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Extracts from our Archives – Sheila Johnson

February 12th 2.30pm 2020

Following the AGM, Sheila Johnson presented extracts from our archives in three sets:

photos belonging to Eric Crompton, Olga Shotton’s father

the Lambrick and Newnham families

local sketches by Rev John Skinner, 1822-24

A set of photos with an accompanying list was discovered wrapped in brown waxed paper by new occupants of Pooracre (formerly Hill View).  Some were previously unknown, including one of the Wrington Vale Billiard league 1936-37. 

Several featured the Wrington Vale Volunteers, founded for action in WW1 by Platoon Commander Sydney Hill of Langford House. Fred Watts was pictured in his uniform, which each soldier had to provide for himself.


Mark Stevens, carpenter and his wife Sarah were living in Hill View by 1881; their daughter Olive was born in Blagdon.  Fred Watts, also a carpenter and wheelwright, married Olive and by 1901 they were occupying Hill View.  They initially rented the charity land behind the house then bought it in 1920.  When later owner Olga Shotton learned the history, she renamed the house Pooracre.

Fred Watts Wrington Vale Volunteers.
Lambrick with pet rook

The Lambrick and Newnham families were united by the marriage in 1890 of Rev G Menzies Lambrick and Mary Louisa Newnham.  The Newnhams lived in Blagdon Court.  Early pictures show the Victorian glass verandah, which was later demolished then rebuilt very close to the original design.  The Newnhams had bought Blagdon Court from the Seymour family in 1869.  Captain Nathaniel Newnham served with the private army of the East India Company.  We have five letters in our archive, written 1836-47 to his parents and other family members.  Blagdon Court Tithe 305 & 306 were purchased, enabling the Newnhams to create the present drive to the Court.  Previously they entered along the lane next to the Stores – the gateway in The Mead wall is surviving evidence.  In 1873 Capt Newnham funded the present ‘grand walk’ below their end garden wall to replace the awkward thoroughfare alongside the wall.

Rev G Menzies Lambrick was one-time vicar of Stepney in London.  He moved to Cheddar in 1894 to serve as curate in the new mission room in Charterhouse School, the main driving forces being the Rector of Blagdon and Capt NewnhamMenzies later became Rector of Blagdon whilst retaining his mission in Charterhouse and moved into The Old Rectory.  A double line of beech trees leading to the church was a sizeable rookery.  One bird made its home in the rectory as Menzies described, “The nest started with twigs out of the housemaids box, then impounded four work scissors, my two foot rule, three silver teaspoons, the receipt file, reels of cotton and silk, two tape measures, string and tape. All these were wonderfully worked in, the interlacing being most clever and laborious…”  Subsequently Menzies always carried a feather and a poem about Jinnie his pet rook in his pocket book.

John Skinner (1772-1839), Rector of Cameron was an enthusiastic archaeologist and antiquarian who travelled widely throughout Britain and the Continent.  He produced over 130 manuscript notebooks of his travels and discoveries, which are very illuminating.  Most of his notebooks are in the British Library but two are in Somerset Heritage CentreSheila had travelled to London to examine some of them. 

These extracts give a flavour of the work; ‘We opened the trenches in Lower Raynes Batch [Charterhouse], the upper field being then in oats. Quantities of Roman pottery, bones, pieces of glass, fragments of flue tiles, large flat headed nails, roofing stones etc were turned up |

On entering Park fields [Blagdon] we picked up grey red and black pottery also  fragments of pennant roofing stone … small Roman coins have been found.’ 


A brass coin of Constantine discovered in Cheddar was of the same period as the coin found by Dick Wood in our churchyard in Blagdon.  We hope to do some archeological work ourselves in the coming year…

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