Home History of Rode General Village A West Country Pot-pourri

A West Country Pot-pourri

By A H Batten Pooll VC MC, 1969 Extracts



“Here hills and vales and pleasant woods

Luxuriant sights’ the eyes chief good

A feast on nature which you prize

Will satiate your longing eyes”.

There are many verses of this poem of James Bodman which describe the beauty of the landscape, and other points of interest which may be seen from the top of Road Hill.

The name of Rhod probably preserves the original Rhyd, the British name for passage or ford, and Rhode may have been the oldest British settlement on the River Frome.

In the case of Wolfrington (Woolverton) the name means the farm (ton) of Wolfrum, who may have settled there after the Saxon Conquest.

In the time of Edward the Confessor, and the Conqueror Reginbold (Rumbal) was Lord of the Manor of Rode. He was priest of Rode and Frome, and was Chancellor to both the Confessor and the Conqueror. He was succeeded by Renulf de Farcy.

The Domesday book shows that there were two manors of Rode, one large, held by the Bishop of Coutances, who had five sub-tenants, who would each have had a small manor here. While it would appear that the Bishop’s sub-tenants also held a manor jointly direct from the King. Woolverton is not separately mentioned, so it is clear that these manors of Rode included that of Woolverton though it will be found that Rode is also described as part of the manor of Woolverton.

While in nomina villarum for Somerset March 5th Edward II 1315-16 there appears the following:-

“Woolverington cum La Rod, Nicholas de Seyntmour, Johannes Tourney”.

There is also a reference to the Lay subsidies paid by Rode and Woolverton during the 13th and 14th centuries, and which together amounted to 23/- annually. These were taxes voted by Parliament generally 1/15th or 1/10th of the annual value of the property and which were paid on land or goods.

Research has failed to reveal more than the customary three arable fields (though in Somerset I believe that two were more common) and green common of the feudal system, so I may assume that Northfield, Barrowfield, and Southfield, and Rode green common served all the small manors, though the Hungerford Rent Rolls suggest that Woolverton had its own meadow and arable field, if so, Barrow field would, no doubt, have been common meadow.

There are unfortunately no Court Rolls for Rode or Langham, nor ministers accounts, nor Rentals and Surveys, but the mention of Rode in the Woolverton Court Roll seems to argue that it was in the same manor – if the three arable fields served the three so-called manors, it would mean that they were originally one manor. Moreover, parts of a manor might lie in different parishes, and so there might be holders of land in Tellisford and Woolverton who would be entitled to graze their stock on Rode Common.

Rode was at one time an escheat of the Norman lands, and testimony is given that King John gave that land to James Russel – when the King lost Normandy, the lands of the Norman lords in England would fall to him.

The Calendar of Patent Rolls show that in 1484 a good deal of land at Rode was owned by Sir Thomas Everyngham, which had formerly been the property of Roger Tokottis, Kt. Everyngham, though he does not appear to have lived at Rode, was a distinguished soldier, and for his good service against the rebels, the King granted him a yearly rent of 66/8 in Rode, and all lands, rents, and services in Rode. Two years before he had been granted £40 a year from the issues of the lordship of Guynes in the Marches of Calais; and in 1484 he was appointed lieutenant of the tower of Rysbank in Picardy.

In the case of the manor of Langham there are also difficulties. The manor was originally part of the estates of the Abbess of Romsey, and Romsey Oak, since decayed, marked the boundary of the manor. But by 1316 it had become the property of Laurence de St. Maur, owner of the manor of Rode; so it may be that from this time on the manor of Langham had also the run of Rode green common, and possibly of the meadow and arable fields of Rode as well. At any rate the two manors are now referred to as “Redelagham”, and in later years as the “manor of Rode and Langham”. This St. Maur property became, I believe, by marriage that of the family of Zouche, and we read that Sir Walter Hungerford, who in 1581 paid a quit rent for Langham Mill, inherited that year the estate from his grandmother, who was a Zouche – the Zouche family are said to have been in debt to the Hungerfords, so it may be that the grandmother’s marriage was one of convenience. An earlier reference I have come across describes Sir Gilbert Debenham, Kt., in right of his wife Katherine, late wife of William, late Lord Zouche, as seized of the manor of Road, (and several other manors). of which, however, he was temporarily deprived until a debt of £100 for woollen cloth, owing to one Duplage, was made good.

Arthur Farquharson in his history of North Bradley and Roadhill also gives the following interesting items in respect of Langham:-

“There was originally an earth-work near Langham House, but when the house was built, the main sewer was laid here, and the earth-work then filled in. There were also some barrows hard by from which Barrow House and field received their names” – a very charming pencil sketch was made by Miss Tollemache of the former. The house is believed to have been pulled down during the 80’s of the last century.

The field which slopes from Langham House to the river is called Lanthorn Tun meadow, wither from a lanthorn chimney, or because of a beacon to guide travellers to the ford”.

As well as the barrows referred to, there is also the Devils bed bolster (the Pagan God became the Christian Devil) situated some 700 yards east of old Rode Church in the parish of Beckington. These chambered tumuli, like that of Stoney Littleton, belonged to the Neolithic age, and would seem to result from the grafting on to a pre-existing type of the megalithic architecture.

These barrows lie on Jurassic Oolitic limestone, and so their position would have been on the edge of, rather than in the middle of Selwood forest.

Fifth in descent from Laurence St. Maur was Alice St. Maur, a sole heiress, and the last of the elder house. She married in 1410 William Zouche, fifth Baron of Harringarth. By this marriage the manor passed from St. Maur to Zouche. The number of acres in this Zouche estate was about 440, worth at the then value of about £153 a year.

Among the names of lands that occur are the Barrow, Monkley, Quineys, Brydes lane, Rodehill grove, and at Langham, Dillybrook, Jennetts hill, Carleyfield, Copperstones, Birchenlease, Notes Corner.

There were also Rode Wygnam, and Woolverton’s Wygnam.

Margaret Pyarde held part of Ottes mead lying in County Wiltshire and abutting upon Rode bridge, shooting to the other half of the said mead which lay in County Somerset.

There were also mills, one called Sholdford (Shawford) being a stock and gryst mill, both under one roof, and 9 acres and fishing value £25 p.a.

Whitchurch of “Ye Brook”, or “Of the Mill” held Langham mill, value £26:6:8 p.a. held by Edward Ruttye.

In 1551 Lord Zouche sold much of his manor of Rode to Thomad Cheyney, K.G., Treasurer of the King’s Household, and to others. But in the 4 & 5 of Philips and Mary’s reign, he bought from Richard Zouche a moiety of the manor of Rode.

In 12 Elizabeth 1 1580, J. Walshe, Judge of the Queen’s Bench, bought from Charles Zouche, Esq., and Ursula his wife, a moiety of the manor of Langham, and a moiety of the manor of Rode, also a moiety of the advowson of Rode Church.

In the Hungerford Rent Rolls are references to the Zouches (1536-1537); to Sturges (1573 and 1580); and to Sadler in 1591, who must have had part of the manor on lease from Sir Walter Hungerford, and they therefore both appear as grantors of copyholders at this time.

In 1609 there is reference in the Rent Rolls to Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland (1578-1632) who married c1608 Cicley Tufton, daughter of Sir John Tufton, and widow of Sir Edward Hungerford, and so, for a time, owner of the manor of Rode. But after her demise in 1653, the estates seem to have reverted to Edward Hungerford of Corsham.

In 1595 Sir Walter Hungerford left a small legacy to the parish of Rode. The purchases he made there were probably left by him incomplete, or they were added to by his brother and successor, Sir Edward, for the latter in his will dated 15th December 1607, provides for the payment of “The £600 or thereabouts for ye purchase of ye manner of Rode and Langham from J. Sadler, gent, and others”.

Langham Mill is described as being held in 1604 by Sir Edward Hungerford as Freehold as paying to the Crown 6/8d formerly paid to the Abbey of Romsey.

In 1678 Margaret (Halliday) Lady Hungerford and Sir Edward Hungerford, K.B., the next in succession, leased Langham Mill to Edward Wayte of Farley.

