Ham landmarks (Weirside Cottage)

Until the time of the WW1, Ham was separate from the rest of Pilton parish and its residents are buried in Pilton church there rather than in Shepton Mallet.

Wearside Cottage on the A371 today

The archtecture of this cottage suggests it was built around 1650 and it was probably the miller’s dwelling for the adjacent corn mill, although that remains to be proven. What is certain though is that it was part of the mill complex of buildings in 1809 and was (still) owned by the Strode family in 1838/9 according to the Pilton Tithe, although it was leased to a tenant at that time.

Following the demise of the woollen cloth industry in Shepton Mallet and the surrounding area by about 1820, the town in general went through several decades of privation. Successive censuses showed many homes standing empty for 20 years or more as hundreds of families left the town to seek work elsewhere in England and the USA. Weirside Cottage was affected too and from 1838 (perhaps before) to 1861, the house was divided into two dwellings – a common practice then to house poorer families. By 1861 though its occupants had also been blighted by the economic depression in the town and the house was empty.

Ten years later, the census shows that a woman, whose husband likely worked away, was living in Weirside Cottage with her six children.

The end of Strode family ownership came in the 1860’s or 70’s as that branch of the family emigrated to New Zealand and, in 1905, eventually sold up – “a cottage and two pieces of garden ground near Ham Mill” – for £100. The new owner was Eveline Hawkey (née Fear) who was a schoolteacher at Bowlish and later Croscombe schools. She and her family lived there for 65 years.

Family painting

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