Last updated: Thu 19 Mar 2015

Solved: a mystery in Horn Street

Visit Nunney has helped solve part of a mystery that had puzzled two Horn Street neighbours for a while.

Horn Street Nunney

Brookside Cottage is seen on the right in this photo, taken circa 1907.

Neil Murphy of Brookside Cottage and his neighbour Christopher Foster of The Green House were trying to establish which of the two properties was built first.

The Green House is an end-of-terrace cottage, whereas Brookside is fully terraced. It could therefore reasonably be expected that the end-of-terrace was an extension of the terrace – or that both were built at the same time.

Early 20th century photos in Visit Nunney’s archive provided no answers. Both cottages looked much the same a century ago as they do today.

Unsurprisingly, the 1903 Ordnance Survey map of the village also shows the situation on the riverside of Horn Street much as it is today.

Much older maps in the Somerset County Archives, however, finally settled the matter. The archive houses vast maps of the Manor of Nunney produced for Lord of the Manor James Theobald in 1760 and 1786.

These show that The Green House was already there, with another building to the south side. Parts of the walls of this structure still survive in the courtyard garden at The Green House.

Brookside Cottage and the neighbouring cottage on the north side, however, are missing. Both appear as gardens or allotments on the maps.

The Manour of Nunney belonging to James Theobald Esq. (collection: Somerset Heritage Centre)

Detail of the c1760 map of the Manor of Nunney belonging to James Theobald Esq. The location of Brookside Cottage and The Green House are circled. (collection: Somerset Heritage Centre)

The 1786 map also shows the site of Brookside Cottage as not yet built upon. (collection: Somerset Heritage Centre)

The 1786 map also shows the site of Brookside Cottage as not yet built upon. (collection: Somerset Heritage Centre)


Unfortunately, that solves only part of the riddle. We don’t yet know when Brookside and the neighbouring cottage were constructed. There is also an as-yet-unexplained 5 foot gap between the interior walls in Brookside and The Green House – a bricked in alleyway perhaps?

The earliest census data available for Nunney are from 1841. However, they don’t provide information for individual properties, with few exceptions.

In the case of Horn Street, the 1841 census specifically names Rockfield House (occupied at the time by the Reverend John Ireland), his neighbours at Somerset Lodge (the Rickards) and a miller, presumably at Penny’s Mill opposite Rockfield House.

That suggests that the list jumps from one side of the street to the other – not very helpful for our purposes. So what next?

A survey map of the parish of Nunney, surveyed by Dixon and Maitland in April 1838 and held in the Somerset Heritage Centre’s collection, still shows a gap where Brookside now is. So the house dates from after April 1838.

Survey map of the parish of Nunney surveyed by Dixon and Maitland

Survey map of the parish of Nunney surveyed by Dixon and Maitland

We know that there was a shoemaker at the bottom of Horn Street, the house now occupied by Marianne Webb. The census shows a James Millard, 75, shoemaker, but the property is not specified.

But if we assume that this was the same property, we could count the number of households from there to Rockfield House.

That raises further questions, however, because we would have to establish how many properties we know existed at the time. For example, how many – if any – were there on the site of Norman Leater’s bungalow and the neighbouring garden with garage?

The 1851 census lists pretty much the entire village as living on Nunney Street (now High Street), and the 1861 doesn’t mention Horn Street nor any significant properties on it.

As ever when you research local history, you end up with more questions than you started off with. Perhaps we will be able to find a conclusive answer in the archives on when Brookside was built.

Horn Street Nunney

This photo of Horn Street shows cottages on the left that were demolished around 1937.

Horn Street Nunney

Other properties demolished in 1937 include the cottages on the right in this photo, now Penny’s Mill’s walled vegetable garden.

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