Friday, 6 April 2012

Visiting the family seat at Dommett in Somerset

Near the southern edge of Somerset is a hamlet called Dommett. My father's surname was Dommett, and it's a name particularly found in these parts, and over the Devon border too.

The Dommetts - several distinct families, I should say - were generally farmers, or in some way involved in the agricultural scene. Not all were squires and merchants. Many (whether men or women) were no more than labourers, with no money, no land, and living in tied or rented accommodation. Dad's father - the only grandparent I ever knew, albeit fleetingly and not closely - was an itinerant worker of no education or attainments. He must have been the first Dommett ever to have been photographed, and here is the only picture of him that exists, taken in 1930 or so near Kentisbeare, probably at Ponchydown Farm at Blackborough, when aged about 50:

The child in the picture is certainly not Dad, who was by then aged 10. Dad's father (I never called him Grandpa, not really knowing him) had no inclination to bring him up, and at this date (1930) had foisted Dad onto a local family, paying for his keep and just turning up when he felt like it, and not staying long. Dad did not know what a proper home was until he got married to Mum in 1946, and never knew a home with loving parents in it to look after him. No wonder he gew up very self-reliant. The Second World War was the making of him, as it was for so many.

So in strictness there is no family seat, no venerable old manor house that has been in the family for generations. Dad's branch of the Dommett family were too poor to own anything. But there is a place that would do nicely for the part, even if there is really no demonstrable connection at all, and that is Dommett Farm in this tiny hamlet. I visited it with Mum and Dad and/or M--- in 1994, 1997 and 2006. And on my own two weeks ago. It's down a steep narrow road, indicated by this signpost:

Surprisingly, it was named on Fiona's satnav display:

In 1994, it was a house that had seen better days, but still most attractive in its yellow stone. It was set on a hill, with a commanding view to the south. So far as I can tell, it isn't in my Pevsner for South and West Somerset, which is odd. But it is very out of the way, and he probably never knew it was there. The next few pictures are mostly from 1997:

By the main gate into the courtyard is a tiny portal, which I imagine was for dogs or very young children:

A most curious feature. It used to have this charming iron grille in its upper part, to look through:

Superficially it was all much the same when I went there two weeks ago, but everything had an air of neglect. Nothing had been painted for ages, the gate had fallen apart, and the little child/dog portal was a sorry sight. The house was still inhabited though. Let's not go too close. Here's general view. And Lucy, dipossessed and outcast. And her restless arab mare Fiona:

You know, I feel I should walk in, turf out the squatters and interlopers, and claim it back for the family. Who's with me?

1 comment:

  1. I'll join you in your quest Lucy, I love places like that, full of history and left pretty much as they were years ago, lived in. I can see it in my mind's eye right now with the original occupants going about their daily business. There are still many places like this dotted around the country and some even in the towns nut maybe not as many. When I go walk about in Southport and its environs I still see some places stuck in the past but as the town isn't much more than two hundred years old the places are limited. I love local history, of anywhere really. It's one of the things that fascinate me and I try to imagine what it must have been like when these old places were built. It's funny how so many people are drawn to the past. I love old photographs that depict people too and as you know photography was born in 1826 when the very first photographic image was produced. The chemicals used in photography were discovered two hundred and more years before that! Even the ancient Chinese knew the principle of the pinhole camera! Hard to imagine that isn't it? Your 'camera obscura' productions are lovely too! LOL

    Shirley Anne xxx


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