Broad Street Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

The boundaries of the manor of Wrington
Pages 103 - 108

Walk VI: Saturday 23rd April, 1966. Wrington to Wrington Hill.


On this occcasion the River Yeo was higher than many had ever seen it, and the junction of the river and Langford Brook where we had ended our previous walk, had disappeared in a swirling pool. We therefore surveyed this point from its north side, and part of the boundary "along the Wring", from the safe height of the now disused railway embankment; we then walked along the embankment westwards until it crossed the Yeo. Here we scrambled down to follow the boundary along the squelchy north bank of the river, over some alarmingly narrow plank "bridges" across rhines, until the point where it started to run north, away from the river, along an otherwise undistinguished hedgerow.

At this point the Manor of Wrington and the Manor of Congresbury start to share a common boundary, and the 1805 Congresbury Perambulation becomes a useful addition to our other sources.

The Saxon boundary has come along the river "to the west side of the Mead" and the first part of its northward course must therefore be up the western edge of this ancient watermeadow, the lush hay-meads of Wrington, on the western boundary of the manor, clearly giving rise to the present name of Westhay. Congresbury in 1805 called the corresponding riverside meads on their side of the fence, the "Common Mead".

We were forced by the rhines to leave the boundary and strike up to Westhay Road by the path and lane several fields to the east. Before leaving the boundary, however, we found our first Congresbury boundary-stone: No.28. It is noted in 1805 as standing on the northern edge of the Common Mead, "against the ditch"; it now leans dangerously over the same ditch. All the Congresbury boundary stones are about 2-3' high, with a rounded top and with "Manor of Congresbury No. -" incised on the outward-facing (or Wrington) side. Some, but not all, are marked on the O.S. map.

From Westhay Road we were able to look back down the boundary towards the river; and at this point it showed an impressive bank on the Congresbury side. Also fronting onto Westhay Road is the next Congresbury boundary-stone, No.27 , which has been much restored. Our way, following the parish boundary and the 1738-9 map, led up the drive past Stone 27, towards the Grove. This is the point at which the 904 charter ends -and begins. It is also another very difficult part to interpret.


At this point we are trying to interpret not only difficult names that have become garbled through copying (three different versions of the "Preost.-" word) ; but also, this is another area of open heath and woodland formerly used as common land by adjoining manors. As Blackdown, we might expect the Saxon boundaries to be more vague than elsewhere; and again, they may differ considerably from the angular, "tidy" shapes of the comparatively modern boundaries shown on the 1738-9 map and the O.S. map.

Although the 1738-9 boundary is the same as its modern counterpart, the land it encloses northwest of Bullhouse Lane, and on Wrington Hill and Broadfield Down (Lulsgate Aerodrome today ["Bristol International Airport, 2002" !]), is still open heath, crossed by meandering paths which have now completely disappeared. Because this land has come under cultivation, its geometric fields characteristic of the 19th century, it may therefore be all the more difficult to identify Saxon landmarks than it was on the still open Black down.

Between the western hay-meads and Eagles-combe (the first big combe encountered on this stretch; it must be Goblin Combe, a good craggy haunt for eagles) we have to account for Preost. ..., Wrythwey and Wryoheme (or Wryobeme). Grundy suggests the "Priest's winding stream" or the "Priest's winding way" for the various spellings of this first landmark; unsatisfactory as he postulates, in his explanation, a stream of which there is in fact no sign at all on the ground.

It is unlikely that we can ever know what associations a priest might have with this area in 904, before Wrington had even become part of Glastonbury Abbey. On the other hand, we would draw attention to the remarkable resemblance between Preost.... (especially the Preostewe version) and Prestow Wood, although Prestow Wood is over a mile from the boundary and we cannot offer any explanation, unless it is the survivor of a name applied to a larger area of hillside. Presteau, on the 1738-9 map, covers the same area as the present wood. It is called Prestover in 1516.

"Wrythwey", the Twisting Way, might either be one of the old paths through the Kingswood-Ball Wood area (see below) or perhaps it might be Plunder Street, which shows signs at its Wrington end of having been straightened to run between 19th century fields. Plunder Street is known to be an ancient trackway up from Cleeve to Goblin Combe and Broadfield Down.

"Wryobeme", one version of the next landmark, might mean the twisted tree - even less likely to be traced today; or its alternative spelling, Wryoheme, implies a field (hamm) or pasture of some kind. It might be the hamm near the Twisting Way already mentioned (wring, wryth, wry: all are of the same basic root, meaning twisting,
crooked) ; or it might possibly mean the Wring-hill-pasture, as Wrington means the Wring-settlement.

