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Gerry Brice 1987Gerry Brice first came to Chewton Mendip in 1965 when he was transferred from Batheaston to become the local policeman. He retired in 1990 and was not replaced but he continues to live in Chewton Mendip. He has also provided a lot of material for this website.
The links between the Brice family go back to the medieval period but no direct connection has jet been made between Gerry and the ‘historical’ Brices.According to a website, Brice is 2, 512th most common name in Great Britain with 4,557 people sharing that name. The highest concentration of people with that name is Greater London. Bryce is the 2,267thmost common name but the difference in spelling should be ignored in the historical context.This picture of Gerry Brice was first published in the Wells Journal in 1987.
William Dacus founded Whitehall Hospital in Ilchester in the time of Henry III (1216-1272) and as lord of the manor of Sock Dennis and the father Brice Le Denneys. Sock Dennis was a separate parish in the Medieval period which has now been absorbed into Ilchester. Sock Dennis was later owned by the Bonville family who were later lords of the manor of Chewton Mendip and are commemorated by the effigy of the knight and his wife in the Lady Chapel of Chewton Mendip church. Brice was  first name for Brice Le Denneys  but  second names could refer to the place of origin, the name of the father or some form of nick-name in that ear. Therefore the son of Brice Le Denneys (Brice of Dennis) could easily have been given a second name like ‘of Brice’ which could have then stuck as a second name. The earliest reference to a ‘Bryce’ is in 1268 when Bryce Denys was involved in a conflict with Sir William Bonville. The spelling of names was very flexible in the medieval period.  A Henry Brice is mentioned in deeds for Glastonbury for the same period and Brices appear in the historical record in the area.
 The earliest confirmed record for a member of the Brice family in Chewton Mendip is for a Walter Brice who was a Knight and was married to Rebecca. He was buried, or commemorated,  in Chewton Mendip Lady Chapel in 1665. This was just after the restoration of the monarch after the Commonwealth period and was a time of great upheaval in Chewton Mendip and the country as whole. The location of his memorial suggests that he was a Royalist and/or of the ‘high church’ persuasion. The other people with contemporary memorials in the same location are members of  Plaister, Quarles, Till-Adams and Webb families. Both of these would have caused him problems during the time the puritans were in power. Most of the people in the Chewton Mendip area were parliamentarians and ‘low church’ during the civil war. A number of families made a political as well as religious statement when the Royalists regained power in 1660. The memorial to Walter Brice was commissioned about the same time as when  an Anna Kingsmill was listed as the patron of the Rev Edmund Quarles.
The Brices and some of the names commemorated in the 17th century in the Lady Chapel were still very much in evidence in the 18th centuries but the Brices had fallen on hard times.  It is difficult to explain why that happened but illness and disease killed and impoverished many people.
The FreeReg web site provides access to parish registers of the births deaths and marriages. This is not a complete record but it provided me with the following chilling information.  A Lucretia Brice was born in Chewton Mendip in  1776 and married James Plenty. The date of their marriage is not recorded but they had nine children, eight of whom died in infancy. She died aged 33.
Another source provides more information about the Brice family. A brief analysis of this data shows some interesting and possibly interesting or ‘difficult’ links. Hippersley Brice of 1779 was probably named after the Hippisley family who were lords of the manor of Ston Easton and Emborough but they were originally a farming family. Hippisleys also appear in the records as farmers, miners and miscreants of some kind so this link should not be taken as proof of a noble connection.
Edward Brice who was a ‘sugar baker and freeman of Bristol’ in 1765 is worthy of further, but careful,  investigation. Sugar processing formed part of what was known as the ‘triangular’ trade amongst others.  Manufactured goods were shipped to Africa as the first leg of the journey. The goods were traded for Africans who were then transported in the notorious ‘middle passage’ to the Americas where they were sold as slaves. Some of them worked on sugar plantations owned by people who may feature in the history of Chewton Mendip. The last part of the triangle was formed when raw materials such as tobacco and sugar was bought back to Bristol to be processed. Records held in the Bristol archives show that he was a wealthy man and held a lease on Blaize castle from the corporation of Bristol but no link to Chewton Mendip could be identifed.
A Robert Brice had a very strong impact on Chewton Mendip from the 1760s onwards and may have links to slave-owning society through his naval career. He is better known through his ‘married name’ of Kingsmill.
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