Street, William Strode & the Civil War by WS Clark

The Village of Street

By Mr. W. S. Clark, J.P.,  C.A.

Presidential Address, January 7, 1904.

WHEN I call to mind the names of my predecessors as Presidents of the Society and the intimate knowledge that some of them had of all the ancient history and antiquities of Glastonbury, I feel that it has been an act of audacity on my part to accept the honour you have done me in making me your president for the present year; and that I should show still further audacity if I ventured in this address to say a word on the antiquarian interests of this ancient town.

It has, however, occurred to me that there may be a greater chance of freshness if I say something to-night as to the history of our own obscure village (of Street), and there may be some appropriateness in doing so, as from early days it was included in the property of the Abbey. On one line our history may be said to go back to far earlier times than yours. Ancient as is the history of Glastonbury Abbey, still older is that of the small church on the Isle of Beckery, and yet older that of the British Lake Village, the remains of which we propose to explore further this year—we at Street go back to a yet more remote past, and can show in the museum there, and in the British Museum and elsewhere, remains of our ancient inhabitants who lived hundreds of thousands or millions of years before the Lake-dwellers were born. As we could not have the Abbey Arms for our seal, we consoled ourselves by adopting for our Council the image of an ichthyosaurus.

To come to more modern times, there seems a curious doubt as to what the right name of our village should really be. The earliest mention of Street that I know of is in the charter of King Ina given in the “Antiquities of Glastonbury,” compiled by William of Malmesbury about 1120 A.D. This deed is the “Magnum Privilegium Regis Inae,” purporting to bear date 725. This grants various parishes to the Church at Glastonbury, among which “Strete” is named. The same authority quotes a grant of privileges to Glastonbury by King Eadgar of the date 971; and here again “Strete” is mentioned. It is understood that these two deeds are both spurious; but it is supposed that they date from about that time. The difficulty comes in here that Street is not mentioned in “Doomsday.” In the Hundred of Ringoldsway, to which it then belonged, we have full details as to the other parishes in the hundred—Butleigh, Walton, Pedwell, Grenton, Ashcott, etc.—but no “Street.” There is, however, included a parish called “Lega”, which was supposed at one time to be Leigh-on-Mendip. But there is nothing to show any connection between that Leigh and the Ringoldsway Hundred, and it was suggested by the late Mr. F. H. Dickinson, of Kingweston, that this “Lega” was really Street, one of his reasons for thinking this probably being that we still have in the bounds of Street parish the same name in Leigh Holt, Overleigh, Middle Leigh, and Lower Leigh; and here it may be noted that whoever owns Leigholt Copse is Lord of the Manor of Street. Mr. Eyton, the author of “Doomsday Studies, Somerset,” adopts this view of Mr. Dickinson (see page 183 in vol. 1 of his work); and I know of no reason that we should not accept it as correct. If this be so, we find another still more ancient name for Street.

In the Cartulary of Glastonbury in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, known as Wood I., a MS. compiled not earlier than 1340, there is a copy of a deed, that is believed to be genuine, by which Bishop Eddi of Winchester, in the year 680, grants to Abbot Hengist of Glastonbury land described as “terra quae dicitur Lantocal, tres Cassati.” William of Malmesbury in his book named above, “The Antiquities of Glastonbury,” mentions this grant, saying that Hedda gave Lantocal—that is “Lega”—six hides; so that if we identify Street with “Lega” it is further identified with “Lantocal,” which word means “The Church of Thecla,” a saint made very much of in the Celtic Church as well as in the Eastern Church, and who was said to have been converted by St. Paul in Asia Minor. We have the same name in Wales—Llandegala, a village nine miles from Mold—and, again, near the mouths of the Wye and Severn lies “Treacle Island,” on which is the ruined Chapel of St. Thecla, where tradition used to say that no service had been held for 1000 years. It is a point of some interest to be able thus to connect a Celtic saint and the ancient Celtic Christian Church with this district.

