Violet Graham painted many watercolours of our local area.   We have put together a collection of her pictures, kindly lent by their owners.

This will be held in Holy Trinity Burrington on Saturday 4 May, Sunday 5 May and Monday 6 May between 10.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m.

Do please come along and see what we hope will be a lovely exhibition of her work.


Jane Dixon and Mike McLennan

Langford Tanneries – a History of a Local Industry

With the death of Mr ‘Tacker’ Morris, the hamlet of Lower Langford lost its final connection to an activity that had been important to it for several centuries: shoemaking.  Being situated in the centre of a cattle-rearing area, there was ready access to the most important raw material: hides for leather.  And, stretched out along the main coach road from Bristol to Exeter, Langford was well placed to gain access to markets for its products.  Tanneries would have been an essential element in this business and the Langford History Group has been anxious for some time to put on record the known history of Langford’s tanneries and the families who owned and operated them.  This dormant project has recently been stimulated back into life by some wonderful research by a lady from Brisbane, Jenny Clark.  As a result, we are now able to identify many of the tanners who worked on these sites over nearly two centuries!

Jenny’s interest stemmed from a study she was making of an ancestor, James Clark.  She knew that James had worked at a tannery in Langford during the late 18th century and she contacted us via this website.  Below are extracts from the e-mail exchange which followed.  They illustrate the journey of discovery as it unfolded across the globe!

Jenny’s first e-mail:

I am most interested in the information that you may have on the tanneries at Lower Langford as mentioned on your Research News page. I have noted in my research previously (from The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset, published 1791) that they mention large tanning yards at Lower Langford, but would love to know who ran them and about the workers and conditions there.

My ancestor James Clark (who was baptised 21st Sept 1783 Churchill, Somerset. Son of James and Ledia Clark) was a tanner. He married Hester Tripp (a widow I do not know her maiden name or first husband’s details) as below:

James Clark, single young man of this parish, and Hestor Tripp, widow, on 28 March 1808, St John the Baptist, Churchill Somerset. Witnesses John Burdge, Ann Burton & Mary Combes.

They had 2 sons before Hester died in 1835. At the baptism of their first son (my ancestor) John Chappel Clark at St John the Baptist, Churchill on 17th Jan 1813, his parents James & Hester Clark are living at Blackmoor Green, and his father is listed as a labourer. At the baptism of their second son James Chappell Clark at St John the Baptist, Churchill on 28th May 1815, his parents James & Hester Clark are living at Langford in Burrington, and his father is listed as a tanner. Sadly James Chappel Clark died shortly afterwards and was buried on the 5th Oct 1815 at St John the Baptist, Churchill, his abode was listed as Burrington. I do not have any records of other children but there may be others. Hester Clark died in 1835 and her burial record at St John the Baptist, Churchill gives her abode as Blackmoor she was 62yrs of age.

James left the area after his wife’s death, going firstly to Flax Bourton and then Nailsea. He remarried in 1841 at St James, Bristol to an Elizabeth Sims. They lived in Nailsea where he worked as a tanner for the Cox family who had tanneries there. He died on 22nd April 1872 at Nailsea aged 84yrs, and is buried at Christchurch, Nailsea.

James & Hester’s son John Chappel Clark also became a tanner, and moved to Bedminster to work for the Cox family at their tannery there.

I have traced the previous generation also; James & Lydia Clark. James Clark & Liddy Howlet were married at All Saints, Wrington on 25th March 1783, James is listed as from Churchill parish, while Liddy (Ledia, Lydia, Leddy) was from Wrington. They had 6 children (including James) all baptised at St John the Baptist, Churchill. James Clark of Blackmoor was buried at St John the Baptist, Churchill on 27th Aug 1828 aged 71yrs. Lydia Clark is on the 1841 census at Blackmoor, in the parish of Churchill, with her daughter Lydia Andrews & family. Lydia Clark died aged 93yrs, at Wrington on the 7th February 1848.

I am attempting to write a bit of a history of my Clark family and would be most interested in their lives as tanners, also the places that they lived. I am very interested in learning about Blackmoor Green, Langford, Wrington and Churchill. Also with such a common name as Clark it is a really challenge to go back much further researching remotely.

I am in Australia so find it a challenge to sort out hamlets, towns, parishes etc. Are there any maps of the area I could access or tithe records etc? Any help with any of the above would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time,

Jenny Clark
Brisbane, Australia

We know for certain that there were two tanneries in Langford, one in Burrington, located adjacent to Saxon Street, and a second in Churchill, on the corner of Langford Road and Blackmoor, occupying a site where today Bay Tree Cottage and Virginia Cottages stand.

Alex Kolombos responded to Jenny as follows:

Dear Jenny,
Intriguing stuff! Our research shows that the Saxon Street tannery in 1838 was owned by Thomas Brookman. He also occupied “The Old Post Office” which is the building on the road to the south of the tannery.  There have been a number of ox skulls found in the vicinity a sure sign of a tannery. We think the tannery ceased to operate around the 1840’s as this area became gentrified. The Somers family occupied Langford Place nearby, and I can imagine there was considerable pressure to close
the tannery.

The Blackmoor tannery was advertised for sale in the Bristol Mirror of 15th June 1811 along with the adjacent mill house. … So far we have not been able to identify the owner of this tannery.
Kind regards

From the census data it was clear that Jenny’s relative worked at the Blackmoor tannery and she followed up the newspaper references which showed that the tannery was occupied in 1811 by Joseph Wilmott:

Bristol Mirror – 15 Jun 1811 & 22 Jun 1811



 ALL those extensive Premises, in the occupation of Mr. Joseph Wilmott, Tanner, situate at Langford, 12 miles from Bristol;- consisting of a Messuage or DWELLING-HOUSE, and Garden, Tan-Yard, Pits, &c. Cottages, Mill House, and Outhouses of various description; together with a prime young Orchard,— the whole containing, by estimation, three acres.
The above Premises are on the right-hand side of the road leading from Bristol to Bridgewater, and are well adapted for the business Tanner, or would be most eligible spot for building; the situation being universally admired, and the greatest part of the Materials necessary for a large House being on the premises.

