Strictly speaking, Weston has had three manor houses over the centuries.
As long ago as the 12th century – about the same time as the earliest part of the parish church was built – there was a moated manorial settlement some 200m south east of the church. This was probably a timber structure, and little remains to be seen, although in the south east corner of the site there is still a small L-shaped pond which may be the remains of the moat. It dries out in summer. The rest of the site has been covered in several feet of fly ash, the waste from the coal-fired powers stations which used to stand in Portishead. It is inhabited by swarms of rabbits which are distinctive because of their dark, almost black, coats: possibly the fly ash, perhaps a genetic variation.
The second manor house site lies about 150m down the lane beside the church, directly behind our house, The Dairy. When the lane was tarmacked in 2004 we found a cobbled surface under the mud, so this was obviously the route from the manor to the church.
This manor house was built in about 1430 by the Perceval family, lords of the manor of Weston from the 1100s to the 1700s. This is the building shown in the engraving, the original of which is in the Somerset County Archive. It’s unusual in being built so low down in the valley, where you might think there was a risk of flooding, but the valley is very wide and even in the extremes of weather in recent years, this has never been a threat. It has been suggested that what is now the main drainage rhyne was navigable by flat bottomed boats, which might explain its position, but this is speculation.
Today all that is left of the building is a small section of field wall in the south west corner. The lord of the manor at the time backed the wrong side in the English Civil War, so it became a “bit of a ruin that Cromwell knocked about.” His troops burnt and demolished part, but it remained habitable: the engraving is dated 1742, so it was a huge house even then.
After the Restoration, the lord of the manor, Thomas Perceval, who was financially stretched, applied to the King for some reward for his loyalty. All he received was two royal visits to Weston, the cost of which ruined him. The Percevals sold up in 1705 to the son of the lord of Easton in Gordano. In 1714 he died, and the estate was sold to Cann Wilkins, thought to be a Bristol merchant. Wilkins built the third manor house, now known as Weston Lodge, on top of the hill looking down through the woodland to the church and the village.
The manor house of 1430, in its reduced state, remained in use as a farmhouse, but was finally demolished at some point after 1742. But stone is very heavy and transporting it is expensive: look around at the older buildings in our village. It is likely that at least some of them were built of the demolition spoil purloined from the Percevals’ manor house. Many local field walls are built of finely dressed stone which must originally have been prepared, at great expense, for a stately building.
When landscaping our garden, we came across huge quantities of this dressed stone, and much of it has been incorporated into our work. The Percevals’ manor house lives on!
Content kindly provided by David Lewis