The boundaries of Bridgwater Without Civil Parish form a gentle ‘S’-shape, roughly following the line of the M5 motorway as they sweep from the north of Bridgwater, round the east of it, to finish on the banks of the Parrett at Dunwear in the south. It includes the homes at Horsey (please see the "Districts in the Parish" section below for more information), Kings Down, Slape Cross and Dunwear. The area sits in the splendour of the Somerset Levels with their network of ancient towns, villages and farms connected by winding lanes and their patchworks of fields criss-crossed by rivers, streams and drainage channels, all cradled by the spectacular scenery of the Polden and Quantock Hills. Yet it is just ten minutes’ away from the lively centre of Bridgwater with its farmers’ market, cafes, supermarkets, shopping centre, shops, cinemas, clubs, societies and district council offices and the railway station and even nearer the acclaimed Bridgwater College.
Looking south across the Parish from Horsey Levels towards the Brendon Hills
The parish is the ideal place to live for people at all stages of life. It has a rural setting with many houses in quiet country settings and small, friendly groups while others form pleasant, larger communities and there’s and the vibrant, new Kings Down housing development, all benefitting from the local amenities. At the heart is Mole Valley Farmers super store catering for everyone’s needs, not just for the farms and agricultural businesses in the parish and surrounding area – there is a thriving horticultural enterprise and a bird and pet-food supplier as well as much open farmland in the parish -, and the Spar Express and Budgens petrol stations, news agents and convenience stores plus a SubWay. For leisure there is the iconic landmark, the Willow Man, the Bower Inn, Morganians rugby ground, three new football pitches, a new sports pavilion/community hall and a new primary school and nursery and play areas. At Little Sydenham and at Dunwear there are fishing lakes. Horsey has its Scheduled Ancient Monument including the remains of the deserted mediaeval village and several other historic sites that speak of the parish’s history and tradition.
View of Quantock Hills beyond Morrisons warehouse and Express Park
It is also a great place to work. It can be said to be at the heart of Bridgwater’s plans for the future. In the parish is Bridgwater’s biggest employer, Morrison’s Willow Green Distribution Centre* – at a mile long the brand new facility is the biggest in the West -, Bridgwater’s brand new hospital opened here in April 2014. Mulberry, the world famous Somerset manufacturer of leather goods has a factory here. The Express Business Park boasts the Exchange conference facilities (and creche), the Premier Inn Hotel and Kings Sedgemoor Pub. Also there are major businesses such as Tool Station, NHS Supply Chain*, Gerber and Somerset Coast Primary Care Trust. The new Regional Police Centre opened in September 2014, a new innovation centre to support the building of Hinkley C power station is going up fast and other developments are planned. Then there’s Polden Business Park with St John Ambulance’s new centre on Bristol Road and builders Harris and Harris. There are more thriving businesses on sites in Dunwear. The parish is already home to an important sub-station on the electricity distribution grid so it is ready play key roles in the developments to support EDF’s power station project at Hinkley and National Grid’s development of the power distribution system.
* Run by DHL
Four of the areas main road arteries pass through it - A39, Bristol Road, M5, A38 Bath Road and A327 Westonzoyland Road – and this gives it excellent public transport (with bus routes from three companies including routes 1, 19, X75, 375) and road links – a position that affords the parish’s three haulage businesses a head start. A new bridge over the railway – opened in the spring of 2013 - provides a new northern link road for the town.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1887 marks Brick and Tile Works with two pinnacle kilns adjacent to River Lane. This works probably began c1883 when the Dunwear Brick and Tile Company is first mentioned in a trade directory. A variety of goods was manufactured including 'Boards brand' building bricks and tiles and the firm traded as John Board and Co. Ltd from c. 1902. John Board is also connected with brick works in Wylds Road and at Dunball during the 19th century. He had a long business association with the Greenhill family of Knowle Hall. Extensive clay workings were dug to the north of the works which expanded during the 20th century and linked with each other in 1930 by a tramway. The works closed in 1958 and subsequently became a poultry farm. The old brickworks site off Plum Lane is now used for warehousing, storage and offices.
Adapted From Somerset Historic Environment Record 10220
Formerly brick works on the southern edges of Bridgwater, Dunwear Ponds today is a complex of four ponds; Senior, North, South, Railway, interspersed with footpaths. There are several County Wild Life sites near them.
Old Dunwear House (now called “The Beeches”), Westonzoyland Road
An imposing detached Georgian residence, listed Grade II for its architectural importance stands in gardens and grounds of about 2 acres. It has spacious accommodation with high ceilings and original fireplaces remain in most rooms. There are outbuildings in the grounds, extensive parking and a rectangular paddock.
