The Mardy, Woodhill
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Parsons In 1786, the cottage on the land where The Mardy now stands was in the possession of a certain Henry Parsons. This is recorded in the book that accompanies the map known as ‘The Lords’ Map’, drawn by William White of Wedmore in 1787 for the Bishop of Bath & Wells. It was one of a series of cottages which were built as ‘encroachments’ on one of the few remaining commons in the parish. Woodhill Green disappeared at the beginning of the 19th century, along with Meare Green, Curlwood Green (Curload) and Warr Moor (Stathe) under the final Enclosure Acts. Plot number 526 covered an area of one rood, 29 perches, but no record is made of a rent. The cottage would have been built at what is now the back of the plot and the garden would have been extended gradually in to the common land. The map above also shows a pond, roughly on the site of the present pumping station.
Henry Parsons died in 1798 and was buried in Stoke church yard on 8th April. He and his wife Mary had 4 children; John, 1756, Samuel, 1759, Betty, 1764 and Richard, 1772. In the following year, Mary signs an indenture to make over the property to Samuel “in consideration of the natural love and affection which the said Mary Parsons hath . . .”. The record of this indenture also tells us that Samuel pays his mother the sum of 5 shillings (25p) “of lawful money of Great Britain” and that the property “was heretofore in the possession of Robert Willment, deceased, father of the said Mary Parsons.”
Samuel Parsons was a cordwainer, and to be able to use that title he had presumably completed his apprenticeship in shoe making. Cordwainers had the monopoly of making shoes from new leather, whereas cobblers were only allowed to mend footwear, although they could make shoes and boots from recycled leather.
Mary Parsons died in 1801, and presumably Samuel continued to live in the cottage, and at some point married his wife Ann. However, in January 1810, Samuel entered an agreement with John Hopkins Foster, Gentleman, of North Curry, who obtained a financial interest in the property. He made a payment of £100 to Samuel, witnessed by Thomas Dyer, then landlord of the Rose & Crown. Interest was also paid in 1811 and 1812.
Barrington On 6th September 1813 Samuel Parsons and John Hopkins Foster signed a one year lease with Thomas Barrington, Yeoman, of Stoke St Gregory, with a view to him buying the property at the end of the lease. “in consideration of 5 shillings (25p) a piece paid by Thomas Barrington . . . the cottage together with all Houses Outhouses Edifices Buildings Stays Paths Passages Outhouses Waters Watercourses Easements Profits Commodities Advantages and Appurtenances . . .”. This complicated legal process involved a rent of “one peppercorn” and resulted in a 500 year lease being taken up by Thomas Barrington, although the wording implies a permanent freehold - “to have and to hold the said cottage . . . to the only proper use of him Thomas Barrington, his heirs and assigns for ever and for no other use interest or purpose whatsoever.” Foster received £107- 6s and Parsons was paid £190. On 22nd September 1814 Thomas Barrington married Martha Hembrow in Stoke Church.
When the village Tithe Map was drawn around 1840, Thomas Barrington was registered as owner and occupier of the property, marked 674 & 675 on the map. By then he and Martha had produced four daughters. Sarah, born in 1815, died in 1819. Elizabeth, born in 1818, married William House in 1839, the same year that their first son, Richard, was born. William & Elizabeth went on to have Ann. 1842, Thomas, 1845, Henry, 1848, Martha, 1850 and Elizabeth, 1855. As was common practice, when Thomas and Martha’s next daughter was born in 1820 she was called Sarah, after the child who had died. Anne was the last child, born in 1825. Anne lived in the family home and died when she was 30.
Thomas Barrington made a will in May 1844, leaving all to his wife Martha. After her death, the beneficiary would be their daughter Ann. If Ann were to die without issue, the property would pass jointly to daughters Elizabeth (now House) and Sarah. Thomas Barrington died in February 1845, the will being proved in May 1846.
Venn John Venn was the son of William ( a butcher) and Mary Venn, who lived in Windmill. William had moved to Stoke from Uffcombe, Devon, sometime before 1840. By the time John was 25 he had taken over the butcher’s business. His brother William was by then 21 and a Hay Dealer. Sarah Barrington married John Venn in May 1852, but they already had one child together, Thomas Barrington Venn. They had another child after the marriage, but Charles, born 1854, died in infancy. Sarah’s sister Ann died in 1855 and Martha, their mother, died three years later. William married Mary Jane Tottle and lived in Meare green, growing withies. They had several children, including Charles Albert, and Robert Henry.
