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Leland's Montacute c.1542 AD

[Image from Wikipedia 01.11.2021; engraving taken from a bust created in the 1700s?]

John Leland travelled Britain looking for 'antiquities' on the instruction of Henry VIII in the years around the dissolution of the monasteries; many of his 'Itinerary' notebooks are in the Bodleian library in Oxford (MSS Top. gen. e.8–15). In 1542 he travelled through South Somerset along a route now waymarked as The Leland Trail, which starts at King Alfred's tower and finishes at Ham Hill.

The following is an extract that includes Leland's journey through Montacute, translated from the original by Thomas Hearne in 1768.

(Image from the Internet Archive

Lucy Toulmin-Smith's record, published approx 1910 and available through the internet archive is easier to read (eg the letter 's' is not represented as 'f' etc). The extract below covers Montacute and Stoke-sub-Hamdon:

"This Lord Boneville had many bastardes, wherof he set up one in the west partes, gyving him a 100. marks of land by the yere, and this familye yet remainith there.  

From Limington to Montegue by good pasture and corne ground enclosid and meately welle woddid a 4. miles.  

The toune of Montegue (Montacute) hath a poore market, and is buildid of stone as communely al townes theraboute be. I redde in the booke of the antiquites of Glessenbyri that this toun was caullid yn the Saxons time Logaresburch. Sum thynk that ther was a great castel and forteresse at this toune yn the Saxons tyme. Sum say that the Counte of Moretone buildid a castelle there sone after the Conquest : but that a castelle hath bene there, and that the Counte of Moreton lay yn it, it is without doute. This county chaungid the olde name and caullid it Montegue, bycause it stode on a sharpe point of an hille, and syns that name hath prevaylid. This Counte of Moreton began a priory of blake monkes a 3. or 4. in numbre under the rootes of Montegue hille, enduing it with 3. fair lordeshippes, Montegue and Titenhul joyning to it. The 3. was Criche a 10. miles from Montegue west 

fo. 53. 

south west. The Counte of Moreton toke part with Robert Curthose agayn King Henry the first, and after was toke, put in prisone, and his landes attaintid : at the which tyme the 3. lordshipes gyven to Montegue priory were taken away, and then were the monkes compellid to begge for a certein season. At the laste King Henry the first had pyte of them, and offerid them their owne landes again and more, so that the wold leave that place and go to Lamporte, wher at that tyme he entendid to have made a notable monasterie. But the monkes entretid hym that they might kepe theyr old house : and apon that he restorid them their 3. lordshipes, translating his mynde of building an abbay from Lamporte to Readyng. Then cam one Reginaldus Cancellarius, so namid by likelihod of his office, a man of great fame about King Henry the first, and he felle to relligion, and was prior of Montegue, and enlargid it with buildinges and possessions. And thus the priory encreasing, and the hole lordship of Montegue beyng yn the monkes possession, the notable castelle partely felle to ruine, and partely was taken doune to make the priory. So that many yeres syns no building of it remaynid, only a chapelle was sette apon the very toppe of the dungeon, and that yet stondith ther. 

From Montegue to Stoke under Hamden (Stoke-under-Hambdon) about a mile. I saw at Stoke in a botom hard by the village very notable ruines of a great manor place or castelle, and yn this maner place remaynith a very auncient chapelle, wheryn be diverse tumbes of noble menne and wimen. In the south west side of the chapelle be 5. images on tumbes, on hard joynid to another, 3. of menne harneshid 

fo. 54. 

and shildid, and 2. of women. Ther hath bene inscription on eche of them, but now so sore defacid that they cannot be redde.  

I saw a shelde or 2. al verry of blew and white.  

Ther be in this part of the chapelle also 2. tumbes with- out images.

There is in the northside of the body of the chapelle a tumbe in the waulle without image or writing, and a tumbe with a goodly image of a man of armes in the north side of the quyer of the chapelle, with a sheld, as I remembre, al verrey, and even afore the quier doore but without it lyith a very grete flatte marble stone with an image in brasse flattely graven, and this writing yn French about it :  

Icy gist le noble et vaillant Chivaler Maheu de Gurney iadys seneschal de Landes et capitain du Chastel Daques pro nostre seignor le roy en la duche de Guyene, que en sa vie fu a la batail de Beuamazin, et ala a apres a la siege Dalgezire sur le Sarazines, et auxi a les baitailles de Le scluse, de Cressy, de Yngenesse, de Peiteres, de Nazara, Dozrey, et a plusours aultres batailles et asseges en les quex il gaina noblement  graund los et honour per le space de iiij. et xvj. ans, et morust le xxvj. jour de Septembre Ian nostre seignor Jesu Christ mccccvj. que de salme dieux eit mercy, amen.

Ther was beside this grave another in the westerende of the body of the chapelle having a gret flat stone without inscription.  

I markid yn the wyndowes 3. sortes of armes, one al verry blew and white, another with iij. stripes gules down right in a feld of gold. The 3. was crosselettes of golde, many intermist in one yn a feld, as I remembre, gules.  

Ther is a provost longging to this collegiate chapelle now yn decay, wher sumtyme was good service, and now but a messe said a 3. tymes yn the weeke.  

The provost hath a large house yn the village of Stoke therby.  The notable quarre of stone ys even therby at Hamden, 

fo. 55. 

out of the which hath beene taken many a day stones for a the goodly buildinges therabout in al quarters.  From Stoke to Crokehorn, a mene market toun southwest.........

Next you might like to read about The Leland Trail, a 45 km footpath through the beautiful countryside of South Somerset, or you might want to skip to my notes about Montacute House and the Phelips family, or check out Montacute snippets for my notes on different topics.

If you scroll to the bottom of the homepage you will find the gallery containing some pictures of the village.