Axbridge Weekend May 18 and 19

We had a very successful weekend of events with far more people attending than we expected.  As a result it was considered too hazardous to have a walk around the narrow streets of Axbridge and therefore on Saturday morning John Page gave a talk in the Square and a brief walk to look at some of the houses there. The afternoon saw us in the Church where Dr Jerry Sampson entertained us with an excellent talk about the building and its history and revealed a few of the little things you had never noticed such as a mason’s mark and the remains of coloured plaster work.

On Sunday afternoon two groups led by Madeleine and David Roberts went to consider Madeleine’s evidence for the existence of a port, walking from Axbridge along Bailiff’s wall down to Cradle Bridge on the River Axe and back along Hook wall to Axbridge.  Her theory that there was a port of Axbridge was both very interesting and intriguing.

The photo is of the two groups meeting on their way to and from the River Axe.

Rev. Dr Thomas Whalley


March meeting.
Chris Stephens gave an excellent talk on his research into the life of the Rev. Dr Thomas Whalley (1746-1828), which he sub-titled A True Story of Georgian Life at the time of Jane Austen.

His interest in the subject was aroused when he was asked to re-build some walls that ran alongside Mendip Lodge, which was built by the Rev. Dr Whalley as a summer retreat.

Much of Whalley’s life is known from his letters edited and published by his great nephew in 1863, but recent research has revealed a far more interesting and complete account.  His life was clearly one of extravagance, generosity and intellectual activity and he spent much of his time with many of the most influential people of the time.

He was the son of John Whalley, Master of Peterhouse College in Cambridge and his mother was the daughter of the Chancellor of Wells Cathedral.  He married a widow, Elizabeth Sherwood, who was the heir to Langford Court and it was her money that enabled him to buy a house in the Royal Crescent in Bath, which he used during the “season.”  Apparently he thought of himself as a poet and playwright and enjoyed living in Bath which was, at the time, a centre of social life and where there were many famous people such as Mrs Siddons, Hannah More, David Garrick and Mrs Thrale (Piozi). Chris used Whalley’s extensive correspondence with these people to inform his research.

Thomas and his wife went to France in 1783 and let their house, Langford Court.  When they returned in 1787 he built Mendip Lodge since Langford Court had been let out during their absence from England.  No expense was spared building the house and the cost of landscaping the gardens alone, according to De Quincy, was about £30,000 the equivalent today of about 30 million.

In 1801 Thomas’s wife died and in 1803 he married a Miss Heathcote who was also very rich but sadly she died in 1807.  Although relatively wealthy, the upkeep of Mendip Lodge and his somewhat extravagant lifestyle meant that it made sense for Thomas to marry for a third time and in 1815 he married the widow of the wealthy General Horneck.  Unfortunately, as Thomas found out, Mrs Horneck herself was not well off, having been left out of the will of her late husband.  The marriage was not to last long and the couple separated in 1819. Quite what the reasons were for this are unclear but his wife’s accusation of cruelty led Thomas to seek a legal separation.

In 1819 he sold Mendip Lodge to Benjamin Somers, a relative by marriage of his first wife, but had to buy it back in 1822 when Somers failed to keep up the mortgage payments.

After his separation from his third wife, Thomas retired from public life in Bath and in 1820 was living in La Fleche, in France where his niece, Frances, and her husband lived.  Until his death Thomas seems to have divided his time between various places in Britain and in France.  He died in 1828 and was buried in La Fleche.

The Queen of Bath, Frances Sage

Thomas had a sister, Elizabeth, who he adored and who married an East India Company man called Isaac Sage.  When she died in 1778, she left a daughter Frances who was then 7 years old and since her father was in India, Thomas and his wife took care of her. Frances grew up to be a very accomplished and popular young lady and it is her who was to become the Queen of Bath.

The well-known figure, Richard Beau Nash was the self-appointed “Monarch of Bath” and logically he needed a “Queen.”  Various people held the post until, in 1788, aged 19 years, Frances was hailed as the next Queen and stayed as such until 1790.  Why her tenure was so short is not known but Chris speculated that perhaps her behaviour had not been all that it should be!  She was described as spirited, independent and worldly.

