Securing our history for the future

Court Farm, Eastside Lane

Tithe No. 125 (now Tudor Court)

This is the old manorial house where the Manor Courts were held, for which we have records dating from 1557, although it seems the Lords of the Manor never resided here and the Manor House was leased on a copyhold basis.  It is a beautiful and atmospheric house of high status origins.  The present building has been altered and the western wing was added to the original eastern end of the building.  The earliest plan seems to be of two rooms only, the Hall and the Parlour, both heated with chambers above dating from the early 16th century.  It is believed to be on the site of the medieval Manor House[1].Two roof trusses of the earliest roof survive, but are altered and obscured.  These two trusses are at right angles to each other and show clearly that the Hall and Parlour were roofed separately and at right angles, an arrangement sometimes found in houses of manor house or similar status e.g. Hannam Manor at Cheddar and Lodge Farm, the former Manor House at Durston.

House prior to renovation in 1983

The house contains an exceptional amount of painted plaster, unusual in Somerset, which is a county not noted for its decorative work.  The south side of the hall/parlour partition has a large area of trailing floral painting and an area of text over it.  On the first floor partition between the Parlour Chamber and the Buttery Chamber is a painted panel depicting the “prodigall sonne” with figures on horseback, over it a black lettered text runs all along the headbeam of the partition.  The north eastern corner of the Parlour Chamber has a painting difficult to decipher, but, perhaps, depicting a shield.  On the wooden lintel of the same room can be seen the lower parts of several female figures, the parts formerly on the plaster above have long since been lost.  This extensive wall painting has been dated to the 16th century.

The holdings of the Manor have been discussed earlier.  The Wroughton family, who held the Manor from 1403 until 1602, were Lords of the Manor during the time the old medieval manor house was probably remodelled in 1532, the authenticated date which is etched into one of the old beams in the present kitchen area.  Sir Thomas Wroughton and the Lady Ann, his wife, employed a seneschal named Thomas Stubbs.  He would have held a very important position and acted as chief steward and attended to all things administrative concerning the Manor, including presiding at the Manor Court.  His name crops up often in the manorial court rolls[2].  He would certainly have stayed at the Manor House. 

What is certain is that by 1595 the house was held on a copyhold tenancy by Nicholas Shooe at a rental of £2.10s5d [3]. Copyhold tenancy rentals were fixed and could not be changed and held by the tenants in perpetuity.  These rents could not be varied, having been established by the customs in the 14th and 15th centuries during the transition from feudal tenure. 

The first record we have for Nicholas Shooe, prior to 1595, is 4 June 1568 when he had an agreement with another tenant called William Marner.  In 13.12.1577 there is reference to Nicholas taking 3 customary holdings.  Manor Court of Thomas Wroughton and the lady Anne, his wife. For the pryce of  Lien due for the herriot upon the death of Johanne fflonde, widow als Ryse for 3 customary holdings £6.13s3d.    This probably includes the Manor House, indicating that prior to Shooe’s tenancy the house was held by the widow fflonde, als Ryse.

 At the Quarter Sessions held 12.06.1610 there is a case bought by Joan Hywood, a servant of Nicholas Shooe, which does not say much for his character.   Before Edward Rogers Esq.  Who sayeth that she now dwelleth with Nicholas Shooe of Bawdrip aforesaid and hath byn his servant this yeare and halfe nowe last past, and liveth in his house.  And that in the tyme of her soe lyvinge, John Shooe one of her sayd Master’s sonnes hath had the use of her body carnally, divers and sundry tymes, the first tyme thereof was about Candelmas last was twelve months.  And so continued the use of her body at several tymes in the tyme aforesaid and at sundry places in her sayd Master’s house, as in the parlour, the halle and in his owne chamber when his brother which lay with him was from home.  And she farther sayeth that whereas the accused, one Edward Hayne a man servant of her sayd Master to have had to doe with her, or to have ravished her against her will, she did it only by the ernest persuasion and procurement of the said Nicholas Shooe,her said Master, and for noe just cause she hath agaynst hym.

There is no further mention of Nicholas after 1612.  He had at least 2 sons, John and Thomas, and the Shooe family still retained holdings in Bawdrip up until 1650, after which they disappear from the Bawdrip records.  A Thomas Shooe is mentioned as a beneficiary in the will of John Parsons (see below) in the sum of 20 shillings.  His occupation is given as servant in the Parsons household.

A lease dated 1.11.1650 refer to “The Farm” being leased by John Parsons for £2.10s5d and at that time consisting of “1 house, orchard and garden and one other roofless tenement and one roofless cottage.,  To find for the Lord, his steward, assigns and four other persons all necessaries for horse and man for 2 days at all times”.  These duties were necessary as the Manor Court was still held on the premises.  John Parsons held the lease by virtue of marriage to his wife Margaret, a widow, who was his second wife.  As normally the copyhold leases passed through from family to family it may indicate that Margaret was previously a member of the Shooe family.  This is given some credence by the fact that  John’s Will dated 1662 in which he states that he is possessed of a lease for 2 lives, after the death or widowhood of his now wife, Margaret, for an estate in which he now lives.  He bequeathed this to his son William for  him to enjoy immediately after the death of Margaret.  John’s Will was proved in 1663.  His son William’s Will, dated 1663 and proved in 1665, confirms that Margaret is his step-mother and he bequeaths the estate to his sister Elizabeth Holle, but she can only inherit after the death of his step-mother. Elizabeth, in fact, married John Stowell and had two sons Robert and Parson.  The name Stowell somehow gets corrupted to Holle as this is how it is written in an Agreement dated in 1667 by which time she is a widow.  It  appears from the Wills of father and son Parsons that they may have originally hailed from Kingston St Mary as they both leave sums of money to the poor of that parish.   A later John Parsons was connected to Uplands Farm in 1822 and could possibly be a descendant of the Court Farm Parsons.

