Welcome to Cannington
Lies approximately three miles west of Bridgwater and is the “Gateway“ to the Quantock Hills.
The name of Cannington first appears in the Saxon Charters as “Cantuctone”, Cantuc was a British name for a “ridge” and “ton” a settlement hence the meaning of the name is “Quantock Settlement” the Quantocks being the nearby range of hills. By Saxon times the settlement had moved to the present village site .No Saxon structures remain, though it is possible the present church is on the site of a wooden Saxon church. The spelling “Cannington” as it is today appears around 1641.
Settlement in the Cannington area almost certainly first occurred on “Cannington Hill” which is a limestone outcrop to the north of the present day village which is now being quarried and part of the area known as “Cannington Park “. The hill is crowned with an Iron Age fort and there is evidence of Romano-British occupancy. Cannington Hill is believed to be the site of a battle in AD878 when the Saxons under King Odda defeated a force of Danish sea raiders who landed at nearby Combwich.
It appears that some kind of shrine or mausoleum which is thought to have been late-Roman stood on the hill, surrounded by a number of graves with many more graves further down the slope of the hill, the cemetery may have held anything up to a thousand graves, and may have been pagan in its earliest phases but was largely Christian and was in use from the 4th to the late 7th or early 8th century.
What makes the cemetery special was one particular grave which appears to have been especially venerated, covered by a small mound of earth on its surface, stone slabs formed into a box-like structure, at the east end were stones set as posts, one of which was decorated with a circular motif and perhaps runes. The grave contained the remains of a young girl aged about 16 years of age. A well-used path led to the mound, here was evidently a venerated spot, often visited and close to which people wanted to be buried. We will never know who the young girl was but her remains were re-interred in the Parish Church, and her burial place can be found at the base of the pulpit steps.
A stone slab marking the tomb bears the inscription “Child of Cannington”. She is immortalised by a wooden statue which is placed on a pillar facing the tomb, with facial features based on the child’s skull. Every year a small replica of the Statue is presented to a resident nominated for their service to the village. Sadly due to extensive quarrying no trace of the cemetery can be seen today.
So much of the archaeology has been lost due to the quarrying in the area but in 2014 while excavating the area from Cannington Hill to Rodway for a new by- pass, archaeologists found evidence of people living or working here from the late Bronze Age to modern times and of particular interest are the remains of three Roman buildings. These had foundation of stone walls, although later quarrying had cut into many of the features. One building had a hypocaust which was an under floor central heating system. Hot air from a furnace was carried through box flue tiles and then circulated under the surface, supported by columns of tiles. Other finds included Iron Age and Roman pottery shards. The Iron Age pottery included decorated Glastonbury ware. The Roman pottery includes Samian ware imported from Gaul (France ) and grey wares. Other findings have been Roman roof tiles and floor tiles, coins, a brooch and a hairpin. A report has been produced and the finds and archives are now deposited at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton.
Cannington Commercial History
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Cannington was primarily an agricultural community. The First World War took an appalling toll of Cannington’s young men in common with communities across the country.
In the early 1800’s, there were numerous businesses in the village – grocers, bakers, blacksmith, boot makers, saddle and harness makers, wheelwrights, drapers, florists, general stores which indicated that the village was self-sufficient at that time. The village population which had peeked in the 1860s fell steadily as the number of jobs on the land reduced but in the 1930s mobility gradually redressed the balance. A big jump in Cannington’s population occurring in the 1960s, mainly associated with the building of the nearby Hinkley Point ‘A’ and later ‘B’ Nuclear Power Stations.
In 1563 there were said to be 120 households in Cannington and 20 at Combwich, which was part of Cannington. In 1801 the population was 868 rising to 1,215 in 1821 when over three quarters were under 40 and a quarter of the houses had been built since 1811. Census reports show the following: 1851 : population reached a peak of 1548. 1921 : population dropped below 1000 due partly to WW1 and the depression years when people had to leave farming and look for work in towns. 1961 : population rose to 1400. 1981 : Population shows 2038. 2001 : Population shows 2500 in the village.
