The name of the village comes from Old English and means Nunna's island.
For many years from the medieval period until the 19th century Nunney was the site of water powered mills owned initially by the Hoddinotts and then by James Fussell.
1822 - Somersetshire delineated by Christopher & John Greenwood
A parish in the hundred of Frome, 3 miles S. W. from Frome; containing, with the hamlet of Trudox-hill (which is within this parish) 237 inhabited houses, and 246 families, 92 of whom are employed in agriculture. On the west side of this village stands the castle, which is a fine vestige of antiquity; it was built by Sir John Delamere about the thirteenth century; its form is a double square, with a round castellated tower at each corner, 63 feet high, and crowned with four lofty turrets, covered with ivy ; the whole is surrounded by an elliptical moat which communicates with a river called Hoi well, that runs through the parish. This castle was garrisoned for the King, in the civil war, but was taken by the parliament army September 8, 1645, and burnt, to prevent its future service to the royalists. Here is a fair for cattle, &c. on November llth. The church of Nunney is dedicated to St. Peter, and consists of a nave, chancel, two side aisles, and a porch, with a handsome tower 63 feet high, surmounted with four pinnacles, and containing a clock and six bells. The living is a rectory, in the deanery of Frome; Rev. Charles Richards, incumbent; instituted 1817. Population, 1801, 919 — 1811, 1124 — 1821, 1120.
1873 - An Outbreak of Enteric Fever at Nunney, Somerset
The following are the inferences deducible from the observed facts of this outbreak by Dr. Ballard, who has made a report on the subject
The explanation above given of the origin and spread of fever in Nunney is confirmed by the sudden reduction in the number of fresh cases of the fever on the expiration of the week ending October 5. The causes of pollution of the water of the brook pointed out in the course of this report were still operating, but on and after September 24, water from an unpolluted source was brought in carts into the village daily for the use of the inhabitants. It could scarcely have been expected that the brook-water should at once have fallen entirely into disuse, that none of it should have been used by anyone in the village. Such changes are never to be effected suddenly. The result observed was just such and such only as I looked for. From eight to thirteen fresh cases had been coming under observation weekly for a period of five weeks ; but in the week following the twelfth day from the introduction of unpolluted water, the weekly number of fresh cases fell to five, and in the next week to one.
Medical Times and Gazette, Jan. 4, 1873, p. 19.
1891 - Somersetshire edited by Edward Robert Kelly
NUNNEY is a parish and village, 120 miles from London, and 3½ west-south-west from Frome railway station, in the Eastern division of the county, Frome hundred, union, and county court district, rural deanery of Frome, Wells archdeaconry, and diocese of Bath and Wells, situated on a small stream that joins the river Frome.
The church of St. Peter is an ancient stone building, in the Early English style: it has a chancel, nave, aisles, transepts, and octangular embattled tower with clock and 6 bells: the north transept was formerly the burial-place of the lords of the manor, wherein are five recumbent figures on altar-tombs, one of which represents Sir John de la Mere, the founder of the castle, with a figure of a lion at his feet; the next tomb represents a knight in armour, with his lady by his side; on the third tomb are similar effigies, all of members of the same family: the chancel was rebuilt in 1874, and the interior thoroughly restored and reseated with open benches. The register dates from the beginning of the sixteenth century. The living is a rectory, yearly value £374 tithe, with residence, and 58 acres of glebe land, valued at £90 per annum, in the gift of the Rev. John Louis Challen, who is at present curate in charge. A School Board, composed of five members, was formed here in 1874, to whom a lease of the National school has been granted by the Earl of Cork, and the board school is now carried on, wherein ten boys are educated free, clothed, and receive 1s. 6d. per week for maintenance out of Turner’s Charity, and when sufficiently old receive £20 each for apprenticing them, with free permission to choose their own trades and masters; there are also Sunday schools for boys and girls held in the schoolroom. Here are chapels for Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists. There are charities of £420 yearly value. Thomas Harris, of Bristol, who died in 1797, left £1,000, the interest of which to be given yearly to married women, natives of this parish. Thomas Turner, a native of this parish, who died the 21st of May, 1839, by will left £14,000, the interest of which to be applied for ever to the instruction of youth, the alleviation of suffering and infirmity, and the solace of old age. There are several other small charities.
The manufacture of edge tools is carried on here, and there are several limekilns, limestone being very plentiful in the parish. In April, 1873, a mine of iron ore was opened here, and is now being worked by the Furzeham Iron Ore Company : the ore is carted hence to the Frome railway station, and carried by rail into Staffordshire. A fair is held on the llth of November yearly for cattle. In 1874 this parish was thoroughly drained.
