The Leases & Property
Axbridge was one of the burhs (fortified places) established by King Alfred the Great to secure his kingdom after he had defeated the Vikings. During the 10th century it became the market centre for the royal estate at Cheddar and even had a mint. It had 32 burgesses recorded in the Domesday Book, which it retained until 1883. By the 14th century it had become an important local centre for the Mendip wool trade and was becoming very wealthy. A powerful Guild ran the town and acquired many properties, given by merchants and traders, to support chantry priests saying prayers to speed their souls through purgatory into heaven. When chantries were disbanded after the Reformation, the properties were given to the Mayor and Corporation (the new name for the 32 burgesses) and authority for this was established by a Royal Charter in 1557. The income from these properties provided more than enough to finance the town’s commitments and to keep the burgesses in food and drink. They divided the remainder amongst themselves!
At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th
century all the rented properties were sold as 1,000 year leases,
providing capital for the construction of the Town Hall and, before
that, the financing of some controversial court cases. A ground rent
was payable but, by the second half of the 20th century, it was
becoming more expensive to collect them than they were worth, so a
reasonable fixed sum was requested from the owners to buy out the
ground rents. Subsequent legislation has meant that the owners could
simply acquire the freehold, which most have now done.
What is left is either small pieces of land which are rented
out at nominal sums, such as an area of land in Cocklake, or
uncommercial land, such as that to the rear of the Cenotaph. The latter
is residual, but the former came from an interesting grant to the
In 1574 Thomas Carew left £10 to be freely lent (i.e. without interest) to tradesmen and others of the Parish of Axbridge. Inspired by this, others followed suit, until £119 was raised. Shortly after Richard Goldwine left £40 for the use of the burgesses, “which said £40 was laid out in land at Cocklake in the Parish of Wedmore. But [of] the money given by Thomas Carew Esq and others, to be free lent, no account remains at present.”.
Today Axbridge is home to people with a wide diversity of roles undertaken far and wide. This doesn't stop them from supporting the old traditions and keeping the town alive!