The ancient parish of Martock was probably once triangular in shape, bounded by the Yeo (called locally Load River in 1417) to the north, the Parrett to the south-west, and the Fosse Way to the south-east. By the 10th Century the north-western extremity had become the parish of Muchelney, and the north-eastern part of Tintinhull. Thereafter the parish stretched 5.5 miles from north to south and 3.5 miles from east to west, and measured 7,226 acres. In 1895 the civil parishes of Ash (comprising the former tithings of Ash, Milton and Witcombe) of 1959 acres, and Long Load of 1451 acres were created. The low-lying ground has always relied much on artificial drainage, a medieval feature being the ‘lakes’ into which many of the ditches ran, particularly in the north around Long Load.
The principal route through the parish runs from Crewkerne in the south, enters the parish from the Fosse Way between Halletts and Ringwell hills, and meanders north through Bower Hinton, Hurst, across Hurst Bow, through Martock, Stapleton and Long Load, crossing the Yeo at Load Bridge and continuing north to Long Sutton and Somerton. Turnpike gates towards the west end of Coat and north end of Long Load had been built by 1811, and a toll gate and cottage at the crossroads south of Long Load by 1815. The Fosse Way, forming the whole of the south-eastern boundary of the parish, was known as the Dyed or Dead Way by 1607.
There are two major bridges in the parish. Gawbridge Bow occurs in 1243 as Gavelbrig. During the Civil War it was removed by the Parliamentary forces for military reasons, and between 1648 and 1677 was repeatedly presented, with Load Bridge, as a county bridge requiring repair. Load Bridge was mentioned in 1338, and is a late-medieval bridge of five arches. The centre arch has been renewed, probably to repair similar military damage.
Long Load, recorded as Lade in the later 12th century, developed along a spur above the 50ft contour on both sides of the main road north to Somerton, the street being built-up for about a mile to the south of Load Bridge. The three former open arable fields were on the higher ground and occupied the whole tithing south of the village. Church Hayfield (North field in 1551, Chapelhayfield in 1646) and Littlefield (South field in 1551) lay to the west of the street, and Mare field (East field in 1551, Mearefield in 1646) to the east of it. The low-lying areas in the north-west of the tithing beside the Yeo were occupied by the three ‘moors’ or common pastures. Outmoor, Foremoor (both so named in 1551), and Rottenham (Rodenham in 1379, Ratnam in 1556). Meadow land lay at Barland (Berelond in 1505) and Gosham (so called in 1440) in the north beside the Yeo, and at Mare mead, north-east of Mare field.
From the former church (now a private residence) in the centre of the village, Load Lane (Churchey Lane in 1507, West drove in 1636) runs west to Muchelney, formerly giving access to the ‘moors’ in the north. South of the village, Wetmoor Lane (Wotteway in 1388, Whetweys Wey in 1561, Whettens Lane in 1690) runs west to join Load Lane, serving common pastures outside the tithing including Wetmoor in the northwest corner of rhe parish.
The irregular western boundary of the tithing between Load and Wetmoor lanes was probably formed by allotment following enclosure between Martock and Load tithings. Withy beds lining the north-western boundary of the tithing and surrounding Rottenham were known locally as ‘werbers’ or ‘weerbears’ by the 17th century.
Stathes or wharves on the Yeo north of the village were mentioned in 1448 and 1552, and the field name ‘Coleplott’, sited by the river in 1672, suggests one of the principal commodities landed. The firm of Stuckey and Bagehot of Langport had a coal-yard north of the river in Long Load’s Kingsmoor allotment in 1824, and there was a salt-house there in 1841. South of the bridge and on the west side of the street stood the Bridgehouse, mentioned in 1379 and held in 1420 by the rent of 1lb of wax. It was occupied by John Bradford, boatman, in 1485-6, and continued to be held by the Bradfords until at least 1668. By 1776 the site was occupied by a stable and coal barton. The principal farms all lie along the main street, although settlement on the highway waste along the south side of Load Lane had started by 1647.
It is noticeable that whereas lias predominates in the older buildings along the northern half of the street, the use of Ham stone increases towards the south. There are several 17th and 18th century buildings mostly on the west side of the street and few of any size, but most of the houses are 19th century. There are some 18th and 19th century buildings in Load Lane, the land of much of which has more recently been developed as a residential chalet and caravan site.
Licences to sell ale in Long Load manor were granted in 1490, 1556 and 1557, and a victualler occurs at Coat in 1607.The Freemasons Arms at Ash and the Old Wheelwrights Arms, which became the Crown Inn in 1889, at Long Load both occur in 1841.
