Parish Tales and Stowell Court
STORIES OF OLD TATWORTH - Taken from a talk by Miss Mary Langdon to Tatworth WI 28th October 1932
Tatworth was formed from the Tithing of Tatworth and Southchard and the hamlets of Perry Street, Chilson and Coombses in September 1866. Little is known of the Manor of Tatworth until it was sold by Lord Petre (in whose family it had been since 1555)
to Thomas Deane Esq in 1790, 5000 acres being disposed of at the price of £5000. It was sold again by the great nephew of Mr Deane (Thomas Deane Shute)
in 1823, not as a whole but in about 50 lots. Mr Thomas Deane lived at the Manor House, Tatworth, now called The Manor Farm.
Mr Thomas Deane built Parrocks Lodge in 1801. Members of the Deane family lived at Southchard and Chilson.
The Church was built as a chapel of ease for Chard in 1851. The foundation stone was laid in June 1851and the consecration took place on Tuesday, September 9th, 1851 by the Bishop of Jamaica (as the Bishop of Bath and Wells was unable to attend owing to illness)
The prayers were said by the Rev.B Whitehead, Vicar of Chard, the sermon in the morning was preached by the Rev. W.H. Turner, Vicar of Trent and in the evening by the Rev E Whitehead, Vicar of Salford. There was a large attendance, the first services being held on Sunday, September 14th 1851. Earl Poulett gave the land of ½ of an acre with, £50 towards the expenses. He also gave in 1874 an extra piece of land to enlarge the Churchyard which was consecrated on June 23rd of that year, by the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Lord Arthur Harvey).
In 1860 Mr J.B. Payne gave an organ and the gallery was put up by public subscriptions. The dedication service of the organ and gallery was held on October 2nd 1860. Miss E Halls was the organist for several years. Up to 1867 the parish was worked from Chard when it was separated, and the Rev Henry Bell Thompson was made the first vicar, and the Vicarage was built. He died in 1887 and was succeeded by the Rev Stuart King, who resigned in 1926, owing to ill health. During his incumbency great alterations were made in the Church by the chancel, the floor of bare flag stones giving place to polished marble and tessellated pavement, the plain deal sittings to handsome carved choir stalls, the whitewashed walls were coloured and the chancel enclosed by a dwarf screen.
In 1926 the Rev Donald MacArther was appointed and during his time the Church was lit by electric light, and the two bells which were cracked were re-cast. He resigned in 1930 and was replaced by Rev. F Rothwell in 1931.
The oak reredos was designed, given and carved by the Rev H Stuart King in 1891, as was the lectern. The east window was put up in “memory of John C Langdon and his youngest son Gerald” by Edith Langdon.
The window in the south side of the Nave was put up “in memory of Emma Jane Langdon, and six of her children” by Fredrick, Mary, Ethel and Edith Langdon.
The marble tablet on the north side was put up in memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-18 by Mrs C.E. Small; the Memorial Cross of ham stone in the church yard was erected in November 1919 “in memory of those who fell in the Great War
The church turret was struck by lightning in June 1889. The first baptism in Tatworth Church was that of Vincent Seager, son of Daniel and Charlotte Seager on September 9th 1851, the day the church was consecrated. The first marriage was between George Worman and Anne Matthews on May 2nd 1852. The first burial was that of Sarah Peadon, November 26th 1851.
There is a story that a funeral took place of the King of the gypsies and a number of gypsies attended it in costume, and used to come on the anniversary for many years.
The church is dedicated to St John the Evangelist. Before the church was built, the farmers used to drive the older people to church in Chard and the younger ones walked
The Jubilee tree was planted by Mr. Churchill Langdon in 1887 to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria (Since been cut down and replaced by another tree).
A beech tree was planted in the grounds of Parrocks Lodge by Mrs Langdon in 1883, on the day that King Edward was married (described as our late King Edward).
Peace rejoicings after the Crimean War were held in Wydy Close, 1856.
The farm where Mr. W Wall lives was once “The Plough Inn” (now Parrocks Farm) and on the opposite side of the road there used to be an old thatched forge that burnt down (Miss Mary Langdon describes this in 1932 as where Mr. Wellington’s shop is) There used to be a sheep fair held in Wych Square.
Ye Olde Poppe Inn is one of the oldest inns in the county although a date when it was built cannot be found but in a deed belonging to Messrs Mitchell, Toms and Co dated 1792, it was called Culverhay, in the occupation of Mr W.M. Chapel, and in another deed dated 1838 it is called “The Country Inn”. There is a tradition that the name of the Poppe Inn derived from when servants from Parrock Lodge could pop in the back entrance of the inn and have a drink without the squire’s knowledge. There is a very old custom held at “The Poppe Inn” every year called Stowell Court, when during the burning of an inch of candle a field called Stowell Mead is let bu auction for one year. The candle is placed on a wooden platter, dated 1832, lighted by the steward and the bidding begins, as then candle flickers out the last bidder has the field for a year. (Still a custom today – see Stowell Court on the web site).
It was a custom of farmers in the village when carrying their last load of corn to stop the wagon halfway through the gate, blow a horn and drink cider for good luck.
