Chewton Mendip Families

Chewton Mendip OS 1

Chewton Mendip c1800 with East End at the bottom and Bathway just below “Chewton Priory”


The Yorks

Anthony York (died 1660) and Mary

Anthony York appears in various documents as York, Franke (several spellings) and York alias Franke. The alias may indicate an adoptive name used to indicate inheritance or relationship and was quite a common practice in the 17th century. He was probably related to James York alias Franke who was the steward of the manor of Chewton, quite possibly his son. Unfortunately the parish registers are difficult to read for periods in the early part of the century, so Anthony’s  baptism cannot be identified. The family are usually referred to simply as Franke in the registers, although all branches had dropped this by the end of the century and used solely York(e).

Anthony was probably born around 1610-20 and married about 1643, although the marriage did not take place in Chewton. All we know of his first wife is her christian name, Mary, and following the birth of four children, her death is recorded in the parish register on September 9th 1654. This was during the period of the Commonwealth and the Parish Register (the name of the official who was responsible for the upkeep of the written register) only recorded the dates of births and deaths. The following year Anthony married for a second time and infuriatingly we know even less of this wife as the wedding is recorded in the register as between “Anthony Francke of this parishe” and ” the Widow Newman of Horington”. However the marriage is also recorded at St Cuthberts, Wells, dated June 23rd, and this states the bride’s christian name – another Mary. The date of the Chewton wedding is not clear – it is certainly June, but the second digit of the day is uncertain. Did the couple actually marry twice? The records imply this and it may be that the “secular” marriage by Chewton’s Register did not satisfy them and they chose to be married by a clergyman in the no-doubt more royalist city of Wells.The second marriage produced no children and Anthony died in 1660.

John York (1645- 1723) and Elizabeth

John appears to be the first of the family to reside in the the East End tything of Chewton,  on the estate (a grand term used for a holding  from the manor of any size) that was passed down through his descendants.  John held the land from the Waldegraves, lords of the manor of Chewton, in the south of the parish centred on a hamlet called East End. The York “estate” consisted of a tenement called a Landless Place – “A dwelling house, barn, stable, garden, orchards and backside”, together with a group of fields adjacent which totalled about twelve acres. In addition there was another field of two acres closer to the village centre and another ten or so acres at Holly Marsh which was to the north-east on the edge of the parish near Ston Easton. The lease had been granted in 1651 to a Johan Palmer with a reversion to John (“the son of Anthony Yorke alias Francke”) after her death. It may be that there was a connection between the Yorks and the Palmers, or possibly this was a simple monetary transaction.  Joan Palmer was buried in January 1666 and so John took over the farm from that date. In 1670 the parish register records John marrying Elizabeth Neusom. This name does not occur elsewhere, so we cannot know Elizabeth’s origins.

A grant from the manor dated 1669 gives John the right to “Myne and Digg for Oare in his Tenemt. ….  Laying outte to the Lord an Eight part of the Oare free wrought and a Tenth part of all the Leade”. One wonders if John struck lucky with this.

Grant Bk 1669 York

John died in March 1723 and the lease, which had been renewed in 1700  was maintained by his widow and, following her death in 1729, their son, Richard.

Richard York (1690-1770) and Dorothy

Signature of Richard York 1749
Richard renewed his father’s lease in 1761, paying a fine of £24 to extend it and include the life of his son and a granddaughter. At some time in the next five years he added two fields on the edge of Chewton Down. Richard had married Dorothy Bathe at Emborough on 26th April 1731 and their only child, John was born the following year. Richard took a full part in the governance of the parish, appearing on several occasions as a Churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor.

One of the many payments made by the Churchwardens was for the destruction of perceived vermin. Most common amongst these were hedgehogs and sparrows, although there is the more exotic pole-cat from time to time. A payment in 1743 records that 1/- was paid to “Richard York’s son” for four dozen sparrows’ heads.


