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History of Clare Hall

The history of the village can be traced back to the Bronze Age, where evidence of a pre-historical burial ground can be found in a field opposite Clothier's farm. Stonyway, east of the Chewton Hundreds, was a small Saxon settlement of some importance, comprising of 4 Manors and 4 Chapels, and the village was split into major and minor. The following were Priories run by the Abbots of Bruton. Manor House, now site of Clare Hall, with a chapel adjoining was in Minor, the Manor Farm which also had a chapel attached, (later was to become the Parish Church) was in Major, as was Hey Street Farm (now owned by the Watt's family) and Upper Lodge Farm (now owned by the Killen's family). Almost overnight, with the Norman Conquest the overlords were reduced to three. The village re-established itself under Norman Rule.

The area of the Chewton Hundreds became prosperous owing to the sweet pasture of the line stone hills for sheep and the proximity of water. It became one of the wealthy centres of the woollen industry, hence the beautiful perpendicular tower of Chewton Church. For the next couple of centuries life continued to be prosperous and peaceful. The Plague of 1348 (Black Death) caused devastation of Wells and the surrounding areas. In Ston Easton, within the grounds of Clare Hall Estate, were 4 small Priories (religious houses maintained for travellers and tending to the sick). Garlic was used for medicinal purposes, nettles as food and tonic. Evidence of this can be found today by the profusion of garlic and nettles still growing in the grounds of Clare Hall and The Hayloft.

The Civil War of 1660 split the country. Locally there was a big battle on Chewton Plain (hence Kings Hill, which is positioned on the A39) prior to the fall of Bristol which was the deciding factor in the Cromwellian campaign. The Hippisley family remained loyal to the Crown - unlike the Gurney family who supported Cromwell and hence Farrington Gurney became part of the Duchy of Cornwall. It is rumored that there is a secret passage between Clare Hall and Ston Eston Park, this is possible because of the cavernous ground, but no concrete evidence has been found to support this story. In 1710, following a successful court case, the Hippisley's became lords of the manor of the whole of Ston Easton.

Ston Easton Park was completed in the 18th century and has become one of the important Palladium mansions in the County; the grounds were landscaped by the eminent garden designer Sir Humphry Repton.

The name Ston Easton comes from Easton or Estone meaning town to the east of Chewton Mendip and Ston or Stone from the geological strata in the area.

In the late 18th century the Manor House (Clare Hall) was owned by John Dury who converted it from a Tudor farm house to a gentlemen's residence and the stables were built in 1815. The village school, which remained in existence until 1967, was founded by a Mrs Nash and Mrs Ivan Hippisley in the late 19th century.

In 1896 Mrs Ivan Hippisley bought Clare Hall as a Dower House and lived there with her unmarried daughter Ivy, until her death. She added and improved the house, and kept a herd of Dexter cows, which supplied both Ston Easton Park and Clare Hall with milk, cream and cheese from the dairy which now forms part of the kitchen. After her death the property was passed to her son, Bayntun Hippisley (known as Commander Hippisley).

Clare Hall was let in the 1930's to an Irish lady, Mrs Lambert, who had the House Lounge blessed by the Catholic Church - and being rather eccentric, kept bees in the drawing room, now known as House Lounge.

Bayntun Hippisley, in the early part of the 20th century, was a brilliant engineer, keen motorist and inventor. He owned one of the first cars in Somerset, unfortunately he did not register it straight away and the number plate which should have been YI became Y93, and is still retained by the Hippisley family to this day. He was a founding member of the Somerset RAC and Somerset Motor Club, which still holds regular rallies (the centenary was held at The Park in 2000). The then Price of Wales (later King Edward VII) who also was a car enthusiast, visited the Hippisley family, and on being told Bayntun Hippisley, who was on the roof at Clare Hall, commented that the royal visitor would have to wait whilst the cement set – and the Price did wait!

Commander Hippisley was the last Squire and on his death the House and estate of 13 farms were sold for death duties.

In 1953 Clare Hall was rented by Mr & Mrs Clarke from Rickford. Their daughter Kathleen married John Hippisley in 1955 and they returned from London to live at Clare Hall in August 1965. After John Hippisley's death in 1983 his wife Kathleen sold Clare Hall in 1985 to Mr & Mrs Morton who converted it to a Nursing Home. During the conversion 5 deep wells were discovered in the cellar which is of Saxon & Tudor origin.

Clare Hall is now owned by Cherry Garden properties Limited and is situated in beautiful countryside. The gardens are well laid out with many shrubs and trees, and during the spring and summer there is a profusion of daffodils, wood anemones and bedding plants.