There were also at Rode in Elizabethan time two smaller estates known as Bamfields and Stawels, which included Rode Mill and about 143 acres of land. Whether they formed part of the original St. Maur estate is not known, but, as will be seen in the chapter on the St. Maur family, they had become the property of Sir William of Seymours Court – we may suppose that they had been the patrimony left to Sir John, the first of the second House of St. Maur – they were left by Sir William to his two sisters.

Moieties of the manor of Rode belonging to Stawel and Bamfield were sold to the Webb family in 1564-66, and in 1598 J. Popham, Esq.. Attorney-General, and Anthony Skute, bought from Robert Webb, and Elizabeth his wife, moieties of the manors of Westbury Leighe, Beckington, and Rode, with appurtenances in Beckington, Standerwick, Rudge, Rode, and Berkeley, and the advowson of Beckington Church. Other moieties at Rode belonging to the Webb family were sold at this time to the Hungerfords.

Changes which took place in the ownership of the manor of Rode during the 17th century included the sale of part of the manor by the Horton family to Robert Vizard in 1621, this comprised appurtenances, 34 messuages, 10 cottages, 20 tofts, 30 gardens, 30 orchards, 178 acres of land, 36 acres of meadow, 56 acres of pasture for all kind of beasts in Rode, Rode Heathe, Tellesford and Woolverton.

The above would be spread out over these parishes not necessarily some of each in each parish. And so, Rode heathe was common appurtenant for those holding land belonging to the manor of Rode in any of the three parishes – the manor and parish were not necessarily the same.

In 1625 the Hortons sold more of their Rode property to Edward Hungerford.

In 1632 Robert Ducies Kt. & Bt., bought from Robert Webbe for £1,000 the manor of Beckington, a considerable property with free fishing in the River Froome, the advowson of Beckington Church and appurtenances in Rode. In 1637 it became the property of John and Edward Ashe, for which they paid £1,200 sterling The Ashe family came from Westcombe, but were at Freshford in 1634. John Ashe Esq., J.P,. was registrar of Tellisford in 1661.

Appurtenances, I would add, refer to any rights or fees not mentioned, but going with the land, such as fees for the use of mills. There might be nothing but the words would secure against any diminution of full enjoyment of the property.

In 1625 an inquisition was held at Devizes in respect of the estate of the late Richard Westfield. The Jury say that he was seized of the free chapel of St Leonards in Farleigh Castle, and the rectory of Tellisford in county Somerset, and of certain lands in Tellesford, Woolverton, and Rode, in the occupation of William Ball. By what service the advowson of the Church at Tellesford, and the aforesaid tenement in Tellesford, Woolverton. and Rode are held, the Jury are ignorant. He also owned land in Wiltshire, some of which he had lately purchased of Edward Hungerford – may we perhaps wonder whether the Hungerfords were not already in financial difficulties before the days of the “Spendthrift”.

It is interesting to note that, in days gone by, rent was often paid in kind, and this included pepper, and cummin seed (Cummin cyminum), presumably imported and used as a spice – I have referred to the rose as a token in such agreements, but sometimes a pair of gloves had to be presented – was it from this ancient practice that it became customary in Victorian times to make bets with ladies for this emblem.

Hungerford rent rolls seem to suggest that already in Elizabethan times mediaeval organization was changing, and that arable and meadow-land were becoming inter-changeable, e.g.:-

1 stitch of meadow in the Northfield (which was one of the common fields of the manor of Rode).

1½ acres of meadow in Rode Wignam.

2 acres of arable in Rode Wignam.

½ acre of meadow called mither lying in the northfield.

I have also come across a Deed of 1728 which refers to 1½ acres of meadow or pasture called Purchase Mead, enclosed out of Northfield.

The rent rolls also mention 1 acre of meadow in the Meade, of which there were two meadows, Broadmeade and Longmeade by Rode mill, while there was also 1 pasture called Watts Hanns.

That assignments of the above closes and moieties suggest the start of private ownership for others as well as for the Lord of the manor, is possibly supported by Stephen Locke having 1 several ground called Loxmore 20 acres.

In respect of tenancies, the manor of Rode and Langham was correct, and, according to the custom of the manor, a woman, to retain her copyhold, was required to live sole and chaste — no doubt, if she was wise, she followed the advice given by Squire Mascall for the month of June:- “And lastly for your health use much exercise, thin diet, and chaste thoughts”

Mistress Wales sighed – much exercise ill accorded with thin diet, however it might be with chaste thoughts.

(The Countryman’s Jewel. W.A. Woodward).

With the break up of the Hungerford estates, Henry Baynton had become the new owner of Farleigh Castle, and cl684 he sold to James Thatcher for £131:13:4d property in Rode, Langham, Woolverton, and Lullington (the “sale” was apparently a 999 years lease, and the price, probably near a freehold price, and so Baynton receives only one peppercorn rent). The property includes messuages, barns, stables, gardens, closes of meadows known as Pondclose at Church rowe (3 acres), Hullweares (1 acre), Wignams (1 acre), arable at Wignams (3 acres), arable dispersed in several common fields (16 acres). Much of this property had been in the occupation of William Webb.

Langham had also been bought by Henry Baynton, but he sold it to J. George (alias Edwards); in the early years of the following century it became the property of the Houlton family, and cl737 Robert Houlton sold the farm and mill to J. Andrews; in 1821 they were sold to T.W. Ledyard; for many years Langham was the property of the Laverton family, tenants of whom and of the adjoining estate which belonged to Mr. R.P.H. Batten Pooll were Mr. Cray, Mr. Morgan, Mr. Windell and Mr. Keen.

In 1920 the Langham and Pomeroy estate was sold by Mr. Laverton to Mr. W. Greenhill of Hilperton Marsh.

In 1737 the manor of Rode became the property of Mr. Andrews, a Bristol merchant, who built Northfield House. In old maps, fishponds are shown close by, which suggest that it was built on the site of a much older house.

In 1796 Northfield House was sold to Mr. Day, who soon afterwards sold it to Mr. Pooll, great uncle of Mr. Robert Langford of The Vale House, Timsbury, who succeeded to the property in 1871 and assumed the name of Batten Pooll.

In 1879 the house was considerably enlarged – unfortunately – and became known as Road Manor. It was sold in 1954, and subsequently demolished.  The grounds have since become the Tropical Bird Gardens.

Rode Common

This extended from Romsey Oak south over Vaggs hill, thence to a house near Puxwell, which seems to have had many aliases, i.e. Dennis Court, Tennis Court, Fives Court, Dixeys, The Green Man, when perhaps as “The last ale house on the heath”, it was burned down.

From here the common stretched to Rode-bridge, then up the hill and on to Southwick, and so back to Romsey Oak.

Road Common was enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1792.

A presentment, made at the Court Leet on April 28th 1763, and the Court of Edward Andrews, Esq., Lord of the Manor, included the following:-

No man shall summer before he hath wintered, nor summer more cattle than he can winter.

Thorns might only be cut between Michaelmas and Lady day. No fern might be cut before Lady day, the latter (old stile) being in September, nor yet before sunrising of the same day.

The stone called the white stone doth part the counties of Somerset and Wiltshire, and the Flint set in the Slab doth part the Lordship of Road, and Langham, and Southwick.

A right of way through Green meer, and through Mrs. Tucker’s Hullweare to Mrs. Pooll’s mills in time of high water.

No person shall put any more sheep into our common to dry after their being washed than they have a right to feed, in proportion to the ground they do occupy. And they there shall be no more than two sheep to an acre of commonable ground in winter.

Full details to be given in writing to the Bailiff or Reeve, of the stock to be pastured, and in right of what ground, and no strangers stock to be admitted.

No paid shepherd or cowherd to be in charge of stock on the common.

A person who so damages the ground as to be a danger to people travelling shall fill up and level the same.

Owners of geese were required to remove these from the common by midsummer. Failure to comply with these regulations resulted in fines.

Rode Common, before it was enclosed, may well have been an example of common appurtenant, and, no doubt, served not only the manors of Rode and Langham, but as previously suggested, probably those of Woolverton, Tellisford, and perhaps of Beckington, and Southwick also.

