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The following is an extract, written many years ago, by Mrs Wheller, late of Higher Listock Farm, Fivehead.

"The village of Fivehead lies on the southern slope of the Curry Rivel ridge. It is bordered on the south side by the Isle River and the Rag (or Fivehead) River and on the north by the chequered counterpane of Sedgemoor. The moors were not drained and fenced until after the 1820 Enclosure Acts, and so access to the village was difficult for many centuries. Fivehead has developed very slowly indeed from pre-Saxon times. The name is a corruption of 'Five Hydes', a hyde being 120 acres of land. Registered for the first time in the Doomsday Chronicles of 1086, this land has been drained and cultivated by succeeding generations of those same Cottars, Bordars and Villeins.

Life in the village proceeded at a very leisurely pace until the eighteenth century. Then at the Earl of Chatham's instigation a turnpike road was cut from Langport to Red Post (which was later, for many years, the location of the Post Office). The road was extended to Taunton and eventually macadamized and tarmaced. Travelling became easy and development was speeded up. The building of a sewage works in the mid-twentieth century made many more houses possible and  expansion became faster still. Now with the retirement of a local farmer, and the downturn in agriculture, building permission has been granted in the very centre of the village and 'starter' homes are under construction. 

The village already has an excellent bakery, a thriving shop and Post Office, a first class hostelry, 'The Crown', a foundry which has replaced both old forges, a large chicken hatchery, a lively Women's Institute and play school firmly established in the old Victorian school house. This has been refurbished to provide a Village Hall. The most amazing metamorphosing of all  has been the music recording studio which has been established at the lovely old manor of  Cathanger. This imposing house has been in continuous occupation, though with varying fortunes, since the Norman Conquest, when the Thane, Watel, was dispossessed and the house handed over to the monks of nearby Muchelney Abbey. The present building was completed in 1559 by John Walsh, a Chief Justice of England. The dove-cote and the court-room, with its minstrels gallery, are of an earlier date. One of the most colourful occupants was Cristobel Wyndham, who was chosen by Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, to be wet-nurse or 'Lady Governess' to the infant Prince of Wales, later King Charles II. At the siege of Bridgwater, at which her husband was Governor, she defied the Roundheads, seized a musket, took a shot at Cromwell and shouted "These breasts have given suck to Prince Charles - they shall never be at your mercy!" The town fell, however, and she ordered its burning. The old house retains its air of serenity and the lands are still farmed in the traditional way.

Stowey, never a defended Manor, now belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall. It, too, is still an agricultural  property and, according to its tenant, has a ghost. A young lady in medieval dress haunts its corridors but never does anyone any harm! Langford on the east of the manor, is a Pre-Elizabethan Manor house, last restored by Mrs. de Materson in 1904. Adjoining Langford is the small parish of Swell. Swell Court, built about 1450, stands on the site of a much older house, next to the tiny church of St. Catherine's which dates back to 1150. Between the two manors is St. Catherine's Well, a spring where Canterbury pilgrims used to stop and drink. 

The marshy nature of the land surrounding the village made withies and teasels a natural crop in both parishes and, although withies have suffered the competition of imported baskets, teasels are still grown here commercially.

The Norman church of St. Martin's, stands next to the War Memorial on the Village Green and contains many old tombs and stained glass windows. It was one of the few churches in Somerset that could not afford a bible. After the Restoration a bible was compulsory in every church in the land. It cost ten shillings and was often chained to the lectern to prevent theft. At this time agricultural wages were only a few shillings a week; now a worker averages 120 a week. The Baptist chapel with its school-room and Manse has resulted from the dedication of a farmer, one Joshua Corpe, who in his youth was forced to outwit his parents after they had hidden his clothes to prevent him attending his baptismal service at North Curry. In due course his son gave the plot of land where the building stands today.  It was a Miss Lambert, daughter of a vicar of St. Martin's, who gave the 'Lambert Hut' to the 'old contemptibles', the victorious soldiers of the 1914 war, whom the Kaiser had called the 'contemptible British Army' . The Friendly Society or 'Club' which flourished for many years was formed because of the villagers' fear of a pauper's funeral. They met and paid a small sum each week which gave them a pittance in times of sickness , and paid for their burials. The club had an annual walk, - a fete day when all the important farms and houses were visited for refreshments. Its banner can still be seen. This 'walk' has been replaced by an Annual Fun Day, which gives local organisations the opportunity to raise funds whilst providing free entertainment in the form of a Flower Show and a 'Knock Out Competition' etc.  This event is held on the Playing Fields, purchased by the village at the suggestion of Mr Percy Luxton and Mr Sid Miller, an old contemptible, and both local farmers. This was later enlarged with the donation of extra land by Mr Peter Clarke. 

There is an old coaching drove running along the northern parish boundary, where an occasional apple, pear or plum tree marks the site of domestic settlements, long since gone. There are a few farms along this drove whose adzed ceiling joists and cruck beams are clear evidence of their ancient origin, for cruck beams were discontinued in the 14th century, and roofs began to be supported by walls as they are today. This drove leads to Langport, past the heronry at Swell and the RSPB bird-sanctuary in Fivehead woods.

Today the population of Fivehead is approximately 600 and is still growing!"

Reproduced by kind permission of Mary Simmons

There is much more to be told about the parish. Are you a member of the Fivehead History Society, have a similar interest, are you willing to put pen to paper and add to this section? If  so, please contact the webmaster. 

 

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Last modified: April 11, 2014