Just to the north west of Yeovil lies the quiet village of Tintinhull. The derivation of its name is steeped in mystery – ‘tin’ meant ‘fort’ in old English and ‘examine’ in Saxon, while ‘hull’ is an old term for ‘hill’. The village sits in the lea of Ham Hill, so a combination of elements seems likely.
Tintinhull has a population of just over a thousand people, and the manor dates back to pre-Norman times. The local Saxon tribes used to avoid siting their villages on the old Roman roads, so the village sits just away from the Fosse Way (now the A303).
Most of the houses in the village are made from Ham stone – quarried from the local hill – and this gives a quaint, consistent feel to the place. A lot of the original cottages are thatched and, barring the telegraph poles and cars, Tintinhull has the typical chocolate-box feel you would expect of a West Country village.
There is not an immediate heart to the Tintinhull – the village green is surrounded by cottages – but there are plenty of gathering places, both contemporary and historic.
Opposite the new Village Hall, the old Lamb Inn has been tastefully converted to cottages and in the same stretch of road the old Working Men’s Club still bears the Toby Bitter advertising sign.
The remaining village pub – the Crown & Victoria – is set on the way to the manor house, and was obviously the stopping off point for farm workers ending their shift and returning home.
The manor house itself is now owned and run by the National Trust, and it is the connected Tintinhull Gardens that now draw people to this part of Somerset. (Sadly, due to the time of year and the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the gardens were not open at the time of visiting.)
Most of the villages I have visited on this alphabetical journey include the main elements of the manor house, a school, a gathering place and the church, and Tintinhull is no exception.
St Margaret’s Church sits away from the manor house – unusual, as they are normally intrinsically linked. As with most village churchyards, it is a peaceful place, somewhere to reflect and gather one’s thoughts.
Approached by way of a long path, you feel a sense of great reverence as you walk towards St Margaret’s; this sensation is added to by the imposing wall on the left of the path, hiding a dramatic house behind it.
Once in the churchyard itself, the extent of the building behind the wall is revealed; this is Tintinhull Court, in its medieval glory.
Originally the parsonage, it was first built by the abbot of nearby Montacute Priory; remodelled three times since its original construction, it has been designated a Grade I building.
The history of Tintinhull Court begins to make more sense of the village layout; this was the original manor house and its owners built the church next door, with window overlooking the the graveyard and the parishioners walking towards their weekly sermon.
The resident Napper family built Tintinhull House – on the other side of the village – as a dower house in the seventeenth century; close enough that the Court’s widow was in walking distance, but far enough away for her not to disturb the ongoing matters of her heirs.
The graveyard also commemorates three residents who fell on home oil during the First World War.
Tintinhull has a long history, and economically it has survived well; primarily an agricultural community, the village has also been a focus for glove-making, dating back as far as the thirteenth century. By the late nineteenth century, much of the village’s employment came from the industry, and it continues today, although on a much reduced level.