it was at the period of the Domesday Survey.
It is thus described in that venerable Kecord : —

"The same Bishop holds Hasecumbe, and William of
him. Four Thanes held it in the time of King Edward,
and gelded for two hides and three virgates of land. The
arable is three carucates. There are two carucates in
the demesne, with one bondman and four villeins and eight
cottagers with two ploughs. There are there thirty-one
acres of meadow, and ten acres of undervvood. It was
worth forty shillings, now fifty shillings/'*

To this account, by which it would appear that the
estate consisted of between five and six hundred acres of
land of various denominations, the Exon Domesday gives
the name of the sub-tenant as William de Moncels, and
adds, after its manner, that at the time of the Survey
there were on the property ten " beasts," twenty swine,
and one hundred and forty-three sheep.f

* Domesday, fol. 87 b. Terra Epi Constant.
t Exon Domesday, fol. 137.


From this William de Moncels the place appears to have
passed soon afterwards to the family of Fluri, a well-
known member of which, in the early part of the twelfth
century, Hugh de Fluri, gave twenty acres here to the
infant Priory of Taunton.*

How long the family of Fluri, which, I may add, was
one of great importance, and gave its distinguishing
affix to Combe-Flory, Ninehead-Flory, Leigh-Flory, and
Withiel-Flory, retained possession of lands in this locality
we have no certain means of determining. But on the
octave of the feast of the Purification of the Blessed
Virgin, in the 6 th year of Henry III., or the 9th of
February, 1222, Juliana la Pottere remitted and claim-
quitted a virgate of land with appurtenances in Hester-
cumbe to Geoffrey de Wudeford. For this remission
Geoffrey gave Juliana four marcs of silver, f And, further,
in the three weeks after the feast of S. John Baptist, in
the 40th year of the same reign, or from the 24th of June
to the 14th of July, 1256, certain land in the same neigh-
bourhood was leased by William Fitz William to William
de Camera for the term of his life, and to revert after his
decease to the previous owner, with a caveat against the
sale, mortgage, or any other way of alienation of the
property. I

These notices, fragmentary as they are and referring
to out-lying portions only of the estate, must nevertheless
suffice the reader, until we arrive at the period when
we find the fair domain on which we are employed in re-
gular possession of the knightly family of De Meryet, who
held it of the Bishop of Winchester by knight service, as

* Cart. 8 Edw. III. n. 12. mm. 5, 6. per inspex.

+ Ped. Fin. Somers. 6 Hen. III. No. 52.
1 Ped. Fin, Somers. 28-40 Hen. III. No. 123.


of his manor of Taunton. The family of De Meryet is
a difficult one to trace, owing to the multiplicity of its
branches and similarity of names ; but by the aid of in-
quisitions, fines, and similar documents I will endeavour
to throw what light I may on the Hestercombe line of it.
I am acquainted with some curious episodes in the his-
tory of several of its earlier members, but to enter into
these would take us too far from the limits to which I am

John de Meriet — son of John de Merlet, who died
13 Edward L, 1285, and an assignment of dower in favour
of whose widow, amounting after all deductions to xlviij^'
xiiij* iiij'^ ob. q. (£48 145. 4|(/.), made in the month of
May ensuing, is annexed to the Claus Roll of that year,* —
the first of the family that I have found connected
with Hestercombe, was a party with John de Hester-
cumbe to a final concord by which he obtained from the
latter eight acres of arable land and five acres of meadow
with appurtenances in Hestercumbe, together with one
hundred shillings of yearly rent from the same vill, paid
by Gregory de Welyngton and his heirs from all the
tenements therein heretofore held by John de Hestercumb
aforesaid. The instrument was dated at Westminster on
the quindisme of Easter, 21 Edward I., or the 12 th of
April, 1293. It is added that John de Meriet gave to
John of Hestercumbe for the aforesaid recognizance a
sparrow-hawk, that the concord was passed in the presence
and with the agreement of the aforesaid Gregory, and
that he did fealty to the new owner in the same court.f

This John de Meryet must have died soon after the

* Rot. Claus. 13 Edw. I. m. 8, in ced. There was more in connexion
with this in the illegible Inq. p.m. 30 Edw. I. n. 147.