Of the two types of common grazing, Hone distinguishes common appendant as the right belonging to owners or occupiers of arable land to put draught cattle upon the lands of fellow-tenants, within the manor – presumably to manure the arable – also upon the lord’s waste.

Common appurtenant, however, may be annexed to land in other lordships; and claimed by immemorial usage or prescription, and for land not anciently arable, and extends to other stock as well as cattle.

In respect of Road (Rode) common, I would also like to refer to an illuminated copy made by Mr. B.J. Maslen of a plan of the Division of that part of the common which lies within the Manor of Road and Langham in the parishes of Road and North Bradley in the counties of Somerset and Wiltshire.

The Plan referred to is from a Survey by Jeremiah Cruse, Longleat, 1792, and is in the custody of the Rector and Churchwardens of Rode, through the courtesy of whom it has been possible for the aforesaid copy to be made, and to whom 1 wish to express my gratitude. The copy is now the property of the Wiltshire Archaeological Society.

The following are some further examples of tenancies, and local jurisdiction:-

View of Frankpledge with the Manor Court of Edward Hungerford. Kt, at Woolverton October 23rd, 1516, on account of the minority of John Tourney.  Acting on his behalf, Sir Edward Hungerford arranges and confirms a new tenancy of land lying around Woolverton to John Forster of Rode and Agnes his wife and their heirs which was formerly held of John Colman in the village of Rode, part of the manor of Woolverton.

Forster is to render annually to John Tourney and his heirs four shillings of silver at three terms of the year, at hock day, and the feasts of St. Michael, and St, Martin.

Tourney reserves for himself and his heirs. the wardship and marriage of the said John and Agnes being under age; he reserves for himself and his heirs suit of Court twice a year at two law days; he also requires that each of the heirs of the said John and Agnes shall on reaching full age give to him and his heirs 13/4 for his relief, and he also reserves for himself and his heirs the heriot of the said tenancy when it falls vacant.

The following cases also came before the Court:-

A new tenancy is accepted in the case of William Jonys who takes from the lord one cottage and 3½ acres of land with appurtenances recently in the tenure of Robert Pownde, for the term of his life according to the custom of the manor by roll and services thence previously due and by right accustomed. And he gives to the lord as a fine 2/1 and he makes his fealty and he is admitted tenant.

Several are before the Court for having defaulted in payment of rent among whom, it is noted with regret, the Prior of Monkton Farleigh, the Abbot of Keynsham, Robert Willoughby, Kt., Lord Broke the tenants of land and tenements recently at Langham, also the rector of Rode. The amercements, i.e. the rent due comes to 2/2 They are therefore in mercy. The abbot of Keynsham who was in trouble was presumably William Rolfe who was succeeded by J Stonehouse (Stourtons) who surrendered the Abbey to the Crown in 1539 Henry VIII subsequently settled the manor on Catherine Parr his last Queen, who afterwards married Tom Seymour, Lord High Admiral

Another case before the Court is that of William Graunte who is ordered penalty of 3/4 to sufficiently make his hedges between Chatley Style and le Yate, and sufficiently to make a gateway at le Yate before Christmas. He is also in trouble for having failed to keep the roof of his house in repair, as indeed are several others While the court further present that he ought to restore one le forow on the east of one le meer called the fotepath which leads from Woolverton to Rode, therefore it is ordered that he restore it before the feast of St. John the Baptist under penalty 20d.

Further they present that William Graunte and several others permit their pigs to go at large to the hurt of their neighbours, therefore they are in mercy. They are also ordered under penalty to ring their pigs before the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.

They also present that Thomas Pyckering made an attack on Thomas a servant of John Palmer and took away four oxen from him, therefore he is in mercy. It is agreed by the assent and consent of all the tenants that none of them put his sheep to pasture in the sown fields on lands and meadows belonging to his own tenure under penalty of 20d. to each of them so defaulting.

It cannot be suggested that the Courts held at Woolverton were harsh and tyrannical, since view of Frankpledge with the manor court of – Bulstrode held there on 22nd April in the 8th year of King Henry VIII found that little notice had been taken of their findings and warnings. As however William Graunte was now one of the jurors he was, no doubt, able to take a lenient view of his own failings, and those of others; and so the warnings are merely repeated, and another delinquent John Sotherey is ordered to restore the forow on the west side of that le Mere called the fotepath which leads from Woolverton to Rode under penalty of 20d.

In respect of – Bulstrode, Sir Walter Hungerford married Jane Bulstrode, and their son was Sir Edward Hungerford.

The Court book for the Hundred of Whitway with the manors of Road and Langham 1763-1775 deals with proceedings at the Court Leet and View of Frankpledge, and Court Baron of Edward Andrews Esq who being an infant in 1271763, his guardians Charles Hotckin and Elizabeth his wife, act on his behalf. Such include the appointment of officials of the manor, i.e. Constable, Scavenger, Hayward, Tythingman, Reeve, Aletaster, Inspector of bread, and of weights and measures; new tenancies, prosecution of tenants who have neglected to carry out repairs to their houses, and of those who have made inencroachments on the common.

The Presentment of the Jury at a Court Leet and Court Baron held on 30th April 1805 before Samuel Day, Esq., himself there present. Mr. T.W. Ledyard foreman ot the Jury.

Mr. Robert Gaisford is appointed Constable of Road, and Mr. Thomas Woolly is to serve in a similar capacity at Woolverton.

Mr. John Brownjohn is to serve the office of Tythingman for both Road and Woolverton.

Mr. James Rodaway is to serve the office of Hayward for the parish of Road, and Mr. William Osborne is to serve in a similar capacity at Woolverton.

Those not present are required to go before a magistrate to take the oath under a penalty of ten pounds.

The Court further present that Scutt’s bridge must be immediately repaired, and that the Churchwardens and Overseers of Road and Woolverton shall collect evidence as to whose duty it is to repair the bridge.

By the Local Government Act of 1894, Parish Councils took over the work of the “Vestry”.

In respect of the above Courts, the Court Baron was held every three weeks, it dealt with the affairs of the manor, i.e. tenants, heriots, customs of the manor.

The Court Leet (View of Frankpledge) was a Court, not of the manor, but of the Hundred, it dealt with petty offences against the Public.

 As will have been noticed, however, it would seem to have been customary for the two Courts to sit in concert.


Have a care she is fair the white witch there

In her crystal cave up a jevelled stair

She has spells íor the tiving vould waken the dead

And they lwk in the line of her lips so red

And they lie in the twns of her delicate head

And the golden gleams of her haif

J.G. Whyte Melville.

 Such died hard at Rode — and is it surprising — the tortures and atrocities which the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches inflicted on each other can hardly have made Christianity very popular.

Moreover that so many, including Wesley, should have believed in witchcraft is understandable when we read in the Bible that such occur (Exodus XXII. 18).

At Rode Church there is an interesting picture painted by W. Wheatley, presented by the late Major Geoffrey Crofton to the Churchwardens of Rode in 1952 in memory of his father at one time rector of Rode-cum-Woolverton, and to whom the picture had been presented by one of his parishioners. This shows parishioners dancing round the Church. Of the picture Dr. M.A. Murray has written as follows:-

“It is obviously the same dance as the ring dance round Robin Goodfellow. I wonder if it was originally round the Divine Victim in the form of a man, and later in the form of the Host, then, as the Host was Kept in the Church, the dance was held round the Church. It is clearly not the ordinary Churchyard dance which was performed by both sexes, and was either processional, or in couples, and seems to have been on the north side of the Church”.

In respect of witchcraft, the Quarter Sessions Great Rolls show that Rode during the 17th century was troubled by numerous witches. Although witchcraft was illegal until 1736, it seems to have been very seldom that a King’s Court, or an Ecclesiastical Court, prosecuted, and such unfortunate persons were usually subjected by the Public to the water-test – if she could swim she was guilty, if she drowned she was innocent.

At Rode, Margaret Waddon was accused of witchcraft, and while she and her son were milking their cows on Rode Common, some men arrived from North Bradley, and after throwing down the milk of the two cows, hurried the poor woman down to the river where they all but drowned her, while her son who tried to protect her was assaulted.