An indre was made in February 1859 between William House and Elizabeth his wife with John Venn. This conveyed the use of the house, etc to John Venn and his issue ‘for ever’. There is no record of money changing hands, but at the same time John Venn takes out a mortgage for £100 with an Elizabeth Webber Body of Corfe. John Venn made a will in December 1869, leaving all to his wife Sarah. John died in October 1889. Sarah made a will in November 1889 leaving all to her son Thomas Barrington Venn. And making him sole executor. She died in January 1892, with the £100 still owing to E W Body.
Thomas Barrington Venn had agreed to sell the property to Mary Jane Venn at a price of £200 and agreed that £100 be taken out of the sale price to clear the loan from E W Body. However, an auction took place at the Rose & Crown on Thursday 2nd of June stating that Mr William Venn (Mary Jane’s husband) was occupying the premises as a yearly tenant. The house had “three rooms on the ground floor. Two bedrooms. Store room with adjoining cider house, tiled Cow Stall and an excellent well of water.” Sold by Thomas Barrington Venn, who lived near Stoke Church. It was bought for £200 by William Venn, with him paying a deposit of £20 and £4 4s in fees.
William Venn died January 1901, and Mary Jane made a will leaving her house and garden to her son Charles Albert Venn, who was joint executor with his brother Robert Henry Venn. Mary Jane died in 1908.
In October 1911 a reconveyance was made by Charles Albert Venn to pay what was owing to E W Body, the sum of £150 including interest. In April of that year, the dwelling house and other buildings had been destroyed by fire. The mortgage having being paid off the remains of the cottage etc were now the sole property of Charles Albert Venn, who then lived at Poplars Farm, Meare Green.
Some time in the next four years, a new house was built, nearer the road and was named The Mardy. On 24th February 1912, Charles Venn takes out a mortgage with Western Counties Permanent Building Society. He had ¾ of a share in the society, entitling him to £45. By 19th October 1912 the new house has been built and Charles receives another £165 from Western Counties, in respect of 2¾ shares he now has - on security of the new house. On 29th September 1915 “a dwelling house, land, and premises called Mardy . . . between Charles Albert Venn, Withy Grower, and William Palmer, Willow Worker, Athelney . . . for the price of £460 fee simple.” - Although the receipt attached shows a payment of just £414 ???
The House Name
Although street naming and numbering had become common in towns and cities, most rural dwellings had no postal address before the end of the 19th century. The census returns for the houses along what is now Woodhill would all simply be recorded as “Cottage, Woodhill Road”. Only the names of larger houses and farms can be found in the records. It is likely, therefore, that the name ‘The Mardy’ was coined for the new house built around 1911.
We know that there were many links in Victorian and later times between Somerset and the South Wales industrial areas. It was a short trip by ferry across the Bristol Channel. Local basket makers set up businesses in Newport and Brecon. Others took up employment in the mines and steelworks, or became policemen. They or their children often returned to Stoke and renewed the family links. The most likely reason for the naming of the new house would be some such connection. Their are several places in South Wales called Mardy or Maerdy (a medieaval name meaning the home of the local reeve or estate steward), but only one is known as ‘The Mardy’, and that is located immediately to the north of the market town of Abergavenny.
An alternative would be a connection with the deep pit coal mines of the Rhondda Valley. The original Mardy Colliery, had been sunk by Mordecai Jones and Wheatly Cobb, both from Brecon, and the first coal was raised in 1876. On December 23, 1885, an underground explosion killed 81 men. It was probably caused by a Comet lamp, a naked light lamp, igniting firedamp. Could a relative have died in the explosion. More likely that a family member was working there in it’s heyday. The Mardy No 3 pit was sunk in 1893 at a total depth of 1,500ft.
There was, of course, a family with the surname Mardy who lived in Stoke in the 17th Century. In 1618 the name was spelt Mardey, and in 1624, Mardie, but from 1630 it appears as Mardy. The family name disappears from parish records at the end of the century, but may well have continued through the female line.
Alternatively, if the new house was built as a speculative venture, the owners might have decided to give it a name of some standing, explaining that it meant the Reeve’s House. It was built around the same time as Highfield House, Dunfield House, and Plas Newydd - another welsh name.