THE HISTORY OF GREAT ELM
(this comprehensive contribution by Lynn Baxter)
The search for the full story of our village is ongoing. Whilst some information is in the public domain, there will be lofts and bookcases, photo albums and memories holding precious details to share between those fortunate enough to call this lovely village their home.
Please feel free to contact me email link with material, no matter how modest you may feel it is.
Our story takes much from official sources, local historians, and even an anonymous typescript found in a cupboard.
Thanks to Lynden Cranham for additional information on Glenthorne.
The earliest known settlements in the area of Great Elm were the hill forts of Tedbury and Wadbury with Newbury Hill next to them and the Barrow Hill, an Anglo-Saxon burial site also on a rise nearby (stricty in neighbouring Buckland Dingham). Tedbury and Wadbury camps are Scheduled Monuments of national importance. They stand facing one another at the head of a narrow valley looking towards the area of Spring Gardens
In prehistoric times, Spring Gardens straddled the narrow gap between the chalk downs and the Mendips and became a meeting place of trade routes.
Tedbury Camp is a “large multivallate hillfort” from the Iron Age. There are only around 50 examples of this type recorded in England. It survives despite some quarrying and reduction of the heights of the ramparts. Historic England notes that, like Wadbury Camp, it will contain “archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, longevity, trade, agricultural practices, social organisation, territorial significance, domestic arrangements and overall landscape context”.
Collinson, the Somerset historian writing in 1691, reports that a pot of coins was discovered there, mostly dating from the time of Emperor Constantine, who ruled from 306 – 337 AD. (The date of the find does not therefore appear to be 1961, as a number of publications suggest.)
Wadbury Camp is a “slight univallate hillfort”, one of around 50 examples recorded in England. The type dates from between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (8th – 5th centuries BC). History England reports that hillforts of this type are generally interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. Wadbury survives fairly well, though there is evidence of quarrying and building.
Tedbury and Wadbury camps together must have given protection to the locality.
The site of Great Elm itself could be defended easily because it is on a hillside above Mells Stream, with the top of the hill, where the church stands, commanding the approaches from Frome via Egford and Hapsford.
Parts of the village are currently designated as `of high archaeological potential’, including areas on which the Gothic Villa, Elmhurst stood, and to the right side of Elm Lane as you descend to the Mill Pond, which we now commonly call the “duck pond”.
Two barrows west of Bedlam, a field system north of Great Elm, terraced strip fields to the south, and a deserted farm site north west of Great Elm, are on record. (Mendip District Council Local Plan 2002 App. 8)
EARLY DOCUMENTARY RECORDS
Great Elm existed as a settlement before the Norman Conquest. The earliest documentary reference is found in the Geld Inquest of 1084, a list of returns made in response to a levy of geld, or land tax. It is registered in the Exon Domesday which covered the south west, and was so detailed that it included details of livestock. The Domesday Book of 1086 is based on this – though it omits the livestock information, as people complained about the degree of intrusiveness involved in compiling it, and the book was already big without it.
It is worth dwelling on this remarkable document, completed in a matter of months, just at the end of William the Conqueror’s reign. The detailed picture of the English landscape is unparalleled, says G. H. Martin. It is valuable, not just for the picture it allows local historians to reconstruct of their area, but also as the foundation document of the national archives. It has been used down the ages as evidence of title of land and last consulted for legal precedent in 1982.
The King’s commissioners, some seven or eight panels of bishops and earls, each took a circuit of several counties to make “a survey of all England; of the lands in each of the counties; of the possessions of each of the magnates, their lands, their habitations, their men, both bond and free, living in huts or with their own houses or land; of ploughs, horses and other animals; of the services and payments due from each and every estate” (Robert, Bishop of Hereford.).
It was called the Domeday Book because “it is not permissible to contradict its decisions, any more than it will be those of the Last Judgement” (Treasurer of England, Richard fitzNigel, 12th Century).
At that time, Great Elm was called Telvye and the land was owned by Osbern Gifferd. The fullest information we have from the Domesday censuses is given below:
“Osbern himself holds Telvye. Dunna held it TRE and it paid geld for 5 hides. There is land for 4 ploughs. In demesne are 4 hides ande 1 virgate and 1 plough and 2 serfs; and 3 villeins and 4 bordars with 3 ploughs and 3 virgates. There are 1 riding horse and 15 beasts and 16 swine and 250 sheep and 30 she-goats. 2 mills rendering 100d, and 14 acres of meadow, and 16 acres of scrubland and 14 acres of pasture. Formerly £3; now £4.”
TRE: `at the time of King Edward’ i.e. before the Conquest of 1066.
Geld: a land tax assessed on the hide, a standard unit based notionally on the amount of land which would support a household.
Virgate: A quarter of a hide and the equivalent of the English Yardland.