So late as the 6th July 1694, when belief in witchcraft had considerably declined, again came men from North Bradley who broke into Mrs. Habberfield’s house at Rode, took her down to the river and submitted her to the water-test.

Scoundrels treated Mrs. Neal of North Bradley in the same way; breaking into her house, they took her to Rode and threw her into the river; rescued by her son, she was again thrown into the river and almost drowned.

Osward Browne of Rode declared on oath that the above mentioned men told him that they suspected him of being a wizard, that they would burn his house down, and storm him in the river.

The white witch, however, would seem to have had good intentions, though, according to Whyte Melville, she too wanted watching.

Belief in witchcraft seems to have continued, in out of the way places, until the middle of the last century, and is referred to by Henry Kingsley in Ravenshoe.

The Church

Rode Church was dedicated to St. Laurence, perhaps because Laurence St. Maur was lord of the manor; because it was rebuilt on St. Laurence’s day (August 10th); or more probably because it was near to Hinton Priory, which Carthusian order had a special devotion to St. Laurence who was martyred at Rome in 258 — for this same reason, no doubt, Woolverton is also dedicated to St. Laurence.

One of the first Clergymen to be presented to the living of Rode was Jordan de Thorended in 1226 who was Robert de St. John’s clerk. The living was in the gift of the King by reason of the Norman lands being in the King’s hands.

In 1346 at the request of Thomas de Swymerton, licence was granted for the Prioress and Convent of Brewode to appropriate the Church of Rode which was of their advowson. They accordingly exercised their rights, and put in a vicar whose stipend would be less than the profits. Swymerton was perhaps related to the Prioress, or interested in the Convent for some other reason. But twenty-nine years later on November 13th 1375, John de Chitterne was presented to the Church of Rode, the living was in the King’s gift by reason of the Keeping of the land and heir of Nicholas St. Maur, Kt., who held in Chief, being in his hand.

It would seem therefore that the Convent, or Sir Nicholas St. Maur may have held the advowson and appropriation for a term of years only — Kings were always trying to claim back grants, so as to make more money by regranting.

St. Nicholas’ heir was evidently a minor, and all lands of minors were in the King’s hands. The Prioress may have done some offence, or lost the letters patent. These were granted by the King himself, or by his Council if he were a minor, and issued by the Chancery under the Great Seal.  Lands held in mortmain, e.g. by Church or Corporation are not easily recovered and are a decided disadvantage to the Crown, since they never die, and so the King never gets aids payable on the accession of heirs.

In 1411, J. Orum was presented to the Church of Rode; in 1415 William Fostbury – the presentation being in the King’s gift by reason of the Keeping of the lands and heir of Richard St. Maur, Kt., tenant in chief of Henry IV being in his hands, on an exchange of benefices with Master Orum; in 1416 Simon Membury came to the Church of Roode (Rode) on an exchange of benefices with William Fostbury.

Valor Ecclesiasticus gives the following in respect of Woolverton and Rode:- “Woolverton (Wolfryngton).  Geoffrey Hodsham rector there. Rectory there is worth per annum in demesne lands 12/-; land tithes £5:13:4d; tithe of wool and lambs 2Q/-; offerings 22/8d; whence £7:8:0d. moneys paid to the Archdeacon of Wells 6/7½d, to the Bishop of Bath 2½d, and there remains clear £7:1:2d, a tenth thereof is 14/1½d.

Rode. William Baker rector there. Rectory there is worth per annum in demesne lands 30/-, in land tithes 113/4, tithe of wool and lambs 15/4, offerings £4:1:4d, whence £12:0:0d. moneys paid to the Archdeacon of Wells 10/5½d, to the Bishop of Bath 2½d, and there remains clear £11:9:4d., a tenth thereof is £1:2:11¼d.

In 1617, on Sunday December 14th, Nathaniel Hillierd parson of Rode did P’Claym before the Congregacon of the Church of the sayd P’ishe of Rode and plainly read all and singular the Articles of Religion which are set forth by the Church of England appointed to be read by each beneficed man in the open Church.

In 1625, a service of thanksgiving was held at Rode for the staying of the plague (in 1866 a special prayer was offered up during the prevalence of Cholera and cattle plague).

In 1633 Henry Lugge was in trouble for non-attendance at church, while that same year a complaint was laid at Wells against Elizabeth Tylee for disturbing Mrs. Helliers our Parson’s wife during service.

“Owing to the Civil War”, the Rector writes, “the Country was so disturbed there were no weddings in the years 1643 and 1644. While during the Commonwealth there were many marriages before Justices of the Peace”. This Register includes a series so well and clearly written, that it almost exceeds any register seen. There were ten such marriages in 1654 and nineteen in 1655, of which the following is an example:- “1655. The Contract of marriage between Ambrose Yeats of Lullington and Elizabeth Thresher of this parish was published in the parish church of Rode these severall lords days; To wit: the 19th and the 26th August and on the 2nd September. They were married the 23rd October by J. Ashe, Esq., Justice of the Peace for this County in the presence of theise witness William Yearbury Thomas Whitaker”.

Presumably to help the wool trade, burial was required to be in wool:- “I.T.W. Rector of Road, doe certify you the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Parish that no Affidavit hath been brought to me for the Burial of Elizabeth Dutton in woollen within the known time Limited by Act of Parliament”.

Perhaps like Anne Oldfield, she too had protested at being buried in woollen:- “Odious in woollen t’would a saint provoke were the last words that Poor Narcissa spoke”.

In 1738 the parishes of Rode and Woolverton were united.

Rode Church has six bells, the first three of which were recast by the well-known Somerset bell-maker Thomas Bilbie of Chew Stoke, and they bear the names of William Tucker and Henry Batten, who were Churchwardens in 1753.

The sixth bell was cast by Mears in London in 1817, and gives the names of Henry Batten Pooll and J. Thomas, Churchwardens.

In 1920 by an Order in Council, the living of Rode and Woolverton was transferred to the patronage of the Bishop of Bath and Wells; and in 1923 the living of Rode-hill was united with that of Rode and Woolverton.

In 1822 the work of building Road-hill Church was commenced and completed two years later.

Although Archdeacon Daubeney contributed £3,000, there was still more than £7,000 to be found.

Since there was already a very large Church in the village, a smaller one at Woolverton, and another at Tellisford — all within easy walking distance, there does not seem to have been any great desire on the part of the Ecclesiastical authorities to economise.

The Church has been described as “a perfect picture on the summit of a hill, in the midst of the most enchanting landscape”.

In respect of the last I would have been in complete accordance fifty odd years ago, but with the description of the Church I cannot agree, for a more hideous structure I have seldom come across.

Woolverton Church is described as mainly 15th/16th century with 19th century restorations, there are however references to a church at Woolverton from at least the end of the 13th century. (Weavers’ Incumbents of Somerset. Also Taxatio of 1292 quoted by Collinson).


William Yerbury gave to the Churchwardens of Rode £50 with direction to procure a rent charge of 50/- a year. This, with the addition of £55 belonging to the parish, they employed to purchase a field called Leys, 3½ acres in extent, abutting upon the highway leading from Rode to Scutt’s bridge on the north side, and upon a ground called green meere in the Southfield of Rode on the south side.  (By indenture March 3rd 1703). This produced a rental of 50/- a year which was distributed in Lenton bread.

There is also the following reference:- “Land called “Leys” cited in the report of the Charity Commissioners c1830 would seem to be that mentioned in the Tithe award of 1849 – in respect of Woolverton, plan 258A (la, 2r). and of Rode plan 258B (la, 3r). as belonging to the Batten Pooll family, and situated between Merfield and the lane which runs from Rode to Scutt’s bridge shown on the Ordnance survey map (1926 edition) as Rocabella hill”.

