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North Gate, guarding the Bridge, where Chepstrete began. "A tenement near the North Gate, to the South of White Hall." 1304. 2. The West Gate, at the extremity of West Street, beyond the Friary. "A messuage, situate outside the West Gate of the town of Yevelchestre." 1387. The South and East Gates, it has been observed, commanded respectively, the roads to Yeovil and Limington; traversing them at the points where the line of enclosure breaks off-as shewn in the Plan, Camden, in his "Britannia," (first published in 1586) says of Ilchester-" It appears by the ruins to have been anciently large, and surrounded with a double wall. At the Norman Conquest it was populous, and had 107 Burgesses. It was then a place of strength, and well fortified. For A.D. 1088, when the English lords had formed a wicked design to cut off William Rufus, to make his brother Robert, Duke of Normandy, King-Robert Moubray, a great warrior, after burning Bath vigorously assaulted this place, but without success. But what he could not do, time has in some measure effected, "
III. THE Bridge. The Bridge is only once mentioned in the Deeds: "A tenement in Northover, over against the Bridge of Ievelcester, bounded by the River on the South, &c., 1369. There are no data to shew, what description of bridge this was whether it was constructed of stone or of timber ; adapted for foot passengers only, or built sufficiently wide for purposes of general traffic. The River when not swollen by floods, was easily forded; and Stukeley draws attention to “a pavement across the River," on the Western side of the Bridge. This pavement is not visible now, if it is still in existence. It was no doubt a relic of the Roman passage-the connecting link of the Fosse way-across the bed of the Ivel; and continued to be used, so long as the necessity lasted for fording the stream. There is still to be seen on the Western flank of the Bridge, a narrow roadway from the town, leading down to
the water at the old Ford. The Ford, and this roadway to it, were in use until the Bridge which now spans the Ivel took the place, in 1809, of one narrow and inconvenient, and perhaps of no great antiquity. Leland, about 1540, thus describes the bridge, as he found it. "I enterid by South West, (i.e. towards the South West) into Ilchester, over a great stone bridge of seven arches, now one of two, yn the midle wherof were two little houses of stone, one of the right hand, wher the commune gaiol is for prisoners' yn Somersetshir. The other house is on the left hand. The lesser of booth seemed to me to have beene a chapelle. The toune of Ilchester hath beene a very large thyng, and one of the auncientest tounes yn al that quarter. At this tyme it is in wonderful decay, as a thing in a manner rasid with men of warre." Camden (1586) remarks upon this statement-"Leland's free Chapel by the Bridge, on the opposite side of the River, is still known by the name of Whitehall, now a weaving shop, anciently a hospital, and then a nunnery, and at last a Free Chapel. Near it was a house of lepers. If this be not Leland's house on the right hand of the Bridge, that is quite gone; but his Chapel on the left hand is still a dwelling house." There is some confusion in these descriptions, which it is not easy to reconcile. If Leland's account is to be taken literally; it would mean, that of the two little stone houses in the midle of the Bridge, the one on his right hand as he crossed into the town, was the Gaol, and the other on his left was the Chapel, But Camden's comment on this description rather perplexes than elucidates the meaning; for he seems to identify the right hand house on the Bridge, with Whitehall which, though close to the river, had no connexion with the Bridge. In Stukeley's map, the disused Chapel is placed near the water, below the Bridge, not upon it. These particulars are further alluded to elsewhere, IV. WHITEhall. In one of the Earliest Manucripts (Hen III.) occurs the name of "Johannes Albe de Ivelcestra."
This John White appears to have been the owner of various messuages and tenements in the town. To another deed of about the same time, he was an attesting witness. On these two occasions only, does the name of Albe, or White, appear. He may possibly have been the last surviving male of his race; and in default of male issue, or (agreeably to the prevalent notion of the age) for his soul's welfare, may have bequeathed his house of residence and other property in Ivelcester, to the Church, for religious uses. For in another record, dated 1304, the first mention occurs in these deeds of a Religious House, or Nunnery, called Albe Aule, White Hall. And in subsequent agreements the Prioress of this Conventual House is frequently alluded to-1346 to 1429. Once she is designated Prioress of Nywehalle, New Hall; perhaps from the circumstance of her Convent having been recently enlarged or rebuilt. The Convent or Nunnery of Whitehall, occupied a narrow belt of ground extending from the River, parallel with the Road, as far as the present Farm House, formerly the well known Castle Inn. It's precincts must have been confined, and hemmed in on the North and West sides by the Town Wall. The front of the building was towards Chepstrete, facing the Church of St Mary the Less, on the opposite side of the street. When Dr. Stukeley wrote, in the first quarter of the last century, there no doubt remained some portion of the old Convent building; for little more than a century earlier, in 1604, a tenement is described as "belonging to Whitehall." In his Plan of Ivelchester, is depicted a house of some kind, standing on the angle of ground projecting towards the River (now used as a Rick Barton) which he miscalls Whitechapel. The genuine name Whitehall, however, has been faithfully handed down by tradition to this day; and is still familiar to the memory of many aged persons in the Parish,*
* An interesting History of this, and other Somersetshire Nunneries, is in preparation by the Revd. Thos. Hugo.