Villein: a peasant of higher economic status than a bordar and living in a village, notionally unfree because subject to the manorial court.
Bordar: a cottager.
Osbern Gifferd was a Norman rewarded for taking part in the Conquest by being given the manor of Telvye. Peter Belham, in research published in the 1970s, thinks that the manor was created specially in 1066. He suggests that before the Conquest the land had formed part of the larger manor of Buckland Dinham. Both places had been owned by the Anglo-Saxon, Dunno, before that.
It is not known when Telvye became Elme, then Elm and then Great Elm. Peter Belham noted a reference to “Clive” in a 14th century document. The change to Great Elm was to distinguish it from Little Elm (Chantry). The OS map of 1817 still refers to Elm, as do many of the deeds of properties in the village.
Some of the details below about people from the 14th to the 19th centuries are taken from Peter’s leaflet on the village, augmented by an anonymous local writer.
In the Middle Ages the manor of Elm was held by a variety of families after Osbern Gifferd. The lands were cultivated by tenant farmers of various ranks. The large number of sheep recorded in Domesday shows that the rearing of sheep was as important then as it became later.
In the later Middle Ages, the ownership of land became more widely distributed and villagers were able to take possession of their holdings, though some remained a tenants and there was still a manor, a manor house and a family who owned the manor and with it, the right to be patron of the church.
In the early 14th century the patron was William Portbrefe, a well-known land owner in Frome. Later in the same century, Sir William Cary, sheriff of Somerset from 1341 to 1351 held the manor. In 1420 Elizabeth DeBrecon, widow of Reginald, died whilst owning it. During that century, it passed to John de Edyndone, then to various others including Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon, who died in 1470. During Elizabeth 1’s reign the manor was owned by Henry, Lord Compton, and then passed into the family of Spencer, then sold to Robert Webb and Alexander Chocke, Frome men who had made good in the cloth trade. They sold the manor to Thomas Hodges and from him it descended in marriage to the Strachey family, who held it until the beginning of the 20th century.
Elm became not only an agricultural community but also an industrial one. In the 16th century it was one of many villages involved in cloth-making, primarily as an addition to families’ income from farming. The cloth was made in villagers’ homes and sent to Frome for collection and on to Blackwell Hall in London for sale.
Later in the history of the cloth industry, the introduction of simple machinery driven by water power, and the increasing need for water for the fulling and dyeing processes, gave prominence to Great Elm. Until the second half of the 19th century, various cloth mills flourished along the valley of the Mells Stream, between Elm and Hapsford.
One of the mills was owned by Sinkins & Wood, among the leading cloth manufacturers in Frome. In the later 19th century all the mills in the valley were closed down or converted, owing to the competition exerted by the more progressive Yorkshire cloth industry.
The story of Fussell’s Iron Works is told later.
With the decline of both the cloth and iron industries the number of inhabitants of the village crashed from 820 in 1841 to 163 in 1951, though the latter figure was affected by the creation of the parish of Chantry (Little Elm). The population in 2011 was 171.
The Church of St Mary Magdalene
The following details combine Peter Belham’s description which can be found in the church as well as is leaflet on Great Elm from the 1970s, together with Pevsner, and the writer/compiler of this section.
Our parish church is a Grade 1 listed building. It is a charming building, full of incident. Outside one can find a sundial on the south face of the tower and a much older scratch dial.
Although modernised the building still retains features of great interest. The church shell is very early Norman, or possibly pre-Norman. Some rare herringbone masonry, typical of early Norman work but used also by Roman and Anglo-Saxon masons, is visible on the nave walls, north and south. On the north side is a blocked up doorway, partly covered by the transept, which has a very early appearance.
The church seems to have been enlarged in the first half of the 13th century, when the nave was lengthened to the west and the tower added. There is some fine Early English detail in the tower, and possibly the influence of Hinton Priory was felt there. The probable date of the tower is about 1240. The west door is very good, the label containing a fine ornamental dog’s tooth, and the segmental head is recessed in two orders. A little quatrefoil light surmounts the lancet window over the door, and may be regarded as a very early experiment in tracery.
The tower is saddle-backed and little altered, except for the modern slate roof. The buttresses rake to ground level with a bold string course of roll-section over being noteworthy.
The string and plinth is carried on to the junction with the earlier nave, and there the plinth is returned inwards with a square mitre. A similar return of a plinth is visible near the north end of the east wall of the chancel and may point to a widening of the chancel in the 13th century. In the south wall of the nave are two windows, originally Early English, as the drop arches inside testify, but the tracery in them is of a simple “decorated” order and is modern, probably not a reproduction of old work though some of the jamb stones are certainly old.
In the chancel south wall is a square headed window of three lights of the Early Perpendicular type. It may even be of the 14th century, as with the porch, with its rudely worked entrance arch.
