The Somerset village of Chantry lies five miles West of Frome on the Eastern Edge of the Mendip Hills and was actually an 1846 amalgamation of the parishes of Whatley, Elm and Mells. The driving force behind these changes was the powerful Fussell family who made their fortune in the manufacture of edged tools in the 19th century and built the Chantry House in the 1820s. The village thrived under the Fussells and by 1851 had a population of 242 people with seven working farms. With the closure of the iron works towards the end of the 19th Century the population shrank to 150 and today is only 130 with only 3 working farms left.
This area has been inhabited since Neolithic times and boasts a Bronze Age Hill Fort as well as the exotically named Dead Womans Estate and Marys Grave. The latter name is reputed to come from a 17th Century Highwayman in this part of the world who disguised himself as a woman. Legend has it that he was tried and hung by Judge Jeffries in the Brew house of the old White Horse Inn.
The beautiful Church of the Holy Trinity, designed and built by Gilbert Scott and consecrated in 1846 lies at the heart of the village and is an architectural gem. The Porch of the Church has an inscription that perhaps foretold of Chantrys good fortune:
Enter into thy gates with thankfulness and into thy courts with praise
Seventy years after this inscription was unveiled Chantrys men went to the Great War of 1914-1918 and all returned to give thanks in the Church of the Holy Trinity: Chantry had indeed become one of the Thankful Villages.
Text and photo - Rod Morris
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