The Blackmoor tannery can be discerned on the 1811 Ordnance Survey surveyor’s drawing.  The rectangular site bounded by Blackmoor, Langford Road and Maysmead Lane occupies nearly three acres and well fits the description.  By 1838 it had been sold and developed as indicated in the sale advertisement.  The tithe map of that year shows that the corner site had been converted into the blacksmith’s yard (555) and that two rows of labourer’s cottages had been built, Foster’s Row on Blackmoor (553) and Granger’s Row on Langford Road (556).  A more substantial dwelling bordered Maysmead Lane (557). The northern boundary of the site now reduces its area to about two acres.   By 1885, the first edition Ordnance Survey plan shows that the orchard still existed but that Foster’s Row had been replaced by the Chapel, which is incorrectly labelled as Wesleyian Methodist.  A few years later, the 1903 Revised Edition shows Granger’s Row and the buildings on Maysmead Lane replaced by the Victoria Jubilee Homes.

Following the sale in 1811, Jenny Clark discovered that Joseph Willmott and his family fell on hard times.  In 1813, they were living in the Bristol workhouse in the parish of St Phillip and St Jacob. They later lived in River Street.   Joseph was still working as a tanner.

In his talk at the January 2017 meeting of the History Group, Alex reported on his and Jenny’s follow-up work on the tanneries, tanners and their apprentices.  The following Masters and Apprentices have been identified:

Master Tannery Apprentice Date of Indenture
John Sturgis Saxon James Ford 7 Nov 1721
Thomas Davis 10 Jun 1730
Richard Beacham Blackmoor Joseph Plenty 19 May 1740
Samuel Simmons Blackmoor John Reed 10 May 1742
John Keen 6 May 1752
Will Wickham 25 March 1757
Richard Chapman Saxon Simon Smeathes 17 Aug 1748
Eleanor Chapman Saxon Hugh John Sturgis 22 Oct 1753
John Blakehouse 27 June 1758
Maurice Howard Saxon James Cox 5 May 1779
John Moon Blackmoor James Hurdith 28 April 1781
Philip Emery 28 May 1781
Robert Lane 8 June 1782
John Parker Saxon William Parker 1 Oct 1783
James Simmons Blackmoor John Simmons 31 Dec 1785
Thomas Phillips Cox 6 Aug 1784
Joel Keel Saxon Walter Webb 7 Dec 1793
William Danger 18 July 1804

We hope it will be possible to give more details of these former Langford residents and their families in future articles.


Collinson on Langford

The Rev. John Collinson’s remarkable three-volume The History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset was published in 1791.  It is organised by hundred and parish, with the result that “our” Langford is partly described in Volume 1 under Burrington and partly in Volume 3 under Churchill.

In the Burrington entry, Langford is described as a tithing, containing sixteen houses, situated half a mile west of the village.  The ‘manor of Langford Court’ is described as having ‘belonged to the Creswicks, and afterwards by marriage to the Jones’s, of which last family Edward Jones, esq; left one only daughter and heiress Elizabeth, who was first married to John Withers Sherwood, esq; and secondly to the rev. Mr Whalley, who now owns the manor’.

In the Churchill entry, the hamlet of Lower-Langford is described as standing on the ‘great road from Bristol to Bridgwater’, ‘at the eastern extremity of the parish … in a pleasant situation’.  It is said to contain ‘several very neat dwellings and large tanning yards’.  Collinson continues: ‘A small stream at the eastern end of this hamlet divides the parish of Churchill from that of Burrington; and a ford through it, before the erection of the bridge, gave the place its denomination.   On this stream, northward from Langford, and between it and the town of Wrington, is the hamlet of Blackmore, …’.

Collinson then goes on to detail the Domesday Book entry for the manor of Blackmore, which is now believed to refer to the area around Blackmore Farm, near Cannington.  Other writers have often in the past made a similar mistake by confusing “our” Langford with Langford Budville, near Wellington.  Interestingly, in 1086, the manor of Blackmore was held by Roger de Courseulles, whose more than one hundred holdings in Somerset included 1½ hides in Wrington, held from the Abbot of Glastonbury.  He also held Shipham and later came to acquire holdings in what is now Churchill, whose name derives from his.

Collinson continues: ‘Near Blackmore is a small hamlet called Stock.  Between the hamlet of Langford and Mendip-hill is a moor called Smeath’s Moor, containing about twenty-five acres, and belonging to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, whose tenants departure their cattle thereon in common’.  Smeath’s Moor lies in the area bounded to the north and south by the roads through Lower and Upper Langford and in the east and west by Langford Brook and Says Lane.  It was enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1797.  The apportionment and accompanying maps are held at the Somerset Heritage Centre, Ref. Q\RDe/42.

John Gowar   22 Nov 2016

The Brent family in Langford

Members of the family that came to take the surname “Brent” rose to prominence as landholders in north Somerset in 1254 when Robert de Brent was granted the manor of Cossington.  He held this three-hide estate from the Abbot of Glastonbury, Roger of Ford, in return for a knight’s fee.  That is, the obligation to put a fully armed knight in the field with supporters for 40 days per year.  In the chapter on Cossington in volume 3 of his History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset (1791), John Collinson detailed more than 15 generations of the Brent family.  The line is also set out, with references, in the articles on Cossington and on the manor of Ford in Bawdrip in Volumes 8 and 6 of the Victoria County History of Somerset.
These may be accessed on-line via British History Online:



However, there remain some ambiguities and uncertainties in the family history.

As well as their estates north and south of the Polden Hills, the family also came to hold land in the Vale of Wrington.  It is thought that the Robert de Brent mentioned above was born about 1220 to a family with substantial landholdings in the area around Brent Knoll known as Brentmarsh.  These, like Cossington and Wrington, were held from Glastonbury.