For a further identification of “Lega” with Street I am indebted to my cousin Joseph Clark, who has called my attention to an entry among the charters and deeds of Glastonbury Abbey in Hearne’s “John of Glastonbury’s Historia,” etc., page 403— “Carta Martini de Leghe de quadam pastura juxta Strete-brigge ad occidentum.” These pasture-fields on the west side of the bridge over the Brue are still called “Martin’s Moor,” thus, no doubt, carrying on the name of the Martin of Lega referred to. I, for one, should have been glad if the name Lega had been retained. Why it was changed we can only conjecture. It seems to me not improbable that the site of the original central house or court-house of Lega was the old Roman villa near Collard-point, some of the buildings of which may have remained to Saxon times. This would be near the spot where the Roman road on top of the Poldens, which led past the extensive potteries of Edington, must have branched off from the main road by Somerton to Ilchester and Dorchester. It is in this neighbourhood that the name “Lega” is still found in Overleigh, Leigh Holt, Butleigh, etc. For some reason at a later date the site of the court-house may have been removed to the then new Brutasche manor-house, and the name of Street, which may have previously been a hamlet of “Lega,” thus became adopted for the whole parish. I simply bring this forward as a theory for whatever it may be worth.

The earliest traces we have of human dwellings, as far as I know, are on the site of the above-named Roman villa in the field between Collard-point and Leigholt-copse. When I was young this was a ploughed field, and there were plenty of pieces of black and red pottery, glazed mortar, tiles, and other remains to be had for the looking for. This villa would be near the road that crossed the Brue between Northover and Street, and by which the Romans brought their minerals from the Mendips to Ilchester and so to their ports on the south coast. It will be remembered that a few years ago the very interesting remains of the causeway between Northover and Street were opened out, and that it would appear to have struck solid ground near Street Church. In those days the site of that church would have been a small island separated from the higher ground by a strait of water or swampy marsh where the allotments now are. The shape of this little island would seem to be roughly shown by the oval wall round the churchyard. From remains that often turn up in digging graves, it seems likely that an important house stood on this island as well as the church. The remains found comprise fragments of an old wall, parts of two wells, and a Norman draughtsman in bone, beautifully carved and designed, now kept in Glastonbury Museum, but which I have been permitted to present for your inspection. No doubt that site would be chosen in the early troublous days as one easily defended from attack, and as guarding the end of the causeway above-named which entered the village at this point. For the same reason no doubt the old manor-house at Street, known as Brutasche, was built on a small neighbouring islet, to be seen now as a mound in the field to the west of the old turn-pike gate. I have often thought that mound or rising ground would repay exploration. Close by it was “Antony's drove,” which formerly led to Sharpham, but has long disappeared. This site must have been damp and unwholesome, and when more settled times came a new manor-house was built on the higher ground above it, where the Grange now stands.  { The boundary of Glastonbury XII Hides passed through the great barn of Street Grange.  NJB. }

I have dwelt so long on these topographical points that I have left little time for history; and, indeed, of these early times there is not much to relate. Street being the property of the Abbey, its history is much bound up in the Abbey. We are told that when Edward I. came to Glastonbury and was about to hold the assizes there, the Abbot told him that to do so would contravene the privileges of the Abbey. So he held them at Street instead; whether this would be at Brutasche or at the Grange I cannot say. At the dissolution of the monasteries, Glastonbury Abbey and the property near, including Street, came into the hands of the Duke of Somerset, where he settled weavers and foreign woollen manufacturers from the Low Countries, with their pastor, in the domestic buildings at Glastonbury Abbey, Sir Thomas Dyer, of Sharpham, was one of the commissioners appointed to complete the settlement, and he may probably have settled some also in Street, and thus made it for the first time a manufacturing village. (See Archaeological Journal, vol. 48, Rev. Grant on Dyer.)

In the year 1628 the Street property was bought by William Strode, a remarkable man, belonging to a remarkable family. He was then 39 years old, having been born in 1589. His father, William Strode, and his grandfather, Edward Strode (who married a niece of Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury), were in the flourishing West of England cloth-trade at Shepton Mallet. He himself made a large fortune as a merchant in Spain, and largely increased the same by his marriage in 1621 with Joanna Barnard, only daughter of Edward Barnard, Esq., of Downside, Shepton Mallet, clothier, who inherited a fortune of £2,000 a year, a great sum in those days. There is a Barnard tomb still to be seen in Shepton Mallet Church, with the Barnard arms on it. These were—argent, a bear salient muzzled— Barnard.