1807 Landless Place
The Yorks’ farm Landless Place at East End – the farmhouse in red

Landless Place has now been demolished and a short row of nineteenth century cottages stand facing the road; the York’s farmhouse was at right-angles to it and set back.


John York (1732-1818) and Ann Board

Marriage John York 1759 signatures
John, the only child of Richard and Dorothy continued farming the family acres and no doubt took part in village life as his father had done, although the records are missing for much of the period. On the 26th March 1759 he married Ann Board (see below) at St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip and on 20th November their first child, Sarah was born. A second daughter, Ann Board, followed in October 1761 but tragically she was to be baptised on the same day that her mother was buried, the 31st. Life must have been hard for John, having to bring up two small children, but at least his mother was still alive (Dorothy died in 1773) and his mother-in-law too lived until 1768.

With no sons, John did not attempt to extend the family’s leases, but left them dependent on the life of his eldest daughter, as Richard had arranged in 1761. His youngest daughter was the first to wed – Ann Board York married Jeremiah Gait (see below) at St John’s Bedminster on 29th May 1783. The entry in the register records that the banns had been read and both parties were “of this parish”, so some subterfuge looks likely. It is quite possible the marriage was unpopular in the York household; certainly when Sarah married John Pearce in 1792, the wedding took place in Chewton and Jeremiah Gait was a witness, so harmony may have been restored.

John lived until 1818 and it may be that some of his land was being farmed by his sons-in-law well before that – the 1798 Land Tax redemption lists show land with John Pearce and Jeremiah as joint tenants of a piece of land as well as John York himself (although it may have been Board land (see below)). Certainly John had taken on other interests. In the 1813 survey of the Waldegrave estates, tenants’ occupations are listed and John is given as “Lead Reeve”. This position entailed looking after the lord of the manor’s interest in the lead mining that took place on Mendip – the lord was entitled to 10% of all lead extracted by the miners on his land. By this period the industry was in steep decline and the post may have been more ceremonial than practical, but it presumably brought in a stipend and a degree of prestige.

Sarah York (1759-1836) and John Pearce

Marriage Sarah York 1792 signature
Sarah and John did not have any children and continued to farm the leasehold land that was in the name of Sarah as heiress to her parents and Board grandparents (see below). Although no definitive record exists, most likely the Pearces lived at Landless Place. John died in 1821 but Sarah lived on until 1836 when all the York farm and land reverted to the Waldegrave estate.
The Boards

Francis Board (died 1658) and Grace

Until the baptism of Francis’ eldest child (another Francis) the name Board does not appear in any record at Chewton. It may be that he was a member of the Board family of Kilmersdon, several miles to the north-east, but we cannot be sure, although that family did use the name Francis regularly. Francis made a very advantageous marriage to Grace  the daughter of Richard Mogg who had settled in Chewton Mendip just before 1600 and was to become the Steward of the Duchy of Cornwall in the area and later held the manor of Farrington Gurney, where he built a substantial (and still standing) manor house.

Farrington Gurney Manor 1

Farrington Gurney Manor House

Francis was probably born around 1600 and although the record of his marriage has not been found, it must have taken place about 1623/4 as the baptism of their son Francis is recorded in the register on May 5, 1625. A further seven children were to follow and three of the sons, Francis, Richard and James survived into adulthood. Francis and Grace certainly lived at Bathway in the East End in a property part of which still survives. The family were to stay there for nearly two hundred years, extending the house and farming the estate granted to Francis by the manor about the time of his marriage. This can be seen by comparing the details of the renewal of the lease in 1657 with the records in the 18th century estate books of the manor which often record field names and the sites of some of the fields. One which is mentioned in 1657 and again in the lease renewal of 1766 is Puppy Paddock – the field is still identifiable today.

Francis’ renewal of 1657 splits the estate into two, the reversion of one half to his sons Francis and Richard, and the other to Francis and James. It seems that neither Richard nor James married and the holding was reunited in the next generation.

