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Hampshire Archive

The Hampshire Archive is an unexpectedly rich source of information about Chewton Mendip and many other villages in Somerset containing ver 400 records. Some of the records are duplications or minor variations on records held in Taunton but  in many cases the Hampshire archives provide unique information. Chewton Mendip consisted of four tithings, called Town, East End, West End and Middlesex. It was the centre of a Hundred  and a minister church responsible for several parishes. This conflicts with some local histories which  suggest that Chewton Mendip was an insignificant place and incorrectly state that Chewton Mendip did not have a manor house untill the Waldegraves arrived at the end of the 19th century..
The Hampshire link to Chewton Mendip can be traced back to the Saxon era. Winchester may have been the capital of Wessex but ‘Chuton‘ was a personal possession of Alfred the Great. He left it in his will of 899 to his son, Edward the Eldar. Chewton or Chew could to apply to three other villages in Somerset and Chewton Milton in Hampshire. However, Chewton Mendip was in the possession of Queen Edith, the wife of Edward the Confessor, at the time of the Norman Conquest.
 The French connection had been made earlier when Edith was influential in getting Giso (Gisa) of Lorraine appointed as the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1060 or 1061.  A Charter held by Wells Cathedral suggest that Chewon Mendip, or at least part of it, was awarded to Giso by Edith in 1062.
 Both Chewton Mendip and Hayling Island Priory  in Hampshire were awarded to Jumiege Priory in Normandy by William the Conquer and there was some conflict between the local clergy and the prior of Jumiges. A pragmatic deal appears to have been struck between the bishop of Bath & Wells and the prior of Jumieges. The Communars accounts of Wells Cathedral show that the Dean and Chapter of Wells received a pension of £23 6s and 8d from Chewton. This payment remains consistent untill 1559 by which time it had lost a lot of its value but it was still a substantial sum. A record dated 1241 gives more details about the link between Wells Cathedral, Jumieges and Chewton Mendip.
 Jumieges lost control of both Hayling Island and Chewton at the beginning of the Hundred Years war.  A number of people were identified as lords of the manor of Chewton Mendip during the medieval period but only William Bonville can be proven to have lived in the village giving further evidence that the churchmen owned most of the land. William Bonville was involved in the end of the 100 years war and was eventually executed on the personal order of Margaret of Anjou despite receiving a guarantee of safety from the king, Henry VI. Sir William’s male heirs had all been killed earlier so his considerable wealth was left to his granddaughter, Cecily, who married into the Grey family.
 Chewton Mendip and Hayling Priory had earlier been awarded to a ‘new’ priory founded in 1414  by king Henry V and it seems likely that Henry Grey, the 1st Duke of Suffolk, was the person who acquired the property of Sheen Abbey at the dissolution of the monasteries. Mary I temporarily reformed Sheen Abbey and  confiscated  Chewton Mendip from the Greys when sir Henry and his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, were executed. Mary also awarded Sir Edward Waldegrave with the manor of Chewton Mendip in 1553 for supporting her when she was pressurised to renounce her Catholic faith.
 Sheen Abbey was closed for a second time when Elizabeth I became queen. She also imprisoned Sir Edward for not renouncing his Catholicism but he kept his head and his land, or least most of them. The Waldegraves also acquired valuable mining rights which  included lead, silver, coal and other minerals. The Waldegraves have kept some of these rights to the present day but they were absentee landlords until 1898.
 Another family who benefited from the dissolution of the monasteries were the Hippisley family who acquired land in Ston Easton and Emborough which were subsidiary chapels of Chewton Mendip and both approximately one mile away. Priddy is another contiguous parish with links to Hampshire via the Jenkins family who held land there. There is also a Priddy in Hampshire but the names of the tenants and other clues can be used to identify which records refer to Somerset.
 Elizabeth I awarded the former monastic lands to Roger Manners of Uffington in 1576 as confirmed by a number of records held in Hampshire. He sold them to the Kingsmills in 1591/2. These records state that two thirds of the manor and the rectory lands were transacted. This family’s records form the majority of the Chewton Mendip records held in Hampshire. The Kingsmills also acquired Crocombe in the south of Somerset but no other link has been established between Crowombe and Chewton Mendip.
 The Kingsmills were leading protestants in Hampshire during the reformation but were classed as Royalists or neutrals during the English Civil War. They were absentee landlords along with the still Catholic and firmly Royalist Waldegraves but the Hippisleys were leading parliamentarians.
 Cornelis Burges was a Calvinist preacher but that did not stop him acquiring the lands that had been confiscated from the Bishop of Bath & Wells during the commonwealth period. The transactions were of dubious legality and the lands were returned to the Bishop of Bath & Wells at the restoration of Charles II and many records were destroyed.  Chewton Mendip may have escaped his grasp but several other villages were acquired by Cornelius Burgess and records that may be related to this episode have ended up in Hampshire. Records related to Banwell are one possibility.
Whatever the Kingsmills religious or political beliefs were, they prosecuted John Sage  in 1666 who refused to pay his tithes on ideological grounds because he was a quaker. Sages Farm is still operating to this day and it is probably where John Sage lived.
