yeovil people

john batten the elder

Solicitor, Banker and Clerk to the Town Commissioners


The Batten family of solicitors lived in Church House, Church Street and the house has played a prominent part in the town's legal affairs, being the home of the Battens since the eighteenth century, indeed the Town Courts were held in the north annex until the middle of the twentieth century.

John Batten Snr was born in 1778 the only son of John Prigge Batten and his first wife Ann née Wallis. John Prigge's half-brothers Nathaniel and Edmund Batten (neither of whom had children) refer in their wills to "my nephew John Batten".

John was educated at Inner Temple, being admitted it 1800. He became a noted Yeovil solicitor and attorney of His Majesty's Court of King's Bench. He was in partnership with his son John around 1838.

He married Sarah Copeland (c1780-1821) on 8 March 1813 at Christchurch, Newgate Street, London. She was the daughter and eventual co-heiress of John Copeland of Iver, Buckinghamshire, and Lingfield Lodge, Surrey. Sadly, Sarah died at the age of 41 on 27 November 1821. Their children were -

  • Mary Anne (1814-1827) died aged 13 on 2 April 1824 and buried at Yeovil on 10 April 1827.

  • John Batten Jnr (1815-1900),

  • Emily (1816-1853) married on 31 July 1849 at St John's church Thomas Bates (1810-1882) barrister of Lincoln's Inn, Aydon White House and Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. They had one son. Emily died on 23 December 1853 and was buried at Yeovil on 31 December 1853. Her will was proved on 22 July 1863 with her effects being noted as "Under £20" (around £1,900 at today's value).

  • Edmund (b1818), later Chisholm-Batten, was born on 3 November 1817 and educated at Sherborne School where he became head boy. He was admitted to Edinburgh University in 1834 and Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated in 1845. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 12838 and called to the bar in 1842. He was also admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1849. He was a barrister-at-law, JP for Somerset and Inverness-shire. He had literary and antiquarian interests, and was a founder member of the Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society, in whose journal he published almost annually, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh from 1857. He took the additional surname of Chisholm by royal licence in 1859, and he and his wife matriculated the arms of Chisholm in Scotland in 1860. He married Jemima Chisholm (1817-83) on 1 August 1843 at Windlesham, Surrey. Jemima was the only daughter of William Chisholm of Erchless Castle, Inverness-shire, and sister and heir of Duncan Macdonnell Chisholm of Chisholm. He was given Court House, Thornfalcon, by his father and bought further land in the parish from the Wyndham family in about 1840. His wife inherited the Aigas Forest estate of Inverness-shire from her brother in 1858. He died 13 February 1897 and was buried at Thornfalcon; administration of his goods was granted to his elder son, 17 May 1897 (effects £18,225 - around £2.2 million at today's value). His wife died intestate, 30/31 August 1883 and was buried at Thornfalcon; administration of her goods was granted 4 March 1886 (estate £27 - around £3,000 at today's value).

    Their children were -

    • Jemima Emily (1844-1882)

    • James Forbes Chisholm (1847-1915)

    • Edith Ursula (1849-1902)

    • Admiral Alexander William (1851-1925)

    • Sarah Annette Eliza (1853-1920)

    • Amye Fanny (1856-1932)

    • Un-named son (1859-1859)

    • Lilias Mary (1860-1863)

    • Rose Jane (1862-1931)

  • Herbert Butler (1820-1899) of Hollands, Yeovil, was born on 25 July 1820. He was a JP for both Somerset and Dorset and a Captain in the 1st Somerset Militia. He married Elizabeth Phelips (1827-99) on 27 November 1858 at Stoke Trister, Somerset. She was the daughter of Rev. William Phelips of Cucklington, Somerset, and sister of William Phelips of Montacute. Herbert died 9 January 1899 and was buried at Lufton. His will proved on 21 March 1899 with his estate valued at £91,536 (over £10 million at today's value).


In 1820 John and his father Robert received a substantial inheritance from his uncle Nathaniel, including the lordship, manor and advowson of Thornfalcon, near Taunton. It appears that this manor was somehow transferred to Robert and Nathaniel's brother Edmund who, in turn, bequeathed it to John.

