Farleigh Hungerford is a parish in the hundred of Wellow, county Somerset, 7 miles S.E. of Bath. Beckington is its post town. It is situated on the river Frome, in a beautiful and well-wooded country. The Freshford station on the Bathampton branch of the Great Western railway is 2 miles N. of the village.
A castle formerly stood here, built by the Hungerfords in the 12th century, some ruins of which still remain, consisting of a strong arched entrance, portions of thick massive walls, and two towers.
From the 18th century onwards, Farleigh Hungerford Castle slipped into decline. In 1702, the castle was sold on to Hector Cooper, who lived in Trowbridge; in 1730 it was passed in turn to the Houlton family, who had purchased the estates surrounding the castle.] The Houlton family broke up castle’s stone walls and the internal contents for salvage. Some of the parts, such as the marble floors, were reused at Longleat or in the Houlton’s new house, Farleigh House, built nearby in the 1730s; other elements were reused by local villagers. By the end of the 1730s the castle was ruinous and, although the castle chapel was repaired and brought back into use in 1779, the north-west and north-east towers had both collapsed by the end of 1797. The outer court became a farm yard, with the priest’s house becoming the farm house. The castle’s park was reassigned to serve Farleigh House instead.
Antiquarian curiosity in the castle had begun as early as 1700, when Peter Le Neve visited and recorded some of the architectural details, but interest increased in the 19th century. This was partially due to the work of the local curate, the Reverend J. Jackson, who undertook the first archaeological excavations at the site during the 1840s, uncovering many of the foundations of the inner court. 17th and 18th century stained glass windows from the continent were installed in the chapel, where the 15th century wall paintings were rediscovered in 1844. The then owner, Colonel John Houlton, turned the chapel into a museum of curiosities, where for a small fee visitors could see sets of armour, what was said to be a pair of Oliver Cromwell’s boots and other English Civil War artefacts, including letters from Cromwell written to the Hungerfords. The foundations that Jackson discovered during the excavations were left exposed for the benefit of visitors and larger numbers of tourists began to come to the castle to see the ruins, including Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in 1846.
The living is a rectory in the diocese of Bath and Wells, value £195. The church is a stone structure of ancient date, dedicated to St. Leonard. It appears to have been the chapel attached to the old castle, and contains monumental and armorial mementoes of the Hungerford family. There is a parochial school for both sexes. Some remains of a Roman tesselated pavement were found here about the middle of the 17th century. Farleigh Park is the seat of the Duke of Somerset.”
2. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson © 2003