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Manor House

Many articles and histories about Chewton Mendip incorrectly state that there was no manor house in the village until the Waldegraves moved to Chewton Priory in 1898. Chewton Mendip was the centre of a ‘Hundred‘ and the minery court so some form of substantial house was required.  There may have been a Saxon hall near the site of the church and Chewton House on the other side of the High Street is a possible location for a manor house. Other possibilities cannot be discounted but a 1794 maps shows that the site of Manor Farm was one of the few parts of the centre of the centre of village that was owned by the Waldegraves at the time.
Sir William Bonville, who was executed in 1461, was recorded as living in Chewton Mendip in 1449. Either he, or the grandfather of his wife Sir Henry FitzRoger, is buried in the Lady Chapel of the church. There is no evidence that any subsequent lord of the manor lived in Chewton Mendip untill 1898.
Cecily Bonville, the granddaughter of Sir William, held Chewton Mendip in her own right although this was disputed by her son. She was succeeded by the Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset. His grandson, Henry Grey became Earl of Suffolk and his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was briefly queen of England until she was deposed by Mary Stuart and executed in 1554.
Mary Stuart became Mary I and rewarded her co Catholic Sir Edward Waldegrave of Essex with the manor of Chewton Mendip. He kept the manor when Elizabeth I succeeded her sister but he was imprisoned for practicing his Catholic faith too openly. Unlike the previous lords of the manor, he kept his head and his lands and the Waldegreves are still the lords of the manor. It is probable that whatever manor house occupied by Sir William Bonville was used as a farm house and this has been the function of the building on this site for most of its history.
The usual date given for the Manor House is c1700 and the Lord of the Manor at the time was James Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldagrave (1684 11/41741).  He married Mary Webb, who died in childbirth in 1719. She was the daughter of Sir John Webb, 3rd Baronet. The first Earl Waldegrave was an Ambassador and may have found the medieval manor House unacceptable and either had it rebuilt or remodelled.
 It may be coincidence that the Plaisters were linked by marriage to a family called Webb(e) who were yeoman farmers in Widcombe. Richard Plaister or his son, also called Richard, may have been the occupants of the ”new’ manor house. Richard Plaister I married twice, his second wife and the mother of Richard Plaister II was Isabel Tegg. It may be coincidence but the path that links the manor house with The Folly is called Daggs (Teggs) Lane. They were based in Widcombe but were the lead reaves so they had both the money and the motive to live in a fine house in Chewton Mendip.
 Another reason to suggest that the Plaisters were briefly  the occupants of the manor house is the existence of a feature that is claimed to be ‘Priest’ hole. The problem with this theory is that it is 100 years to late and not very secret. There was still religious tension left over from the civil war and the Catholic Emancipation Act would not be passed until 1829.
 There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Plaisters were ‘high church’ if not secret Catholics. There are memorials to them in the lady chapel of the church which not only puts them in the same company as the lords of the manor it is also a sign of high church tendency. It is believed the stones were transferred there after the civil war when the puritan austerity was relaxed.
 People were still being fined for not conforming to the religious practices but they were no longer being executed or put in jail. It is possible that the Plaisters needed a hiding place for visiting Catholics or articles of faith that they needed to keep from casual view.
  1. Do you have more information about the last Sir William Bonville and his great granddaughter Cecily who nded up with his money and lands? I am renewing my research about that part of the history of the Bonvilles.


    Richard Loxton

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