+ Ped. Fin. Somers. 21-35 Edw. I. n. 1. Appendix, No. I.


date of the last transaction, for he left behind him a son,

John, wh^ was a minor at the time of his father's de-
cease, and succeeded to his estates in the year 1297. He
was born at Meryet (an additional proof, it may be, that
his father was the first of the family who owned Hester-
combe, the old domain from which they took their cog-
nomen), on the Thursday in Holy Week, in the fourth
year of Edward I., which is coincident with the 2nd of
April, 1276. I gain these facts from a most interesting
" Proof of Age," which 1 have found on the Coram Rege
Roll of Trinity Term in the 25th year of Edward I.*
As the information is so curious, and the mode of its
transmission so little understood by modern readers, as
well as affording a very graphic illustration of the period
to which, as I have already said, I am desirous of directing
special attention, I shall be doing a service to a student of
the medieval history of Hestercombe by entering into
some details.

This John, son of John de Meriet, was born at the time
and place above stated. He lost his father while yet a
minor, and his guardians were Felicia, the wife of William
de Shorteford, and, first, Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath
and Wells, and on his death the Bishop of Ely. In the
year 1297 he became of age, and in order to enable him
to obtain livery of his estates out of the hands of his
guardians the following " Proof of Age" was returned.
It was obtained by inquest, in answer to a writ issued by
the King and addressed to the eschaetor, who proceeded
to the investigation with all the care which the subject

The following witnesses and their depositions were abun-

* Plac. Coram Rege, Trin. 25 Edw. I. No. 152. rot. iij.


dantly sufficient for the purpose, and it requires but a very
slight exercise of the imagination to help us to a vivid
picture of an old Somersetshire gathering.

Richard de Loveny, of the age of forty years and
upwards, examined on oath, deposed that John, the son of
John de Meriet, was of the age of twenty-one years at
Easter last past, and further that he was born at Meriet,
and baptised in the parish Church on Easter Even, in the
fourth year of the present King. Being further asked
how he could remember the fact after so long a time since
that of its occurrence, the witness deposed that he was
then in possession of certain land by the gift of his father
in the vill of Lopene, distant not more than half a mile
from Meriet ; that the gift was made to him in the third
year of the King ; that he was then at Lopene, where
immediately after the birth of the said John the rumour
reached him ; that the said John was born on the Thurs-
day before Easter, and was afterwards baptised on Easter
Even by Henry, the vicar of Suthpederton ; that Sir
Gilbert de Knouyll was one of his god-fathers, and Lady
Albreda de Mohun his god-mother ; and further that the
land aforesaid was given him at Hockedey, in the third
year aforesaid, and that he held it to the eighth year of
the King^s reign, Sec.

Thomas de la More, of sixty years of age, deposed to
the facts of the birth and baptism ; and, further, that
Hugh de la More his father died on the Tuesday next
before the birth of the said John, at la More in the parish
of Crukern, not distant more than half a mile from Meriet ,•
that he was invited to the feast when the mother of the
aforesaid John was Churched, but was not present at the
same by reason of his being occupied by some business
connected with his father's will.


John de Lambrok, of the age of forty years and upwards,
deposed in like manner ; and in reply to further questions
added that Ela, the mother of the said John, was Churched
on the Thursday next after the month of Easter next
after the birth of the aforesaid John [7 May, 1276]. Also
that Nicholas his father was invited to the Churching
feast, and was present thereat, and he himself with him.

Hugh de Lopeneford, of sixty years of age and upwards,
deposed similarly ; and added that he was living at the
time of the aforesaid birth and baptism with the father of
John at Meriete, and for five years next ensuing ; that he
bought certain land of Walter de Ffurneus, and that he is
assured of the time by the date on the conveyance of the
aforesaid land which is now in his possession.