I have a very vivid recollection, as a small child, of a stone bear standing over the back entrance at the Grange. During some alterations made by the late Colonel Prevost this bear was dethroned and much disfigured, and consigned to a rockery. It was a near miss that it was not lost altogether, as when some rubbish was being cleared away I rescued it from a cart-load of stones; but I have since made sure that such an interesting relic of the union of the Strode and Barnard families and their connection with the Grange shall be preserved in future by having it built firmly into a new addition to the house.

Having attained this wealthy position, William Strode, in 1627, six years after his marriage, bought Barrington Court, at Curry Rivel, and the following year the Grange Manor at Street ; and he seems after this time to have lived at both places. He was one of the first to refuse payment of the illegal tax called “ship-money,” and we find it recorded in the domestic State papers, Charles I., in the year 1636: “There is one man that much retards this service, and that is William Strode, the merchant, who, refusing to pay five marks, had one of his cows distrained, and suffered the constable to sell her.    The over-plus being tendered to Mr. Strode, he refused it. Then, hearing where the cow was, he fetched her away by replevin, and sued the constable.” So we see there were passive registers in those days! There is much further record of the case in the State papers as to his being summoned to London to appear personally before the King and the case being tried before the Bishops, the details of which we have hardly time to follow.

In 1640, King Charles, under pretext of fear of a Scotch invasion, tried to raise an army, and the Lord-Lieutenant had orders to raise two thousand men in Somerset. The Deputy-Lieutenant chose William Strode to be treasurer to raise and receive the necessary money to pay them. Their letter: “To our worthy friend William Strode, Esq.—Hastte these for his Majesty’s service att his house att Street”—and his reply are among the State papers (vol. cccclvii, No. 50). The whole proceeding caused great dissatisfaction, and it is clear from the account that he was not at all willing to take part in it. The Deputy-Lieutenant reports that he “neglected and slighted the service, and “that the soldiers, being without pay, were unquiet spirits and unreasonable.”

As we know, it was the opposition to these and like proceedings on the part of the King that culminated in the outbreak of a civil war in 1642. The first actual fighting in this war took place at Marshall’s Elm, Street; and, as this is the most interesting historical event of which we can boast, I propose to relate in some detail the events that led up to it. The chief authority from which I must quote is “Hopton's Narrative of his Campaign in the West, 1642—1644,” which was for the first time published in full in vol. xviii of “The Somerset Record Society, 1902,” under the very able editorship of Mr. Chadwyck Healey.


History-books usually tell us that the Civil War was commenced by Charles I. raising his standard at Nottingham on the 22nd August, 1642. The skirmish at Marshall’s Elm. Street, to which I now wish to call your attention, took place sixteen days earlier—on the 6th of August in that year. The circumstances are thus narrated by Sir Ralph Hopton. In the month of June, 1642, the Marquis of Hertford was given the King’s Commission to  be  Lieutenant-General  of  the  six  Western  Counties,  and, accompanied by his brother, Lord Seymour, and by Sir Ralph Hopton, the writer of the narrative, and other gentlemen, he came down west and attended the Assizes at Bath in July. They here found a great assembly of gentlemen, mostly well affected to the King, but, he adds, “Sandford, the High Sheriffe, guided by an indiscreet sonne, quickly discovered his treacherous intentions.” They debated whether to go next to Bristol or Wells, but “so many of the gentlemen of Somerset appeared so frankly and cordially in the business (i.e., on the King's side), “Wells,” lying, as he says, in the midst of the county, “was unhappily chosen,” and there Lord Powlett and twenty-eight of the principal gentlemen on Mendip joined him, with their followers; also Lieut.-Colonel H. Lunsford with officers and a commission from the King to raise a foot regiment in the County, and three troops of horse under Mr. John Digby, Sir F. Hawley, and Sir R. Hopton.

