1983-Sep-pg61-2_1983 Summer Meetings Reviewed

1983-Sep-pg61-2_1983 Summer Meetings Reviewed

This article came from the Chronicle published Sep 1983. Page 61-2



Author: R.J.Clynick


The first of the summer(?) out-door meetings, on 22 April, took the form of a ‘Yeovil Walkabout‘ under the guidance of Mr L.C.Hayward deputising for Mr Leslie Brooke who was indisposed. There was a fair attendance, despite dubious weather, furthermore, traffic noise did not help. The itinerary closely followed that described in ‘Mr Hayward’s book ‘Yeovil Town Walk’, published in 1975. Gathering at the Parish Church, the party progressed from the church precinct down Silver Street, on to Court Ash, then returning to the Borough, High Street, and Princes Street. We then made our way into Hendford, noting Hendford Manor House, the Manor Hotel, Dr.Flower’s House (with speaking tube and bell push), and the Museum. Returning to the Borough we were conducted through Wine Street (Grope Lane), Union Street, Peter Street, entering South Street, and down to Bond Street (Woborn Almshouse), and so into the Middle Street Precinct, and a return to our starting place. At each and every stop, our guide described in detail the architecture, archaeology, circumstances of origin, ownership, and personalities involved. Altogether a fascinating ‘walk and talk’, for which Mr Hayward was warmly thanked by our chairman Bill Chapman.

Twentyfour members met at Sandford Orcas Manor House on 21 May. Built in 1550 on the foundations of a medieval house, this gem in Hamstone survives virtually unaltered. Since 1380, only families have owned this house – the Medlycotts for the last 250 years – and the present owner Mr Mervyn Medlycott conducted us around this still-lived-in home. Among its many distinguished features are the great hall with its fine Jacobean screen and massive fireplace, mullioned windows with decorative heraldic glass, a wainscotted parlour, great chamber, and gatehouse chamber. It contains a wealth of Jacobean and Queen Anne furniture, an interesting collection of medieval stained glass, family portraits and carpets. The owner prides himself that this is neither a museum nor show-house, but a home, and it was a happy experience to share the beauty and splendour of this building with him. John Moon expressed members’ appreciation and thanks.

On leaving the manor members visited the adjacent church of St Nicholas. Although much altered during the Victorian period, it nevertheless still retains interesting features. There was a church here in 1216 and the present building contains work from the 13th and 14th centuries. There is a 15c oak screen – perhaps formerly from Sherborne Abbey – an interesting 13c round fluted bowled font with 17c cover, and a quaint memorial to William Knowle (d.1607), his two wives and eleven children. Both Tower and the Manor Chapel are 15c, the church being a ‘listed’ building.

A very small group (about eight members) met at Cerne Abbas on 3 June for a tour of the parish church of St Mary, conducted by Mr Brian Gittos, followed by a walkabout of the village, visiting the numerous ruins associated with the famous Benedictine Abbey. In the church Brian drew attention to its principal features, including medieval wall paintings, stained glass, the stone screen, and the font, pulpit and rather high clerestory windows, all of which formed part of the development from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Two restorations, in 1870 and 1960-67, were carried out with great skill, and with little apparent detriment to the original structure. In the following walkabout, we visited the tithe barn, St Augustine’s well (a lively spring) behind one of the walls of the ancient Abbey still intact, the great embattled three-storey gatehouse of the 15c, the small, simple guesthouse with its charming little oriel window, and the site of the old mill. In the village Brian pointed out several carved portions of abbey timbers now adorning the ‘town-houses’, and quite a few pieces of sculpted stone – obviously from the abbey – which were placed behind the wall of the New Inn. Our little party was joined by a group of tourists from Holland and Poland in the church, and they remained with us through the evening, sharing the pleasure of this tour of Cerne. Your scribe thanked Brian on behalf of all those present, for this entertaining and instructive visit.

The Society’s main summer outing took place on 18 June, when, in ideal weather, a fell coach of members and their friends set out for Cotehele, an important fortified medieval manor house sited on the steep west bank on the river Tamar, a few miles from Plymouth. Now in the care of the National Trust, it was the home of the Edgcumbe family from about 1350 until 1947. Built of Cornish granite, it is a solid house in the Gothic style, comprising a great hall, chapel, solar, and elegant rooms with great fireplaces, tapestries, and much fine furniture. The kitchen complex conveys a good impression of the domestic side of day-to-day living.

The great title barn adjacent to the house has been converted into an attractive restaurant. The extensive parklands feature terraced gardens and fine trees and shrubs, About half a mile from the house is the Cotehele Mill where estate maintenance was looked after, comprising the saddlery, a forge, carpenter’s workshop, wheelwright’s shop, a sawpit, and the actual mill for grinding corn – a concentrated complex full of interest,

On the evening of Friday lst July, about fifteen members visited Gants Mill at Bruton, a working water mill whose history goes back to the late 13th century. Originally a woollen mill, probably a corn mill during the late 17th and 18th centuries, it was fitted out as a silk mill around 1800. Some thirty years later it became a corn mill again and has remained so since. It is at present powered by a vertical shaft, water turbine installed in 1668, and is in almost daily use, producing animal feed and occasionally wholemeal flour. Our party was conducted over the mill and told of its history by the owner, Mr Gilbert Shingler and son Brian who, with his wife, also runs enterprise courses for youngsters on the attached farm. The Shinglers, father and son, were thanked on behalf of the party by John Moon.

On Saturday 16 July a visit was made by coach to Cadhay manor house near Ottery St Mary. Its origins go back to the reign of Edward the First, but the main story of this delightful house, as recounted by its present owner, Mr N.W.William-Powlett, begins around 1530. The house has been lived in more or less continuously up to the present time. In the course of a tour of the house, we were given a detailed account of the several families who had occupied Cadhay, and the development of this sub-manor by extensions, alterations and improvements made by each of them. The house has a number of distinctive features, including the ‘Court of Sovereigns’ – an elegant courtyard in the centre of the the buildings with sculpted figures of four monarchs (Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth I) standing over the, doors in each of the surrounding walls, a long gallery, roof of 1550, almost intact. Cadhay has experienced times of neglect and dilapidation, but is now very much a lived-in home, its many rooms appointed with furnishings contemporary with the different periods of its history. Heraldic glass, paintings, china, and some fine fireplaces complement these features. This visit, in beautiful surroundings and in unusually fine weather, was rounded off by tea being taken in Ottery St Mary at an hotel arranged by our secretary, John Moon, to whom our sincere thanks are here recorded.

The annual visit to Halstock to view the season’s excavations of the Roman Villa there, took place on the afternoon of Saturday 20 August, when the usual informative and interesting talk was given by the site director, Mr Ron Lucas. Although nothing of an ‘exciting’ nature had been revealed this time members were able to examine the ‘finds’ which had been unearthed by this year’s ‘dig’.

(Details of the excursion to Purse Caundle, on Friday 2 September, were not to hand at the time of going to press. – Editor.)