The first known reference to Robert dates from 1242/3, when he acted as surety for the Abbot in an action brought by Robert of Aldwick who claimed to have been dispossessed of his right to common pasture in Wrington.  Then, in 1247, he bought nine messuages and one hide of land in Wrington.  These, too, would have been held from Glastonbury.  He leased back to the vendor (Henry of Ambelbard):  1 messuage and half a hide, of which 17½ acres lay in Eastfield, 16 acres in Westfield, 2½ acres in a croft called la Garston, 1 acre of meadow in Cleyacre, & another in Underwhatlegh.  In return, Henry was to perform the services belonging to this holding and render yearly to Robert one pair of white gloves at Easter.

Robert died in 1261.  His son, Robert de Brent II, married Isabella of Montacute and, in 1277, he attended the king in Gascony, as a knight of the shire.  In that capacity, he was sent to the Westminster parliament of 1297/8.  He died in 1308/9 and was succeeded by his son, Robert.  Robert de Brent III married Claricia of Ford, the above-mentioned manor in the parish of Bawdrip, which they inherited.  In 1303, they bought three messuages and several hundred acres of land in “Cossington, Wrington, Syndeland, Legh, South Brent, Cotes & Glaston” from William of Bourne. 

Collinson describes Robert III as ‘also a knight and a great benefactor to the abbey of Glastonbury’ and he was buried on the north side of the choir of the abbey church.  However, in 1315, he and his brothers were accused of flooding crops and carrying away timber from land at Mark held by the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Dean of Wells.  In 1340, Robert and Thomas de Brent were accused with others of abducting a man indicted for murder from the fetters in which he was being held in Wrington.  A fine of 20 shillings was levied.  On 20 Mar 1343 at Westminster, a commission of oyer and terminer was called to investigate the complaint of a widow (Margaret Beaupre) that Robert and Thomas de Brent with others had broken into her house and assaulted her and her servants.  A fine of 10 shillings was levied.  Then, on 20 Jun 1344, John de Sully was pardoned by the King for an assault on Robert de Brent before the justices in Somerton on the grounds that he was trying to keep the peace.  These graphic entries in the Patent Rolls may indicate that the Brent family behaved more like Norman thugs than the benevolent landlords the peasants of Wrington Vale might have wished for.

Robert and Claricia had two sons, Robert de Brent IV and John.  John settled on estates the family held in Kent.  Robert IV remained in Somerset and married Elizabeth Denebaud.  An entry in the Feudal Aids for 1346 implies that Robert IV had died, although Collinson gives a date of 25 Edw III (1351/2).  Robert and Elizabeth were succeeded by their son John Brent, who married Joan le Eyre and died in 1373.   An entry in the Patent Rolls records that on 16 May 1373 at Westminster, a pardon was granted to Robert Purveyour of Botecle, Somerset, ‘with respect to the death of John Brent of Somerset; as well as of the abjuration of the realm which he made at Bautrip church for this cause’.

John & Joan’s son, John Brent II, was married twice: first to Ida Beauchamp and secondly to Joan Latimer. He died in about 1413.  By his first wife, he had a son who became Sir Robert Brent V, and a daughter, Joan, who married John Trethek from Cornwall.  By his second wife, he had a son, John Brent III.  Sir Robert (V) married Jane Harewell but died in 1421, apparently without issue.  The inheritance of the Brent estates then became a matter for the courts to decide.  The settlement was that John Trethek should retain them for his life and that they should then be entailed to John Brent III and his heirs.  An entry in the Calendar of Feet of Fines for 1421/2 [Somerset Record Society 22, 181 (1906)] reads:

“9 Hy 5. At Westminster in the quinzaine of St. John Baptist and afterwards in the octave of Trinity in the tenth year of the same king, between John Hals and William Trethek querents ; and John Trethek esquire, and Joan his wife deforciants ; for the manors of Wryngton, Whateley, Cosyngton, Ford, Middelsowey and Cheslade, and five messuages and a carucate and a hundred and forty-five acres of land in Blakeford, Estbrent, Bruggewater, Hunspell, Merke, Pennard, Glaston, Wollavington, Chelton, and Edyngton (and lands in Essex). John Trethek and Joan acknowledged the right of William; for this he granted the same to John Trethek and Joan to hold to them and the heirs of Joan.”

An entry in the Close Roll of 1434 reads:

“John Brent, son and heir of John Brent, to John Tretheke esquire. Confirmation of his estate for life in the manors of Cosyngton and Forde and in all lands, rents, reversions and services in ‘Middelsowey,’ Wryngton, Whatelegh. Chesdade, Stawell, Edyngton, Cadecote, ‘ Estbrynt, Southbrynt,’ Briggewater, Hunspell, Merke, Blakeforde, Weilavyngton, Chelton, Glastonbury and Pennarde co. Somerset, with licence to make waste therein without impeachment, and warranty thereof for his life ; and because his seal is to many unknown the grantor has procured that the seal of John abbot of Athelney be hereto attached. Dated Cosyngton, 2 September 13 Henry VI. Witnesses: Humphrey Courtenay knight, Richard Chedder, John Hille, John Cokir, William Michell.”

John Trethek still held Cossington in 1445, when Bishop Bekynton’s register records him presenting a new rector.  However, records of Courts Baron show that around 1450 Whatley and Whatmans, together with a number of other small manors, were held by the trustees of the late John Brent.  This has to be John Brent III.

Langford Court Archives 114b

In 1472/3, the son of John Brent III, Robert VI, bought a significant landholding in Churchill.  The transaction is recorded in Feet of Fines [Somerset Record Society 22, 141-2 (1906)] as:

“Robert Brent esquire querent; and John Haukyns cousin and heir of Robert Whatman, deforciant; for four messuages, fifty acres of land, twelve acres meadow, four acres pasture and four acres wood in Netherlangford, in the parish of Churchehill.  John acknowledged the right of Robert and quit claimed; for this Robert gave him forty pounds sterling.”