Meanwhile the enemy, as Hopton says, “played their game shrewdly, endeavouring to rayse the country secretly and in an instant, with intention from east and west to surround the Marquesse at Wells.” Having heard that Sir John Horner, Mr. Popham, and other disaffected gentlemen were, with this object, calling a meeting of their friends at Shepton Mallet on the following Monday, and “would send several fatt buckes thither to entertain them,” Sir Ralph Hopton, with Sir Ferdinando George and Mr. Thomas Smyth, of Ashton, and such men as they could get together, rode early to Shepton Mallet to prevent the assembly. The inhabitants of Shepton Mallet, being no doubt anxious to prevent a breach of the peace, sent a deputation to meet Sir R. Hopton outside the town, to ask that “he and the gentlemen with him should come in alone, leaving his troope at the Townes End.” This he did, and with only his personal retinue alighted at the High Crosse in the Market-place, and called the townspeople together to discuss the situation.

It was at this juncture that William Strode, of Street, then a Deputy-Lieutenant of the County, appeared on the scene. To quote again Sir R. Hopton's words: “very shortlie after, Mr. William Strode, a great stickler for the other party, and a neighbour of the town, with a party of some eight or ten horse, verie well mounted and armed for offensive arms, ridd up to the place where they sate, and, pressing through the crowd of  people, commanded them in the Parliament’s name to retire themselves, and forbad the assemblie.” However, Sir Ralph Hopton and his party, being the more numerous, took William Strode and his men off their horses, took away his pistols, and committed him to the charge of a constable. Within a very short time great numbers of the contrary party, then near the town, entered the town, and Sir Ralph Hopton and those with him had to retire to their own forces at the Townes-end, and the constable that had William Strode in charge, being of his own party, found a means to run away with him.

Other troops now coming to Sir R. Hopton, he drew them and his own up in formidable array, and the gentlemen who had gathered to the feast drew their followers together, about twelve hundred men, into a field on the other side of the town. “There  they stood divers hours, but advanced not,” and about four o’clock orders came from the Marquis of Hertford to Sir Ralph Hopton to draw back to Wells ; so no actual fighting took place that day. No doubt both sides were anxious to avoid the fatal step of commencing hostilities. Nevertheless, Sir R. Hopton adds the comment: “And thus innocently began this cursed warr.”

The circumstances of this day are also set out in great detail in a letter from the Somerset Committee to Parliament, dated August 1st, 1642, signed by John Horner, Alexander Popham, John Pyne, William Strode, and others. Their account is in all main points the same as that of Sir R. Hopton, but states the number present of Parliamentary volunteers to have been 2,000 horse, “most unarmed,” and 100 foot. Seeing the serious position he was in at Wells, with so many volunteering to join the Parliamentary forces, the Marquis of Hertford urged all the well-affected gentry in the county to lose no time in raising forces for the King, to come to his help. On the second of August he had news that Amyas Powlett. son of Lord Powlett, and John and Edward Stowell, sons of Sir John Stowell, of Low Ham, had gathered regiments of trained bands together in the West of the County, and, “in order that they might not come to the Marquis  at Wells, it was desired  that some horse and dragoons might be sent to Boroughbridge to secure that passe.”

With this object in view, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Lunsford, Sir John Stowell, Captain Digby, Sir Francis Hawley, and Mr. Edmund Windham, with part of their troops and some other volunteers, “in all to the number of four score horse and dragoons,” set off early on that Tuesday morning, August 2nd, 1642. They rode through Glastonbury and through Street “as far as Marshall’s Elm, from whence they discovered a body of sixe hundred foote drawen up in a cornfield about two miles from them, whereof  400 were drawen out of Taunton by Mr. John Pyne and Captain Preston, and the other 200 were conducted by Mr. Sands out of his neighbourhood—South Petherton—and the parts there about.” Lieut. Colonel Lunsford halted his horsemen on the brow of the hill in such manner that the adverse party should not descry the fewness of their number, and just then captured a countryman, who told them the number of the Parliamentary force and the names of the commanders, and confessed that he had been sent by William Strode, who was now back at his house at Street, to let Mr. John Pyne know what a strong force of their friends had secured possession of the Mendip Hills above Wells and urging him to press on to reach Glastonbury that night, and so possess the great highway between Glastonbury and Wells that the Marquess of Hertford and his company of Royalist troops would not be able to escape. He was to assure Mr. Pyne that there were only about fifty horse coming to meet him, and he might easily break through them.