Batten was clerk to the Yeovil Turnpike Trust and in 1824 rode to Shaftesbury on horseback to discuss road improvements with the well-known civil Engineer, Thomas Telford. He was also later a banker, and from 1829 was associated with his uncle, Edmund Batten, in Yeovil Old Bank (Batten, Sparks & Co).

It was in 1829 that he bought the Aldon estate on the southern edge of Yeovil, building Aldon House in 1829-30. He gave Aldon to his eldest son, John, on the latter's marriage in 1841. In the 1832 and 1834 poll books John Batten was listed as living in Church House in Church Lane but holding Aldon farm as freehold land.

In 1836 John received a further extensive inheritance from his uncle Edmund, including the manor and advowson of Thornfalcon, as well as extensive land holdings in Yeovil, North Petherton, South Petherton, Somerton, Baltonsborough, Odcombe, West Coker, Hardington Mandeville, North Perrott, Queen Camel, West Camel, Ashington and Montacute.

The 1846 poll book listed John as living in Hollands House. The 1846 Tithe Award refers to Hollands House and Lands, pasture, etc (Parcel 580) and in Hollands (Parcel 1072) of 3r 23p arable. Owner-occupier John Batten.

In 1837 John Batten, Banker, was listed in a House of Commons Private Bill concerning Railway Subscription Projects, as an investor in the 'South Western, or Kingsworthy & West Monkton Railway', subscribing £1,000 (about £108,000 at today's value using the 'historic opportunity cost' of an investment project).

He was deeply involved with Yeovil's early attempts to gain status as a municipal borough, indeed it was Batten who drew up the draft Yeovil Police and Improvement Bill that was presented to Parliament in 1830. This was the early unsuccessful struggle to secure municipal self-government in Yeovil and John Batten headed the committee tasked with trying to get the act passed as law. When Yeovil was deleted from the list of towns in the Municipal Reform Bill by the House of Lords, Batten personally travelled to London to lobby the Somerset MPs and the Attorney General. However, at this stage the House of Commons accepted the deletion of Yeovil from the Bill by the House of Lords ending for the time being Yeovil's bid from municipal borough status.

In 1834 the Western Gazette reported "The Lord Chief Justice of His Majesty's Court of Common Please has been pleased to appoint John Batten and Francis Theophilus Robins, both of Yeovil, gentlemen, to be two of the Perpetual Commissioners for taking the acknowledgements of married women, under the Act for the Abolition of Fines and Recoveries, for Somerset."

He was steward of the Hundred of Stone and presided at the Court Leet in the 1840s and during the late 1840s chaired several important meetings in the town to discuss rival plans for building a railroad into Yeovil. Batten was one of three paid officials of the Town Commissioners being its Clerk with an annual salary of £30 (somewhere in excess of £20,000 at today's value). The other paid officials were the Treasurer at £10 per annum and the Surveyor at £50 per annum.

In the 1841 census John Batten was listed living at Church House as a 65-year old solicitor with his daughter Emily, son Herbert who was a solicitor’s clerk and four servants.

John Batten Snr died on 27 June 1854 at the age of 80. His memorial tablet, shown below, is in St John's church.


See Batten Family Tree

See Yeovil Solicitors


From a document in my collection

John Batten the Elder's signature on a deed dated 1807 for the Sun Inn in Grope Lane


Land Holdings


The Yeovil Tithe Apportionment of 1846 shows that John Batten had extensive land holdings in Yeovil as tabulated below. His total acreage held in Yeovil was 17a 0r 36p. The first main part of the list was his own home of Hollands House and the surrounding land, now pretty much the whole of the Yeovil College campus.

As well as land holdings in Yeovil, John inherited from his uncle Edmund Batten lands in North Petherton, South Petherton, Somerton, Odcombe, Baltonsborough, West Coker, Hardington Mandeville, North Perrott, Queen Camel, West Camel, Ashington and Montacute.


