Somerset County Herald 28 Jan 1939 Local Notes and Queries Hillcommon includes HAYES

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Somerset County Herald and Taunton Courier Saturday 28 Jan 1939

Page 4 Column 2 & 3


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3315. - THE NAME HILLCOMMON. - How did this village or hamlet derive its name? I should be glad of any information. I have been looking at an old map when this place did not exist. I have also been told that the first inhabitants built their houses in the night and claimed so much land. - EX-CORDUROY.

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3315. - HILLCOMMON. - I believe that what “Ex-Corduroy” has been told with regard to the first inhabitants of Hillcommon is correct. I have always been given to understand that at one time the site of this hamlet was nothing more than a large tract of common land which nobody claimed. But it seems to have been generally believed by people at that time living in the district that anyone could establish a claim to a certain portion of the land provided they could put up a house upon the part required in one night and sleep in it. One of the first houses – if not the first – set up in this way at Hillcommon was built by a Mr. James HAYES, of Oake, who complied with the conditions of the local tradition by building a house of turf in one night and sleeping in it. Having thus fulfilled the conditions he took possession of the land, and no-one seems to have disputed his right to do so. Soon afterwards he took down the turf house and build a substantial brick and stone residence on the site, and in it he lived for the rest of his life. Others in the neighbourhood, seeing this done, soon followed Mr. HAYES' example, and in a short time most of the common land had been built upon and claimed in this way. One piece, however, was set apart to be dedicated to religious purposes. The people of the hamlet collected enough subscriptions to build a chapel upon this site, and the erection was superintended by Mr. Aaron HAYES. The chapel was in connection with the Bible Christians, and was built, as is stated on a stone on the outside, in the year 1842. I have heard it said that some of the people who in the early days took possession of building sites in the way described above were threatened with lawsuits by the lord of the manor, but I believe no proceedings were ever taken against them, and that the builders of the “night-houses” were left in undisturbed possession. - P.B.

3315. - THE NAME HILLCOMMON. - I am sorry I cannot tell your correspondent, with certainty, the derivation of this place-name. It would appear to have been “the common on the hill.” but appearances are often deceptive in place-names, and he no doubt knows that the name Bridgwater has nothing to do either with a bridge or with water, but was really the burg, or stronghold, of Walter of Douaiburg-Walter. A large percentage of our other Somerset place-names are similarly derived from personal or family names, although in many cases this may not appear to be so on the surface. One of our greatest authorities on Somerset place-names was the late Rev. J. S. HILL, who was vicar of Stowey, about nine miles south of Bristol, and he seemed particularly inclined to trace place-names back to personal names whenever he could. I cannot find that he gave the derivation of the name Hillcommon – possibly he thought it too obvious – but in the case of Hill Farrance, not very far away, he definitely traced the name to a Saxon personal name, Hilla, and, presumably, a family of that name were amongst the earliest owners whose names have come down to us. Mr. HILL says Hilla (in another form Hillo) is a very old Somerset name of Saxon origin, and, although he does not say so, it may quite possibly be that he himself was descended from some old Saxon of that name who settled in Somerset many centuries ago! But he admits that “Hill” in a place-name is not always derived from a personal name, or from what we know as a hill to-day. He says “When you discover a place called Hill situate in a vale, it is obvious that the physical circumstances do not account for it” Sometimes the name may be a shortened form of Hylde, sometimes it is hyl meaning a hollow or dell, whilst in other cases it has developed from Il, isla, or a watery spot in place-names, or from the river name Ile. Referring to Bishop's Hull, formerly known as Hill Bishop, Mr. HILL says in this case Hill in not clearly a personal name of an early proprietor, but a form of Ile as situate on the rising over the river. I have probably said enough to show that guess-work is of very little value in attempting to trace the derivation of a place-name. The only safe way in the great majority of cases is to examine all the earliest appearances of the name in old records and writings of hundreds of years ago and to see what can be learnt from them. - READER.

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