Francis died in 1658 and left a will in which he bequeaths generous cash amounts to his sons, Richard and James as well as his daughters, Anne and Elizabeth. His eldest son Francis, however, was left 6 shillings and eightpence as well as having to repay £100 his father had lent him; the sum was to be shared by his siblings equally (if it ever materialised). The children had also received a small inheritance from their grandfather Richard Mogg in 1641 – £20 to be split between them and a weaned calf for each of the three youngest.

1617 sig and seal R Mogg

The signature and seal of Richard Mogg

Francis Board (1625-1710)

Very little can be found regarding this Francis. One wonders if he ever repaid the £100 which his father had loaned him and to which his siblings had a claim. Indeed it is a mystery as to why he needed such a vast sum. He continued to farm the family estate with his brothers presumably and around 1658 married a wife, name unknown, but not in Chewton. He renewed the manor lease in 1698, in his own name and that of his son, yet another Francis.

Francis Board (1669-1755) and Mary

Francis Board 1725

Francis continued to farm the family estate. This tenement consisting of a dwelling house, stable, barn and orchard also included some 56 acres of land scattered around the parish but concentrated on the area to the east of the Bath Road at Bathway. In the 1740s he purchased another plot with a house and pasture which also seems to have been at Bathway, and certainly rebuilt the main family residence there. He married Mary Palmer around 1700 and she inherited  some leased property possibly adjoining the Board holding.

Bathway map 1740

1740 estate map showing the Board farm on the Bath Road at 104 (east at top)

Francis was a prominent member of the parish vestry, serving as Churchwarden as early as 1704 and on several occasions afterwards. He was obviously a person of some standing in the village and in later documents he is described as Mr Francis Board. His son, when mentioned in documents during his father’s lifetime is always James Board, but he too becomes “Mr” on Francis’ death in 1755.

James Board (1706-1777) and Ann

Signature of James Board 1751

James was the only child of Francis and Mary and he married Ann Bull in 1723. The marriage has not been found in any register yet (several in the area are missing or illegible), but a licence was issued at Wells in that year, and it may be that they married in the Cathedral itself. They had three children, Francis (born 1727) James (1729-48) and Ann, who as we have already seen, married John York in 1759.

1807 map Bathway close
1807 Map of Bathway showing the Board farm at 22 and the extension at 41
(west at top)

Comparing the 1807 map above with the one of 1740, it can be seen that the Boards extended and joined the two properties they held in Bathway. The photograph below shows this row of cottages today. The Boards’ original farm is probably the central one now with a black gate.

Bathway Cottages

Bathway today

Francis Board (1727-1802)

Francis Board jnr 1759
Francis never married, and as early as 1766 leases were being renewed based on the lives of his nieces, the two daughters of Ann York (nee Board) as the only young family members. When Francis died in 1802 their husbands placed an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle seeking any creditors or debtors to the estate. The wills for Somerset were sadly destroyed in the Blitz and so we can only assume that John and Jeremiah were Francis’ executors. It is certain that they continued farming the Board lands in the names of their respective wives.

Estate of Francis Board 1802

Although it is not certain where the Pearce and Gait families lived (see above) I think the Gaits lived at Bathway as a 1794 estate survey shows the occupier as “late Francis Board now Jeremiah Gait”.
The Gaits

James Gait (died 1711) & Jane

James is a shadowy figure – his burial is recorded at St Mary Magdalen, Chewton Mendip in September 1711 and he had been recorded as paying Church rates for the previous seven years (from 1704 when the rate books start). His widow, Jane continued to pay the same amount until her death in 1761 (aged 94) and we can assume she continued to occupy the same property – a dwelling house, smithy and shoeing shop at Bathway, just to the south of the village proper. The lease was renewed in 1729 carrying a reserved rent of 1/- and a pint of claret. So James was a blacksmith, a trade which continued in his family for at least three further generations. There is a marriage in the parish register on 2nd May 1687 which records a wedding between a Gaite of Ston Easton (the name could read James) and a Salvidg (Savidge in various spellings was a common local name); again the bride’s christian name is almost illegible, but looks like Jane. Entries in the Manor Lease books confirm that the Gait holding at Bathway passed to Jane Geyte and her husband, James from Jane’s parents, George and Jane Savage.