In 1608 there were three licensed public house in Cannington and three in Combwich but of seven licensed in 1609, five were at Combwich, possibly due to the presence of the harbour. There were six or seven licensees until the 1630s but in 1649 the inhabitants petitioned to have only two at Cannington. An unlicensed ale seller was punished in 1651. Numbers fluctuated but in 1687 there were seven licensed victuallers in Cannington parish and one or two in Combwich in Otterhampton parish.
The Red Lion in Cannington was recorded in 1706 and may have been open in 1674; it ceased to be an inn in the late 18th century although the name was still in use in 1883, probably for a private house. The Anchor, also called the Blue Anchor or Old Blue Anchor, was recorded in 1767 and was kept by the May family until the 1840s. It was renamed The Friendly Spirit in 1986. The White Horse was recorded in 1724 but had probably been open since c. 1700. It was last recorded in 1743. A house called the Black Horse near Clayhill was recorded in 1773 and 1861. The New Inn in Frog Street (now East Street) and The Globe Inn in Church Street were recorded in 1861. The former may have been open in 1851 and was last recorded in 1939 when it was demolished for the building of council houses in East Street. The latter was open in 1989. The Malt Shovel between Bradley Green and Blackmoor was recorded as a public house in 1861; The King’s Head and The Rose and Crown in High Street were recorded in 1841 and 1881 respectively.
The village has many historic houses, most of them being listed as well places of interest.
Apart from the church, Cannington Court, and the Almshouses, most of the buildings in the centre of Cannington date from the late 18th or 19th century and are of brick or local stone. Frog Cottage in East Street and two cottages in Church Street probably date from the 17th century and 1 Fore Street is of the mid-18th century.
Blackmore Farm: (Grade I listed)
The Manor ‘Blachamore’ is mentioned in the Domesday Survey of A.D. 1085. The reading for the manor indicates an estate of between one and two hundred acres but only a small part was arable and was held by a Roger de Corcelle who had great holdings of land in Somerset. It is not known who had the manor after him but by the 14th century it was owned by a family called Tresseleven. This name may be a transposing of the name Trevellion or Trevelyan but has various spellings. This family had lands in Somerset and was associated with these parts for hundreds of years.
The present house was probably built in the second half of the 15th century on the site of the original manor and was then in the hands of the Tremayle family and no doubt built the present manor. It is a two-storeyed house, of red sandstone rubble, with a main range of three rooms and entry facing east, a chapel wing to the north-east, and a slightly later kitchen wing to the south-west. Both angles contain stair turrets, that on the west having a garderobe. The hall has a moulded, framed ceiling and the roofs are of jointed crucks, that of the main range being arch-braced and with windbracing. The chapel has been partitioned but retains a framed ceiling, niches, and a piscina. It was probably built by Thomas Tremayle (d. 1508), whose son John may have added the kitchen wing. Apart from the porch and the insertion of a gallery in the chapel c. 1600, the house has hardly been altered structurally since John died in 1534.
In 1534 the chapel had two bells, a holy water bucket, a chalice, two pairs of vestments, books, and other furnishings. A member of this family married Margaret, daughter and co-heiress with her sister Joan, of John Trivett of Sidbury. Joan was the wife of Roger Pym of Brymore. The Trivetts were the family famous in Bridgwater for the building of the first stone bridge across the River Parrett. They also had lands in Cannington and the name survives in Chilton Trivet Farm at the other end of Blackmore Lane. From the Tremayles, the manor descended to the Halswells of Halswell in the parish of Goathurst. Robert Halswell appears to have lived at Halswell and also owned Blackmore Manor. About 1600 the Manor seems to have turned to use purely as a farm but remained in the same family for ownership. It passed to the Tyntes by marriage and from this marriage, the only son Sir Halswell Tynte succeeded to the estates his mother brought to him in 1672.