Inside the church is the western gallery, where the choir and organ used to be, which came in about the time of Elizabeth. A west gallery was a feature of the post-Reformation, providing accommodation for musicians. The gallery is painted pine in imitation of Jacobean and approached by an external stone staircase on the north side, quite a rare feature now. Such an arrangement may still be seen at Cameley. There were formerly other examples at Shipham and Chilton Polden.
The pews are interesting. In the nave they are good Jacobean in oak and rather like those at Mells. Those in the transept are clever imitation in pitch pine.
The covered plaster ceiling of the nave and transept has bosses of different patterns. There are two rooms in the old Rectory with ceilings which match with that roof and which must have been done at the same time.
The pseudo-Gothic of the early 19th century has obliterated all feeling of antiquity in the chancel. It is possible that the walls of the transept may in part be ancient (probably of the 14th century), but that part has been entirely modernised.
The are two other Early English features: the lancet window in the north wall of the chancel, near which (on the outside) is a flat buttress, very shallow and rough; and the Early English arch between the nave and the tower, which has unfortunately lost its inner ring of mouldings so that the true proportions are gone, and the corbels project without anything to support. The windows have only recently been opened up.
The 17th century litany desk was probably removed from a three-decker pulpit and given to the church by Rev. L. D. Campbell Douglas. There is a late 17th century coffin stool and chair.
In the tower sits a 15th century chest with three locks. The rector and church warden each held keys and had to be present together to open the chest.
An edict of 1603 ruled that the parchment book housed in the chest should be taken out every Sabbath day so, that the minister should be witnessed by the church wardens as he recorded and dated the names of all those christened, their parents, and those married and buried in the parish in the week before.
A tempera painting on a panel, given by Mabel Campbell Douglas in 1910, is Carl Strauss of Florence’s copy of a Fra Lippa Lippi nativity.
Pevsner records the church plate: Chalice and cover of 1571 and a Paten of 1732.
The war memorial, to the right of the porch of the church, was unveiled in November 1921 by the Marquis of Bath, and takes the form of a Celtic cross with decorated shaft and octagonal base and names 5 individuals: A. G. Hayman, S. C. Williams, F. Russell, R. Aikenhead and W. Matthews.
As we shall see, the people of Hapsford suffered much:
The only son of Alfred George Hayman (senior) and Ellen was born on 24.2.1884.Alfred George Hayman grew up in Hapsford House. He was a Captain in the 3rd Welsh Regiment and was killed in action aged 32 by a shell on 9 September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme whilst leading his company at High Wood near Langueval. He had kept his men together for a week under intense shell fire and, though wounded on the first day, refused to be sent back for treatment. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for great gallantry and devotion to duty.
His memorial plaque in the church was erected by his wife Marjorie and his sisters. His wife, Marjorie Vivian Mary Butt, was an American living at Walford, Herefordshire. Their marriage banns had been read at Wickhamford in 1912. They then emigrated on 20.3.1912 to Calgary in Canada on the Empress of Britain, arriving in St John, New Brunswick on 31.3.1912.
The reason for his residence at Wickhamford parish when the banns were read in 1912 is not known but on return from Canada in 1915 he is listed in the ship’s manifest as a farmer. It is surmised that he had been a farm student at Field Farm, working for Benjamin Carter in 1911 – 12 as Mrs Emily Carter was the younger sister of Alfred George Hayman, senior.
Alfred the son held a commission with the Welsh Regiment from 1906 until his marriage in 1912. On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Canadian Mounted Rifles, but returned to Britain arriving in Liverpool on 17.7.1915. He was recommissioned as a Lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment on 19.9.1915, serving in France and Flanders from February. He is buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval in France.
In probate records he is described as of Cromarty, Elmsleigh Road, Weston super Mare at the time of his death. His name does not appear on the Weston super Mare war memorial.
It was his father who planted a tree outside the village hall to mark the coronation of King George. It replaced an earlier tree, though neither was an elm. Alfred, senior, and his wife, Ellen Dorothy, are memorialised with a twin window light in the south wall of the church.
Robert Aikenhead also has a memorial plaque in the church, with the words: “Canada will not forget”. Robert was in the 48th Highlanders of Canada, and died fighting at the 2nd Battle of Ypres on 24 April, 1915 aged 23. He was Commercial Editor of the Toronto Times and had enlisted in 1914. He has no known grave. He was the son of Brigadier Frank Aikenhead who lived at Rock House.
Sid Williams lived at Hapsford Mill. He was killed in action on 27 March 1918. His daughter, Gert, gave his army clothes brush numbered 30995 to his great nephew, Mike. She lived in the mill, which had no electricity until the late 1960s when she moved to 7 Church Close.
