Securing our history for the future

The Village – Historical Documents

Although the Manorial Court dealt with minor disputes, more serious infringements were dealt with by the local courts, which were held quarterly, and known as the Quarter Sessions.

Somerset Records Society has documented some of these and examples of the issues relating to Bawdrip are given below:-

1242 Adam Baret (of Cossington) seen in the garden of Robert of Bawdrip.  On account of this he fled to the Church in Bawdrip and escaped.  Bail forfeited and payable by Nicholas, son of Augner of Bawdrip and Adam of Bawdrip.

15.10.1331 – King’s Writ to the Bishop to cause John de Corston, parson of Bawdrip, to answer to Philip de Widcombe a plea the he render to him 20s of an annual rent which are in arrears.

1331 – Henry de Fernagu.  Accused of larceny and fraud.  Ordered to be outlawed.  Henry was the tithing man of Adam of Bawdrip.  Henry’s chattels worth 15s2d for which the Sheriff must answer.

12.06.1610 – Before Edward Rogers Esq.  Joan Hywood, 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 further 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.

NB Nicholas Shooe copyholder of Tudor Court Farm

October 1638 –  William Saunders, Constable for the Hundred and North Petherton.  Saunders alleged that he was impotent and had trouble with a rupture, whereby he was unable to carry out his duties.  Sir Thomas Wroughton, Knight to examine and if allegation be true than another person to take over the duties to be found.

8 January 1655 – Upon reading the petition of Sarah, wife of William Symons of Bawdrip, thereby showing that her husband being imprisoned and having an estate in Bawdrip aforesaid of a considerable value by the year, yet the petitioner is chargeable to the parish and is brought into great necessity and want.  The next Justice of the Peace to Bawdrip aforesaid to call before him the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor and to rate the said estate of William Symons toward the relief of the poor and to take care for the maintenance and relief of the poor.

1656 Order of the Court confirming the opinion of two justices that Sarah, wife of William Symonds of Bawdrip, who is imprisoned for debt, is to receive 2s6d weekly from his estate. 

NB In the 1650 survey of lands William Symonds held Barkers Farm with 76 acres.

1672 Order by Robert Hunt and William Ball, Justices, regarding the maintenance of a base born son of Elizabeth Allen of Bawdrip, single woman.  Abraham Seller jnr of Bawdripp being the reputed father.

NB The Sellers tenanted Knowle Farm (now known as Knowle Manor).

Bawdrip tenants had common rights until the mid-16th century to Bawdrip Moor, later known as Bawdrip Levels, lying South East to the village, and also in the marshland between the village and Bradney.  On King Sedgemoor some 300 acres were used by the people of Bawdrip and Bradney in the 17th Century.

At a Manor Court in 1480 a complaint was heard against outsiders pasturing their stock on Bawdrip Moor.  There was also a long-running quarrel between the tenants of Bawdrip and Bradney concerning the common land running alongside the causeway (now the A39) which lay between Crandon Bridge and Bridgwater.

There are several early references to landowners in Bawdrip:

The 1327 Exchequer Lay Subsidy gives the taxpayers of Beaudrip as Adam ate Ford 2s, Johane atte Combe 12d, Philippo le Hayward 18d, Johane le Sherphurde 12d, Roberto ate Fosse 12d, Simon de Bradneghe 2s, Rogero Coco 6d, Hugon Samson 8s, Matheo Aunger 12d, Roberto Aunger 12d, Willelmo  Lange 12d, Nicholao le Reveson 12d, Richardo Kyrkeby 2s, Thomas Tombenhull 2s.

There is a heavy Norman influence to the names.  Although at first glance this just looks like a list of names it is actually quite revealing e.g. Adam from Ford, Philip who looks after the Hay.  This surname probably becomes Hayward in later records dating from 1588 through to 1680 and linked to Combe Cottage leases.  John the shepherd, and Nicholas the some of the reeve.

