Underhill, Baden Hill Road



In medieval times the church was the centre of community life; but longer services in late medieval years with sermons and lessons led to the provision of seating in the nave, with the result that activities such as plays and dancing were taken into the churchyard, not yet obstructed by monuments. The new Church Houses provided food and ales, especially at the time of churchyard entertainments such as minstrels, players, bowling, archery and fencing as well as the annual fairs. A Tytherington document of 1554 mentions ' ... the building called the churchhousse '.Church ales were a very effective money raiser, often the major source of income for the church. The Bishop of Bath and Wells said in 1633 ... by church ales heretofore, many poor parishes have cast their bells, repaired their towers, beautified their churches and provided for the Poor.' An elderly person remembered, at this same time, that ' ... the churchyard was used for sportes and plays of severall sortes, as setting up of Maypoles and Summer Luggs (tug-of-war),dancing, sporting, kissing, bulbayting, coyting, bowling, shooting at Butts, cudgleplaying, tennis playing, and divers other sports and plays, and this was the time, also, when Charles I reissued 'Book of Sports' in favour of certain lawful sports to be used after Divine Service. It was in this milieu that the Church Houses flourished; but as the role of the church in the community diminished, so did that of the Church House and many became inns or beer houses. It is significant that in the Tithe Award of 1839 Underhill is described as a Beer Shop. Although no serious investigation into the history of this site, close to church, vicarage and grange, has been undertaken, remains of extensive foundations and stonework have been found behind the house, lending credence to the suggestion that here was the Church House to which belonged spits, crocks, etc., utensils for dressing provisions. Here the housekeepers met, and were merry, and gave their charity. The young people were there, too, and had dancing, bowling, shooting at butts, etc., the ancients sitting gravely by and looking on.'

Underhill became a private dwelling about 1841 and soon afterwards was occupied by its owner Hannah Smith (nee Tyler), who lived there until her death in 1876, age 96. It passed into the hands of George Boyt, who sold it to the Squire in 1901. From then for many years it was occupied by employees of the Hardwickes.