1740 map Jane Gait cottage at  Bathway

The Gaits’ holding at Bathway (1740)showing the cottage at top with the shoeing shop and smithy below, both numbered 85


The first child of James and Jane whose baptism was registered at Chewton was a daughter, Sarah, in 1692. She was followed by a son James, who died as a toddler, Elizabeth, another James and finally John (1706). There is a payment made in the Churchwardens’ accounts to “James Gaite and his brother when they do work” in 1704. This may be our James, but there was another – a mason who lived in Ston Easton and worked on the church, so it is not certain.

The Gaits of Ston Easton

There is obviously a connection between the Chewton Gaits and those of Ston Easton, which is less than two miles away. James Gait the mason held leases in both Chewton and Ston although he actually lived in Radstock, where he held land as well. He is recorded as helping Stephen Wason, the village mason in restoring one of the pinacles and the porch of Chewton parish church in 1699. There is also an Angel Gait who obtained a lease from the Hippisley lords of the manor of Ston Easton in 1713. He is described as a yeoman and part of the grant is a house built “on the waste” “at his owne cost and charges”. Confusingly both James and Angel had sons named James, but the registers for Ston Easton are missing before 1813, so it is difficult to follow what became of the families. Angel could well be the Angel Gait who lived in Chewton until c1706, when his name disappears from the church rate lists. This individual married a widow, Ann York sometime after 1696, but no trace of them or any baptisms of their children appear in the Chewton register.

John Gait (1706-1785?) and Ann and Edith

John continued to live with his widowed mother (the other children vanish after their baptisms are recorded) and in time took over the lease of the house and smithy at Bathway. On 4th June 1728 he married Ann Strong of Farrington Gurney at St Mary’s, Chewton and they had five children. The baptism of the eldest, James was recorded in the registers of both parishes – quite a common habit for the eldest child (mothers often returned home for the birth of their firstborn) and the Farrington register records “both parrens are not parishoners”. A daughter, Ann (born and died 1731) followed and then three more sons, John (1733), Angelo (or Angel) and finally George who was baptised (20th August 1738) on the same day that his mother was buried. Although all later documents show Angelo was born c1736/7, he was, in fact not baptised until 26th May 1738 – the baptism is recorded out of sequence and possibly added at a later date.

Of the four boys, two at least stayed in the parish – Angelo certainly followed his father’s occupation, eventually taking over the lease at Bathway and the smithy with it. Of George there is no further record apart from his naming in one lease of the 1760s when he was aged 27. John married Mary Snook of Binegar in 1754 and one of their sons, Thomas is also named in a Gait lease, but the family seem to have moved to Chilcompton and later on Midsomer Norton. James too may have moved out of the village when he married (see below).

Following the death of his wife Ann, John remarried. His new bride was Edith Bull who came from Chewton, although the marriage took place at St John’s Glastonbury on 27th September 1741. Their first child, Simon was born in March of the next year, followed by five daughters over the following 13 years. Edith died in 1761 a few months after her mother-in-law, Jane and so the eldest of John and Ediths’s daughters, Ann would have been in charge of the household (aged 17), looking after her father, three brothers and four sisters. The date of John’s death is not known for sure – he was certainly alive in 1766 but his burial could be one of those in the 1767-8 period which are illegible in the register. Alternatively there is a burial dated 19th January 1785 which could be his in which case he would have been 79 years old.

James Gait (1729-62) & Martha

Apart from his own and his childrens’ baptisms and his burial at St Mary’s there are no records in Chewton Mendip for James Gait. His marriage to Martha did not take place there and so far is undiscovered. Martha’s origins too are a mystery. The baptism of their three children is recorded in both the Chewton and Ashwick registers, though at Ashwick it is recorded that the eldest son is named George – he is John in the Chewton register; a much more likely name, being that of his Gait grandfather. The Chewton entries are always dated earlier, and at Ashwick it is noted that the Gaits are “not of this parish”; very frustrating as it does not say which parish they belong to.