For most of its history, Blackmore Farm has been tenanted, as the family that owned and built the house moved to the larger Halswell House near Goathurst. In 1978 for the first time, the Halswell Estate was sold and was purchased by an institutional Pension Fund. In 1956 as sitting tenants, the present owners, the Dyer family, were able to purchase the freehold of Blackmore House and Farm and it is both a working farm and holiday accommodation.
Brymore House: (Grade II Listed)
brymore House on the outskirts of the village was the birthplace of John Pym the 17th century politician and is now Brymore Academy (see Schools History, Education page). John Pym opposed Charles I and was well known as Oliver Cromwell’s aide and mastermind behind the Parliamentary Campaign.
Cannington House (Grade II listed) formerly Cottage Home
Following the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the general means by which poor or destitute people were looked after was the workhouse. In the late 19th century, it was decided that the workhouses were not the best place for children, in part because the adults they were housed with could be bad influences. Instead, cottage homes were built – each a series of buildings (known as cottages but generally large houses) in which perhaps 20 or 30 children were housed. Many cottage homes had their own facilities such as schools, chapels and infirmaries some even had their own farmland from which the children and staff could be fed. Generally each unit of cottage homes would be overseen by a superintendent and each individual cottage would be run by a woman or a couple who lived on the premises with their charges. Life in the cottage homes, mirroring workhouse life, was designed to be disciplined with strict routines for schooling and meal-times. In most cottage homes children were given a uniform.
Many of the homes attempted to furnish the children for life after the homes not only by basic schooling but also by teaching them a trade or, for girls, skills they could use in domestic service. Initially everything the children needed was provided on site – schools, churches, sports and recreation facilities and training workshops so children rarely or never left the premises. The Cottage Home in Cannington was opened in the early 1900s by the Bridgwater Union to take in pauper children who would otherwise have been placed in the workhouse. It later became a home for boys only.
The house was then used as a dormitory for the pupils at the Brymore School (now Academy). The boys had to walk down through the village after their school hours and work was completed in the evening and then back up for the commencement of lessons in the morning. This arrangement ceased in 2013 when accommodation was built for dormitories at the school. Cannington House is now a private residence
Gurney Manor: (Grade I listed)
John de Gurney held an estate in Cannington in the late 13th century but the name disappeared around 1443. The Gurneys were the earliest recorded owners of this manor house which is believed to have been built before 1350. Named after its earliest owners, the Gurneys, and situated at the end of Gurney Street where a house was built before 1350. It was rebuilt around 1400 and acquired many changes and structural additions over the next few decades. In 1482 a group of buildings and surrounding orchards and lands at Gurney Street, formerly belonging to William Dodesham, included the capital messuage* where he had lived, two other houses, one called the Crossed house, a tenement called Gourneys place, a chapel of St. Margaret, and a water mill. About 1561 and in 1740 a capital messuage or mansion of Southbrook was recorded, apparently on or near the same site. The present Gurney Street Farm or Gurney Manor, probably but not certainly the home of William Dodesham, was in 1989 under restoration by the Landmark Trust, having been divided since the late 1940s, not for the first time, into separate dwellings. The Landmark Trust now owns the manor and it provides holiday accommodation.
The Henry Rogers Almshouses (Grade II listed)
Originally constructed in the 1500’s the building has had many different uses and occupants over the years. When Henry Rogers died in 1672 he left a sum of money to the parish to provide the poor of the village with a church house or workhouse and the building was known as the Church House well into the 1970’s. In 1779 it was used to house prisoners and its final use, prior to being reverted to accommodation for the poor in 1837, was as the parish school. The building went through several further changes and in 1950 was occupied by twelve widows and in 1955 by four spinsters. This was also the period when running water was added to the building which, until this time, villagers either used the village pump or had a well on their premises. There were major alterations permitted in 1968 after the building was condemned and in 1971 more alterations were carried out which included the removal of the outside stairs. There are now four flats and one cottage attached at the rear for the benefit of local residents.
