Hillfarrance History



Hillfarrance - 1930

Living in these properties at the time were from left to right:

 Mrs. Vi Crews, Mrs. Ash, Mrs. Annie Mills, Mrs. Billings, Misses Cissy & Eddie Langford, Mr. & Mrs. Lovell, Miss Hayes.
These properties on the left are now one house, the section on the right having fallen down, it is known as Palmers Cottage,
the next property is Shuttle House you can just see that it is thatched.
On the 17th May 1937 the thatched property belonging to the Lovell family burnt to the ground, it was rebuilt minus the thatch

Hillfarrance in the 1930s as remembered by Audrey Lovell - July 2011

The early history of Hillfarance can be seen on the Oake/Hillfarrance website so I will not touch on that except to add the following two points.   My parents often referred to a Laundry which was located in Frog Street.   This would be around the 1700/1800s. and certainly this ties in with the 1881 British Census on which it shows a family by the name of Lovell, one of whom was a Laundress.   Also there are several gravestones in the churchyard showing members of the Lovell family dating back to the 1800s.   There was also a Bakery in the village and this was situated near the Old Mill.

 I will give you a little history of Shuttle Cottage.   Before it became a dwelling house in 1911 it was used as a Beer House.   This was in 1868 and was then known as Shuttle Inn.   Prior to that, we understand, it was used for the making of shuttles for weaving etc. Presumably that s where the name came from.   As many of you will know the cottage burnt down in 1937. The family were split up and accommodated with other members of the family.   My youngest brother and I were accommodated at The Vicarage for a short time while arrangements were being made for us to go to our sister in Essex. (We had to behave ourselves at The Vicarage of course)   We stayed with my sister for 2 years while our house was being rebuilt.

I will tell you a little bit about what the village was like during my childhood.

My grandparents, Elizabeth and Edwin Lovell lived with their 9 children in Laburnam Cottage (now known as Cob Hay).   Members of the Lovell family continued to live there until around the 1960s. when it was sold.   In the house next door ( Burgine) lived 3 sisters, 2 of whom were school teachers.   They would cycle to their respective schools each day on their upright bicycles, and on rainy days gave us much amusement when they would cycle holding up their umbrellas (early Mary Poppins perhaps).   From Palmers Cottage next door stood a row of   7 cottages, most of them thatched, Shuttle House being the last but one and where I was born and lived with my parents and 9 other brothers and sisters.

 The house opposite known as The Green was much smaller than it is now, and where my parents lived in the early years of their marriage before moving into Shuttle Cottage.   At the Rectory, where the Adams family now live, stood a smaller house in which two ladies lived – Sister Ellen and Miss Walton.   These ladies took the village children for several classes – Bible reading, Sunday School, needlework etc. 

 The house next to the church, much smaller than it is now,   was the original Post Office and village shop.   The bungalows on the road leading to the Anchor were not built until the 1950s.

Several houses have gone from the village over the years.   At Hill View, 3 other cottages were attached and there were also two small cottages along the alley way before the Anchor Inn.   Three cottages have also gone from Pontispool.   There was also a school there in earlier years which my father and some of his brothers and sisters attended.

 An upstairs room at the back of the Anchor Inn was used as a Club Room.   This was used for various functions, such as dances, card games etc.   It was also used as a meeting place for the local Cycling Club   (this was a popular hobby at the time).   It was nothing for the cyclists to cycle 60/70 miles a day to different beauty spots etc.   On one occasion my cousin Vi Crewes (some of you may remember her) and one of my brothers cycled to London and back..   They left Taunton at 8.0 p.m.(after working all day), cycled through the night and arrived at our sisters house at tea time the following day.   They stayed a few days before making their return journey.   Again cycling through the night and arriving home early the following morning.   We certainly did not need Keep Fit exercises or the Gym in those days.

Life in the village then was very different from now.   There were several farms around the village and most of the men had two jobs (anything to put food on the tables, especially those with large families).   They would help out with the harvesting etc. as well as their own jobs.   My father, for instance, would work in the fields during the day and walk to Cotford Hospital for his   night shift as stoker and then walk back again the following morning.   Sleep was when you could fit it in!   I remember on many occasions he would tell us that when he was tired and sat down for his break, he would sit with an enamel mug in his hand, with a coin in it so that if he did nod off, the mug would go clattering to the floor and the noise would wake him up.

