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"Cuts" & "Turkey"

If you walk the public footpath from Hook Bridge, round the back of Turkey Cottage, along Crooked Drove, and across the railway to Baltmoor Wall, you will be following the main channel of the original River Tone. The river then meandered across Salt Moor, turning right at West Yeo (yeo is an Anglo Saxon name for river). It joined the Parrett near Manor Farm. If you walk back down Cuts road to Athelney Bridge you will be following a smaller channel of the Tone, which then curved round below Athelney Hill and joined the Parrett near the present confluence. Between your start and finish points is a stretch dug and embanked in 1374-5 to lessen the flooding on the land of the Abbot of Athelney.

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Crooked Drove Rhyne

Reclamation to the north of the Tone was already taking place in the 13th Century. Athelney Abbey had been established by King Alfred in 888, as a religious house for monks of the Order of St. Benedict. It was dedicated to "Our Blessed Saviour, St. PeterSt. Paul, and St. Egelwine". The dedication to St. Æthelwine suggests that it may have been an enlargement of a hermitage or monastery already in existence, although the Time Team investigation did not find concrete evidence of this, The seventh-century saint, Æthelwine (Egelwine) of Athelney, was son of King Cynegils (611-642) and brother of King Cenwealh (642-672), rulers of the West Saxons. He had lived the life of a hermit on Athelney and it has been suggested that Athelney, Athelings’ Island, was rather a corruption of Æthelwine’s Island.

The Abbots of Athelney were certainly involved in reclamation, the area having a layer of fertile alluvium over the peat deposits, but in the 13th Century the King gave the Dean and Chapter of Wells Cathedral the Manor of North Curry, which had been part of the royal demesne. This included the whole of the sandstone ridge from Stathe to North Curry, together with the moors on either side. It was obviously an important source of revenue for the Dean, but many claims of wrongful enclosure are recorded, with the names of Sir John & Agnes de Alre cropping up frequently as the third major landowners.


Start of the 'Cut' From Hook Bridge


Crooked Drove and the 14thC 'Cut' Along the Tone

The following decades saw various agreements between the main landowners, dividing the land so that it was more easily enclosed. During this time the area we now as Oldmead and Haymoor was reclaimed. Sir John was also given 40 acres of Stathe Moor (now Stanmoor) to enclose, on the understanding that he would give up rights of common on Wells’ Curry Moor land. However, all the pieces of reclamation did nothing to alleviate the main problem of flooding, which was due to the volume of water flowing down the Tone, and the inadequacy of the Parrett channel to cope with its own water, let alone that of the Tone at its confluence.

As we know, the Tone flowed towards the gap between Athelney and Lyng and then split. The smaller channel flowed alongside what is now Cuts Road, but the main one flowed over North Moor and Saltmoor, flooding the surrounding land whenever the river was in spate with the freshes coming down from the hills above Taunton. In 1374-5 the Abbott of Athelney and others diverted the Tone into a new embanked channel, three quarters of a mile long. When Baltmoor Wall was added, Saltmoor (part of the Athelney Estate) was even more protected from flooding, but the owners of land on Stanmoor (then Stathe Moor) were not happy, as their property was much more liable to be flooded. Not only was all the water coming down from Taunton and the hills beyond now very near their property.

The embankment of the Tone also enabled a small settlement to develop at what is now known as Turkey. Much later, in 1840, the tithe map shows three properties in the area, benefiting from rich meadow land and ground suitable for growing withies. Turkey Farm (later demolished when the Tone was widened, was occupied by Hezekiah Chedzoy and jointly owned by himself and Charles Holcombe Dare, one of the Stoke’s larger landowners. A cottage behind the farm, also now demolished, was owned and occupied by John Winslade, who also owned adjoining withy beds. What is now Turkey Cotage was owned by John Garland, but occupied by Thomas Hetherton. Other surrounding withy beds were owned by Samuel Dare, and by Philip Garland, who founded the Garland willow growing and dealing family, then living at the cottage on the corner of Stanmoor Drove and Collickshire Lane.

Turkey in the 1930s

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