Stourhead Estate

When the Manor of Stourton Caundle passed to the Stourton family, in 1461, the castle, a large fortified manor house located on the northern side of the Caundle Brook at Manor Farm, became a “removing house”, or a “jointure house”, for Dowager widows of the family. The member of this family who had the closest personal connections with the village was Lady Agnes, wife of Edward Lord Stourton, Lord of the Manor from 1523 to 1535. Before her marriage she was Agnes Fontleroy of Caundle Marsh (Font le Roi Farm) and after her husband’s death she resided for many years in the castle, which had become the family dower house.

Charles Stourton was the son of William the 7th Lord Stourton, who had been given eight manors, including Stourton Caundle, Purse Caundle and Hinton St Mary in Dorset, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Charles Stourton, despite being Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset, was so dissolute and extravagant that he earned the nickname, ‘the wicked nobleman’ His father had died in 1548, leaving a Will in which his mistress, Agnes Rice, was a main beneficiary. His father’s steward, William Hartgill, contested the Will and Charles Stourton swore vengeance on the steward of the Stourton Estate, who was trying to protect it from William’s worst excesses. Agnes appears to have continued living at the Manor of Stourton, supported by Hartgill, until she married c.1553. Charles married Lady Anne Stanley in 1549. Charles and his wife, who bore him 6 children within as many years, would have often lived at the castle.

Writs were issued by various interested parties, in an effort to resolve disputes over the Will. Charles was convinced that Hartgill, whilst acting as steward to his father, when instructed to carry out transactions on his behalf, had stolen title to several properties owned by the Stourhead Estate. On 12th January 1556, Charles’ men dispossessed Hartgill of land and property with disputed ownership, in the Manor of Kilmington. By August 1556, Hartgill had organised a summons that Stourton’s men were to appear in court at Frome to answer charges. Hartgill claimed damages of 300 marks (£368) and Lord Stourton appeared before the Council of St. James’s, Westminster, on 29th December, having been temporarily held in The Fleet, a debtors’ prison. He secured his release on a bond of £2,000, to enable him to travel back home to arrange payment of the debt. He left London, went straight to Stourton Caundle, and sent word to Hartgill that he was ready to pay the damages claimed, as instructed by the court, and to end their dispute. A meeting in Kilmington churchyard was arranged for 11th January at 10am.

Charles Stourton arrived at the agreed date and time, accompanied by some 15 of his servants, to meet Hartgill, his son John, and others of their family. Proffering two purses as though about to pay his debt, Lord Stourton tricked the two Hartgills into coming forward, at which point 10 or more of Stourton’s men arrested the pair declaring them to be felons. They tied them up and held them all day against their will. Around 2am on the 12th, the men took them to Bonham near Stourhead. At around 4pm, they were visited by two justices of the peace, at Lord Stourton’s request, and the prisoners were untied. But after they had departed, his men retied them and at 10pm, four of his servants took them to a place near Stourton House, where they clubbed them down and ultimately cut both their throats, working through the night to conceal their bodies, by burying them some 15ft deep, and disguising the workings with two layers of paving and wood chippings.

Charles Stourton, and four of his men, were apprehended and brought to trial in London on 26th February 1557, where he confessed and was found guilty. They were sentenced to be hanged. Stourton departed the Tower of London for Salisbury tied to a horse, where, being a peer of the realm, he was famously hanged with a silken cord in the market square on the 6th March 1557.

At this time, committing a capital crime resulted in the murderer forfeiting not only his life, but also ownership of all his land and property, which reverted to the Crown. Anne sent a letter to Mary I, pleading for compassion and permission to retain ownership of Stourton House and the fortified house or ‘castle’ in Stourton Caundle. This, she reported, was her only dwelling house and that it was in a “ruynous” and “corrupt” state. The response came in a letter from Greenwich, dated 20th April 1557, stating that Lady Stourton would be allowed 10 days to obtain and handover monies to the estimated value of the property she was seeking to retain ownership of.

Stourton Caundle had been an important part of the estate during the early 16th Century, generating an annual income to the Stourton family of more than £60. After her husband’s demise, Lady Anne moved back to Stourton House. Stourton Caundle and Purse Caundle remained part of the Stourton Estate but Hinton St. Mary was sold by the crown. Around 1560, Anne married Sir John Arundel (~1527–1590) of Lanherne, Cornwall, remaining a devout Catholic until her death in 1602. She had a further 7 children by Sir John. The fortified manor house at Stourton Caundle was left to fall into disrepair.

