Neroche Villages

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A History of Neroche Parish

About Neroche Villages

A History of Neroche Parish

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Three of our villages are mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. Torlaberie (Thurlbear), Staple/Estapla (Staple Fitzpaine) and Bichenhalle (Bickenhall), all of which were held by Robert, the Count of Mortain, half brother of William the Conqueror

There is evidence of Iron Age occupation in the parish with hill forts at Orchard Hill and Castle Neroche. It is likely Orchard Hill was built sometime from 400BC onwards and was probably abandoned for the site at Castle Neroche, three miles to the south

The name Neroche is thought to be derived from the Old English nierra and rechich or rachich, meaning the ‘camp where hunting dogs were kept’

At Castle Neroche, a recent survey by English Heritage suggests three main periods of occupation: late Iron Age; the post Norman conquest period; and the time known as ‘The Anarchy’ period, between 1238 to 1248

During medieval times the parish had a settlement at Playstreet (opposite Neroche Hall), which was revealed through aerial photography in 1977. This settlement was likely to have been established in the period immediately following the Norman conquest (11th century) on the edge of the Neroche Forest

It was during this period that the motte and bailey at Castle Neroche was under construction. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Playstreet fell into several different private hands; by 1602 it was owned by a member of the Portman family

In later medieval times the Portmans, through the marriage of William Portman to Christina de Orchard in 1450, became one of Somerset’s leading families

Over the course of the next few centuries they came to own much of the land and property in Neroche (not to mention three hundred acres in central London) and were influential in supporting the movement for agricultural improvement in the 19th century

Many of the cottages within the parish bearing the familiar stone facing and brick window surround were built during this period

In Victorian times the majority of people in the parish would probably have been tenants who worked on the land. The activities of wives, sons and daughters were vital to the upkeep of the family

The 1851 census shows that there were a total 13 paupers in the villages of Staple Fitzpaine, Curland and Bickenhall

At the beginning of the 20th century, Staple Fitzpaine had 2 ploughboys, one cowboy and one farm boy all aged 13

Most of the Portman estate passed into Crown ownership in the 1940’s. The Forestry Commission has leased the forest areas since 1947

Many dairy farms in the parish have closed in recent years

Today, there are just ten working farms left in the parish - a mixture of arable, cattle, dairy and sheep.  Most are owned by the Crown estate

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