History of Castle Cary
Castle Cary Manor was given to the Lovels by King Stephen of Blois, who reigned from 22 December 1135 to 25 October 1154. The castle was besieged by King Stephen of Blois in 1138 in his struggle for the throne of England with his cousin Matilda. When the Lovels failed to produce a male heir during the reign of King Edward III, it passed through marriage to Nicholas de S. Maure, a Baron. It passed again through female heir during the time of King Henry V to Lord Zouches of Harringworth. King Henry VII attainting John Lord Zouch gave the Castle to Robert Willoughby Lord Brook and Lord Zouch’s lands at Bridge-water to Lord Daubney. The Zouches had backed King Richard III, the wrong side of the struggle between Richard III and the Tudors.
Castle Cary was granted a formal market charter in 1468 from Edward V. It developed as a market town with a number of rural industries, wool flourishing. The Greene King George Hotel is said to have been constructed around this time, rebuilt after a fire and the Market House from Cary stone 150 years later, 1616. Cary flourished in the 16th century, as indicated by its muster roll when threatened by Spanish invasion late in the century. By 1700 Castle Cary was known for its cloth production, when linen weaving replaced wool at the end of the century. In 1837 John Boyd began making horse-hair textiles, for which he is still renowned today and produced on the original 1870 looms.
The manor was bought in the 1780s by the Hoares of Stourhead in Wiltshire.In 1785 Henry Hobhouse Esquire purchased Hadspen and Hadspen House as the Hobhouse family seat. In the 18th century Castle Cary changed. The Donnes established flax mills making twine, sail cloth, webbing still situated today in the 1877 Florida House. The Market House was rebuilt in 1855 in anticipation of increased trade influenced by the railway station.
On 19 June 2004, Castle Cary was granted Fairtrade Village status.
Attractions in Castle Cary include a small circular eighteenth-century prison called the roundhouse. This is a temporary prison, or village lock-up. It was built in 1779 by Mr WM Clark for £23, from money left to the poor of Castle Cary in 1605. The structure is circular, stone and has a domed roof. It is 7 feet (2.1 m) in diameter and 10 feet (3.0 m) high with two iron grills for ventilation. The building has an inner and outer door. The interior of the building has a single stone privy. In 1992, the Lord of the Manor, Sir Henry Hoare Bt., gave the building to the parish council.
The Market House
The Market House a grade II* listed building built in 1855 in anticipation of increased trade after the projected arrival of the railway in 1856, by F.C. Penrose. It replaced the former house on the site which had stood since 1616, and incorporating some features from the earlier building. The market house contains the local Castle Cary and District Museum. There is a varied collection of exhibits spread over the two floors of the building. The earliest are local fossils including ammonites and a display about the discovery of an ichthyosaurus at Alford.
Local industry and agriculture are represented with displays on the production of rope and hemp and a collection of agricultural implements, tools and relics. A room is dedicated to the life and work of Parson James Woodforde who was born at the Parsonage in nearby Ansford in 1740. He was later curate at Thurloxton before moving to Norfolk. For nearly 45 years he kept a diary recording an existence the very ordinariness of which provides a unique insight into the everyday routines and concerns of 18th century rural England.
Hadspen House is Grade II* Listed manor house outside the town. The original farmhouse was built by William Player between 1687 and 1689; the Hobhouse family acquired the house in 1785 and have owned it until it was acquired recently and converted into The Newt In Somerset. The gardens were restored by the garden writer and designer Penelope Hobhouse in the late 1960s.
The Grade II* listed Top Mill Building at Higher Flax Mills which was built in the 19th century is on the Heritage at Risk Register.
The largest church in the town is All Saints’, which dates from 1470 and is notable for its high steeple, which contains six bells dating from 1760 and made by Thomas Bilbie of the Bilbie family. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building. The Cosenes monument in the churchyard, which dates from the 16th century, is on the Heritage at Risk Register.
There is also a Methodist church and St Andrew’s in the neighbouring parish of Ansford.
Notable people from the town include the 18th-century diarist James Woodforde who was curate between 1765 and 1775 and Douglas Macmillan, founder of the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity. The Macmillan Way walking trail passes through the town.