website counter
Montacute in 1633 by Thomas Gerard of Trent

[Image from Wikipedia 02.11.2021; Thomas Gerard's memorial to his wife, St Andrew's Church, Trent, Dorset By Sarah Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0,]

Below are the entries for Montacute, Stoke sub Hamdon (including Ham Hill), and Odcombe by Thomas Gerard of Trent in his "Particular Description of the County of Somerset"; written in 1633, during the ill-fated reign of Charles I. The text has been transcribed by the Rev. Edward Harbin Bates in 1900. One feature of his translation is use of 'ye' with the 'e' in superscript; I don't know why he did this. Cambridge University's 'English Handwriting Online' says the now obsolete letter þ (known as 'thorn') was still used in the period 1500-1700 to represent a 'th' sound, and most often it looks exactly like a y. So, for example, when you see 'yat' you are looking at 'þat' and should transcribe it as 'that', on the understanding that þ consistently represents 'th'. It is strange that Bates didn't simply transcribe 'ye' as 'the'?


Remarkable for the Castle, priory, and a noble family which tooke name from it ; but before we touche of these, something if you please of the name of it, which says William of Malmesbury was Logwersbroch, of one Logwer, whose name was inscribed on one of the piramides that stood in the Church-yard of Glaston Church ; and in another place in the same book I meane that which he writt of the Antiquities of the Abbey of Glaston, he plainely calls it Legiosberghe, where he saies that in the yeare of Christ 681 King Baldred gave unto that Abby, Pennard being six hides, and Legiosberghe 16 hides, the name being so plaine that almost persuaded me to believe it took it from some legion of Roman souldiers that there kept their station. If you ask mee the place, I must pitch upon the north of Hamden hill lying over it almost, which shewes a large platt intrenched, now within the parke of Sir Robert Phelipps, and called (as I have been informed by some neighbours) untill this day Legcott, which seems to reserve a memory of Legio. The best reason I have next the name is the situation, even on the Roman consular way called Foss, which by this passeth from Ichester to Dorchester; neither will it make anything against me, as I suppose, to lett you knowe that at Niland further in this County was found a Trophie of Victory erected by Publius Ostarius in honnour of Claudius the Emperor; who was the first after Ceaser that entred Brittaine, and the same yeare conquered the Isle of Whight with the southerne parts leaveinge his name to Claudius downe now Claudio. But thus much of the auncient name, and I feare too much for my conjectures, and otherwise I would not have you take them, thoughe they please me, may chance displease others, and in them if I have erred I will willingly acknowledge it to any that shall better inform me.

Next this place was called Bishopston as belonging to some Bishopp, and a part of it retaines untill this daie as the whole did in ye Conqueror's daies for soe Doomsday book tells me.

The last name Montacute it tooke since the Norman Conquest after that Robert Earl Moriton halfe Brother to King William the first, unto whose lott it fell, had built a Castle on the very pitch of a hill riseing to a good height and shaped almost like a sugarloafe sharpe towardes the topp whence the Normans in their language called Montacute. This Earle Robert not long after built at ye foote of the hill a little priory for Cluniacke Monks dedicated to St. Peter and Paule concerning which if you please take this following*** out of Leland's Commentaries.1

*******************The Count Moriton who was brother as I conjecture to William2 the Conqueror began a Priory of blacke Monckes of three or four in number under the roote of Montacute hill endowed it with three faire Lordshippes, which were Montacute, Tyntenhull 3 miles of, and Creech 10 miles of; the Earle Moriton3 tooke part with Robert Curthose against King Henry the first, and was taken4 and put in prison and his lands attainted; 5 at which time the three Manners given to Montacute Priory were taken away, and the Monkes compelled to beg for a season; at the last Henry the first had pitty of them and offered them their landes againe soe as they would leave the place and goe to Lamport, where at that time the King intended to have made a notable Monasterye, but the Monkes entreated they might keep their old house, whereupon he restored their three Lordshippes, and translated his intended building from Lamport to Redding.

