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Veel in 1426-a building we may imagine to have been constructed in the substantial and picturesque style of the Architecture of that period. Nearer to the Market Place was another handsome Mansion, in which the Lion-hearted king, as tradition reports, once held his Court, during a Royal Progress through the Western Counties, In reality, perhaps, this house belonged to the old family of the Cordelyons', who died out in the last century.* A curious fragment of this building, forming part of the stables of the Dolphin Inn, was destroyed by fire about twenty years ago.
Facing the Market Place the Ancient Guildhall would form a conspicuous and attractive object. This old building gave way to the Sessions House of later times; which in its turn, has long been superseded by the modern plain and unpretending Town Hall. The Public Shambles, which, in 1428, were placed in the vicinity of the Cross, made up the grouping of the Market Place, The positions of two of the Churches of Ivelcester are as yet unaccounted for. In the absence of proof to the contrary, there is room for reasonable conjecture, that these sacred edifices, dedicated one to St. Michael the Archangel, the other to St John the Evangelist, + adorned and added interest to this Street-the principal thoroughfare of the then County Town. On the whole then, it may be fairly presumed, that West Street, the ancient High Street of Ivelcester, in the days of the Edwards and Henries, would offer to the eye of the spectator a highly picturesque and attractive view as he entered the old Town by it's North or it's West Gate.
3. LA VENELE, VENELLA, or Abbey Lane, Hen. III—1424. * The following entries appear in the Parish Register. Burialls Anno 1700. Mary Cordelio' was buryed Aprill ye 13th. John Cordelio' was buryed Apr. ye 14th. To these entries is appended this remark by another hand; Descendants of Richard Cœur de Lion.
+ The Advowson of St. John's Church was in the patronage of the Abbots of Muchelney. Hugo's Much, Abb.
This road, running nearly East and West, joined Chepstrete to West Strete. Directly opposite to the end of the Lane, in West Street, stood the House of the Preaching Friars. Hence doubtless, the later appellation of Abbey Lane given to this cross street communicating with the Friary. 1424. One Hugh de la Venele was an attesting witness to a Deed in the time of Henry III: and two hundred years later, this street continued to be known by the name of Venella. * Here, in the reign of Henry VII. was a Corn Mill, built on a part of the Garden or Orchard belonging to the Almshouse, on the East Side of the House. Originally, the course of this Lane was in a slanting direction, to the South of East, under the Garden wall of the Manor House; and then across the yard of the present Rectory House, to its junction with the Yeovil Road (chepstrete), opposite one of the inlets to Borough Green. When the dwellings near the Green were removed some fifty years since, and the waste ground was taken into the fields on each side of the Limington Road, it became necessary to change the course of Almshouse Lane by a curve to the left, in order to make a convenient approach to the narrowed entrance of the Road to Limington.
4 LA LANE, Back Lane. In an undated Deed; temp. Hen, III., this by-way is called La Lane; and is afterwards mentioned, 1349, as "the road leading towards the New Mill." The entrance to Back Lane is facing the North East corner of the Market Place. At its further end, the Lane branches off right and left: the turn to the left leads to the River, and to the field path towards Limington and Yeovilton. This same turning led formerly to the New Mill; which was just outside the Town Wall, in the Kingsham field. The New Mill was in existence when Dr. Stukeley published his Itinerary in 1723, but was destroyed in the early part of the present century. In Stukeley's Plan of Ischalis, the New Mill Stream is shewn
* Venella. viculus, angiportus, via strictior. A narrow alley. Du Cange.
running parallel with the Old Yeo River as far as the main stream of the Yeo; into which it discharged itself between the Weir and the Mill at Hainbury. The bed of this ancient Mill Stream may be traced through the Kingsham Fields, by a deep channel reaching to the River at the point above indicated; although here and there the hollow has been partially filled up. At the place where the field path strikes off on the left towards Limington, Back Lane itself takes a turn to the right, and joins at it's extremity the Limington Road. This part of the Lane is now known as Free Street-a row of neat Cottages built many years since on the Rectory glebe, for Borough purposes, and acquiring it's name during the feverish crisis of some hotly contested Election-Anciently, this lane was lined throughout with tenements, sheltering a numerous population.