There are several 17th Century reference to tax payers in Bawdrip:

In 1641 the Protestation returns and lay subsidy rolls list the following –

John Hayne, William Sanders, William Day, Thomas Dallyman, John Stowell, John Trent, John Parsons, Joseph Millard, William Millard, Henry Seller, Thomas Shooe.

1650 Survey of Lands

John Stolle, Edith Poole, Parishioners of Bawdrip for the Church House; Mary Shooe, Thomas Shooe.  John Parsons for Court Farm (Tudor Court); William Symonds, 76 acres, messuage, backside and garden (Barkers Farm)

William Chapman and his wife Katherine; William Day, William Poundery, Henry Seller, Thomas Dalliman (refers to property previously in occupation of Johanna Tuxwell, widow)

Dorothy Millard, widow of Phillip Millard.  Johanne Tippings for property previously in occupation of Thomas Barnes.

Mary Nunnio (Nunney) for The Knowle Inn, widow of Luke Nunnio

Phillip Millard (refers to property previously in occupation of William Barnes).

Richard Millard for house adjoining the Church House (previously in possession of Thomas Barnes)

Robert Oseman; William Tucker; George Tucker; Thomas Brook and wife Johanna (previously in possession of Johanna Shooe, widow); Thomas Moor and wife Mary (previously in possession of Sanders)

In 1665 at the Watch Elm near Horsey Lane, the country and town’s people exchanged their goods by placing them by the tree.  The villagers would not go into the town for fear of the plague.

1670 Hearth Tax Exemptions:

George Capel, Francis Blake, Maud Warner, Thomas Field, Widow Oseman, Henry Woodland, John Hurman, Widow Coggan, Widow Bessant, John Day, William Tucker, Phillip Millard, Richard Millard, Edward Lovelll (rector), Timothy Dod (churchwarden), John Chapman (churchwarden), William Saunders, John Palmer.

In 1674 there is reference to Crandon having 4 cottagers with 1 servant and a mill.

Radical changes have taken place in our society, especially in the last 150 years.  Our research shows at the beginning of the 20th Century, and throughout the era before, people living with the parish tended to stay in the same place for long periods of time, some did not even move outside the confines of the village for their lifetimes.  The class structure was very much in evidence.  Lower classes were expected to show due deference to the middle and upper classes.  There is an example of this reported in the Bridgwater Mercury in the early 1900s where a man was hauled before the magistrates for not doffing his cap to the Rector’s wife. 

Marriage amongst the lower classes tended to be between fellow villagers or, occasionally, from neighbouring settlement such as Chedzoy, Woolavington and Puriton.  Most of the ordinary folk and even some of the more affluent landowners could not write.   The majority of the leases we have seen have just been signed with the mark of an X for both landowner and tenant.

Church services had to be attended and there were numerous Holy Days to be observed.  News would have been gathered from travelling tradesmen or entertainers who visited the village and then the news passed around, probably at Church Service.  There were no local newspapers until, the late 18th Century.  The most important people in the village would have been the Lord of the Manor, his steward, and the Reverend of priest.  What they said went with pretty much no opposition.

Statistics show that in Edwardian Britain a quarter of the children were suffering from malnutrition.  An assessment of the lower classes in neighbouring Chedzoy in the late 1800s revealed that most were near starvation, having to live on a diet of potatoes.  There is no reason to believe that Bawdrip villagers would have fared any better.  The rural idyll that is often painted is far from reality.  Village life was hard with water having to be drawn from the well in the garden, or pumped from various pumps dotted around the village.  Some people were lucky to have outside privies, whilst others just dug a hole in the garden to get rid of their waste.  Serious illness and death was not uncommon, particularly amongst the infants.  Sewage pits were not always located far enough away from the water source, which then became contaminated and caused outbreaks of deadly diseases such as cholera.  Smallpox was also another killer disease in the 18thCentury.  Such a disease or a really bad winter must have occurred in Bawdrip during the months of November 1762 to March 1763 when 19 people died.