Martock had 136 taxpayers in 1327, of whom 22 each came from Bower Hinton and Stapleton, 19 from Coat, 15 from Hurst with Newton, 13 from Martock, 12 each from Milton, Long Load and Ash, and 9 from Witcombe. By 1548 there were 903 communicants, and in 1563 the parish included 253 households, of which 24 were at Stapleton and 26 at Long Load.
Between 1154 and 1184, Pharamus of Boulogne as lord of Martock Manor granted to the Knights Templar lands in Lade – later known as the manor of Long Load. On the suppression of the order the manor was given to the Hospitallers in 1332, and by 1338 was regarded as a member of the preceptor of Temple Combe. The order was suppressed in 1540 and in 1551 the Crown granted the manor to Winchester College, owners in 1974. A ruined house on the property, probably the manor house, occurs in 1338. It is not mentioned thereafter. The manor was described as 10 librates and one virgate in the later 12th century. In 1338 it was worth £14.5s, and included the demesne of 100 acres arable and 12 acres meadow. Long Load’s arable fields continued relatively unchanged, at least from the 16th until the early 19th century, and had a rotation system based on wheat, beans and fallow in the 16th and 17th centuries. The manor had an ancient right of common over the pastures known as Prestmoor and Wetmoor, which divided Martock from Muchelney. In 1254 William de la Lade agreed with Muchelney Abbey for his pasture in Wetmoor, and the abbey’s in Prestmoor, and a similar agreed was made in 1258 between the abbot and the lords of Long Load when Prestmoor was ditched and thereafter deemed to lie with Mulchelney parish. Long Load also had the rights in the adjacent commons of Louseham and Case, the cause of disagreements in 1505, again in 1562, when Winchester Collage sued the lord of Martock for molesting the tenants, and in 1567 when the Load tenants were excluded from Case. In 1740 the lord of Martock again excluded Long Load from Wetmoor, impounded cattle, and levied 10s on each beast ‘as an acknowledgement of our being trespassers on the rights of Martock and Muchelney’.
In 1775 Raymundo Putt’s ‘manor of Long Load’, evidently derived from lands in both manors, was held by 8 tenants paying £4.12s.
William Sparrow, formerly of the Parrett Works, founded the Somerset Wheel and Wagon Company at Bower Hinton in 1868. The firm was trading as William Sparrow Ltd, agricultural engineers, in 1974. James Paull, formerly a seedsman and corn factory in the parish, had established his sack and oil-covering factory by 1872 and in 1889 specialised in making tents and marquees. As Yeo Bros Paull & co, the firm was continuing at the Orient Tent Works in 1974. Another prominent business still operating in Martock is Harry Hebditch Ltd, founded c. 1907, to make poultry appliances, who in 1974 manufactured a wide range of sheds, greenhouses, garages and chalets. Yandle & Sons, timber merchants at Hurst, were wheelwrights atg Coat in 1894 and builders and wheelwrights at Hurst in 1906.Between 1883 and 1917 Martock had its own newspaper, Palmer’s Weekly News, established by M A Palmer at the Atlas printing office in Water Street.
A windmill near the highway in Long Load manor held with one acre of land for 2s a year was in decay in 1386. The land was then leased with the reversion of a further acre called the ‘Shoveledacre’. Enclosed bondland in the fields called ‘Milacre’ and ‘Sholdacre’ was recorded in 150.
Pastureland, other than over the open arable fields, was generally shared with other manors, principally at Wetmoor (Wattemore in 1254), Louseham and Case. Grazing rights there were also held by Long Load and by Muchelney Abbey.
The manor of Long Load was described as 10 librates and one virgate in the later 12 century. Rentals continued relatively stable during the 17th century, though during the Civil War and Interregnum considerable arrears accumulated. In 1740 the lord of Martock again excluded Long Load from Wetmoor, impounded cattle and levied 10.s on each beast ‘as an acknowledgement of our being trespassers on the rights of Martock and Muchelney’. An attempt to enclose Wetmoor by Act of Parliament was made by Martock manor tenants in 1766, supported by such Load tenants ‘as can keep a large stock and oppress their neighbours’. In 1776 it was stated that the soil was ‘remarkably deep, rich and good’. The arable was ‘equal to any in the county’, and the meadows were ‘very fine’, but lay near the river and were subject to floods which rotted the sheep and did the tenants ‘a deal of hurt’
Court rolls and books for Long Load survive for the years 1379, 1384-8, for many years in the 15th and 16th centuries, and continuously from 1551 to 1923.