Langford Budville & Runnington

Overlooking the Vale of Taunton Deane

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Changing Faces:  Langford Budville History Project

Changing Faces is the title of a history of Langford Budville, compiled by Marjorie Stockley and published in 2012.  This 260 page book is the product of extensive verbal, written and photographic contributions from local residents, both past and present, together with research in the county archives.

The launch of the book was timed to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in June 2012.  There was a print run of 200 copies.  There are very few copies left and if you would like to buy one, price £6.00, please use the contacts page.

You will find a number of excerpts and photos from the book on the web site which have been reprinted with Marjorie's kind permission.


Langford Budville:  a Short History by Mark McDermott

The underlying Permo-Triassic geology of the area is reflected in the colour of the soil and in the red sandstone and conglomerate used in the older buildings. The village of Langford Budville, which includes St Peter’s church, occupies a position on high ground overlooking the Vale of Taunton Deane, but the parish also includes the hamlets of Wellisford and Chipley and a number of scattered farmsteads. There are several medieval farmhouses or ex-farmhouses, such as Fursdons, Higher Wellisford and Stancombe, which indicate that this dispersed settlement pattern is of early origin, and the pattern of enclosed fields, with their ‘Devonian’ hedge-banks, is known to have existed from at least the 16th century. There is also an area of common land, Langford Heathfield, on which some farmers retain rights of pasture and ‘estovers’ (the right to cut timber), although ownership is vested in the Somerset Wildlife Trust which maintains the Heathfield as a nature reserve. There are crossing points on the River Tone at Wellisford and Harpford (the latter on a road which may have been an important highway in early times) but the location of the ‘long ford’ from which ‘Langford’ derives its name is uncertain.

Little is known of the history of Langford Budville before 1066, although Chipley and possibly Harpford are mentioned, and Domesday Book (1086) records that the manor of Wilesforde (Wellisford) was held by two Saxon thegns before the Norman Conquest but was then transferred to Robert of Auberville. Domesday also records a Somerset manor of Langeford which had been held by Godwin, son of Harold, and was then taken by William the Conqueror. This may refer to Langford in Burrington (in the north of the county) but recent historical opinion has identified this manor with Langford Budville. The suffix ‘Budville’ refers to the de Budville family which held the manor by 1212 and for a time subsequently. Over the centuries the manor changed hands several times. The owners were not always resident and the manor was sometimes divided into two parts or ‘moieties’, which probably explains why no manor house has been identified, in contrast to Wellisford Manor (house), which in its present form dates from c.1700.

The manor of Langford Budville was acquired in 1756 by Edward Clarke of Chipley Park to prevent it falling into the hands of his rivals, the Sanfords of Nynehead, but Edward Ayshford Sanford acquired it in 1829 and it remained in Sanford ownership until the 20th century. The farms and other properties were dispersed in a sale by Bolnore Estates in 1949, but the ownership of Langford Heathfield remained in Sanford hands until 1982 when it was transferred to the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

The church, on its hill-top overlooking the Vale, seems to have existed by 1204, but in its present form is a late-medieval building in the Perpendicular style of Gothic architecture to which the north aisle was added in 1866 to accommodate the household of Bindon House. The stonework is chiefly local sandstone or conglomerate, with Hamstone dressings. Internally there are medieval wagon roofs in the nave and south aisle. There was formerly a rood screen at the east end of the nave, a side chapel (probably a chantry chapel) at the east end of the south aisle where there is a piscina, and from at least 1742 a gallery at the west end of the nave for the singers and a village band, but this was probably dismantled when a combined vestry and organ chamber was built on the north side of the chancel in 1873, reflecting the liturgical changes of the period.

In c.1989 a group of burials was discovered in a garden to the south of the church, on the opposite side of the road. If, as has been suggested, these burials are of Saxon date, this might suggest a pre-Conquest origin for the church, although the burial site and the existing medieval church and churchyard are separated by an apparently long-established road. Could these burials have taken place in an overspill cemetery, perhaps in the medieval period?

For most of its history the church was a chapelry of Milverton and was only given full parish status, with its own vicar, in 1863. A Victorian vicarage (now Springwood) was then built to supersede the old thatched ‘vicarage’: strictly-speaking the latter had been a curate’s house before 1863, although the curate had chosen in the 1840s and 1850s to live at Ritherdons, now Langford Court (a medieval house with an 18th century wing). A modern vicarage, built as a replacement in the grounds of the Victorian vicarage, has in its turn become a private house as the church is now part of a team ministry with a non-resident minister. The village school was set up by the Church of England National Society in 1851 and its present status is that of a voluntary controlled primary school. Nonconformity has also played a part in the life of the village in the form of a small independent chapel which closed in c.1980.

A private garden next to the south-west corner of the churchyard is the site of the former medieval ‘church house’, similar to that at Crowcombe, in which ‘church ales’ (fund-raising parish parties) were held at the festival of St Peter. This occasion was also known as the Langford Revel which was eventually suppressed during the puritan Interregnum following the Civil War. The church house also accommodated a school in the 1620s, and after 1650 the building became the parish poor house until, following an Act of 1834, Langford Budville became part of the Wellington Poor Law Union and paupers were sent to the Wellington workhouse. The former church house became a private house (which appears in a photograph as a long, tall thatched building) until it was burnt down in 1908.

Farming has always been an important feature of the local economy, but other forms of enterprise and employment included a pottery at Middle Hill in the 16th century, serge-weaving (on domestic handlooms) in the 17th century, lime-burning in the 18th-19th centuries (there is a disused quarry and lime-kiln near Beer Farm) and 19th-century census returns record craftsmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters and shoemakers, although some inhabitants commuted to work in the woollen factory in Wellington. There were grist mills at Harpford and Wellisford, and a fulling mill is mentioned in 1791. Transport was improved in the 18th century when the more important roads through the parish were turnpiked under the auspices of the Wiveliscombe Turnpike Trust and there was a toll house at the road junction, formerly known as Langford Gate, on the B3187 to the east of the village. In 1838 part of the Grand Western Canal between Taunton and Tiverton was constructed through the parish, but the canal never reached Exeter as intended and the stretch from Taunton to Greenham was later abandoned, although its remains include a canal bridge at Harpford and an incline and aqueduct abutments at Higher Wellisford. For leisure requirements there were in the 19th century two public houses in the village, the New Inn and the Crown, of which the latter survives, renamed the Martlett in reference to the Sanford coat of arms.

Until the 19th century the parish had its own waywardens (responsible for maintenance of the roads) and overseers of the poor. These officers, together with the churchwardens, were answerable to the ratepayers through the parish vestry and ultimately to the county magistrates (the County Council was not set up until 1889). By the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, however, Langford Budville became part of the Wellington Poor Law Union. Under another Act, in 1894, Wellington Rural District Council, which absorbed the functions of the Union, was created and Langford Budville (like other parishes) became entitled to a Parish Council. Taunton Deane District (later Borough) Council took control from Wellington Rural District Council after 1974.

Changes since the Second World War have included some housing development, such as the building of the Swifts estate, and the creation of a recreation field; and although the village has lost its post office and a working-men’s club, the needs of the local community continue to be served by the school, pub, church, village hall and parish council.