1. Leland 2. He was sonne of Helonyne de Comit. villa by Harlett his wife mother to Will. Conqueror. 3 This was Will. Earle of Moriton and Cornwall, son of Robert. 4 At ye battaile of Trenchbraye in Normandy 6 Hen. I.  5 id est forfeited, but Matt, of West, saies he was disinherited by force, and his Earldom given to Stephen after king of England.

Reginaldus Cancellarius soe named from his office, a greate man in Henry the first's time became a monk, and after Priour of Montacute, which place he much enlarged both with buildinges and possessions, part of the Castle (before mentioned) being pulled down to builde the Priory.***********************

Thus farr Leland, but he might have remembered how that this King not only restored their three mannors unto them, but added of his owne guifte either in part or whole the tithes of twelve Churches more, which charter is to good purpose vouched by the learned Selden in his History of Tithes; give me leave to add unto this that whereof I have scene the ruines and soe may any else if they will for they remaine untill this daye, which was a Chapell built on the topp of the hill where the Castle stood by some Priour of this House and dedicated to St. Michaell; and give me here leave to ask one question what was the cause that most of those highe and elevated places are dedicated to the Archangell St. Michaell; if you should propose it to me I protest I must pleade ignorance but not as the mother of Devotion; but that it is soe reexamples are frequent; for besides this, that beorge or round hill that stands eminent in the flatts of this Country, from the dedication of the Chappell on the topp of it, hath gotten the name of St. Michaell's borow; and to lett passe many others the mount in Cornwall is it not called St. Michael's Mount? But this quere I leave for others to resolve, and will returne to the Chappell at Montacute; which whilst it stood was a fine peece of worke builte with arched worke, and an embowned roof, overlead all of stone very artificiallie; and to it for halfe a mile welnere men ascended on stone stayres fetchinge a compasse round about the hill. This place by some latter zealous Recusants hath bin had in greate veneration, for they believe that (but I thinke out of their tra- ditions) that the body of Joseph of Aremathea, that Joseph which buried the body of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, was here interred. But for the truth of that I referr you to that I have written of Glaston Abbey, where I thinke you will find it is as true as another tradition, that in this Chappell was found one of those nayles which fastened our Saviour to the crosse, which a gentleman1 not farr of kept sometime and after sold for a greate sume of money to be transported beyond the Seas. The reader maye compare the times and easily see the truthe.

1 Mr. H.

The Castle was built by the Earle Moriton in the Conqueror's time, and the hill thoughe not all cast up by man's hand, yet I believe by man's hand brought to that forme which gave it the name of Montacute.

The Chappell succeeded the Castle and was by all probability builded in King Henry the first's time, and yet St. Joseph who dyed in the yeare of Christ 76 must be buryed here welneere 1044 yeares after his deathe. The naile I will leave to be added to the numberlesse number of those nayles which at first were but three, and twoe of those all Histories agree the Emperor Constantine caused to be placed as bosses in his bitt, but it seemes they increased as ye widowes meale and oyle, for there was hardly any Christian kingdom that had not one of them ; nay many greate Abbies would not sticke to shew you a nayle also of the same forge or rather forgeing. But wee will leave this and looke down againe on ye Prioury which at first being but little better than a cell, not long after grew soe well that it had gotten four cells under it, which were Carswell, Holme, St. Cross, and Malpass, for soe find I them named in the charter of King Edward the third, by which he gave unto William de Montacute ye Patronage of ye Priory of Montacute and of those cells belonging unto it. This Priory underwent the generall fate of all such houses in Henry the eight's time, and stands now almost desolate for the owner of it Sir Robert Phelips hath soe goodly a house hard by (built by his Father Sir Edward Phelips Master of the Rolles), that he seldom makes use of it ; and indeed a very beautiful peece it is, farr surpassing anie neere it, whether you consider the fairness or neate building of the house, or ye conveniences about it, such as are large and spacious Courtes, gardens, orchards, a parke, &c.

