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Widcombe 1699-1759

The Chewton Mendip Churchwarden accounts for 1699 to 1759  and Poor Book of 1730-1769 provide some details about who was paying poor-law rates in Widcombe during that period. The Widcombe tithing was a semi autonomous, self contained, unit so the records are relatively simple.  approximately fifteen ‘estates’ were listed in a fairly consistent manner.
 Some of the estates can be identified with a relatively high degree of certainty due to maps published in a survey of Widcombe called “The Manor of Widcombe. An Historial Landscape Survey”, called “The Widcombe survey” for short.  The Widcombe Survey uses data collected in 1611 and later including tithe maps from 1840 so references to 1611 and 1840 also indicate that the information came from the Widcombe survey.
 The Churchwarden’s accounts fall between those two ranges but there are still gaps in the record. The Widcombe survey was conducted by Vince Russett in 1988 for the now defunct Avon Count Council, he is now the county archeologist for Somerset. The Chewton Mendip Churchwarden accounts were probably not available for study at the time the Widcombe survey was conducted because they were in private hands so this information may fill some of the gaps. The estates are listed in alphabetical order based on what appears to be the most descriptive name, in most cases the last name used in the Widcombe Survey
Atthay. The Atthay family are not listed in the Widcombe survey but  were paying poor rates  from 1701 to 1731 when the Plaisters took responsibility for the estate. The Plaisters were responsible for two other estates as described below.
 Battle. A Richard Battell was shown as a tenant in 1611 and various members of the family, using a number of different spellings of the name, were paying poor rates throughout the period. The family name persisted in the village until the end of the 20th century.
Clement. A Widow Clemont was paying poor rates from 1701 until 1724. It is no clear which property she occupied or even that she was a resident of Widcombe. The Clement name does not appear in any other records relating to Chewton Mendip discovered so far.
Curtis. The Curtis family appear in  all of the tithings of Chewton Mendip and several villages nearby. Somerset record DD\BR\lch/3 states that Stephen Curtis was the father of Downton Curtis and that they both lived in Widcombe. The record is concerned with the will of Stephen Curtis who appears to have  died in 1701. This date is supported by the poor rates which show that Downton Curtis was paying poor rates in 1701 whilst a Widow Curtis was paying in 1704. Somerset record DD\BR\lch suggests that the unusual Downton name came from a link to the Downton family of Shepton Mallet. Somerset record DD\BR\lch/6 states that Downton Curtis ‘of Shepton Mallet’, a clothier, married Martha Whyting of Charlton in Shepton Mallet, spinster in 1697. There may have been two Downton Curtis but this record is consistent with other information. The Downton estate appears in other parts of Chewton Mendip and Somerset record DD\BR\lch/7 refers to Downton Curtis and Paul Downton Curtis owning land in Shepton Mallet.  The Curtis family are not listed in the Widcombe survey apart from the name of a wood, Curtis Barn Copse, which is appears to be a  field called Broad Holcombe.
Edgell. John Edgell was listed as a tenant in 1611 and members of the family continued to pay poor rates throughout the period. The family were first recorded in Emborough in 1580 and were still living in that village at the end of the 18th century. The Widcombe survey shows that Charles Tucker was the tenant of the Edgell property in 1840 but Tuckers were paying poor rates for another property in the early part of the 18th century.
 Gay. A John Sherbourne is shown as a tenant in 1611. A Henry Sherborne, or variations of that name,  was paying poor rates for estates called Sherborne, Holcombe and Wikinsons untill about 1731 when he may have died and the occupiers were not named. He may have been ill and not able to continue for a while but it is more likely he died and his son took over part of the estate whilst a John Gray took on another part of it. The name Gray evolved into Gay and Mary Gay was show as the occupant of the Sherborne property in 1840. What looks like a Mr Biggs was paying poor rates for part of the Sherbourn property in 1750 and 1752 when a Mr Rider or Ryder took over. Neither Biggs or Rider/Ryder appear in the records of residents of Chewton Mendip which have been seen so far.