Thomas de la Forde of Chynnok Aumarle, of the age
of forty years, resident a mile from Meryete. Agreed
with the previous witnesses, and further that he was
present at the Churching feast, and that he has a son,
John by name, yet living, who was born in the week next
after Easter, in the fourth year of the King.

Henry de Leghe of Crukerne, of the age of forty years
and upwards, resident a mile from Meryete. Agreed as
to the age, birth, baptism, and other circumstances, with
Kichard de Loveny first sworn. Added that he was
present on the Thursday next after the month of Easter
in the third [sic] year of the King, at the Churching
feast ; and that a little before the lady was Churched his
own wife Alice died, about the feast of the Holy Cross
[3 May] in the month of May, now twenty-one years
past and upwards, by which he well knows of the age

Hugh de Brugg, of forty yeai-s of age, resident a mile
from Meryet. Agreed with those already sworn as to


age, &c., and added that he was present at the Churching
feast, and remembers the time because a little afterwards
in the same year he espoused Avice his wife still surviving.

John de Esse of Henle, living a mile and a half from
Meryet, of the age of thirty-seven years. Agreed with
the rest, and added, as a reason for his recollection, that
in the same year he was in attendance on one Nicholas
Frye of Crukern, and with the wife of the said Nicholas,
his mistress, went to the Churching feast, on the day and
year deposed to by the first witness ; and that he specially
remembered the time because in the same year he espoused
one Isolda his wife, who was afterwards separated from
him by divorce, and who was still living.

Mathew de Esse of Cudeworth, two miles from Meriet,
of the age of thirty-eight years and upwards. Agreed as to
age, birth, baptism, &c., with those already sworn. When
asked, &c., deposed that in the same year about fifteen
days afterwards he espoused Joan his wife, daughter of Sir
Alan de Ffurneaus, knt., whom for some time previously
he tenderly loved. From this he well knew and was
sure, &c.*

Kobert de Wayford of Crukern, a mile from Meryet,
of fifty years of age and upwards. Agreed with the former
as to age, &c. Added that he had a son by name Richard,
still living, who was born in the same year, and in the
same week, on the Tuesday before the Thursday on which
the said John was born.

William de Wermewell of Neuton, five miles from
Meriete, of fifty years of age. Agreed with the rest as
to age, &c. Added that in the same year on the feast

* I give the text of tliis deposition in Appendix, No. II., as a specimen
of the mo le in which they appear in the original Eecord.

VOL. xvrii., 1872, part ii. t


of S. Barnabas, Ap. [11th June] he bought his land of
Neueton, in the County of Somerset, which he yet holds.
Hamund Planaz of Cheselbergh, a mile from Meryet,
of forty years of age and upwards, agreed with the rest
as to age, &c. Added that his ancestors were of the
County of Surrey, of the vill of Taleworth by Kyngeston,
and that in the aforesaid year, the fourth of the present
King, he left his home and came to Cheselbergh that he
might there serve one John de Planaz, his uncle, then
parson of the church of Chiselberwe, twenty-one years
ago at the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin
[2 Feb.], and that there by common report he heard
and knew of the age of the aforesaid John.

All this was considered sufficient proof, and, as it ap-
peared from his pei'sonal appearance that he was of full
age, it was ordered that the said John should have seisin
of his lands and tenements thus by heirship belonging to

This John, as we have seen, succeeded to his lands after
the Proof above recited in the year 1297. He was soon
to understand that property brings its responsibilities and
duties. For in answer to a writ dated, witness the King,
at Westminster, 14th January, 28 Edward I., 1299-1300,
he is included in the list of the King's tenants summoned
to do service against the Scots.f These troubles, however,
were soon over, for it v\^as doubtless the same John and
Elizabeth his wife, between whom and Bartholomew
Savage a final concord respecting the manors of Hester-
cumbe and Legh Fflory was passed at Westminster in
the octaves of S. John Baptist in the 34th year of

* Plac. Coram Rege, 25 Edw. I. Terra Trin. No. 152. rot. iij.
+ MS. Harl. 1192. f. 5 b.