 

In 1790 she married William Mullins, an Irish widower with 2 small children. However, although from a rich family and due to inherit a title and fortune, it seems that William had very little money and the couple had no settled home.  The marriage was clearly not a happy one and In 1795 Frances left William who divorced her on the grounds of infidelity.  She had, in fact, gone away with Captain Abel Rous Dottin, the eldest son of wealthy parents, who were plantation owners in Barbados.  It would appear that the two had known each other for many years and it is supposed that the whole “adultery” charge might have been staged. Whalley remained friends with William Mullins for many years and Dottin married 3 years after this event and became an MP with the help of Isaac Sage, France’s father.  A divorce was granted in 1796 and Frances received a settlement of £1000 per annum for life.

A mere three weeks after the divorce Frances married Rev. Robert Boyle Sullivan.  The suggestion is that France had fallen in love with him hence the staged adultery. Sullivan was a curate at Winscombe for a time but was removed for neglecting his duties.  Influential friends meant that he was able to obtain a curacy at Bradford on Avon.  In 1815 following the Battle of Waterloo, however, the Sullivans were in France. Although they appeared to live quite well it is unclear whether Robert had any employment or what exactly their financial situation was.  Frances did, of course, have her annuity.

In 1818, when her father died he left her only £1000 in his will, thinking that she was well provided for.  However in 1824 when her first husband died she lost her annuity and when Robert Sullivan died in 1826 Frances was in dire need of financial assistance.  She appealed for help to her uncle Thomas and he bought her a house in  in France and left her £1000 in his will.

 

Around 1830, with growing unrest in France, Frances sold the house and returned to England.  In 1841 she is recorded as residing in a lodging house (possibly her own) and in the 1851 census she is described as a an annuitant.

She died in 1857 aged 86 and is buried in Bath Abbey.

 

Chris ended with a question, which was whether Frances Sage and Thomas Whalley were known to Jane Austen.  He suggested that, as Austen knew Bath very well, that the families might have been known to each other and that Frances might well have been a source for some of her characters.  Chris surmised that one of the characters in  Lady Susan,Austen’s first book,written about 1794, was indeed modelled on Frances.

 

An intriguing thought to end with!

 

Chris has done an enormous amount of research in writing this book, which is available at a bargain price from the King John’s Hunting Lodge.

Geophysics Survey at Allerton

After a brief introduction from Elizabeth Friend on the reasons why Poolhayes was chosen as the site of the recent survey, Liz Caldwell and Nigel Harvey spoke about the techniques they used and the results of the full survey which was done in October 2018,  Although nothing conclusive was found there were a few anomalies suggesting  ditches and a number of curvilinear lines which were not consistent with the current field boundaries and which seemed to leading up to the field beyond Poolhayes.  This is much higher than the village and the activity seen could, they suggested be evidence of an earlier settlement there.

Liz went on to outline the use of geophysics and illustrated this with examples of work that they have done.

The results of the survey will form part on an exhibition at the King John’s Hunting Lodge Museum in Axbridge which will open at Easter.The field is numbered 144 on the Dean and Chapter map 1786

 

Daily Life in Roman North Somerset

Talk by John Smith on September 19th

Making a return visit to AALHS John, once again, gave a fascinating talk about what it was like to live in Britain under the Romans and, along with giving us a potted history of Roman occupation, brought along various artefacts to show us.

He started by explaining that Somerset was an important place to the Romans for lead mining, minerals, agriculture and a labour force.  As the invading army moved around they made a record on wax tablets of all the crops, numbers of people and animals which was, in effect, a tax record.

example of a mosaic floor

John drew attention to the benefits of Roman occupation, which included the introduction of writing and a fixed coinage system.  The Romans also changed the way that houses were designed, introducing the idea of separate rooms and a rectangular shape.  The houses of the wealthy were built with piped water, windows and many of the features that we recognise in houses today.  Mosaic floors were another introduction and were an indication of wealth and status.  John explained that these were made in sections off site and then assembled in the house. Amusingly in St Albans there is a floor where one section was laid the wrong way round.

typical roman sandals for outdoor use

John showed us various examples of clothing.  Simple tunics were usually made of wool and linen and examples found in Somerset were often of high quality.  He also showed sandals with hobnails for outside use and shoes for indoors.

