Crowcombe is nestled in the south-western slopes of the Quantocks, approximately half way between Taunton and Minehead. The Parish of Crowcombe includes the hamlets of Crowcombe Heathfield, Flaxpool, Halsway, Lawford and Triscombe and the population is about 600. The village, and parts of the Parish, lie within the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Crowcombe can trace its history back to 854 where it was spelt ‘Cerawicombe’. The Doomsday Book of 1086 lists the name as ‘Crawcombe’. Crowcombe has many beautiful and historic buildings.
Possibly the only church in the country with this dedication, the Church of the Holy Ghost dates from 1226. The 16th Century carved bench-ends show the Green Man and the men of Crowcombe fighting a two-headed dragon. The font is also 16th Century and depicts the figures of a knight, a bishop, a nun, St Anne and the Virgin Mary. In the winter of 1724, the spire was hit by lightning causing it severe damage. The spire’s top can now be found in the churchyard. The North aisle houses the private chapel of the Carew’s.
Opposite the Church is the church house. Church House is a favourite West Somerset venue for wedding receptions, family parties, art exhibitions and meetings. It is one of the two surviving church houses in Somerset and has charitable status. Its architectural gem is its Gallery’s original seven bay arch-braced purlin roof. A grade 2* building, it has just celebrated its 500th birthday. It was originally built as a community hall for the holding of church ‘ales’ – village parties that raised money for specific causes. 150 years later such festivities became unacceptable for the puritan movement. Instead the ground floor became home for the destitute and upstairs a charity school. A further 200 years later, these functions were overtaken by the opening of Crowcombe’s village school and a workhouse in Williton. Church House had become redundant. By 1907 Church House might well have been pulled down or allowed to collapse. The intervention of the Rector of the day led to charitable status for the building, fund raising and rebuilding of the roof. One hundred years later, in 2007, major refurbishment of the interior took place that included installation of central heating and specialist lighting for art exhibitions in the Gallery.
There has been a manor house in Crowcombe since at least the late 13th century and the estate passed to the descendants of the original owners from the de Crowcombe’s through a long line of Carews to the Trollope-Bellews. The current house, Crowcombe Court, was built for Thomas Carew and was completed in 1739. It remained in the ownership of Carew’s descendants until the middle of the 20th century. In more recent times, Crowcombe Court has been a nursing home and today the Court hosts weddings and other functions.
The Crowcombe Church of England Primary School building was built in 1870 and has some modern extensions. The school is federated with Stogumber Primary School and takes children from age 4 to 11. The two schools share a headmistress, governing body and PTA. The Carew family are still represented on the board of governors by Mr A Trollope-Bellew, a descendent of The Carew’s, who started the Charity School in the 18th century.
At the opposite end of the village is the recently built village hall which is available to hire for village functions and private parties and is the venue for the annual Crowcombe pantomime.
In the middle of the village sits the Carew Arms. Originally known as The Three Lions, the pub owes its name and signboard to the Carew family who became lords of the manor in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The pub has a beer garden, skittle alley, restaurant as well as its traditional front bar which has remained unaltered over the years and retains its original flagstone floor.
The village shop and post office is housed in a former barn and the shop is run by volunteers. The shop was started in 2001 by villagers to bring back services to the village after the previous shop and post office closed down within months of each other. The shop stocks many local products as well as a superb range of greetings cards.
The Crowcombe Heathfield West Somerset Railway Station was opened in 1862 and was operated by the Bristol and Exeter Railway, then the Great Western Railway and eventually as part of British Rail. Like many stations, Crowcombe Heathfield fell victim to rationalisation, fell into decline and was closed in 1971. The present West Somerset Railway Company has re-opened the line in stages. It is now Britain’s longest preserved railway running steam hauled trains over 20 miles through the stunning scenery of the Quantock Hills and along the coast from Minehead.
The station has several TV and film claims to fame as it was used in the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (1964); ‘The Flockton Flyer’ (1976-7) which was a children’s television drama series about a preserved railway; ‘The Land Girls’ (1997) was filmed on the West Somerset Railway and Crowcombe Heathfield featured as Bamford station and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ (1988), a BBC television mini-series, where the four Pevensie children arrived at the start of the film after being evacuated by train from London.