Pit Orchard

Pit 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.

 Pit Orchard was a long narrow 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 Pit Orchard as Parcel 160. It was bounded on the west by Home Mead (Parcel 158) and Dairy House Plot (Parcel 159), on the south by Great Orchard (Parcel 163), on the east it was bounded by Orchard Close (Parcel 161) and to the north 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 Pit 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 Pit Orchard as 2a 2r 5p.

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.

At some time before 1946 Home Mead, Furze Leaze and Dairy House Plot were merged to form a large square field as shown in the 1946 aerial photograph below. At this time Pit Orchard was next to this new field but, as seen in the aerial photograph below, still retained its apple trees at this time. In more recent times the new large field was itself merged with Pit Orchard (Parcel 160), Orchard Close (Parcel 161), Long Orchard (Parcel 162), Square Orchard (Parcel 164) and Great Orchard (Parcel 163) 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. Pit Orchard is towards the top right corner.


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


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 Pit Orchard is towards 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. Pit Orchard would have been immediately beyond the hedge. Photographed in 2015.