History of Woodlands

THE HISTORY OF WOODLANDS

Woodlands lies on the north eastern border of the Mendip Hills and the ancient Selwood Forest and the counties of  Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire in south west England. In Anglo-Saxon times it was a far more substantial forest and covered a much greater area forming a natural barrier between the Anglo-Saxon of Wessex and the Britons of Dumnonia and the Severn Valley.

The name  Selwood  is first recorded in Old English around 894 as Seluudu which some etymologists consider to derive from Sealhwudu or Sallow Wood  ‘Wood where sallow trees grow’ and Sallow is from Salix…Willow.

Selwood may have been the location of the Battle of Peonnum in 658. At this battle King Cenwalh of Wessex defeated the Britons and annexed Somerset as far west as the River Parret. Selwood is the location of Egbert’s Stone, where Alfred the Great rallied his forces against the Great Heathen Army in 878 and is celebrated in history as being the retreat of Alfred the Great before the battle of Ethandune. (Eddington)

The event is recorded in Asser’s  Life of King Alfred:

In the seventh week after Easter, Alfred rode to the stone of Egbert, which is in the eastern part of the wood which is called Selwood, which means in Latin Silva Magna, the Great Wood, but in British Coit mawr and there met him all the inhabitants of Somerset and Wiltshire, and all such inhabitants of Hampshire as had not sailed beyond sea for fear of the Pagans, and upon seeing the King received him as was proper like one come to life again after so many troubles, and were filled with excessive joy, and there they encamped for one night.”
Asser’s “The Life of King Alfred”

Much of the area from 1540 belonged to the Longleat Estate, where a former priory stood, 60 acres at that time were purchased for £53 by John Thynne.  Many of the houses in the two villages were formerly owned by the Thynne family and used by the estate workers and tenant farmers. Large parts of the Estate were sold in 1947 to meet death duties.

The  local Pub (the Horse and Groom) and the Village Hall  still belong to the Estate. The Thynne Educational Foundation now owns the hall which is run by a committee of local volunteers  and is well used by the community for a wide variety of events.

Manor Farmhouse in West Woodlands provides a particularly good example of 17th century architecture and was the formerly the George Inn.

St. Algars Farmhouse – grade II* listed Farmhouse. Named after Ælfgar of Selwood dates from the C14, further alterations of C17, further C19 work.  Former chapel of a monastic settlement. Virtually all of the C14 arch-braced collar beam roof remains over the chapel.

 

 ARCHAEOLOGY

There are several archaeological sites within the East Woodlands area.  An Iron Age hill fort – Roddenbury Camp – and the early mediaeval Hales Castle are located near East Woodlands.

HALES CASTLE  aerial viewHALES CASTLE

 

Hales Castle is a roughly circular ringwork on the lower end of a gently sloping spur north west of Roddenbury Hill. It seems, by castelologists, to be accepted as a medieval castle probably Norman but the location and form is equally that of an Iron Age site.

 

 

HALES CASTLE and RODDENBURY CAMP

 

Diagram showing Hales Castle (top) and Roddenbury Camp (bottom)

 

 

RODDENBURY CAMP is a univallate or single rampart Iron Age hillfort. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and on the Heritage at Risk register.

 

 

 

In the woods along the southern edge of East Woodlands are the remains of Dog Street, once a notorious haunt of robbers and villains. It is recorded that the remote backwaters of East and West Woodlands became notorious for the coining of false money called Woodland groats (a coin equal to four pennies) and for clipping, or paring, the genuine coin of the realm… Finally in 1693 a party of soldiers quartered at Frome were ordered to attack a gang of these coiners at a place called Salmons or Seaman’s house, where they withstood a veritable siege, in which a coiner was killed and others taken and executed. This broke the trade but as late as 1714 one Nicholas Andrews of Frome was hanged on Oldford Hill with two Wiltshire men ‘for counterfeiting Her Majesties Coyne’.

 

13 Responses to History of Woodlands

  1. EJ says:

    Does Longleat still own the woodland/forest patches of East and West Woodlands?