A further orphanage was the Industrial School at Clifford Court. (see reference in History of Cannington Court). The population in 1901 was 1021 and of this number, 104 were in the Industrial School although there is no proof that all of the children were from Cannington. The Industrial School closed in 1917 and moved to Bath.
The Priory/Cannington Court (Grade 1 Listed)
The Norman invasion of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror led to upheaval in the country. Land was given to William’s followers. Roger de Courseulles was given large areas of Somerset including Cannington, while De Courcy family, lords of nearby Stogursey (Stoke Courcy ) established Cannington Priory (later Cannington Court). The manor and church were given by Robert De Courcy in 1138 as the main endowment for a house of Benedictine Nuns. The Priory was home to the daughters of some of Somerset’s leading families, it is said that “The Fair Rosamund” (mistress of King Henry II) was born or educated in the Priory another was Maude de Meriet of Hestercombe (more about Maude later).
An inquiry in 1328 looked into the illicit wanderings of the monks and nuns! There is said to be a network of tunnels leading from Cannington Court to various area’s in the village and what appears to be a caved in entrance, suggests a tunnel runs beneath the formal lawns of the Walled Gardens. In the 14th Century there is some evidence of corruption in the Priory. In 1536 the Nunnery was dissolved.
A further transfer of lands followed the Reformation and the church lands were returned to the Crown. In due course Henry VIII gave Cannington and all its affairs to an Edward Rogers, one of Henry’s favourites. He later became a Member of Parliament for Somerset and both he and his descendents were influential in Cannington life until the line died out. The last heir, Henry Rogers, was instrumental in the building of “The Almshouses” in High Street which today still play an important part in Cannington life.
In 1672 Charles II granted that Thomas Lord Clifford of Chudleigh should hold Cannington Court and its estates. In 1673 a third storey was added to the Court and after his death in 1730 the estate passed to the 4th Lord Clifford who allowed the estate to run down and fall into decay.
The fifth Lord Clifford restored Cannington Court, as the former Priory buildings were now called, and in 1807 he lent it to a community of English speaking Benedictine Nuns who had been evicted from their Paris convent during the French Revolution. The property was used for this purpose for thirty years.
In 1830 an existing Chapel was rebuilt, the chapel is now known as Clifford Hall, and is octagonal, with a domed and coffered ceiling rising to an octagonal lantern, and two large Corinthian columns flank the opening to the former chancel. The octagonal nave was probably constructed within the walls of the earlier chapel. In 1868 Cannington Court was turned into a Roman Catholic Industrial School for Boys, where they were taught gardening, carpentry and a trade when possible.
In 1919 the 10th Lord Clifford granted the lease of Cannington Court to Somerset County Council, and by 1921 the house and buildings were adapted for Somerset College of Agriculture and Horticulture known as Somerset Farm Institute (or to locals as Cannington Farm Institute). The successor to the institute was Cannington College which became known for its provision of Land – based education. In 2004 Cannington College merged with Bridgwater College and is now known as “Bridgwater College Cannington”, a centre for land–based studies where Agriculture, Horticulture, Floristry, Arboriculture, Countryside Management, Fisheries Management, Food Technology, Equine and Animal Management are taught, in fact all that future land managers and farmers need to know. Floristry courses were held in the “Old Dairy” and were very popular with students and residents alike and now take place at Rodway.
Since the merger the original “Walled Gardens“ which were part of the old Priory, have been restored and redeveloped. The staff and students have done an amazing job with their hard work, and the gardens now provide a dynamic learning environment for students and visitors alike. Visitors are able to buy plants and shrubs all grown by the students. The buildings and gardens have a very long history with the village and have always played an important part in the life of the local community. More recently, the College has been seeking to re-establish its National Collections of plant species, including Monarda, Deschampsia and Santolina.
