Local History

Chapter 1. Temple Cloud – what a pretty name!

How often has that been said to you when you give your address? A pretty name maybe but from where did it come? Most places having the word “Temple” in their name have connections with the Knights Templar, an order of religious knights dating back to the 1200’s. The evidence of the Templar connection in some places is very clear, in others less so. Temple Cloud is in the latter category but that is not to say the evidence is not here it is just a case of looking for it. We have field names containing the word “Temple” and Templars seem to have been paying taxes here in the early 14th century.

The name Temple Cloud in the place name in historical terms may relate to the Knights Templar. The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon(Latin:Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), commonly known as the Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders. The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages .Officially endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church around 1129, the Order became a favoured charity throughout Christendom, and grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades.

However they became too powerful for the likes of many and at the start of the 14th Century were disbanded and their land holdings passed to the Knights Hospitaller. Much of their wealth ”disappeared” and their subsequent history is shrouded in mystery. Research by Juliet Faith and others and published in her book The Knights Templar in Somerset is well worth a read if you want to look into this connection more deeply. You will be pleasantly surprised by the findings. The book is published by The History Press (ISBN 978 0 7524 5256 2) and available at Waterstones or Amazon and other outlets or the mobile library. But what about the “Cloud” part of the name. Some may say it is because it is often raining or just dull. Perhaps not! This part of the name certainly pre-dates the Templars as there are documents referring to “Cloude” or “La Clude” in the archives. Some say the name comes from a personal name of “Cloda” whoever he or she may have been. More probable is that it comes from the Old English word “clud”, meaning “a mass of rock” or “a rocky hillside”. Possibly this definition is helping to form the name of “Clutton” just up the road.

We cannot leave this subject without referring to the Revd. Skinner from Camerton who proposed that the name derives from the fact that somewhere here was a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Claudius. No-one, not even the good Revd., has found any such temple so not much is going for his idea, but if you want to start digging it will be in a “mass of rock”! However, Temple Cloud is a modern village and is predated by Cameley in whose parish it sits. Cameley lies on the Cam Brook about a mile to the west and is listed as ‘Camelie’ in the 1086 Domesday Book. The name probably originates from Celtic and Old English meaning ‘the curved river meadow’.

At Cameley there is the church dedicated to St. James, dating from at least the 13th Century. It was called Rip Van Winkle’s church by Sir John Betjeman because there has been little change there since the early part of the 19th Century. Now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust, the church is a must for an early visit if you have not already been. Temple Cloud’s existence is probably due to the building of what became the turnpike road from Bristol towards Shepton Mallet which passed by Cameley. There was a manor near the junction of the road to Cameley and a number of cottages were built over the years along the road. At the Green was a pub called The Bell and the village cross was on the site of what is now the traffic island at The Green. There is a wealth of history to be discovered within the parish of Cameley and future articles will explore some of it.

Chapter 2. 1086 and All That at Cameley.


The next time you are out and about in the area whether taking the dog out, the kids to school or just a toddle, have a look around and try to imagine what your location may have looked like say 200 years ago. Remove in your mind’s eye all things modern, the surfaced roads, “modern” houses, telegraph poles, noise and pollution.

This is what life may have been like in those days. You will be left in your mind’s eye with some old houses and cottages, farm buildings, the occasional water mill and hedgerows along the roughly surfaced roads, peace and quiet apart from the sounds of the birds and animals and the smells of the latter!. How old are the hedgerows? In some parts of the country they were planted at the time of the enclosure of land in the 18th and 19th centuries, however in this part of the world the hedgerows may be older. An historian named Max Hooper once put forward the theory that for every 30 yard stretch of hedgerow the number of species of shrub in it equates to the age of the hedge in centuries. A very rough and often disputed theory but an interesting one nevertheless.

What was our area like in the past, what was it like to live in Temple Cloud and Cameley 200 years, 500 years even 1000 years ago?

There is evidence of human habitation in this part of England for several thousand years. Whilst Stonehenge is a bit distant, Stanton Drew stone circles are not far away. There are several hill forts and other structures pre-dating the Roman occupation.

