Light is shed on mystery of lodge
The historic town of Axbridge lies at the foot of the Mendip Hills with a population of just over 2,000 people.
Members of Clutton History Group heard it was granted a Royal Charter in 1202 when King John sold most of the royal manor of Cheddar to the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
King Edward I made the town a royal borough in perpetuity and granted rights to hold markets and fairs including hiring fairs, an early form of labour exchange.
At the heart of Axbridge is the square and among its period buildings is the timber-framed King John's Hunting Lodge.
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The building has had a chequered life, as John Page, the speaker for the January meeting, outlined.
Mr Page is a volunteer at Axbridge Museum, housed in the building, which is rented from the National Trust which owns and maintains it. He has carried out a great deal of research into the history of the building and uncovered much of its intriguing past.
King John reigned from 1199 until his death in 1216 but the building dates from the Tudor period and was not constructed until 1468. So how did it become known as King John's Hunting Lodge?
There is a carved wooden head of a king mounted on the corner of the building on the second floor but was it of King John?
The building consists of three stories with, originally, small shops on the ground floor, workshops and living areas on the second and storage and sleeping areas on the top floor.
Mr Page's investigations have revealed many occupants of the building over the years. In the mid 19th century John Tuthill, a saddler, was the owner. Prior to being declared bankrupt, Tuthill sold part of the ground floor of to a neighbouring shop which is shown on several prints of the time.
When the National Trust took over the building in 1971 it bought this part of the structure for £1 from Courage Brewery and this enabled the trust to restore the lodge to its original appearance.
In 1862 records show that the building was owned by Maria Fowler who offered it for sale but it was not referred to as King John's Hunting Lodge. At the end of the 19th century a barber and watchmaker traded there. In 1902 Messrs Comer and Hutchinson, saddlers, traded there and they sold in 1904 to AJ Hawkins, who was also a saddler and ironmonger.
In 1905 records show that the building was now referred to as King John's Shooting Box and in 1926 became King John's Hunting Lodge. Why it became known as this was a mystery. In the 1920s the building was a cafe but fell into disrepair until 1930 when a Miss Ripley bought it and used it to store her collection of antiques until 1968. Miss Ripley only allowed people to see her collection once a year.
Further investigation uncovered the fact that from the 1640s until the 1780s the building was once an inn called The King's Head, so the carved head was associated with the inn. Mr Page established that when a site for a new school in Cheddar was being explored it came to light that King John had inhabited a building there so maybe this was the "real" King John's Hunting Lodge.
The next meeting on Tuesday, February 12, will be a digital presentation by Professor June Hannam, from the Regional History Department of the University of the West of England, on the Blathwayt Family and Suffragettes in Bath and Batheaston.
The meeting starts at 8pm and visitors are welcome. Entry costs £2.50 and includes refreshments. For more information call 01761 471533.