Nunney Castle and Village
a quiet corner of Somerset with some great stories to tell
The pretty village of Nunney has a special memory for me. It was at the George Inn, an 18th-century public house, that I took my then-to-be wife on our first date. It’s now time to go and revisit Nunney for my readers at Roland’s Travels and share this beautiful and historic Somerset village with you.
There is a car park for visitors, many of whom come to see the ruins of Nunney Castle. Parking is free, and so is entry to the castle site. Nunney, lying 3 miles southwest of Frome, is unspoilt by having such an attraction, and there is a distinct lack of shops. There is a Spar shop, a cafe and pottery. As in many places in England, the village post office has closed, locals are catered for on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when a post office is operated from the village hall.
For full size images in the gallery views - click each image.
The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, predating the castle. The name Nunney comes from Old English, meaning Nunna’s Island. The Romans lived in this area. A hoard of Roman coins was discovered in 1869 at Westdown Farm, Holwell, not far from the present village. The mosaic floor of a villa was also found. Today there is a quarry at Holwell to obtain the rich supply of Mendip stone.
The castle is the dominant feature of Nunney, but note that there are over thirty listed buildings, indicating the age of the village and its history. Many of the homes are over 300 years old. Arriving at the castle, I first walk around the outside before entering the main area and crossing the moat. If you ever visit in the summer, please be careful as green algae on the moat can be deceptive, and in recent times, a child nearly drowned after thinking it was a grassed area.
Nunney Castle, managed by English Heritage, dates back to the 1370s and was built by Sir John de la Mare (Delamare). Sir John was a local knight, and building a castle required a licence from the King, which he obtained as he was well favoured. The castle built on the site of his manor house was said to be based on the design of the Bastille in Paris. The castle was modernised in the 16th century, possibly by Richard Prater, a wealthy Londoner who purchased it in 1572. When you look at the ruins, the windows with the fleur-de-lys pattern at the top look like they were part of that modernisation or possibly later.
In 1645 during the English Civil War, it was besieged on September 18th and damaged by the Parliamentarians. The Prater’s were Catholics and, like many others of this faith, had allegiance to the King, Charles l. Richard Prater refused to surrender, and the castle was damaged by cannon fire, and the surrender took place after only two days. The Prater’s survived and promised to support the Parliamentarians but lost their castle until it was given back under the reign of Charles ll.
English Heritage manages Nunney Castle, and they do a good job in keeping it and the surroundings in excellent condition so visitors can enjoy the history of these ruins.
Leaving the castle and crossing Nunney Brook, using the road rather than the footpath, we are now in the Market Place, where Nunney’s shop is located, the Spar store. Some lovely old houses surround Market Place, creating a real feeling of old England. There are several roads that I want to walk along, and I decided initially to turn left into Church Street. The street's name is more than a clue that we will come to the church. Church of All Saints dates back to 1174 and was possibly built on the site of a Saxon church.
The George Inn, Nunney
First of all, though, I pass The George Inn and walk under their sign which stretches high above the road. A delivery driver impressed by this took a photo as she unloaded parcels; it was her first time delivering to Nunney.
All Saints Church, Nunney
A walk around the churchyard revealed many old headstones, each giving away the villagers' names and the dates of their death, and as always, showing the well-established family lineage we see in small places.
Across the road from the church and next to Nunney Brook, there is the Market Cross. Nunney was granted a Royal Charter for a Fayre in 1260. It still has an annual street fair that many love to attend. The Market Cross is grade ll listed to protect it. It was built around 1100 when it stood in the churchyard opposite. It was removed in 1869 at the insistence of the rector, as the sounds of children playing on its steps annoyed him. The cross was later discovered in a builder's yard by the Squire of Whatley, and he added the Celtic Cross. Following the Squire’s death and a fire which destroyed his house, the cross was dismantled and rebuilt here in 1959.
Church Street becomes Frome Road, and after passing Donkey Lane, the older houses peter out and give way to more modern ones. I head back along Church Street and pass The George until I arrive back at Market Place and head into High Street. Once again, the names of the properties often indicate their history, and I pass The Old Bakehouse and Cherry Tree Farm on my left as I walk up the rising ground of High Street. Further up the hill on my right is Side Hill Farm. From here, most of the properties are modern, apart from the village school of 1896 and still in use today with some extra classrooms added.
Going back down the hill and through the Market Place, I now cross Nunney Brook, turn left into Horn Street, and have another uphill walk, which is a little steeper. Before reaching the hill, on my left is the Guard House, the village lock-up. It was completed on 1st June 1824 to keep any miscreants locked up until the magistrates could deal with them. I wonder how many stumbled out of the old George Inn and got into trouble after too much alcohol. If only walls could talk!
As I make my way along Horn Street, there are many lovely old cottages and some larger grand houses; one section of Horn Street is called Primrose Hill. A Google search tells me that there are quite a few Airbnb and holiday lets in the village, including on this road, The Green House and down by Nunney Brook, Penny’s Mill, a former water mill. Over two hundred years old, this mill produced flour until it declined in the 1930s. Now fully restored, guests are welcome to stay in one of their lovely rooms.
As I get closer to the hill's summit, the final property on my right is Rockfield House, built in 1805 by John Pinch. He was an architect from nearby Bath and was responsible for many of the later Georgian buildings, especially in Bathwick. Horn Street, like the other roads I walked along, did not disappoint. The properties are amazing, and those on the left have views over Nunney Brook and many with gardens reaching its banks; Penny’s Mill is accessed by a drive going downhill to reach it at near water level.
Nunney is certainly worth visiting and, with many places to stay, makes an ideal base for a quiet break with easy access to other things to see. I hope you have enjoyed this post, and I thank you for reading it. Please leave a comment, give it a thumbs up, and if you’re not a subscriber, please click the link.
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Wow! What a beautiful little town. And little castle! I never knew they could be small like that
Yes, if only the walls could talk we would get some very interesting accounts of the visitors to the lock-up. Penny's mill is worth a side read so I'll go to that next.
Btw, what determines if a property is managed by English Heritage or National Trust or some other entity?