It is impossible, however, for us to fit these points from the charter any more precisely to the ground; and attention was concentrated chiefly on following the boundary from our 18th and 19th century sources. The parish and the 1738-9 manor boundary runs up the drive to the Grove, and on up the hill to The Ball. According to the 1805 Perambulation, Congresbury stone No.26 should be on the east side of this then "highway" up to the Grove.

The maps show that the boundary runs first up the east side, then crosses to the west side; but there was no sign of this stone. Behind the Grove, the path climbs steeply through the woods: too straight for an ancient boundary. A delapidated wall marks its course, called Ball Wall on the 1738-9 map. Congresbury stone No.25 stood as the 1805 Perambulation stated, lurking in the bushes "in the brow of the hill".

Near the top of the hill, our boundary-path was crossed by another, which passed through a big and apparently deliberate gap in the wall. This seems to correspond with the Ba!l Gate, and the main east-west path, as shown on the 1738-9 map. The path then wandered eastwards across open ground called Ball Hill to link up with the track that corresponds more or less with present day Plunder Street. This path, obviously one of the main hill routes as late as 1738-9 and one of the possible candidates for "Wrythwey" (though indeed it does not wind particularly), now runs for a short distance to the east through the woods, but then disappears completely under the tidy layout of 19th century fields.

The boundary wall next runs up to the Ball, which itself is a Saxon word for a "boundary point" or noticeable feature in the landscape; but it is impossible to identify it with anything specific in the charter, nor is there anything to see other than the wa!l. This makes a very sharp angle; wedged into its outer face, and hard to see, is the Congresbury stone 24. The 1738-9 manor boundary here diverges from the parish boundary (only the third time on the whole circuit on which it has done so) to take in a small wedge of woodland marked out by paths. At this point, too, we were caught in drenching rain from which the conifers offered singularly little protection.

In alternating storms and sunshine we squelched on, since we could scarcely get any wetter, following the straight line of the boundary east across the hill. The stone boundary wall marked the way through the woods, and along the lane to join Plunder Street ("Wrythwey" no.2) at Oatlands. Set in the wall - and sometimes in the process of falling out of it - we found Congresbury boundary stones Nos. 23,22, 21, 20 and, well hidden by ivy, No.19. In the Congresbury Perambulation of 1805 it is noted that Stone 22, standing "by the highway that leads to Ball Wood", is at the west end of the "Ditch or old rake made by Miners in search of lead Ore". There are in fact many of these long "gruffys" or trenches in the woods, and immediately to the east of stone 22, one could see the wall dip downwards, to run along the length of one of these silted-up trenches.

At Plunder Street, the boundary makes another sharp angle to turn north by Three Corner Plantation, towards Goblin Combe. This angle should have been marked, according to the 1805 Perambulation, by Stone No, 18, although there is none marked on the O.S. map. Right on the outer corner of the wall, we have rediscovered this lost boundary stone, set very low in the present ground surface and badly frosted, but with its rounded top and part of the inscription still visible. Moreover, the 1805 Perambulation comments that No.18 is "where an old Meerstone heretofore called the Hare's Head stands against the Boundary of Wrington".

Alongside Stone 18, and forming the bottom cornerstone of the wall, there is in fact an unusually large stone that seems bigger than, and unlike, the others used to build the wall. It is heavily mossgrown and deeply buried under accumulated debris, so that we were not able to see much of it, or whether it bore any resemblance to a hare's head. It may, however, be this older boundary stone. With this discovery, we ended the day's walk, leaving the Saxon boundary somewhere in the region of Wrythwey, and made a damp but cheerful return to Wrington.

Walk VII. Saturday 21st May, 1966. Wrington Hi!l to Felton Common.

This last walk, for which we had one of our most pleasant afternoons, took up the perambulation where we left it, outside Oatlands, and as far as the Charter was concerned somewhere before Eagle's Combe. We followed the manor/parish boundary as marked on our maps, along the edge of Three Corner Plantation from our newly-found Stone 18, to the last of the Congresbury stones on our route, and the other end of the plantation. After this the Congresbury boundary parts company from that of Wrington. According to the l805 Perambulation, this stone, No. 17, should have been "about twenty yards south of the great Lime tree" - but of this there is now no sign.

