church wall dwellings

church wall dwellings

Silver Street


Until about 1806 a row of small thatched dwellings, little more than shacks, were built up against the churchyard wall in Silver Street, narrowing the roadway considerably. One of these buildings appears in leases dated 1668 and 1771 and is referred to as a burgage called "Cold Harburrough over against Broad church steps". Coldharbour derives from 'cold harbour', originally a place or shelter constructed for wayfarers but particularly applied to churchyards.

In his will of 24 August 1580, woollen draper Gyles Hayne wrote "...  and also all that my Tenemente or Burgage, and Gardeyne thereto belonginge with th[e]appurten[a]nces scituate and being in Qudin streate nexte colde Harborowe in yeavill aforesaide whiche I purchased of Mr Leonard Carant forever.".

An indenture of 1751 describes "one Plott of Wast Ground now or late a Smith's Shop or Forge standing thereon heretofore in the occupation of Thomas Mead and adjoining to a well called Nune Well late in the tenure of John Day, and also all that new erected Shop and Chamber over the said Shop in Yeovil next adjoining to the Said Cottage now or late in the tenure or occupation of Matthew Cheed."

From rents paid it would appear that there were originally at least six buildings but, according to some reports, by 1806 this had reduced to two dwellings and a blacksmith's shop. Nevertheless in 1813 an estimation was carried out on all Church property in the town at which time "Six Houses on Church Walls" were estimated to have an annual value of £30, the highest value properties with the exception of Peter Daniell's shop (£40) and his warehouse (also £40). Daniell's warehouse had formerly been called the Church House.

The dwellings were discussed in 1820 in the House of Commons where a report by the Church Commissioners into the charities concerning St John's church in connection with several boundary matters were discussed - "In 1706, the following small sums appear to have been received: of William Hulett 2s. of Morgan Richmond 1s. of John Clarke 6d. of John Chaffey 1s. of John Cheyney 1s. and of John Hill 6d. making in the whole 6s; and several of the same names appear for some years previous, as having paid similar sums.... The site upon which these tenements stood is a narrow strip of land, bounded on one side by the church-yard wall, the other being open to the street. At one end of it is a flight of steps leading to the church-yard ; at the other a public well, called Nuns' Well."

The following notes are from evidence given to the House of Commons by Robert Jennings, Postmaster of Yeovil, who lived in Silver Street opposite the church wall dwellings,

"There were only two tenements, besides a blacksmith's shop; a person called Charles Chedd otherwise Edmonds, lived in one of the tenements.... they were in a bad state when I first remember them, and they afterwards became greatly dilapidated and in so bad a state that no one could live in them, and people were taking away the materials. I mentioned to the late Mr Phelips these circumstances, and he desired me to take down the old buildings, and he gave me the materials for my trouble; the houses were thatched; they were wholly taken down about 14 or 15 years ago."

The House concluded "The buildings on this land consisted latterly of two or three dwellings and a blacksmith's shop. Having been for a considerable time in a dilapidated state, and having at last become unfit for habitation, and a nuisance to the public, they were, about the year 1805 or 1806, taken down by the direction of the late Rev. William Phelips, who was lord of the manor of the borough, as his ancestors have been for some generations. The materials thereof were given away by him, and the site, which appears to be of no value, except for erecting new buildings, offered by him to Mr. Robert Jennings, but not accepted."

Although they were demolished around 1806 the church wall buildings were shown on Watt's map of 1806 and still being shown on his map of 1831.