did you know?

did you know?

Odd snippets of Yeovil-related information (most recently added at the top)


On Wednesday last, Thomas Barnsby, a yardsman of Yeovil, for a trifling wager of one gallon of beer, undertook to eat 126 snails in ten minutes, which task he performed within the given time. Salisbury & Winchester Journal, 2 April 1832

The police of Yeovil recently obtained a conviction against a woman named Bicle for shaving on a Sunday. Edinburgh Evening News, 4 December 1874

On Saturday 7th, Mr Hallet, hair dresser of Yeovil, shaved three old inhabitants of that town, whose united ages amounted to 277 years - 98, 93 and 86 - the eldest of whom took a walk in Preston Fields, and appeared in excellent health and spirits. Dorset County Chronicle, 19 May 1859.

Thursday a poor woman of Yeovil whose name was Bauch, went into a farmer's garden to steal beans; and returning precipitately, she fell into a ditch, and broke her neck.
Bath Chronicle, 21 July 1785

An interesting item garnered from the Churchwardens' Accounts of Curry River "Jan 13 1675: There was collected by me Sam. Powell churchwarden and Robert Combstock one of the overseers of ye poore the sum of four shillings and nine pence which was by order of a private petition granted to Ann Boorn of Yeovil (by several of ye Justices of this County) for the reprieving her captive husband out of Turkey, which money was delivered into the hands of Mr Man and paid to her as she  can witness."

Adam Hunt, charged with stealing £4 1s from Thomas Hatfall, of Yeovil, in a house of ill fame at Blandford, is committed to Dorchester gaol..

In 1894 Joseph Wills was charged with driving his pony and cart "furiously up Middle Street" and shouting at the top of his voice. He continued to drive at full speed along Princes Street and Kingston where witnesses were surprised that no one was hurt. He was found guilty and fined 5s with 10s costs.

In 1869 eight glovers from Yeovil emigrated to America and founded Gloversville. Yeovill in South Africa was founded in the 1880s by Yeovilian Thomas Sherwell.

Christopher Allembridge was mentioned in 1634 as a 'Tobacconist of Evill', pre-dating the smoking ban by quite a while, and was referred to as a grocer in a deed of 1659. He also issued his own trade tokens (see next item below) in 1656.

Most Yeovil trade tokens were issued by tradesmen following the death of Charles I in 1649 in order to overcome the lack of small change in general circulation to enable trading activities to proceed. No copper coinage was minted during the Commonwealth and the resulting paucity of small coinage was met by these independently-produced and completely unauthorised tokens.

In 1457 the the Churchwardens' accounts record the payment of one penny "In drink given to the ringers when it thundered" since it was a common belief that the sound of the church bells repelled the evil spirits and, since thunderstorms were considered to be the work of Satan, ringing the church bells was believed to dispel the storm. Similar payments are recorded in the Yeovil Churchwardens' account for the next hundred years or so until the Reformation, when such superstitious practices were banned outright.

Queen Victoria ordered James Bazeley Petter's Nautilus dog grates to be installed at both Osborne House and Balmoral. She also enjoyed "Prize Medal Royal Yeovil Sausages" made by William Maynard in the Borough.

A herse was a portable frame with spikes for candles to be fixed and the whole was placed over the body during the funeral service. Entries in Yeovil's account rolls suggest that those at St John's church were of iron on a wooden base. A typical entry of 1519 records that 8d was paid "to John Crype for setting eleven spykes in ye barrs of yren that standeth about ye herse". The modern 'hearse' is a derivation.

In 1822 it was ordered by the Vestry that the Churchwardens "put a lock on the Church Yard gates to prevent horses &c from trespassing in the Church yard in future".

There is a small iron cross fixed to the eastern parapet of St John's church tower indicating that the church was exempt from taxation while the borough was held by the Convent of Syon.

Everyone has their favourite theories about the many tunnels supposedly running beneath Yeovil's streets; the most popular is the tunnel between St John's crypt and the cellar of the Royal Oak (now the Green Room) in Wine Street. Not only are there no signs of tunnels whatsoever in either the crypt or the cellar of the Royal Oak, there is absolutely no mention at all of underground tunnels in any of Yeovil's written records with the single exception of a brief mention of "catacombs" for burials under the Baptist chapel in South Street, just big enough for four family vaults. Most of the tunnel tales probably refer to the Victorian brick-built sewers of the 1850's, tall enough for a man to walk along, which still survive below High Street, the Borough and Middle Street (and probably several side streets) and, of course, the Victorian sewer builders never found a trace of tunnels in their deep excavations.

In earlier times the "right of sanctuary" was occasionally used because legal processes could not be executed in the church or churchyard. In 1420 John Green of Powerstock, Dorset, claimed sanctuary when he "fled to the parish church, Yeovil, claiming the privileges of the Church because of his felonies.... the killing of one John Raleigh, gentleman, with a sword." The right of sanctuary was abolished in England in 1623.

In 1534 Henry VIII granted the borough and church of Yeovil to Catherine Parr.

In the fifteenth century it was common for people to make votive offerings to ensure that their name was added to the bede-roll. Their name would be recited from the pulpit in the first week of Lent and then were also read out through the streets of Yeovil by the bedeman following his exhortation "God have mercy on these and all Christian souls". Having your name on the bede-roll was known as being brought to "Common Mind". The 'bedeman' evolved into the 'beadle' after the Reformation although the actual duties changed.

