Securing our history for the future

An Introduction to Bawdrip History

The History Articles reproduced are owned and were researched and produced by Suzie Lewis and her father the late John Jenkins.  A great deal of help was received from Phillip Porter a mine of information about the history of Bawdrip, Mr Rouault (formerly of Eastside Lane and whose family originally resided Lilac Cottage, Bath Road) and Jack Crane.


Bawdrip is a small, unique village nestling on the southern slopes of the Polden Hills and, at the beginning of 2002, the core of the village remained relatively unchanged by the onslaught of development which has taken place in many rural settlements.  However, that has since changed with the development of Church Farm and the orchard behind Grange Cottage.

Background to Research

It is sometimes difficult to piece together the information from old document and records, as it was usual for the children to take the Christian names of their parents. Infant mortality was high and it was a common occurrence for children to have the same Christian names as their siblings, in order that the family name survived.  In medieval times people were known by their Christian names and the place they came from e.g. Adam atte Ford, Simon de Bradney, Johan ate Combe, Adam of Bawdrip, etc.  We have, therefore, in some instances assumed family connections and hope that these are correct.

First port of call to follow up on parish history was, of course, the Parish Registers.   Those held in the Church (as of 2002) date back to the early 19th century and previous records, dating back to 1748 are held in the Somerset Records Office.  Unfortunately, the very early Parish Records seem to have disappeared from the Church.  It is thought these were stored in the old Parish Chest, which was removed from the Church during the renovations in 1866 by the Revd. Warren (see note under The Rectory). 

The Bishops Transcripts were next on our search list.  The transcripts are entries of the Parish registers sent to the Bishops each year.  Unfortunately, these records were poorly housed in Wells and many records are in a sorry state and some have not survived at all.  However, there is limited information relating to Bawdrip covering the period 1602-1636.  This detail is provided in the Parish Events at Appendix I.  Sadly, because of the loss of the parish chest, there is a large gap in the recording of births, marriages and deaths for the period 1636-1748.

The research on historic buildings within the Parish has also meant looking at various sources.  For early records the Quarter Sessions documents are very interesting, as they give a rare insight into what life was like for the ordinary people.  The documents include order Books (for civil business) and Session Rolls, which provide details of “bargains and sales” (a type of conveyance) up until the early 18thcentury.  Although not all of the Sessions have been transcribed from the manuscripts Somerset Record Society have published the Order Books for the period 1607-1676 and the Session Rolls are indexed for the years 1607-1616 and 1660-1730.  Another valuable source of information is Wills.  Some older Wills have survived, but, again, another blow is that the storage of old Wills had been centralized in Exeter and were destroyed during the bombing in 1942. 

The Manor Estate Map has still to be found.  This would be invaluable as we have Rent Rolls, leases and surveys dating back to 1557, giving properties, names of tenants and rentals.  On some of these leases a number is given, which obviously relates to the Estate Map.  Some of the properties we have been able to identify by a process of elimination and detective work, but others are a mystery.

The Tithe Map of 1841 has been the basis for our research on both people and dwellings and we have been able to work both backwards and forwards in history from this start point.

Bawdrip the name

Bagetreppe, which is the name found on early documents, could be a derivation from the Anglo Saxon “Treppe” meaning village and, therefore, Bagga’s village.  Bagga may have been a Viking name which could indicate that Vikings settled in the area.  The village is also referred to in various documents as Beaudripp, Baudrip and Broderip. 

The early years and some archaeology

Evidence of Iron Age settlement was uncovered in 1956 in Lower Piece Field, Eastside Lane when archaeologists were excavating a British Romano homestead on the same site.  This means that Bawdrip was inhabited 3,000 years ago!  This site is past King’s Farm, travelling towards Stawell, in a field on the left-hand side.  The Roman building contained two corn drying kilns and a storage barn dating from the 3rd Century.  The evidence pointed to the barn having burnt down in that same century and not being rebuilt.  So, did they move to another site nearby, perhaps, into what is now the village centre?  Coins and pottery found during the excavation suggested that people lived here during a period from the 1st to the 4th Century.  Other finds at the site included a fragment of sandstone with an inscription of the initials VS, a shale bracelet and a spindle whorl. 

