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Dunster in 1841

Dunster is in the hundred of Carhampton, 165 miles west by south from London through Frome and Bridgewater, and 21 miles west-north-west of Taunton. The West Saxon kings had a fortress here during the period of the Heptarchy. It was called Torre (tower), by which name it appears in ‘Domesday,' where the manor is said to belong to William de Moion (or Mohun), who had his castle here. This castle afterwards obtained the name of Dunes-torre (tower on the downs), now Dunster. The De Mohuns supported the empress Maud against Stephen. In the reign of Edward III the castle passed by sale, on the failure of the male line of the De Mohuns, to the Luttrell family, by which it is still held. It was a military post of the Royalists in the civil war of Charles I, and was afterwards the place of confinement of Prynne. Dunster sent members to parliament as early as the time of Edward III, and was in later times united in the exercise of the franchise with the adjacent borough of Minehead, until its disfranchisement by the Reform Act. There was a Benedictine Priory here, founded by the De Mohuns, a cell of the abbey of St. Peter at Bath : its yearly revenue at the suppression was £37, 4 shillings and 8 pence.

The town stands at the eastern foot of Grabbist Hill, at the end of a narrow valley which here opens upon the Bristol Channel, the shore of which is a mile north east of the town. A small stream ,which drains the valley runs near the town, and is crossed by a stone bridge of three arches. There are two principal streets, at the southern end of one of which is the castle, a building of the Elizabethan period and style, having behind it a richly wooded park, commanding a beautiful and extensive prospect. The church is a fine spacious building of perpendicular architecture, built in the reign of Henry VII. It consists of a nave, chancel, and aisles, west of the central tower, and a disused portion east of it. Before the suppression of the priory (which was adjacent to the church, and of which some remains still exist), in consequence of a dispute between the parishioners and the monks, the eastern part of the church was separated for the use of the monks, since whose time it has been neglected : it contains several monuments of the De Mohuns and Luttrells. There is an old market house in the town.

The parish of Dunster contains 2,500 acres : the population, in 1831, was 983. The market is on Friday, and there is one yearly fair.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry of Taunton, in the diocese of Bath and Wells, of the clear yearly value of £130.

There were in the parish, in 1833, an endowed day-school, with 30 children of both sexes ; another day-school with 21 boys and 17 girls : and one day and Sunday school, supported by contributions, for 30 girls.