The tithing at Southchard is separated from Tatworth by a stream which rises in Pen Vatey and crosses the road where an old mill used to be, now converted into houses. The chief feature of Southchard is the early English Chapel of St Margarets, no doubt one of the many Chapels of Ease which abounded in Pre-Reformation times throughout the whole country.
In a Will of William Dean of Southchard dated 1634; he leaves to his daughter, Susan” the chapel and all the writings for holding the same”. And in an indenture dated July 25th 1654, between Nathaniel Whetham Esq. Lord of the Manor of Chard on the one part and Thomas Deane, of Tatworth in the parish of Chard, clothier, on the other part, the said Nathaniel Whetham does sell, “all that one house or chapel, commonly called or known by the name of Margaret, situate or lying in the tithing of Southchard to the aforesaid Thomas Deane” (The Chapel has now been converted into a holiday let). A new Chapel for the Christian denomination called Strict Particular Baptists was built in 1909.
That Southchard was a place of importance is shown by the fact that Roman remains have been found, and that the Fosse Way, one of four great Roman roads runs close to it through Dyke Hill and Perry Street.
In 1843 a Mr. John Hancock, in digging up his garden at Southchard, found a quantity of stones apparently the foundations of a building. Mr. W. Notley, of Tatworth Manor Farm, states that he visited the premises at the time and recollected seeing three steps of excellent workmanship supposed to lead to a vault or bath. This was thought to be a Roman Villa. (Detailed on a modern map Roman building site of)
Roman remains have been found in the area of Southchard of part of a tegulum, several tiles and roofing tiles, stone tesserae, brass coins, cinerary urn, remains of a amber bead necklass and pieces of pots.
The Olde Cottage of Southchard (along St. Margarets Lane) was once a beer house. There was an Inn called the Pelican in St Margarets Lane (possibly on the opposite side of the road).
Our Council Schools were built in 1879. Before we had schools, the tiny children used to go to Miss Sawyers and pay 1d, a week. They then went on to Miss Mary Barber’s and Mrs Burt’s where if they wrote in a copy book, they paid 4d a week. When they were eleven they walked to the National Schools, Chard, on the Tatworth road.
The date is not known of when the Perry Street factory was built. It was owned in 1825 by Messrs John and William Cuff and possibly owned by Mr. Warry before the Cuffs. There are two alter tombs in Chard Church yard to the Warry family of Perry Street. The date on the bell is 1813. After the Messrs Cuff, the factory was owned by Mr J.B. Payne, who enlarged it considerably, then Mr John Small and then by Small and Tidmas. (Now Swiss Tulle).
Knapp Mill (Now Perry Street Club and Institute) was once a cloth mill in 1844; it was owned by Mr. Phillips, clothier, and in 1851 Mr Phillips sent a piece of Linsey to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park London and had a medal presented to him. The introduction of the woollen manufacture was introduced into the West of England in 1346.
Wreath Green was once the village green. There was a supersition in this village green that if a baby was ill and you gave it a little of the wine used at Holy Communion it would be sure to recover.
STOWELL MEADOW & STOWELL COURT
Between Forton and Tatworth, east of Forton Lane, lies a meadow watered by springs rising on its borders. This meadow is the last part of the vast 'common' land enclosed in 1819. In Stowell mead several nearby farmers had the right to pasture cattle, but in the 1820's changes in land ownership allowed too many men with grazing rights and the meadow suffered from being over stocked.
In 1832 the holders of 'rights' met and decided to have their properties valued fixing the proportions of their rights. They decided also thereafter to let the meadow for an annual rent, and that the rent when received was to be divided among the rights holders in proportions agreen in the valuation.
So, in 1832 a tradition was born. The farmers met, entitling their meeting 'Stowell Court', had their auction of the meadow for one year and in the following year shared out the proceeds. They agreed that the auction should commence when a tallow candle, precisely one inch long, was lit and that the last bidder before the light failed would be the meadow tenant for the following year.
The tradition was that on the first Tuesday after April 6th each year, the court assembles at seven, at the Poppe Inn, elects its chairman and clerk, carries on its business, has supper of bread and cheese, watercress from the meadow and sufficient beer. The clerk then lights the candle, bidding commences and court members are forbidden to rise from their seats (except on payment of a fine) until the candlewick finally collapses and is drowned in the hot tallow. The clerk records the last bidder and a member 'stands bond', for the new tenant to ensure that the rent is duly paid. New members to the court are termed 'colts' and have to pay a 'colting fee' on their first attendance.
Before alterations at the pub, the court met in a closed room and the door was ceremoniously locked before business started and latecomers were fined. The locked doors started the legend that the court met in 'a secrete room' It was strongly rumoured that the court had a history of hundreds of years and that all records before 1832 had been burned by a clerk of the court who fell out with other members.
What is true for the past number of years is that, although the auction is still carried out, supper is now more liberal, that very little of the rent remains for the payout after drinks have been consumed and that an adjournment to the skittle alley has ended the proceedings.
Stowell Court is now managed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest under English Nature, as meadowland which is treated with no fertiliser, pesticide or herbicide, and so still contains many plants generally rare in the countryside.