The picturesque village of Stogumber lies between the Quantock Hills and the Brendons, it is surrounded by high ground, a well-hidden site. It lies about 2 miles from the A358, down narrow winding country lanes. The Parish comprises of several hamlets, Vellow, Capton, Kingswood and the Vexfords. The main focal point of the village is the square, where you can find the one remaining pub, shop and of course the church of St Mary's. The High Street leading to the square, is the most photographed part of the village, with its mix of colour-washed and thatched properties.
There are few signs of our earlier ancestors and the only evidence of Roman occupation was a hoard of Roman coins found in Capton in1666 which dated from about 275AD. The area around did suffer raids by the Danes, in 843 it was recorded that 35 Danish longboats were involved in attacks along the coast near Carhampton. When the village was originally settled is not known but the village was in an ideal location, protected by hills with plenty of streams and with wood readily available both for building and fuel. By the time of the Norman conquest there was a small, well established community, the name of which was "Waverdine Stocke". William The Conqueror gave the land of about two hides with church to William De Mohun (Or Moione), who in turn let it to a knight Named De Gomer - not much is known about him but his name. The village of Waverdenestock became Stoke de Gomer.
Many of the cottages in the village have been changed over the course of the last century, what was once 6 almshouses is now just one dwelling, these cottages were built by the owner of Combe Sydenham for the elderly widows of the village who in the 19th century all received 1shilling a week. Another house of great interest is called "Seven Crosses" this also was originally two properties. The name originates from the seven red crosses, which are fixed above the arch of one of its beautiful medieval doors this house used to belong to the church. The village was once famous for its ales. A certain Mr Elers had a brewery in the village and his "Stogumber Ale" earned great renown. For this brew he used water from the spring of Brendon water called "Harry Hill's Wel", l this spring gushes out of a field and was supposed to possess medicinal qualities. This quite probably is why the farm is called Brewer's Water Farm! The farm lies next to Stogumber Station. For many years the well provided the water for the villagers of Stogumber. The old Market House, which was built in1800, was originally a collecting place for the sale of wool, it was free standing but in the 1860's it became part of the White Horse Inn.
The population of the village has declined quite considerably since the last century, in the census of 1851 there were over 1456 people living in the parish whereas today the population is only about 600. The village is today a thriving community with a school, shops, church and a lovely pub The White Horse. Just outside the village, there is one of the most attractive Cricket fields in the country, the field and clubhouse are fairly recent additions and matches are held nearly every weekend through the summer months. The clubhouse also provides a venue for other village functions and parties. The village also boasts it's own Art Centre - The Chapel Arts Centre - a group of residents purchased the old Baptist Chapel and formed a company to run a full programme of musicals and theatrical events. The Village hall was refurbished in 2002 and the very active committee work tirelessly to organise a number of events for the benefit of the local community.
St Mary's Church
For six centuries the church of Our Lady of St.Mary has been the focal point of Stogumber, a surprisingly large and elaborate building for what is today a small village well off the beaten track. There was quite probably a church on this site from the Saxon times although no trace now exists. The church was Minster - a mother church for a large area which reached as far as the Quantock Ridgeway, Minster Churches were responsible for dispatching preachers to surrounding rural hamlets to conduct services in the open, often under Old preaching crosses like the one at Crowcombe.
The oldest part of the building is the tower and the south porch, both of which date from the 14th century. The early building was burnt in about 1400 and the Norman remains were incorporated when the church was rebuilt and enlarged. The lower part of the tower together with the western bay and south porch were all that remain, This left the tower at the west end of the south aisle which is quite unusual in the south of England. The Tower is built of red sandstone leading into the church through a arch with a triple chamfer filled with a wooden screen, with a double chamfer leading to the aisle.
Traditionally Cardinal Beaufort is said to have had built the North Aisle as penance for his lax life whilst at his Hunting lodge, Halsway Manor, Bicknoller which was part of Stogumber parish in the 15th century. The Cardinal's Chaplin a John De Stogumber was involved with the trial and execution of St Joan of Arc he was supposed to have cried "Into the fire with the witch" and helped to push her into the courtyard where the stake awaited her. Only after the event to be heard shrieking "I will go pray among her ashes".
At the east end of the south aisle the last three bays are wider cut off from the rest of the aisle by an iron grate this is the Sydenham Chapel. The private funerary, chantry chapel of the lords of the manor of Combe Sydenham. The impressive tomb of Sir George Sydenham dominates the chapel. He was the Father in Law to Sir Francis Drake. His daughter Elizabeth whilst waiting for Sir Francis to return from one of his adventures agreed to marry another suitor, however on her way to the church at Stogumber a cannon ball landed in front of her bridal carriage. She believed that Sir Francis had fired it and so returned to Combe Sydenham to await his arrival leaving her other suitor at the church. She ultimately married Sir Francis Drake in Monksilver church on 18th June 1583. The cannon ball can still be seen today in the Hall of Combe Sydenham House, Monksilver.
The church was restored by Prebendary Edward Jones who was vicar of Stogumber from 1871 to 1907 at a cost of £2,400 quite a lot of money for the time. The chancel was tiled and stenciled and the roof painted, he was a great follower of William Morris as the decoration shows.
The churchyard houses the old cross, which was also restored in the 19th century the base and shaft are medieval but the rest is Victorian. The area near the south porch, a smooth triangle of grass is traditionally thought to be a common grave for the unfortunate inhabitants of Stogumber who were struck down during a plague outbreak.
The railway station lies about a mile from the village, the station was opened in 1862 and closed in 1976. The railway connected Stogumber with Taunton and many locals used the trains to transport their livestock to the market at Taunton, one the trains was known as the bacon train. The original signal box was closed in 1926 as there was not that much traffic.
The West Somerset Railway took over the old railway line and station, and the Station at Stogumber was reopened in 1978. Old restored steam trains provide a glimpse into the past. From the station at Stogumber visitors can travel to Minehead where the line terminates or Bishops Lydeard, there was hope that the railway line to Taunton would be reopen but so far it has not been possible. The Station has a lovely picnic area. There is a covered picnic bench and table which was given in memory to Mr H Horn, he was stationmaster from 1978 until he passed away in 2000. He had worked on the railways most of his life, his widow continues to help and can be found most days helping to run the shop.