V. THE FRIARY.
In West Strete, facing the Almshouse, was the East Gate of entrance to the House of the Franciscan or Gray Friars, otherwise called the Preaching Friars; and over against the end of the Lane which bounds the Almshouse on the South, stood the Friary itself. There is an accurate description of this locality given in the Deed of Foundation, and in some others, which mark out with precision the Almshouse premises. Stukeley was correct in his remark, that" the religious (meaning the Friars) had extended their bounds beyond the city"; for no doubt, the precincts of the Friary comprised that angle of ground beyond the Wall, shut in between Pill Bridge Lane and the high Road. Two quotations will suffice to determine the precise position of the Friary. In 1424, one John Abbot grants to Alexander de la Lynde and others, “ a piece of ground in Yevelchester, situate at the end of Venella, otherwise Abbey Lane, just opposite the House of the Preaching Friars of the same place." Again, the position of the Almshouse is thus exactly described, "exopposito Porta Orientali Fratrum Prædicatorum," over against the East Gate of the Friars Preachers. 1477. The East Gate, and the House to which it was the Portal, were consequently near to each other, and both within the Walls of the Town: though Dr Stukeley's Plan also exhibits some extra mural buildings in connexion with this Monastic Foundation. There are now no vestiges of The Friary existing above ground. But prior to the Reformation, it was no doubt a fine and striking pile of building. Camden leads us to infer as much when, alluding to this Monastery, he says-" the remains of the Priory Church, whose North Transept is used for spinning silk, shew it to have been magnificent. It belonged to a House of Friers Preachers, or Grey Friers, founded before the Eleventh of Edward the First." Leland's allusion to the Friary is very brief-"Ther was also a late a House of Freres yn this toune." At the Dissolution, the Friary shared the common fate of other
Religious Houses: the building was dismantled, and partially ruined, and the ground on which it stood was sold. "On the fourth day of July 1545, the King granted to William Hodgys of Myddelchynnock in the Co. of Somerset, and to William Hodgys of London, son of the former, and their heirs, for the sum of £695. 0. 5d. the site of the Monastery of the Grey Friars of Ivellchester, 29 Messuages in the Town of Bridgwater lately belonging to the Hospital of St John in that Town, &c. The property in Ivellchester was reckoned of the clear annual value of 13 and 4d." Hugo. Buckland Pri.
VI. THE CHURCHES OF IVELCESTER. There is a prevailing notion, that the town of Ivelcester was anciently crowded with a fabulous number of Churches. And even Collinson, adopting the previous "they say" of Stukeley, refers to the number sixteen as a not improbable quota. But no evidence whatever is produced in support of this exaggerated computation. If numerous Churches had been in reality erected and endowed there, and even afterwards demolished, some kind of record of the fact beyond mere tradition, must have survived their demolition. The names at least, would turn up in Ecclesiastical Terriers. Leland, in 1540, states-" there hath bene in hominum memoria four Paroche Chirchis yn the toune, whereof one yet is occupied. Tokens of the other two yet stond; and the fourth is clene yn ruine." He further says, "There is a fre chapelle in the toune, the baksyde whereof cummith to the ryver syde, even hard bynethe the bridge, and ther joynith a right praty mansion house to this chapelle, I have hard that many yeres syns ther was a Nunry wher this chappelle is." Hence perhaps, Dr Stukeley derived the name of Whitechapel, which he gave to the building standing there in his time. Camden writes, some
*This was no doubt, the Chapel of the old Nunnery of Whitehall, converted into a Free Chapel after the Dissolution of that Foundation. I think too, that Camden must have reckoned this as one of his Six Churches.