From estate agent’s description
House. Mid C19. Flemish bond Bridgwater brick, emphasised pilasters and eaves band, broad eaves, hipped slate roof, brick stacks. Two storeys, 3 bays, symmetrical frontages 9-light sash windows to first floor, 12-light sash windows to ground floor, each window with a cast-iron balconette. Central semi-circular head door opening, rubbed brick voussoirs, 4-panelled door, fanlight with glazing bars. Interior with many co-eval features; ornamental plaster cornices to principal ground floor rooms; fireplaces; a geometric staircase, tread brackets, moulded balusters, moulded handrail; stair well with lantern.
From English Heritage Register of Listed Buildings
Geoffrey the cook seems to have been lord of Dunwear in the 1190s. The manor was held of John de Columbers as 1 knight's fee in 1284-5 and as ½ knight's fee in 1303, and in 1569 and 1627 was held of the Columbers heir as of Nether Stowey manor. In 1236 William de Raleigh held Dunwear in demesne, Thomas de Raleigh in 1284-5 and 1303, Lucy de Raleigh in 1316, and Thomas de Raleigh before 1342. Thomas's unnamed heirs were lords in 1346. Possibly from then and certainly from 1402 Dunwear manor descended with Beggearn Huish in Nettlecombe, and the Chichesters retained it when they sold Beggearn Huish in 1604. Sir Robert Chichester, K.B., died in 1627 owning both North Bower and Dunwear and leaving a son John, a minor. John (cr. Bt. 1641) seems to have mortgaged or sold both manors in 1660, and no further trace of either manor has been found.
Extract from Victoria County History of Somerset (foot note references removed)
The northern end of the parish is mostly in the historic area known as Horsey Level – there is evidence of human occupation in the area going back to the Iron Age. The Level was divided by the construction of the M5 in the 1970s. Until then Horsey Lane ran from the Bath Road, past Manor Farm, through the site of Horsey medieval village and on to the quayside at Horsey Pill on the present banks of the Parrett via two railway level crossings. The lane still exists but is split in two. Horsey is now a settlement of some 40 houses and businesses extending along and around the lane. The ancient settlement of Horsey and the manor house lay on the opposite side of the M5 to the new Kingsdown development which is also on Horsey Level.
The name Horsey is derived from the Anglo Saxon for horse island and gave its name to the Norman de Horsia family who were lords of the manor throughout the middle ages. They rose to particular prominence with Sir John Horsey, a knight in King Henry VIII’s court. During Tudor times the manor house – now Horsey Manor Farm - was extensively refurbished from the earlier medieval house on the site. This building survived the severe floods of 1607 and the Civil War/Battle of Sedgemoor (1685) and remains. The Horsey family’s coat of arms shows the heads of three horses and is on a weather vane on the house. Information on Horsey is recorded in the definitive Victorian County History for Somerset. (See "The Manor of Horsey" below.)
The site of the deserted medieval village is designated by English Heritage as a scheduled ancient monument. The site is providing ancient pottery samples that are being used to create a type series for Bridgwater. The series will allow pottery created in the area to be accurately categorised for comparison with other manufacturing locations.
The River Parrett used to flow along the border of the medieval village making it a key trading point in the area before Bridgwater existed. A short distance north from here are sites of a Saxon settlement and an important Roman port.
The finger post to Horsey may be seen on the Bath Road on the north side of the motorway Bridge.
Alweard Glebard held Horsey in 1066 and Walter of Douai in 1086. The overlordship descended with Bridgwater and on William Brewer's death in 1233 passed through his sister Margery to her daughter Gundrada, wife of Pain of Chaworth (d. 1237), and to Pain's son Patrick (d. 1283), whose two sons died childless. Patrick's daughter Maud (d. by 1322) married Henry, earl of Lancaster from 1322, who was succeeded in 1345 by his son Henry (cr. duke of Lancaster 1351, d. 1361). Horsey, granted in 1463 to George Plantagenet, duke of Clarence (d. 1478), was considered to be parcel of the duchy of Lancaster until 1641 or later.
Rademer or Raimar was undertenant of Horsey in 1086. In 1166 William of Horsey held 1 knight's fee there of the honor of Bampton (Devon), and Philip of Horsey held ½ knight's fee of William Brewer before 1208. William of Horsey had succeeded by 1236 and his son and heir William was evidently dead by 1275. John of Horsey had succeeded by 1284 and died c. 1294, leaving his son William a minor. William held the estate in 1303 and was followed c. 1327 by his two sons John (d. c. 1337) and Ralph (d. 1354) in turn. Ralph's son John was a minor in 1354.
