Whichever way you approach the village of Bicknoller you are met with one of the most charming and picturesque villages on the Quantock Hills. It is about 3 miles past Crowcombe, just off the A358 (Taunton to Williton Road) on the right hand side going towards Williton.
The village is full of beautiful houses. In the centre lies the church of St George, and there is also a lovely thatched Inn, which provides a warm welcome. This village is not as sleepy as it seems! The villagers here got together and founded their own community shop and Post Office, which is run by volunteers, all of whom live in the parish.
The village lies on the lower slopes of the Quantocks on the western side of the hills. The Quantock Hills rise steeply behind the village to the northeast and to the south dip down to Doniford Stream. Some of the tributaries of Doniford stream flow through the village. The village has an ancient history for above, on the hill, lies Trendle ring and Turk's castle — earthworks dating from the time before written records existed. The first written record of Bicknoller is from 1243, the village itself doesn't appear in the Doomsday book although the hamlets of Halsway, Newton and Woolston do.
The meaning of the name could be "the alder trees of a man called Bica" or "little Treasure". Little treasure is what the village of Bicknoller certainly is. The village has had royal visitors, one was Princess Margaret who stayed here in the 1950's as the guest of Captain Townsend's sister, the information was given on her death in 2001. It was a place of peace for her in that dramatic time, somewhere where she and the captain could be alone out of the eyes of knowing public.
The church of St George
Parts of the building of the church can be dated from the 12th century, it is a small and peaceful building, originally part of Stogumber benefit it was restored during the 19th century. The churchyard is dominated by a 1,000 year old Yew and, under the tree, can be found the old village stocks. At one time commemorated by a bench end in the church the tower had a yew tree growing from it, but this was removed a few years ago.
Since 1965 Halsway Manor has been the home of the only permanent residential folk music centre in the country. The building itself is beautifully restored. The eastern block dates from the 15th century, whilst the western side-wing was lovingly added in Victorian times to blend in unobstrusively. The history of the manor is fascinating, the reference in the Doomsday book gives it a value of 20 shillings and the land was granted to Roger de Courcelles, whose tenant was Alric. In the 12th century a Thomas de Halweia was recorded as holding a fee for the manor. The family held the manor until the later part of the 13th century when, with the marriage of Joan de Halweia to Sir Peter Stradling, the family of Stradling became owners of the manor for over 300 years.
One of Halsway's myths is that the building was once the hunting lodge of Cardinal Henry Beaufort. This has some truth attached but it was his daughter who married Sir Edward Standling who was the owner. It is very possible that The Cardinal would have visited her, although the evidence which would support this is circumstantial, in the grounds of the Manor there is the Yale of Beaufort, one of the 10 heraldic creatures in the royal ancestry which are known as the Queen's beasts. The royal connection has also come down with local legend, and the bishop's ghost was said to haunt the chapel which was once adjacent to the house. When the chapel fell into disuse it was used as an apple store and it was here that the bishop's ghost was seen. He enjoyed pelting people with apples!! Today, no sign of the chapel/barn can be seen, but in an 18th century painting of the manor, a barn can be seen beside the building and the windows have a vaguely ecclesiastical appearance. In the 18th century the house was known as Duke Henry's Hunting lodge and it has been said that the bishop's chaplin took his name John of Stoke Goner, from the name of the parish in which Halsway stood. The other ghost of Halsway Manor can be found in the Hall, in the 1930's the gallery, known as the Monk's Gallery led across the hall. Here was seen the ghost of a monk who is supposed to be on his way to chapel to say prayers on behalf of the Bishop.
The manor is rich in history and well worth a visit especially if you are interested in folk music, many courses and events are held over the year, Halsway Manor Society Ltd is a registered charity and warmly welcomes new members, for more information you can visit their web site.
A Walk round Bicknoller
The car park for the Village hall and shop is just off Trendle lane. It is good place to start here after a visit to the shop for any extra supplies required. From the shop turn right down Dashwood Lane here there is a lovely house once one of the four farms that made up the village. Turn into Gatchells Lane (right) and this brings you to the church. Down the hill is the local Inn well worth a visit, in front of the church there is a map of the village set in stone to commemorate the millennium, a walk round the church yard is a must, to admire the lovely peaceful setting.
In front of the church a foot path sign leads you into fields, follow this across four fields you come out into Chilcombe Lane. In the lane turn left (uphill). At the top of the lane the GreenWay sign points right, the way to Halsway Manor, today the home of Folk and Traditional Music and crafts, but once the hunting seat of Bishop Beaufort, the oldest inhabited building in West Somerset. Straight on up the lane to continue on the Greenway walk and on the left you have Trendle Lane, depending on time you have a fantastic selection of walks. To head back to the village follow Trendle Lane stopping to admire the lovely mixture of houses. Up until the early nineteenth century this was the main road from Taunton to Minehead, today it is a beautiful quiet lane which gives a good example of Ribbon development.