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Montacute House, Somersetshire ;



This ancient and magnificent structure stands upon a gentle ascent, within four miles of the town of Yeovil ; and was built by Sir Edward Phelips, third son of Sir Thomas Phelips of Barrington, Sergeant-at-Arms to Queen Elizabeth. Montacute House is one of the finest specimens of the architecture of that period, combining a simplicity of design with richness of ornament. The form of the building is that of the letter E, intended by Sir Edward as a mark of respect to his royal mistress.

Plate I., Eastern front.-—The Mansion, of brown stone found on the estate, is three stories high, with gables and attics; and the whole is surmounted with balustrades and pinnacles; the windows and bays are divided with stone mullions; between each window of the upper story in recesses are figures in ancient costume. The chimneys represent columns of the Doric order. Below the Terrace, which commands a View of the open Country, is a spacious Court, enclosed by a wall with balustrades : the Area is tastefully laid out with gardens and walks. Over the . door in the centre compartment are the arms of the family; viz, argent, a chevron between three roses gules, seeded or, barbel vert, with lions rampant as supporters; and, over the entrance, the following Inscription, dictated by the true spirit of old English hospitality :

through this wide opening gate None come too early, none return too late.”

Plate II.-The Western front was originally grand and imposing, but by the addition of a screen, removed froin Clifton House, near Yeovil, and put up here about 60 years since by Edward Phelips, Esq., it now presents an unrivalled appearance of richness and elegance. The screen is a beautiful specimen of the style of Inigo Jones. It is placed in front of the centre compartment, and surmounted by a pierced parapet, turrets, grotesque figures of animals, &c. Over this door also are the arms of Phelips; and the motto,

“And yours my Friends."

The whole length of the edifice is about 200 feet, and the height 92 feet. At each end are bays which give light to a spacious apartment or gallery, 189 feet long by 21 feet wide, which was originally the library, fitted up in the most costly style, containing many rare works; but the whole of this valuable collection was destroyed by Cromwell's troops in the great rebellion. This part of the building was afterwards converted into a picture gallery. The windows of the present library and hall are of finely painted glass, representing the arms of different families quartered with those of Phelips.

The Mansion is divided into many handsome and spacious apartments, in the restoration of which the present possessor has spared no expense. The staircases are of stone; and the diningroom, an elegant apartment, is wainscoted with small panelling. The hall is embellished with a perfect series of family portraits, beginning with the Founder's, painted by the old masters; they are in fine preservation. In the other rooms are many valuable pictures, of which a list is given below. A very curious model of the old custom of Skimmiting riding, in basso-relievo, four feet six inches high, is placed over the entrance into the hall. Skimmiting, or, as it is called in the north of England, Stang riding, is still kept up in many parts of the kingdom, for the purpose of exposing to shame and ridicule the man who has been guilty of cruelty or infidelity towards his wife. In the model here mentioned, the wife, accompanied by a crowd of villagers, is represented in effigy, bestowing a few sound blows with her shoe upon her faithless partner; and the artist has, with a happy effect, introduced a Church in the back ground, to intimate that certain vows and promises, which had been there solemnly pledged, ought to have been kept in remembrance.


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The building was begun in 1580, and finished in 1601, at an expense of not less than £19,500. It has continued in the Founder's family ever since, in the following line of succession : Sir Edward Phelips, Master of the Rolls, Chancellor to Henry Prince of Wales, and Speaker of the House of Commons in the time of Queen Elizabeth and James I.; Sir Robert Phelips, his son, in the reign of James I. and Charles I. ; Colonel Edward Phelips, during the commonwealth, and Charles II.; Sir Edward Phelips, Knight, in James II., and William III.; his nephew, Edward Phelips, Esq., in Queen Anne, and George I. ; Edward Phelips, Esq. in George II. ; William Phelips, Esq., in George III. ; lastly, John Phelips, Esq., in the present reign of George IV.

The family of Phelips (once spelt Phellipps), came over with William the Conqueror, and in consideration of military services were rewarded by the King with grants of lands in Wales, where they were long settled. In the 14th century, they migrated into Somersetshire. A branch of the family located at Corf-Mullen, in Dorsetshire, having received a grant of that Manor from Henry VIII., and they represented Poole and Wareham in several Parliaments. The family suffered much from their devotion to the royal cause in the reign of Charles I.; and afterwards, when Colonel Edward Phelips (as appears in Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, and in other records) united with Colonel Wyndham in secreting Charles II., and in carrying him out of the kingdom.

The parish of Montacute, four miles south-west from Ivelchester or Ilchester, was originally a Borough Town; but was disfranchised on petition of the inhabitants on account of the expense. In the time of Leland it had but a poor market; now it has none. It was formerly a great mart for leather. There are four tithings in the parish, viz:-Bishopston, Hyde, the Borough, and Widcombe; besides a small hamlet called Thorn. Widcombe was entirely depopulated by the great plague. The Town in Bishopston tithing, consists of three streets, numbering 1060 inhabitants, and still retains many of its old customs and piivileges. :.

Montacute derives its name from a conical hill, (mons acutus,) called St. Michael's Mount, on which is a round Tower, 60 feet high, commanding a very grand and extensive view through the Vale of Somerset, to the British Channel. The base of the Mount contains 20 acres. At the foot of this hill is the site of a Priory of black Cluniac Monks, suppressed by Henry VIII., of which there only remains a fine old gateway. A few years ago some Roman vases were dug up in this neighbourhood; and are still preserved at Montacute House. A grant was made of this spot to Sir William Petre, and sold by him to Mr. Robert Freke, of whom it was soon afterwards purchased by the family of Phelips, who were before that time possessors of a part of the Manor.