The final severance, of the Stourton connection with Stourton Caundle, was the sale of the Stourhead estate in1714, due mostly to impoverishment brought about by penalties over a long period for the family’s refusal to change its religion. As “Recusants”, Roman Catholics in England who incurred legal and social penalties in the 1500s and afterward for refusing to attend services of the Church of England, they suffered serious penalties, including the sequestration of their property, from which they were never really able to recover.

In 1717, Henry Hoare, son of wealthy banker, Sir Richard Hoare, purchased Stourhead Estate. . A partner in the bank, Hugh Richard inherited from his father, Sir Henry Hugh. He retired from the bank in 1845 with a considerable allowance, which he dedicated to many improvements across the estate.

Hugh Richard’s nephew, Sir Henry Ainslie Hoare, was next to inherit Stourhead. He enjoyed a lively social life in the city, and shooting, hunting and other countryside pursuits when he was at Stourhead, but Ainslie’s flamboyant lifestyle eventually forced him to leave the bank. In 1883 he had to resort to auctioning Stourhead paintings, furniture and books to raise money during an agricultural depression. He left Stourhead in 1885.

Succeeding his cousin, Henry Ainslie, Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare devoted his life to Stourhead. He restored the estate after a period of neglect, and even oversaw the total restoration of Stourhead house after a devastating fire in the house in 1902. His son, Harry Hoare, was to be heir to the estate, but was killed in the First World War.

The estate dispersal sale of the estate owned land and properties in the parishes of Stourton and Purse Caundle, took place at the Digby Hotel, Sherborne, on the 11th July 1911, and included all five of the main farms located within the parish boundary. Manor and Church Farms at Purse Caundle, along with Tut Hill Farm, also formed part of the sale. The proceeds for the land and property located within the parish boundary, which included all of the remaining estate owned cottages, together with the shop and the post office, located in adjacent properties at Golden Hill, amounted to £25,438. Both Manor and Barrow Hill farms failed to reach their reserve prices and, along with the unsold cottages, remained in the ownership of the estate until the final dispersal sale, held on June 16th 1918, at the Assembly Rooms, Bruton.

 

 

The Stourton Family

Sir John Chideock, who died in 1450, was the last of the Manorial Lords to live in the Castle. When the Manor passed to the Stourton family in 1461 it became a “removing house”, or a “jointure house”, for Dowager widows of the family. The member of this family who had the closest personal connections with the village was Lady Agnes, wife of Edward Lord Stourton, Lord of the Manor from 1523 to 1535. Before her marriage she was Agnes Fontleroy of Caundle Marsh (Font le Roi Farm) and after her husband’s death she resided for many years in the castle, which had become the family dower house. There is uncertainty over her place of burial. However in addition to her joint tomb, surmounted by effigies of her husband and herself, in the family church at Stourton, Wiltshire, there was at one time either a tomb, or a heart tomb, of alabaster dedicated to her memory in St Peters Church at Stourton Caundle. A window nearby displayed her Coat of Arms. She had four sons and one daughter. The date of her death, although not recorded, would have occurred in about 1570.

Charles Stourton was the son of William the 7th Lord Stourton, who had been given eight manors, including Stourton Caundle, Purse Caundle and Hinton St Mary in Dorset, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Charles Stourton, despite being Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset, was so dissolute and extravagant that he earned the nickname, ‘the wicked nobleman’ His father had died in 1548, leaving a Will in which his mistress, Agnes Rice, was a main beneficiary. His father’s steward, William Hartgill, contested the Will and Charles Stourton swore vengeance on the steward of the Stourton Estate, who was trying to protect it from William’s worst excesses. Agnes appears to have continued living at the Manor of Stourton, supported by Hartgill, until she married c.1553. Charles married Lady Anne Stanley in 1549. Charles and his wife, who bore him 6 children within as many years, would have often lived at the ‘castle’, a large fortified manor house located on the northern side of the Caundle Brook at Manor Farm.

Writs were issued by various interested parties, in an effort to resolve disputes over the Will. Charles was convinced that Hartgill, whilst acting as steward to his father, when instructed to carry out transactions on his behalf, had stolen title to several properties owned by the Stourhead Estate. On 12th January 1556, Charles’ men dispossessed Hartgill of land and property with disputed ownership, in the Manor of Kilmington. By August 1556, Hartgill had organised a summons that Stourton’s men were to appear in court at Frome to answer charges. Hartgill claimed damages of 300 marks (£368) and Lord Stourton appeared before the Council of St. James’s, Westminster, on 29th December, having been temporarily held in The Fleet, a debtors’ prison. He secured his release on a bond of £2,000, to enable him to travel back home to arrange payment of the debt. He left London, went straight to Stourton Caundle, and sent word to Hartgill that he was ready to pay the damages claimed, as instructed by the court, and to end their dispute. A meeting in Kilmington churchyard was arranged for 11th January at 10am.

