The Old and Goodford Families


The two houses in Princes Street, now occupied by Warry, R-B News and Hagas, preserve their 18th.century appearance in the well-proportioned sash windows and the cornice above.  But at the gable end just visible above the roof of White's the jewellers can be seen a blocked up window with hood -mould or dripstone: this is clear evidence of an earlier building of the 17th.century date, and illustrates a remark about Yeovil of Thomas Gerard's "Particular Description of Somerset"(1633) that: "yet of late some have begun to new build". Other houses of this period survived in Market Street and Hendford until their demolition in recent years. On the same gable end is a leaden rain-water head bearing the initials JO and the date 1720.This provides a clue to the history of the house, for we know that John Old, a mercer (or dealer in textiles), was living in Yeovil at that time and as important enough to serve as custos and later as warden on the management board of Woborn's Almshouse.   His father, John Old the elder, was also a mercer, and acted as churchwarden of St. John's in 1676.  He died in 1710,and it was John Old the younger who gave the house a new look in 1720, replacing the thatch with tiles, and casement windows with sash windows. Perhaps he was keeping up with his fellow mercer, Samuel Dampier, who built Old Sarum House in the same period.


John Old the younger married Elizabeth Hayne by whom he had a daughter, Mary; she inherited the house in Princes Street (then called the Cattle Market) and married Samuel Goodford, described as a gentleman of Trent. They probably lived in Mary's home, since Samuel appears in the Woborn records as warden in 1735 and custos in 1741.Their son was named John Old Goodford and he too held office in Woborn's Almshouse on several occasions before 1764 and 1783.He married Maria Phelips of Montacute, who bore him four daughters and one son, John Goodford. The latter followed the family tradition in serving as a Woborn Almshouse Trustee between 1807 and 1819.


John Goodford, always described as a gentleman, left Yeovil to live in the manor house at Chilton Cantelo, but continued to interest himself in town affairs. Poverty and distress during the years after the Napoleonic Wars aroused fears of unrest and violence, especially among rural labourers.  A Yeovil association was formed in 1813 with an annual subscription of half a guinea to provide legal aid to owners whose property might be destroyed by rioters. The activities of' Captain Swing' who destroyed the hated threshing machines in the late '20's prompted John Goodford, who was a J.P. to recruit in 1830 70 'respectable Yeomen' for the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry to assist in quelling disorder. They wore brass helmets, red tunics with gold wire epaulettes, and white trousers. Their services were soon required, for in October 1831 a serious riot occurred in Yeovil following the defeat of William Ponsonby by Lord Ashley in a Dorset Parliamentary Election. Ponsonby, defeated by a very slender margin, had strongly supported the Whig Reform Bill then before Parliament, and Lord Ashley's agents were accused of corruption in the contest.  Rioting in Blandford and in Sherborne spread to Yeovil, where on the evening of Friday 21st October, a crowd of over 100 men, women and boys, crying 'reform and Ponsonby' attacked the homes of solicitors known to be agents of Lord Ashley and opposed to reform.


The worst damage was done at the homes of Edwin Newman and of Francis Robins in Sheep Lane: windows were damaged, furniture broken and liquor was consumed, the damage was estimated at £1500.Glenthorne House and Hendford House had windows broken. Although John Goodford 'read the riot act', supported by Mr. Vining, Mr.Hannam and the constables, the crowd continued to surge through Kingston and Hendford until four o'clock in the morning.  On the following day (Saturday) as the unrest continued, John Goodford decided to call out the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry under the command of Captain Harbin; later they were joined by the Martock Troop. The yeomanry were stoned, and at one point six men were ordered to fire into the air: this action infuriated the mob, who then broke the windows of the Mermaid Inn were some of the rioters were detained after arrest. More windows were smashed in Hendford Manor (the home of the Rev. James Hooper), but the arrival of a detachment of the 3rd Dragoon Guards quietened the rioters, who were eventually dispersed by Sunday morning. In recognition of the manly and forbearing character of the Yeomanry, the inhabitants of Yeovil subscribed £255, and each member was presented with an ornate jug, bearing a crest and emblems of agricultural life (a scythe, a basket of apples, a cask of cider and sheaves of corn). Four of which are kept and displayed at the Community Heritage Access Centre.


At Taunton Assizes in April 1832,twenty persons were charged with riotous assembly, and 13 found guilty, receiving sentences of 18 months to 6 days, Special constables were enrolled to patrol the street daily for 16 weeks after the riots.


John Goodford spoke at a Yeovil meeting called in 1832 to protest at the importation of cheap foreign gloves, which has badly affected Yeovil manufacturers. One of the last family links with Yeovil occurred in 1872 when Miss Goodford, daughter of Charles Old Goodford, Provost of Eton, and granddaughter of John Goodford, formally opened the new Yeovil Hospital founded by Dr. Marsh. Meanwhile his former home in Princes Street was taken over by Thomas Cave who had established a brewery behind the house by 1825.   Cave, a prominent freemason, was a churchwarden and from 1830 to 1849 a Town Commissioner. He liberally supported the unsuccessful campaign to give Yeovil an elected municipal government. His business in Princes Street prospered, and he owned at least two public houses, the Duke of Clarence and the White Hart. Before his death in 1863,he went into partnership with Joseph Brutton, whose family carried on business as brewers, maltsters and wine merchants until well into the present century; by this time the two houses ceased to be private residences, and became the brewery offices under Mitchell and Toms and finally Charringtons. Apart from their recent shop fronts, they still retain their 18th.century character like the nearby Wyndham House, Bryndene and Old Sarum House.


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