Robert Brent VI had certainly recovered the family estates by 1486, when Bishop Stillington’s register records him presenting candidates for the living at Cossington.  A Court roll of 1490 shows him to be the lord of Whatley and Whatmans.  Robert Brent VI died on 24 Oct 1508.  His real estate holdings are detailed in the Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Hy7, iii, pp. 309-310 and in Somerset Wills 1501–30 [Somerset Record Society 19, 181 (1903)]:

“Robert Brent, esquire.

Writ, wanting ; inquisition 1 February, 24 Henry VII.

He died seised in fee of the under-mentioned manors and advowsons of Cosyngton and Fourde, lands &c. in Bawderip, Catcote, Edyngton, Stowell, Chauton, Wullavyngton, Hunspill, Rokesbrigge, Southbrent, Marke, Blakeforde Episcopi, West Pennard, Winston, Glastonbery, [Briggewater], Puttenell, Brodelake, Cheselake, Samford, Pery and Sutton Malet, manor of Wrington, rents in Wrington, messuage in Ligh and rent in Siddecote.

William Carant and John Capron, clerk, with Alexander Hody, deceased, were seised of the under-mentioned manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford, Synderlond, Whatley and Whatmans, and by their indented charter dated 3 February, 6 Edward IV, demised them to Robert Brent aforesaid and Joan, his wife, and the heirs and assigns of Robert. Joan survives, and still occupies the premises by reason of the said gift.

The said Robert Brent and John, his son, were jointly seised in fee of the under-mentioned manors of Godwynsbower and Estbagborowe and lands &c. in Godwynsbower, Estbagborowe, Compton Bishop, Wibbyngton, Berton, Wokikole, Wellis, Westbury, Estbower, MoUisney, Slape. Dunwere, Hamme, Periton, Pawelet, Dounend, Andresey and Weston Abbatis. Robert died so seised, and John, his son, holds himself in the premises by survivorship.

Robert died 24 October, 24 Henry VII. The said John Brent, his son and heir, is 35 years of age and more.

His lands in and around Wrington are given as:

“Manor of Wryngton and rents of 2s. and 1 lb. pepper in Wrington, whereof the manor, worth 100s., is held of the abbot of Glastonbury.
A messuage in Ligh in the parish of Wryngton, worth 6s. 8d., held of the same abbot, services unknown.  22d. rent in Siddecote in the parish of Wynnescombe.
Manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford, Whatley, Synderlond and Whatmans, in the parishes of Beryngton and Churchehill ; whereof the manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford and Whatley, worth 10s., are held of the abbot of Glastonbury in right of his monastery, and the manor of Whatmans, alias the lands called ‘Whatmans,’ worth 40s., are held of John Keme, as of his manor of Keme ; services unknown.”   [“Keme” should be “Kenn(e)”]

The clear implication is that the manors of Overlangford, Netherlangford and Whatley were in Burrington and thus part of the Glastonbury manor of Wrington, while Synderlond and Whatmans were in Churchill.  ‘Ligh’ refers to Lye Hole in Wrington.  The reference here to a parish of Burrington is the first example known to the author.  However, the chapel there was described in 1498 as being newly rebuilt and waiting to be consecrated or reconciled, so perhaps this was associated with the creation of a new parish.  John Knyght was installed as vicar shortly afterwards.

Robert’s will is transcribed as:


August 27th, 1505. Robert Brentt “armiger ac dominus de Cosyngton” My body to be buried in the chancel of the parish church of the B.M. of Cosyngton. To the fabric of the cathedral church of Wells 20s. To the glazing of a window in the tower of the parish church of Cosyngton 40s. I will that Joan my sister have her food and clothing of John my son and heir while she lives. To the prior of Byrkyll 20d. To the friars minor of Bridgwater 6s. 8d. To the poor of the house of blessed Margaret near Tawnton 20d. To Alexander Hody now rector of Byschford 6s. 8d To Sir Richard Mylcome, rector of Cosyngton 6s. 8d. To John my son and heir, my chest where lie my evidences with all things contained in it.

Residue : Joan my wife and John my son and heir (executors).

Witnesses : Sir Richard Mylcome my curate, John Nett junior, and John Joce. I leave Sir George Nawll, chaplain of Ford1 20d. To John the hermit of St. Thomas super Powldom 4d.

Proved November 7th, 1508.”

It is recorded by Collinson that Robert VI married Margaret Malet and that they had a son, John.  In that case, Joan, who survived him, must have been Robert’s second wife.  John IV was born in 1473.  He married Maud Pauncefoot and died in 1524. There is a memorial brass to John and Maud on the chancel floor of Cossington church.  In Abbot Beere’s terrier of the Glastonbury manors (1517), John Brent IV is recorded as holding one hide in Wrington from the abbot by military service.

beere04 John Brent

John Brent’s will is also transcribed in Somerset Wills 1501–30:


August 20th, 1524. John Brent, my body to be buried in the chauncell of the church of Our Lady of Cosyngton by Mawd late my wif. To the church of S. Andrew in Wells I0s. To the church of Our Lady in Cosyngton to bye a tenour bell performed to be rong with all £20. To the churches of Bawdrepe, Puryton and Wullavyngton 6s. 8d. each, and (to the) 2 chauntrie prests of Wullavyngton, Sir Nich’as Neele and Sir John Pople 6s. 8d. To the gray freres of Briggewater 6s. 8d. To the freres of Yevilchester 6s. 8d. To the Spetilhous of Taunton 3s. 4d. To the Spetill house of Brewton 3s. 4d. To the Spetill hous of Lamport 3s. 4d. To the spitill house of Bath 3s. 4d. To all my servants men and women dwelling with me the day of my deth a hole yeres wages after. To Richard Brent my son 200 marcs. To Barbara my doughter 200 marcs. To Thomasyn my doughter 200 marcs, the part of one dying to be divided among the survivors, and if two die the survivor to have 400 marcs, the rest being disposed for my soule, the soule of Mawd my wife, and all that we be bound to pray for. And if all die, the whole sum of 600 marcs shall bye lands and tenements to the yerely value of 8 marcs for a perpetual chauntrie, to be founded in the church of Cosyngton to pray for me and Mawd my wife. And my will is that if it could be done by wisdom of my exors the chauntrie of the Forde shuld be parcell of the perpetuytie in Cosyngton church. The residue to William Brent and Richard Brent my sons and exors to be equally divided by the advice of Bawdwin Malett, William Vowell, John Poxwell, clerk, and Sir Thomas Keove. And I make coadjutors John Poxwell, parson of Cosyngton, and Sir Thomas Keove one of the chauntrie prestes of Wullavington, and to each of them £6 13s. 4d. To my suster Agnes a nonne in Shaftisbury £6 13s. 4d. To my cosyn Mary Poulett an ambling horse named Symon. And I make supervisors Bawdwin Mallet and William Vowell, and to each of them £3 6s. 8d.