By the Will of Henry Batten Pooll of Merfield House, Road, (June 6th 1860), the following with many others became beneficiaries:-

The Bath Eye Infirmary                                                   £500

The Bath United Hospital                                               £500

The Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society          £10,000

The Church Missionary Society                                   £1,000

The fund for Superannuated Wesleyan Ministers    £5,000

The Bible Society                                             £5,000

The Wesleyan Ministers Widows Auxiliary Fund      £5,000

By a codicil he left an additional £10 to the Bath Eye Infirmary, and an additional £500 to the Bath United Hospital. By this codicil he also financed the Wesleyan Chapel and Day School at Rode – to which 1 have referred in another chapter.


The ancient market of Rode was revived on January 13th 1758, and was held on every Thursday of the week for all sorts of corn, cattle, and other provisions — Chedder Cheese originated in the 17th Century.

            The annual fair was also revived on the Eve day and morrow of St. Mararet the Virgin, being the 19th and 20th of July.

            For many years, until the middle of the last century, a very large cheese and pleasure fair was held in September every year, in a field called Bennelersleigh, situated opposite Road-hill Church, through which, before the common was enclosed, passed the Bradford road. The fair attracted buyers from Bath and Bristol, and even from London, but Frome became more attractive, and it was abandoned.

            A sheep fair was also held at Rode on September 1st.

            The rearing of calves for Smithfield was at one time a flourishing industry at Rode — the carcases were taken to Wellow, and there entrained to London. The manufacture of Leghorn hats was also a Rode industry, for which the correct types of grass were collected locally.

            Towards the end of the century, bricks were manufactured at Rode Common.

            Connected with industry, and an interesting relic of the past at Rode, were two saw-pits, one near the workshop of Mr. Prescott, carpenter on the Rode Manor estate, and which he made use of; another at the top of Rode-hill which belonged to Mr. Pickard; while I think that I am correct in saying that there was one situated between Laverton and Cockroad, where there was also a lime-kiln.

            Saw-pits go back to medieval times, one man stood in the pit, the other (top-sawyer) stood above ground on a raised platform. The term “top-sawyer” has in more recent times been employed to denote those who excel, more especially perhaps in the world of sport.

            I have also come across a reference to the manufacture of chamois leather from sheepskin at Langham Mill.

An unusual industry at Rode — if I may refer to it as such — was the sale of mineral water— “gentlemen and ladies can be supplied with the Rode mineral water by sending their order to Mr.

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Benjamin Edwards the proprietor”. (Bath Journal April 28th 1746).

            Rode, in the 18th century, had, I believe, neither Assembly rooms, theatres, nymphs, or any such like attractions which flourished in the gay and fashionable City of Bath. Nevertheless the village was the proud possessor of two medicinal springs, and a pump-room.

            One of these springs, situated above the vicarage, became exhausted; while a spring of ordinary water broke into the latter and destroyed it.

            This latter was situated in the centre of the village (at Corner house).

            When digging the well, says the owner, they first encountered 2′ to 3′ of black earth, then a stiff yellowish clay for 8′ to 10′, they then came to a hard blue marl about 10′ thick, below this came a hard marly rock 1½’ thick from which flowed a spring, below this came 18′ to 20′ of blue marl, to be succeeded once more by some hard rock from which came the mineral spring.

            The blue marl is, no doubt, the same limestone rock which was dug at Mr. Rose’s quarry. The scaly rocks from which issued the two springs may well be the purer limestone which is much in evidence at the small disused quarry near Laverton.

            Dr. Williams, a Bath physician, investigated the springs at Rode, and communicated his discoveries to Dr. Derham, who thought them fit to be presented to the Royal Society in 1731.

            “Tis true”, says Dr. Williams, “That art can incorporate simple medicines in a very elegant and greeable manner, but the virtues arising from such a composition must often fall short of the qualities which result from a mixture of the same ingredients composed by nature”.

            Dr. Williams points out that the Rode waters are volatile and penetrating, they that contain iron which is a good deobstruent, sulphur which deterges the canals of vitiated humours, and which by its healing properties acts as a balsam to the human machine, and that the lixiviate salts contained in the water cleanse the viscera.

            According to Dr. Williams there are very few maladies which might not be cured by drinking the Rode waters, and these include leprosy, elephantiasis, and gout, the latter, he says, the result of French slight wines, cyder, and punch being drunk in preference to; port wine and mild ale. He admits however that the Rode waters should be drunk in strict moderation, and at long intervals, and careful attention paid to diet.  “The complete family physician”. by Hugh Smithson, M.D., 1781, gives the following description:—

“Road, Wiltshire. The water in this spring is Chalybeate with a mixture of sulphur perceptible to the smell, it is prescribed for the same disorders as the Queen Camel water, that is to say for

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diseases of the skin”.


The following letter from Mr. Thomas Whitaker of Rode to his niece, lately married, and living at Devizes, may be of interest to those contemplating matrimony. Correct spelling, it will be noted, was still of no consequence.

Roade 19th Novr. 1768

Dear Mdm,

            I thought by this time all matter was amicably settled on the terms proposed; an sorry to hear by my kinsman an obstacle is started up that have retarded the prograce of your mutual happiness — in settling my own three daughters I never requested a farthing to be retained, but what I gave is the husband’s own if his wife died the next day, and my reason for it is I have known severall instances where the wife have had a power of disposing part of her fortune being attended with very bad consequences; to mention one instance Mr. Hilman our rector a native of your town married one Mrs. Wadman of our parish that had a superiour fortune to him, she reserved part to be at her own Disposal though if he pleased her was to have all this raised a jealousy between them and for many year livd a miserable life, until at last Mrs. Hilman by Deed of gift gave all to him and then they lived a more comfortable life, with regard to my kinsman no one knows future Events a person may be the most judicious carefullest man that can be, and yet fortune do not favour all, and supposing you was to die and leave no child he may have children by another wife and it would be hard at his death to have his children’s fortunes reduced, (especially if but small before) for these reasons, and his father being intirely a gaist it I cannot give my consent to it, I shall be glad to here that matters is compromised and that I could stile my self Mdm you Affect Uncle Tho. Whitaker.

Addressed to Mrs. Bush, at Devizes.

            Towards the end of the 18th century it was legal for parishes to provide substitutes for their quota of men to serve in the Militia. In 1781 it was agreed at a Vestry meeting at Rode that every man liable to serve in the Militia that year should pay to Josiah Vaggs 5/- for the purpose of hiring three young persons to serve in the Militia, the residue to be paid from the poor rate.

            A fire occurred at Rode about 1800, and Mr. Tovey, whose house near the old Church was then destroyed, built Dillybrook.

            Whether this fire, slow decay, or the new machinery imported by the Methuen family had caused the village to recede from the old Church to a position nearer to the river, research has failed to elucidate,

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but certain it is that Rode is a village strangely lacking in old houses.

            The distress of the post-Waterloo period was very great; Rode received £50 from the London General Committee and North Bradley £100, while Frome had to provide annually £13,000 for those out of employment.

            The world has changed since 1879, but the following is an abbreviated account of a welcome-home which was perhaps customary in years gone by: —

“Such a scene as that witnessed in this neighbourhood on Thursday last when that much esteemed young squire Mr. R.P.H. Batten Pooll of Road Manor, brought home his bride, the eldest daughter of Duncan Macrae, Esq., of Kames Castle, Isle of Bute, has never before gladdened the eye of that historic personage, the oldest inhabitant. King Frost held the earth in his icy embrace and interwove the bare trees in a network of his own weaving as about midday the bride and her respected husband passed through this district en route for their Somersetshire home, Road bells were ringing and flags were flying while Beckington bells took up the tone and carried the news over hill and dale. Talk of Trowbridge far famed flower show, there were flowers, flags, festoons, mottoes and triumphal arches sufficient to render any crusty old bachelor miserable for the remainder of the term of his natural existence. Entering Rode from the Wiltshire side, escorted by the Frome Troop of the North Somerset Yeomanry, the Tenantry on horseback, and the Road band in a brake and pair, the procession entered the Avenue leading to Northfield Manor House (later Rode Manor), the entrance of which avenue was spanned by a massive archway of evergreens devised as a castle. The carriage drawn by four grey steeds with rosettes, the postillions in scarlet jackets, the Road Brass band in uniform, and the sunlight flashing on the burnished helmets of the troopers made a most imposing sight. At Northfield House, then in process of being enlarged, the bridal pair were received by the Rev. C. Baker of Tellisford, his wife and daughters, who, on behalf of tenants and neighbours offered every kind of wish for their happiness and sincere congratulations in coming among them that day.