An hour after they took another countryman, who told the same story. A parley was held at an elm halfway between the two forces by the leaders of each, Sir John Stowell using many persuasions to Mr. Pyne, Captain Preston, and Captain Sands “that they should not by their advancing beginne a civil war; but prevailed not, and so they parted." On his return, Sir John Stowell divided his small body of horse into three parts; the first, commanded by himself, “stoode in the middest of the way, and fronted towards the enymie”; the second, under Captain Digby, were posted on the right-hand of the way;   and the third, under Sir Francis Hawley, on the left-hand; both of these bodies being partially concealed. His fourteen dragoons he drew into two divisions of seven each, and placed them in ambush in two quarry-pits which the deep hollow way divided, 150 paces in front of his own body of horse further down the hill.

Mr. John Pyne gave the leading of the van of his 600 infantry to Mr. Joseph Osmond (a violent grand jury man), while he himself brought up the rear of all on horse-back. “They advanced in reasonable good order, and when they came within muskett-shott of the dragoons they began to give fire verie thick. Lieut.-Col. Lunsford lett them come within 120 paces of his dragoones, and then, himself standing as before, commanded his dragoones to give fire, who at their third volley killed the foresayed Osmond with a shott in the head, and hurt some of the rest, whereupon their whole body appeared to stagger. And Sir John Stowell, with Lieut.-Col. Lunsford’s advice, tooke that opportunity, and, with all his horse, charged them so sharply as they were quickly broken and routed. Captain Preston and Captain Sands were both taken, and Mr. Pyne escaped by good horsemanship. There were but seven killed upon the place, but many more hurt, whereof eighteen dyed shortly after; Sir John Stowell using both his power and his example to hinder further execucion.” He then drew in his horse, and returned to Wells with his prisoners and sixty horses which the runaways left behind them.

Sir Francis Hawley and Mr. Joseph Stowell followed the chase as far as Somerton, taking many horses and arms and prisoners, whom they left at Somerton, and themselves returned safely to Wells about an hour after their party.

It should be explained that the “deep hollow way” described above, in which the fight took place, would be the old road the course of which was on the right-hand side of the present road going down Marshall’s-Elm Hill towards Compton Dundon. The present road was only made at the beginning of the last century.

The following Friday (August 5th), three days after these events, some ten or twelve thousand marched down upon Wells from Mendip, with flying colours and some pieces of iron ordinance. The next morning the Marquis of Hertford thought it prudent to retire, and marched his forces through Glastonbury and Street to Somerton, and the next night to Sherborne.

One can imagine the lamentations there would be in the Grange at Street on Tuesday, when the victorious Royalists marched through with their prisoners to Wells, after their victory at Marshall’s Elm, and William Strode realized his plan to capture their whole force at Wells had failed; but he would have some consolation on the Saturday, when he saw them in full retreat on their way to Somerton.

There is another account of these proceedings, also by a Royalist, in “King’s Pamphlets,” in the British Museum. These were collected by George Thomason between 1641 and 1662, by which latter date he had collected together nearly 2,300 separate articles, tracts, broadsides, and MSS., “which no man durst then venture to publish without endangering his Ruine” (see Diet. Nat. Biog., vol. lvi., p. 201). I paid a visit a year ago to the British Museum, and, through the courtesy of a friend who has a post in the library there, readily found access to the volume which contains the pamphlet (E. 112, No. 33) giving the account referred to, and made a copy of it. It is entitled: “A true and exact relation of all the proceedings of the Marquiss of Hartford, Lord Powlett, Lord Seymour, Lord Coventry, Sir Ralph Hopton, and other His Majesties Commissioners in the publishing of the Commission of Array in His Majesty’s County of Somerset. Brought over by a Gentleman who was Eye-witness of all the passages and proceedings there.” His narrative gives the date 1642, August 1st, Sunday, and agrees in all main points with that of Sir R. Hopton.