Cooking utensils were also on display:  These included basic bowls of black burnished ware from Dorset and a bowl of Samian ware.

example of black burnished ware

John also speculated whether coin hoards were hidden at times of political or economic upheaval or perhaps when it would have been difficult to exchange coins.  Most were found in the 3rdcentury AD which was when Britain broke away from central Roman rule.

In conclusion John pointed out that when the Romans left, Britain reverted to a system of subsistence farming and it is of course likely that in country areas the Romans would have had little impact on the way of life anyway.   He thought life had been better under the Romans.
An interesting insight into what life might have been like!

Visit to the Old Deanery Gardens, Wells

13 members of the Society and 2 visitors went to visit the Old Deanery Gardens on July 11

the group listening intently to Frances

Frances Neale, one of our vice-Presidents gave an excellent talk about the history of the garden and Sylvia Hanks, one of the founders of the restoration project talked about how the project started.  Having had no planting plan left by William Turner It was really interesting to see how they interpreted what it might have looked like.  All the plants in the garden are ones that the Dean would have known and had described in his Herbal.

looking down at the garden from the ramparts

The Gardens are open every Wednesday and there is free admission – well worth a visit
Link here http://www.olddeanerygarden.org.uk

 

Geophysical Survey Training Day at Chapel Allerton

SANHS e-bulletin August 2018
Archaeology: Geophysical Surveying Training Day at Chapel Allerton
On Saturday 30th June SANHS held its first geophysical surveying training day with the help of members of the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group (SSARG) and GeoFlo Southwest Geophysical Services. The event took place at Chapel Allerton and participants included members of the Axbridge and Chapel Allerton Local History Societies. The field chosen for the survey is located opposite the church and has a lot of potential for interesting results.  There are several linear earthworks which are clearly visible, including what appears to be a rectilinear enclosure. Historically the field used to be the site of the Village Fair, plus there was a trackway through it which led to the local mill.This Summer has been a scorcher and 30th June was no exception! Nine hardy volunteers braved the heat to try their hand at resistivity and gradiometry surveying.  Unfortunately, despite the hot weather, the grass was too long in the part of the field that we really wanted to survey, plus there were cattle roaming around, so instead we chose a small 20 x 80m strip between the road and a small copse of trees in the middle of the field.             The volunteers were instructed in how to set up the survey grid, and then had the opportunity to use the resistivity meter and gradiometer.  We managed to survey the area completely with both machines and then retired to the relative coolness of the church to have a look at the results.  Unfortunately the gradiometer results were severely affected by ferrous magnetic disturbance, but the resistivity results revealed some irregular linear anomalies of varying strength and alignment.  It is possible that some of these could be associated with a former building, and if so it is also possible that some of the disturbance in the gradiometer results could be due to demolition rubble.

The rest of the field is due to be surveyed this Autumn after the grass has been cut and the cows are indoors, and volunteers from the training day have been invited to come along.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped out on such a hot day, and especially for arranging access to the church and providing drinks and biscuits and cake!

Liz Caldwell

Ed:  AALHS and the Allerton History Society are grateful to SANHS and the grant from the Maltwood Fund for financing this project.

 

 

 

The Mapping of Somerset

Joe and Christine King

Another difficult talk to describe without the illustrations. Although all the maps had a function they were also very decorative and it is that which makes them very interesting to look at. I will put some example on the website.

Joe started by saying how intriguing it was that Somerset was so well mapped and explained that this was because in the Elizabethan era they were very fearful of Catholic opposition to Elizabeth 1 and it was felt that her position was insecure. Her Chancellor, Lord Burghley was very anxious about the security of the throne and saw the value of having maps for defence and administration purposes.

He asked Thomas Seckford to arrange for the mapping of the country and he, in turn, asked Christopher Saxton to do this. Saxton had been a servant of John Rudd, vicar of Dewsbury who had, himself, tried to map the kingdom but couldn’t complete the task because it needed the assistance of all the great landowners.