Witnesses: John Powlett, John Pokiswell, clerk, Thomas Keive, clerk, William Broke, Richard Pery and John Mors.

Proved at St. Paul’s, London, October 15th, 1524.”

As well as his wife, Maud, his sister, Agnes, and his cousin, Mary Poulett, John mentions two sons and two daughters in his will:  William (born 1505/6), Richard, Barbara and Thomasyn.  Collinson mentions another son, John, one of whose descendants later was said to have purchased the manor of Cossington and thereby taken it back into the family.

William Brent, who inherited the real estate of his father, married the daughter of Lord Stourton.  He died in 1536 leaving a son, Richard.  Richard Brent was declared an idiot in 1552 and died in 1570, leaving his only daughter, Anne, as his heir.  Anne had married Lord Thomas Paulet (died 1586).  He was the second son of the eminent and long-lived courtier, William Paulet, who became the first marquis of Winchester (died 1572). Anne and Thomas had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Giles Hoby (1565 – 1626) and inherited the Brent estates.  Their main estate and home was at Hursley in Hampshire.  Collinson is very unkind to these two ladies, Anne and Elizabeth.  He says that they: “sold and squandered away all the patrimony of this ancient family”.  Certainly, there are records in Common Pleas (Feet of Fines) of the Hilary Term, 33 Eliz I (1591), showing that Giles and Elizabeth sold “The Manor of Langforde or Whatleigh or Whatmans Brentes and tenements land and rent in Over Langford Nether Langford Berrington, Churchel, Wibbington, Westburye, Akehole and Wells” to “John Allotte, mayor of London”.  Thus ended the direct involvement of the Brent family in Langford.

Thus far, the Manor of Langford had been in different hands.  Records of some of its Courts Baron are held at the Somerset Heritage Centre (DD/X/PRO).  In the first part of the 15th century, this small manor was one of the holdings of the Chedder family.  They had large landholdings along the southern slopes of the Mendips and elsewhere in Somerset and Gloucestershire.  Robert Chedder (died 1384), had acquired great wealth through exporting cloth from Bristol, where he was twice mayor in the 1360s.

The Chedder inheritance passed to Robert’s eldest son, Richard, who was clearly a colourful character.  He is described in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons  1386 – 1421 (pp 537-8) as ‘By all accounts … a violent and lawless man’.  Accompanying his step-father to the Parliament of 1404, he was assaulted in London and severely injured about the face and head, an incident that led to a petition by the Commons to the King concerning freedom from arrest and molestation for MPs and members of their households in time of Parliament.

Following the deaths in 1437 of Richard and his mother, the Manor of Langford and other estates came to Robert’s youngest son, Thomas.  The Court held at Langford in May 1438 is recorded as being the first of ’Thomas Chedder, brother and heir of Richard Chedder’.

With Thomas’s death in 1443, his holdings passed to his daughter, Isabel, and to her husband, John Newton.  John was the son of Richard Newton (died 1448), at one time Chief Justice of England.  He and Isabel lived at Court de Wyke in Claverham.   John died in 1488.  There are magnificent tombs of John and Richard Newton, with recumbent statues of them and their wives in Yatton parish church and an equally fine tomb of Thomas Chedder, with brasses of him and his wife (another Isabel) in St Andrew’s Church, Cheddar.

The considerable Newton estates, including the Manor of Langford, were inherited jointly by two sisters, granddaughters of John and Isabel.  They were Isabel (1487 – before 1555) who married Giles Capell, and Joan (1495 – 1558) who married Thomas Gryffyn.  The elder son of Giles and Isabel, Henry Capel (1505 – 1558), inherited the manor of Ubley from his mother and continued to live there following her death in about 1512.

The families of the two sisters disputed their inheritance in the Court of Chancery but eventually agreed a settlement in 1555.  The deed of settlement is held at the Somerset Heritage Centre: (DD\X\BDN/6). Giles and Henry retained Ubley, where they lived, and also, among many other estates, Langford.   With the Glastonbury estates reverting to the Crown in 1539 following the dissolution of the monastery and subsequently being sold off manor by manor, many changes of land ownership will have occurred during this period.  In 1546, Wrington was granted to Henry Capel and his wife Anne in consideration of £1,952 1s. 6¼ d.

The Capel and Hoby families were loosely related both socially and by marriage so, although there is no known reference to any such transaction, it seems likely that the Capels transferred the Manor of Langford to the Hobys, in order to tidy up their landholdings.  As a result, the “Manor of Langford, alias Whatley, alias Whatmans Brent”, came into being.

Records of a survey of this manor made in 1636 and of its Courts Baron held between 1652 and 1777 remain extant.  Its ownership passed from John Allott to Edmund Kenn, to Francis and then John Creswick, to John and then Edward Jones, to Elizabeth and John  Withers Sherwood, and finally to Elizabeth Sherwood and Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.  Many deeds of properties in Langford still refer to “the manor or purported manor of Langford, alias Whatley, alias Whatmans Brent”.