Lastly Montacute gave the sirname unto the right honorable Familie, who drew their descent from one Drew the younger1 and of which race here flourished foure Earles of Salisbury, of whom read more if you please at Shepton Montacute in this Countie ; after it gave the title of Marquis Montacute unto John Nevill descended from Alice heire generall of that Familie, and of Lord Montacute to Henrie Poole who haveing received that honnour by Henry the eight, was shortly after cutt shorter by the head. And of Viscount Montacute unto Anthony Browne whom Queene Mary advanced to that degree being both descended from the daughters of John Nevill Marquis Monta-cute, which title of Viscount Montacute still florisheth in his posterity.

1 Drugo Juvenis,                Robert Earle Moriton and of Cornewall: Ermin, a chefe indented gules.
               Montacute: Arg. 3 fussells in fess gules. Give me leave to think that this Coate was taken out of the former.
               Priory of Montacute: . . .
               Phelipps: Arg. a cheveron betw. 3 roses gules, a martlett.Note by Bates: Legend and history alike are found at Montacute ; and the literature dealing with both is too vast to be even enumerated here. An account of the Priory is prefixed to the Chartulary printed in S.R.S., Vol. VIII. 

A little below Montacute on the same river and under the same hill, stands


From the situation, and for a difference from others of the same name, called Stoke under Hamden. That this was a member of ye Barony of Hach and owned by the Lords Beauchampe of that place by the quoted Registers1 plainely appears, and that the Colledge of Preists here was of their foundation this subsequent inquisition taken by virtue of a writt of quo ad daninum 30 E. I. evidently shows:

Juratores dicunt super sacramentum suum &c. quod non est ad damnum Regis nee aliorum si Rex concedat Johanni de Bellocampo de Somerset quod ipse j messuag. iiij virgat. terre &c. in Stoke subter Hamden et advocationem Ecclie. ejusdem ville dare possit quinque Cappellanis in Capella sancti Nicholai de Stoke &c. pro anima ipsius Johannis celebrare habend. eisdem et successoribus imperpetuum, &c.

This church the second of Edward the second these priests appropriated to their owne use and in ye inquisition acknowledge that they had it of John de Bellocampo of Somerset. If these proofes were not strong enough, yet the armes of Beuchamp being vare soe often inserted and still remayneing in that part of the Colledge which now remaines will serve for a great presumption. I have bin a little the larger in this relation because a very reverend and learned man hath left this of it - Stoke under Hamden where the Gourneys had a Castle and built a College.

1 escaet 12 E. I, 10 E. 3, 17 E. 3, 35 E. 3, et liber relier. 40 E. 3. 2 Camden de Beige. 

Farr be it from me to tax him whose bookes I was never worthy to bear after him. I presume that in a work soe generall he, (as any man else must be) was forced to take information from many; and to shewe them their error, I have shewed them the foundation of the Colledge, and for their excuse will show what follows, which may much mitigate their mistake which is that John1 only son of John last Lord Beauchamp of Hach died in his father's time without issue, yet left a widow namely Alice2 the daughter of Richard Beauchampe Earle of Warwicke, who holding Stoke with other lands in jointure, after married Sir Matthew de Gournay, who lived died3 and was buried at this Stoke, which dureing his wives life, (for shee died before him) he purchased of the two heires4 of the Lord Beauchampe.

This is that Sir Matthew Gournay so renowned for martiall feates by Sir John Frosart, who dyed full of dayes without issue, for his epitath which now together with the stone is most shamefully taken away, shewed that he dyed the 96 of his age, after that he had fought at the seige of Algizer against the Saracens, in the battailes of Benamazin, Seluse, Cressy, Ingenes, Poictiers, and at Nazares in Spaine.

After the death of this Matthew a goodly estate5 of the Gourneys fell to the King by escheate, all which and more King Henry the fourth granted to John Tiptofte Lord Powis dureing his life, and King Henry the sixth unto his sonne Edmund Duke of Somersett, from whom it reverted to the Crowne, and sithence hath suffered divers changes, which because I have bin too tedious already, I will passe over with silence.

1 Escaet 35 .3. 
2 7 R. 2. 
3 18 R. 2. 
4 Cicely de St. Maur, Elianora de Merriett. 5 vizt. Maneria de Stoke Hamden, Milton Falconbr., Stratton super Fosse, Farenton, Ingescombe, Widcombe, Laverton, Shepton Mallet, Corye Mallet, Stowell, and West Harptree.