He had been helped by Saxton and it was Saxton who the Privy Council asked to undertake the mapping of the kingdom and all the great landowner were instructed to give him assistance. He used a crude form of triangulation using the beacons, which were on all the high places and in five years had mapped the whole country. Somerset was one of the first places to be mapped and Joe showed the first published map of Somerset produced by Saxton, which is a fairly good representation of the county.

There are lots of decorative details on it, fish, boats, the coat of arms of Elizabeth 1 and also of Seckford which states “Sloth is the country’s bane”. The scale was of the military mile ie 1000 paces. The mile that we recognise today was fixed in 1592 but, as Joe pointed out, for the next 180 years or so many maps had a short mile, a middle mile and a long mile on them.   No-one knows why.

The people who made the maps were Flemish craftsmen who had come to England. The early maps were made on copper sheets, which were hammered flat and then the map was scribed on them. Names of course had to be done in mirror writing – very clever as Joe said. After about 300 copies of a map the sheet had to be scribed again.

The early maps showed various places such as Cheddar, Axbridge and Wookey Hole but it is the rivers that predominate. These and the bridges over them were, of course, the most important features to show given their significance for trade and travel. Roads were not shown until later and hills on the early maps looked like little mole hills. The depiction of hills was refined later.

Another main feature of these early maps was the inclusion of deer parks. Mappers had, of course, to be polite to important people but a deer park was also the site of an annual general muster for the villagers to prepare for war.

Given that Saxton had started with no idea of the shapes of counties, his maps were an extraordinary achievement. Editions of the maps, which were in black and white were produced for the next 100 years, although some were hand-coloured.

The next maps Joe showed were those of John Speed produced around 1610.

Speed was an historian who, when James 1st came to the throne was tasked with proving a direct lineage from James to the Greek heroes. No mean feat!

Joe showed Speed’s map of 1612. This shows, in one corner, a town plan of Bath complete with the heraldry of important people on it. It was the first map of the city and shows various details; baths, a horse bath, trees etc. It was very informative as a map and also shows the first reference to a tennis court. Perhaps the major change from previous maps was that it shows the Hundreds for the first time, which were, of course important administratively.  One question Joe raised was whether old maps were always correct. There were, of course, errors, but for many years the early maps were replicated by others and so the errors remained. As an example he showed Speed’s Wiltshire map, which shows two villages, now known as North and South Burcombe. On the original drawing Speed had written Quare (meaning query) next to North Burcombe and this was then engraved. For the next 162 years or so the “village of Quare” remained on the maps until the mistake was spotted.

Joe then showed a strange and unusual 1612 map by Michael Drayton who was a contemporary of Shakespeare. This showed women with trees growing out of their hair, ladies with cities on their heads and all manner of weird images.

Must try and find it for the website!

The Saxton and Speed were large and bound as books. In 1626 a map was produced by John Bill, which was of a size that could be put in a saddle bag and reflects the fact that people were moving about more and maps were useful to have with you. Knowing distances was also useful and the next map Joe showed was from 1625 and produced by John Norden who invented a table, which showed the distances between various places.

From then on, there were various innovations which I will just outline briefly.

John Ogilvy produced strip maps which covered the routes that people would commonly travel and which showed various landmarks you might see on your journey.

In 1676 maps were produced by Robert Morden which, for the first time showed roads. The first maps he produced were actually on the back of playing cards and these are now very rare collectors items. In 1695 Morden produced larger maps but interestingly these had no roads marked on them but did have 3 different mile scales despite the fact that it was over 100 years since the government had set the statutory mile we know today. These continued to be published after his death and the smaller plates were also produced with the roads marked.

Further changes to maps reflected wider social changes for example the addition of things of interest, which gave people more information about the places they were visiting. One example shown was of a map by Herman Moll, a friend of Daniel Defoe which included depictions of various antiquities .  Similarly John Gibson produced a small map with commodities such as corn, lead, woad, Bristol stone and lapis calaminaris (calamine) illustrated on it.

Strachey produced a vertical map of mining at Chew Magna showing what was going on underground. Although he was the first to do this he has received no credit for doing so and it was a William Smith who later produced similar maps and took the credit. Joe also showed a lovely county map done by Strachey with a plan of Wells on it complete with cathedral and houses.

