Pip Osborne, 12th April 2011

Green Ore: More Than Just a Pub

Our speaker this month was once again recruited at very short notice following apologies from Dr Jodie Lewis, whom we hope to welcome at a future date. Our thanks to the Programme Secretary for once again coming up trumps. Our replacement speaker was in no sense a second best and we were treated to a highly accomplished talk.

Green Ore is an isolated group of buildings in Central Mendip. It sits at the crossroads where the A39 Bristol to Wells Road is crossed by the B3135 from Burrington Combe. It is part of a landscape that Pip has been studying for some time now and her interpretation revealed many points of interest.

The building that engaged Pip's attention and the pub of the talk's title was not the one that now goes under the name of the "Ploughboy" but a building just before it and slightly set back from the road.

There are a number of features which suggest that the place has been a significant point in the landscape for many years. Approaching the crossroads from Burrington the road passes through a truncated Bronze Age barrow on the right. In more recent times the place has been the meeting point of three manors, namely Chewton, Emborough and Wells St Cuthbert Out. And more sinister are the records that show the site having been the location of a gallows.

In setting out to investigate the history of the area Pip uncovered some interesting information about the derivation of the name Green Ore and the history of the building itself.

Much of Pip's research was based on a close study of maps of the area, of which the earliest was one of Chewton dated 1650. Several show a distinctively-shaped enclosure which is still evident on Google Maps today. The varying spellings of the name "Green Ore" and the identification of the various buildings on the maps enabled Pip to build up a coherent story of the area's development.

Pip then turned her attention to the building itself which exhibits a number of interesting features, including a date plaque 1655, an ecclesiastic looking window, a "floating" door located above ground level and various odd bits of masonry incorporated into the structure. In the grounds are a pond and a stream.

The building had captured the interest of other enquirers before her. One of these was the Rev. John Skinner, the nineteenth century antiquarian, who reported that the house had been built on the site of a monastic house, that remains of a Roman Fort were to be found nearby and that the name Green Ore had been bestowed by local miners in recognition of the distinctive ore occurring in the locality. He was almost certainly wrong on this last point as Pip went on to suggest.

A Mr Ashworth had carried out some investigations in the 1950s to 1970s and drawn up a map suggesting possible medieval foundations near Rookery Farm.

The history of the house begins to be explained when account is taken of a Court case of 1609. The two parties were Waldegrave of Chewton Estate and Portman of Grenewore Farm, and the substance of the action was a claim by Waldegrave that he was the owner of the land and that Portman should have been paying him Tithes. Portman asserted that the property had never paid Tithes.

Freedom from Tithes is often an indicator of former monastic estates and indeed The Valor Ecclesiasticus, compiled by Henry VIII in 1535, stated that among the possessions of Hinton Charterhouse, a Carthusian Priory, was a property known as Greneworth. The suffix of this early version of the name is significant as it is Anglo Saxon in origin and implies an enclosure or farmstead. There is also a record of a Richard Pinnock in Elizabethan times stating that he had been a servant of the last two priors.

The emerging answer then is that the property was a grange belonging to the Carthusian Order of monks - an outlying property whose main function was as a centre of agricultural production. On upland Mendip this would almost certainly have implied sheep-farming. Further research shows that the farm had originally been granted to Charterhouse by the Cistercian Bordesley Abbey, Worcestershire in 1246. After the Dissolution the monks had been pensioned off and the land taken over by the Crown. The land had subsequently been acquired by the Portmans.

The building itself is probably an adaptation of a simple monastic structure which formed part of the grange with subsequent additions (possibly in 1655 as the date plaque suggests) making use of some of the masonry of buildings that were no longer required.

In summary Green Ore has a long history. Remains dating back to Neolithic times have been recovered. It was a significant enough place for Bronze Age people to build a barrow. The Saxons enclosed some land there and established a farmstead, as the early name Greneworth suggests. Its position on a crossroads at the boundary of three estates and the presence of a gallows indicate a focal point in the landscape. During the monastic period it was acquired by the Cistercian Abbey of Bardesley and subsequently made over to Hinton Charterhouse.

Pip's work on Mendip continues, one aim being to track down other possible granges belonging to the Hinton estate. She is one of a group studying the area who style themselves Community Archaeology on the Mendip Plateau (CAMP). They have a rewarding website at http://www.camplat.btck.co.uk/.

For further reading on the Carthusians Pip recommends:

A History of the Somerset Carthusians by E. Margaret Thompson (1895)

Peter Johnson