            Mr. Batten Pooll replied thanking them exceedingly for their kind expression of hearty welcome, while a tall graceful form with the clear stamp of Bonny Scotland on her face and in her expressive eyes, stood before the multitude and smilingly acknowledged the hearty reception they gave her.

            Soon after, the bridal pair re-entered their carriage and the procession wound through Woolverton to Beckington, both of which adorned with evergreens, flags and mottoes.

            At Beckington the procession ended.

            The Tenants and Yeomanry were invited to inspect the

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presents; after which they were entertained with a sumptuous dinner followed by speeches, music and songs.

            Rode at one time had many more Public houses than now; included were “The Jew’s harp” which stood where Green Park Lane crosses the Beckington road, and perhaps the most famous of them all “The Green Man” to which reference has been made and which was situated near “Puxwell” — perhaps because of the convenience of the spring. It has been suggested that the name of the inn is derived from the forest fairies, since here the elms give way to the oak forest of the Bradford Clay formation.

            Events have from time to time been celebrated at Rode with such jollifications as fire-works, sports, teas, the roasting of an ox, the attendance of the Road Brass Band, and formerly of the Fife and Drum Band as well. The former was at one time known as the Farleigh Castle Brass Band, and I think that I am correct in saying that it was Mr. Abraham Laverton then living at Farleigh, who was the founder. These celebrations took place either in the triangular field just above Townsend farm, at Shawford House, at Rode Manor, or in Langham fields, and these included the Peace rejoicings at the close of the Crimean war in 1856; the marriage of the Prince of Wales in 1863; the Jubilee of 1887, the Diamond Jubilee of 1897; the Coronations of 1902 and 1911 – for which latter occasion the fife and drum band was revived by Mr. Beagle.

            On June 23rd 1909, George Prince of Wales and the Princess of Wales drove through Woolverton while they were making a tour of their Duchy of Cornwall — here they received a most loyal welcome, while the Road Amateur Brass Band played “God bless the Prince of Wales”.

            Rode sports dated from 1888 when they formed part of the entertainment provided at a fete held in a field adjoining Rode Manor, and which had been arranged in connection with the United Counties Reading and News-room.

            The Sports became an annual event, and were held each September in a field kindly lent by Mr. Arnold on the south side of the village. They have not been held since 1914.

            Even up to the turn of the last century, life at Rode was still a little primitive. Dr. Evans lived at Beckington, and before the days of telephones, it was customary for the village nurse, Miss Spiller, to hang out a red flag when his services were required.

            Woodforde has described in his “Diary of a country parson”, how in 1784 he inspected a balloon near Norwich, which reminded me of an occasion in the early days of flying when an aeroplane landed in a field near Rode Manor, and the miracle occurred once more — many who, owing to rheumatism, had been bed-ridden for years were now able to arise, and if they did not take up their bed, were at any rate able to walk as far as the aeroplane – it caused

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no little amusement in the neighbourhood.

            The boundary line between Somerset and Wiltshire was, no doubt, planned before the village crept down towards the river, since, until recently it followed the brook under the Red Lion, and cut through several houses, so that a person might sleep, as some did, with half their body in one county, and the other half in the adjoining county.

            Not long before the first World War an outstanding act of gallantry occurred at Rode when Mr. J. Harding saved the life of a child who had fallen down a well.

            Mr. Harding, at the time, was serving in the Bath Police Force; on the outbreak of war he obtained permission to join the Army; he was subsequently so seriously wounded that, on the conclusion of hostilities, he was unable to resume his police duties.

            What might also have been a tragedy occurred at Rode about the same time when a too inquisitive small boy toppled over into a barrel of tar.

            A brass plate at St. Lawrence’s Church, Rode, bears the following inscription: —

Sacred to the memory of

William Alfred Wheeler

bugler Royal Marine Light Infantry

younger son of Col. Serg. Wm. Wheeler,

(late R.M.L.I.) of this village.

            This boy was drowned in his 17th year in the service of his country together with the Rt. Hon. The Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, K.G., His Majesty’s Secretary of State for War, on June 5th 1916, when H.M.S. “HAMPSHIRE” was lost at sea off the Orkney islands.

“The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised”.

            The Woolverton War Memorial has the following inscription:-

Walter Haine, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, France 1915.

“These men of ours, unselfish, unafraid,

Went to the world wide fight

Forget not how they fought and how we prayed

For England and for right.”

Sir Henry Newbolt.

(Written at the request of Mr. & Mrs. Batten Pooll).

            That of Rode 1914-1919:-

“The Lord has wrought great things by them through his great power”.

            Pte. Percy Martin, D.C.L.I., Pt. Frank Mattick, Wilts, Regt. Pts. John Moore, 0 & B.L.L, A.B. Henry Noad, R.N.R., Gr. Howard Pickard, M.M. Austo, F.A., Pte. Walter Short, R.A.S.C., Pte. Walter

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Stokes, Austr. I.N.F., Pte. Percy Stokes, Wilts Regt., Pte. Bertram Vincent, Somt, L.I. Bugler William Wheeler, R.M.L.I., Dvr. George Woods, R.F.A., Capt. Dudley Smithies, K.R.R.C., Sergt. William Couch, B.I.R., Corpl. William Prescott, Can. Inf., Pte. Harry Biggs, G. Guards, Pte. Edward George, Glos. Regt., Pte. John Gibson, Hants, Regt., Sapper Charles Goulter, R.E., Pte. Henry Harfitt, I. Guards, Pte. Reginald Howell, Can. Inf., Pte. Ernest Kemp. Austr. Inf.


            Corp. Donald Heath, R.A.C., Sergt. Trevor Gillier, R.A.F., Pte. Cecil Huggard, R.O.A.C., Pte. Edward Lukins, Wilts. Regt., Sapper Ivor Lukins, R.E., Mech. Albert Markey, R.N., Lieut Graham Moon, Somt. L.I.. Gdmn, Charles Phear, C. Guards, P/0 Robert Wilden, R.A.F.C.R.

            Among those who took an active part in the first World War was Capt. Heathcote, R.N., of Shawford, who, despite his sixty odd years, commanded Lord Inverclyde’s yacht the Beryl, which had been taken over by the Admiralty for the duration of the war. Based on Queenstown, he spent many exciting months hunting German submarines.

            After the first World War a German howitzer was presented to the parish, and was placed in the plot of ground on which stands the Woolverton War Memorial. The gun, however, with the railings which surrounded it, were removed during the Second World War in the salvage of metal campaign, and the authorities have not seen fit to replace it.

            For many years, owing to the unfortunate way in which the name of the village was spelt, telegrams, and even letters occasionally miscarried, and at the conclusion of the war, at the request of Mrs. Batten Pooll, the Parish Council unanimously resolved that the name of the parish spelt Road should revert to the more ancient spelling of Rode. This was confirmed by an order made by Somerset County Council on August 1919.

            The following is a record of game killed on the Rode Manor estate and adjoining farms, which latter included Church farm, Laverton; Row farms; New Barn farm; and later Charlton farm; from about 1882-1953. During the season 1882, 935 head of game were killed which included 329 partridges, 214 pheasants, 26 hares, 360 rabbits, and a woodcock. Except during such years when heavy thunderstorms in early June destroyed the young birds, the game-books show a steady increase in game during the next 34 years.

            During the 80’s J. Copp and his son were gamekeepers on the Rode Manor estate, and by 1897 the head of game killed amounted to 2,840, which included 781 partridges.

            During the early years of the following century there was further increase in the game killed as occurred in 1909 when 830

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partridges, and 213 hares were shot, although much arable was now going down the grass. For this increase the credit must go to Tom Coombs who had succeeded J. Copp as head-keeper.