Edward I.* or, in other words, between the 24th of June
and the 1st of July, 1306, To the same John, in 1311,
William de Ash tone, son of John de Ashtone, surrendered
all right in lands, services, &c., in Ashton near Bristol,
and in the manor and advowson of Est Capelonde.f A
similar process issued between the same John de Meryet,
who is expressly styled " of Hestercombe,^' and William
le Veil and Dionysia his wife, concerning one messuage,
ten acres of bosc, and a moiety of one virgate of arable
land, with appurtenances, in Asshton, near Bristol. By
these instruments the lord of Hestercombe became the
owner of lands with which the family was long associated.
For this recognizance John gave William and Dionysia
one hundred shillings of silver. The date of the last
transaction was the morrow of S. Martin, in the sixth year
of Edward IL, or the 12th of November, 13l2.|

Sir John de Meriet lost his first wife, whose name, it
it will be perceived, is omitted in the document just re-
ferred to, in or before the year 1312 ; and it was doubtless
to him that the entry in Bishop Drokenesford's register
refers, which I have quoted in my History of Cannington
Priory, to the effect that he had received absolution,
dated the 28th March, 1314, from a sentence of excom-
munication which had been passed on him for having
caused the heart of his deceased wife to be taken from
her corpse, a practice to which, judging from the in-
stances there referred to, the family was addicted, and had
been ordered to inter it with the body from which it had
been removed. II It was the Nun's heart, "le quer dame

* Ted. Fin. Somers. 21 -35 Edw. I. n. 169.

+ From an original deed in tlie Surrenden C'ollectiou.

J Fed. Fin. Somers. 1-6 Edw. II. n. 138.

II Reg. Drok. f. Ixvij 6.


Maud de Merriete Nonayne de Cannyntune," — the reader
will hardly fail to remember, — of the resting-place of which
the beautiful memorial yet remains in the Church of Combe

A member of the family had founded a Chantry in
a Chapel dedicated to the Blessed - Virgin adjoining to
this Church of Combe-Flory, and on the iij. Non. Feb-
ruary, the 3rd of that month, 1313, a commission was
issued by the Bishop to induct John de Ammyngford,
chaplain, into corporal possession of the same.f

Between three and four months after the date of the
absolution above-mentioned, the same John was witness,
together with John de Mo[h]un, Andrew Loterel, Hugh
de Poppeham, William de Wyggeber, Matthew de For-
neux, Matthew de Clyvedon, Gilbert de Bere, Knts. ;
Walter le Lyf, Kichard de Loveney, Ralph le Fitzurs,
John atte Zurde, Matthew de Coker, " and others," to an
agreement between John de Drokenesford, Bp. of Bath
and Wells, and John de Membury, lord of the manor of
West Bagborough, concerning the bounds of that and the
manor of Bishop's Lydeard. It was made on the Tuesday
next after the feast of the Translation of S. Thomas the
Martyr, in the 8th year of Edward II., which is coincident
with the 9th of July, 13144

Leffal proceedings connected with common of pasture
in West Bagborough appear by this award to have been

* Mediseval Nunneries of Somerset. Cannington Priory, p. 11.
+ Eeg. Drok. fol. cxlviij.
+ Reg. Well. I. ff. 145 b, 146. I possess a very fine contemporary
copy of this instrument, which I purchased at the sale of the celebrated
Surrenden Collection in 1863, and which has enabled me to fix the exact
date of the transaction. That in the Wells Register has been erased
and another substituted, but proved to be inaccurate by the date of the
confirmation of the Dean and Chapter with which the document


quashed, as at the assizes held at Taunton, on the Friday
next after the feast of S. Giles, 8 Edward II., the 6th of
September, 1314, the plaintiff did not appear, and the
Bishop and his party left the court " sine die.'""*