New maps following the draining of the moors around 1769 showed that roads were then the dominant feature not rivers. Maps around this time were the last to be produced on copper and soon engravings on steel replaced them. These enabled the map-makers to have much finer lines and more detail.

Pinot 1842 showing roads, canals and railways

In the 19th century maps began to have a wider use, often reflecting economic changes. George III commissioned maps, which showed the agricultural use of the land for example. By 1820 mail coach roads were shown on the maps and around 1840 there were maps showing canals and later, ones showing railway lines also appeared. Such was the proliferation of railway building that maps were sometimes produced by the railway companies to advertise new lines that were never actually built!

County maps were, of course, still being produced and from 1812 some were in colour and Joe showed several examples. Many of them showed a lot of detailed information reflecting the Victorian desire for self-improvement.

Not all maps were decorative, however. Joe showed an example of what he called a “very miserable map” which was produced by William Cobbett.

The last decorative map was produced by Thomas Maule in 1838.

In conclusion Joe showed some strip maps, and some maps of Somerset where the county looked nothing like Somerset. One produced in 1742 made Somerset look like Africa. Finally, Joe urged everyone to keep a look out for old maps which do turn up occasionally in unlikely places. Some playing card maps recently made £1500 at auction!

An interesting talk and there was plenty to look at. Joe and Christine had a fine display of their maps around the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somerset Parks and Gardens

Talk by James Bond.

By way of introduction James explained that Parks have changed character – originally deer parks in medieval times, then private parks attached to grand houses and only later were there public parks. Gardens on the other hand have also changed through time but also vary with social class

Beginning with an outline of how he got into this work he then traced parks and gardens back through time. It’s a difficult talk to describe relying as it does on a great many slides. I’ll try and find some links and pictures for the website

He started with a look at Green Beach Park in Clevedon (1887) explaining how the climate affected the planting and went on to comment on when plants were introduced. William Turner, Dean of Wells Cathedral wrote “A New Herball” in 1551 which, whilst relying heavily on earlier herbals, also included many of his own observations on plants in Somerset. This was the first printed herbal in England and Turner is acknowledged as the “Father of English botany” Henry Lyte of Lytes Cary also wrote a herbal in 1578 which was a translation of a French herbal translated from the Flemish original printed in 1554.

The next picture was of Hestercombe where the garden was re-modelled in 1903 by Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll on the orders of the owner E.W.B. Portman. The Great Plat, a sunken parterre, is a semi-recreation of an Elizabethan form with four geometrically laid out beds . The garden is fairly formal but not enclosed and has views over the surrounding countryside. Jekyll kept the planting scheme quite pastel in colour as she disliked Victorian plantings schemes of garish colour. James explained the layout of the garden and how Lutyens had linked the various elements, both formal and informal.

Lutyens also worked at Ammerdown which was originally surrounded by a deer park.   In 1901 Baron Hylton asked Lutyens to re-design the garden and he landscaped the area with a parterre leading to a more formal garden enclosed by high hedges

The next slide was of Wayford Manor an old house built in about 1600 but not completed at the time. In 1899 Ingham Baker employed Sir Ernest George to add a wing and Harold Peto was asked to re-design the garden. The top of the garden is quite formal but then drops down to a less informal woodland garden and Japanese rock garden. James explained that this was a good example of how gardens were moving from formality to informality and the varied planting also reflected the Victorian age of the plant collectors

There was, apparently, considerable debate at this time about whether formal gardens with strong architectural features were better than informal gardens. An exponent of the former was Inigo Thomas who designed the garden at Barrow Court, Barrow Gurney, for Henry Martin Gibbs. Thomas was famous as the illustrator of “The Formal Garden in England” and received many commissions after its publication in 1892. The garden show extreme formality, with a strong architectural framework, statues and formal planting.

By contrast the next slide was of the wild garden at Clapton Court. Here the planting looks very natural and features a wood and pond

James explained that one of the features in the Victorian era was the public park and showed a photograph of Vivary Park in Taunton, which was laid out in 1895 with its bandstand, fountain and impressive railings.