            By 1916 deterioration was becoming apparent, game-keepers had joined the Forces with consequent increase in vermin, while a few years later fertilizers were destroying insect life, apparent by the reduction of small birds as well as of partridges, and by the end of the season 1930-31 only 1,893 head of game had been shot, which included no more than 186 partridges. At the end of this season, and the following, the shooting rights over those farms which did not belong to the estate were given up, and these included the Laverton Coverts — after 54 years.

            Although partridges were becoming scarce, rabbits continued to carry on, and on December 9th 1938, 282 were shot at Woolverton woods, which constituted a record.

            A few snipe were shot most seasons, for which the brickfield at Rode Common was a “sure find”, as was often Chatley furlong near Norton St. Philips, and the West-Meads brook.

            An occasional landrail was shot in September. The Rode Manor game-books, I would add, have been presented to the Somerset Record Office.

            Shooting parties at Rode often included Mr. Endymion Porter whose conservatism was apparent not only in Politics, but out shooting as well, since it required him to employ blackpowder, when, after discharging his hammer gun, he might be seen peering round the barrage in an attempt to discover whether he had hit his bird or not.

            With the advent of the 2nd World War the shooting was taken over by a syndicate, but with the increase of vermin, sprays, and artificial fertilizers, and finally by the introduction of myzyamatosis, a steady decrease in game continues.

            During the season 1953-54 no more than 256 head of game were shot, which included 26 partridge, 96 pheasants, 31 hares, 102 rabbits, and a pigeon — total extinction does not seem far off. This would seem to have occurred several years ago on Mendip, where, around Priddy, in the 80’s, 50 brace of partridges were killed in a day.

            It is interesting to note the steady increase of game during the 80’s and the early years of the present century, in spite of younger sons having been allowed to shoot over their father’s estate – the Duke of Wellington had resisted the extension of this privilege as stoutly as he had the Reform Bill — he seems to have thought that there would not be a head of game left – His Grace was certainly paying some of us no small compliment.

            On April 1st 1937, by an Order of the Ministry of Health, part of Southwick parish, i.e. Rode Hill (Wiltshire) was transferred to the

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parish of Rode (Somerset). The boundary line between Wiltshire and Somerset would in future extend from Rode Common to Dillybrook farm, thence across the Rode-Wingfield road, and keeping to the south of Vagg’s Hill, across Langham farm to the point where a stream joins the river.

            What a misfortune it is that officialdom cannot let well alone.

To refer once more to village concerts the following is an account of one held at Silcox Hall, Rode. . .



The parish choir at Road having been got together during the last six months, issued an announcement that they would give a musical entertainment on Tuesday, and under the able conductorship of Mr. Prosser, a most creditable performance, consisting of solos, part songs, and a little instrumental music took place in Mr. Silcocks’s hall, the only place in the village available for such entertainments.

The hall is the property of that public-spirited man, Mr. Silcocks, who does his best for the community in every way; but it is hardly large enough for general purposes, and some other charitably disposed person should complete what he has begun. However, on this occasion there were 80 people admitted, including performers, and the rest had to wait until another day, which everyone hopes will not be far distant. The glees were exceedingly well sung, all the voices blending well together and producing a fine volume of sound. The rehearsals had taken place at Merfield house under the guidance of Mrs. Torkington, who hospitably entertained the singers on these evenings as she also does at the weekly choir practices, making the evenings pass enjoyably, and thus combining pleasure with business. The programme was divided into two parts, each beginning and ending with a glee, and was carried out in the following order. Part 1.-Glee, “March of the men of Harlech”, Choir; song “Good time coming”, Mr. Silcocks; song, “Echoes”, Miss F. Wooley; violin and piano, “Il Trovatore”, Miss Wooley and Mr. Trollope; song, “Happy as the day is long”, Mr. Smith; glee, “Hearts oí oak”, Choir; violin solo, Mr. Holton. Interval of ten minutes. Part 2-Glee, “The happy peasant”, Choir; song, “Alice, where art thou?”, Mr. Goulter; song, “Good news from home”, Mr. Silcocks; song, “Darby and Joan”, Mrs. Torkington; overture, “Poet and peasant”, Misses Silcocks; song, “Polly Perkins”, Captain Torkington; song, “Let me dream again”, Miss Prosser; song, “Bradshaw’s guide”, Mr. Smith; “God save the Queen”. Mr. Silcocks’s opening song was very nicely sung and received a well-merited encore; unfortunately Miss F. Wooley

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was suffering from a severe cold, which was much regretted by all as hers is the finest voice in the choir, of which, also, she is the most regular attendant. Her place in the programme was filled by Captain Torkington, who sang a song, which being comic, was of course encored. Mr. Trollope then played a well-executed solo on the violin, Miss Wooley accompanying him on the piano. Mr. Smith, the local comic, then sang a capital song, “Happy as the day is long”; which being vociferously encored, he had no choice but to follow with another equally amusing. A glee concluded part 1. Mr. Goulter, the leading tenor, then sang that very pretty song “Alice where art thou”, and considering the short time he had had to get up so comparatively difficult a piece, he did very well and was warmly applauded. Mr. Silcocks again pleased the audience with “Good news from home”. Mrs. Torkington, who was much cheered, thoroughly touched the hearts of her hearers by her feeling rendering of “Darby and Joan”; they seemed to dwell on every note, especially at that touching illusion to the loss which these two old models of happiness had sustained in former years; and the audience demanded a repetition, which she graciously accorded. Mr. Houlton, of Farley Castle, a capital violinist, played a difficult and well-executed solo; but the nature of the piece made it end so abruptly that the audience were taken aback and fancying there was more to come, failed to give him that applause which he so richly deserved. The two Misses Silcocks in their duet on the pianoforte showed what diligence combined with natural talent will do; Captain Torkington’s “Polly Perkins” in character caused roars of laughter and fairly brought down the house. Miss Prosser, evidently very well taught, sang with great effect, and her sweet voice echoed well through the hall, which, by the way has excellent acoustic properties. Mr. Smith wound up the entertainment with two rattling comic songs. The daily courtship of the hero of the second one brought out the absurdities of a Cockney lover in a most ridiculous light; and another song was demanded of this amusing comic singer, but “God save the Queen” put an end to this pleasant evening’s entertainment, which we hope may be the forerunner of many others.



            It has been supposed by many that the St. Maurs of Rode, Beckington and Westbury were the ancestors of the Dukes of Somerset, while some have thought that it was at Seymour’s Court (St. Mary’s Court) that Tom Seymour’s indiscretions led to the loss of his head. But both would seem to be in error, since the pedigrees show that although the St. Maurs of Rode, Beckington and Westbury are the same family, there is no connection between them and the St. Maurs of Trowbridge Manor, a Welsh family, from whom are descended the Dukes of Somerset. The Manor of Beckington had been the property of the d’Erleigh family from the time of Henry II, but during the Black Prince’s campaigns on France and Spain, Sir John d’Erleigh had the misfortune to be taken prisoner at the battle of Nazers, and the ransom which he was obliged to pay deprived him of the greater part of his estate. His son, who inherited what was left, married Isabel Paveley, and it was their daughter Margaret who married John, second son of Richard St. Maur – referred to in the Chapter on Rode as “the first of the second House of St. Maur”, and Seymours Court became their home.

            Sir William died in 1485, his son William was the last in the male line, having a daughter only, Margaret Joan, who married one Drewery (Drury). Sir William had two sisters, Margaret, who married a Bamfield (Bamfylde), and Anne, who married a Stawell; both had children, whereas Margaret Drury was childless, and so, on her decease in 1517, her two cousins Edward Bamfield and John Stawell succeeded to the Rode, Beckington and other estates.

            There is reference to a lawsuit between the Zouche and Bamfield families, but it does not appear in the Recovery Rolls, and the Common Pleas Roll of that period is unfortunately too badly damaged to be able to trace it.

            Sir William’s estate benefited by property left to him by his cousin Thomas Seyntmaur, also by property left to him by his mother, who had married as her second husband, John Biconyle, Kt. He himself provided for his mother, and his wife Margaret with property in Somerset, Dorset and Devon, and for his gossip Kateyn Wyndesore and her son (his godson) by property at Thurston and Myelchurch.


