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Home for the Destitute and Charity School (c.1660 - 1872)

Poor House


During the 17th Century the Puritan movement led to church ales falling out of favour. Downstairs was adapted to accommodate six poor people. The area was divided into three separate rooms. It is believed that the kitchen continued as a kitchen with its own access door to the road – the current main entrance. The Churchwardens took on the responsibility of administering the Poor House, the heating of these rooms in the winter and for financial support of its occupants. They kept a tight grasp on who needed the assistance. For example, from the Churchwardens' and Overseers' Accounts of 1780: ‘it is ordered that James Burston, his wife and children, have Notice given them immediately to quit the Church House at Midsummer day next, he having sufficient to provide a House for himself and maintain his family.’

Charity School

By 1661, upstairs was a charity school where children benefiting from the Carew Family Charity were taught. The school received three endowments: in 1668 from Elizabeth Carew, wife of Thomas Carew, the Lord of Crowcombe-Carew, in 1716 from the parish Rector, the Rev Henry James and in 1733 from another Thomas Carew, Elizabeth's nephew.


The latter Thomas Carew laid down very specific regulations for the Charity school for the education of 40 children principally from the parishes of Crowcombe and Clatworthy: two thirds to be boys and one third girls. The school was to be: ‘For the education of forty Poor children........ of parents bred and educated in and propossing the protestant religion according to the usage of the Church of England by law established............who are incapable of education......out of any real or personal estate of their own.’ (1)

Dual Occupation

Williton Workhouse, opened 1838 (2)This dual occupation continued for about 200 years. Crowcombe joined the Williton Poor Law Union in 1836. Williton Workhouse was built in 1838, under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott, architect of St Pancras Hotel and the Albert Memorial in London. Crowcombe's able-bodied poor were transferred to Williton Workhouse in the autumn of that year.


The transfer of the poor to Williton Workhouse in 1838 began to create financial problems for the parish. At a key meeting of the Vestry in 1841 it was decided not to sell the Poor Houses, despite pressure from the Williton Union. Meanwhile there were still maintenance costs to be borne.


The children being educated at the Carew Charity School were transferred to Crowcombe School on its opening in 1872.


Opening of Crowcombe School, 1872


The next phase: Ruins to Restoration (1872 – 1908).



  1. Deeds and Rules of Crowcombe Carew School, 16 July 1733, Somerset Heritage Centre, DD/C/132b
  2. Mary Evans / Peter Higginbotham Collection