Another public park was Grove Park in Weston-super-Mare. The slide showed elaborate bedding schemes beloved of the Victorians. Although out of fashion now, James suggested that this form of planting lasted longer in public parks than anywhere else.

An example he showed from the early 19th was the garden at the Banwell Bone Caves with its Druid’s temple, pebble house, gazebo and Prospect Tower.

Moving back in time to the C18th James showed examples demonstrating the evolution of the private park. One example was West Quantoxhead where the park was expanded and developed at the expense of the village, and thereby leaving the church isolated. This was, apparently quite a wide-spread practice.

The parks were often deer parks which were designed to show off the wealth of the “nouveau riche” land owners, harking back as they did to previous times. They were a means of showing wealth and status. One example of this was Ammerdown House at Kilmersdon Thomas Joliffe, a clothier by trade, had married an heiress and created a park by uprooting hedges which James said was quite convincing unless you looked at the earthworks which show where the hedges were.

Another example shown was Orchardleigh near Frome, whose house was re-built and the gardens substantially altered in 1856. There is a very elaborate gateway designed so that the house is hidden from view and thereby demonstrating how important the house is. Inside the park, a large lake was created by “removing” some of the village and thus isolating the church on an island.

In the mid late 18th Capability Brown did some work in Somerset. His first commission in Somerset was at Newton St Loe in 1760. The park shows a characteristically Brown lake which imitates nature, sweeping lawns and artfully arranged trees. Brown was, apparently, very good at hiding things he didn’t want people to see such as the dams which formed the lake

Another job he undertook was at Burton Pynsent in 1765 where he designed a column for William Pitt as a memorial to William Pynsent the previous owner of the house who had bequeathed it to Pitt.

Before Brown, James told us, such informal gardens tended to have a much greater architectural component such as bridges and buildings but the houses were always linked to the landscape. Prior Park near Bath house has views to Bath and this was considered important. Pear Park at Hestercombe is another example of this era with a visible dam creating a lake and open vistas created by cutting through the natural woodland to show various follies and temples.

Other examples include Haswell Park near Goathurst which has some gothic features such as a rotunda on a hill, a temple of Pan and a Robin Hood hut disguised as a hermitage from which, apparently, a hermit served cucumber sandwiches!

The C18th was, according to James a period of transition and the garden at Marston Bigot was a good example. A drawing by Rene Parr in 1739 shows traditional features such as a formal garden and bowling green, typical of an earlier period but there was also a wild garden. This mix of classical elements with more eccentric ones has been referred to as Baroque. The garden was laid out between 1724 and 1745 by Stephen Switzer.

Another example of the transition from formality to less formal is Brympton d’Evercy near Yeovil. Here the garden had a very formal layout which was drawn by Johannes Kip, a Dutch artist, in 1772. Kip did a number of drawings which are like aerial views and, although dobt has been cast as to how accurate they are, James said that by looking at estate plans and the archaeology they have proved very accurate . The drawing shows a bowling green, long avenues of tree and formally planted orchards

Clevedon Court and Nether Stowey are other examples. A plan of the latter in 1750 shows elaborate planting, box hedges, and fish ponds. As James pointed out, many of these formal gardens have disappeared but can be traced back to the late Tudor period. Typical planting schemes and plans can be seen in “The Gardeners Labyrinth” a book written in 1577 by Thomas Hill under the pseudonym Diddymus Mountain.

Moving back in time to the Middle Ages, James showed a slide of the gardens at Montacute House. A survey of 1667 shows evidence of an Elizabethan layout and the basic framework was probably earlier than that. Cottlestone Manor also shows a courtyard and earthworks reveal a complicated terrace garden.

Many Elizabeth gardens have now vanished but James explained that a survey done in the 1960’s of large numbers of earthwork sites show where many gardens were which date back to the late C16th

Mick Aston did important work identifying some of these sites. For example the garden at Claverton manor near Bath which was laid out between 1580 and 1625, Parsonage Farm at Nether Stowey which also has earthworks showing several features which are similar to plans of other gardens of the age although they have no idea why they should have had such a garden there as it’s not thought to have been owned by anyone wealthy or important.