  2. Richard Dunn says:

    The All British Army WWI Service Records for 1914-1920 indicate that there were 5 men from W Woodlands and 1 from E Woodlands who served in the army during WWI. Can you confirm this please? Were there any from Woodlands who served in the other forces during WWI?

    • glyn says:

      Richard – sorry to be so slow in replying, but your query didn’t show up in the ‘comments’ box, so I was unaware of it until today when I trawled the site again (periodic housekeeping!). I do not know of any way to confirm your data unfortunately. We have few ‘old’ families in the village and no war memorial (too small). I will ask one of the vergers when I get the chance, but I don’t think there will be any kind of record at this end. What were the names? it might help…

      • Richard Dunn says:

        Thanks Glyn. I have rechecked the army records, and they suggest that there were actually just three men from the village who served in WW1: Henry Toogood and Albert Tudgay from West Woodlands and George Watts from East Woodlands. Any information you have will be greatly appreciated.

        • Colin Alsbury says:

          There’s a list of a couple of dozen men from the village who served during WW1 in the church.
          And there is a war memorial in the church also listing quite a few deaths:
          Name: THYNNE, Lord ALEXANDER GEORGE
          Initials: A G
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
          Regiment/Service: Wiltshire Regiment
          Unit Text: Commanding 6th (Royal Wilts. Yeo.) Bn.
          Age: 45
          Date of Death: 14/09/1918
          Awards: DSO
          Additional information: Awarded the Croix de Guerre (France). Son of the Marquis and Marchioness of Bath. Member of Parliament for Bath.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: II. L. 13.
          Cemetery: BETHUNE TOWN CEMETERY

          Name: THYNNE, JOHN ALEXANDER
          Initials: J A
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Second Lieutenant
          Regiment/Service: 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys)
          Age: 20
          Date of Death: 13/02/1916
          Additional information: Viscount Weymouth. Son of the Sir Thomas Henry Thynne, 5th Marquess and Violet Caroline, Marchioness of Bath.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: II. C. 1.
          Cemetery: VERMELLES BRITISH CEMETERY

          Name: AYLESBURY, CHARLES JAMES
          Initials: C J
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Royal Warwickshire Regiment
          Unit Text: 2nd/5th Bn.
          Date of Death: 06/09/1917
          Service No: 235035
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 23 to 28 and 163A.
          Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL

          Private 290656 in Monmouthshire Regiment
          Lived at Abertillery, Monmouthshire

          Private 235035 in 2nd/5th Battalion of Royal Warwickshire Regiment
          Enlisted at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
          On Frome War Memorial

          WW1 Medal Card
          Aylesbury, Charles J
          Monmouthshire Regiment 2959 – Private

          Born 5th Jan 1891 and Christened 23rd Feb 1891 at Corsley Wesleyan Chapel.
          Sone of James Jonah and Emily Jane Aylesbury
          (soemtime of Friggle Street)
          Killed in action – no known grave.

          Name: COOPER, GEORGE NELSON
          Initials: G N
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Somerset Light Infantry
          Unit Text: 12th (West Somserset Yeomanry) Bn.
          Age: 25
          Date of Death: 27/12/1917
          Service No: 37490
          Additional information: Son of George and Annie Cooper, of High St., Sutton-Veny, Warminster, Wilts.; husband of Amy Elizabeth Lindsay (formerly Cooper), of Park Rd., Cabramatta, Sydney, Australia.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 17.
          Memorial: JERUSALEM MEMORIAL

          Born in Sutton Veny. He was chauffeur to the Rev Dr Dunn of East Woodlands Vicarage.
          Joined the West Somerset Yeomanry on 18th Sept 1916
          Transferred to 12th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry
          Served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine.
          Killed in action – no known grave.

