tabernacle lane

tabernacle lane

formerly Eagle Alley, Narrow Lane, Little Lane and Hannam's Lane


Tabernacle Lane, earlier called Little Lane, is a narrow alley running from the Borough to South Street. The earliest mention of what is now called Tabernacle Lane was in a document dated 1386 in the Woborn Almshouse archives, and another dated 1400, also mentions properties in the lane. In a Woborn Almshouse lease dated 1464 it is referred to as Narwelane (Narrow Lane). "Henry Sentclere of Wells and Johanna his wife to John Fyvyan and Johanna his wife, for 21 years, a messuage in the free borough of Yevele in the High Street between the lane called Narwelane on the east and the messuage lately belonging to John Barbor on the west together with a stable and cottage adjoining at an annual rent of 31s."

Until around 1790 there was an inn on the northeast corner of today's Tabernacle Lane called the Eagle Inn and the narrow lane was, for generations, known as Eagle Alley.

A serious fire occurred in 1802 in which many houses were destroyed. The following is an extract of a letter from Henry Penny to Mr R Donn of Exeter dated 1 October 1802 ".... it brake out last Thursday morning about 5 o'clock in a narrow lane called Little Lane just behind Mr Edwards' house - it has destroyed 13 dwellings besides outhouses. Our family and Mrs Donn were greatly frightened, as might be expected, but however I have the happiness to acquaint you that they are all as well as can be expected and that the damage sustained by me is very little. I had no other prospect when I first discovered it but having my house burnt down about my ears and nothing but the very greatest exertions of those employed saved me. Mrs Donn has lost 4 tenements in Back Street (today's South Street) amongst which is Jno Hodges' - her own house is not the least damaged...."

In the mid-nineteenth century it was also called Hannam’s Lane because Josiah Hannam, a senior member of the Society of Friends, had an ironmongery warehouse and a yard there. Hannam also owned a hardware shop on the corner of Tabernacle Lane and the Borough in premises which had formerly been an inn which at first had been called the Lyon Inn then the Eagle Tavern and finally the Falcon Inn. However Tabernacle Lane has been most often used since the founding of the Tabernacle Meeting House in 1804.

In the 1841 census three families were listed as living in Tabernacle Lane; blacksmith Henry Bragg, his wife Susan and their nine children, 25-year old dressmaker Charlotte Pitman and her four-year old daughter Mary, and finally glover William Leach, his wife Harriett and a 13-year old lad called John Fooks. Henry Bragg's house and smithy are shown on the second of the maps below. He lived and worked here for some twenty years and his widow, Susan, lived on here until the 1870's.

In the 1851 census it was called Hannam’s Lane and by this time John Perry had taken over the blacksmith’s shop. He was living there with his wife Jemima and their five children, including son Philip who, at the age of 14 was listed as a blacksmith journeyman – inferring he had served a seven year apprenticeship! Also living in Hannam’s Lane were van driver John Winsley and his family, umbrella maker Silas Hebditch and his family and whitesmith Henry Bragg and his family – a total of 27 people.

The 1861 census called the lane 'Little Lane' and listed eight families in residence there - those of hat maker Thomas Lawrence, carpenter Thomas Hodges, blacksmith George Hull, widowed leather glove maker Susannah Bragg, tailor George Margetts, carpenter Herbert Hodges, boot & shoe maker John Griffin and servant at the gas works Arthilus Collier - a total of 32 people.

By the 1871 census the name had reverted to Tabernacle Lane and included the four families of annuitant Susan Bragg, blacksmith John Higdon, wheelwright Herbert Hodges and farm bailiff's wife Mary Dawe totaling seventeen people.

The number of families had reduced to two by the 1881 census and Susan Bragg who had lived in the lane since at least 1841 had died. Herbert Hodges was still making wheels and James Brown had taken over the blacksmith's forge. A total of eleven people lived in the lane at this time.

The 1891 census shows that the number of families living in Tabernacle Lane had increased and included colt breaker and groom William Green and his family living in Henry Bragg's old house, agricultural labourer John Priddle and his family were living next door at No 2. In No 3 was sausage maker John Hodges and his family and then came blacksmith George Brown, brother of James, and his family living at No 4. (James Brown had gone into business with Albert Winsor, father of Percy Winsor, based at 62 & 63 South Street). Finally, in No 5 was Sergeant Instructor of volunteers William Campbell from Ireland and his Welsh wife Ellen.

In the 1901 census there were still two families living in Tabernacle Lane, a total of sixteen people; factory hand George Courtney, his wife and six daughters and general labourer George Rendell, his wife and six children.



The 1886 Ordnance Survey showing High Street running across the top of the map and South Street at the bottom. Tabernacle Lane is at centre right running between the two.


This map is based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey above, but rotated 90° with the Borough at extreme left and South Street at extreme right. The dwellings in Tabernacle Lane included those behind the Greyhound Hotel since the dwellings in Greyhound Court were just off the bottom of the map.




This aerial photograph dates to 1928 and shows South Street at left, High Street at top right and the newly-built King George Street running between the two at the top of the photo. Note that at this time the post office building along the eastern side of King George Street was yet to be built. At centre left, more or less on the corner of King George Street and South Street, is the thatched Cow Inn and behind it, and running parallel to King George Street are the dwellings in Greyhound Yard. The three-storey building next to the Greyhound Hotel was Henry Phelps' glove factory and to the right of it in the photo are visible the rooftops of the dwellings in Tabernacle Lane. At centre is seen the dark pitched roof of the Tabernacle itself.


Tabernacle Lane photographed from the Borough in the 1960s. Note that the arches to both the lane and the windows of Hill & Sawtell's shop at the right were still rounded at the top.


Courtesy of Chris Rendell

The entrance to Tabernacle Lane seen from the Borough. Photographed in 1985.


This photograph features in my book "A-Z of Yeovil"

Venturing just a few steps inside from the Borough - the brick arches are original. Photographed in 2016.


.... and looking back towards the Borough. Photographed in 2016.


This colourised photograph features in my book "Lost Yeovil"

This photograph was taken around 1960, before the demolition of the buildings on the right. The gabled building at the end on the right by the two people is the tabernacle that gave this alley its name.


Almost the same view in 2013.


Approaching the dog-leg from High Street, this corner is about all that remains of the tabernacle. Photographed in 2013.


The wall by the dog-leg, these are the Ham stone door jambs of the original tabernacle. Photographed in 2013.


One of those little items that makes Yeovil so special - these scratches in the soft red Yeovil bricks are at the end of Tabernacle Lane near South Street. They were made by Victorian children sharpening their slate pencils on their way to school in South Street. Photographed in 2013.