Dunster (St. George)

DUNSTER (St. George), a market-town and parish, in the union of Williton, hundred of Carhampton, W. division of Somerset, 38 miles (W. N. W.) from Somerton, and 158 (W. by S.) from London; containing 1078 inhabitants, and comprising the hamlets of Alcombe, Aville, Bondington, Frackford, Kitswall with Cuffs, and Staunton. The town, which is called Torre in Domesday book, owes its origin to a baronial castle built here by William de Mohun, a Norman baron, on whom the Conqueror had bestowed large estates in this part of the kingdom. He also founded a priory of Benedictine monks, as a cell to the abbey at Bath; the revenue, at the Dissolution, was £37. 4. 9½. The castle, which was held by the family of Mohun till the reign of Edward III., was the scene of hostilities in the civil wars of the reigns of Stephen and John, and in the contests between the houses of York and Lancaster; the Marquess of Hertford, also, took possession of it for Charles I. during the war with the parliament. It has been the residence of the family of Luttrell since the time of Edward III.: the present structure, which is comparatively of recent erection, stands in a commanding situation at the southern extremity of the main street, embracing fine views of the Bristol Channel, and the Welsh and Gloucestershire hills. The town is on a gentle eminence about a mile to the south of the Channel, and the surrounding country is beautifully diversified with hill and dale, and embellished by a rapid stream, formed by springs rising at Dunkery Hill, and which passes on the south and east sides of the town, and, after turning several mills, runs under a stone bridge of three arches, and falls into the sea. The place is small, and of little importance at present, having materially suffered from the loss of its wool-trade, which afforded employment to a considerable part of the population of this and the adjacent parishes. There are two streets, one of which has been much improved by the removal of some unsightly old shambles that stood in the centre. An ancient market-house is still standing. The market is on Friday; and a fair is held on WhitMonday. The town sent members to a parliament in the 34th of Edward III., and, till the Reform act was passed, enjoyed the elective franchise in conjunction with Minehead.

The parish comprises 2883 acres, whereof 1186 are common or waste: there are several quarries of stone, which is raised for building and for burning into lime. The living, formerly a vicarage, is now a perpetual curacy, valued in the king's books at £4. 13. 4.; net income, £130; patron and impropriator, John Fownes Luttrell, Esq. The church, erected by Henry VII., in acknowledgment of the assistance afforded him by the men of Dunster, in the battle of Bosworth-Field, is a handsome and spacious structure in the later English style, with a central embattled tower crowned by pinnacles. To the east is a kind of chapel, formerly the church of the priory. This part of the building was used, not only by the monks, but by the incumbent of the parish, for the performance of divine service, until the year 1499, when a dispute arising between the monks and the parishioners, the matter was referred to arbitrators, who decided that the latter should have a choir separate from that of the convent: it contains many fine monuments to the families of Mohun and Luttrell, which, as well as the chapel itself, are hastening to decay. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans; also a school endowed with £30 per annum.

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