The Colledge came to its period under Henry the eight, and is now become the dwelling of Mr. Strode descended from those Strodes in Dorsett.

Having thus farr coasted Hamden hill, I will desire your company to the topp of it, where besides the pleasure of the prospect, I hope to find something that may countervaile your pains. For you shall see on the north side where wee rise up from Stoke unto it, the footings of that Fort I have before spoken of; on the south, the goodlyest quarry of freestone that ever I saw, which for beautie largenesse, lasting and antiquitie I presume gives place to none. I am sure in the western parts the antiquity is sufficiently shewen, in that all our ancient Castells, Churches and Mansion houses both here, in Dorsett, and a part of Devonshire, shewe it; the beautie is both in the Couller, being a faire yellowe or oker couller, for amongst it is found in vaines much okar with which they wash over and clesne foule stones; and largenesse, for out of it they take stones of what bigness the workmen please, and I never sawe any quarry to come near this in Couller and goodness save one within two miles of Northampton the principall towne of North'tonshire; for lasting, if it be out of a good bedd, it endures fire water and all things else. The masons here have a pretty kind of common- wealth; they have their courtes in which all trespasses against each other are judicially tried; and the Quarreys themselves seeme rather little parishes then quarryes, soe many buildings have they under the vast workes to shelter themselves in wet weather, and their wrought stones in winter. Whence this hill tooke the name of Hamden I cannot tell; you may remember but erst while a Record called it Hamelden, but I believe it is that Hamamdun1 which the Saxon king Etheldred in the yeare of grace 987 gave to the Abbey of Glaston, and since the dissolution it is come by the Duke of Somersett unto the Earle of Hertford, who also is Lord of Norton called under Hamden, which formerly acknowledged the Delapooles Earles of Suffolke owners of it.

1 Malmesbury de Antiq. Glaston.Note by Bates: For Beauchamp of Hatch, see ' Barony of Beauchamp of Somerset,' by J. Batten, F.S.A. ('Som. Arch. Proc.,' XXXVI. ii. 20; and XL. ii. 236). Vol. XXXV. of the same Proceedings contains an account of the discovery of the site of the chapel of St. Nicholas within the castle by Dr. W. W. Walter. 

On the east of this hill and on ye hill stands


Daintily seated, which though now it be but an ordinary parish was heretofore the Barony of William de Brewere, for soe was his father Henry named in the Normans language, because he was taken up amongst heathe in the New Forest by command of King Henry the second as he was a hunting. This man became afterwards very greate at Court, and soe much favoured by King Richard the first that he was esteemed his minion, and which is strange for a favourite to arrive at, gott ye love not only of the greate but also of the ordinary sort; by which meanes and his wife Beatrix de Vannes if not widowe yet in the next place to Reginald Earle of Cornwall, he recovered a greate and wealthy estate, besides which she brought him William de Bruere the younger who dyed issulesse in the year of salvation 1232, but left a widow, for her second husband Walter le Brett1 held at the time of his death, as the Inquisition says, this Odcombe, Milverton, Ilbrewers and Trent by Barony and had issue two daughters his heires : Alice mother of Stephen le Brett, of whom I shall speake by and by, and Annora mother to Sir Henry Crooke. But after the death of the Lady Joane mother to these two daughters; the before named manners and many more fell unto the five sisters of the last Lord William Brewer, who were married as followeth. Alice first to William Paganell Lord of Bampton in Devon by whom shee had no child, and after to William Lord Moyne of Dunster from whom divers noble families, and some of the same name are issued that remaine untill this day ; Joane to the Lord Percy whose heires generall were Baptoll, Heringande, Fikcase and others; Greca was the wife of Reginald Lord Bruse of Brecknock; Isabell of Sir Baldwin Wake ; and lastly Margarett of William de la Fert. In this division Odcombe, Milverton, fell to Reginald Bruse whose son's daughters, married to the Earls of March Mortimer, to the Lord Zouche, and to the Earle of Pembrooke Hastings, tripartited these lands and their posterity soe enjoyed them, untill by attainder they fell unto the Crowne; not long since, Odcombe was the inheritance of Sir Thomas Phelippes who built a Mansion house at it, in a place well deserving the name Pitt; who not long after removeing to Barrington, it was taken downe.