Another example was at Henshill Copse where earthworks show evidence of terraces and another at Low Ham which Mick first identified from the air. What is now an isolated church was once a chapel built in 1588 and there are extensive earthworks going up to it. Documentary evidence shows that a house was bought in 1588 by Sir Edward Hext who built a chapel there in 1623 and laid out a garden. In 1625 the house had passed to the Stawell family and in 1690 the mansion was demolished by Lord Stawell, who built another house lower down. The Stawell gardens were not completed when Lord Stawell died in 1692. They had cost £100K and had necessitated the sale of most of his other properties. Planning was, however, well underway when he died according to a letter of 1690 from Jacob Bobart the younger writing to Lord Stawell and describing the work then in hand.

Sometimes, James explained, maps also give us pictures of lost gardens. An example of a 1718 garden attached to a farmhouse reveals a parterre and shows that elements of the formal gardens did sometimes move down the social scale

In towns, gardens were very likely to retain some degree of formality because of space. A 1735 drawing of Wells shows gardens divided into formal patters and in another example at 4 The Circus, Bath, a Georgian garden layout was revealed when they dug under the Victorian spoil.

There are very few medieval gardens left but there are many mainly French and Flemish illustrations of gardens which drew a lot from the Arab world; ideas being picked up during the Crusades. Most were enclosed behind high stone walls with locked gates. Inside the gardens were compartmented with a lot of trellis and there were parts laid out in rectangular and raised beds with clipped shrubs and a lot of climbing plants and fruit trees grown for their fragrance rather than their fruit.

Examples of English gardens are mainly of monastery gardens. At Glastonbury, the Abbot had his own garden and there was also a subsistence garden, vineyard, orchard, grass that was being grazed, and nettles were grown as a crop. Records show that in one year 2000 heads of garlic were grown in the vegetable plot. A resistivity survey done at the Carthusian monastery site at Witton shows that the cells lived in by the monks each had their own garden and there is a similar layout at Hinton Charterhouse.  At Court Farm, Wookey in the 1550’s there was a substantial garden including a 4 acre orchard all contained within the moat. Records of the 1460’s show that they grew saffron. It was the only crop they grew and was perhaps a speculative venture since none was recorded as being grown there again.

Castles such as Farley Hungerford also had gardens and there are examples of the remains of horticulture in smaller manor house gardens such as at Mere where the remains of a vineyard can be seen and at Mells.  Another example is Nether Adber, a deserted medieval village.

Surviving flora is difficult to find but at Steep Holm there are some peonies which are thought to have been introduced by Augustinian monks although they were not documented until the C19th  Wild garlic is also related to the garlic which would have been found in medieval gardens.

James then returned to Deer parks showing a plan of 1687 of Marshwood Park, Dunster with a wild landscape of trees, boundaries, high banks and ditches. The overall shape of the parks was usually an oval shape, the purpose of which was to minimize the amount of paths around it and maximize the internal area.

Looking at Roman villas, James pointed out that these probably had very elaborate formal gardens and courtyards but very little is known.

He concluded by pointing out that although there were fashions in gardens there were always mavericks who did something different. He ended to laughter by showing the well-known garden at Cross with its elaborate topiary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Bunn, seaman 1789

John Bunn, seaman 1789.

Frances Neale gave us an excellent talk about John Bunn – and without the aid of PowerPoint!

Having spotted a chance reference to a John Bunn, seaman, in the Wedmore records, she and Hazel Hudson were intrigued. Why would a man from a small farming community be a sailor? Not impossible but it seemed rather unlikely and certainly worth further investigation and that investigation led Frances into areas of research she had never been to before.  Much to her delight!

Records showed that the Bunn family had been small farmers in Wedmore since, at least, the 1560’s when the existing registers date from and Bunn is a common name in Wedmore. Being small farmers who rented their land rather than owned it, there are very few records about them but the Parish has a very good run of poor law records and this was where they found the reference to John Bunn when she and Hazel Hudson were cataloguing the records (now in the Somerset Heritage Centre).

