Oakhill

History

A brief history of the area.

The parish of Ashwick, some 4 miles from Shepton Mallet, 6 miles from Wells and 14 miles from Bath, lies at the eastern end of the Mendip Hills and comprises the village of Oakhill, the hamlets of Ashwick, Neighbourne and Benter,  that part of Nettlebridge south of the stream,  and parts of Gurney Slade.

The Parish has as its eastern boundary the Roman Fosse Way and to the west, is crossed by another Roman Road running from Charterhouse to Old Sarum (Salisbury).  Also to the west is the Maesbury hill fort, a major Iron Age settlement.

The Nettlebridge Valley contains two Rock Shelters in Cockles Wood with the earliest evidence of human occupation and artefacts dating from 2500BC

Historically the earliest document found is a charter of 1061 when land was granted by Edward the Confessor to Abbot Wulfwood of Bath Priory who then granted it to St Peter’s Monastery at Bath.  The earliest deed relating to coal is a lease of 1605  relating to Cockrells Wood. 

Ashwick was part of the Kilmersdon hundred (an area so called from their containing one hundred families or by being able to supply one hundred able bodied men whenever they were required for the service of their monarch in time of war) and its church, St James',  was a chapel of ease under Kilmserdon. The site of the original church is still represented by the tower, which appears to date from the 15th century although the present Ashwick  church was almost completely rebuilt in 1825, when it became independent.

The Pound at Ashwick is also mentioned in the history of Kilmersdon and predates 1632. All Saints Church in Oakhill village was built in 1861 and consecrated in 1862.

Coombe House, at the eastern end of Oakhill High Street, is mentioned in documents dating from 1366 and appears to be the oldest property in the Parish, although it is not known if any of the original building remains.

Oakhill Brewery was founded in 1767 by Jordan and Perkins and grew in fame because of its natural spring water which was used to produce Oakhill Stout.  A disastrous fire in 1925 though saw its demise.  At one time Oakhill Brewery had its own narrow gauge railway taking beer from the brewery to Binegar Station on the Somerset and Dorset Railway.

There were two collieries in the area – Old Moorwood, which closed in 1860 and Moorwood, which closed in 1932 due to faults and water.  It had a rope incline and a narrow gauge railway to take tubs of coal to the Somerset and Dorset railway sidings at Moorwood.

Ashwick Grove, now in ruins, was the home of John Billingsley, one of the original owners of Oakhill Brewery.  Billingsley also wrote a book on agriculture in Somerset which gives a picture of life in his time.  The book was published in 1797.

Oakhill History Group

 

For more information see The History Group pages