1 escaet 4 E. i.

I think you would laughe handsomely at me if I should conclude this place with Tom Coriatt borne here, and whoe celebrated the fame of it in many Countries and in many languages, even as farr as an everlastinge pair of shoes would carry him, which whether they were hung up as a Trophe after his death I know not, but for this man if so be to any unknowne I would rather they should read him in his owne volumes which are voluminous enoughe to sett him forthe, then loose so much time as to character him.

Not long sithence I made mention of Walter le Brett whose daughter's sonne Stephen, as from a Record I showed tooke the sirname of le Brett, and seated himself at Hescombe but a little from this place. This Stephen was father of foure sonnes. Thomas the eldest had John, father of three daughters, Joane married to John le Bathon, Elianor to John le Hayward, and Alice a mayden ; but from the younger sons of Stephen issued the Bretts knights heretofore Lords of Sandford Brett as here you may see, long sithence extinct ; and a family still remayneing, who seated themselves first at Evell and after by the only heire of Stanton removed to Whitstanton in this Countie where they florish in very good respect untill this present. As for Hescombe it came long sithence by alienation unto the Sydenhams of Brimpton amongst whose writings I found most of that I have sett downe; to many of which are affixed faire ancient scales showing plainly a lion which I cannot think hath any relation at all unto that, Or a Lyon passant gules which Upton and other old Heraulds ascribe unto King Brute for his armes, because I am a Thomas, and therefore hard of beliefe of that story, yet I know right well that all theis Bretts gave for their armes a red Lyon as ere long I shall showe. In the mean time I had almost forgotten William de Say who held lands in Odcombe, and taking his pilgrimage towards Jerusalem dyed in the waie as he was returning home, whereupon his three sisters entred his inheritance, Ilacia the wife of Nicholas Avenell, Joane of Henry Furnell, and Lettice of James Fitzgerard, all men of eminent note ; but now take if you please their Coates following, as I promised.

               Brewer : Gules two bends wave or. 

               Walter le Brett: A Lyon ramp, gules. 

               Brett of Sanford: The same, ye field charged with crosletts fichd gules. 

               Brett of Ivell, after of Whitestanton: Arg. crusele fiche, and a lyon ramp. gu. 

               Phelippes: Arg. a cheveron betw. three roses gu., a difference.

Note by Bates: See the ' Honour of Odcombe and Barony of Brito,' by T. Bond, in * Som. Arch. Proc.,' XXI. ii. 28. At the date of Doomsday the many manors which were in after days to make up the Barony, were held by Ansger, sometimes styled Brito or else de Montacute. He was succeeded by his son Walter, living 1095. In 1161 Roger Brito paid twenty pounds to the Exchequer for fifteen knight's fees. He had apparently just succeeded, as three years before the Barony was in the King's hand. Four years later Roger had given place to another Walter. In 1179 the sheriff was again in possession ; and a Brito is not mentioned again as an owner until 1196, when a third Walter occurs, who seems to have died within a few years. In 1199 Walter Croc was owner of one moiety of the Barony, and the other was probably held by Richard de Hasecumb ; these were nephews of Walter Brito. Between 1200 and 1202 they surrendered the whole to William Brewer for the use of his son Richard Brewer and his heirs. Richard, however, died childless about 1211, and his brother William Brewer the younger succeeded. He also died without children in 1232, leaving a widow Johanna, who survived until 1265, having had Odcombe He-Brewers and Milverton in dower. The jury on the Inquisition after her death knew of no heirs to the reversion oif these manors except the Brett family, who had been of Hescombe (in Odcombe), which manors had been alienated through the power of Sir William Brewer the elder. Mr. Batten considers the Inquisition held in 1276 to have been a fishing inquiry set up by the heirs of Walter Brito after the death of Johanna Brewer to see if there was any chance of recovering the property, and that the attempt failed. 

Next you might like to read my notes about three Montacute Foundries or check out Montacute snippets for my notes on different topics