 My mother too, had her share of hard work.   She would often be washing the clothes when I left for school in the morning and still washing when I returned.   Then the ironing of all that clothes had to be done – no electric irons then, of course, but iron ones that had to be constantly heated up on the old range.

 Times were hard then, but they were also happy times as well.   Everyone helped each other in times of need, and no-one would pass by without time for a chat.   The village green was alive with children   - so much to do, so many games to play – skipping, playing with hoops, hopscotch, paper trails,   ball games etc.   Fishing in the stream with our jam jars on string, rabbiting with our dogs.   We did not need computers, play stations, TVs etc.   Indeed, we did not even have electricity or even a flush toilet.   A visit “to the loo” at the top of the garden on a cold, frosty night with a candle in one hand and paper in the other (not for READING you understand) was not one to be enjoyed or lingered over.

We did not have to look out for motor traffic of course, but instead had to be wary of the horse and cart and the occasional herd of cows. These were herded mostly in the field beside our house and it was nothing for us to come out of our back door and come face to face with a cow!

Although money was always in short supply, we were never short of food as most villagers grew their own fruit and veg.   We also kept pigs and chicken.   When it was time to have the pigs slaughtered they would go to be killed and then returned to us in joints.   No freezers then, of course so the joints were placed in a big vat in brine and had to be salted and turned each day.   We did our own pickling, jam making and preserving fruit etc.   It was looked down on to buy tinned fruit or veg at that time.   Groceries could be purchased from the village shop and a few delivery vans also called, Butchers, Bakers etc. and the Allercott family delivered milk for many years.

 We walked to school each day at Oake.   There were two schoolrooms, (infants and juniors).   One teacher in each and two playgrounds (one for the girls and one for the boys).   The rooms were heated by black iron stoves.   We had a half-pint bottle of milk each day (with at least an inch of cream on the top) for the price of 2   d. per week.   In cold weather the bottles were placed on the stoves in a large pan of warm water so that we did not have to drink cold milk.

 Our church of course has stood for many generations – so many stories it could tell I am sure.   Sunday was a different day for us.   Our father made sure it was kept as a day of rest.   The only household task my mother was allowed to do was to provide the food as usual.   We were dressed in our Sunday Best, attended church or Sunday School twice that day and either went for walks or family visiting. A local custom at the time was to tie a rope across the gate each time there was a wedding.   The bridegroom would then have to throw money out to the children who had gathered before the rope was released. I think my niece Beryl and her husband Hugh were probably the last couple to be married there before this custom ceased.   Sunday School trips were organised by Sister Ellen and this was our highlight of the year.   A coach to Minehead or Blue Anchor, provided by Berry’s would arrive (with much cheering) and we would all pile in, bagging our seats and all looking forward to our special day.   On the way home, of course, we had our usual “sing-song”, starting off in good voice but gradually getting quieter as one by one we fell asleep.

 I hope I have been able to give you a little insight of what village life was like during my childhood.   Perhaps you would like to look at some of the photographs we have here tonight and share some of my memories.


Do you know anything about the Cording family who used to live at Mousehole, Hillfarance?

James was born in Bishops Lydeard in 1827 and he appears on the Hillfarrance census from 1851 to 1901, he died in Bridgwater in 1905. James was a labourer on Oake Green Farm. He married Ann Russ from Tintinhull in 1856 and together they had 9 children 7 of whom are listed as being born in Hillfarrance, the other 2 were born in Cockington, Devon where James and the family moved for a brief period before returning to Hillfarrance in 1863. As far as is known all the children survived. The Cording family can be traced back 500 years in West Somerset and all seem to come from Wiveliscombe where there is a Cording's Farm. See photo of James and Ann below.

Does anyone have any information about Isaac Hawkins?