John Gowar
23rd January, 2016

This article is based on the following Langford Manorial Documents

Date Regnal year A.D. Manor(s) Document Lord/Steward
??Hy6 ???? Langford Court Baron John Newton & Isabella(?) his wife
13 Oct 28Hy6 1449 WhatleyWhatmans Court Baron Alexander Hody & the feoffees of the late John Brent
20 May Whatley Court Baron Alexander Hody & feoffees
04 May 29Hy6 1451 Whatley Court Baron Alexander Hody & the feoffees of the late John Brent
22 Oct 30Hy6 1451 Whatley Court Baron
15 Jan 30Hy6 1451/2 Whatley Court Baron
34Hy6 1455 Langeford Court Baron
11 Oct 7EdwIV 1467 Langford Court Baron John Newton
05 May 6Hy7 1490 Whatleigh
Court Baron Robert Brent
24Hy7 1508 Langford Court Baron
12 Aug 19Hy8 1527 Langeford Court Baron Giles Capell & Thomas Gryffyn & Joan his wife
12 Oct 34Hy8 1542 Langeford Court Baron Henry Capell & Thomas Gryffyn
May 1636 Langford Survey Edmund Kenn
Francis Creswick
15 Oct 1652 Langford als Whatley als Whatmans Brent (LWW) Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
09 Oct 1654 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
16 Apr 1657 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
20 Oct 1658 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
21 Jun 1660 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
16 Apr 1662 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
07 Aug 1664 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
08 Oct 1664 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
15 Nov 1665 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
1669 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/John Haggatt
19 Sep 1670 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1670 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1672 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1673 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
1674 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
31 Mar 1679 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
28 Apr 1681 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
01 May 1682 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/Robert Brown
04 Jun LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
?? Nov 1686 LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
21 Oct LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
LWW Court Baron John Creswick/David Trym
1708 LWW Court Baron John  Jones
18 Apr 1708 Langford Survey John Jones
04 Jun 1724 LWW Court Baron John Jones
04 Jun 1724 LWW Court Baron John Jones
1728 LWW Court Baron
22 Apr 1738 Marriage Settlement Edward Jones & Mary Musgrave
08 Aug 1738 LWW Court Baron Edward Jones/Alexander Quirk
03 Jan 1739/40 Release Mary Somers
12 Feb 1741 LWW Record of exchange of land Edward Jones
16 Apr 1743 Will Edward Jones
19 Jan 1746/7 LWW Court Baron Edward Jones/Alexander Quirk
12 Jan 1747/8 Codicil Edward Jones
08 Jun 1757 LWW Court Baron Trustees of Edward Jones/Alexander Quirk
31 Oct 1770 Probate John Withers Sherwood
04 Sep 1773 LWW Court Baron Elizabeth Sherwood/Richard Jenkyns
31 Dec 1773 Marriage Settlement Elizabeth Sherwood & Thomas Sedgwick Whalley
24 Jan 1777 LWW Court Baron Thomas Sedgwick Whalley & Elizabeth his wife/Richard Jenkyns

The Turnpike Controversies

When the burghers of Bristol petitioned Parliament to be allowed to erect gates and turnpikes on the highways leading out of the city and to charge tolls for their maintenance, the grounds given in the subsequent Act of Parliament (13 Geo 1, c.12, 1726) was that they had become “ruinous and bad (in the winter season)”.  On the highway leaving the city to the southwest, they sought to do this as far as “Broadfield Down, in the parish of Winford”.  So, the last turnpike on this route would have been in the vicinity of the Airport Tavern at Lulsgate.

Although the Bristol Turnpike Trust was empowered by the Act to charge tolls for 21 years from 24 Jun 1727, the project did not fare well.  There was much, often violent, opposition especially from local mining and farming communities.  Both objected to being charged for moving their produce to market in order to make the highways more comfortable for the gentry to travel in their carriages.  Despite the imposition of increasingly onerous penalties, they repeatedly destroyed the turnpike gates and burnt down the turnpike houses.  The colliers of Kingswood at this time have been described as “a set of ungovernable people”.

The Trust fared no better after a second Act was passed in 1831 (4 Geo 2, c.22).  Its purpose was to “explain and amend” the earlier Act.  The Board of Trustees was increased in number and the various highways radiating from Bristol were subdivided.  Responsibility for the care of each one was allocated to a sub-group of trustees.  The right to levy tolls was granted for 21 years from 24 Jun 1731 and the Winford Road tolls again ended at Broadfield Down.  Beyond there, responsibility for the maintenance of the highway remained with the parishes through which it ran.

Hostilities continued and the Trust remained largely inoperable.  Towards the end of their concession, the trustees and wealthy citizens of Bristol petitioned Parliament to renew the Trust and to extend its control of the highways further into Gloucestershire and Somerset.  This resulted in a new Act (22 Geo 2, c.28), which was passed in 1748 and came into effect for 21 years from 24 Jun 1749.

Many new trustees were appointed and, in an attempt to defuse the hostility of the colliers, carts of coal were to travel free.  Elements of the rural population remained violently opposed.  They repeatedly attacked the newly installed turnpike at Ashton Gate (a highway not previously subject to tolls) and set fire to an official’s house in Dundry.  For this last offence, two men were hanged at Illchester Assizes.  Other rioters were indicted, some dying of smallpox in Taunton goal while awaiting trial.

It was this Act that extended the Winford turnpike road across Broadfield Down, down Redhill, over Perry Bridge, through Langford and Churchill to Cross and Weare, following the long-established coaching route.  In Wrington Village Records (1969, page 83)[1], Frances Neale records that the trustees wished to take a different route across Broadfield Down and through Wrington village.  This was supported by the inn keepers and tradesmen of Wrington but vehemently opposed by the rector, the Rev. Henry Waterland, whose view eventually prevailed.

