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By The Rev. William Greswell - 1922.

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' Chapter VII.

Castles of the Valley of the Parret.

AFTER the Conquest the Valley of the Parret was treated by the Normans as a strategic whole to be defended by castles of a stronger type than had hitherto existed. With Stoke (Courcy) Castle held by William de Falaise near the mouth of the river : Dunster Castle by William de Mohun further down the coast: Montacute Castle by Comes Moritoniensis, the Conqueror's half-brother : Castle Cary by Walter de Douai; and Richrnonte Castle by Azelin Gouel de Percheval under Geoffrey de Moubrai the warlike Bishop of Coutances, it is possible to discern the features of a strong " Quadrilateral." Roger, and, afterwards, William de Corcelle were firmly planted at Kilve and at numerous Quantock manors, together with East Brent and Chilton on Polden. The Norman fangs were securely fastened upon the prey in Somerset by sea and land. Along the waters of the Severn Sea the Mohun barons with their fore-shore rights extending from Countisbury and the King's Forest of Exmoor right down to Shurton Bars were supreme, guarding Minehead, Dunster, Watchet and all landing-places when the phenomenal retreat of Severn tidal waters offered a soft anchorage for hostile craft. Such a convenient landing-place may be seen any time at the ebb of the tide at Blue Anchor. For centuries after the Conquest invasion by sea upon North Somerset was always possible at unexpected spots where the ships of shallow draught could be beached at the ebb and could depart at the flow of high tides. Dunster Castle figured in the wars of Matilda as partially inaccessible on the sea flank (marino gurgite alluente inaccessum), although it requiies a feat of imagination now to call up Dunster port. In the days of Henry III a horde of Welshmen under William de Berkeley attacked Dunster Castle (1265), when it was defended by Adam le Gurdon.

In the days of Henry VIII precautions were taken to defend "The Coste of England upon Severn." There were guns placed at the mouth of the Parret; a battery below Minehead ; semi-circular enclosures of piles off Watchet and Porlock ; on Hurdstone point and Porlock two round towers. From the archives of Nettlecombe Court we know that, before the Armada days, elaborate precautions were taken to " impeach " a hostile landing. In each parish on the Quantocks and Brendons men were ready to assemble under leaders and to repair at a moment's notice to a danger spot. Careful watch along the sea was kept at " Cleeve hill " above Watchet with a system of fire-signalling to the Quantocks at such places as " fire-beacon hill" above Crowcombe and, presumably, to Bagborough itself (i.e. the Beacon borough). In Elizabethan times George Sydenham of Combe Sydenham, Sir John Stowell of Cothelston, Colonel Luttrell of Dunster and many others, both " pikemen " and " shot " men, enumerated by Emanuel Green, were ready to receive the Spanish enemy. There were twelve thousand men recruited in Somerset and at Mynnett (Minehead) there were two ships, one of thirty-five tons and the other of forty-six tons. There is the evidence of Elizabethan State Papers to show that Somerset and South Wales were grouped in one command. There were plans and projects for a Spanish Armada working from Milford Haven to make a descent upon the north coasts of Somerset. Even in Napoleon's time the thought of a French invasion upon this part of the Channel was held to be likely (1798) and a place-name called " French Buzzums " near the mouth of the Parret (a phrase of uncertain meaning) keeps alive a coast-alarm that filled South Wales and Somerset. For centuries the coast of Somerset was a first-class problem, and Sir W. Raleigh reported upon it........ '

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