Concerning the identity of W Matthews, Mike Rideout, who has provided some of the above information, tells us that the only Matthews that he knows of being killed in action was born in Downhead and had parents living at 52 Butts Hill in Frome. In the 1950s, Bert Matthews who worked at Hapsford Quarry, and his wife who worked at Victoria Hospital in Frome, lived at Church Cottage, and had a son Tony living at Moonsleaze.
Should anyone be able to confirm the identity of W Matthews, we would be grateful to hear from you.
There are many buried in the churchyard without memorials. A lancet-shaped window at the east end of the north wall of the chancel, containing stained glass of a crowned Christ with a chalice, honours them. The window had been blocked up but was rediscovered in 1837. A brass plaque below it indicates that the glass work is a gift of the parishioners and friends to the memory of the unnamed dead buried in the churchyard.
There are 40 paupers’ graves from the 18th century alone in the churchyard, most of them of women. Their names are known and work is being undertaken to find out more about them. They include four members of the Fussell family.
In the churchyard itself there is a small tombstone dated 1736 and this is the earliest now existing. Many others favour a celtic cross design.
One notable tombstone inscription, appositely in a beautiful font, celebrates the life of Joe Tanner, who lived at Glebe House and ran the important printers, Butler & Tanner in Frome. (The compiler of this part of our story worked for a national publisher in Edinburgh who regularly sent work to Butler & Tanner for printing during the 1970s – just at the moment when the hot metal type referred to on Joe’s headstone ceased to be used.)
1928 – 2006
that the forme be
that’s put to bed
with errors uncorrected
Also Geri his wife
1931 – 2016
ROLL OF RECTORS OF ELME
First, the name of the Rector is given with his installation date and then the Patron’s name as they appear on the chart in the church
a.c. =Advocatione concessa i.e. that the advowson or right to present to the Benefice is being surrendered to others.
cler. = clerygyman
dom. = lord
gen. = generosus i.e. son, of an armiger
mil. = knight
vid = widow
Rog. De Derinton 8 April 1318 Will. Portebrefe
Joh. Wyldefur 13 Kal. Dec 1348 Will. de Portebrefe
Jon. Blaunchekote iv. Id. June 1350 as above
Galf. de Causton 27 Nov 1352 as above
Rob. Combe 7 Dec 1401 Patron not given
Walt. Harwode 9 Feb 1418 Isabella Barnabe
Will Sadeler No further details
Joh. Tayte 19 Sept 1454 Will. dom. Boneville de Chewton, Mill.
Ric. Scayle 21 Nov 1455 as above
Joh. More 5 Nov 1457 Humf. Stafford, arm.
dom. de Elme
Joh. Hert 3 June 1746 Humf. dom. Stafford de Southwicke
Humf. Dyker No further details
Will. Clyffe 13 June 1502 Rob. Willoughby. mil. dom. de Broke
Joh. Swinerton 23 July 1556 Will. con Pembrochiae
Rob. Hill 30 July 1561 as above
Rob. Adams 22 Nov 1565 as above
Tho. Manton A.M. 4 March 1584 Not given
Tho. Manton A.M. 6 April 1585 Not given
Will. Pearce A.M. 10 June 1592 Will. Atkinson gen. a.c. per Will. Compton
Rob. Hode A.M. 18 Dec 1628 Geo. Hodges
Jon. Pelling A.M. 23 June 1645 Maria Pearce executrix Rob. Hodges cler.
Joh. Higden 6 April 1669 Ric. Higden
Joseph Francis A.B. 25 Aug 1712 Jac. Cook et Tho. Heath
a.c. per John Strachey, arm.
Joseph Francis A B 6 Nov 1712 Jana Strachey, vid.
Roe King B.A. 20 July 1764 John King of Sherborne
John Griffith, M.A., D.D. 8 Aug 1791 Thomas Griffith, of Frome Selwood
Robert Blakeney, L.LB. 20 July 1816 Said Robert Blakeney and Sarah Griffith, of Warminster, widow
Charles Tapp Griffiths, M.A, D.D.
17 June 1823 Sarah Griffith of Bishopstrow, Wilts, widow
Daniel Race Godfrey. D.D. 14 June 1866 William Strachey of the Colonial Office, London
Lord FrancIs George Godolphin Osborne, B.A., M.A.
5 Oct 1868 William Strachey,as above
Samuel Charles Haines, M.A., Ph.D.
13 May 1906 William Strachey of Elm
Robert Thornton L. Th. 9 March 1906 Alfred George Hayman, of Hapsford House, Elme
Leopold Colin Hen. Douglas Campell-Douglas
10 June 1908 As above
Charles Henry Richards M.A
3 April 1913 As above
George Frederick Wilgress, M.A
25 Sept 1917 As above
Arthur Vernon Deanes M.A
13 Ayg 1924 As above
United Benefice of Buckland Dunham with Elme
Harold Septimus Pugh, N.Mc, M.A, Hon C.F.