Staff and Students both past and present have anecdotes of ghostly sightings in Cannington Court, of Nuns always seen from the ankle upwards apparently due to the changes in floor levels. Other tales from residents of Cannington tell of a nun thought to be Maude de Mareit seen around the Pack Horse bridge by Cannington brook, who supposedly transgressed her vows, and after her death it is claimed that her body was buried on land where the “Friendly Spirit” Inn now stands, which at the time was land outside the church precincts. Her heart was buried in Combe Flory Church where a heart shaped niche reads “Here lies the heart of Maude de Mareit”.
In 2012 Bridgwater College leased Cannington Court to EDF Energy and when they have completed the vast task of restoration & conservation work to put it back to its former status will then become the EDF flagship training centre.
In 2013 under what was the present day car park, during excavations for the reinstatement of a formal garden, some very interesting discoveries were made, the earliest of which were 10th -12th century pottery, earlier medieval non-secular buildings, water culverts, and floor surfaces and a large fragment of a mill stone, all have been recorded and details lodged in Somerset County Museum. When all this work is finished the old car park will revert to the former glory of a formal garden (now completed as per photo).
About 1561 and in 1740 a capital messuage or mansion of Southbrook was recorded, apparently on or near the same site. Southbrook estate was last recorded in the 1740s. The name was preserved in 1831, although the land had probably been absorbed into Gurney Street Farm much earlier.
The building housing the village hall was originally a malt house owned by the Bouverie family. It was sold to the parish council and rebuilt in 1905-6 to create a hall with a skittle alley, reading room and a games room. The part of the building nearest the current shops was used as the post office and the other end was a cobbler’s shop. In 1930’s the hall was used as a Working Men’s Institute and during World War II the upper hall was used as a school for evacuees. The Post Office and cobbler’s shop are now private dwellings.
Park Farmhouse(Grade II Listed) Park Lane.
The capital messuage was let in 1301 and in the 15th and 18th centuries. Park Farm, formerly Higher Rodway, was described as Rodway Manor House c.1805.
Mill Lane was in existence in the time of the Norman Conquest. When the Priory was founded in 1130 the mill became part of the Priory property as it was a manorial right. At the dissolution of the Priory the whole of the properties and land including the mill, were given to Edward Rogers in 1538. The Clifford family acquired the estate after the death of Henry Rogers in 1672 until sold in 1931. The mill was known as Cole’s or Town Mill and it remained a corn and malting mill until 1913 when it was used to grind barites from Cannington Quarry for use in munitions. It employed 10 people and the product was hauled to Bridgwater station by a steam traction engine. At the end of WWI in 1918 the mill closed and was never used again. The mill became derelict and in 1930 it was rebuilt as a dwelling and the pond filled in.
This dwelling was destroyed by a bomb during WWII probably with a German pilot off-loading and the remains were pulled down and re-built again and is now known as The Mill House.
Chilton mill, later Cook’s mill, was recorded in 1494 and was attached to Chilton Trivet Manor. It may have been a fulling (cleaning of woollen cloth) mill in 1599. Like Town mill it was taken over for spar-crushing during the First World War but was later converted to a cheese factory powered by electricity from a turbine. The mill formerly had an overshot wheel. In existence in the 18th century it appears to have been run with the Town Mill. The mill was sold to a Mr Hallet who owned a dairy and it later passed to the Milk Marketing Board who turned it into a
cheese factory. The mill was affected by the building of Ashford Reservoir in the 1930s. The site is now owned by Yeo Valley Organic Company.
In 1086 there was a mill on John the Usher’s estate at Candletone (Cannington). In 1370 John Horsey
sold a watermill in Cannington. The mill at Bosecroft, recorded in 1225 may have been the later Gurney’s mill recorded in 1482. Gurney Street mills and Southbrook water mill were recorded in 1740, probably south of Gurney Street Farm on the two branches of Cannington Brook. Gurney Street mill was rebuilt in 1872. The Mill was possibly a silk mill in the 18th century and was in use until the early 1950s. The water wheel is still intact and it is now a private home with holiday accommodation.