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            The above would revert to his daughter, for whom the Seymours Court estate would seem to have been left in Trust. Whether she and her husband lived on at Seymours Court until her decease in 1517, I have been unable to discover, nor is there any reference in the Lay Subsidies to either of her cousins having done so after her decease.

            The Beckyngton property was held of her by Joan Adams, i.e. five messuages, three cottages and barn in Beckyngton worth 26/8, by Knight service, 3/6 rent, and suit of her Court of Beckyngton twice a year.

            In 1564, the Webb family bought the Bamfield moieties of Rode and Beckyngton, and in 1566 those of Stawell; in 1581-82 they also acquired property at Beckyngton which had previously belonged to the Priory at Maiden Bradley.

            In 1612 Elizabeth Webb (nee Norris) was still in possession of both manors of Beckyngton, though during the years 1588-89 they had sold their property at Rode to the Hungerfords. This with other land acquired from Toby Horton in 1645 was probably the last additions the Hungerfords made to their property before the tragic break up of their estate in 1687.

            Seymours Court was eventually sold and bought by J. Ashe of Freshford, an ardent Parliamentarian during the Civil War. He would seem to have rebuilt the house, though the porch, except the roof which is 17th century, was apparently allowed to stand, since it is clearly late mediaeval.

            In later years there was intermarriage between the Ashe and Methuen families, and there is record of a proclamation from Sir Paul Methuen dated 1708 concerning the sale of part of the Manor of Beckington to Sir James Hayes, by J. Ashe of Teffont Magna, and the sale of the remainder to Mr. Anthony Methuen (whose mother was Grace Ashe).

            Since those days there have been many owners and tenants of Seymour Court.

            In olden times the park stretched as far as the village of Rode, where Merfield House stands to-day, of which one is reminded by the two lanes which still bear the names of Green Park and  Park Gate.

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Geoffrey de St. Maur = heiress of William de Rughdon.



Laurence de St. Maur; obtained grant of his fair at Rode 1295



        Nicholas de St. Maur = Helen de la Zouche

ob 10 Edward II                        │



Sir Nicholas de St. Maur = Muriel daughter and heiress of

ob 35 Edward III II         │ James son of Lord Lovell.



Sir Richard St. Maur = Ela St. Loe

ob 2 Henry IV           │

Had half the manor   │

of Westbury.             │


            │                                                                │

Richard St. Maur = Mary                                            Sir John = Margaret de

       ob 1405       had manor of                                              │    Erleigh

                           Rode for dowry.                              │



            John = Elizabeth Brook



Sir Thomas St. Maur = Philippa Hungerford



            John = Elizabeth Choke



            │                                    │                                │

Sir William St. Maur           Margaret = Bamfyld.                  Anne = Stawell



Margaret Joan = Drewery

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management of the Church of England – Mr. Glossop, the rector of Rode and Woolverton continued to hold the living when he was 90 years of age – perhaps impressed by the stern sincerities of Wesley’s teaching, had left the Church of England, and soon after endowed both the Wesleyan Chapel and School, the latter benefiting to the extent of about £3,300.

            On 2nd April 1913, by a scheme made by the Board of Educa-tion, the Endowment was divided into a School Premises Fund and a Higher Education Fund to provide maintenance allowances in those who had won exhibitions, or County Council Scholarships.

            It may be that the Trustees insisted on too high a standard, certainly the children were handicapped by constant changes of teachers, while for some the allowance may have been insufficient, but few indeed were those who took advantage of the endowment.

            On June 30th 1922, Rode Wesleyan School was augmented by pupils from Rode Hill School which on that date closed down.

            The new scheme of 28th March 1958, makes little alteration, though the school is now known as the Rode Methodist Primary School.

            The Foundation continues to be regulated by the Scheme of 1913 and varied by the Scheme of 1920, provided that nothing in these schemes shall affect the provisions contained in a deed of the 18th January 1868 as to the application of the endowments of the Foundation in the event of there ceasing to be a Wesleyan Day School for the space of 20 years at one time.  By this Deed, and in the manner directed by the Deed Poll of the 17th February 1862, the Trustees, i.e. the Wesleyan Committee of Education, shall stand possessed of all the funds, to hold in Trust for the purposes of Wesleyan education either general or in any particular locality in Great Britain where the donor or testator shall not have expressed directly to the contrary.

            The income continues to be applied as before, i.e. in providing special benefits of a kind normally provided by the Local Education authority.

            It has been pointed out how disappointing it is to find how few have been able to take advantage of the Fund of higher education, but there is an exception in Miss Vera Jackson of whom Rode has every reason to be proud:- When 13 years of age and at the Rode Wesleyan School, Miss Jackson won a County Scholarship, which enabled her to continue her education at Sexey’s School, Blackford, Nr. Wedmore. as a boarder. Here she passed the Oxford Junior examination, and a year later the Oxford Senior in which she obtained passes with credit in 7 subjects, and moreover a year earlier than usual.  While she also passed the Preliminary Examination for the Certificate (Teachers).

            She now decided to make teaching her profession, and in spite of her being a year too young, her application for admittance to Fishponds Training College for teachers – now the College of St.


Mathias, was favourably considered, no doubt as the result of her numerous successes. And so at the age of 17, she started her training at Fishponds, and at 19 passed the final examination for the Certificate.

            Her first appointment was at a school for children of from 5 to 13 years of age, at Stoke St. Michael, near Oakhill. Here she remained for 8 years until she obtained a post at a Church school at Bradford-on-Avon. Here she was appointed to specialise in games and physical training, having won the Tennis Singles Championship at College, and having played in the 1st Hockey and Netball teams.

            Music, however, was the subject in which she had specialised, having at the age of 7 become a pupil of Mr. Tom Taylor of Rode, to whom she owes a deep debt of gratitude. A few years later she had the offer of several appointments, which included that of assistant teacher; as headmistress of a primary school; and as Head of a Girl’s school. But she had decided that she preferred both older children and a mixed school.

            A chance of promotion came in her present school (Trinity Secondary Modern School), where she was made Deputy Head, a post classed as one of special responsibility, since at times it is necessary for the holder of this appointment to carry out the duties of Headmistress.


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            Coming to more recent times, the summer of 18 was exceptionally hot and dry, and a large faggot pile near Rode Manor went on fire; thinking that it was the house itself which was ablaze, the entire neighbourhood assembled.

            Other very hot summers were 1897, 1898, 1911 and 1921.

            Perhaps the earliest and warmest spring on record occurred during February and March 1938, but in April came hard frosts and there was no fruit that year.

            March 9th 1948, was the hottest March day in London for 100 years, and I believe in Somerset too, and again on April 19th the heat was very great; while May 17th was one of the hottest Whit-Mondays of the century – which brought “summer” to an end.

            At Rode on May 11th, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon it suddenly became dark as night, and there followed the most terrific hailstorm I have ever encountered in any part of the world. At Rode Manor almost every young bud in the garden was destroyed, while a flood of water swept through the kitchen and out-houses; others, still more unfortunate, had, in some cases, their furniture carried out of their house; this hailstorm was confined to half a mile on each side of the River Frome between Rode and Farleigh-Hungerford.

            Exceptionally cold seasons have been the summer of ,1879, which was also very wet. The early spring of 1886 when trains were embedded in heavy falls of snow. In 1890 the frost continued from November 25th to January 22nd. In that of 1894-1895 the cold period commenced on December 30th and lasted for 66 days, temperatures falling to below zero in many places. The summers of 1903 and 1913 were both wet, I think I am correct in saying that the floods in 1903 were so severe that Road-Bridge (Rode) was submerged, those of 1904 and 1907 bitterly cold. On May 15th, 1920, there was a heavy fall of snow in Bristol.  In July 1923 snow fell on Lansdown during Bath races.

            During February 1929, there was severe frost; and in November of that year there was a heavy gale which brought down many trees; this was followed in February 1930 by the worst gale which I can remember, and which robbed the West Country of much of its hedgerow timber.

            The winters of 1940 and 1947, and the gale of 1952 are fresh in most people’s minds.

6 August 2023
Last Updated
25 May 2024