25 Mar 1931 Alfred George Hayman, of Hapsford House, Elme and Bishop of Bath & Wells alternate.
Lionel Guy Courtney M.A. 23 Sept 1953 Bishop of Bath & Wells
Stanley Max Benjamin M.A.
11 April 1970 As above
Jack Cunningham (Assistant Bishop)
26 Jan 1978 As above
John Yates 24 July 1979 As above
Incumbents Mells with Elm
Donald O. Pritchard 1983
Dan Olive 1988
Martin E. Waymont 1997
Clive Fairclough 2017
Notes on the Rectors
Geoffrey de Canston became rector in 1352 after being a chaplain of the Chantry Chapel of St Catherine in Frome, where Sheppards Barton now is. It was established by the lord of the manor, William Branch.
The Black Death was virulent in Frome which may account for the swift succession of three rectors from 1348 – 52.
Peter Belham notes that William Clyffe was rector from 1502 to 1556, remaining through all the changes brought about by Henry VIII and Edward VI. Whilst 54 years in harness may be the reason for retirement from office, Peter surmises that he may have objected to the return to Papal authority in Mary’s reign as he was replaced in 1556, with a successor who himself was replaced a year later. By then Elizabeth I had revoked Mary’s attempts to restore Roman Catholicism in England. By contrast, during the later period of political and religious turmoil – the civil war, Cromwell and the Restoration of the 17th century – the same rector, John Pelling, held office from 1645 to 1669.
Thomas Manton seems to have been installed as Rector in 1584 as well as in 1585. There are no details of the patron in either case which might suggest a period of turmoil concerning this appointment.
It appears that Joseph Francis’ installation in 1723 needed to be reaffirmed by Jana, widow of the lord of the manor, John Strachey , who had, in 1712, passed on his right to choose who should be the rector to others.
BUILDINGS OF INTEREST:
Research for this section is cumulative and assistance is needed from current and past residents, who may hold leases and details of great interest. We would like to have your reminiscences of life in the village. The 1841 and 1851 censuses have been transcribed and later ones will be, in due course, though few of the residencies are named.
Part Tudor and part Georgian in its architecture, Glebe House dates from the 17th century, with early 19th century alterations and additions. It has served as rectory, school and family home.
The Marquis of Lansdown was taught here in his early years as a pupil of the then rector. The 1841 census shows the Rev. Griffiths to be in residence with his wife, Anne and two of his children, Frances and Caroline, together with four servants. Also in residence were eight pupils, all boys aged between 11 and 15 years.
By 1851 there is no sign of pupils being taught here by the rector, though there is a full household with five unmarried children – Frances, Charles, Harriet, Mary and Caroline, some of whom are buried in the churchyard. There were also three house servants, a young man acting as both gardener and groom and an errand boy.
Leonard Woolf stayed in Glebe House in 1912, setting out for London to propose to Virginia Stephen, who became his wife and fellow Bloomsbury Group member. It must surely have intrigued Joe Tanner that his home had been associated in this way with the Hogarth Press, which Leonard and Virginia set up as the publishers of many writers of note.
A blue plaque has been put up at Frome Station:
travelled from this station to London on
11 January 1912
to propose marriage
to Adeline Virginia Stephen
The resulting union bore fruit in
The League of Nations, The Hogarth Press
and the major works of
Richard Tomlinson, who stayed with his grandparents at Daneswood, now Wood Rising, remembers having tea here as a boy in the 1950s, accompanied by a tiger skin rug with the head still attached.
The house is 16th century with 20th century alterations. It may have been a barn with a speculative date of 1593. There are beams inside with slots as were used in the construction of barns, one beam being said to be from a ship’s keel.
The house is Grade II * listed with Grade II gardens.
The house changed its name often. Originally Hapsford Cottage, in the mid 19th century it was known variously as Vallis House, Vallis Cottage and Vallis Villa, before becoming Hapsford House.
The house was built for George George, a woollen cloth manufacturer in Frome. Jeremiah Cruse’s map of 1815 shows the site to contain a paddock with mill buildings, a cottage and a mill stream to the east. Greenwood’s map of Somersetshire surveyed in 1820–1 shows that the villa and pleasure grounds were in existence by then. Built by an unknown architect, it was extended when further land was bought by George from the lord of the manor, Sir Henry Strachey, in 1834.
The house was originally made up of a central two-storey hipped roofed building with a two-storey ring to the north and a single storey on the garden front. This has Gothic Revival plasterwork, and a Chinese dining room adjoining it. In 1834, the two-storey south west wing was added to match the other wing, together with a conservatory.