Holcombe. No estate called Holcombe is shown in the Widcombe Survey but there are several fields with Holcombe shown in the map. Henry Sherborne was paying poor rates for the Holcombe estate in the early part of the 18th century. A Mrs Day was paying c 1731 then a succession of unnamed occupiers were paying the poor rates. Jonas Moon may have provided an indirect link to the village of the same name.
 Mogg. A Mary Mogg ,who was a widow, was paying poor rates at the beginning of the 18th century then a number of unnamed occupiers were listed for the estate. Thomas Wookey took over during the middle of the century. Both the Mogg and Purnel families became wealthy through coal mining but the relationship between these two branches of the family is not clear.
Plaister.  The Plaister family were a well established Widcombe family and had been living in the area since medieval times. A John Plaister, sometimes referred to as John Plaister I,  married a married Isabel Tegg in 1567. Grace Tegg was listed as a tenant in 1611 and the property was held by a Thomas Harris in 1840. The Teggs had disappeared from the Chewton Mendip Records by 1699 so it is assumed that at least some of the Plaister estate was once farmed by the Teggs. The Plaisters  were responsible for their own estate and the Purnel estate from 1701 and took responsibility for the Atthay estate in 1731. Richard Plaister III is known to have left Chewton Mendip by 1725 and the Churchwarden accounts confirm this.
 Plaister lives in 1721A note identifying that he was paying for the estate “he was living in” was added up to 1721.
 Plaister lives in 1725The same note was added in 1725, this time more clearly.
These notes may counter they theory that the Plaisters had moved to Manor Farm in Chewton Mendip but it could also support the theory that the had moved. There some evidence that money was ‘ring-fenced’ so that only money raised in Widcombe was spent on Widcombe. However there is also evidence to suggest that rates raised on properties physically in different tithings was collected with other tithings. Some of the estates in the other tithings were recorded under two or more tithings.
The Plaisters continued to pay poor rates in Widcombe and later started to pay poor rates in East End after they had moved to Butcombe but that is not unusual. Many people living outside the parish were paying poor rates for fields they held in Chewton Mendip. The specific reference to where Richard Plaister lived is almost unique so something unusual may have been going on.
Purnel. A Robert Purnell was shown as a tenant in 1611 but the Plaisters were paying poor rates for the Purnels estate for most of the 18th century. A Valentine Dudue is shown as a tenant in 1840 but Dudue may have been a misprint for Dudden who were a long-established family in the area until very recently.
Read. The Read family were paying poor rates throughout the period covered by the Churchwarden accounts but the family are not mentioned in the Widcombe Survey. There are references to members of the Read family in the modern era but they are probably a different branch.
 Tucker. A Charles Tucker was shown as the occupant of what was the Edgell property in 1840 but members of the Tucker family were paying poor rates for most of the period. There was a break in 1746 but one or more Widow Tuckers were paying for an estate for most of the period.
Webb. an Elizabeth Webb was shown as a tenant in 1611 and the Plaisters were linked to another branch of the Webb family by marriage. William Webbe of Chew Magna married Ann Plaister, the widow of Richard Plasiter II in 1705. This marriage is reflected in the 1706 accounts when Mr Webb is listed as paying poor rates for the Plaister estates in Widcombe and East End whilst Richard Webb, presumably related to Elizabeth, was listed as paying rates for a different estate.  Members of the Webb family were paying poor rates for the Webb estate until about 1743 when a Samuel Parsons started paying poor rates for the estate.
 Wilkinsons. The Wilkinsons or Wilkins family were probably based in the Harptrees but we Henry Sherborne was paying poor rates for this estate at the beginning of the century but the occupiers are not named after the mid 1730s.
 Yorkes Mead. Yorkes mead field is identified on the 1611 map and the York family were represented in the other tithings. A John Collins was paying poor rats for this estate until the 1720s and then the occupiers were not named. The Collins family held land in other tithings throughout the 18th century.
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