Place:Montacute, Somerset, England

Alt namesBishopstonesource: pre-Conquest estate at Montacute
TypeAncient parish, Civil parish
Coordinates50.95°N 0.0453°W
Located inSomerset, England
See alsoTintinhull Hundred, Somerset, Englandhundred in which it was located
Yeovil Rural, Somerset, Englandrural district 1894-1974
South Somerset District, Somerset, Englandnon-metropolitan district covering the area since 1974
the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Montacute (#19 on map) is a civil parish and a village in Somerset, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Yeovil. The name Montacute is thought by some to derive from the Latin "Mons Acutus", referring to the conically acute St Michael's Hill dominating the village to the west. The village had a population of 831 in the 2011 UK census.

The village is built almost entirely of the local hamstone. From the 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century it formed the heart of the estate of the Phelips family of Montacute House. The village has a fine medieval church, and was the site of a Cluniac priory, the gatehouse of which is now a private house.

At the centre of the village is a large square known as the 'Borough' around which are grouped picturesque cottages.


Montacute was originally a parish in the Tintinhull Hundred, one of the hundreds or early subdivisions of the county of Somerset. From 1894 until 1974 it was part of the Yeovil Rural District.

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, all urban and rural districts across England were abolished and counties were reorganized into metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts. Montacute joined the non-metropolitan South Somerset District which covers the southeast corner of Somerset.

Image:Yeovil Rural 1900 small.png


the text in this section is a condensation an article in Wikipedia

Variously called Logaresburgh by the Saxons, later Bishopstone or Biscepstone, the estate was owned by Tofig, a staller (placeman or court office-holder) to Danish King Canute. Local tradition remembers Tofig as "Cnut's standard bearer". In 1030 (1035 in some records) following a series of dreams in which the Devil told him where to dig, a local blacksmith found buried on St Michael's Hill a black flint crucifix or Holy Rood. The oxen pulling the wagon refused to move until he said Waltham in Essex, where Tofig already had a hunting lodge. They then started, and continued non-stop until they reached Waltham, and where they stopped Tofig decided to build an abbey at the site – this became the church at Waltham Abbey. In the meantime, Tofig rebuilt the church at Waltham to house the cross, on which he bestowed his own sword, and his second wife Gytha (or Glitha), the daughter of Osgod Clapa, adorned the figure with a crown, bands of gold and precious stones.

The cross became the object of pilgrimage, notably by Harold Godwinson. It was at Tofig's wedding at Lambeth, Surrey on 8 June 1042 that King Harthacnut suddenly died of a convulsion "while standing at his drink". "Holy Cross" became the battle-cry of Harold's armies at the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings. The Holy Rood is said to have foretold Harold's defeat at Hastings: on the way there from the Battle of Stamford Bridge he stopped off at Waltham Abbey to pray, and the legend is that the cross "bowed down" off the wall as he did so, taken as a portent of doom. There have been suggestions that the smaller cross became the "Holy Rood" which was carried to Scotland from Waltham Abbey by St. Margaret. There has been further speculation that the site the relics were excavated from was the burial site of Joseph of Arimathea.

On Tofig's death in circa 1043, his estates passed to his son Athelstan (or Æthelstan) and then to his grandson Asgar. Following the invasion of 1066 it was held by Robert, Count of Mortain, who built the motte-and-bailey Montacute Castle at his English seat in 1068. The site of the castle was a deliberate affront to the defeated English, because it was the site where Tofig had discovered the "Holy Rood" crucifix. Robert later founded the Cluniac priory on an adjacent site.

Montacute Castle was besieged by English rebels from Somerset, Dorset and neighbouring areas in 1069 and its relief required the assembly of a considerable force, drawn chiefly from the Norman garrisons of London, Winchester and Salisbury. This army was led by the Norman bishop, Geoffrey of Coutances, whose large landholdings were also threatened. The rebels were taken by surprise and bloodily defeated, putting an end to the revolt. Joseph Bettey has suggested that "the devastation in the surrounding area which followed the English defeat may explain why so many manors in south Somerset are recorded in the Domesday Survey as having decreased in value". The English dead were buried in a mass grave to the west of the village.

A folly tower, built in 1760 by Edward Phelips V now occupies the hill-top. Known as St. Michael's Tower it stands on Mons Acutus, the site of the former castle. The Hamstone tower is about 49 feet (14.9 m) in diameter, and rises before curving inwards to a viewing platform which reached via a 52-step spiral staircase. It has been designated as a Grade II listed building and scheduled monument.

Montacute House (now owned by the National Trust) is one of the finest examples of an Elizabethan house in England. Several other mansions in the immediate vicinity are open to the public as well.

Research Tips

  • GENUKI page on Montacute.
  • An article on Montacute from the Victoria History of the Counties of England – History of the County of Somerset, produced by The Institute of Historical Research.
  • The Somerset Heritage Centre (incorporating what was formerly the Somerset Record Office and the Somerset Local Studies Library) can be found at its new location at Langford Mead in Taunton. It has an online search facility leading to pages of interest, including maps from the First and Second Ordnance Survey (select "Maps and Postcards" from the list at the left, then enter the parish in the search box).
    The Heritage Centre has an email address:
  • Three maps on the A Vision of Britain through Time website illustrate the changes in political boundaries over the period 1830-1945. All have expanding scales and on the second and third this facility is sufficient that individual parishes can be inspected.
  • Somerset Hundreds as drawn in 1832. This map was prepared before The Great Reform Act of that year. Note the polling places and representation of the various parts of the county.
  • Somerset in 1900, an Ordnance Survey map showing rural districts, the boundaries of the larger towns, the smaller civil parishes of the time, and some hamlets and villages in each parish
  • Somerset in 1943, an Ordnance Survey map showing the rural districts after the changes to their structure in the 1930s
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Montacute. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.