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Chewton House

 Chewton HouseChewton House is now the home of Earl Waldegrave but it was a Kingsmill property for most of its history. It occupies a site between the Folly,  High Street and Red Sheard. This picture is courtesy of Pat and Dave Hellard.
Chewton House may have been the site of the original manor house  because it occupies such a commanding position overlooking the village. However, all the records suggest that the former Manor Farm is a more likely prospect for the site of whatever form of manor house may have been in the village early in its history.
There are also references to a manor court house  and a ‘hospital’ or church house in the village which may have been situated on this site. There was also probably a Folly House on the site of what is now Orchard Cottage.
The speculation about the origins of Chewton Priory could apply equally to Chewton House. There are vague descriptions of ecclesiastical buildings in the vicinity dating back to 1241.
The Manners family were one of the first recorded owners of church land in Chewton Mendip after the dissolution of the monasteries and they may have built a gentleman’s residence somewhere in the village. The documentary evidence points to Egelsfelde House near Priddy as the earliest ‘gentleman’s residence built in Chewton Mendip after the medieval period.
Several incumbents of Chewton Mendip church were also prepends of Wells Cathedral who may have found the old vicarage house unacceptable and build a new house somewhere in the village. This probably happened several times and several sites in the village may have one been the ‘vicarage house’ but Chewton House is the oldest building that can be confirmed was built as a vicarage or rectory house.
Records held in the Hampshre archives show that a Richard Loxton  was the tenant of the site but the Yorke family took over after his death in 1692. It is possible the Adams family held part of the site in the 17th century.
The footpath by the side of Chewton House that connects the Folly to the High Street is called Daggs Lane. This used to be a road and is name after a family called Tegg who were fairly wealthy and prominent people in the 17th century. They could have been the owners or residents of what is now Chewton House before Richard Loxton. They were linked by marriage to the Plaister family who may have lived in Manor Farm.
 The rear of the house is considered to be older than the rest of the building and is believed to have been a coaching inn. If so, the Unicorn is the most likely name for the inn. There are references to pubs called the Falcon and Royal Oak in the Town tithing but other sites have been identified for those pubs. The Crown is also mentioned but that may have been near the site of Quarrs Farm. Only the Unicorn and the ‘New Inn’ are mentioned in  Collinson’s history of Somerset ,which was published in 1791. The New Inn may have been the ‘First and Last’  or the ruins at the top of Chew Hill.
However, analysis records relating to  the  Dudden, Hart, Hunt who were  Yorke, King and Anstee families are linked to the Unicorn Inn in addition to the Kingsmills.of the 1740 and 1766 maps shows there was nothing on the site.
The listed building record for the property suggests that the house was built in the mid to late 18th century in two stages. However, Hampshire record 19M61/941 shows that Chewton House was commissioned in 1799 by  Robert Kingsmill for John Stephens who was the vicar at the time. Construction lasted until 1802 but it is possible that subsequent owners added to the building.
The only description is that the new house should be like Dr Baker house in Marksbury which was probably Winsbury House which most closely resembles Chewton House. The most likely reason for constructing such a large vicarage house was because the Rev John Stephens was Robert Kingsmills illegitimate son. He later inherited a large percentage of the Kingmills estates and changed his name to Kingsmill and bought himself a title and coat of arms. The 1807 map confirms that the site of Chewton House was the occupied by John Stephens who had take the Kingsmill name by that time.
 John Stephens-Kingsmill was married to Dorothy Mogg and leters to to her brother, George Mogg, highlight her financial difficulties and her need to sell properties after the end of the Napoleonic wars.
Members of the Scobell family purchased Chewton House in 1848. John Scobell married Mary James in 1816 and they may have moved into Chewton House sometime after that as tenants. This was Mary’s second marriage and the James family may have been the owners of Chewton House or Chewton Priory. Mary’s maiden name was Goldfinch and they were residents of Chewton Priory at the beginning of the 19th century which would have been the earlier house built by Mr Jenkins.
 There are mining and High Littleton  links that connect the Scobell and Goldfinch families to the Kingsmills. The Moggs were also a mine owning family based in High Littleton and Farrington Gurney and  these families played a significant role in the history of Chewton Mendip in the early 19th century
Clement Millward was described as being ‘of Chewton House’ when his son, also called Clement, was born in 1821.
The 1839 Tithe map shows John Elton was occupying the site but he was not listed in the 1841 census suggesting he was either a short-term tenant or he lived elsewhere.
 Thomas Melhuish bought a number of properties from William Kingsmill  in 1854. There is no evidence that he bought Chewton House but he may have bought land nearby. There is no record of him living in the village but he was an accountant so he may have been acting on behalf of his clients.
The 1861 census show the following occupants. Hester Percy was the housekeeper aged 49, Charlotte Uphill aged 25. Jane Beard was a visitor and described as a scholar. Her guardian was Susan Hurley aged 22. This suggests that the house was not occupied by its owner but it is possible that it was already in the ownership of the Baily family.
Chewton House sale 1865This clipping was taken of a copy of the Times advertising the sale of Chewton House on 23rd June 1865. It is not certain who was selling or who bought the property. The clipping was provided by Gerry Brice.
 There is a prestigious plot for the Baily family ‘of  Chewton House’ in the old churchyard of Chewton Mendip and it is assumed that the Baily family bought Chewton House in 1865. John Baily died in 24th March 1873 aged 59. An article in the Bath Chronicle dated 27th March 1873 gives further details.”Mr. John Bailey, of Chewton House, Chewton Mendip, shot himself in his dressing-room on Monday morning.” He was married to Marion who died on 16th June 1893. She was the daughter of James Herbert Rainsford of ‘The Leaze’, Berkley, Gloucestershire.
Major, the honourable Edmund Boyle was living in Chewton House on 14th February 1879 according to the Western Gazette. He was still as listed as living in Chewton House in 1889 according to Kelly’s directory.  It may have been his funeral shown in the postcard of a military style funeral descending Chew Hill.
 William Tucker may have taken over the property when Major Boyle died or may have moved in earlier. William Tucker was married to Constance and they are buried in Chewton Mendip churchyard. He is seen in the handbell ringers of 1904 when it is assumed he was living in Chewton House. He used to keep snakes and would sometimes let them loose in the high street to the horror of the local children.
 It is believed the Waldegraves bought Chewton House from William Tucker and moved in after  World War two  rather than return to Chewton Priory.
 Chewton House was the site of the Waldegrave’s tenants lunch in the 1950s.
 Chewton House LodgeThe current lodge is of an earlier construction than the main house and it is not clear what stood there before.  Mary Curtis  was the  occupant according to the 1871 census. She may have been  the widow of Daniel Curtis.  He died in 1838 aged about 38.  They had six children – Thomas, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Eliza (died in infancy), Elizah and DanielWilliam Tuckwell is also shown in the handbell ringers but he was the gardener living in the lodge in 1911.
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