A mill is shown in the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 1880 adjacent to the present farmhouse. It was used as a corn mill until 1936 when the reservoir at Ashford was constructed. It continued to be used for odd jobs such as sawing wood, milling chaff and pulping cattle feed and cider making. The millpond at Ashford was filled in, in 1935. A watermill at Blackmoor was recorded in 1370. There was also a tucking (same word for fulling) mill at Blackmoor, probably adjoining the grist (grinds grain into flour) mill, between 1579 and 1647. In 1775 the miller sold meal in Bridgwater and was said to have ‘grown from a beggar to a gentleman’. The mill went out of use in the later 19th century, was demolished, and the site levelled.
Sawmill and Timber Yard (now Bowling Green)
Formerly a timber yard and sawmill belonging to a Mr Crocker who lived in Ruscombe House, the large house opposite the Almshouse. He also owned the land and barns at the end of East Street known as Crockers and now owned by Bridgwater College.
was part of the estate belonging to Lord Clifford and is the seat of Lord Clifford’s ancestors. It is now occupied as a grazing farm abutting the quarry. The park at Cannington Hill may have been in existence in the 14th century and the park pale was recorded in 1664. Described as Old Park in the early 18th century, it was divided into the Higher and Lower Parks and let out. Chilton Trivet Park lay detached from the farm east of the Bridgwater road. In the 1480s there was a rabbit warren on a low hill south-east of Gurney Street, where the name Conygars survived into the 19th century.
A warren east of Cannington Hill, recorded in the 17th and 18th centuries, was destroyed by quarrying. There was a decoy pond on the edge of the marsh north of Cannington Hill; it was partly planted with willows in the early 19th century. Cannington Park Golf Club was opened in 1906 on ground rented from Mr Alfred Berry of Park Farm. The green keeper lived in Golf Cottage (Grade II Listed) just past the old quarry and there was a lean-to at the side of the cottage where tea was dispensed. Visitor numbers were dropping and there were problems with drainage plus the difficulty of enlarging to an eighteen-hole course, so it was agreed to move to an acceptable site at Enmore. Cannington Golf Club closed in September 1932.
Withiel Manor was held of Rodway Manor in 1448 and 1538. It descended by sales and settlements to the Rogers family in 1672. It then descended to Lord Clifford in 1775 and in 1784 was absorbed into the Brymore Estate. Capital messuage (archaic term used in conveyancing) had probably stood near the barton east of Brymore House, where a new house, Withiel Farm, was built in the late 19th century as the farmhouse for the Brymore Estate.
Brymore, Withiel, Forde (later Ashford), Knaplock, Orchard, and Putnell occur in the earlier 13th century, Knoll by 1333, and Oatley in the 15th century Knoll and Oatley both seem to have developed as scatters of houses around a green, and a similar settlement had emerged at Bradlake, later Bradley Green, by 1494. The first two disappeared, Knoll Green in the early 19th century. Rodway was a small hamlet perhaps arranged around a green and in existence by the early 13th century. Rodway Farmhouse, formerly Lower Rodway, and Park Farm, formerly Higher Rodway, are three bayed houses of two storeys with attics probably dating from the 17th century but with later alterations. Other 11th-century sites, Dodesham, Pedredham, and Pillock or Polloc, (in the Southbrook estate area) did not survive the Middle Ages, perhaps partly because of flooding in the 15th century, notably c. 1427 and in the 1480s.
In 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Committee purchased the land between the two bridges for £50. This land, which had been a council building materials store yard, was named the Jubilee Gardens and the Parish Council both owns and is responsible for the land. Cannington Brook runs through the gardens, which has four recorded crossings namely: the packhorse bridge, the ford, the turnpike bridge and the county bridge. This is very rare throughout the rest of the country.
Messauge:- The origin of the word Messuage is late Middle English , from Anglo-Norman French, based on the Latin word “Manere” – to dwell. The word Messuage usually turns up in Manorial Documents and older wills. It refers to a house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use.