The river Cam in its little valley must have had its attractions for habitation and agriculture. The Romans were not far away at Bath and on Mendip and after the Romans left there is general evidence of life in the times of the Anglo Saxons. You all know about King Alfred the Great living in Somerset and the story of him burning the cakes. How much truth we place in the story is debateable but he was the King of a large area generally known as Wessex fending off various invaders. The fact that there were invaders or would be invaders must show that there was even then an attraction to live in the area.

So far as Cameley and Temple Cloud are concerned there is very little evidence as to what was here before the Norman Conquest. We can be reasonably sure that Temple Cloud was not here. There may have been some buildings or a manor in the location but the main area of habitation was at Cameley at the time of the Norman Conquest.

William the Bastard as he was known at the time invaded in 1066. You will all know the story of the Battle of Hastings with King Harold getting it in the eye having, in the preceding weeks won a battle against the Norwegians under King Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge, no not that one, the one in Yorkshire and then rushing down to Hastings to try to fend off William. The Bayeux Tapestry (which incidentally is neither a tapestry nor was it produced in Bayeux) depicts the battle and if you go to Sussex you find that the town of Battle, which was the site of the event, is in fact several miles inland from Hastings and some people think that William’s greatest problem during the invasion was crossing the Hastings to Eastbourne railway track!.
William the Bastard was eventually crowned King William I on Christmas Day 1066 at Westminster Abbey. Having secured his position in the country over the following years, he wanted to know what he had conquered and more importantly how much it was worth. At Gloucester in December 1085 he ordered a survey. He sent inspectors all over the land in 1086 to carry out a detailed survey of land people and animals. This was done in eight months, the result was The Domesday Book.

Cameley has an entry in The Domesday Book and it is as follows:-

The Bishop (of Coutances) holds Cameley himself. Two thanes, (Sheerwold and Ordwold), held Cameley before the Conquest. It paid tax for 9 hides and half a virgate of land. Land for 9 ploughs. In lordship 3 ploughs; 13 slaves; 4 hides and 3 virgates. 9 villagers; 1 smallholder; 7 cottagers with 4 ploughs and 3 hides and 1.5 virgates. A mill which pays 5s; meadow 120 acres; pasture, 30 acres; underwood 50 acres. 2 cobs, 12 cattle, 21 pigs, 150 sheep. The value was £7; now £10.
Humphrey holds: 1 hide of this manor’s land; he has 1 plough there, in lordship. 3 villagers and 1 cottager with 1 plough Meadow 40 acres. 12 cattle; 14 pigs; 10 sheep; Value 20s.

William’s inspectors found “nothing exceptional”, Sheerwold also had 180 acres in Hallatrow .
To explain this a little, a hide and a virgate were measurements of land area although not very precise. For example a ‘hide’ could be up to 120 acres depending on the nature of the ground. A virgate is smaller. A rough calculation gives a land area of the manor of Cameley in 1086 between 1600 and 1700 acres a figure only a little less than today’s. There could have been between 30 and 40 dwellings, a population of between say 100 to 150.

The Bishop of Coutances was given several manors all over the country, as were many of William’s noble friends. The idea being if they were widely spaced it would be difficult to get together to rise up against William, also so that each had a variety of the land type, arable, pasture, meadow etc.

Cameley had one mill, probably downstream from the site of the church. The church of St. James may or may not have been there. The Domesday Book makes no reference to churches generally. It is likely that there was a place of worship here and it probably was on the present site of St. James but at best it would have been a small stone structure or something a little larger in timber.

So who was Humphrey? His brother was the Sheriff of Dorset and he held lands in nine counties. He may have served Queen Matilda, William’s granddaughter in later life. Whether he ever lived here is doubtful but it indicates that there may have been two manors here, Cameley and Cloud perhaps?

Isn’t history intriguing?
Government and politics.
Temple Cloud and Cameley is part of the Mendip Ward, which is represented by one councillor on the Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Authority, which has responsibilities for services such as education, refuse, tourism etc. The village was a part of the Wansdyke constituency, which is now known as North East Somerset and is also part of the South West of England constituency of the European Parliament.