A study of the John Rocque map of the Broadfield tithing of Wrington Estate,[2] surveyed in 1739, reveals four tracks radiating out over the Down from Lulsgate Bottom.  One goes to Winford, one along Downside to Brockley Coombe, the one marked “Road from Bristol to Exeter” follows the line of the A 38 (prior to its recent excursion around the end of the Airport runway), and the fourth is marked “Road from Bristol to Wrington”.  This last is the likely alternative route of the proposed turnpike.  On the Down, its line has long been lost, first through the 1813 Enclosures and more recently under the Airport apron and runways.  But it crossed to Goblin Coombe to pick up the track that leads onto Old Hill and down to Branches Cross.  Think how different our local landscape would have been if the A 38 had followed this route and it had been Wrington that needed to be bypassed in the inter-war years rather than Lower Langford.

When he was appointed general-surveyor to the Bristol Trust in 1816, John McAdam found it to be poorly managed and its roads in bad repair.  However, it had clearly overcome many of its earlier difficulties.  The resulting improvement to local transport must have been a factor that contributed to the building by minor gentry of a significant number of houses in and around Wrington and Langford in the latter part of the eighteenth century.

John Gowar
(23 Dec 2015)

[1] See the History pages of the Wrington village website: http://wringtonsomerset.org.uk/history/villagerecords/.
Also Michael Lawder’s article of November 2000: “Why we have no main road through the village”

[2] An image of the map can be accessed via the Map section of this website.  Note that North is to the left.

Langford’s First World War Casualties

Following the publication of Burrington Parish in World War I, Jacky Kerly has collected together information about each of the eight men commemorated on the war memorial that stands outside St Mary’s Church in Langford.  Notes on each man are presented in the following articles.

Photographs of the memorial and of some of the men can be seen in the Gallery.

The dedication on the memorial reads:


In honoured memory of the men of Langford who gave their lives for God, King and Country in the Great War 1914 – 1918.

[A M D C :  Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (Latin: To the Greater Glory of God)]

GEORGE EDWARD HILLING (1883 – 27 March 1917)

George Edward Hilling was born in 1883 in Winchester, the second son of George Hilling, a butler, and his wife, Agnes. George Snr, had previously been in service at Poringland House in Norfolk.  He and Agnes had six children. The two eldest, William Thomas (born 1881) and George Edward were born in Weeke. Then, after they had moved to Langford, came three girls, Emily (1885), Agnes (1888) and Elsie (1890), and finally another son, Walter Henry (1892). The family lived at 1, Blackmoor before moving to Victoria Jubilee Memorial Cottages, Langford. George Senior was still  employed as a butler.

In 1901, George Edward, aged 17, was working as a grocer’s porter. However, by 1911, he was a police constable living in lodgings in Fishponds, Bristol. There, he married  Rose Clark and they had a son whom George never saw.

George Edward was Gunner 291727 and was serving in France with the 129th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery when he was killed in action on 27th March 1917.  He was 34. He is buried at the Ecoivres Military cemetery at Mont-St.Eloi (IV.H.8), Pas de Calais, France. This cemetery is 8 kilometres north west of Arras and contains 1,728 Commonwealth, 786 French and 4 German war graves.

The following appeared in the Weston Mercury & Somersetshire Herald on 14th April 1917:-


We deeply regret to announce the death of Private George Hilling, second son of Mr and Mrs G. Hilling of Langford, who was killed in action on the 26th ult. Gunner Hilling was born and brought up in Langford and attended Churchill School, where his portrait hangs with those of many other old boys who are fighting in honour’s cause, and some of whom, alas, will never return. The dead hero, whose two brothers are both serving at the Front, was for 12 years in the Bristol Police Force. He joined the Bristol Heavy Battery of Artillery, and was drafted to France a year ago. There is added pathos in the fact that he had not seen the little son who was born during his absence, and, needless to say, heartfelt sympathy is entertained with Mr and Mrs Hilling, who are much respected in the village, and with the young widow and child. Private Hilling was a fine man both physically and in personal attributes, and the following letters bear eloquent testimony to his heroism and bravery:

-th Heavy Battery


March 26th 1917

Dear Mrs Hilling, – I am very grieved to tell you that your husband, Gunner G.E. Hilling, was killed in action this afternoon. He died in a noble endeavour to procure water for his fellow gunners. His death has robbed us of one of the best gunners of the battery. He was always cheery, even in the most trying conditions. You will be glad to know that he suffered no pain, being killed instantaneously. He left a will in his pay book, which has been forwarded to the base, leaving £11 his property and effects to you, his wife. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you as I was his section officer.

Yours sincerely


The following letter is from his brother William:

Dear Father and Mother, – It is with deep regret, I have to write and tell you of poor George’s death. He was killed by a German shell and died instantly, so one good thing poor George knew nothing of it. Frank and I have been up to the cemetery today, and we are going to the funeral tomorrow, the 28th. It is a hard task for me to write and tell you this news. I shall miss him more than I can say. He was just the same here as he was at home. I have written to poor Rose. I will write more next time. Frank wishes to be remembered to you all.

From your loving son,


So died a brave soldier and British Gentleman”.

WILLIAM DARE (1898 – 27th March 1918)

William was born in Dolberrow, in 1898.  He was the fifth of the six children of Barnard and Jane who had married in 1889.  Although born into a family of masons in Dolberrow, Barnard became a carpenter and in the 1911 census when he, Jane and their two youngest children were living at Langford Green, his occupation was give as “estate carpenter”, so he was probably employed at Langford Court. In 1918, when William died, Barnard and Jane were living in Laburnum Cottage, Stock, most probably in the house of that name in Redshard Lane.  They remained there until Barnard died in 1931.

William was killed in action on the 27th March 1918. He had enlisted in Axbridge in August 1915 with the Royal Army Service Corps (140579), transferring to the London Regiment, Royal Fusiliers, A- Company, 9th Battalion, 15684. He had been wounded in action in April, 1917, and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial Panel 19-21.  The Weston Mercury carried a report and tribute on April 20th and a photograph of William the following week.  He had just celebrated his 20th birthday.