George died in 1839. His widow, Mary, still a young woman, was there in the 1841 census, at “Apsford Cottage” together with Louisa Shering, also of independent means, plus three servants.
Associated with “Apsford” also in the 1841 census is William House, gardener, with his young family, and William Fussell, a 20 year old cloth worker.
By the 1851 census, the widow, Mary, had married Henry George Morrish, a captain in the Royal Marines from Plymouth. The couple employed a cook from Frome, Sophia Staples, a house maid from Edington called Lidia Carter, and a footman from Tisbury, John Neale.
By the 1872 Morris’s Directory of Somerset & Bristol, it is Mary’s name being registered under Hapsford House rather than Captain Morrish of the previousd year’s Kelly’s Directory, and a Miss Sheppard is at Hapsford Cottage.
By 1876 Alfred Hayman, a Bristol dentist had bought the house. When he died in 1923 it was sold to William Payne-Seddon.
The kitchen garden and cottage and Hapsford Mill are now separately owned.
(The above Information is taken from Historic England, the 1841 -1861 censuses and Directories.)
The gardens are described in detail by Historic England and are registered for their special historic interest, under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953, within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Parts of the gardens were initially designed in the late 1990s by Penelope Hobhouse, modified by Pam Lewis.
Hapsford Mill was a woollen cloth mill, at the time part of the property of Hapsford House, but predating it. In 1793 George George already owned the mill. By 1833, his son, George Marwood George owned it. Simkins & Wood ran it from 1838 – 1859. The 1841 census shows Levi Wood, clothier at “Apsford” with his wife, Eliza, and two small children Harriet and William, together with two servants from the village, Eliza Gawen and Hannah Ballis. William Yerbury, a woollen draper and his wife Anne, together with Elizabeth Adams were also living there.
The 1851 census gives Levi Wood of Painswick as the woollen cloth manufacturer still in charge of what is called “Hapsford Factory”, employing 187 people.
By the late 19th century it was a sawmill and by 1900 a tramway had been constructed from the mill to the stone quarries in Vallis Vale below.
The Methodist Chapel
Information on the building, its congregation and the people who later lived in the chapel is welcomed.
Keith Kemp who lived at the chapel when it became a residence, says:
“When we bought The Old Chapel we received the bundle of deeds. This included a document on vellum with beautiful copperplate writing concerning its foundation. This gave a revealing glimpse into the past in that the trustees were mainly Edge Tools workers and Lime Burners. Their reason for relinquishing their trusteeship was death except for one who had emigrated to America! Later entries on paper were typed and written with Biros. In this category we were amazed to see the name of Anthea’s uncle William Goddard who had been the headmaster of the Wesleyan School in Frome. It was in his time that the chapel became redundant and was sold for peanuts , I believe to Martins, a local removals firm who used it as a furniture warehouse We were tempted to hang on to the bundle but felt its rightful owners were the couple to whom we sold the chapel”,
The Stracheys owned this large house in the early 20th century. It was built in three different eras, being a fine Georgian construction with Edwardian and modern additions. It has a walled herb garden and in recent times has become known for its Great Elm Physick Garden.
Though built as recently as 1989, the cottage is entirely at home next to the others in Elm Lane. It was made from reclaimed materials by the then owner, Roger Frere-Smith.
This large farmhouse has a semi-circular stone plaque with raised lettering on its low gable, dating the building to 1675. There is mid 19th century restoration.
The Eagle Inn
The house now called George and Dragon Cottage was the Eagle Inn, built in the 17th century.
In the 1841 census, Harry Ball was the innkeeper with his wife, Jane,.and their four girl children. Also present at the census were a female servant, Mary Ashby, two agricultural labourers, John Coombs and Edward Coombs, and a male servant, William Frapwell. Perhaps the young Coombs men were present for a drink when the census was being taken, rather than as permanent members of the household.
By the 1851 census, Jane Ball is a widow and now keeper of the “beer house”. Her unmarried daughter, Jane, is a house worker there. along with her younger siblings, Lucy and Emma. A widow, Elizabeth Dowling, is a general cleaner there.
By 1871 Houro Frapwell is the licensed victualler. His name caused the census enumerators difficulty as he is recorded as Hazo in 1841 and Hoezo in 1851 when he had been a 19 year old limeburner. His wife, Mary, along with their four children lived at the inn, the last named being the baby, Houzo E. Mary’s sister, Sarah, is also present, as well as Margaret Chamberlain, a general servant.
