Ilchester, Somerset Family History Guide

Ilchester is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Somerset.

Alternative names: Ivelchester

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1690
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1594

Nonconformists include: Calvinist, Independent/Congregational, and Wesleyan Methodist.

Adjacent Parishes

  • Sock Dennis
  • Northover
  • Tintinhull
  • Yeovilton
  • Somerton
  • Limington

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

ILCHESTER, a town, a parish, and a sub-district in Yeovil district, Somerset. The town stands in a broad vale, on the river Yeo or Ivel, and on the Fosse way, 4½ miles NE of Martock r. station, and 5 NW by N of Yeovil. It was the Pont-ivel-coed or Caerpont-ivel-coed of the ancient Britons, the Ischalis of the Romans and of Ptolemy, and the Gifecestre or Give1cestre of the Saxons; and it was known, in more recent times, as Ivelchester. Its ancient British name signifies "Ivel-bridge-in-the-Wood '' or "the fort of Ivel-bridge-in-the-Wood;'' and its Saxon and modern names signify "a camp or fort on the Ivel." It is supposed to have been the chief seat of the Belgæ; and it was one of the most eminent stations of the Romans. The Fosse way ran through it, and still forms its principal street, pointing toward Shepton-Mallet. The Roman station measured 300 paces by 200; formed an oblong square, standing obliquely to the points of the compass; and was surrounded by a strong wall and a deep ditch, the latter filled with water from the Ivel. Vestiges of these works are still visible. A disused road called Yard lane, anciently Zearde, marks the line of the ditch; and gardens adjoining it contain foundations of the wall. A massive gold ring, set with a coin of the Emperor Severus, in excellent preservation, was found in an adjacent field. A castle is supposed to have succeeded the Roman station; so large a population as to have six churches is said to have been here at the Norman conquest; and so great was the strength of the place in 1088 that it then successfully resisted a siege by the insurgent barons of William Rufus. A piece of carved ivory, supposed to have been brought to England by Richard Cœur de Lion, and representing the Annunciation of the Virgin, was found behind the wainscoting of an ancient house occupied by the family of Masters. The town was made a borough in 1297; was temporarily disfranchised in 1359; was constituted the seat of county courts and assizes in 1365; was re enfranchised in 1471; was again disfranchised soon afterwards; was again re-enfranchised in 1621; continued thence till the date of the act of 1832 to send two members to parliament; fell much into decay during the progress of that period; was finally disfranchised by the act of 1832; and has, since then, passed into further decay. It has now a mean appearance, and is ill built. A two arched stone bridge connects it with Northover. The town hall, situated in the market place, is a spacious building. The cross is a pillar crowned by a sun dial, gilt ball, and vane. The church is early English; and consists of nave, N aisle, and chancel, with a tower. A black friary was founded in the time of Edward I., and a nunnery in the time of Edward II.; and the sites of both are still known. A grey friary also appears to have been here; and a church called St. Mary Minor, was near the bridge. There are an Independent chapel and a Wesleyan one, the latter rebuilt in 1861. An alms house was founded, in 1426, by Robert Veel; and still accommodates 12 men, and has an income of £118. There are national schools. The town has a post office† under Taunton and two chief inns; and is a polling place. A weekly market was held from about the time of the Conquest, but has been discontinued. A fair for cattle is held on the Monday before Palm-Sunday. Thread lace and silk were at one time manufactured, and there was recently a large sailcloth and canvas factory; but the chief trade now arises merely from the town's situation as a thoroughfare. A corporation, consisting of a high bailiff and twelve capital burgesses, still exists. Party spirit used to run very high here, in parliamentary elections; and the town was once represented by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The assizes were removed hence to Taunton, Wells, and Bridgewater. Roger Bacon was a native, and was educated in the Black friary. Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe also was a native. The town gives the title of Earl to the family of Fox Strangways. The parish comprises 653 acres. Real property, with North over and Sock-Dennis, £5,682. Rated property of Ialone, £1,936. Pop., in 1841, 1,068; in 1861, 781. Houses, 169. The living is a rectory in the diocese or Bath and Wells. Value, £150. Patron, the Bishop of London. The sub-district contains also nine other parishes. Acres, 10,844. Pop., 2,492. Houses, 510.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].


Vision of Britain historical maps


County: Somerset
Civil Registration District: Yeovil
Probate Court: Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Wells
Diocese: Bath and Wells
Rural Deanery: Ilchester
Poor Law Union: Yeovil
Hundred: Tintinhull
Province: Canterbury