Bruton (St. Mary)

BRUTON (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Wincanton, hundred of Bruton, E. division of Somerset, 12 miles (S. E.) from Wells, and 110 (W. by S.) from London; comprising, with the chapelry of Wyke-Champflower, the tything of Redlynch, and part of Discove, 2074 inhabitants, of whom 1885 are in the town. This place takes its name from the river Bri or Bru, which rises in the adjoining forest of Selwood. Prior to the Conquest it was distinguished for an abbey founded by Algar, Earl of Cornwall, in 1005, for monks of the Benedictine order; upon the ruins of which, William de Bohun in the time of Stephen erected a priory for Black canons, which was raised into an abbey in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII., by William Gilbert, the prior, by whom it was almost rebuilt: it was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and its revenue, at the Dissolution, was £480. 17. 2. The abbey, after its suppression, became the residence of the lords Fitzharding and Berkeley, who sold the manor to the Hoare family, in 1777; the remains have been converted into a parsonage-house, and the other vestiges consist of the altars, the tomb of the last abbot, and an ancient well. The town is pleasantly situated at the base of a steep hill, and along the side of a romantic combe, watered by the Bru, over which is a stone bridge: it consists principally of one well-paved street; the houses are in general neatly built. The manufactures were once considerable, but are now confined chiefly to stockings and machinery; about 250 persons are employed in silk-throwing. The market is on Saturday; the fairs are on April 23rd, and Sept. 17th. The townhall, a spacious building, of which the lower part was used for the market, and the upper contained a large court-room where the petty-sessions were held, is now converted into tenements.

The parish is situated on the road from Bath to Weymouth, and comprises by measurement 3713 acres; stone of good quality for building is quarried to a considerable extent. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £138; patron and impropriator, Sir H. R. Hoare, Bart., whose tithes have been commuted for £130. 8. The glebe comprises 20 acres. The church is a spacious and handsome structure chiefly in the later English style, with a square embattled tower crowned by pinnacles and elaborately decorated, and two porches, having over the entrance the arms of some of the abbots. The roof is of open timber frame-work, richly carved and of elegant design; the chancel is of modern erection, and in the Grecian style: the tomb of Prior Gilbert is preserved. There is a chapel at Wyke-Champflower, and another at Redlynch; and the Independents have a place of worship. The free grammar school was founded by deed dated Sept. 24th, 1519, by Richard Fitzjames, Bishop of London, Sir John Fitzjames, chief justice of England, and Dr. John Edmonds, who endowed it with estates now producing altogether £280 per annum: it has four exhibitions, of £50 per annum each, to either of the universities. An hospital for fourteen aged men, the same number of women, and sixteen boys who are also educated and apprenticed, was founded about 1618, by Hugh Saxey, auditor of the household to Queen Elizabeth and James I., who endowed it with estates at present worth £1381. 11. per annum. The buildings, which were completed about 1636, form a spacious quadrangle near the west end of the town, and are in the Elizabethan style: in one of the wings is a neat chapel, with a schoolroom below it; and over the entrance to the hall is the bust of the founder: the eastern side of the quadrangle was rebuilt some years since. Many marine shells and fossils have been dug up at Creech Hill, where was an encampment, and on which also a beacon formerly stood: human skeletons and skulls have been found at Lawyat; and at Discove, the remains of a tessellated pavement were discovered in 1711. The benevolent founder of the hospital, the two Fitzjames's, the Earl of Falmouth, who was killed in a naval engagement in 1665, and Dampier, the celebrated navigator, were born here.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.