' HARPTREE COURT.
IN the north-western slopes of the Mendip Hills, one mile from West Harptree and eight from Wells, lies the charming little village of East Harptree. In the upper portion of the village, almost hidden by majestic trees, stands Harptree Court, and near by is the parish church, containing much that is interesting, including a fine canopied tomb in the south porch to the memory of Sir John Newton, a former lord of the manor, who married Margaret, daughter of Sir Anthony Poyntz, of Iron Acton. Sir John died in 1568.
Shortly after the Conquest East Harptree was a place of some importance. The manor was granted to the Bishop of Coutances, who let it to Aselin de Perceval, the progenitor of the illustrious family of Perceval. Robert Lord Breherval, who had estates in Yvery, in Normandy, with his three sons came to England with the Conqueror. After the Battle of Hastings, Lord Breherval, probably on account of his age, returned to his home, where he entered the Abbey of Bee, and ended his days there. His three sons, Aselin, Gouel, and William, remained in England. Aselin, who in consequence of his fierce disposition was surnamed Lupus the Wolf, held the manor of East Harptree until 1120, and John, his youngest son, subsequently became Lord of Harptree. He it was probably who erected the famous Castle of Richmont, the remains of which are to be seen on the side of the hill not far from the village.
The powerful Barons de Harptree made it their home for generations, and in the year 1138 Sir William de Harptree, who had vigorously espoused the cause of the Empress Maud, garrisoned his castle in her defence. King Stephen, who at that time was hurrying hither and thither endeavouring to quell the disturbances throughout the country, after having paid a visit to Bristol, marched to East Harptree for the purpose of subduing the Baron of Harptree. The garrison, hoping to surprise the King's forces, made a rash sally in order to attack the rear of the enemy. Anticipating this, the King sent his cavalry to the gates of the castle, thereby cutting off the retreat of its defenders. The gates were then burned down by the Royal forces, and the King became master of Richmont Castle.
The building was saved, and as late as the reign of Henry VIII., when Leland wrote his itinerary, it was partly in existence. The ancient historian says : " There is a goodly Castelle at this Eastwoods called Richmonte, wher noble Gurney lay much. Yt is now defaced to the hard grounds, and Sir John Newton, now lord of it, hath made his House harde by it of the Ruines thereof upon the very place wher the Graunge of Richmonte Castle was in Gurney's tyme." This statement gives a clear account concerning the ultimate end of this historic castle.... '
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