What they had found was a magistrates order written on 3 sides of paper. It was a standard order for the safe passage of a homeless person back to the Parish responsible for them. John Bunn, discharged seaman, to be conveyed from Isleworth, Middlesex to Wedmore.   What was unusual was the amount of detail it contained about the journey back to Wedmore and that it had been signed off by several people on the way. As Frances said, it made John Bunn seem like a parcel.

The magistrates order said that John Bunn, had been found “begging and lying about in the air” ie sleeping rough. His place of settlement was Wedmore in Somersetshire and the order instructed him to be taken back, with his pass, to the overseers of Wedmore. It was dated 30 November 1789.

The next page outlined the examination of John Bunn in which he swore on oath that he was born in Wedmore and all his family were legally settled there. He further stated that he had served in His Majesty

Yorke, William Horde; HMS ‘Eurydice’ at Sea; ©National Maritime Museum;

Navy on the frigate Eurydice and had been legally discharged from the Navy as an invalid. He could not write and signed with a cross.

The question was why was he in Isleworth? Frances surmised that as a navy man he would presumably have been put ashore in Woolwich or Deptford and if he couldn’t read or write then the logical thing might be that he would follow the river Thames and head westwards but only got as far as Isleworth before he ran out of money.

The next step was to consult the archivist at Maritime Museum, who was able to give Frances full particulars of the HMS Eurydice. In 1789 HMS Eurydice was patrolling in the Mediterranean under the captaincy of George Lumsdaine.

The muster list of June/July 1788 shows the ship was in dock at Woolwich and that John Bunn was number 46 on that list. The full complement was 140 men, who were later joined by 22 marines. It would appear that John Bunn had joined the ship at Woolwich having, perhaps, recently come off a returning ship. He gave his age as 45 years old which, as Frances observed, is old for an able seaman, most of the crew being in their teens to thirties. Frances had lots of details about the provisioning of the ship and the various activities she undertook. In 1789 the ship was in Gibraltar and on 31st March John Bunn was discharged as “unsuitable.” No explanation was given as to why. Apparently “unsuitable” is a term that covers everything except criminality or mutiny. After his discharge, he continued to be listed in the muster book but was then in Gibraltar Naval hospital and was given his due allowances of clothes, tobacco and pay until some time before November 1789 when he returned to England.  Details of why he was there were not available

 

1910 postcard of the Naval Hospital

Frances went on to describe the various places that John Bunn passed through on his journey back to Wedmore. a journey of 137 miles which took about 8 days. The details of his journey back, in a succession of formal handovers, was organised and paid for by local officials and was all detailed in the pass document. The fact that he was “conveyed” from place to place suggested to Frances that John Bunn had, perhaps, been invalided out of the Navy after losing a leg. This proved to be untrue as later records showed.

Back in Wedmore John Bunn was handed over to the overseers and appears in the accounts of January 1790 when he was given 7s in “illness” and 3s 6d for a spade. Clearly he was expected to work and had not lost a limb!

Frances detailed the various payments that John Bunn received during his time in the care of the overseers. He often required extra payments because he was ill and there are also medical records of him being attended to on several occasions for various complaints. It would appear that Wedmore looked after its poor very well; apart from regular payments made to him, he received shoes and clothing including “Canvas and Flannel for a truss “ and “Flanell for a Waistcoat.”

The reason why John Bunn was discharged from the Navy or had such a long stay in Gibraltar Naval Hospital remains a mystery but he lived on in Wedmore for 25 years after his discharge, often ill and unable to work for long periods, but cared for by the parish.

St Mary’s church Wedmore © Allen Goodwin-Hancock

He died in January 1814 and the burial register states that he was aged 75 years old and was buried in the churchyard paid for by the overseers.

That entry, therefore, revealed another small mystery. If John Bunn was 75 years old when he died then he would have been 49 years in 1788 when he joined the Eurydice and not 45 years old. As Frances said, he might have taken a few years off his date of birth in order to join the ship – who knows!

It was a fascinating story and, as ever with historical research, leaves a lot of questions still unanswered. But that’s the joy of it!!

Frances and Hazel Hudson have written their account of John Bunn, which will be published in the March edition of “Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset” a publication Frances highly recommends.