Templecombe - A Somerset Village

 

St Marys Church.jpg (17284 bytes)Slades Hill.jpg (17362 bytes)

Location

Close to the Dorset border of south east Somerset, Templecombe is located on the A357 approximately 5 miles south of Wincanton.  Situated in the heart of the Blackmoor Vale the village is surrounded by open countryside, and farm land, with many fine views.  Numerous public footpaths criss-cross the local area offering fine walks.

Yeovil (15 miles), and the Abbey town of Sherborne (8 miles) lay to the west with the historic town of Shaftesbury approximately 10 miles to the east, all situated on the A30.  The A303 trunk road is approximately 4 miles to the north and Templecombe is also accessible by train, served by the Exeter to London (Waterloo) mainline.

Village history

The modern parish of ABBAS AND TEMPLECOMBE was formerly two separate estates and villages.  The more northerly one was held from Saxon times by Shaftesbury Abbey and thus known as Abbascombe.  The other manor was owned by Earl Leofwine, brother of King Harold who died at Hastings, but after 1066 was given to William the Conqueror's half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux.  His descendent, Serlo FitzOdo, granted it in 1185 to the Knight's Templar who established a preceptory here.  This would have been a regional centre for their Order, admitting new members and training them for the Crusades.  Originally known as Combe ('valley') it became Templecombe during this period.  The Templars were suppressed in the early 1300s with many brought to trial in 1314.  The four knights arrested at Templecombe were Warwick, Engayne, Grandcombe and Collingham.  Their estate here being granted to the Knight's of St. John, known as The Hospitallers, who converted the preceptory to their commandery, which in turn was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1540.  After the dissolution the patronage passed to the new Lord of the Manor, Richard Duke, and from 1819 to Rev Thomas Fox.  He and hie descendents held the living from 1785 until 1921, with a sequence of five rectors of that same name.  During World War II the church was badly damaged by German bombs, along with the school and several houses in the village.  An important rail junction, Templecombe, became a target for enemy bombers and 19 villagers were killed or mortally wounded in the raid.   In 1945 a medieval panel painting was found above the ceiling of an outhouse in West Court off the High Street.  It depicts a head  which bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the Turin Shroud.  Carbon date testing has given a date of c1280 and has led to much speculation linking it with the Templars.  Since 1956 the panel has been on display in St Mary's parish church. (click here for image)

Templecombe's railway history

In more recent times Templecombe became an important railway intersection, linking the London & South Western and the Somerset & Dorset railway companies.  The village had two stations (Upper - L&SWR) and (Lower - S&D) which were linked by a spur line.  During the war an ambulance train was kept in the Upper yard, ready to leave at a few minutes notice. Templecombe's railway link also made it a popular venue for releasing racing pigeons.  Both stations were closed in 1966 after the Lord Beeching report and the S&D track bed ripped up.  The upper station remained, however, and was eventually re-opened in 1983 and although a shadow of it's former self is still in use today.