A little bit about Monkton Combe - Page 3
Nowadays the village is dominated by Monkton Combe School,
the largest landowner in Monkton Combe. Perhaps for these
reasons it has been said that it is a village without a
history. There is certainly no record of great events having
taken place here, and even the Pitchfork rebellion passed it
by, but the story of the people who have lived here can still
be read in the evidences of change over nearly two thousand
The entry in the Domesday Book begins "The Church itself holds
Cume", and proceeds to enumerate it value in ploughs, workmen,
mills and woodland. It is plain that the settlement recorded
had been in existence long before then, for the land had been
given to the Abbey Church of St. Peter by an English and not a
Norman King. Before that again, as befits a fertile valley
near the important Roman centre of Bath.
There was a villa or farm near the head of the valley which
would have needed Ancient Britons to work the land, herd the
animals, tend the vines, and quarry the stone to built that
and other villas and maybe even parts of Bath itself. By the
middle of the 19th century the population had grown to over
seventeen hundred souls and the Reverend Francis Pocock, a
remarkable clergyman, was the incumbent for the living which,
at that time, was linked with South Stoke and served Combe
Down as well. He entirely rebuilt the church, built a vicarage
for himself, and founded a school for boys. To do this he
bought up a number of houses on the main street, including the
Jacobean house of Combe Farm and its land stretching down to
the bottom of the valley where the playing fields now lie.
As the school has grown and flourished it has become a
separate community with a social life of its own, and the
village itself, with its attendant hamlets at Dundas and
Tucking Mill, is no longer an active rural community.
Gone are the canal and railway workers, the mill hands and
the cobbler, James Morgan the ‘snuff and coffee salesman’ who
ran the village store, the post office, the village school and
school-mistress, the gardeners and servants who worked in the
houses of the gentry and the blacksmith’s forge which has
become the village pub the Wheelwrights arms - click on
picture for enlarged view. Today the village is quiet and
residential. Discreet tourist accommodation is beginning to
cater for the visitors who come to walk or seek peach and
tranquillity, while hot air balloons drift gently over the
hills from Bath and Bristol.
After the dissolution of the monasteries the old stability
was destroyed and the manor of Monkton Combe was sold. It
changed hands many times and only one name, that of William
Bassett, has come down to us. His tomb used to stand in the
Norman Church, and the oldest of the Church Registers records
the burial of Mistress Bassett in 1593.
By the 18th Century, however, things began to change.
Travellers who visited the area wrote that there were a number
of good houses on the outskirts of the village. John Wesley
preached there more than once, and the Kennet and Avon Canal
was built only half a mile away. Here the Dundas Aqueduct
carried the canal over the River Avon, and at this important
juncture a subsidiary canal was built along the Midford Valley
to the Camerton coalfield.
Stone was now exported as well as coal, and since the cloth
trade in the area was flourishing it is likely that the two
mills, one in the village and one at Tucking Mill, were
contributing to it. A notable resident of Tucking Mill was a
surveyor on the canal called William Smith who has been called
the ‘Father of English Geology’ as a result of the work he did
here and elsewhere on the identification of strata.
Later, as railways replaced canals all over the country,
trains came to Monkton Combe and carried passengers as well as
goods, until the Beeching axe fell upon the branch line.
Before its closure there was a last moment of glory in the
making of the film The Titfield Thunderbolt.