King's Manor of Brunetone

The history of a settlement here goes back to Saxon times when it was called Brunetone, meaning “brown settlement” referring to the heath-covered Brendon Hills. The earliest records date back to the time of Edward the Confessor 1042-1066 and the Domesday Book, commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1085, which states that the King’s Manor of Brunetone (subsequently evolving into Kingsbrompton or Brompton Regis) was held by Gytha (translated from the Anglo Saxon name Ghida), wife of Earl Godwyn and mother of Harold Godwineson (King of England Jan-Oct 1066).

The Domesday Survey says that the Manor paid tax for 10 hides (about 1,200 acres) with 50 villagers, 17 small-holders, 15 pigmen, 2 mills and much woodland all paying £27 12s 1d of white silver. It records that a priest held one hide (sufficient land to support a freeman and his family) in alms from the King which indicates that there was a church here before the Norman conquest, probably a wooden structure.

After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, where Harold was shot in the eye and killed, Gytha held out against the Normans for two years and refused to hand over the manor to William. In 1067, she led a rebellion against him in Exeter to try to defeat him. She lost the battle but managed to escape with her life and was allowed to remain here on condition that, on her death, everything was razed to the ground. Gytha outlived William but it is presumed that the sentence was carried out and that the Manor and its little wooden church were all destroyed.

By the late 12th Century, the Manor had been granted to William de Say who was a descendant of Picot de Say. He founded a small priory of Black Canons to the honour of St Nicholas in the south west of the parish on the banks of the River Barle on a spot called Barlynch. Otherwise known as St Nicholas’s Priory, it played an important role in the influence of the church on the village and its surrounding settlements.

It is likely that the early pattern of settlements consisted of dispersed, irregular hamlets and farmsteads much of which has survived through to today. An archaeological study (Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Paper 1983), which investigated the former settlement pattern in West Somerset using the 1327 Lay Subsidy of West Somerset, found that the pattern of medieval farm sites and hamlets seemed to have survived through to the present day with only about 20% of those in existence in the 14th Century now no longer existing. It also found, in the 14th Century when surnames were evolving, a close correlation between surnames recorded for a settlement and place names, particularly farm names within a parish.

In 1296, the Manor passed to the Besilles family and in 1348 Sir Thomas Besilles Knt, who was Lord of the Manor at the time, was granted a Fair by Royal Charter “to be held on the Patronal festival of the Church, the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven, August 15th”. He obtained a grant for a weekly market on Tuesday and two fairs annually each for four days. During this period, the family had a Motte and Bailey castle built near Bury, and it stayed with the family until 1540 when John Fettiplace became Lord of the Manor. In 1558, it passed to the Cheke family. In 1538, Sir John Wallop was granted the land of  Barlynch Priory (which had been dissolved a year earlier) and, in 1566, the Manor became the possession of Sir Henry Wallop, his son, and was passed on to his only son, Robert Wallop.

Robert Wallop, who was born in 1601, sat in parliament for nearly forty years. He took an active part against the King in the Civil War and was one of the judges at the trial of Charles I, although he was not present when the sentence was pronounced and did not sign the death warrant. On September 14th, 1649, he was granted £10,100 out of estates of the Marquis of Winchester as compensation for his losses during the war.

He was thought to have been a Republican at heart and, as a result of the Act of Oblivion (1660), he was discharged from the House of Commons, made incapable of holding any office or place of public trust and placed in the custody of the Sergeant at Arms. This was followed by a Bill for the confiscation of his estates and imprisonment for life. He was sentenced, with others, to be drawn every January 27th - the date of the King's execution - from the Tower to the gallows at Tyburn on sledges and hurdles with ropes about their necks. His appeal against this on the grounds of ill health was dismissed and Robert died in the Tower in 1667. His estates were granted to his brother-in-law Thomas Wrothesby, Earl of Southampton.

The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century was accompanied by a rise in population, and the need for more home grown food prompted the Inclosure Act of 1804 which opened the way for open commons to be inclosed for farming. This meant that the large commons and open fields that had been cultivated in strips were divided up into the field systems bounded by hedges that we are familiar with today. There were two early ones for Cutcombe and Exton in 1794, and for Kingsbrompton, Upton and Skilgate in 1804.

The changes that were brought about by the Act can be seen from a comparison of the 1804 Inclosure Map of Storridge Common with a tithe map of the same area in 1841 (Somerset Records Office). A Google map of the same area shows that little has changed from the field system that was established at that time. For more information click on this link to the 1804 Inclosure Act

Subsequently, parcels of land from the Manor were bought by Aclands, Joyces, Gardiners, Wyndhams, Lyddons, Webbers, Sydenhams and various others. Lord Porchester, who became the 2nd Earl of Carnarvon in 1811, was Lord of the Manor in these latter parishes in right of his wife, Elizabeth Kitty Herbert, the daughter of Colonel John Acland and Lady Harriet Acland (of Lady Harriet’s Drive fame). A substantial part is still owned by descendants of the Aclands at Pixton through Henry George Herbert and the Herbert family who continued to own land up to the 1980s when the name changed to Grant - but still the same family.

There were five commons in Kingsbrompton and usually the allotments were made adjacent to the claimants own land. What we used to know as “Kingsbrompton Common” was awarded to the Lord of the Manor subject to the rights of poor parishioners to cut furze and dig turf for fuel.

The General Directory for the County of Somerset, Taunton, 1840, printed and published by William Bragg includes an entry for Kingsbrompton - click here to view.

Finally, a comment about the name of the village - Kingsbrompton or Brompton Regis. There does not seem to be any evidence of when either name was adopted or any evolution of the name from Kingsbrompton to Brompton Regis and it seems that both names have been used in the past. A map of Somerset-shire dated 1610 shows the name as Brupton regis, another map of Somersetshire dated 1787 shows it as Brompton Regis as does another map dated 1890. However, another map of Somerset dated 1888, shows it as Kings Brompton. The only formal record that we have of the change (click here) is the church register of baptisms and burials in October 1885, when there was also a change in vicar.

The site of the original Royal Manor, which has been a matter of much conjecture, is thought most likely to have been on the site of the present Kingsbrompton Farm.