Examples of Notes and Queries

 

The following are examples of ‘Notes’ and ‘Queries’ that have been published in SDNQ in recent years.

NOTES 

WINCANTON’S ANCIENT FONT. Wincanton is currently using its third recorded font. According to Harvey Pridham, a visitor to the church in September 1888, a local builder had dug up the ancient font, although much to Pridham’s displeasure it was not subsequently restored. Massive alterations to the church saw the destruction of the Georgian nave and it was thanks to this destruction that the ancient font came to light. Pridham recorded the ancient font, along with its Georgian replacement, as part of his massive survey of every ancient font in the county. What was left is reproduced below.

However, the actions of the local builder did not go without remark by Pridham in his notes on Wincanton’s fonts. He recorded:

 

While intelligent people were rejoicing over the recovered treasure,

the contractor sawed it up in order to use the material in repairing the

pseudo-Classic South doorway, and save his pocket to the extent of half-a-crown.

While we continue bravely sending Missions to the heathen beyond the limits of Wincanton;

surely the money need not all be sent away. This sketch was made within five minutes of its

discovery, and as the font was destroyed so shortly afterwards, it may be assumed that it

is the only drawing of it in existence.

 

According to Pridham’s notes he thought Wincanton’s ancient font dated from shortly after the Norman conquest, which lasted until the Georgian building works. Pridham recorded many fonts that were lost, or outside of Somerset churches and he even managed to get some restored to the inside of churches in preference to their Victorian replacements. Pridham was driven to record as many fonts as he could because of the fanatical vandalism the Gothic Revival had wrought on churches across the south of England.1 Seeing one destroyed like this was clearly difficult for him to come to terms with.

According to George Sweetman, author and local historian of Wincanton, the ancient font was found ‘in the base of one of the columns’ and he thought it was ‘probably 13th century’. The replacement Victorian font was given by Mr R.C. Shepherd a few years before the rebuilding work and is still in use in the church today. It replaced a simple basin shaped font that was supported on ‘an insignificant wood column’. Sweetman also gives us the name of building contractor, Mr. Vallis of Frome and the cost of rebuilding amounted to £5,658.2

Harvey Pridham’s perspective drawing of the Georgian font at Wincanton, without its wooden stand (Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society)

1. Somerset Archaeological and Natural history Society, typescript description and line drawings of Somerset fonts by H. Pridham, 1886-1907.

2. G. Sweetman, The history of Wincanton, Somerset from the earliest times to the year 1903 (1903), 43, 51.

SANDRA OGBORNE AND A.J.W.

A PEEPUL TREE (SACRED FIG, FICUS RELIGIOSA) IN EARLY 18th – CENTURY LYME REGIS. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Peepul’ as ‘A kind of fig tree…native to India, China, and south-east Asia, and regarded as sacred by Hindus and Buddhists’. The earliest example noted by the OED of the use of the name Peepul dates from 1698 (in that example the word is spelled ‘Pipal’); the next example noted by the OED (‘Peepul’) dates from 1783.1 A Lyme Regis will, written in 1712, appears to provide an early 18th – century reference to a Peepul tree in Dorset. The will is that of William Hill, a glazier of Lyme, who included in his last wishes several bequests of houses, and parcels of land, within Lyme Regis. The subject of one of these bequests is a garden, described as being located ‘where the pliphole tree stand’.2 Given the lack of standardization in spelling in the early 18th century this is likely to have been a Peepul tree (pipol, peepol and pipul are among other known forms of the name).

How, when and in what form the Peepul arrived in Lyme Regis is unknown, but in the 17th and early 18th centuries, when Lyme flourished as a trading port, some merchants of the town had strong connections with the East India Company. There is evidence of inhabitants of Lyme travelling to the East Indies from the early years of the 17th century.3 The Peepul might have been planted in William Hill’s garden purely for ornamentation (Peepul trees can grow up to 30 meters in height and have large, heart-shaped leaves), but this tree may have been grown because of the medicinal qualities of its fruit, bark and roots, or for the reddish-brown dye that can be produced from its bark.4 Whatever the reason for its presence in Lyme, the ‘Pliphole’ tree was sufficiently large and noteworthy in 1712 for William Hill to identify a particular garden simply by reference to it.

References to items of furniture, carpets and other indoor goods, brought from overseas, are not uncommon in the wills and inventories of 17th– and early 18th– century residents of Lyme Regis.5 References to botanical specimens native to distant locations are less often found in these sources.

1.   Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2005.

2.   Wiltshire and Swindon Archives (WAS), Probate records of the Prebend of Lyme and Halstock, P16/203. This will was proved in 1715.

3.  See, for example, the will of Samual Hasard (Hazard), merchant of Lyme Regis, dated 1617, in which the testator declares that he is ‘now outward bound to Sea to the East Indies in the good ship called Clair belonging to the Company of Marchants trading to those partes . . .’. The National Archives, PROB 11/139. This will was proved in 1622.

4.   www.ecoindia.com.

5.   See, for example, the inventory of goods of Mrs Sarah Bowdidge of Lyme Regis, dated 1695, which includes items such as bottles of  lime juice (brought from the West Indies) and a ‘Callico carpet’  (a product of the East Indies). WAS, P16/134.

J.F.

QUERIES

PILL FERRIES. During the 1950s there were several vessels
operating as ferries from Pill (in Easton-in-Gordano) to
Shirehampton. Do any subscribers know when multiple vessels
started being used on this service and what are the origins of the
ferry prior to the 1600s?
A.J.W.

THE MURDER OF BETTY TRUMP. In 1823 the Salisbury and Winchester Journal printed a report that a 13 year old girl, Betty Trump, had been raped and murdered on Buckland Hill overlooking Buckland St Mary. William Flood, a respected Sunday school teacher who knew Betty Trump, was arrested. He refused to explain where he had been during the night of the murder, or why he returned so late to Mr Wyatt’s farm, where he was employed. He was tried and acquitted of both murder and rape. A flat stone bearing the inscription ‘Betty Trump violated and murdered here’ was placed by the roadside. It is not clear whether the stone was placed near a main road (A303) Ilminster to Honiton, or near a road somewhere between the A303 and Buckland Hill. Has anyone ever seen such a memorial stone? Was Betty Trump buried in the churchyard of Buckland St Mary?

G.J.D.