The boundary now started to drop down a small valley leading into Goblin Combe. This undulating, sheltered area between Plunder Street and Goblin Combe seems a possible candidate for the "Wryoheme" of the Saxon charter . With the abrupt opening of Goblin Combe (Gobble Combe in 1738-9) we can once more be certain of our place in the charter: the Eagle's Combe landmark, hardly to be missed. The boundary plunges unflinching straight down one side of the steepest part of Goblin Combe, and even more steeply up the other. We slid, pushed, pulled and scrabbled, dogs and all, successfully to the top of the further (north) side, where we revived with tea. The 1738-9 map notes a feature it calls "Reavens Bush" at the bottom of the Combe, but we could see nothing remarkable there now.


From Goblin Combe we followed the boundary round the straight and comparatively modern boundary at Wrington Warren. It is called the Warren on the 1738-9 map, and in 1516; and many splendid examples of miners' "gruffys" could be seen.

The 904 "Heathcombe" is not altogether certain. Grundy dismisses it as a copyist's error, duplicating the Heathcombe at Mendip Lodge Wood. But we think that the Saxon boundary, following the natural contours, may well have been somewhat to the west of the present straight boundary, and so have crossed the upper end of Cleeve Combe. Though hardly noticeably on Wrington Warren, the Combe becomes remarkably steep to cross on]y a hundred yards or so to the west; and again, if it was "Heath" in Saxon times, it would have been much more obvious than now, when it is lost in plantations.

The northwest corner of the Manor is marked now by the impressive remains of a windmill - again suggesting that these woods are quite recent. It is a bottle-shaped stone structure, with the holes for the beams of two floor levels still visible. From the windmill we took the path that follows the outside of the boundary, along through Brockley Woods, to drop down into the upper end of Brockley Combe itself. This obviously fits Wulfcombe ("Wolf-combe"), the next point of our charter.


It seems very likely that the Saxon boundary, following as has been suggested the natural contour to the west of the straight 18th century boundary, would have struck Brockley Combe lower down, descended into it, and so come "along the middle of Wolf-combe" for a considerable distance. We, and the later boundary, only came into the middle of the combe at its upper end. At this upper end, both the O.S. map and the 1738-9 map mark "Pots Hole", but we did not find this.

The final stage of our circuit seemed - at this stage in the day - a very long 2½ miles along the road from Brockley Combe to Lulsgate Bottom, with the boundary following the road most of the way, and no additional comments from the 1738-9 map. Yet there were still several features to be plotted from the Saxon charter.

At the upper end of Brockley Combe, the road moves from the "middle"
up onto the southern shoulder of the hill; the parish and manor boundaries shift up to the edge of the woods on the northern side, making the little angles that have before associated themselves with references to clearings and fields in the charter. This area between the road and the boundary is, we would suggest, the "Styficleye", the-lea-of-the-clearing-in-the-woods, and the boundary runs along its fairly rectangular north side, before coming back to the road. From here we move on to the "east side of the winter acres". When the greater part of Broadfield Down was heathland, as it was still in 1738-9, these Saxon fields (as "acres" imply) must have been a conspicuous feature. Here, in Winters Lane (from Downside to Redhill) we surely have another survival of the Saxon name; and the straight line of Winters Lane itself may mark this eastern edge of the field.


At Downside the party revived with ice-lollipops all round, before disposing of the last mile, and the last three points of the charter, at good speed. It is difficult to fit the Swynhage (the "Pigs' Enclosure") anywhere precisely, except to suggest that it might precede that area where the boundary diverges once more from the road, disappearing into the back-gardens of a newly built estate: and that this latter area, between the road and the boundary, might (similarly to Styficleye) represent the "Lea" ( the clearing, or the meadow made in the clearing) through which the boundary is said to pass, to Farnhamme.

This might be either the Fern-hamm, the Fern-field, perhaps the open area immediately west of the New Inn, or it may represent the second Saxon meaning of "ham", the Fern-homestead or the homestead of a person called Fern or Farn - a little settlement in present-day Lulsgate Bottom. In this case it is not possible to decide which of the two Saxon words, correctly spelt hamme or ham but frequently confused in later copyings, was originally meant.

Either way, it brings
us to the gentle valley between Pottershill and Lulsgate on north and south, dropping away to Felton on the east. As we trooped up to the forecourt of the New Inn, from where we had started last September, the ferns were well sprouted on the adjoining wasteland - although we were too footsore to cross A38 in search of thistles, on the west side of Thistlyngdene once again.