In order to reside at Woborn's Almshouse you had to be "single and chaste, and untainted by leprosy".

In 1845 thirty two ground glasses were purchased by the Churchwardens at 2s 6d each to "soften the strong light" of the newly-installed gas lighting in St John's church.

In 1566 the Churchwardens' accounts show an entry "Payd for byrde lyme to take the byrds that did haunt the church...1d"

In fact "vermyn" were, apparently, a problem and the Churchwardens' accounts show many, many entries of payments for the bodies of dead birds or animals each year. From about 1650 onwards you could get 2d for each dozen sparrows you'd killed, but you only had to provide the heads as proof. The going rate for other "vermyn" were 2d per hedgehog, 4d per polecat (that is, weasels or stoats - there were lots of these), 1 shilling per marten or otter (just a couple of each of these), and also a shilling per badger or per fox. Again, you only had to bring in the heads of your animals as proof to get your payment. Total annual payments increased steadily into the 1700's to over £2 a year - and that's a lot of Yeovil's local wildlife! Payments declined and all but ceased after about 1740. The entries for 1711, a typical instance, show payments for a total of 14 dozen Sparrows, eight Hedge Hoggs, nineteen Pole Catts, and three ffoxes. The most in one payment was in 1698 to Henry Wills for 43 dozen sparrows!

In 1822 there must have been a sudden boom in the hedgehog population as the Churchwardens paid for 107 of them! and the price per head had doubled to 4d. A note in the Vestry minutes stated "The Churchwardens are requested not to pay any thing for Hedgehogs & Sparrows in future."

Rusty Well was supposed to produce water with supernatural qualities.

Perambulation means "walking around" and in traditional English law, it is used specifically to mean "determining the bounds of a legal area by walking around it", meaning physically walking around the parish boundaries. In such a way the parish boundaries were verified annually. In Yeovil the annual perambulation was a three day event that continued well into the nineteenth century and the Churchwardens' accounts refer in each year's accounts to the expenditure incurred, such as this entry for 1697 (which reads a bit like a lads' outing to me!).

Pd for preambulacon in Bisketts & Cake   -                        12s 0d
Pd att the same tyme for Cheese   -                                     2s 6d
Pd att the same tyme for Tobacco & pipes   -                         11d
Pd att the same tyme for Sider & beere   -                      £1 2s 4d

There again, the Perambulation of 1761 must have been a real doosie and is the first time that the Charity School Boys are recorded as being in attendance. It should, perhaps, be noted that two hogsheads of cider is one hundred and five gallons or eight hundred and forty pints!!!

Paid for 2 Hogsheads of Cyder at the Procession   -      £3 5s 0d
Biscuits and Cheese   -                                                   £1 9s 6d
Biscuits & Cyder for the Charity Boys at Pen-Mill   -            2s 6d
Paid for Mugs and Cups   -                                                  1s 8d
Carriage of ye Cyder   -                                                       2s 6d

And another thing - I don't know how much biscuits cost in 1761, but cheese cost 3¼d a pound so, even assuming that 9s 6d went on biscuits, they must have had over seventy five pounds (in weight) of cheese!

In 1851 there were one hundred and thirteen wells and pumps in Yeovil. The principal wells of the town were Nuns' Well in Silver Street, Miller's Well in Market Street, Bide's Well in Kingston, Cave's Well in Princes Street, Turner's Well and Hannam's Well both in High Street, Dick's Well and Rustywell, both in Hendford, and the Gasworks Well. But, to quote the Rammell Report on sanitary conditions in Yeovil in the early 1850's "Several wells in the town are contaminated by the soakage from private sewers, deposit of offal, refuse of skins, and other filth."

In 1734 £2 2s were paid "for Glazing ye windows (of St John's church) broke by ye Hurricane".

Leslie Brooke discovered that the name 'Yeovil' had been recorded through history in 70 different ways. My favourite spelling is 'Evil'.

Amounts of 13s 4d, 6s 8d and 3s 4d - being two thirds, one third and one sixth of a pound respectively - are frequently seen in the Yeovil Churchwardens' accounts and were known as a mark, an angel and an angelet. The mark was a unit of accountancy not currency, whereas the angel replaced the earlier noble in 1464-5.

The crypt of St John's church was at one time used as an ossuary, or charnel house, and was stacked to the ceiling with the bones of the dead.

In 1753 the Churchwardens' accounts show a payment of £1 5s 4½d for "A New Stocks" and in 1759 1s 6d was paid for "A Lock for the Stocks".

In its time, Yeovil has had at least 135 pubs. During the 19th century there were rarely less than sixty pubs and up to forty beerhouses at any one time!

In 1746 the Churchwardens paid 1s 6d for "a Book from ye Bishop relating to ye horrid Cattle".

In the pre-supermarket age of 1954, Yeovil had at least 69 grocery stores.

"Mr JP and Mr WE, a noted cutler of Yeovil, having some words on Tuesday night last, agreed to determine it the next morning with pistols, they accordingly met at the place appointed, and after discharging a pistol at each other, their seconds interfered and settled things amicably between them." Western Flying Post, 9 December 1771.