Although ‘officially’ in the parish of Ashill, the Wadhams held their family seat here up until the mid 1600’s. Their residence was known as Merryfield House, The Manor House or Wadhams Castle but all that remains today is the moat that once surrounded this fine ancient home.
The last Wadhams to live here were Nicholas & Dorothy. Their legacy today lies in education. At the end of his life, Nicholas has amassed a substantial amount of money and having no children to leave it to decide to find a college at Oxford. Sadly Nicholas died in 1609 which meant he never saw the finished product – the foundation stone of the college was laid in 1610 and finally opened in 1613. It was down to his “remarkably determined and strong willed” wife that the project was finally finished, and given her age at that time (75) and her social standing, it was, indeed, an outstanding achievement. Dorothy died in 1618 – both Nicholas and her are buried in The Minster Church at Ilminster in an area known as Wadhams Corner.
Wadhams Castle then passed to the Wyndham name, through marriage. John Wyndham is said to have disliked the situation of the property, being surrounded by woods, so had it pulled down. Consequently several houses in the village are reported to have been built from the remains – Woodhouse Farm, Ilton Court and Dewdneys among them.
(It is worth mentioning here that the Ilminster Grammar School received an endowment from the Wadhams and that the local secondary school in Crewkerne – Wadham School – takes it’s name from the family.)
We could probably write a couple of books on the Wadhams/Wyndhams so look out for more articles here soon.