5. The PUBLIC ROAD on the South side of the Church of St. Mary Major. Between the South Gate of the Town and the Church of St. Mary Major, a turning to the East out of Chepstrete, led to a maze of lanes and habitations. The entrance to what is now called the Limington Road was a wide gorge, but at the distance of a few paces, contracted into two narrow streets, by the interposition of a block of buildings, with their gardens, filling up the centre of the space. Into the channel on the left, opened out a thoroughfare (now Free Street) which passed behind St Mary's Church; and on both sides of the central block were scattered dwellings as far as the East Gate; which was the limit of the Town at that point. The East Gate crossed the Road about 200 feet to the West of the Brook which separates the Parishes of Limington and Ilchester; and outside the point of section was then the actual commencement of the Road to Limington. The name by which this part of the Parish was known, before Dr. Stukeley's visit at the beginning of the last century, and also subsequently, was Borough Green. The whole of this
quarter of the town has been swept away: and Kingshams House is now the solitary occupant of a locality once closely built over, and teeming with population.
II. THE WALL AND GATES.
Traces of the greater portion of the course of the Wall are still discernible. Stukeley's Plan represents the place as enclosed within an oblong fence or Wall, of regular proportions; and the Author states, that he "traced out the manifest vestigia thereof quite round." Whatever may have been the exact shape or figure of the enceinte, there can be no question that when the Civil Wars broke out, Ilchester was a walled and regulated fortified town. Like Bridgwater, Langport, and other strong holds in the West, it was at first garrisoned by Royalist troops. But one after another in quick succession, the Western fortresses fell into the hands of the Parliamentary Generals; and in their turn the Walls and Fortifications of Ilchester, after a stubborn defence, were stormed and captured by the gallant Blake.
The line of the Wall may yet be tracked across the pasture lands at the South and East of the Town. A remnant of the Wall itself is said to have been standing fifty years ago, in the garden of a house, now the King William Inn, within the recollection of the present owner. Just where the Inn joins on to the next house beyond, West Street (thus far quite straight) makes a bend to the right, towards the Mead. At the point where this bend occurs, the street was formerly spanned by the West Gate. From thence, the line of the Wall followed a South easterly direction, through the Manor-Farm Barton, and Waggon House, across the Paddock and the lower end of the Rectory Garden; emerging at length into the Yeovil Road, near the site of the present Turnpike House. Here, the South Gate guarded the entrance to the Town; and the Wall continued its South-easterly route though the Orchard, along the left bank of the brook, up to the spot where the latter abruptly
deviates from its straight course. Then, leaving the stream, the track runs obliquely across the Orchard, North East, to the Limington Road, where the East Gate commanded the approach to the Town, From this Gate the Wall resumed its North easterly course for a short distance in the Kingsham field; then turned to the North West, and pursued that route through the same field, until it touched the River. Thus far, the line of the enclosure may even now, be more or less distinctly traced, by the peculiar configuration of the ground. Along the whole extent of track just described, the land slopes gently down towards the old moat of the fortifications; the site of the town being slightly raised above the level of the surrounding fields: but this formation of the ground is less perceptible on the Western side. On touching the River, the Wall was carried along the left bank,* to the Bridge and the North Gate. Beyond the Gate, it continued to skirt the River bank as far as the Barton now extends, and then made an angle, to the South West. Near the Bridge, and on the West of the town, all undoubted traces of the boundary have disappeared. It is almost certain, that its site is, for the most part, now included within the gardens that stretch out to a considerable length behind the houses on that side of West Street: and thus, every sign of prior occupation of the soil has been gradually, but effectually obliterated by the constant action of the Spade. A remnant of an earth work which must have run nearly parallel with the Town Wall, but outside, may still be seen in Great Yard, near the Farm buildings; having a sharply defined outline, with a steep descent into the trench. This may be a relic of the "bastions and modern fortifications of the time of King Charles I," observed by Dr. Stukeley "in the northern angle, beyond the old ditch of the city, towards the River."
In the Manuscripts, mention is made of two Gates. 1. The * Here, between the River and the Bridge, Dr. Stukeley found the "track of the Roman wall."