Somerset Urban Archaeological Surveys (EUS) The Somerset EUS

Crewkerne by Miranda Richardson

This is one of a series of reports on the archaeology of the urban (and formerly urban) areas of Somerset commissioned by English Heritage as part of its Extensive Urban Survey (EUS). The reports were prepared by Somerset County Council in 1994-98. There is a brief history of the town extracted from the report or you can download the whole report and maps in Portable Document Format (PDF).

Download Crewkerne report

A brief history of Crewkerne

Crewkerne is situated on the southern boundary of the modern county of Somerset on the complex geology of the Windwhistle Ridge. Its position gives it access to trade routes heading south to the coast as well as lying on the London-Exeter route way.

Little is known of the prehistory of the area and there are few indications of Roman presence in the parish. However, the Saxon history of the hundred is better known. Crewkerne was the centre of a large Saxon royal estate. The manor of Crewkerne is first documented when it was left in the will of King Alfred to his younger son Ethelweard in 899. The town is the site of a minster church of Saxon origin, for which a late 13th-century document exists describing its various relationships with its daughter chapels. It also had a mint in the later 10th and early 11th centuries. Bond has suggested that the lack of evidence for the town being a borough in Domesday may reflect its decline through the 11th century. Despite this Domesday does record a market being held at Crewkerne. In 1066 the manor of Crewkerne was held by Eddeva (Edith) mistress of King Harold. After the conquest is was held by William I and the church estate was given to the Abbey of St. Stephen in Caen, Normandy. Between 1272 and 1282 the benefice of Crewkerne was divided into three parts with portions given to the rector, the deacon and the subdeacon, perhaps as a remnant of the minster church's former collegiate status.

Leland visited the town in about 1540 writing "There I saw nothing very notable,.." although he did pause to describe the market cross. The economy of the town was essentially that of a rural market until the nineteenth century with some additional income generated by trade with the south coast, the town's position as a staging post on the London-Exeter road and the local cloth industry.