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Montacute (Somerset)

Montacute shown within Somerset
Population 680
OS grid reference ST4916
District South Somerset
Shire county Somerset
Region South West
Constituent country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town YEOVIL
Postcode district BA
Dialling code 01935
Police Avon and Somerset
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
European Parliament South West England
List of places: UKEnglandSomerset

Coordinates: 50°57'N 2°43'W? / ?50.95, -2.72

Montacute is a small village in Somerset, England, four miles west of Yeovil. The village has a population of 680 (2002 estimate). The name Montacute is thought to be derived from the Latin "Mons Acutus", referring to the small but still quite acute hill dominating the village to the west.

The village is built almost entirely of the local Ham Hill stone. From the 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century it formed the heart of the estate of the Phelips family of Montacute House. The village has a fine medieval church, and a former Cluniac priory the gatehouse of which is now a private house.

At the centre of the village is a large square known as the 'Borough' around which are grouped picturesque cottages and a public house known as the Phelips Arms. A second public house and hotel called the King's Arms is also situated in the village.

Today Montacute is much visited by tourists who come to the area, attracted by the nearby Ham Hill Country Park, and Montacute House (now owned by the National Trust) which is one of finest examples of an Elizabethan house in England, and several other mansions open to the public in the immediate vicinity.


[edit] History

To the west of the village is the Iron Age hill fort of Ham Hill, a large tribal fort of the Durotriges. The fort was conquered by the Romans sometime around 45 AD. The Romans briefly occupied the fort, then moved to a more permanent garrison at nearby Ilchester (Lindinis), and constructed the Fosse Way Roman Road a few km west of the village.

A Roman Villa was excavated near Batemoor Barn early in the twentieth century and an extensive mosaic documented. However this was never adequately protected and has – probably – been damaged by deep ploughing.

The motte and bailey castle at St. Michael's Hill
The motte and bailey castle at St. Michael's Hill

Called Logaresburgh by the Saxons, the estate was owned by a man called Tofig – who is said to have been Harold Godwinson's royal standard bearer. Montacute is reputed to have been named by Robert, Count of Mortain, who built the motte-and-bailey Castle Montacute as his English seat in 1068 and founded the Cluniac priory. It was probably named after his Norman colleague Drogo (Drew) de Montague (Montacute)— the idea that the village was named "Mons Acutus" after the tower hill is probably a conceit – more likely the hill was nicknamed in honour of the man. The site of the castle was a deliberate affront to the defeated English because a black flint cross (the "Holy Rood") was said to have been discovered atop the hill earlier in the eleventh century by the village blacksmith. This was supposedly placed in a wagon by Tofig, and he named a series of possible destinations owned by him. The oxen pulling the wagon (six red and six white in one version of the tale) refused to move until he said "Waltham". They then started, and continued non-stop until they reached Waltham. When they stopped, Tofig decided to build an Abbey at the site – this became Waltham Abbey. This relic had become an object of veneration, pilgrimage and celebration. "Holy Cross" was the battle-cry of Harold's armies at Stamfordbridge and Hastings. The Holy Rood is said to have foretold Harold's defeat at Hastings: on the way there from the battle of Stamford Bridge he stopped of at Waltham Abbey to pray, and the legend is that the cross "bowed down" off the wall as he did so. This was taken as a portent of doom. Montacute castle was besieged by the local Saxons in 1069 and its relief required the assembly of a considerable force by the Norman bishop Geoffrey of Coutances whose large landholdings were also threatened. The revolt was suppressed harshly and Joseph Bettey has suggested that "the devastation in the surrounding area which followed the English defeat may explain why so many manors in south Somerset are recorded in the Domesday Survey as having decreased in value".

[edit] Notable residents

[edit] References

  • (N/A) (1868). National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Virtue.
  • Bettey, J. H. (1986). Wessex from AD 1000. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49207-6.

[edit] External links

  • The Somerset Urban Archaeological Survey: Montacute, by Miranda Richardson

(Source: Wikipedia)
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