A further discovery of a Roman tessellated pavement in Bawdrip was first mentioned in a letter dated 1689 written by the Rector of Chedzoy (Andrew Pashal) to the antiquarian Aubrey. 

We know there was activity during the Roman period around the Crandon Bridge area, where the old course of the River Parrett swing in under the Polden Hills.

During the realignment of the read up Puriton Hill from Crandon Bridge in 1971 remains of Roman storage houses were found, but unfortunately, only 3 weeks were made available for the excavations.  However, the finds pointed to the site having been used by the Romans as a port.  If only more time had been given, we may have learnt a great deal more about the Roman trade in and out of Somerset during this period.  We do know they were trading in lead from the lead mines on the Mendip Hills, but we may have discovered more about other trading activities.  It does point to Bawdrip being an important settlement at the time, due to its close vicinity to the Port at Crandon. 

There is also documentary evidence much later during the 17th Century for a Crane Bridge.  This may indicate that the river here may have once been known at the River Crane, hence Crandon, which could mean “the settlement on the Crane” and Crane’s Bridge, the bridge over the Crane.  It is also easy to understand why the Romans would chose the southern slops of the Poldens to site their villas with our mild Somerset climate, and it may be that there are Roman villas to be discovered here. 

Wool was the prime industry during the medieval period and exports to other European countries would almost certainly have started their journey from the port at Crandon.

In early 2000 an evaluation of land at Church Farm, in the centre of the village, was undertaken by Charles and Nancy Hollinrake.  This preliminary evaluation revealed further links with our Roman and Saxon ancestors.  A pond existed north-west of the farmhouse, and, for some reason, the north-east boundary of the churchyard became encompassed within the southern boundary of the Church Farm site.  This may have happened during the period when the Church was renovated in Victorian times.  A full archaeological excavation will be made on the site prior to any development taking place and we are sure other important and exciting finds will be uncovered.

Other excavations in the Parish have revealed an Iron Age hoard of around 70 bronze objects at Knowle Hill, a Romano-British settlement west of Knowle Hall, where a clay floor, coins of Probus and Constantime and C2-C4 pottery were discovered.  Underneath these finds were Samian pottery sherds, thin red Belegic ware and evidence of the burial of an infant.  For further detailed information about the archaeological excavations at Crandon I would direct you to Prof. Stephen Rippon’s paper on the subject which can be found on the Internet.

An Anglo Saxon village once stood in the fields known as Great Crook, which is now on private land.  Little can be seen, but Mick Aston of Time Team fame verified the site in 1985.  The approach to the lost village is to the side of the cottage Rose Valley on the Bath Road and the remains of that very ancient causeway are still visible today.  Bear to the site is a pond, fed by a natural spring, which may have been the reason a settlement occurred here.  Crook was a small settlement with no more than half a dozen farmsteads.  This settlement can also, we believe, be evidenced by a charter quoted by William of Malmesbury, under which King Kentwine (676-686) gave to the Abbey of Glastonbury “in Crucan III hidas”.  The same name and manor may be the Cruce of Domesday.  Cruce is documented among the holdings of Walter de Douai, the Norman who also held Bawdrip.  The entry is as follows

“Rademer holds of Walter, Cruce, Edward held it T.R.E.  There is land for 1 plough, which is there in demesne with half a virgate and 4 bordars who have half a virgate.  There are 3 beasts and 3 swine.  It is worth 10s.”   In the book of Domesday Studies by Rev. R.W. Eyton, Cruce is included in the Hundred of North Petherton, as is Bawdrip, so we are fairly convinced that Cruce is indeed Crook.  Up until 1677 the River Parrett was more crooked and a small, almost circular, loop ran out from the Channel close under and almost up to the Polden Hills.  It was destroyed in that year by the cutting of a channel straight across the neck.  There seems to be enough evidence to support the theory that the great bend, or “crook” of the River Parrett between Bridgwater and Combwich was a marked feature in early times and that it was in the process of silting up from the time of the Roman occupation until Norman times.  It is just where this bend would have been that the field names “Crook”, “Great Crook” and “Little Crook” appear (see Tithe Map 1841 373, 374, 382, 387).  It is possible, therefore, that the name Crook was originally given to the large tract of land within the “crook” of the river and that this accounts for the peculiar form of Kentwine’s grant to Glastonbury, and refers, not to a grant of a self-contained manor, but of 3 hides of land extending into the river bend.                                                                                                                                                               Doneham (Downed) immediately precedes Cruce in the Domesday list of manors and is identified with Downend or Dunball.  The statement in Domesday that Doneham was part of the land “inter dues aquas” (between two waters) seems to point to this loop of the river.  It is logical that Cruca would be located in the same area.