Charles Stourton arrived at the agreed date and time, accompanied by some 15 of his servants, to meet Hartgill, his son John, and others of their family. Proffering two purses as though about to pay his debt, Lord Stourton tricked the two Hartgills into coming forward, at which point 10 or more of Stourton’s men arrested the pair declaring them to be felons. They tied them up and held them all day against their will. Around 2am on the 12th, the men took them to Bonham near Stourhead. At around 4pm, they were visited by two justices of the peace, at Lord Stourton’s request, and the prisoners were untied. But after they had departed, his men retied them and at 10pm, four of his servants took them to a place near Stourton House, where they clubbed them down and ultimately cut both their throats, working through the night to conceal their bodies, by burying them some 15ft deep, and disguising the workings with two layers of paving and wood chippings.

Charles Stourton, and four of his men, were apprehended and brought to trial in London on 26th February 1557, where he confessed and was found guilty. They were sentenced to be hanged. Stourton departed the Tower of London for Salisbury tied to a horse, where, being a peer of the realm, he was famously hanged with a silken cord in the market square on the 6th March 1557.

At this time, committing a capital crime resulted in the murderer forfeiting not only his life, but also ownership of all his land and property, which reverted to the Crown. Anne sent a letter to Mary I, pleading for compassion and permission to retain ownership of Stourton House and the fortified house or ‘castle’ in Stourton Caundle. This, she reported, was her only dwelling house and that it was in a “ruynous” and “corrupt” state. The response came in a letter from Greenwich, dated 20th April 1557, stating that Lady Stourton would be allowed 10 days to obtain and handover monies to the estimated value of the property she was seeking to retain ownership of.

1840 Tithe Map

 

Administration of the Manor

The administration of the Manor was carried out by an Administrator, under the supervision of an annual “Court Baron”, at which proceedings were recorded by the Steward, or his deputy, in the Manorial Court Rolls. Two volumes of these records, covering the years 1788 to 1821, have survived. The first business, at each Court session, was the presentment of a regulation in regard to straying cattle. This is fully set out in the first year and repeated in succeeding years, followed by the appointment of Hay-wards and Tithing-men, one of each for Caundle and one of each for Woodrow. The duty of a Hayward was to look after hedges and fences and to impound stray cattle in The Pound, which at that time was situated where the Jubilee Oak now stands at the cross roads at the upper end of the village. The duty of a Tithing-man was to preserve good order and enforce observance of the Sabbath, a forerunner of the early village constable. During the 19th Century, the cattle pound was relocated from where the Jubilee Oak tree now stands, to the area still known as The Pound, at the right hand side of the rear entrance to Manor Farm.

A sufficient number of tenants were required to attend, in order to constitute a meeting of the Court. The proceedings were held, either in Court (now Manor) Farmhouse, or in the Tithe Barn in Court Barton. Apart from the appointments, the entries recorded in the Court Rolls refer mainly to reports on straying cattle, the repair of buildings, reports of deaths and changes of tenancies, nuisances and encroachments. From 1852, some of the responsibilities of the “Court Baron” appear to have been taken over by the Vestry Meetings, at which appointments were then made for a Guardian, a Way-Warden and two Overseers responsible for the assessment, and collection, of rates to pay for hand-outs to the poor. The Guardian replaced the Tithing-man and the Way-warden. Later it became the normal practice to draw up a shortlist of names for Overseers, for presentation to the Justices, who made the final choice. The Vestry proceedings were not entirely under the control of the church officials, however they did have a strong influence, and the affairs of the parish and the church must have been closely inter linked at this time. It was the vestry meeting that obtained the new burial ground in Drove Road and founded the primary school. In 1894, under the terms of a local government act, passed by the Houses of Parliament, the administration of parish affairs was transferred to a Parish Meeting.