We have received pictures of a long case clock by Isaac Hawkins of Hillfarrance. This clock has been passed down through the first male of a local family together with the story that it was purchased by the family living then at Crowcombe and that it was collected from Hillfarrance to give to his bride on the morning of their wedding. Records suggest that they married at Crowcombe in 1803 which doesn't tie in with the 1760's to 1770's; whereas the hands of the clock and the brass face suggest that it was manufactured before 1770 which would tie in with Isaac Hawkins. Conflicting stories have been received about the making of these clocks. Some say the clock and case would have been made in full by the person whose name is on the dial. Others that he would have purchased the mechanism and had it engraved with his name and then built the case. Does anyone know better?

Thank you to Mike from Denver for throwing some light on John Isaac Hawkins.

 I have found the webpage "Hillfarrance History" within the Community Website for Oake, Hillcommon, Hillfarrance and Heathfield, and have found it very interesting.  I am a historian of musical instruments and of science and technology, and have been researching the lives of the Hawkins family for many years.  I can provide some information to answer the questions that are posed.

Isaac Hawkins (1739-1820) was indeed a clockmaker, although details as to the extent of his work are not plentiful, so far as I have been able to discover.  I am not a specialist in clockmaking and cannot advise as to whether the clock pictured was made in full by Hawkins, or whether or not he bought certain parts and made only portions of it himself.  That would require investigation by a clock historian.  However, it would not diminish his role as a clockmaker if he were to have purchased certain clock parts.  I also cannot date it by style very closely, but I would say that it appears to be more of an 18th-century item than a 19th-century item.  Again, a good clock historian would be able to date it better (or, if someone would allow it to be closely examined, a date may be found inside the case or mechanism somewhere).
Isaac Hawkins later moved to London.  He had supported the Methodist religion while he lived in Hillfarrance, but ultimately in London joined the Church of the New Jerusalem, founded by Emanuel Swedenborg.
Isaac's son, John Isaac Hawkins (1772-1854) was a prolific inventor, who traveled to the United States of America in 1794, and lived in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region until 1803, when he returned to England.  During that time his inventive activities blossomed, and there he conceived the upright piano, which he patented in 1800 in both the U.S. and in England (the latter application being submitted by his father on his behalf).  In England he continued inventing and patenting numerous items, from the ever-pointed pencil to trifocals to iridium-tipped gold pens, among many other objects.  He also served as a patent agent and became well-known as a civil engineer.  He returned to the United States in 1848 to re-establish himself there, but was not successful, and died in obscurity and poverty.
There is no full biography of either Hawkins.  I hope someday to write one.  I have collected a great deal of material, but there is certainly more to find.

I lived in Cambridge, England for a semester while I was in college, and loved being in your country very much.  I hope someday that I could visit Hillfarrance.  It looks like a beautiful small village.

 If anyone would like to correspond with me about the Hawkins family, I would be most interested.



An Extract from 'A popular History of West Somerset 1893

Hillfarrance is a small parish and village, situated 4 miles west of Taunton and 3.1/2 miles North East of Wellington station. It was formerly called Hille, afterwards Hulle-Ferun, and derives it's second name from the Ferun family, the word being afterwards corrupted into Farrance. At the time of the Norman survey by William I. it was thus described:- "Walter holds of Alured Hille... Alvi held it in the time of King Edward......There is a mill of 30d rent. It was worth £3 now £2."

The manor for years belonged for some time to a family named Ferun or Feron above mentioned.
 Hillfarrance lies rather low, in a flat and fertile well wooded neighbourhood.
The following hamlets or places are in this parish:- Allarford (so called from a family of that name, who were for some time lords of the manor of Allarford), and Hill Common, about a mile distant on the Milverton road.
The church is a small edifice, dedicated to the Holy Cross, the parsonage is adjoining.
Hillfarrance is seated on the alluvium. The soil is mostly strong clay, subsoil marl, and produces chiefly wheat, beans, mangold, swede and most kinds of agricultural produce is generally raised in good crops.
The manor in 1333 was held by William de Vernai, and is now divided among the landowners.
There is a small river from Milverton, which passes through the village.
The railway to Barnstaple also passes near.

