About

Introduction

The parish of Staplegrove is situated about one and a half miles north west from Taunton town centre, occupying a slightly elevated position overlooking the Vale of Taunton Deane. It is first recorded within the Bishop of Winchester’s ownership of this Taunton area of Wessex in the early 13th century, though clearly existed by name prior to this time. Taunton Manor was divided into ‘hundreds’, of which Staplegrove was one. The area of this hundred covered a large part of what today is north western Taunton, including much of St. James. However, the hundred of Staplegrove was further subdivided into ‘tithings’, one of which was the tithing of Staplegrove, another the tithing of Burlands and together these approximate to the present parish boundary.

A church or chapel may well have been in existence on the site of the present church of St John The Evangelist from around the 13th century, but evidence confirming the date, or dates, of construction of a building of worship here is remarkable for its absence from records rather than for the detail of record. This is probably due to the paucity of local major dignitaries, families or large landowners of the time, in whose archives and wills details of their gifts and benefactions would have been preserved.

Today the parish is almost contiguous with the north western side of Taunton town, providing a most pleasant semi rural residential area, with many open spaces and expansive views of the Quantock Hills (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and Blackdown Hills. There are small shops, a Post office and a small commercial sector to the south side, bordering the Great Western railway line. The Village Hall, completely rebuilt in recent years, is host to a wide range of activities and offers a thriving centre for social and cultural pursuits. There is a flourishing Primary school and the larger, private Taunton School, offering co-education at all ages. Staplegrove is also home to the Somerset Nuffield Hospital, situated a few hundred yards from The Grove.

For many The Grove marks the centre of Staplegrove.

For many parishioners The Grove itself marks the geographical centre of Staplegrove, a notion which is reinforced by the presence of the “Village Shop and Post Office”. This small area of woodland is owned by the Parish Council, although only since 1984. Before this it was an area of ‘common land’, allotted in the 1851 Taunton Deane Inclosure Awards “to be used as a place of exercise and recreation for the inhabitants of the said Parish of Staplegrove and neighborhood.” The first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1887, which is available for inspection on microfilm in the county library in Taunton, shows The Grove as an area of mixed woodland, characteristics it retains today.

An informative leaflet can be obtained either from Taunton  Deane Borough Council Offices in Belvedere Road or downloaded from the Taunton Deane web site.

 

The Vineyard

Staplegrove is among but a few parishes in the south west to enjoy the fruits of our local vineyard. In medieval times Staplegrove was known as one of the best of the ‘infaring’ parishes of the vast manorial Winchester estate and was chiefly used for the production of grain. Down the centuries the soil has remained fertile and well drained, ideally suited to the grazing of cows and to the growing of grapes of all sorts.

Vines were first planted at Burlands in the valley lands towards the north of the parish in 1981, and in 1984 the vineyards were expanded to take in land at Combe, near West Monkton, the two being run together to make Staplecombe wine.

Since those early days the area under vines was increased then later reduced and there are now some 1000 vines growing at Staplegrove. These include four varieties for white wine production and one for red. These varieties were bred in Germany for the cooler parts of the Rhine and Mosel vine fields and are able to ripen in southern England with success in all but the most adverse of seasons.

Sadly, wine is no longer made at Staplegrove; the fresh fruit is sold at harvest to neighbouring wineries. However, the vineyards are open to visitors when the proprietors, Martin and Alison Cursham, are at home and those who are intrigued to see the neat rows of growing vines are welcome to walk round except when operational work is in progress. A call to 01823 451217 is recommended before coming to confirm that the fields are open.