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Various members of the Taswell family crop up as possible ‘missing links’ to several stories about Chewton Mendip. The alternative the spelling Tazwell is frequently used and other variations are used. The earliest record is of a William Taswell born in 1535 in Buckland Newton in Dorset who was a direct ancestor of the John Taswell who subsequently lived in Chewton Mendip. Several members of the Taswell family were clergymen  in  Hampshire and Somerset. It is possible there may have been a connection to a family living in Chewton Mendip which a name that eventually became Thistle.
A Robert Treswell of Somerset was a ‘subscriber’ to the will of James Quarles of Essex in 1600. This hints at a relationship that may have been influential in the subsequent appointment of Edmund Quarles as vicar of Chewton Mendip in 1687. This is a tenuous link as the name Treswell is not the same as Taswell/Tazwell but  the spelling of names was inconsistent. The time scale is also suggests at a coincidence but the link could have been  maintained through links to the church.
A James Tazwell married Anna Kingsmill in 1650. This is the first confirmed link between the Taswell family and Chewton Mendip via the Kingsmill family. An Ann or Anna Kingsmill was the patron of Edmund Quarles in 1665 but there is some doubt who she was.
An Elizabeth Tazwell is listed as one of the patrons of the Rev Nathaniel Till-Adam in 1697. It is assumed she was the Elizabeth Tazwell who was a widow living in Baldwin Gardens, London, in 1692. She was charged with the mortgage on lands held in Chewton Mendip and Crocombe.
This supports the theory that she was Elizabeth Kingsmill of Andover who was the second wife of James Taswell. This was also a second mariage for Elizabeth, she was previously married to Thomas Token/Toking (1633-1664), a London merchant.
This union that caused strife in the family as James  withdrew the allowances of his children from his first marriage so he could live in luxury with his new wife. James was also being pursued  through the courts for a business debt.  He was eventually imprisoned and died in Fleet Prison in 1683.
One of the neglected children was James Taswell of Limington, Somerset. Another was William Taswell, a Clergyman who wrote a diary in which he described his experiences in London. He witnessed the great plague and the fire of London.
John Taswell was the son of James Taswell of Limington, Somerset.  John matriculated at Christchurch on 17th Januray 1707 aged 18. He was appointed as the vicar of Chewton Mendip on 14th January 1714 replacing William Hunt.
His appointment coincides with the beginning of the Georgian era. George I was crowned as King of Great Britain and Ireland on 20th October 1714.  George Lewis, as he was known in his native Hanover, had a very weak claim to the throne based on a maternal link but he had the essential qualification of being a protestant.
There are unconfirmed reports of a great storm occurring during John Taswell’s tenure which damaged a memorial to the Plaister family which was the reason it was moved into the Lady Chapel although Edmund Rack’s survey conducted in the 1780s suggest otherwise.
John Taswell was also a prebend of Wells Cathedral and there are vague references to previous links to Wells cathedral. Richard Tarswell and Grace his wife, were mentioned in a legal dispute concerning land in Dinder c 1700.  The records are held in  Somerset archive DD\SVL/2/5/8 and papers cover 1659-1739.
James Yorke was involved in that dispute and it is assumed that he was the James Yorke who was involved with Chewton Mendip. The Jenkins family were later rectors of Dinder and Croscombe and may have held that right at the time of the dispute. The Jenkins were also prebends of Wells Cathedral.
 John Taswell  was appointed vicar of Chewton Mendip in 1714. His patron was William Kingsmill  who was already described as a lunatic so his affairs were managed by his brother Henry. John Taswell married Anne and they had at least one son, also called, John. They may have had other children called Edward and Catherine.
 John Taswell the vicar appears in the Churchwarden accounts and  poor book  of the time as both ‘chairman’ of the vestry committee and a contributor to the poor rates, probably for the glebe farm which could have been based on what is now the Old Vicarage. He was also responsible for land that was frequently linked to the Hippisley family. It is not clear if this was Taswell (or even Thistle) land that was sold or rented  to the Hippisely family or Hippisley land that the Taswells needed to rent to support themselves.
 Despite the family connections to the Kingsmills, John Taswell may have had financial problems as early as 1729 when his son, John junior, was apprenticed to Richard Thiery of Winford as a hosier. Some apprentices were little better slave labour but John Junior may have learned a proper trade because a John Taswell, stocking maker, later appears in the list of electors in St. Peter, Gloucestershire.
 John Taswell the vicar would have come into contact with members of the Yorke family at the time who were school teachers and book keepers. A James York had fallen into dept in 1738 which may have caused some conflict between the people who held some the most influential roles in the village but were financially embarrassed.
 John Taswell contested a will with a John Kingsmill and lost. John Taswell was replaced by John Culliford when he died in 1754 but a Rev W Taswell’s estate was still paying poor rates and taking apprentices as late as 1788/90. This believed to have been William Taswell, the brother of James Taswell who had married Anne Kingsmill.
 William Taswell was an interesting character in the wider historical sense. He witnessed the great fire of London and is frequently mentioned in accounts of that event. He is not as well known as Samuel Pepys but both men also shared family links to the Kingsmills by marriage.
 It is not clear when The Taswells severed their link with Chewton Mendip but the baptism of Bettie Brice Tazwell, the daughter of Benjamin Bradford Tazwell  and Mary Ann Tazwell baptised on 05/7/1868 in Frome my provide a clue back to the Lady Chapel of Chewton Mendip. Brice is an unusual name for a girl and suggests there was a link to the Brice family. Brice is a relatively common name and there are at last three or four branches involved in the history of Chewton Mendip
A Walter Brice, who was a knight, was mentioned on the same memorial as the Quarles family but no further connection has been made between him and Chetwon Mendip. The 18th century poor law records make several references to members of the Brice family receiving poor relief and Robert Kingsmill who made a great impact on the village was really a Brice. Gerry Brice was the last village policeman.
This page is based on research done by the author of this website and Mike Tanwell who is a direct descendent of John Taswell the vicar. Some material has been contributed by other people with links to John Taswell in their family tree.
  1. Mike Tanswell permalink

    I am researching the Taswell/Tanswell ancestry and have a detailed family tree back to 1485. I would be interested in further information regarding John Taswell, who I believe was also appointed Canon of Wells in 1724.

    • Mike Bodman permalink

      Can You tell me if Mary (Hunt) Tazewell (d.1659), wife of James Tazewell (d.1663), was daughter of John Hunt, of Forston, Charminster, co. Dorset, by Katherine, daughter of Alexander Popham of Huntsworth, co: Dorset?

  2. Anne C permalink

    James Taswell, father of the Rev John Taswell of Chewton Mendip, married Anne (Anna) Kingsmill in London on 3 July 1684. He was born in 1650, parents James Taswell (who later married Elizabeth Kingsmill in 1671) and Elizabeth Upsal. Elizabeth Kingsmill was previously married to Thomas Token/Toking (1633-1664), a London merchant.

  3. Mike Bodman permalink

    My article “William Tazewell, Immigrant to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 1715: His ancestry and descent from Edward III”, recently published in Foundations Vol. 5 (May 2013), discusses Anne (Kingsmill) Tazewell’s descent from her grandfather, Francis Reade of Faccombe, Hants., and through the families of Windebank/Dymoke/Gascoigne to King Edward III, which is shared by Geo. Washington, 1st President of US.

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