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The Old Vicarage

Stone Age Celtic Roman Saxon Medieval
Tudor Stuart Georgian Victorian Modern

Navestock Cottage c1904 courtesy of Bob Powell. This is the current ‘Old Vicarage and was also known as Pleasant House.

There are three sites that are the most likely location of the original rectory house and the beginning of the village of Chewton Mendip.  This site falls between Lower Street (site ‘A’) and Bathway (site ‘C’). The site now occupied by the Old Vicarage, the School, Homedene and Tudor Cottage is known as the ‘High street’ site or site ‘B’ if the church is included. A number of other buildings may have been vicarage houses at one time but these represent variations on the main options. Placs icon places
Stone AgeStone Age Hunter-gatherer societies tend to see something spiritual in every part of nature but there is nothing to suggest that there was anything on the site now occupied by the High Street site in the Stone Age. Return to the top of the list.
CelticCeltic The site around the church is the closest area of flat dry land to the source of the river chew so the first settlement may have been based there. Return to the top of the list.
RomanRoman Activity in the Roman era was centred on Green Ore and Lower Street areas.  Records of finds of Roman pottery near the church made by the Rev Skinner in the  19thcentury could have been medieval pottery incorrectly classified as Roman. Return to the top of the list.
SaxonSaxon There can be little doubt that earliest Saxon settlement was centred on the church. There may have been some form of defensive  perimeter around the settlement  which would have included the priest’s house. The natural shelter provided by what was then quite a steep coombe where the Old Vicarage now stands may have been utilised  to build shelters or to use as gardens. A larger dwelling for the Saxon priest may have been built  near the site of the old Vicarage in later times when security was less of an issue but the remains of whatever was built on the site of the Old Vicarage in Saxon times were destroyed a long time ago. Return to the top of the list.
MedievalMedieval There is documentary evidence that Chewton Mendip had a rector from the start of the medieval period. The rector was entitled to a tenth of the corn crop from several villages so he would have needed a substantial tithe barn as well as somewhere to live. Medieval rectory houses were not grand affairs and were little different from farm houses. However, Chewton Mendip was a prestigious place in the medieval era and there were several occasions when new owners could have built one or more new buildings to accommodate the rector or some other representative. A number of curates may have also lived in the village as suggested by a document dated 1242 who could have been accommodated in a building on any one of the  three sites suggested as the site of the original rectory house. Return to the top of the list.
TudorTudor The dissolution of the monasteries changed many things but a possibly unrelated issue was that the ‘great tithes’  of a tenth of a corn crop were commuted to a cash payment making the tithe barn redundant. The two events may have combined to demote the mediaeval rectory house and tithe barn to a secular farm called ‘Parsonage Farm’ for convenience. A record held in the Somerset archive (D\D/rg/152) may describe the “…Stone  with kitchen, hall, 2 parlours, buttery, 6 upper chambers. Barn, stable, pigsty…” that was the medieval rectory house and tithe barn. This description could apply equaly to Batch Cottage/Pound Close. The first recorded lay impropriator (owner of the church lands) in the Tudor period was Roger Manners . The Manners family were wealthy people and they could have commissioned a new rectory house at any of the three locations suggested.  The Rev Anthoney Eglesfield was appointed as the vicar by Roger Manners and Elizabeth I in 1588. Records held in the Hampshire archive sho that Roger Maners sold his intrests in Chewton Mendip to the Kingsmills soon after. Anthony Eglesfield could have been the first of the new class of prosperous parish priests who emerged from the wreckage of the monasteries who wanted better accommodation than his medieval predecessors. However, it is likely that the old rectory house and tithe barn were left standing. Return to the top of the list.
StuartStuart The Bishop of Bath & Wells received a pension worth one third of the value of the the rectory manor of Chewton Mendp based on medeival values but a number of the vicars were prebands of Wells Cathedral. It is unlikely that there were significant changes in the buildings in the first part of the 17thcentury which may have been occupied by sub tenants of the vicar. The Somerset record describing ‘Parsonage Farm’ was dated 1623 which suggests that the medieval rectory house was still standing and owned by the rector. The record is taken from a ‘glebe terrier’ which means church property. The 17thcentury was full of religious and economic turmoil that resulted in the English Civil war . The vicar appointed at the time, Rev Edmund Quarles stands out as somebody who would not have been happy living in a medieval farmhouse and insisted on a new vicarage house being built somewhere in the village. Return to the top of the list.