As Elizabeth Holle (Stowell, nee Parsons) was probably living in her husband’s property (where Grange Cottage is now situated), it appears that a cousin Ambrose Uphill sub-leased the property from Elizabeth until he died c. 1684.  From his Will dated 1684 we can see that he was a bachelor and, presumably the property then reverted back to the Holle family.  Ambrose had originated from Baltonsbury in Somerset.

In 1724, still at the same rental of £2.10s5d, a John Sealey holds the lease on the life of his sister Mary Sealey which includes as well as The Farm  “3 roofless tenements and 1 roofless cottage and 100 acres of land”.  The Sealey family continued the tenancy until c. 1782 when John Sealey died.  The roofless tenements referred to a row of 3 cottages near the corner of Greenfield Lane and Church Road (now disappeared) and another single cottage which occupied the land where Allstones is now.  We believe “roofless” indicates the buildings were thatched.

1792 the lessee was Henry Pople

1795 James Pople

By the time of the 1841 Tithe, the farm was leased by John Fry with 185 acres.

1841 census John Fry, aged 50, a farmer.  Wife Mary, aged 47.  Children Ann 21, Mary 19, William 16, Jane 11, John 9 and Rhoda Hitch aged 18 who was most probably a servant.

1846 the acreage had reduced to 168 acres and the Frys subsequently moved to Church Farm.

1851 census John Blower aged 45, farmer of 93 acres.  Wife Hannah, aged 43.  Sons Edward 10, Joseph 8, John 7, daughters Emma 4 and Mary 1.  Servants Thomas Day aged 21, Charles Clyst aged 16, Mary Stooks aged 19 and Hannah Sellick aged 12.

1861 census Blowers still in residence.

1867 7 year lease from Revd. Wm Jeffreys Allen to John Blower.

1871 census John Blower aged 64, wife Hannah aged 63, children John aged 25, Emma aged 23 and Mary Jane aged 21.  The holding was now 194 acres.

1881 census shows a change in residency to William Brake, aged 39, a farmer and Selina McDonald, aged 31, housekeeper.

In a survey of 1896 it was reported as “having many buildings of inferior quality” (the survey also requested that 2 more cottages be added to the farm).

1901 census William Brake aged 46, occupation farmer, housekeeper Annie Baker aged 50 from Devon.  The farm remained in the occupancy of William Brake until 8.7.1903 when it was put up for auction at the Royal Clarence Hotel, Bridgwater.  The auction particulars read “Freehold Accommodation Properties, comprising a commodius farmhouse with homestead cottages and closes of meadow, orchard and arable land and known as Court Farm.  Six cottage tenements and serveral detached parcels of desirable grazing, embracing altogether an area of about 220 acres.”  The farmhouse, together with part of the lands were sold to George Day for £3,338.  The remaining lands were divided up as follows:-

Tithe 196 – 10 acres bought by Emma and Sarah Darch, spinsters for £412

William Pain purchased Tithe 14 Eastern Hill, Tithe 90 Eastern Seven Acres and Tithe 93 West Seven Acres for £664

William Cary bought Tithe 226 Great Green for £380

Revd. William Samuel King purchased Tithes 54 Lower Hill Close, 55 Higher Hill Close, 61 Little Close, 79 Brook for a total of £417. 

The remaining lot, Tithe 92 Lawrence’s 2 acres (tenanted by William Way) was bought by John Squire of Monmouth Street for £74.

George Day died on the 23.12.1913.

5 June 1918 the Farmhouse and lands were again up for auction at the Royal Clarence Hotel, Bridgwater “farmhouse with homestead, cottages and closes of meadow, orchard and arable plus 6 cottage tenements.”  The 6 cottages referred to the row of 3 at the corner of Greenfield Lane and Church Road, previously mentioned, and a row of 3 in Eastside Lane (now disappeared).

Samuel W Burston is shown as the occupant until 1951.  Mabel Burston remained until 1966 when she moved to New Road.

12.10.1966 the bulk of the land was sold at auction.

23.12.1966 Alfred and Josephine Astle purchased the house and remaining land for £8,000.

26.6.1983 Mrs Gigi Foletti bought the farmhouse and outbuildings which were by then in a dreadful state of repair.  There were mushrooms growing out of the wall in the main house and the fireplace, in what would have been the parlour, was no longer functional as a previous owner had thrown cement down it when it caught fire.  She undertook an extensive restoration job and uncovered and old mullioned window in the north east upper floor, which can be seen in the 1997 photograph.  She also uncovered the tudor wall paintings and commissioned the vernacular report.

1995 Mrs Foletti sold Tudor Court to Robert and Judith Mollors and she moved into Cobwebs the barn she has renovated, next to the main house.

1997 William Robin Green purchased the property.

[1] SRO ST/344/396
[2] PRO SC2/198/8
[3] PRO SC12/22/31

The History Articles reproduced are owned and were researched and produced by Suzie Lewis and her father (now deceased), John Jenkins.