The living is vicarial in the Deanery of Ilchester, and in the gift of John Phelips, Esq. The
Rev. R. C. Phelips is the present incumbent. On an old monument in the church is the following
inscription :-
Thomas Phelips, Esq. ........

Buried .. 1588.
Sir Edward Phelips, Knt. ..

.. 1614.
Sir Robert Phelips, Knt. ......

1638. Edward Phelips, Esq. .........

1679. Sir Edward Phelips, Knt.

1699. Edward Phelips, Esq.

.: 1734. Edward Phelips, Esq. .........

.. 1797. William Phelips, Clerk, .........


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a List of Pictures at Montacute.


A Boar Piece and a Dog-Snyders.
Cattle Pieces-Beech.
A. series of Family Portraits by the Old Masters.


Dutch Pieces--Teniers.
A large Family Picture-Beech.


Portraits of Connections of the Family-Sir Joshua
Reynolds and Beech.


A Portrait of the great Earl of Essex, given by him to his

friend, Sir Edward Phelips.-Also, a Portrait of James I.

given by that monarch to Sir Robert Phelips.
Our Saviour's Baptism-Salvator Rosa.
Cattle Pieces-Wourermans.

A fine Cattle Piece- Wourermans.
St. John's Head in a Charger-Dominico Feti.

*.* In addition to the above, are some excellent Paintings of the Dutch School, the Authors of which are not known.

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Weston, Somersetshire ;



The Manor of King-Weston was purchased by Caleb Dickinson, Esq., grandfather of the present owner, of Mr. Swadling, whose property it became through an heiress of the Bower family.

It is a place of great antiquity; the name being a corruption of Chinwardestune or Kinwardestone, signifying the Town or Habitation of Kinward, a Saxon noble. Kinward was a Thane of royal extraction. At the conquest, this manor was seized on by William the Norman, and given, with several others in this county, to Eustace, Earl of Boulogne. The Norman record gives the following particulars of this place :

“ Ida, Countess of Bolonia, holds of the King, Chinwardestone. Ulveva held it in the time of King Edward, and gelded for five hides. The arable is eight carucates. Thereof in demesne are two hides, and three virgetes : and there are two carucates, and six servants, and eight villanes, and eight cottagers with five ploughs. There are twenty-five acres of meadow, and twenty-two acres of pasturage. A wood three furlongs long and one acre broad. It was and is worth six pounds."

King-Weston continued in the same line of possession till A.D. 1114, when Mary, Countess of Boulogne, sister to Matilda, Queen of Henry I., conferred it on the Cluniac Abbey of Bermondsey.

On the dissolution of the monastery, Henry VIII., granted, by patent, the manor of King. Weston, amongst other things, to James Tutt, Nicholas Hame, and their heirs. The patentees afterwards made over the same to Sir Thomas Moyle, Knight, and his heirs. Sir Thomas left the manor to Thomas Kempe, his grandson, who sold the same to Matthew Smyth, of Long-Ashton, Esq., from whom it passed into the family of Bower.

The mansion of King-Weston is built of fine grey sione, found on the estate. The interior is divided into many commodious and elegant apartments, containing a choice collection of pictures, and some very fine Italian bronzes, copies of the best Greek statues; and also of the statues of the 15th century now at Rome and Florence. The View presented in the accompanying Plate, shews the two principal fronts, and was sketched from the gardens. The carriage front is ornamented with an elegant Portico of the Doric order, recently executed by W. Wilkins, Esq. ; the Portico and mouldings are of Bath stone.

The village of King-Weston is finely situated twelve miles south from Wells. Most of the houses are built of blue stone, and are in general very neat. This place is memorable for a signal defeat, which the Rebels of Devonshire and Cornwall experienced in the third year of the reign of Edward VI., when Sir Hugh Powlet, Knight, pursued them after their discomfiture by the king's forces at Exeter, and took their leader prisoner.

The Church is a small neat building, situated on the highest the part of the parish, surrounded with lofty elms and chesnut trees. It has an embattled tower, containing a clock and three bells. Against the north wall of the chancel is an elegant monument of black and white marble with this inscription :-“M, S. Caleb Dickinson hic sepulti, qui obiit 60. Aprilis 1783; et Saræ uxoris, apud Bristoliam sepultæ, quæ obiit ]mo. Julii 1766. Posuit Gulielmus filius, Anno 1783.Arms :-Or, a bend engrailed, between two Lions rampant, gules. The Living is a Rectory in the Deanery of Cary.

In the chancel is deposited a chair, formerly belonging to Glastonbury Abbey. It is of oak, the back divided into two compartments; embellished with Gothic carvings in relief; on one side a shield bearing a crosier with the initials R. W. for Richard Whiting, last Abbot of Glastonbury; and on the other side, a shield charged with a cross botoné, between two leopards' heads in chief, and in base two cinquefoils. This chair was purchased by the late Mr. Dickinson of Mr. More, of Greinton, and deposited here as a relic of monastical antiquity.

William Dickinson, Esq., the present Lord of the Manor of King-Weston, has for many years represented the County of Somerset in Parliament.

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