A taste of the history of Baltonsborough
The first clue as to the origins of Baltonsborough lies in the name. The village stands on a slight rise beyond what would have been a sea of water between it and Glastonbury. The highest point, now known as Windmill Hill, would have been the site of the settlement, ringed round with ditches and palisades. One authority gives the possible translation of Baltonsborough as Bealdhas Hill, another as Baldurs Stockade. Legend has it that men of Baltonsborough joined King Arthur in his wars against the Saxons in the 6th century, although the earliest written evidence is from a deed dated 744AD, in which ten hides of land in Baltunesberghe was given to the Abbot of Glastonbury. Other variations of the name include Baltenesbergh (c1250) and Balsborowe (1536), The abbreviated Balsbury appears at intervals in later records, mostly of a more casual nature. In 1989 there was an attempt to adopt this, mostly in order to shorten the length of the village nameplates, a movement which attracted the attention of the national press but very little enthusiasm from the villagers.
Baltonsborough is a sprawling village with five small centres, the main part nestling around the Church, an early 15th century perpendicular style building. Ham Street to the east and West Town on the western fringe are slowly being joined to the centre by new housing, whereas Southwood and Catsham to the south remain largely unchanged. The names Northwood and Southwood still exist as evidence of the 800 acres of oak woodland mentioned in Domesday. Although there is still evidence of the medieval strip fields to the north and south of the village centre, there is little or no modern arable farming, the few remaining farms concentrating on dairy farming for which the land is more suitable. The old cider apple orchards are slowly disappearing, accelerated by the closure of the Cider Mill in the 1950s and the unrealistic price offered by modern apple juice and cider factories.
Not far from the Church along the Mill Stream is the site of the old tannery, also used later as a cider mill, a waste paper reclamation works and now a modern housing estate. Next door is the old water grist mill, converted to a private house in the late 1960s, and the ancient Gatehouse, a fine 14th century stone built house, named after a family of linen weavers. On Ham Street a commercial business is built on the legendary site of the birthplace of St Dunstan in 909AD, to whom the Church is dedicated, later to become abbot of Glastonbury and archbishop of Canterbury. Other buildings of interest include the Moravian Chapel, minister's house and school on Ham Street, now all in private ownership; Lubborn House where Messrs Whitehead and Mullins ran a national cheese dealership at the end of the 19th century; and Hillside House (complete with tunnel into the hill) and Orchard Neville House, both substantial houses built by the same builder/architect in the mid 19th century.
For more information about the history of the village, copies are still available of 'Baltonsborough: the Past behind the Present' by Louise Clapp
© Louise Clapp 2005