Manor Farmhouse, Brunsell Farmhouse, Woodrow Farmhouse, Barley Close and Trooper Cottage, were all constructed during the early part of the 18th Century. The Bake House, which was originally a Malt House, before becoming the village bake-house, has a date of 1784 on its western gable. The construction of these farmhouses, at this time, suggests that it must have been around this period that the amalgamation of the tenanted small-holdings and the enclosure of the remaining mediaeval open fields, to form the larger farms, were taking place. This is confirmed by the estate map of the parish, dated 1709, held among the Stourhead documents at the Wiltshire Record Office. An inset in the map illustrates the profusion of small tenancies, which still existed in the south and east of the parish at that time. In other parts, much larger fields, with boundaries similar to those of today are shown. By the end of the 18th Century, the process was complete, with one farm of 400 acres, five of around 200 acres and three of 50 to 75 acres. This resulted in a reduction from 35 tenants of over 250 parcels of land, distributed all over the Parish, in 1709, to nine tenants in 1797 of consolidated farms, which today total no more than 175 fields. In 1709 some 40 fields, approximately 16 per cent, are marked as “arab1e”. These are mostly in the area where the corn brash seam bulges in the south of the parish. Now there are very few, such as the valuable home pastures, which have never been under the plough. Forty-six of the old 1709 field names have survived the intervening years and are still in use today, although some of these have become distorted.

There were two licensed premises in the parish, the Catherine Wheel, later re-named the Trooper, and a second at Gwyers, formerly the residence of the Guyer family, near the crossroads at Jubilee Oak, which George Stokes opened as an Ale House in the mid-19th century. With the exception of Middle Woodrow, which was absorbed with Higher Woodrow Farm, the main farms continued with the same acreage as when they had first been formed. They changed tenants periodically and each successive generation of farmers came to the fore in other village activities, providing those qualified to sit as Jurors or to vote at elections and to officiate at Manorial Court proceedings. Many of the existing cottages in the village, including the Old Vicarage, Grange Cottage and the houses and Bridge at Port Knapp (Cat Lane) are from the early part of the 19th Century. The foundations, at least, of some of these cottages may be much older, for the 1709 estate map shows many buildings in the village on sites close to their present locations.

For the 19th Century, information provided by census returns and vestry and church council meetings minutes, is more readily available. The population rose from 277, at the time of the first census in 1801, to a peak of 450 in 1851 and then fell again to 234 by 1901. The number of inhabited houses rose from 53, in 1801, to 94 in 1861 and then fell to 67, with as many as 12 unoccupied, in 1901. There had grown up around agriculture, upon which the prosperity of the village depended, most of the ancillary crafts and trades required to establish the village as a self-supporting unit. As well as a post office and general stores, the village had its own baker, dairyman, blacksmiths, carpenters, boot-makers, cordwainers, plasterers, basket-makers, publicans and a saw-yard. But the general decline in the fortunes of agriculture, in the second half of the 19th Century, gradually eroded the situation. The increasing population could not be found employment in the village, starting the trend of migration towards urban areas.

 

 

Pre 20th Century Stourton Caundle

The first records, relating to the founding of the Manor of Stourton Caundle, date from the year 1202, with a purchase of land by Sir Henry de Haddon, a member of a Northamptonshire family, from East or West Haddon, and originally from Normandy. He, and his descendants, then consolidated their holding with further acquisitions. With the failure of male issue, at three subsequent stages, the land ownership passed by marriage through two generations of the Fitzwarin family, then two generations of the Chideock family and finally, in 1461, to the Stourton family. The original name “Caundle Haddon” persisted well into the long dynasty of the Stourton family, ending in 1727, from whom the present name derives.

The present name “Stourton Caundle”, sometimes “Caundle Stourton”, has survived both a first sale by the Stourtons to the Hoare family, in 1727, and the dispersal sales of 1911 and 1919. From the time of the final dispersal sale the Manor, although Sir Henry Hoare did retain the Lordship, has effectively ceased to exist.

The earliest information on the lands of the Manor comes from the Domesday Survey of 1086, which contains 10 separate records of land known as “Candel”, “In Candele” or Candelle”. Of these 10 records there are two which are thought to refer to areas which eventually came together to form the Manor of Caundle Haddon, subsequently Stourton Caundle. The hub of the Manor was the castle, situated in a field called “Court Barton” on the northern side of the Caundle Brook, at the rear of Manor Farm, probably built by Lord John, the third of the Haddon Lords, at the end of the 13th Century. On the opposite side of the brook was a small chapel, a mill, a fishpond, a pigeon loft.

Stourton Caundle had been an important part of the estate during the early 16th Century, generating an annual income to the Stourton family of more than £60. After her husband’s demise, Lady Anne moved back to Stourton House. Stourton Caundle and Purse Caundle remained part of the Stourton Estate but Hinton St. Mary was sold by the crown.

