Whatever Happened to Whatley

From the 12th century to the 19th century a significant landholding called Whatley figured in documents relating to the Manor of Wrington.  But where was Whatley and what became of it?  These were puzzles raised by Michael Lawder in the April 1976 issue of Wrington Village Journal.  They remain a mystery.

 “Our” Whatley can easily be confused with the small manor and parish of the same name near Mells which, like Wrington, was both held by Glastonbury Abbey and listed in the Domesday Survey.  The Whatley in Wrington is mentioned for the first time in 1189.  This is in a survey of Glastonbury manors and it records that a Roger of Whatley held half a knight’s fee in Wrington.  Typically this would have comprised 2 to 3 hides or 250 to 300 acres of ploughed land.  Together with its pasture, meadow and woodland, it would have been quite a considerable holding.  In other documents, Roger is referred to as Roger of Pont Audemer, that town inNormandybeing the site of his main estate.

 The land in Whatley was clearly the cause of some dispute.  It is strange to think of absentee Norman knights arguing over this area of Wrington.  In 1198, a list of Wrington tenants owing military service assigned the half knight’s fee at Whatley in the Manor of Wrington to a William of Wanton’.  Then, in 1213, an entry on the Fine Roll records the payment of 20 marks and two palfreys to King John, for the recovery of this estate by Roger’s nephew, Jocelin of Pont Audemer.  A few years later again, records show it being held by Henry of Sandwich.  In a settlement of11 Nov 1235, at an Assize of Mort Ancestor, Simon of Sandwich acknowledged the right of Thomas of Moreton to hold the land. Thomas presumably claimed Whatley through inheritance and also held the manor now submerged underChewValleyLake.

 In 1298, a survey of the royal hunting Forestof Mendiplisted 21 settlements (vills) which surrounded the Forest and whose residents would have been adversely affected by the forest laws.  Whatley (Whatleigh) is one.  All the others are still the local parishes of today.  Along the north slope of Mendip the list runs:  Banwell, Churchill & Langford, Whatley, Winscombe, Shipham, Rowborough, Burrington, Blagdon, Ubley.  Whatley was then held by John of Moreton.

 By 1342, when Abbot Walter of Monington had a feodary compiled listing all his hereditary tenants, Whatley had passed to Robert, son of Robert of Brent.  During this time and over the following 200 years, many exchanges of parcels of land are recorded between the Brent family, a family called Whatman and a family based at Bourne, near Rickford.  And in this process, Whatley passed out of the control of Glastonbury.  In a post-mortem document of 1508, it is recorded that a later Robert of Brent held the manor of Over Langford, Nether Langford, Synderland, Whatley & Whatman’s Brent.

 It is my belief that the Brent family merged the land of Whatley, in the Manor of Wrington but now in the parish of Burrington, with holdings from the parts of Upper and Lower Langford, in the parish of Churchill, to form the estate based on Langford Court.  In many documents, dating from the 1500s to the 1800s, it is referred to as the Manor of Langford alias Whatley alias Whatman’s Brent.  It is now simply known as Langford.

John Gowar