John, of age in 1359, held Horsey and other estates until his death in 1375, when he left Horsey settled on his widow Eleanor. His son Sir John settled the manor before 1412 on his wife Eleanor, but by a further settlement of 1420 the manor passed on his death in 1422 to Joan, widow of his son William and wife of John Trethek. Sir John's son and heir Henry held Horsey in 1428, and settled it on himself and his wife in 1432. He died childless in 1460 and his estate passed to his brother Thomas (d. 1468), and then in direct male line to John (d. 1531), Sir John (d. 1546), Sir John (d. 1564), and Sir John (d. s.p. 1589). Under a settlement made by the last, the manor or lordship of Horsey and Pignes passed to his cousin Sir Ralph Horsey (d. 1612). Though Sir Ralph left a son George, Horsey manor passed to Sir Thomas Freke, presumably by sale, since George had assured it to Sir Thomas during his mother's life. Sir Thomas's son John succeeded in 1633 and held the manor at his death in 1641, but his sons John (d. 1657) and Thomas are not known to have held the manor. In 1673 Sir John Morton, Bt., owned the estate. He died in 1699, leaving as his heir his daughter Anne, wife of Edmund Pleydell (d. 1726). Their son John Morton Pleydell was in possession in 1703 and died in 1705. His brother and heir Edmund Morton Pleydell (d. 1754) was followed in the direct male line by two namesakes (d. 1794 and 1835). The eldest daughter of the last, Margaretta (d. s.p. 1871), wife of the Revd. James Michel, settled Horsey and Pignes on her nephew John Clavell Mansell (later Mansel-Pleydell), on whose behalf they were sold in 1868 to Joseph Boon. Thomas Major House bought the land in 1872 and in 1877 sold it to the trustees of the late Mary Tyler Greenhill. Her grandson Pelham Spencer Greenhill succeeded in 1877. Pelham Benjamin Greenhill, son of the last, died in 1916 in the same year as his father, and the heir was Benjamin Greenhill, an infant. In 1984 Mr. Greenhill gave Horsey Manor Farm to his daughter Carol, Mrs. A. C. Hudson, owner in 1988.
Extract from Victoria County History of Somerset (foot note references removed)
Adapted from government infrastructure planning portal:
A deserted Medieval village (DMV) is recorded at Manor Farm Horsey. It is designated a Scheduled Monument and is therefore protected. DMVs are villages that were totally deserted during the medieval/Post-medieval periods, possibly due to economics, the Black Death or climate change (Adkins 1998). [In this case, the course of river Parrett used to be adjacent to the “Chapel Field” itself a short distance from the Roman port at Crandon Bridge and it is likely that when it moved to another course the prosperity of the village declined. Ed.]
Horsey DMV is located on ground raised at the western edge of the Somerset Levels and consists of earthworks that represent the foundations of the buildings that once stood there. The earthworks site is to the north of Horsey Lane adjacent to Horsey Manor Farm and the rest of the scheduled ancient monument consist of the (now) two fields lying between Horsey Lane and Little Sydenham Lane/Boards Farm to the south, east of the M5 motorway. Associated with Horsey DMV, and situated within the scheduled area, is the site of a possible 13th century chapel where shallow foundations and medieval tiles were found in 1903.
From Somerset Historic Environment Record
The foundations of buildings which once made up the village of Horsey are contained in a rectangular field raised slightly above the surrounding land and bounded by drainage ditches, to the W of the present manor house. The village is represented by a series of scarps, banks and ditches. A rectangular depression is the chapel site (see below). To the N of this is a small platform, possibly the site of a building. In the SE of the field a large deep depression was probably a pond.
The village must have extended further south as there is clear evidence of house platforms and crofts on Ariel Photographs to the north of Board's Farm.
At ST 319 391, cobbled lias stones on edge, and a wall foundation trench of an C18 cottage, overlaid a hard clay surface with charcoal and unglazed C14 pottery. No associated structures revealed. Area scheduled on 28/8/2001.
A chapel site was excavated in 1903 by the Rev W Warren. At a depth of 3ft he found shallow foundations, of probably C13 date, measuring 45ft by 15.5ft internally with walls between 3-5ft thick. Green glazed tiles were also found.
The remains of the chapel are about "one hundred yards west of the existing Horsey manor house, near to the Bath Road." The field is known as Chapel Cleve and is full of foundations that once constituted the village of Horsey. Excavated by Rev WMK Warren who located and planned the foundations about 3 feet below the surface. Green glazed tiles "evidently not of local make" were recovered and "Everything points to the building having been of thirteenth century date".