Glenthorne, in Great Elm, was built by John Hampden Wall. Hampden, as he was known in the family, was English, but from 1893 (with frequent home leave) he worked in Buenos Aires, managing the Electric Grand Tramway Company. In about 1903, nostalgic for childhood holidays with his maternal grandparents, Joseph and Eliza Biggs, in Great Elm, Hampden bought about 4 acres there, beside the River Mells. The Fussell’s Ironworks employees’ decrepit cottages were demolished, and Hodders of Frome began the build in 1906 overseen by two of Hampden’s older brothers, Henry Cromwell Wall and William Wilberforce Wall. Glenthorne was finished in about 1908.
In 1909 Hampden and his family moved into Glenthorne, although Hampden continued travelling to and from Buenos Aires until 1914. In order to support his cherished but expensive English lifestyle he got another job in South America in 1916 (again, with frequent home leave). He became manager – harbour master – of La Guaira Harbour Corporation, Venezuela, a job he kept until the end of his life.
During the summer of 1919 Hampden’s younger sister, Louise, stayed at Glenthorne. Her ex-colleague, the Assistant Censor from the Post Office’s wartime Censorship Office, a “French Canadian” called “Jules Crawford Silber”, took digs nearby in Murtry and was a frequent visitor to the family at Glenthorne and to Great Elm. It later transpired that Mr Silber was actually Julius Silber, a German spy, who had used the Censorship Office to enable his activities. According to his later memoirs – see J.C. Silber, The Invisible Weapons (London: Hutchinson 1932) – he was awaiting repatriation while staying in Murtry.
Hampden died 0n 21 February 1928 and is buried at St Mary’s, Great Elm. Glenthorne was sold in about 1940. Hampden’s widow, Adelaide, died on 29 May 1949, and is interred in his grave.
There are a number of early 20th century photographs of Glenthorne and its predecessors, as the house sits close to the pond and is captured in the view.
A post card of 1907 shows thatched cottages on the site, together with a rank of almshouses fronting the pond.
Bridge House and the Coach House
Maureen Lehane, mezzo-soprano singer, was known for her recordings and performances of Handel’s operas. She had a wide repertoire and performed in many countries. She also lectured at Reading University. She lived at Bridge House with her husband, the composer, Peter Wishart, who had studied with Nadia Boulanger and was Professor of Music at Reading University. He was known for composing several neo-classical operas, songs and church music. Together, they edited the three volume Purcell Song realisations and she recorded a CD of Peter’s songs.
Maureen was founder of the Great Elm Music Festival, Jackdaws Music Education trust and an annual Vocal Award for young singers.
Great Elm Music Festival began through Maureen inviting her students for weekends to her home for performances and picnics. When Peter died she had no heart to continue but the students did and they expanded the event with a performance of Handel’s Water Music by Mells Stream. The event became the Great Elm Music Festival in memory of Peter. The first fully fledged festival was held in 1987 and continued each year for 12 years.
The Great Elm Vocal Awards, which Maureen established in 1992 has grown into a national competition for young singers, renamed the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards following her death in 2010.
Jackdaws Music Education Trust was founded in 1992 supported in the following year by Dame Joan Sutherland O.M. It is still housed in the
Coach House built by Maureen and Peter next to their home, Bridge House. In 2019 a new facility has been added.
The Gothic villa is shown in the same early photographs that show Glenthorne. Elmhurst can be seen on the rise. It was a dwelling house, pleasure grounds, garden, coach house, stables and two cottages with gardens.
The Rev John Thomas Richardson Fussell of Amroth Castle, near Tenby owned the property with Robert Wesley Hall in 1859. In 1875, two of the Fussell family members with others sold the property to Stephen Skurray. In 1878 it was owned by John Taylor, and by 1889 by Windham Charles Gerrett. Charles Forbes Dignum-Mitchell bought it in 1896, changing the name from Rosemount to Elmhurst.
The 1903 auction at the George Hotel in Frome, details the house (no.188 on the Tithe Commutation Map of Elm).The buyer was Edward Kellow Percy Wood
On offer were also Elmhurst Cottages (no.189 on the Tithe Commutation Map of Elm) which Henry Allard had sold to Ambrose Nicholls in 1859. By 1896 the cottages had belonged “late in the occupation of James White and John Nicholls, and now late of Mr Jones and Mr Rossiter as tenants thereof.” The latter, a roofless shell until recently, was called Rossiter’s Ruin by local people and is now a beautifully appointed cottage, the planned renovation by George Chedburn, architect in this village.
Percy Wood also bought land on Elm Lane, half way down on the right hand side. This was ground sold by Sir Edward Strachey to Ambrose Nicholls in 1887, and sold on to George Walters in 1891. In the 1903 auction particulars this was detailed as “a large vegetable garden and small paddock with an enclosed yard having a very useful range of buildings consisting of laundry, piggery, cart shed, 2 cow houses, loose box, store room, poultry houses, workshop, etc .There is also a heated greenhouse, with pits and boiling house.”
