This small village seems caught in a time capsule, it lies just off the Main A39 and on the edge of the Bristol channel. The village centre has a feeling of great tranquility with it’s exquisite manor house, thatched cottages, medieval barns, it’s own duck pond and old mill building.
The village has a long history, in Saxon times it was included in the “Royal Hundreds” of Williton and was well defended by King Alfred from the Danes who would attack the coastal villages. After the Norman Conquest it was given to the Paganel family and later passed to the Luttrell family in 1207 when Geoffrey Lutterell married the Paganel heiress.
There are three main farms in the parish. Townsend Farm lies just off the very busy A39, whereas Court Farm can be found on the quiet approach to the village. Perry Farm is a couple of kilometres away and lies on the edge of the sister parish of West Quantoxhead (or St Audries). The farms are all still working farms. Up until the beginning of the 20th century the village was a thriving community, self-supporting with shops, school and Inn (the Inn was called the New Inn but became redundant in 1916 and is now known as Prospect House). Since 1861 the population of the village has declined from 339 to about 100.
The village, being part of an Estate, really has not changed very much. This is partly because it has been in private ownership. As a result of this there has been no enforced new development. In the 1920’s special legislation had to be used so as to allow the local council to build it’s quota of 2 houses on land it did not own.
The Village Hall was opened in 1914 in memory of Alice Luttrell who was the wife of the then squire, before this date there had been a small dame school on the site. The church of St Mary’s lies next to the Manor house, the most impressive building in the village
The Court House
The village has been one of the homes of the Lutterell Family, for over seven and a half centuries. Their house, known as The Court House, looks very austere with square headed, lead lined, stone mullioned windows. The style shows typical features of Elizabethan architecture together with a fine example of a Jacobean staircase. It is not open to the public but a couple of times a year the beautiful gardens can be visited. Sir Hugh Lutterell started the building of the present Court House, he died in 1522 and is buried in the small church next to the house. The family has lived in the area since the time of the Doomsday survey.
One Lady who married into the family was a Silvestra Skory, she was the 2nd wife of Sir George Lutterell, stepmother to his son Andrew. A lady with a temper!! When Sir George died she married the hapless Sir Edmund Skory who, in one of her rages, she ended up throwning out of one of the lower windows of Court House. When he died he left to his wife a Book called “The practice of piety” and, to his servant George Baker,
"who hath lived under the tyranny of my wife
to the danger of his life"
twenty shillings. Some lady. The present owner is Col. Sir Walter Luttrell who has been a former High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant of Somerset.
Born without arms and with very small legs, this village was the birthplace of Sarah Biffen, the daughter of humble cottagers. She only grew to be 37 inches. Despite her disabilities she went on to become a celebrated artist, painting miniature portraits of the rich and famous of the day. Sarah was born in 1784 and after along and varied life she ended up in Liverpool where she died in 1850 and was buried in St James Cemetery. (More information about this extraordinary lady can be found in “Forgotten Heroes of Bridgwater”, a book by local author Roger Black)
St Mary’s Church
The small church of St Mary’s nestles close to the manor house wall, very peaceful and very rich in fantastic woodcarvings. The small church has a close association with the Luttrell family and ,inside, there is the 16th century tomb of Sir Hugh Lutterell. The first recorded Rector of the parish in 1328 was an Andreas Loterel. Another member of the family was rector for over 70years in the 19th century, (Rev. Alexander Fownes Luttrell).
The church was built in its present position because of the risk of flooding in early times. It is built of locally quarried grey lias and granite. Internal restoration has stripped off the internal plaster so that the stone-work is visible. The plain western and chancel arches date from early 13th century. The wooden pulpit dates from 1633 and has extremely fine carved panels. The building is well looked after but, like most buildings of this age, restoration work is urgently required to repair some of the mistakes of earlier restoration. There is a beautiful peaceful atmosphere within the church, a place to stop and contemplate.
Cliff Top Walk
There is a lovely walk from the village to the beach. The best place to park is opposite the duck pond in the church car park (a small contribution is required).
Cross the lane and walk down the track signposted to Kilve. On the left after the old mill you can catch sight of the beautifully kept gardens of the Court House. The footpath bends to the left, (or if you wish you can follow the other footpath, across a couple of fields ending up at Kilve Church.) The track heads to the top of the cliff where there is a steep set of steps leading down to the beach. The trackway on the right of the steps follows the edge of the cliffs to Kilve Pill another good walk.
The path I followed takes you along a permissive path sign posted left, at the remains of a stone building (lime kiln). Once over the style the path contiues very close to the cliff edge — be careful as the cliff edge is very unstable. At the top of the field the views of the surrounding countryside are magnificent, a good place to sit and admire the view of the sun glinting on the water, and inland the colours of the Quantocks are splendid whatever the season.
The path follows the edge of the cliff for 2 fields then you head back inland. The path follows the hedge through another field on the right of which there is a pre-historic “Mound” . At the gate turn left down the green land back towards East Quantoxhead. (The paths on the right leads to Perry Farm) once you reach the road turn left and follow the lane. On the left-hand side there is a footpath across the field, which takes you back to the church or, alternatively, you can follow the lane to the centre of the village where you could visit the tea-rooms for a cup of tea or other light refreshment before returning to the car.
There are many beautiful walks to be found in this area, which are definitely worth exploring.