Caroline's Story

John Isaac Hawkins, who invented the upright piano, was born in Hillfarrance in 1777 although he was living in Philadelphia when he had his bright idea. One wonders how many other dreams and dramas have been played out in the quiet corner of the English countryside down the ages.
Caroline Jennings' mother, Martha, couldn't get to the church of The Holy Cross the October morning 1858 of her daughter's wedding as, bring an unmarried mother, had to work long hours to support her children. However two villagers had come to the church that morning to act as witness to the marriage.
 Caroline had met William Adlem when he had come to the village seeking work as a whitesmith. He had been born in Wiltshire, near the Dorset border, and had moved to Taunton with his parents when he was quite young. The day after the wedding the newly married couple travelled to their new home in Victoria Place, Taunton close to the church of St. Mary Magdalen.
Christmas came and went and with the New Year came a new arrival. Caroline gave birth to her first child, Elizabeth, in January 1839. William was delighted with his new daughter. Sadly in April of that year Caroline's mother told her that her father had died. In May 1841 John Weeks Adlem was born to the couple and by this time the little family had moved to King Street. Their happiness was short-lived, however, as John died on Boxing Day 1842.
During the next few years the family increased to eight in total, with John, and one other child, Emily, dying in infancy. William found work in Vlevedon and moved the family there in the early 1850's. It must have come as a great shock to Caroline when William was diagnosed with inflammation of the lungs and he passed away in August 1857. He was only 40.
Caroline. then having to support her family, moved back to Taunton with her four youngest sons and found work as a cleaner and washerwoman. Life could not have been easy for her at this time but she was able to move in with her mother and younger brother in Taunton. Martha had married in 1847 but was by this time a widow. A few years later Caroline met John Parker and they were married on the 25th October 1868, almost 30 years to the day since she first married William. John was a good man who worked hard, was very tolerant of her children and grandchildren and progressed from being a labourer to a tailor. Martha died the following year in a hospital in Wells with tuberculosis. Caroline and John were still living in King Street, Taunton in the late 1880's but the trail went cold after this time and by 1891 Caroline had disappeared from the Taunton area completely.
In 1893 a Caroline Parker was recorded as having died from 'softening of the brain' in the Asylum in Wells - the same hospital where her mother had died 24 years earlier. on the death certificate it gave no mention of a husband, just that she was 'of Taunton'. Did John disown her when she went to the asylum or was it just an omission by the registering clerk? We shall never know but it is sad to think Caroline's life ended this way. Caroline was the 2 x great grandmother of Diane Boone.

Hillfarrance (from an article in Somerset Life, July 2002)

In 1884 Hillfarrance was amalgamated with Nynehead, Milverton and Oake for civil purposes.

Principal landowners were Edward A Sanford and Lord Ashburton and a large number of tenant farmers are recorded. James Crocker at the Anchor Inn was a builder and John Ware a beer retailer with James Ware as wheelwright and blacksmith. Levi Hawkins advertised as a miller and Charles Baker as a butcher. The newly opened Victory Inn catered for the passing trade on the Grand Western Canal.

Post arrived by 'foot messenger' from Taunton until 1923 when a post office opened at Hillfarrance with Mrs Dyte as Sub Post Mistress. The water mill still operated with William Allercott as 'water miller' and Walter Ware followed his father at the forge but abandoned the dying craft of wheelwright and supplemented his income by farming. Edwin Way the village thatcher was also a shopkeeper.

In 1931 the population had dropped to 309 as crafts and trades disappeared. In 1939 Hillfarrance became the home of the Culmstock Otterhounds with Captain A C H Wright-Boycott as master.There were 12 couples of hounds hunting on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The best waters for hunting were the Axe the Otter the Exe and the Tone . Taunton Exeter and Axminster were convenient centres and Norton Fitzwarren was the nearest railway station to the kennels.

Waterman's, Frog Street, Hillfarrance

It is probable that people have lived at 'Watermans' for more than four hundred years. The earliest deed available is dated 1619.

The half acre or more of garden was clearly the kitchen gardens for the four or five families who lived in an 'L' of small rooms, with a timber store on the roadsideIt seems that fires at various times destroyed most of the structures, and the remaining part became known as 'Alpha, and then 'Lona' Cottage before acquiring its present name of 'Watermans'.

