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The Old Rectory

Stone Age Celtic Roman Saxon Medieval
Tudor Stuart Georgian Victorian Modern
The Old Rectory, Lower Street The site now occupied by the Old Rectory, Garden House and Old Rectory Coach House  is considered by locals to be the location of the original rectory house.  A  Georgian map shows a vicarage on the site which supports this assumption. Placs icon places

There are other features that had religious significance in that part of the village and it is one option for the original settlement that grew into Chewton Mendip so this is called site  ‘A’ or the Lower Street site. Site ‘B’, the Old vicarage in the High Street is not far away but the former site of the  Chewton Priory in  Bathway  (site ‘C’) cannot be discounted.

Stone AgeStone Age The valley floor may have been a place occupied by Stone Age people because it provided shelter and access to a reliable source of water. There may have been caves at the time which have long since disappeared  and the valley bottom may been too boggy for full time occupation.  The ridge formed by Chew Down and Kings Hill may have been a pathway linking religious centres at Stanton Drew and Stone Henge but would may have been too exposed for habitation so shelters may have been built on the gentler slopes between the top and bottom of what is now Chew Hill. Return to the top of the list.
CelticCeltic The Lower  Street site may have been seen as a spiritual place that was reserved for religious ceremonies. There are two Bronze Age burial mounds in the vicinity, one on the brow of Kings Hill and another in the valley floor. Artefacts from the Bronze and Iron ages have been found in the general area which suggests there was human activity associated with those features. The Celts were known to have venerated water so they may have built a shrine near to the source of the river Chew. Return to the top of the list.
RomanRoman The Roman period involved the locals adopting Roman dress and other customs so the Roman coins, pottery and other items found nearby could have been used by the indigenous population rather than people from other parts of the Empire. No Roman buildings have yet been discovered. Return to the top of the list.
SaxonSaxon The centre of the village in Saxon times was focused on the church. The Lower Street area would still have been  a crossroads, possibly with some form of shrine, but he Saxons tended to respect  (or fear) earlier religious structures and build their settlements somewhere else. Return to the top of the list.
MedievalMedieval The Lower  Street site was probably part of the glebe land dedicated to supporting the parish priest.  He would have needed to grow his own food as well as receiving a tenth of some produce. Various religious organisations had an economic as well as spiritual control over the area during the medieval era.  Valley bottoms were treated with caution in the medieval period, and later,  because it was thought they trapped ‘miasma’ or ‘bad air’ which caused diseases. The most likely scenario is that there was a house and farm dedicated to the vicar near to the church (site ‘B’) with farmland  in Lower Street which may have included some small farms or curates houses.  There may have been land and building controlled by the rector or a preband appointed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells in the Bathway (site ‘C’) as there was in Litton. Return to the top of the list.
TudorTudor It is possible that the medieval rectory house and tithe barn in the High Street was downgraded to a farm and a new more substantial house built for the local priest. The most likely location for a new rectory house at the time is the Lower Street site but it the Bathway site is also a prospect. The ‘great tithes’ due to the rector in the form of a tenth of the corn crop and other bulky items  were probably commuted to  cash payments in the Tudor era making the tithe barn redundant.Return to the top of the list.
StuartStuart The same arguments for the Tudor period apply to the 17thcentury as well. Lower Street would still have formed a natural cross-roads even if the north/south road followed a different path but the roads would have been impassable in winter. Marshy ground was still a breeding  ground for various diseases so higher ground was preferred for building substantial buildings. Ownership of church land was contested throughout out  the first two thirds of the century so it is unlikely that anyone would have undertaken new building work.Wells Cathedral owned the rectory lands in nearby Litton. Lower Street is sometimes called the Litton road because it leads to  Litton which is about a mile away. The Dean and Chapter appointed the parish priest or Prepend to administer to parish and protect the Cathedral’s economic interests. Robert Earle fulfilled that role early in the 17thcentury in Litton but the records are no clear about who succeeded him. Return to the top of the list.
GeorgianGeorgian Two major changes means that the Lower Street site becomes a better prospect for the location of   the rectory house.  The first is that the creation of Turnpike roads in the middle of the 18thcentury changed the desirability of some locations such as the Lower Street/High Street crossroads. Better roads meant better drainage and the changes in the course of the roads may have turned rough pasture land into an attractive building site. The second change was more gradual. The role of the parish priest was gaining social prestige and it was becoming an acceptable career option for the gentry. A good example is the Rev Arthur Annesley who  was appointed in 1764. He  may have had the money and desire to build himself a ‘modern’ house. A 1794 map clearly shows a ‘vicarage’ in Lower Street the approximate position of the garden of the ‘Garden House’.  The same map also shows a fine house on the site of the later Chewton Priory owned by the Jenkins family. They had substantial  land holdings in Somerset and Hampshire. Richard Jenkins had close links with Wells Cathedral and a friend of Robert Kingsmill, the Lay Impropriator at the time. Arthur Annesley was briefly replaced by David Williams then John Stephens  in 1793. He was officially described as the ‘nephew’ of Robert Kingsmill  but it is more likely that he as his illegitimate son. It is probable they all three lived  in the vicarage house shown in the 1794 map. Robret Kingsmill,  who is seen on the left,  commissioned an evan grander vicarge house in 1799 which may be what is now known as Chewton House.  Return to the top of the list.
VictorianVictorian The early 19thcentury was a period of legal disputes and financial uncertainty involving several people. The widow of  the Rev John Kingsmill (Stephens) who died in 1814, Dorothy,   left the village but still received the tithes as cash payments. Or at least she should have. Letters between her and her brother explain how difficult it was to get rents and tithes from the local farmers. These letters also describe repairs done to a house with tiled roof occupied by a gentleman called Mr Lord. The house was probably the Vicarage and Mr Lord may have buried his daughter, Elizabeth, in Chewton Mendip. The Rev Henry Hodges Mogg may have taken advantage of finding both the ‘old’ vicarage in Lower  Street and Parsonage farm in the High Street vacant and redeveloped both site around 1823. He may have been influenced by tax incentives introduced to help parish priests improve their own living accommodation.  The Rev Richard Philpott appointed in 1858 is known to have lived in what is now known as the Old Rectory. He sold the last of the land surrounding the church building still owned by the rector during his term of office. Return to the top of the list.
ModernModern The building known as the Old Rectory was the Vicarage house until 1954 when the Rev Kenneth Latter, in conjunction with the 1t2th Earl Waldegrave who was his patron, ‘downsized’ to what was then known as Navestock in the High Street. Return to the top of the list.

Please refer to the acknowledgements page for a list of the contributers to this website.

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