JOHN STEMBRIDGE BURDGE (1895 – 1st July 1916)

John was born in Churchill in 1895. He was the last of the six children of Reuben and Emma Burdge. These were Mary, James, Elizabeth, William, Edith and John. Stembridge was the maiden name of his grandmother Mary who had been born in Bridport. She was still alive in 1911, aged 89, living in Says Lane with Reuben and Emma. John’s grandfather, James, who was born in Churchill in 1821, had been a soldier in the 7th Royal Fusiliers. He served in the Crimea and gained medals and bars for fighting at Sebastopol, Inkerman and Alma. By 1861 he was an Army Pensioner living back in Dolberrow with his only child Reuben, who had been born in Aldershot Camp in 1857/8. In 1881 Reuben (23) and his mother were recorded as fish hawkers. Subsequently, Ruben became an apparently prosperous fishmonger.

After marrying in 1885, Reuben and Emma moved to Says Lane, Upper Langford where they lived next to another James Burdge, a farmer and likely relative. They remained there until the end of their lives, Emma dying in 1930, Reuben in 1931. For a time the Clarke family, whose sons Percy and Harold were also killed in the war, lived close by.

John Stembridge Burdge joined up in 1914, entering France in September 1915. He was killed in action on the 1st July 1916, aged 21 while serving as a Lance Corporal with the 8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (15990) attached to the Royal Engineers. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, which is located on the northern part of the 1916 Somme battlefields near the village of Pozières. These men died in the Somme battle sector before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.  Over 90 percent of those commemorated died in the Battles of the Somme between July and November 1916.

The following sad report appeared in the Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald on 15th July, 1916:-


The sincere sympathies of residents throughout the Langford district are extended to Mr. and Mrs. R Burdge, the parents, and Mrs J. Burdge, the bride of only a few weeks, now the widow, of Corpl. J. Burdge, the young hero having been officially reported as having been “killed in action.”  The deceased was one of the brightest and most cheerful of lads, and his manly qualities, coupled with his open frankness and sincerity, won for him the warmest affection of a wide circle of friends, and the highest regard and esteem of residents of all ages and in whatever sphere of life.  It was barely a month since the deceased was home on leave, and ere he returned to his military duties he was married to Miss Elsie Cox, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. B. Cox, the ceremony taking place on the 2nd June.  Corpl. Burdge joined Kitchener’s Army in 1914, and served in “D” Coy., 8th Somersets, but latterly he had been attached to the Royal Engineers.  He was present at the battle of Loos, when he experienced a wonderful escape, his bayonet being struck with a piece of shrapnel shell and shattered but the plucky young soldier was himself unscathed.  His wife has for several years been a member of St. Mary’s, Langford, choir, and it was whilst proceeding to the church to take part in the service that the intimation of her great loss reached her.  The one bright gleam in the great sorrow which has overtaken her will increasingly, as time softens the cruel blow, be the fact that her husband gave his life in the noblest of all causes, that of country, honour, and right.  It is worthy of note that the gallant young soldier’s grandfather, the late James Burdge, served with the 7th Royal Fusiliers through the Crimea War, for which he obtained two medals and three bars for Sebastopol, Inkerman, and Alma.”

John Stembridge’s young widow married again in late 1918. Her husband was Richard J Avery and they lived in Ash Cottage, Langford until at least 1925. Elsie died in South Molton, Devon, in 1965.

LEWIS FREDERICK COX (1891 -25th May 1915)

Although Lewis is commemorated on both the St Mary’s and St James’ Church memorial, it has not been possible to find anything linking him directly to Langford.

It seems likely that he was born in Butcombe in 1891, the eleventh of a family of fourteen children.  All but one were still living in 1911. Their parents were William (born in Cleeve in 1851) and Sarah Ann (born in Bath about 1852).  From 1874 they had Alice, Hester, Agnes, Willis, Herbert, Margaret, Elsie, Mabel, Oliver and Laura before Lewis in 1891, then Reginald, Edwin and Leonard. The older children were born in Congresbury or Wrington but in 1891 they were in Butcombe, in 1901 in Blagdon (Merecombe) and in 1911 in Nempnett. In the 1901 census, Sarah and her older daughters are described as laundresses and William as a small farmer. In 1911 William is recorded as a farmer and Edwin is working with him.

In the 1911 census Lewis is recorded as a nineteen year old private living in Pembroke Barracks but with his occupation given as “collier”. It was not uncommon for local lads to look for work in the Welsh mines and possibly he had been working in the mines immediately prior to joining the army. He may have been a territorial soldier at this stage. As such he would have been called up at the beginning of the war.  His military records state that he enlisted in Cardiff as a Private in the 1st Battalion Welsh Regiment, service number 9953. Military records are a little confused – his residence is given as “Blagdon, Glos”.

Lewis entered France on 1st April 1915 and was killed in action on the 25th May 1915. His name is on Panel 37 of the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial. His Commonwealth War Commission certificate gives his name as Lewis Frederick Blagdon Cox and records no next of kin. No notice of his death has been found in the Weston Mercury.

At least two of Lewis’s brothers served in the war and are listed on Blagdon’s roll of honour; Reginald James, born 1894, in the Gloucestershire Regiment (possibly 201380) and Edwin Ferris, born 1897, West Somerset Yeomanry 1518, then Somerset Light Infantry 27167. Both brothers are recorded on the 1925 electoral roll (but not in 1930) as living at Churchill Park Congresbury but within the Churchill Parish. Churchill Park Farm was in Ladymead Lane, Langford. Lewis’s nearest sister, Laura Beatrice born 1889, married Alfred Dare in 1916. They lived in Stock Lane near to Alfred’s parents, Alfred and Ellen, who were at Park View, Churchill. Alfred and Laura had three children, Francis in 1917, Dennis in 1920 and Joyce in 1922. These sibling links may explain why Lewis was commemorated on the Langford and Churchill Memorials.