 ''Watermans' was chosen because this was the name by which the property was listed in the Tithe schedule of 1840. Michael Hawkins, in his will dated 3rd December 1792, left  'Lastly all the Rest Residue and Ramainder of all and every my real Estate or Estates, Messuages Buildings and Tenements with their and every of their Rights Members and Appurtenances and Effects whatsoever and of what Nature Kind or Quality soever or whatsoever the same may be I give devise and bequeath to my Daughter Hannah Waterman and my Grandsons Moses Waterman equally between them Share and Share alike-----'

 In the early 1970's the garden was sadly neglected, but has been reclaimed to provide a pleasure and kitchen garden, which, in summer at least is as pleasant a place as one could wish to visit.
 (Watermans was extended in 2004)

Shuttle House

Has been the home of the Lovell family for many years, they rented in from the then Vicar, on the 17th May 1937 the original thatched property burnt down whilst the family were in church, it is believed to have been a cigarette tossed away by someone crossing the footpath next to the property which caught the thatch alight. The seven youngsters had to be sent to differenrt parts of the country to stay with relatives for up to two years, Audrey who in 2011 is in ther 80's is one of them, she was sent to London with a brother. When the property was requilt the family had the opportunity to purchase it outright and this they did. In 1836 this property was a beer house and prior to that a weavers, hence the name Shuttle House. Other Lovells lived and ran a laundry in Frog Street and on the 1911 census one is shown as a laundress. In the picture at the top of this page you can see the original thatched property.

The Bungalow

The earliest records show that in 1863 this was a Chapel, in 1923 The Rev. Tollemache purchased it for £40 including all fittings and it became the Parish room, in1952 it was converted into a dwelling.

This was the news:

On the 17th May, 1890 The Annual Club walk of the loyal “Anchor” Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids at Hillfarrance. The Church bells rang merrily throughout the day and a large arch of evergreens, decorated with flags, spanned the road by the Anchor Inn. The Halse Band accompanied the 42 club members in a march to the church

On the 15th July 1901 The Druids Club ‘walked’ to day, they attended a service at 9.45a.m.

 On the 18th May 1904 the local lodge of the Druids club, ‘The Loyal Anchor Lodge’ – ‘walked’ today having previously attended a Service in the church at 10.00 o’clock. The Vicar preached on 1Timothy v. 8. The service consisted of Shortened Matins. Ps. 125. Lesson 2 Thessalonians III. Hymns 165 and 512.

 We know that the United Ancient Order of Druids ‘Loyal Anchor Lodge No. 754’ met every Monday.

 On the 13th January 1908 the Trustees of the Lodge were Major Elton, C. Norman and J. Hayman. The Treasurer was Mr. J. Baker and there were 72 members at that time.


The question has often been asked; "Why ever did John Wesley go to Hillfarrance?" It has never been answered, and this is an attempt to do so.

 Wesley's travels over 60 years as a preacher were based on a triangular itinerancy: London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Bristol. From Bristol he made 32 journeys into Cornwall. On 22 of these occasions his Journal notes that he stopped at Taunton. The first of these was in 1743 when he received a rough reception as he tried to preach in the yard of the Three Cups Inn (what was the County Hotel and is now Marks & Spencers). He took those who would listen to a room in Paul Street and the founding of the first Methodist society in Taunton.

Subsequent meetings took place in private houses, including for many years that of David Burford, a poor weaver who lived near Magdalene Street. But it was a mixed society and included the Superintendent of Excise, the Squire of Fivehead, and a gentleman farmer from Creech Saint Michael. Those from outlying districts rode in Sunday by Sunday.

Under Friday, 3rd September 1750, Wesley wrote in his Journal:

"About noon I preached at Hillfarrance, three miles from Taunton. Three or four boors would have been rude if they durst; but the odds against them was too great."

And what were the odds against them? If the 18th century equivilant of the tabloid press is anything to go by, here is a clue: It comes from the Western Flying Post of 24th September 1750 - only three weeks after Wesley's visit.

"They write from Hillfarrance, near Wellington that the Methodists there are so numerous and grown to such a height of impudence that the Minister cannot go in peace to and fro the Church for them. They do often insult him in a very indecent manner; and particularly on Sunday the 11th instant when he was going from Church, he was stopped and beset by a gang of them, who abused him to a high degree, insomuch that one of them said, The Church should not stand long, for that he himself would put a help in hand to pull it down. These with many other imprecations, makes the Minister almost afraid of going to church to perform Divine Service."