Wood bought further properties in Great Elm. In an auction of 1905 he wants 34 cottages and gardens known as the Poor House Tenements (numbered part 162 on the Ordnance Survey and no 229 on the Tithe Map.) though it is not clear whether he bought them or not. These must be the Almshouses by the pond.
He does buy land in Great Elm numbered 167 on the Ordance Survey Map from Eli Gillman. This had been land made up of that owned by William Strachey and sold on to Augusts Dodge in 1874 and, confusingly, land owned by Augusts Dodge and sold to William Strachey in 1890.
Elmhurst was bought by Thomas Anthony Neesham in 1956. This is the year that the big house burnt down. Victor Williams, a builder, bought the land making a number of bungalows on the site. In the early 1960s, Junefield was bought by the Petleys, and The Garth by the Gibsons.
Set in Vallis Vale, Bedlam has attracted many for its picturesque setting. People would stop to have their photographs taken in front of the cottages, old stone bridge and the fulling mill.
The present owners, Bill and Anne Smith, think that Bedlam Cottage was probably originally three cottages. They bought the cottages and the ruined fulling mill in 1981. Anne records that, at that time, she met a “a very old couple who lived across the field. They told me that the lane over the river and past our house was once the main Bristol road and was now called Shep’s Lane. I believe this was because a family called Sheppard once owned the mill. In their day, carts from Frome used the lane. When we first came, the farmer would drive his cattle and sheep to the common and the hunt occasionally came across the bridge”.
Bedlam Mills. Robert Naish, fuller of Elm in 1765, owned “Bedlam Bottom Mill”. Robert had married at Elm Church and he banns were read on 11.10.1762. He married Sarah Salisbury of Elm.
Thomas Hall owned it in 1810, with Rawlings & Co as leaseholders. Gilbert Rotton owned it in 1826, and John French, a clothier of Gould’s Ground, in 1830. (extracted by Sarah Lowther from Ken Rogers’ Wiltshire & Somerset Woollen Mills, 1976.)
In the 1841 census those recorded at Bedlam Mills are William Sheppard, fuller, and Mary, his wife, who was a dairy woman; James Pickford; James Sheppard, a clerk, his wife, Betsy, and children – Elizabeth, John and Walter. Eliza Stokes was a servant. Also at Bedlam was Henry Brown, a labourer and Elizabeth, his wife. There were also two unoccupied dwellings.
By the 1851 census the children of James and Betsy, together with Elizabeth Sheppard, a 30 year old “simster”, and her brother, Walter, a 16 year old labourer, are living at “Rifford’s Mill”.
William Sheppard, aged 66 years, a fuller, is at “Rifford’s Cottage”. We assume that, whilst he is recorded as a bachelor, he is the same William Sheppard that had been married to Mary in the 1841 census. Further, we assume that Rifford’s Mill and Cottage is actually Bedlam Mills and Cottage.
Robert Harding, a fuller in Elm was at Rifford’s Mill in 1875, and John and James Sheppard in the early 19th century.
The Village Hall
Information on the building, its activities past and present, are welcomed.
Mrs Frost of Daneswood (now Wood Rising), grandmother to Richard Tomlinson, was a Women’s Institute member attending meetings in the 1950s. He remembers her making lampshades, and visiting the Babycham factory with the group.
During the 1970s, a thriving amateur dramatics group performed here. Photos of their productions are still in existence.
Richard Tomlinson says that his maternal grandparents owned what was then called Daneswood on the edge of the Mells River valley. It is the first of three fine Victorian houses here. His family, including the three boys, moved here on their return from Egypt and Richard attended Mells school. “We played by the river and learned how to fish, using bent pins and bamboo poles to catch first roach and then trout. There was great excitement when my mother bought us a packet of real fishhooks from Frome. The river at that time was full of crayfish, and we used to catch them and have crayfish races in the grass by the river.” Richard was sent away to school and remembers treasured days at Daneswood three times a term plus weeks during the school holidays when he visited what was the home of his grandparents. “Daneswood, in its glorious setting, was heaven to us boys at that time. To stand on the terrace looking over the lush valley with only the sounds of songbirds and the running river, to cast our lines into the mysterious waters of the river, from the then forgotten old ironworks upstream to the series of deeply shadowed pools downstream, to walk every morning the through the bracken, hazel bushes and wild garlic by the river amid the constant cooing of wood pigeons, to watch water voles swimming along the muddy banks, and herons and kingfishers at every other bend, it was idyllic. You never saw another soul… Daneswood and its village – for three young boys – was heaven on earth.”
Mike Rideout, who lived in Great Elm in the 1950s, says that Daneswood’s name was changed to Wood Rising by the Stowells, Mr Stowell working for the BBC in Bristol. Subsequent owners have included Monty Norman who composed the James Bond theme.
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