GeorgianGeorgian The first three vicars of the 18thcentury all have names shared with local farming families, Hunt, Taswell and Culliford. It is probable that the vicars were recruited from the more prosperous yeoman families.  The Taswell  family also had long-standing ties with the church and Hampshire which was the base of the Kingsmill family who were their patrons.  John Taswell,  appointed in 1714, may have upgraded the vicar’s accommodation.  There is also evidence that Re John Culliford was living in a ‘new’ vicarage in the mid 1750s. The Kingsmills and Jenkins families owned most of the centre of the village at the time whilst the Waldegraves and Hippisleys owned most of the farms. A George Roberts was a tenant of the ‘vicarage’ but the records are not precise about th location.  Veals Farm in Lower Street  is another prospect for Parsonage Farm. Veals Farm is now divided into several houses. This means that there could have been three  rectory or vicarage houses in Chewton Mendip at the turn of the 18th and 19thcenturies. The Vicarage shown in the 1794 map in Lower Street. Parsonage Farm was probably in the blank space described as ‘Kingsmill esq’ in the High Street below the church and Mr Jenkins house at Bathway which is not shown in this extract of the map. Chewton House may have served as a vicarage house from 1802 to 1814.  Return to the top of the list.
VictorianVictorian Robert Kingsmill died in 1805 and left £30,000 to John Stephens who then took the Kingsmill name. He married  Dorothy Mogg of Farrington Gurney  in 1802 who was a member of the coal mine owning branch of the family. John Kingsmill, as he became after 1805, was probably living in the Vicarage House in Lower Street but would have had the money and ambition to build something better. He may have already had plans for building new properties when he died in 1814 leaving Dorothy a relatively poor widow. Dorothy appointed one of her relatives, Henry Hodges Mogg, as vicar in 1814.  Dorothy suffered  another tragedy when her son, John, drowned in Ghent  in 1822 aged 17. The eldest son William Kingsmill, inherited the Kingsmill wealth and appointed his brother, Henry  Kingsmill, as vicar in 1836.Kingsmill indentures Some records and maps suggest that two new houses were built sometime around 1823, both of these houses still stand. A footnote in the deeds of the Old Vicarage suggest that it was left to Charlotte Kingsmill, the daughter of John and Dorothy,  in 1853 if the copperplate numbers have been interpreted correctly. This could have been the newly built house known as the Old Vicarage or it could have been the old ‘Parsonage Farm’ . The other new development from 1823 is now known as the Old Rectory in Lower Street.  Only the date of that indenture can be seen in the extract but the future owner is clearly listed. There are several variations on this theme.   Parsonage Farm may have survived and been replaced by a house built for Henry Kingsmill  or David Drakeford between 1823 and 1856. Evan at this date the legal records are not precise. The first unambiguous record is when the Rev David Drakeford  sold a ‘newly built’ vicarage to William Blanning in 1859. The 1859 purchase represented a major improvement in the financial position of the Blanning family who were previously of modest means. The house purchased in 1859 was the house seen in the photographs in this web-site and this transaction is the source of the list of indentures. The ‘vicarage’ was renamed  ‘Pleasant House’ soon after and lived in by  the Blanning family then a number of tenants. Homedene, and later Tudor Cottage, were built on the site that may have once been the glebe farm or vcarage garden. Return to the top of the list.
ModernModern Pleasant House was renamed Navestock, probably by Hugh McMutrie who became a tenant in c1904. Hugh was the Waldegrave estate manager and Navestock was the name of one of the Waldegrave’s estates which explains why the house had a name linked to the Waldegraves even though it never belonged to them. He can be seen in the Cricket 11 of 1904. Robert Wilson bought a lease from William Blanning Keen in 1926. The Keen family had inherited the house from William Blanning  who died without issue which ended the Chewton Mendip branch of the  Blanning family.  Robert Wilson was the honorary secretary of the Mendip Hunt and his Hunting Pink and silver colour scheme can still be seen.   He also installed the first electrical and heating system. John Fenwick Albert,  moved his family to  Navestock just before World War Two .  It was used as a clandestine safe house for Jewish refugees before the outbreak of hostilities . The accomidated a number of evacuees uring the war and they provided an informal convalescence home for soldiers who had been imprisoned by the Japanese at the end of the war. This period provides the earliest livening memories of the house. John Fenwick Albert’s son, also called John, has provided his personal memories of living in war-time Chewton Mendip.John Fenwick Albert sold Navestock to Thomas Edward Townley Strachey in 1946. The Strachey family of Bishop’s Sutton were a significant family in earlier times and Lady Mary Strachey was a lady in waiting to princess Elizabeth.  A number of locals with long memories have stories to tell about an unofficial royal visit made to Navestock in the early 1950s. The Strachey’s sold Navestock to the church in 1954 when it reverted to its original role as the Vicarage House.  It remained as the Vicarage until 1994 when it was sold by the church for a second time and became a private house which is how it remains. Return to the top of the list.

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

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