It gives rather more details as to the encounter between Sir R. Hopton and William Strode in the Market Place at Shepton Mallet, and also of the way the ambush was arranged on Marshall’s Elm Hill, and describes the Parliamentarian Infantry as being “hurt by they knew not whom, and were so distracted they knew not which way to flee ; some ran into the corn to hide themselves, for next day, in the afternoon, two of them were found dead in the corn.” This account only describes the locality as West of Shepton Mallet, but it is clearly the same fight that Sir R. Hopton narrates as taking place at Marshall’s Elm.

The pamphlet gives a further picturesque account of the gathering of 40,000 men and women on Mendip, armed with pitch-forks, dung-picks, and such-like weapons, “not knowing whom to fight,” and relates that, the Lord Marquess having left for Sherborne rather than shed blood, this multitude rushed into Wells, glorying in their supposed victory, tore down the painted glass in the Cathedral, broke up the paintings, and carried home one of the pictures on the point of a spear.

In the “Commons Journal” (vol. 5, fol. 86) we read that on the 13th August a letter was read from William Strode, dated Street Grange, 11th August, giving an account of these events, and reporting as to the position. We may also judge of the important part he played by the fact that when, November 9th, the King, by proclamation, offered a free pardon to all the men in the County of Somerset, his was one of three names excepted. There are constant references in the State papers to the part he played in the great contest in Somerset and in Parliament, but these do not specially concern Street. He had a more or less troublous time until his death, in 1666, at the ripe age of 77. He was buried at Barrington.

It is indeed no easy matter to realize what a disturbed life people must have had in those days. We may well suppose it was he who excavated that mysterious under-ground passage from the cellar at the Grange to provide a way of escape if at any time he should be hardly beset. He seems to have been a liberal-minded as well as a public-spirited man. At Martock, where he held property, he founded and endowed a grammar-school; at Glastonbury he built and gave to the townspeople a town-hall (I suppose on the site, at any rate, of the room where we now meet) {In fact, in the road in front of the present town-hall. NJB}, and at his own cost he erected a bridge called “Cowbridge” to enable carriages to travel from Glastonbury to Butleigh. Naturally his largest charities were given to Shepton Mallet, where his father and father-in-law made their money. In 1816 the Charity Commissioners reported the income of the Strode Charities at Shepton Mallet to be £434 6s. 0d. per annum. These were partly given by other members of the Strode family.

It seemed to me that the memory of so noteworthy a dweller in Street, of one who laboured so much and suffered so much in the cause of civil liberty, should not be altogether forgotten, and to keep his name at any rate in evidence I called a small row of cottages “Strode Cottages” after him; and in the name of the Bear Inn and the effigy of the bear on its roof we keep prominent the armorial bearings of his wife’s family. His son, William Strode, who was buried at Barrington in 1694, inherited the principles of his father, and gave substantial support to the Duke of Monmouth. His grandson, also named William Strode, died in 1746. In the rather large bundle of deeds relating to the Grange property that we hold, the earliest date is 1717, a deed signed by this third William Strode (the grand-son); and next to this comes the marriage-settlement made by the same William Strode in 1727, when he married his second wife, Jane Langhorne.

I will not add to this, already too lengthy, address further than to give an extract from the Street Parish accounts in 1685, the year of Monmouth's Rebellion :—

Item : Paid for hanging up ye quarters of  s.   d.

ye dead men, and for iron work ………...        5   0

Item: Paid for keeping Nicholas Seley

prisoner and for expences of his

gard at the Assizes         1   8

As to the last item, I have the copy of a statement made by William Goss, a well-known character in Street ninety or a hundred years ago. He says : “The quarters were those of the patriots who were condemned by wholesale by that devil incarnate the infamous Jefferies in Monmouth’s rebellion. The said Nicholas Seeley was my great grandfather, pressed by Monmouth’s party to drive a plough from Street farm with baggage for the Army, and only escaped with his life by the hurry of the said detestable Jefferies, who casually omitted calling him in Court.”




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