Owner Occupier No Name
Batten, John Alexander, John 253 Houses, Garden & Factory
Batten, John Batten, John 389 Plantation
Batten, John Batten, John 390 House & Land
Batten, John Batten, John 391 Cottage & Garden
Batten, John Batten, John 580 Hollands House & Land
Batten, John Batten, John 802 Plantation
Batten, John Batten, John 807 Plantation
Batten, John Batten, John 1067 Cottage & Garden
Batten, John Batten, John 1068 Walled in Garden
Batten, John Batten, John 1069 Yard, The
Batten, John Batten, John 1070 Quarry Field
Batten, John Batten, John 1071 Andrews Field
Batten, John Batten, John Jnr 26 House, Office, Lawn & Yard
Batten, John Brisby, Thomas 77 Houses, Garden & Factory
Batten, John Brooks, John 783 Penny's Mead
Batten, John Brooks, John 784 New Pond
Batten, John Brooks, John 787 Tuckers Mead
Batten, John Brooks, John 789 Gage Hill
Batten, John Brooks, John 790 Gage Hill
Batten, John Brooks, John 791 Gage Hill
Batten, John Brooks, John 792 German's Grove
Batten, John Brooks, John 793 German's Grove
Batten, John Brooks, John 797 Symond's Ground
Batten, John Brooks, John 798 Symond's Ground
Batten, John Brooks, John 799 Barton Ground
Batten, John Brooks, John 800 Mow Barton
Batten, John Brooks, John 801 Aldon Orchard
Batten, John Brooks, John 803 Home Close
Batten, John Brooks, John 804 Farm House & Garden
Batten, John Brooks, John 805 Home Field
Batten, John Brooks, John 806 Footpath Field
Batten, John Brooks, John 808 Mill Close
Batten, John Smith, Thomas 353 Garden Ground
Batten, John Tilley, George 558 House, Garden & Orchard




This is a portion of the 1842 Tithe Map showing West Hendford running across the map from top left to join Hendford which runs up from bottom left. Hendford House is today's Manor Hotel and the Yeovil Old Bank, here marked as Parcel 333, is at centre. Parcel 369 at bottom centre was the Yeovil Old Brewery.




From my collection

The front and back of a letter posted to John Batten from Bath on 19 October 1837 (three years before the introduction of postage stamps). The letter is a single sheet of paper 9" x 7¼" (228mm x 183mm) folded down to 4½" x 2¾" (115mm x 70mm) for posting and originally sealed with wax. The tear along the top edge is where the paper was torn removing the seal. (The third folded portion and the other half width of paper not shown)


John Batten the elder's memorial tablet in St John's church. 


1854 Will of John Batten


I John Batten of Yeovil in the County of Somerset Esquire do hereby revoke all wills codicils or other testamentary dispositions by me at any time of times heretofore made and do declare this to be my last Will and Testament Whereas I have by the settlement lately made previous to the marriage of my only daughter Emily made ample provision for her with which she is quite satisfied in full for all expectations from me I hereby give devise and bequeath all and singular my freehold and leasehold manors advowsons messuages lands tenements and hereditaments and all other the real estate whatsoever and wheresoever of or to which I or any person or persons in trust for me shall at the time of my decease be seized or entitled for any devisable estate or interest or which I have power to dispose of or appoint by this my Will and all my goods chattels money and securities for money and other Personal Estate whatsoever unto my other children John Batten Edmund Batten and Herbert Butler Batten in equal shares as tenants in common and their respective heirs executors administrators and assigns according to the nature and [word illegible] thereof but in the division of my said Property each of my Sons John and Edmund shall allow and reckon as part of his share the sums of money which I have made my Property liable to pay by way of Settlement on his marriage and my son Herbert shall allow and reckon as part of his share the sum of money for which he holds my Promissory Note and I appoint my three sons Executors of this my Will In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this eighteenth day of August one thousand eight hundred and forty nine

Jno Batten

Signed sealed and delivered by the said testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us present at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereto subscribed our names as witnesses
James Adams Yeovil Somerset         Walter Humber Barwick Somerset

Proved at London 4th August 1854 before the Judge by the oaths of John Batten Edmund Batten and Herbert Butler Batten the Sons the executors to whom admon was granted having been first sworn the said John Batten by Comon and the said Edmund Batten and Herbert Butler Batten before the Worshipful George Edward Hughes Doctor of Laws and Surrogate duly to administer

Transcribed by Bob Osborn