The remains of a Roman tesselated pavement, in good preservation, were discovered some years ago on the property of J. H. Shore, esq., of Whatley House: there are also the remains of a Roman encampment near the village. Here are the ruins of Nunney Castle, now covered with ivy, for many ages the seat of the De la Mere family : in the time of King Richard II., the castle passed into the family of Paulet, ancestor to the Dukes of Bolton; in the time of Queen Elizabeth the first Marquis of Winchester sold it, and after passing through several families it has become the property of James Theobald, esq., the present lord of the manor: the walls now standing are of great strength, the side walls being 7 feet 6 inches in thickness, and those of the tower 7 feet; passages and staircases were carried up in the walls, which greatly diminished its strength; a moat, 22 feet wide and 10 deep, which communicated with the stream ‘that flowed near its side, surrounded the whole building: during the civil wars in the time of Charles I. it was garrisoned for the King, and was besieged by the troops of Cromwell; after a determined resistance it surrendered, on the condition that the garrison should go to their own homes; the building was then dismantled, and is now fast going to decay.
James Theobald, esq., who is lord of the manor, the Earl of Cork and Orrery, and the Duke of Somerset, are chief landowners. The soil, which is not of great depth, is various; the subsoil, is clay and limestone. The land is chiefly in pasture for dairy purposes. The acreage is 2,421; rateable value, £4,992; the population in 1871 was 1,123.’
TRUDOXHILL is a hamlet, distant one mile and a quarter south-east, with an Independent chapel; HOLWELL is half a mile south-west, and RIDGWAY, three-quarters of a mile east from the village.
1894 - Somersetshire: Highways, Byways, and Waterways by Charles Raymond Booth Barrett
From Vallis I returned to Frome, and then, turning off to the right, made my way to the village of Nunney and the ruins of Nunney Castle. The walk is a most pleasant one, though not a little hilly; and one hill in particular, just outside Frome, is remarkably steep. After a while the round towers of the old place were visible among the trees which now fringe the still perfect moat, and a few minutes later I found myself in possession of the castle key and crossing the single plank, which, in lieu of the drawbridge of old, gives admission to this fortified manor house, usually designated a castle.
The first notice of Nunney is a grant of Henry III., dated October 23, 1259, giving Henry de Monteforti and his heirs the right to hold a Wednesday market at his manor of Nuny, and also an annual three days’ fair. Twenty years later Nicholas Braunche, lord of the hundred of Frome, endeavoured to stop this market, alleging that it injured the market at Frome. At this date it would seem that there was a Delamare at Nunney, and to the Delamares the fortification of the house is due, for the license to embattle and fortify a building (manse) at Nunney was granted to Sir John Delamare in 1373. From this it would appear that the Delamares were not then lords of the manor, for manse is not manor house. But four years later we find Sir John Delamare sheriff of the county, and holding his manor in capite from the king. Sir John died about 1389, and was succeeded by his son Philip, who in the next year founded a chantry. In two generations the male line failed, and the estate passed to Sir John Poulet, Kt, in right of his wife, Constantia Delamare. Constantia Poulet died in 1443, being already a widow. The Poulets retained Nunney till the death, in 1572, of William Poulet, Marquis of Winchester, who some twelve years before had obtained a grant of the Delamare chantry. In the nineteenth year of Elizabeth the manor of Nunney was sold to a certain Richard Prater, gentleman.
Nunney Castle is most remarkable in its plan, which takes the form of an oblong, flanked at each corner by circular projecting towers. In length the oblong is as nearly as possible double its width. The walls vary in thickness from seven to eight and a half feet, except where a stone staircase occurs in the wall near the entrance, and in another place where the large kitchen fireplace makes a weak spot. When perfect there were four stories to the castle, of which the floors were of wood, a fact proved by the absence of vaulting ; and the partitions must have been of a similar material, as there are no traces of party walls. I had heard that there were the remains of a chapel at Nunney, at the top of one of the towers, and after some little trouble managed to identify the place. As I make it, the window of the chapel is on the upper story of the south tower, and looking nearly towards the east. Beneath this window the altar slab can be discerned, and there is a piscina. I should much have liked to have obtained a sketch, but it was impossible ; still I think that my idea of the interior will sufficiently show the general condition of the place. A very curious little pen-and-ink drawing of Nunney, and a written description, preserved in the note-book of a Royalist, and now to be seen in the British Museum Library (Add. MSS., No. 17062), gives one or two more particulars which are worth attention. The towers, from the sketch, seem to have conical tops, and the general roof of the place to have been not flat, as one would have expected, but high-pitched. It has been needful to describe the castle at this period, because during the Great Rebellion the place was besieged, battered by cannon, and forced to surrender.