In around 1560, Anne married Sir John Arundel (~1527–1590) of Lanherne, Cornwall, remaining a devout Catholic until her death in 1602. She had a further 7 children by Sir John. The fortified manor house at Stourton Caundle was left to fall into disrepair.

After the demise of the castle a tithe barn was constructed on the northern boundary of the site, using stone from the ruined castle. Most of the public footpaths and bridle-ways radiate from here. Regular Manorial Court Sessions were being held in the tithe barn at Court Barton as recently as 1821. The tithe barn was destroyed by a fire in 1963. The stone from the barn was then used to raise the level of the boundary wall at the front of Manor Farm.

The 1709 estate map indicates the site of the castle with the words “an old house”, and Hutchins records in 1773 that “it is now ruined, and a chapel belonging to it has been turned into a barn”. Ground plans, filed with the Stourhead Estate papers, in the Wiltshire Record Office, show that the Castle was 90ft square, with an outer court, 55 ft. by 15 ft., facing south with circular turrets, 16ft in diameter, at the north east and north west corners.

The castle was constructed on a slightly raised platform and located within the L of a fishpond. The long arm of the L shaped pond, was 30ft.by 50 ft., ran from west to east and was fed from the Caundle Brook which also used to supply the water power for the mill along a leat running parallel to the southern boundary of this field. Ernest Palmer, when excavating a trench to lay a water pipe to the tithe barn in the late 1930s, came upon a layer of cinder, which suggests that the ruined castle had finally been destroyed by fire. He also unearthed a mediaeval horseman’s spur, which is now in the Dorchester County Museum. The excavations for the fishponds, constructed in 1971, revealed nothing more than an unusual number of small oyster shells. Pieces of moulded stone, which may have come from the castle, have been found embodied in other buildings in the village.

Chapel Barn 1a Manor Farm

The small chapel still stands among the farm buildings on the southern side of the brook, without the chancel portion as mentioned in its description by Hutchins III in 1869. The RCHM records the chapel as being 13th Century with a nave 21ft by 18ft, north and east walls nearly 3ft thick. A north doorway with a chamfered two-centred head, continuous jambs and a segmental pointed rear-arch and lancet windows in both north and south walls, though the latter, like the east wall, is a modern reconstruction. A small burial ground may have existed to the south of this chapel, one skeleton having been brought to the surface by floodwaters. There is no information available to show the dedication of this chapel, its use, or its relationship with St. Peter’s Church.

The mill was an important asset in the days of the Haddon Lords. When last in use it had an iron water wheel, donated as scrap iron to the war effort in 1914. A pigeon loft is shown on early maps to the east of the centre in Court Barton field. The tithe barn, probably 17th or early 18th Century was still in use until 1963, when it was destroyed by fire.

The final severance, of the Stourton connection with Stourton Caundle, was the sale of the estate in1714, due mostly to impoverishment brought about by penalties over a long period for the family’s refusal to change its religion. As “Recusants”, Roman Catholics in England who incurred legal and social penalties in the 1500s and afterward for refusing to attend services of the Church of England, they suffered serious penalties, including the sequestration of their property, from which they were never really able to recover.

I was too young to remember the first phase of the post war housing development in the field at Brimble.
I can remember the construction of the bungalows and seeing the wooden pegs in position, marking the locations for the houses in the final phase at the lower end in 1954.

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I spent most of my time outside of school hours on Manor Farm. In my primary school days this was usually with the owner’s son Reg Garrett.
At the end of each school day I would race down the road to our home at Bridge Cottage and change into my old clothes, before dashing across the road to the farm, to assist with the milking and to suckle the young calves.

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I was christened at St. Peters Church in the April of 1947 by Cannon Delahay.
The Church still had a strong influence on village life in the 1950s and all children were expected to attend Sunday school every Sunday afternoon from an early age.
We were given a stamp to stick in a book every time we attended and each year a prize was awarded to the child with the best attendance record.

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I started school at four years old, walking the short journey from Bridge Cottage wearing hob nailed boots.
My mother accompanied me on my first morning and I can remember seeing Mrs. Stainer at her customary position leaning on her garden gate, at the lower side of the school entrance, looking for an opportunity to catch up on the latest village news. I

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My earliest out of school memories are of the Trooper Inn and of the time I spent in the company of the then landlord Bob Green.
Bob had taken over the tenancy in 1948 following the retirement of his mother Charlotte, who had been landlady for 54 years.

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Following his demobilisation, in February 1946, my father must have been a man on a mission, intent on making up for lost time. My parents married at St. Peters Church Stourton Caundle, just two months later in April 1946 and I was born at Ralph Down Farm in January 1947.

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