Extract Parish Registers – Burials

Nov 1762 Joel and Ann Pole, children of William and Ann Pole

Dec 1762 Elizabeth Godrey Spark infant daughter of William and Elizabeth

Dec 1762 Elizabeth Spark, mother of infant

19.12.1762 Thomas, son of Peter and Mary Palmer; Anne and Jane daughters of William and Ann Beaton

09.01.1763 Mary Turner and Mary Sibley

15.01.1763 Robert and Elizabeth Knight

18.01.1763 Mrs. Mary Jones and his sister Ann Rowsell

19.01.1763 Richard Tanner of Horsey

30.01.1763 Farmer John Parsons; William Martin Jnr; William son of Wm Beaton

05.03.1763 The widow of Robert Hughes

A sombre reminder of how diseased could spread like wildfire within a small community which had no proper sanitation and where the fundamentals of good hygiene were non-existent. 

Things did not improve quickly, mains water arrived in the village in 1919, although there was an open sewer running from Little Wall Lane over the fields, west of Peasey Cottage and then on into the ditches as late as 1960.

Oil lamps and candlelight were in use until 1950 when mains electricity came to Bawdrip during the summer of that year.  A few cottagers still resisted change, however, preferring to carry on in the ways that were familiar to them.  Although we did have an entrepreneur in Mr. Raoualt of Lilac Cottage, just above the Methodist Chapel, who had his own generator c. 1920.  Try and imagine how dark our village lanes must have been during the long winter months.

The common source of fuel was peat from the local peat moors and most houses had turf-houses for storing the peat turfs.  A lot of homes also had waggon-houses and stables.  Some of these outbuildings have since been incorporated into the main structure of the dwellings, or have been converted into separate living accommodation and, if you look hard enough, you can see where this has happened.

Up until the early 20th century most people kept a small amount of livestock of their own, a pig, a cow and some chickens.  The animals were very important as they provided food and sustenance for the family.  The animals were given good shelter and in medieval times their shelter was part of the dwelling.  Animals’ bodies also provided a degree of heat, which had to be some compensation for the obvious accompanying smell.

The larger households employed servants, and the biggest employers were the local farmers.  In 1821 there were in excess of 30 farms, all of which were labour intensive, providing employment for 67 out of 79 families.  Child labour was also essential to the rural economy.  There was no care or protection for children or indeed any other farm labourers working in the fields.  Today there are probably only one or two village people who are farm employed and agriculture is fast becoming a depressed industry.  The village consisted mostly of smallholdings in the centre and the larger farms along Eastside Lane – Court Farm, Hillside Farm (now Combe Cottage), Barkers and Kings Farms.  At the start of “the Hill Road” (now known as Bawdrip Lane) Brice’s Farm was situated;  Ford Farm at the very easterly edge of the Parish; Knowle Hill Farm at the northerly edge of the Parish; and the farms at Bradney – Peasey, Temple Farm and the old original Bradney Farm.  Traces of the latter two farms have all but disappeared.

Figure 1 circa 1950 Mr. Chidgey haymaking

A lot of our older houses have also sadly disappeared, especially in Bradney where there were some 12 houses in 1841.  A lot of the dwellings had thatched roves and it appears that quite a few of them burnt down.  An indication of an earlier thatched roof on a house is a straight course of stone running the length of the building.

Figure 2 cottage at Bradney Corner pre 1905 (no longer there)

Peasey Cottage, 2 Bradney Lane is such an example and it might be that when it was originally built in the early 1800s it was only one storey high and had a thatched roof at that time. 

Prior to the 19th century there is reference to “the Church and the remains of a small green to the north” There is also evidence in various other leases dated 1724, 1725, 1747 and 1761 showing there was both at Bawdrip Green and a Little Green.  Bawdrip Green we believe was the area immediately to the north of the Church.  We know that the stocks were situated near to the North door of the Church and it seems reasonable to assume that these were on the village green.  Little Green may have been part of Greenfield Lane.

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