A medieval village also stood at Horsey, near to Manor Farm, dating from the time of Edward I and the outline of house platforms, crofts and drainage ditches are still visible, together with a causewayed road to the site from the East.

An archaeological evaluation of Grange Cottage in Church Road took place in 1996, conducted by C and N Hollinrake.  In the garden finds were of the medieval period with large quantities of 14th to 16th century pottery sherds recovered.  In the orchard attached to the house two evaluation trenches recorded settlement evidence of the Late Saxon and Norman periods, with indications of wooden structures have been constructed upon timber sill beams.  A notable find was a fragment of a Late Saxon perforated and decorated comb handle fashioned from antler, probably dating from the 10th Century.  The nearest find spot of a similar object is from Southampton.

Other Iron Age and medieval evidence has been uncovered at Bradney and Bawdrip.  Somerset Historic Environment holds details of more than 25 records relating to finds in the Parish.

Some villagers have also recently mentioned finding ancient remains of what looked like a tessellated pavement at quite a depth below the present soil level whilst they have been carrying out structural alterations to their properties and boundaries around the New Road vicinity.  Could one of these be the tessellated pavement referred to in the letter written by the Rector of Chedzoy referred to earlier?

Wool was the major industry and various references to the grazing of sheep and lambs are to be found in the old Manor Court Rolls dating from the late 16th centuries.  The following is an extract from the Manor Court held 22 October 1589:-

“The homage do present upon their oaths that the parson of Bawdrip hath not any right of common in the commons or common marshes of Bawdrip with any manner of cattle, but only common for 20 sheep in the common fields of the said manor with no-one else.”

There appears to have been disputes between the tenants of Bawdrip and Bradney over their rights to graze their sheep in the common lands, and it was ordered that a proper boundary fence be made between the two settlements, as witnessed by these extracts from the same Manor Court

“They do further present upon their oaths that the tenants of Bradney ought not to enter common with the tenants of Bawdrip, no-one from Bradney to William Stone’s grene close; and it is now ordered by their resolve, assent and consent that they shall ditch and hedge with a sufficient gate with sufficient posts put up and made there at the equal charge of the tenants every man according to his tything for the boundary between Bradney and Bawdrip.  Upon every one that maketh default to forfeit 8m.

They do present upon the oath of John Stowell, one of the custodian tenants of this Manor, being of the age of 30 years, that the tenants of Bradney ought not to enter common with the tenants of Bawdripp upon any part of the common called the Cawsey (leading from Crane Bridge to Horsey Bridge, but that the tenants of Bawdrip have procured them to drive their beasts from the said common for fear of impounding them up to Puriton Hill being in another parish.  At this court came John Lantrowe, one of the tenants of Bradney, and upon his oath he hath desposed that fortie years agone one John Pine, a tenant of the manor did impound the tenants sheepe of Bradney from the Cawsey leading from Crane Bridge to Horsey Bridge”.

The fields with the names Green Close are situated west of Bradney Bridge on the south side of the King Sedgemoor Drain.

The quarrel between Bawdrip and Bradney tenants appears to have been a long running one as it comes up a few times in the Court Rolls of the Elizabethan period.

Stone quarried from Bawdrip was used in repairs to Bridgwater Castle in the 1400s and the blue lias used in the building of our older historical houses must have come from that same local quarry.