Great Orchard

Great Orchard

Of Stone Farm, a detached part of Preston Plucknett


In his 'Agricultural Survey of Somerset' of 1797, John Billingsley refers to the large number of orchards for which the land is "peculiarly adapted". The large acreage devoted to this purpose in the Yeovil area reflects the county's reputation for cider making. The low wages being paid at that time to agricultural workers were augmented by an allowance of cider; a labourer received one shilling a day in winter 'with cider' and one shilling and fourpence with cider in summer. The latter amount was also paid for mowing grass per acre and one gallon of cider, while reaping wheat was paid for with four shillings per acre and 2½ gallons of cider. The large number of orchards in the town itself and the parish as a whole lasted right up to the end of the 19th century. Apples grown from grafts or crab stocks were such varieties as Royal Wilding, White Styne, Court of Week Pippin, Pouncet or Cadbury, Flood-Hatch, Black Pit Crab, Buckland, Mediate or Sourham, Royal Jersey, Woodstock, Red Hedge Pip, Old Jersey and Red Streak - all varieties which are unknown today.

 Great Orchard was a large rectangular orchard, one of several in the northeast corner of Stone Farm.

This area is actually a detached part of the parish of Preston Plucknett, known as Preston in Stone, and the Preston Plucknett Tithe Map of 1849 shows Great Orchard as Parcel 163. It was bounded on the south by Eight Acres (Parcel 165), to the west by Square Orchard (Parcel 164), on the north by Dairy House Plot (Parcel 159), Pit Orchard (Parcel 160), Orchard Close (Parcel 161) and Long Orchard (Parcel 162), on the east by a small brook marking the parish boundary, the other side of which are fields in the parish of Mudford.

The Preston Plucknett Tithe Apportionment of 1848 notes that Great Orchard was in the ownership of Henry Goodford Esq. of Chilton Cantello and occupied by Mrs Phillis Coles, as indeed was the whole of Stone Farm at this time. The Tithe Apportionment reckoned the area of Great Orchard to be 3a 1r 4p.

Other known owners / occupiers had been James Harris (1800), Mr Pester (1810), Mr Spear (1818), Stephen Coles (c1821-1827). Phillis Coles, in her later years assisted by her sons, ran Stone Farm after the death of her husband Stephen until her own death in 1877. Her son Edmund ran the farm after her death until his death in 1885. By 1886 a Mr Russell was farming Stone Farm but his widow sold up and retired in February 1900. In 1901 the tenant farmer was John Sawtell.

As seen in the aerial photograph of 1946, shown below, Great Orchard still retained its apple trees at this time. Recently however Great Orchard was merged with all the other fields in this northeast corner of Stone Farm to form the very large present-day field shown in the recent aerial photograph below.

Today all the orchard trees in the northwest corner of Stone Farm have gone.


maps and aerial photographs

The Stone area reproduced from the 1849 Tithe Map. Great Orchard is in the top right corner.


The 1946 aerial photograph showing Great Orchard, still containing its apple trees, in the centre of the lower right quadrant of the photograph. The dark wavy band running across the top third of the photograph and then running down the right side of the photo is a tree and bush-lined brook that forms the parish boundary between Preston in Stone and Mudford to the north and east.


The modern aerial view showing the large field at top right formed by the merging of Furze Leaze, Home Mead, Dairy House Plot, Pit Orchard, Orchard Close, Long Orchard, Square Orchard and Great Orchard. At left the boundary hedge between Lower Five Acres and Lower Ground has been removed very recently to form a similarly large field.


The 1849 Tithe Map superimposed over the current Google Earth image. Although the field boundaries do not align precisely, remember that the 1849 survey was undertaken by hand using primitive surveying equipment. The location of the former Great Orchard is the top right corner.



Between the hedge and the tree line, both running the full width of this photograph, is the large modern field comprising the former Furze Leaze, Home Mead, Dairy House Plot, Pit Orchard, Orchard Close, Long Orchard, Square Orchard and Great Orchard. Photographed in 2015.