The village lies 3 miles from the A39, and the village of Nether Stowey, and only a mile from the sea. It has a fantastic church, a castle with mote, shops, a school, and two pubs. The village is twinned with Lonlay L’Abbaye in France, the villages have a shared history, and still today the links are kept open. The village boasts two public houses, The Acland Arms, in the High Street and The Greyhound in Lime Street. The hamlets of Burton, Shurton and Stolford make up the Parish of Stogursey. Not Far away is the famous landmark of Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which has provided employment in this mainly agricultural area. The station lies on the coast about a mile from the village.
Not far from Hinkley Point, at Wick, there is the remains of a Bronze Age burial mound, which, up until it was excavated in 1907, was known to the locals as Pixies’Mound and the field surrounding it Pixypiece. Here the fairies were to be found! The excavation uncovered three human skeletons and other human bones as well as a brass Roman coin of Constantine's era dated about 336 AD. During the Roman time the barrow was most likely looted of any rich goods. With the coin was found samples of early Bronze Age pottery known as “Beaker-ware”, this means the mound was originally erected about 1800BC. All the other artifacts from this barrow can be found in Taunton museum, together with a replica of the barrow.
Stogursey was given to William de Falaise by William the Conqueror to reward his faithful service and is recorded as Stoche in the Doomsday Book of 1086. The village became known as Stoke Curci through the marriage of Emma (only daughter and heiress of another William de Falaise) in the later part of the 12th century to a William de Curci. So the village became known as Stoke de Curci. In the 13th century became a borough, and during the reign of Edward 111 sent members to Parliament. The Village asked later to be excused this “very dubious and expensive honour.” The village continues to thrive although like many villages in the area the number of people who work in the village itself has declined over the last 100 years.
The principal landowner in the parish today, lives at Fairfield. The house lies just outside the village and at one time there was actually a small village called Fairfield but the village no longer exists all that remains is the Manor House Lived in today By Lady Gass (Elizabeth Periam Acland Hood). A house has stood on this site for centuries. A member of the Palmer family built the present house in the 17thcentury pulling down most of the Elizabethan house that The Verneys had themselves remodeled. John de Verney’s Tomb can be seen in the church. The Palmer family all seemed to have a love of adventure one sailed with Drake and Hawkins, and he also received a Knighthood for his role in the battle at Cadiz - he married into the Malet family of Enmore. One of his sons Peregrine thought at Naseby for the ill-fated Charles 1. Sir Alexander Fuller-Acland-Hood ( 1853-1917) came to inherit Fairfields from his mother Isabel who was the only child of Sir Peregrine Fuller-Palmer- Acland. (Who had built the school and restored St Andrew’s well.) Sir Alexander served as MP for West Somerset 1859 to 1868. Lady Gass is a direct descendant who inherited the estate in 1967 from her Uncle Perigrine. When she inherited the estate she was working as a Mathematics teacher in Kent!
St Andrews Priory Church
The beautiful, spacious building is a legacy of the Benedictine Priory that existed in the village. The Priory was established by William de Falaise who gave a grant of land to the Benedictine Abbey of St Marie de Lonlay which was 30 miles from his home of Falaise in Normandy. The church of St Andrews of Suntinstoch was part of the gift and monks from the mother house were sent over to administer the estate. Henry 1, the Earl of Warwick, witnessed the grant, together with others. One of these witnesses, Miles Crispin, died in 1107 so the founding of the priory can be dated between 1100, when Henry became King, and 1107. The grant, with other records of the priory, is now in the possession of the Provost and fellows of Eton College.
The church was already in existence when the monks took over. The herring-bone in the tower masonry uncovered during restoration work in 1954, together with the pier capitals in the church, date the building to the last decade of the 11th century. Herring-bone is very distinctive of construction used in Saxon and early Norman times but very unusual in buildings after 1100. The monks expanded the church eastwards, in about 1175, to include a choir so that they could be separated from the parishioners by the nave. In 1326 The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Drokensford, visited the priory and as a result of his visit he wrote to the Abbot of Lonhay complaining about the monks:
“ Having found on visitation your Priory impoverished and neglected, containing the Prior and one monk, some servants and useless folk sojourning there by your leave, the other monks living lecherously abroad, and being moved by Sir Robert Fitzpayne, Patron, we decree that the sinning monks be sent to Lonhay for correction, and that no more be sent to the Priory until it be reinstated through The Patron and our help.”