Make of that what you will, it makes it very clear that there were Methodists in Hillfarrance.

In the County Record Office in Taunton can be seen a request for a Meeting House Licence by:

"Isaac Hawkins of Hillfarrance, Carpenter, the owner of a new brick house in the Green."

The Application is signed by: This is dated 5th October 1764

Isaac Hawkins
James Perrott
Susan Hawkins
Hannah Waterman
Samuel Hawkins
John Waterman
 Michael Hawkins
Abraham Waterman

Also in the Record Office, dated also in 1764, is a large and splended document being the deeds for the same premises. In summary, it is between Isaac Hawkins of Hillfarrance, Joiner, and nine Trustees who include Abraham Waterman, the last signatory of the application for a Meeting House Licence.

The building is described as "a dwelling house situate, lying and adjoining the churchyard in the parish of Hillfarrance," and to be sold to the Methodists "in consideration of five shillings lawful money of Great Britain," permitting -

"John Wesley, late of Lincoln College, Oxford, Clerk, and such other persons as he shall from time to time appoint...............to preach and expound God's Holy Word. ................................And after his decease the Trustees shall permit Charles Wesley, late of Christ Church College, Oxford, Clerk, and such other persons as he shall appoint to enjoy the said premises for the purposes as are appointed at the yearly conference of the people called Methodists shall enjoy the said premises and preach no other doctrine than is contained in Mr. Wesley's Notes on the New Testament and Four Volumes of Sermons."

Here's a turn up for the book! A building in Hillfarrance, snug in the shadow of the parish church of the Holy Cross, vested in the names of the two Wesley brothers, one the founder of Methodism, the other, arguably the finest hymn-writer in the English language!

Twelve years later, in 1776, Wesley was in Taunton to open the new - and the first - preaching house in Taunton: the Octagon in Middle Street. It must be noted that Hillfarrance had its own Methodist preaching house twelve years before Taunton - and 21 years before Wellington.

When the Octagon was opened, two of the trustees named were Isaac Hawkins and Abraham Waterman - both of Hillfarrance, and already mentioned.

And so the mystery of why Wesley went to Hillfarrance can be explained. He went because two of his Taunton members lived there. Hawkins using his own house for meetings in the village. Wesley's Journal shows that he visited the homes of other members of his Taunton Society who lived in outlying villages and which were used for preaching.

By 1771 the membership at Hillfarrance was 16 - a healthy total against 21 in Taunton. The quarterly contribution from Hillfarrance was twelve shillings. By 1782 no more membership figures were entered in the Circuit Book but the quarterly contribution had dropped by nine shillings. By 1795 it was three shillings, and the following year entered at £0. 0. 0.

The Deeds contain two added notes which throw partial light on what happened.

1793 "Isaac Hawkins and Abraham Waterman are the only remaining Trustees. Thomas Cattel of Hillfarrance is the person to whom it is to be sold. The sum he is to give is 20 pounds."

1815 " The house at Hillfarrance ceased to be used as a Preaching House in 1793 and has been let to a different occupiers since 1794. The present occupier is Robert Jennings."

As the building was sold in 1993 and the name Hillfarrance appeared in the list of meeting places in the Circuit Book until 1796 it seems that the dwindling society went back to meeting in private houses.

Another puzzle is produced by the Preaching Plans. The earliest known to exist are in the Temple Methodist Church, Taunton. The first is dated 1817. Seventeen preaching places are mentioned but as expected, not Hillfarrance. The next is dated 1827 with 19 places, one of them being Hillfarrance.

These were Wesleyan Plans. In 1815 an independent Methodist movement known as the Bible Christian Methodists started in North Devon. Their preachers were soon in Kingsbrompton near Dulverton, and before long they had sent preachers to Wiveliscombe, and Croford, Milverton and to Hillfarrance. A chapel was built immediately behind the Anchor Inn alongside the stream. They also built a chapel at Hillcommon, and the names Hawkins and Cattel appear again. But the story of the Bible Christians in Hillfarrance is another story!