          Name: DOEL
          Initials: Francis B J
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Stoker 1st Class
          Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
          Unit Text: H.M.S. “Vivid.”
          Date of Death: 24/06/1917
          Service No: K/30445(Dev)
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: C. 4. 12.
          Cemetery: BERKLEY CHURCH CEMETERY

          Born in Glastonbury. Abt 1898-99
          Lived for many years in Frome with his parents.
          Joined the navy in Jan 1916 and quickly promoted.
          He died by unknown cause, and was returned to Frome for burial.
          Grave ref C.4.12 at Berkley.
          Name on Berkley War Memorial.

          Edward LEWER

          Name: LEWER, EDWIN THOMAS
          Initials: E T
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Lance Corporal
          Regiment/Service: Wiltshire Regiment
          Unit Text: 1st Bn
          Age: 27
          Date of Death: 02/09/1915
          Service No: 10261
          Additional information: Son of Mr. W. H. Lewer, of The Hollies, East Woodlands, Frome, Somerset.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 53.
          Memorial: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

          Name: LEWER, JOHN
          Initials: J
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Lance Corporal
          Regiment/Service: Somerset Light Infantry
          Unit Text: 8th Bn.
          Date of Death: 01/07/1916
          Service No: 14755
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 2 A.
          Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

          Name: MUSSELL, WILLIAM
          Initials: W
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Somerset Light Infantry
          Unit Text: 6th Bn.
          Age: 19
          Date of Death: 21/03/1918
          Service No: 29262
          Additional information: Son of Mary Ann Mussell, of East Woodlands, Frome, Somerset, and the late Frederick Mussell.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 25 and 26.
          Memorial: POZIERES MEMORIAL

          Name: SINGER
          Initials: T
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Somerset Light Infantry
          Age: 39
          Date of Death: 14/02/1917
          Service No: 25955
          Additional information: Husband of Edith M. Edwards (formerly Singer), of 7, The Mint, Frome.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: III. 984.
          Cemetery: FROME (CHRIST CHURCH) CHURCHYARD

          Name: SPAREY, WILLIAM
          Initials: W
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Worcestershire Regiment
          Unit Text: 3rd Bn.
          Date of Death: 26/08/1916
          Service No: 28861
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Grave/Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 5 A and 6 C.
          Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

          Thomas STONE

          Name: STONE
          Initials: T
          Nationality: Canadian
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Canadian Machine Gun Corps
          Unit Text: 12th Coy.
          Date of Death: 09/04/1917
          Service No: 417398
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Memorial: VIMY MEMORIAL

          Name: TUDGAY, ALBERT
          Initials: A
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Driver
          Regiment/Service: Army Service Corps
          Unit Text: Base H.T. Depot (Salonika)
          Age: 40
          Date of Death: 02/06/1917
          Service No: T4/110349
          Additional information: Son of Thomas and Eliza Tudgay, of Kingston Deverill, Bath; husband of Sarah Ann Tudgay, of 48, West Woodlands, Frome, Somerset.
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Memorial: CHATBY MEMORIAL (Egypt)

          Name: WILLS
          Initials: W J
          Nationality: United Kingdom
          Rank: Private
          Regiment/Service: Somerset Light Infantry
          Unit Text: 3rd Bn.
          Date of Death: 04/05/1917
          Service No: 34257
          Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
          Memorial: SAVONA MEMORIAL

  3. Richard Dunn says:

    Colin, thanks very much for taking the time and trouble to send me this information. I was especially interested to read that George Nelson Cooper, who served in the Somerset Light Infantry, was chauffeur to my grandfather, Rev Dr Dunn.

  4. Mick Davis says:

    Hello a colleague & I are writing a book on the pubs of Frome and don’t seem to have any photos of The George, Woodlands. Does anyone have one that we could use or know its precise location?
    Many thanks,

    Mick Davis

  5. Steve Poole says:

    Are you able to help me locate the site of the famer, William Webb’s house at Roddenbury? Webb was murdered in the building by two labourers from Dog Street in December 1812, both of whom were tried, convicted and executed (on Arn Hill) in March 1813. I’m unsure whether Webb’s house still exists. Does anyone know?

  6. Steve Poole says:

    The farm was called Oxstalls, if that’s any help…

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