It appears that in 1642 Colonel Prater, the then owner, garrisoned it for the king. It, as a matter of fact, was more of a storehouse and rendezvous for Royalists than a fortress. Whether its position rendered it unimportant or not, for some cause Nunney was left unmolested for three years, till the successes of the “new model” army caused some apprehension, and the garrison was forthwith strengthened. On September 15, 1645, Fairfax and Cromwell, after success at Sherborne, marched through Castle Gary and Shepton Mallet. Three days later two regiments and three guns were detached to secure Nunney. Fairfax himself rode over on the morrow to inspect the place, but, leaving his troops to besiege the castle, returned to Shepton. On the following day the castle wall was breached, and after a parley Colonel Prater, the owner and governor, surrendered, but on condition that he, by changing his allegiance from King to Parliament, should be permitted still to hold his property and command. The castle was but poorly furnished with munitions of war, having only two barrels of powder. In number the garrison amounted to two barrels of powder. In number the garrison amounted to eighty, mostly Irish, who were commanded by Captain Turberville. From an account published at the time it would seem that certain “papists,” who were among the prisoners, fared very badly at the hands of the victors. The castle banner is quoted as ” red, and in the midst thereof a fair crucifix cross.” I have endeavoured to trace the design of this banner, but without success. That it was considered important seems to be shown from the fact that it was sent to London and exhibited to Parliament. Despite the terms of the surrender, immediately after the execution of Charles I. the Parliament sequestrated Nunney, and it was ordered to be sold. Colonel Prater, however, died before the sale took place, and his son George, who succeeded, petitioned to save his estate, but petitioned in vain. The sale took place in 1652, when the purchasers were Samuel Foxley and Robert Colby.
It is stated, I know not on what authority, that through a deserter the troops of Fairfax were informed of the weak spot in the castle wall, and that in consequence they directed their shot thither. Evidently the wall between the doorway and the western tower is the scene of the breach; but in this case the cannon must first have demolished a lofty wall, which is said to have surrounded the castle on all sides except the east. Another point which seems to involve difficulty is with regard to the top of the wall and towers. How were these defended ? The pen-and- ink sketch shows crenellations, but no machicolations. This is probably due to the omission of detail by the artist, and it is reasonable to suppose that the machicolations supported a crenellated parapet, which surrounded the entire building.
Nunney church contains some interesting tombs, mostly of dead and gone Delamares. The effigy belonging to the earliest of these is now on the sill of one of the windows. The figure is fully armed with the exception of the shield, and apparently bears the approximate date of the year 1300. Another tomb, with the effigies of a man and woman, dates about a century later, if the details of the costume are any guide. This is probably the monument of Philip Delamare, the founder of the chantry, and his wife. The costumes of both these effigies are worth the closest study. The arms of the Delamare family have the following blazon : Gules, two lions passant guardant in pale argent, collared azure. Besides these, there are the figures of two of the Praters, probably those of Richard Prater and his wife, for the costumes are certainly Elizabethan, and it is not easy to see to whom otherwise these effigies could belong. The arms of the Prater family were: Sable, three wolves’ heads erased argent, on a chief or, a lion passant of the first.
Of the other manor house of Nunney, which used to be called the Court House, and which stands near the castle, the remains which are left are of comparatively little interest. Formerly it was an important mansion, with a hall possessing a minstrels’ gallery, and I have heard that it contained a considerable amount of carving and painted heraldic glass. The hall, I understand, still exists, and a part of it is used as a shed; but I must confess that I did not, owing to the waning light, personally inspect the Court House. The village itself does not furnish much for the pencil, except the ruins of the castle. But I selected one subject for a sketch which shows the church tower behind the irregular and tumbledown cottages which fringe the muddy and shallow brook on which the village is built.
1929 - Somerset by George Woosung Wade & Joseph Henry Wade
Nunney, a village 3 m. S.W. from Frome. It possesses the unusual attraction of a ruined castle. The castle is an excellent specimen of a 14th cent. fortified dwelling-house. The walls are still complete, but bear abundant traces of the ravages of time and warfare. In plan the castle consists of a rectangular parallelogram with a cylindrical tower at each angle The interior is gutted, but as the beam-marks still remain, the general arrangements are easily reconstructed. It was divided into four storeys by wooden floors, the dining-hall being (as the large fireplace indicates) on the first floor. Access was gained to the different apartments by a large spiral staircase winding round the interior of the N. turret. The top storey of the S. turret, marked externally by a Perp. window, was evidently furnished as an oratory; an altar slab and piscina can still be seen projecting from the wall. The position, not naturally strong, was rendered more defensible by a moat, beyond which flows a stream. The castle was built by Sir J. de la Mere in 1373 out of the spoils of the French wars. It afterwards passed successively to the families of Pawlet and Prater, and during the Civil Wars was held by Colonel Prater for the king. After a determined resistance it surrendered on terms to Fairfax. The neighbouring church has a picturesque Perp. tower with a projecting spiral stair turret. On the W. face is a panel representing a key and a knotted cord, thought to be a Delamere badge. Internally the fabric has been much pulled about and altered. It contains a heavy Norman font and a small oak chancel screen. Behind the organ in the N. aisle are two altar tombs with double recumbent effigies (15th cent.), and a third (14th cent.) with a single figure—that of the founder of the castle—is shelved on the window-sill above. The effigies furnish excellent illustrations of the armour of their periods.
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