Some records held in Hampshire help to identify where some key buildings were in Chewton Mendip. Chewton House is now the home of the Earl Waldegrave but it was formally owned by the Kingsmills. Some modern historian discount earlier accounts of ruins of a medieval  priory in Chewton Mendip. Hampshire records confirm that Mr Jenkins built a Gothick Folly he called Chewton Priory but initial allocation of the property of Sheen Priory in 1576 makes reference to a farm and church house at ‘Priory Grove’.
 Collinsons History of Somerset published in 1791 is often quoted as the standard upon which other histories of Somerset based but it also makes the mistake of describing the Waldegraves as the main landowners. The Kingsmills are mentioned but only in passing as lay impropritors.
 Litton is a village on the west of Chewton Mendip that is also only a mile away but it was part of a different Hundred and was owned by Wells Cathedral. Ownership of this manor eventually passed to Hampshire so there are a large number of records for Litton, Somerset. There is also a Litton in Hampshire and it is sometimes difficult to identify which village the records refer to.
 Records held in Hampshire help to explain source of names of other estates listed in the churchwarden accounts and which start in 1699 and the poor book dated 1730 to 1769. The Kingsmills may have divested themselves of some of their properties but a significant percentage of the village was owned by them throughout the 18th century. A  map produced in 1794 shows how much land was owned by the Kingsmills and Jenkins families.
 Robert Brice married into the Kingsmill family and wealth so he changed his name to Kingsmill. He married Elizabeth Corry who was of the ‘whole blood of William Kingsmill’. The Somerset, Berkshire and Suffolk Kingsmills estate went to Elizabeth Corry and she also shared other estates with Rebecca Osgood. Robert Brice Kingsmill  was a naval officer and his influence can be seen in the records of the time when he shook up the vestry committee. One of his more contentious actions was to try to overturn a centuries old agreement to pay a cash alternative to paying tithes in kind. This resulted in a long running law suit with the Hippisley’s and others. There are numerous records of this dispute in the Somerset and Hampshire archives.
 The Hampshire archives may also help to identify when the Old Vicarage and Old Rectory were built. A George Roberts was the tenant of the Parsonage House and farm until 1785 (19M61/4175). A John Baker was paid for building a new vicarage house from 1799 to 1802 whilst a William Lord was a tenant at what may have been the ‘vicarage’ shown in the 1794 house until 1819 according to several Hampshire records. William Lord may have been married to Caroline and had a daughter Elizabeth because people of that name are buried in Chewton Mendip. Caroline Phipps Lord is described as coming from Jamaica on her gravestone.
 It is generally believed that the Rev John Stephens who was appointed to the living of Chewton Mendip in 1793 was the illegitimate son of Robert Brice Kingsmill. He was the beneficiary of a very generous legacy in the will of Robert Brice Kingsmill  and John Stephens also took the Kingsmill name and it was him who commissioned John Baker to build the new vicarage house. This was not popular with other members of the extended Kingsmill family and some form of legal dispute ensued. Details of this dispute are probably held in the Hampshire records.
 John Stephens married Dorthy Mogg of High Littleton which is a few miles north of Chewton Mendip. The Mogg and Hodges family were coal land and coal mine owners and the ‘Somerset Kingsmills’ became involved in that industry at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. John Stephens Kingsmill was replaced by Henry Hodges Mogg  in 1814 who was related to Dorothy and was living in Farrington Gurney or High Littleton. The Hodges and Mogg families also had legal disputes about inheritance and the Somerset archives holds a number of records about these transactions. This was a very litigious time for the incumbents of Chewton Mendip and it appears that Henry Hodges Mogg built a second ‘new parsonage house’ or what is now called The Old Retory 1823.
 The Kingsmills may have been instrumental in introducing the Goldfinch and Scobell families to Chewton Mendip.  John William Goldfinch, a major in the Oxford Militia, married Eliza Robinson Austen in 1807 and was living in Chewton Priory ate the time. William Cuxford (or Coxter) James and members of the Purnell family may also have purchased Kingsmill property at about this time
 Record 19M61/991 is an advertisement for the sale of most of the Kingsmill properties in Chewton Mendip and the local area in 1848. The Scobells are recorded as purchasing what was then called Chewton Cottage  but is now Chewton House. The Haggoods were occupiers of a number of lots and may have purchased them at the auction. The Rev William Groves was the vicar who held the vicaral glebe lands specified in the sale.
 Bristol archive record 28410/18 is the deeds of the purchase of  Kingsmill propety in 1854 by Thomas Melhuish. This record may be the mirror of a records held in Hampshire.It is also possible that the Hampshire records identify when Rev David Drakeford purchased what is now the Old Vicarage.  The Rev David Drakeford was the first vicar who was recorded as his own patron in 1855 and he sold the Old Vicarage to William Blanning in 1859 when it became a private house. This transaction is the earliest one that defines the ‘parsonage house’ precisely. This document is in the possession of the current owner and author of this website. Rev Drakeford was replaced by Richard Stamper Philpot  in 1858 and it is believed that he bought what is now called the Old Rectory, possibly from Henty Hodges Mogg.
 William Kingsmill was still listed as the ‘rector’ in 1890 but The Waldegraves adopted that role soon after.
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