Abbess Lords

In 1415 the 13th Earl of Arundel sold the advowson of St. John’s church to Henry the Fifth, the same year of his renowned victory at Agincourt and his founding of the Abbey and Convent of Syon at Isleworth. Five years later, following the resignation of Yeovil’s rector, the King bestowed both rectory and lordship on the Abbess as titulator head of the convent, and so, from 1420, the church was served by a vicar and chaplains or curates.

The town now came under the rule of the abbess, who took all the greater tithes as well as fines from the courts, presided over by her steward, and toll from the markets and fairs. A visiting steward regularly accounted and collected the sums accruing.
However, in common with contemporary practices, the abbess ‘farmed’ much of her authority to Sir John Horsey of Clifton Maybank. An indenture of 1493 shows the lease to him, for four years, of the lordship of the Town, though the abbess reserved to herself the parish church and appointment of a steward. Sir John paid £45 per annum for his rights.

This arrangement continued until the Convent of Syon was dissolved by Henry the Eighth in 1539. Yeovil’s rectory and lordship was appropriated to the Crown and conferred by the King on his consort, Anne of Cleves.

The Lordship of the Abbey and Convent of Syon, for 116 years was commemorated by Nuns Well, close to the church, but now only by the boss of a nun in the roof of St. John’s church.

The Horsey family continued to retain the lay rectorship and lordship of the town under the Crown, for which, in 1584, the sum of £26 18s 8d was rendered. They continued to hold the lordship until 1610, when it was acquired by George and Thomas Whitmore, of London. They sold it the following year to Sir Edward Phelips of Montacute.
Abbess Lords