On the viii. of the Kalends of August, the 25th of July,
1316, an event is recorded to have happened which may
have a livelier interest for the student of Hestercombe his-
tory than those which relate to the more distant possessions
of the family of the owners. The lord of Hestercombe had
built a chapel for his household on account of the distance
between his manor-house and the parish church at
Kingston, and Bishop John de Drokenesford granted at
Wyvelescumb on the day above-named, and for the afore-
said reason, his special licence for the celebration of mass
and other Divine offices.f

This chapel stood at the west of the mansion, and ap-
pears to have consisted of a nave and chancel, with a
south porch, and a bell turret on the west gable. As it
will be seen, it was repaired and ornamented in the latter
part of the following century, but was needlessly removed
in a long subsequent age which appreciated little and un-
derstood less the precious remains which it presumed in
some cases to mutilate and in others to destroy.

I have not yet arrived at the end of my notices of this
old Hestercombe worthy. On the 9th of July, 1319, at
York, King Edward IL, at the instance of his beloved
cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, granted to John de
Meryet and his heirs for ever a charter of free warren in
all their demesne lands of Hestercoumbe, Legheflory,
Estcapelond, Coumbeflory, and Ashton by Bristol!, those

* Plac. de Jur. et Assis. 8 Edw. I. 2 >• 1. rot. 7.

+ Reg. Drok. f. Ixxxxvij. Appendix, No. III.


lands not being within the bounds of any of the royal
forests. No man was to enter them in pursuit of game,
without the licence of the aforesaid John or his heirs, on
pain of forfeiture of ten pounds. The witnesses of the grant
were the Abp. of York, the Bishop of Ely, the Earl of
liichmond, Richard de Grey, Hugh de Audele, senr., and

On the xvii. Kal. Apr., the 6th of March, 1323, the
Bishop of Bath and Wells granted letters dimissory to
Thomas Alnard, of Hescecomb (qu. Hestercombe ?), aco-
lite, for the order of subdeacon from any Catholic bishop.f

The next notice that I can furnish of Sir John de Meryet
is a very curious and interesting one. He had married a
second time, and on Wednesday after Mid-lent Sunday in
the 19th year of Edward II., which is coincident with the
5th of March, 1326, Bishop John de Drokenesford ad-
dressed a certificate to the viscounts, bailiffs, ministers, &c.,
of Hugh de Dispensar, intimating by those presents, after
the customary salutations, that, inasmuch as he believed
it to be a pious and meritorious act to bear witness to
truth, lest men should waver in doubt, and so through
their error fall into danger, he was happy to certify that
the Lady Elizabeth Paynel, wife of Sir John de Meryet,
knight, was living and well with her husband on the day
of his writing, the Wednesday next after the Sunday on
which is sung Lcetare Jerusalem^ in the manor of the afore-
said John of Hestrecombe.J He writes from his neigh-
bouring manor of Wyvelescumb, and the style of his
communication naturally leads us to infer that there was
much more than official courtesy between the good Bishop

* Rot. Cart. 13 Edw. II. n. 35. Appendix, No. IV,

+ Eeg. Drok. f. ccxvij b.

X Reg. Urok. f. ccxlviij 6. AppendLx, No. V.


and the worshipful pair to whose life and health he thus
pleasantly bears witness.

This agreeable scene is soon changed. The year after-
wards, the 1st of Edward III., 1327, Sir John de Meryet
was gathered to his fathers. After an inquisition then
taken, a verdict was returned that he died possessed —
among other properties, Assheton, Capelond, &c. — of cer-
tain lands and a certain tenement in Hestercombe, which
he held by knight service of the Bishop of Winchester as
of his manor of Taunton, and that it was worth xU per

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