Two years later the Bishop instituted a new prior and the visitation records show that the prior had to swear to remain in residence in Stogursey. The war with France broke the connection to the Abbey at Lonhay and the lands and endowments were put in to the hands of the crown in 1414. In 1440 King Henry V1 made his foundation at Eton and Stogursey Priory was then endowed to the college. From 1453 the college at Eton had the right to appoint the vicars for the parish. Eton College holds many documents that relate to the early history of the priory and the church. One of these, relating to John Verney of Fairfield, is a citation to appear before officials of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Chichele, dated 1442. John was charged with telling the parishioners not to obey the prior, and interrupted the service:
“Forgetful of his own salvation …at the time of high mass in the parish church of Stoke Courcy aforsaid, after the prays .. by the vicar… in word and deed he preached in a manner unheard of and he spoke to the people in English.”
dispute was settled in favour of the Prior. John Verney must have
made his peace as his splendid table tomb can be seen in the east
end of the Verney chapel, he died in 1447.
William de Curci rebuilt the castle in the 12th century. The castle’s importance steadily declined and in the 15th century it was being used as an administration centre - by the 17th century was being used as a farm. The towers have been dated to the 12thcentury, the gate house cottage was built soon after 1600. The present building was acquired by the Landmark Trust in 1981 and they have restored the gatehouse cottage, the building now being rented as holiday accommodation.
If you leave your car at the church then have a look around this magnificent building, one of the oldest churches in the area. From the back of the church yard the footpath takes you to Priory farm where you can see the beautifully restored Dove Cot, which is all that remains of the Medieval Priory.
Returning to the front of the church, turn left past the cemetery and up the hill to the centre of the village. On the right is Lime Street where The Greyhound Inn can be found together with the Almshouses that were built in 1870. The almshouses in Lime Street were built especially for the women of the village whilst the ones in St Andrews Lane were for the poor men. The Victorians thought that the men and the women should live separate whereas the original Almshouses were for both sexes. (If you continue down Lime Street for about a mile you will reach Shurton where there is a very good example of Georgian architecture in Shurton Court ).
Turn left, down Castle Street on the corner of St Andrews’s Street You will see the restored Almshouses built for the poor men of the village in 1821. On the roof there is the original "Ding Darling Bell", which was rung daily for the recitation of the Angelus, as requested by the original builder of the village Alms houses William Paulett of Bere in 1414. The originally Almshouses had stood in the centre of the Village on the area known as The Gravel, where the war memorial is now. Today the bell is still rung daily at 7.00am and 6.00pm, both sets of Almshouses were restored by the trustees in the 1980's.
Continue on down the lane following the footpath on the right-hand side, this takes you above the Old Mill which was worked up until 1948. Over the style and into the Castle Grounds on the right is the millpond. The Gatehouse cottage was restored by the Landmark Trust and can be rented out as holiday accommodation. Follow the mote round to the left of the drawbridge and over another style into a field, following the hedge on the right to another style. Here you turn right cross the field to the hedge you can cross the style which will take you to Durborough Farm and Stogursey Lane but if you turn right back towards the village the footpath will bring you to the back of the school. The school, which is a very good example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was designed by John Norton for Sir Peregrine Acland. Sir Peregrine gave the school in 1860 to the community, as a thanks offering for the recovery of his daughter Isabel following a serious illness.
Once at the school turn right and follow the High Street to the remains of the cross turn down St Andrews lane passed the church rooms down the cobbled lane to St Andrews Well. The well was regarded as a Holy well from early times and it has been known as St Andrews Well from about 1473. From records dated 1791 it is recorded that the well was made of two pure springs enclosed within two cisterns which supplied the villagers with water. In 1847 the well was known as the only good drinking water to be found and had not ever failed, the right hand spring produced the softest water and was the one used for clothes washing. In 1870 Sir Peregrine Acland of Fairfield enclosed the area and built the entrance arch on the outside of the arch can be seen the Acland Arms and the Arms of the Egmont family can be seen on the inside. The Egmont family had purchased the manor of Stogursey in 1757 and their coat of arms was transferred from their original well building that Sir Peregrine replaced in the 1870's. On top of the arch is the cross of St Andrew. In 1979 the Parish council repaired the building. From the Well return to St Andrews Road you can continue along the lane turning left back to the High Street and Church or continue exploring the village.
In the church you can find a Leaflet about the village as well as the book about the church.