It would seem likely the family lived somewhere between the two parishes, possibly at Emborough or Binegar. In any event, James carried out work for the parish of Ashwick – payments to him are recorded in the Churchwardens’ Book although it doesn’t say what the nature of the work was. Most likely he was a blacksmith like the rest of his family. Apart from John/George, James and Martha had two further children, Anne (1756) and Jeremiah (1758). The name of the youngest may give a clue to Martha’s origins. It had never been used in the Gait line before, so may be the name of Martha’s father. Interestingly there was a family who appear in Chewton in the early 1740s – Jeremiah and Martha Emery. They have two children baptised there – Hannah (1741) and James (1744) and two buried – Hannah and Jeremiah (both in 1744). Jeremiah senior too was buried, in 1747. It would seem natural that they may have had a daughter, Martha (probably the eldest) and the Emery name connects them with Ashwick, where it was very common. Furthermore, the Gaits and Emerys of Ashwick were to be connected in the future: James Emery, the parish clerk of Ashwick was a witness when Jeremiah Gait married and much later two of their grandchildren married each other. It is unfortunate that the register is so badly damaged (and poorly kept too – a legacy of James Emery’s father who was also the parish clerk and admonished by the rector for missing many entries) and incomplete.

James was only 32 when he died in 1762 and Martha returned to Chewton with her children – possibly to help in the household of her father-in-law at the house and smithy at Bathway. For some reason the parish paid 15/- for the “haling of Martha Gait’s goods” in 1763. Thereafter, as well as running the Gait household, she is a regular payee in the parish Poor Book – most payments are for attending, feeding or washing for the poor of the parish. She is also paid regularly for lodging the poor and their children – it must have been a very crowded house. Martha died in 1800. There are reports of a ghost at Bathway, a lady dressed in 18th clothing and “smelling of herbs” – could it be Martha on her way to tend the sick and elderly of the parish?
Angelo Gait (1738-1817) & Ann

Angelo Gait 1808
Angelo, as we have seen, continued the family blacksmith business at Bathway. In some ways he augmented the land the family held by encroaching on the strip of land running northwards towards the village on the western side of the Bath Road. Despite the complaint of the Waldegraves in their Survey of 1813, they did not seem to mind collecting the rent.

1807 map Angelo Gait 233 to 235
1807 map showing the Gaits’ encroachment at 234. The cottage and smithy are still at 235 but now the cottage has been extended – for the growing family?

Angelo married Ann Selway at Chewton in 1767 and they had eight children. Two of their sons have provided us with a great deal of information as they both joined the Army during the Napoleonic Wars and both were “examined” as to their right of settlement in the parish and gave a short biography to the examining magistrates (see article “Brothers in Arms”). Angelo died in 1817 but the lease on the cottage and smithy may have been continued in the name of Thomas his nephew, if he was still living. There are no records to show where the family lived in later years.
Jeremiah Gait (1759-1835) and Ann Board York

Jeremiah Gait 1783
It is not known what occupation Jeremiah followed in his early years, but following his marriage in 1783 he probably helped working the farms of his new father-in-law, John York and his new wife’s uncle, Francis Board. It would seem that the marriage of Jeremiah and Ann Board York was not one approved by his new in-laws, who probably considered their neighbours, the Gaits as a class below themselves. The fact that it took place at St John’s Bedminster and both parties declared they were “of this parish”, indicating they had resided there for at least three weeks is odd. Banns had been called in the normal way and one witness is James Emery, the parish clerk of Ashwick, who may well have been a relative of Jeremiah’s mother. But bride and groom were both of age and no doubt the best was made of things and Jeremiah provided help on the York and Board farms.

The marriage appears to have been a happy and fruitful one. They had eight children, but sadly only two daughters were to outlive them. Of their two sons, only the younger, Zachariah married and only three of their daughters survived to adulthood and their own marriages. Jeremiah, along with his brother-in-law took on their wives’ inherited leasehold land when Francis Board (1802) and John York (1818) died. He also took on the role of parish worthy, becoming Churchwarden on at least one occasion and appearing in electoral rolls as one entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections.

In his will, drawn up in 1835 he left everything to his wife and then to their daughters, Betty Blanning and Ann Pearce; his estate included “lifehold property” which may be additional land he had taken on, as well as “stock and dairy utensils”, and requires his executors to sell it and provide his heirs with an income therefrom. No mention is made of any of his grandchildren. Jeremiah died on 8th April 1835 and was buried five days later – Ann his widow lived only a few days longer and was buried on 18th April.
John Gait (1790-1818)

John Gait 1817
There is little documentary evidence for John, the eldest son of Jeremiah and Ann. His baptism and burial are recorded in the registers and in 1817 he was a witness at the marriage of his sister Phoebe to John Sheppard. The only remaining document so far found is his will which he made in August 1818. He describes himself as a yeoman, but whether he rented land of his own, or farmed the land of his Board and York ancestors it is difficult to be certain. The terms of the will raise more questions than they answer; he refers to “estates or interests” granted, so he may have farmed his own (leased) land, but it is not clear. He instructs, as executors, his brother-in-law, John Sheppard and uncle, John Pearce to administer his estate and sell all his possesions and goods, pay his debts and call in any monies due to him. The principal is then to be used at will by “my dear mother for her life free from the debts and engagements power or control of her present or any future husband”. What a strange thing to say of his father – “her present…husband”. Does this signify a breakdown in the relationship, or merely a recognition of his father’s financial independence, which requires nothing of the son’s estate? He furthermore leaves what remains of the estate following his mother’s death to his surviving siblings equally. John was buried at Chewton on 1st November 1818.
Zachariah Gait (1800-29) and Lydia Horler Emery

Zachariah Gait 1820

Lydia Horler Emery 1820

As all York/Board land was to revert to the Waldegrave Estate on the deaths of his mother and aunt, Sarah Pearce, the sons of Jeremiah had to stand on their own two feet. As we have seen the eldest, John appears to have started a career in farming before his untimely death. By contrast Zachariah became a butcher. This was a useful trade to have with a farming family in the background, and it seems that there was a Gait family of butchers in Midsomer Norton to whom Zachariah may have been apprenticed. They were distant cousins, decended from that John Gait who had moved to Chilcompton in the 1750s. It was in Midsomer Norton that Zachariah married Lydia Horler Emery on 26th March 1820. The register notes that the marriage was by banns and with consent of parents, as both parties were not of full age; Lydia had only just turned 18 in fact. James Emery, Lydia’s father was one witness, but the other was James Uphill of Chewton, no doubt acting as Zachariah’s best man. Exactly six months later a son they named John was born and baptised at Chewton. The register records Zachariah as a butcher, living in Chewton, yet the family had moved to Midsomer by the time of the birth and baptism of their second child, Phoebe Ann in 1824.

They were back in Chewton however when Zachariah died, tragically young, in April 1829. At some time in the following ten years it seems Lydia and Phoebe moved to London whilst John remained in Midsomer Norton where he is recorded living with his grandmother, Abigail Emery in 1841. No trace can be found of him after the Census of that year, but his mother and sister have a long and fascinating history away from Chewton Mendip. All the land that the Yorks, Boards and Gaits leased from the Waldegraves reverted on the deaths of the sisters, Ann Gait in 1835 and Sarah Pearce in 1836 and the story of our branch of the family lies elsewhere. However, in her will Sarah left £10 apiece to John and Phoebe Ann.

map of Chewton with fields and houses
Map showing the various holdings: red – York, yellow – Board. The houses are indicated by red arrows and include the Gaits’ cottage and smithy at Bathway. There were additional fields further out in the north-east, and the Boards held a dwelling and land in the top left-hand corner at some time in the first half of the 18th century.