Copyright © The Ilchester Town Trust.  Registered Charity no 235579

Website by eddie at

...told by the Ilchester Museum

Copyright © The Ilchester Town Trust.  Registered Charity no 235579

Website by eddie at

The Ilchester Timeline


Notable Ilchester events

Neolithic- 2,500 - 1,900 BCE

Axe & arrow heads found in Ilchester.

Pre Belgic  Iron Age  600  – 150 BCE

Pottery shards found.

Belgic Iron Age 150 BC- 43 CE  Celts – Durotrigian Tribe

Settlement about 40 acres in size. Evidence of round houses. Excavation revealed lowland oppidum.

Roman occupation c. 50  – 410

Second Augusta Legion under Commander Vespasian (later to be Emperor).  Marching fort of 3.2 acres.

Vexillation fort 60/70 AD -15 acres – earth bank with wooden palisade later replaced by stone wall.

Walled town by 2nd century AD with four town gates.

Civitas (administrative centre) 3rd century AD.

Angle and Saxon raids and settlement 410  - 800's

The kingdom of Wessex established. In their Germanic language a fortified settlement was called a BURH, which gradually corrupted to BOROUGH.

Alfred 'The Great' 871 - 899

Ilchester used with other fortified settlements in Alfred's fight back against the Danes.

Edgar 959  – 973

The Mint established in Ilchester by 973.

Was part of a Royal Estate.

William the Conqueror

Domesday Book 1086/7

Ilchester listed as having 107 Burgesses paying the Crown 20 shillings and a market paying £11.

Ilchester second largest town to Bath in Somerset.

 Henry II  1154- 1189

Following royal decree in 1166 Ilchester was chosen to house the County Gaol. The Circuit Court held sessions in Ilchester.

Ilchester becomes the County Town.

In 1180's, in exchange for a considerable sum of money, Ilchester is granted a Charter.

Richard 'The Lionheart' 1189 – 1199

Richard possibly came to Ilchester when raising funds for his Crusades. When the Borough bought the official Seal they were allowed, probably in exchange for a goodly sum, to use the star and crescent emblem associated with Richard.

John 1199 – 1216

1204 Ilchester's Charter renewed. Lands used by the borough to raise funds removed by John and exchanged for hunting lands at North Petherton.

By 1200's Ilchester has 6 churches (with another to be built in the 1400's).


Roger Bacon, father of modern science, born in Ilchester.

Henry III 1216 – 1272

1217/20 the Whitehall Hospital established which became an Augustinian nunnery by 1281 (following several scandals became a Free Chapel by 1463).

1250 Henry recalls all assys: Ilchester Mint closes.

1263 The Dominicans (Black friars, a preaching order) established a Friary in property given by Judge Sir Thomas Trevett.   

1265 Ilchester required to send 2 elected representatives to Parliament.

Edward I 1272 – 1307

Disputes with Edmund Earl of Cornwall about redirecting Yard lane, a public footpath to the market. He was Steward to Queen Eleanor of Castile who held Somerton from the King, and removed the Gaol and Courts to Somerton.

Edward III 1327 – 1377

1348 pestilence (Black Death) came to Ilchester. Bodies found buried near Town Hall.

Appeals made to the crown for restitution of gaol and courts.

New gaol built on the bridge outside the North gate in late 1300's.

Courts held intermittently at Ilchester. Prosperity never fully recovered.


Lawyer Robert Veel establishes and endows the Ilchester Almshouse as a charity. The Borough takes over the management of the Almshouse charity in 1477.


St Mary Minor and St John the Baptist churches are united with St Mary Major church

Henry VIII 1509 – 1547

Dominican Friary dissolved in 1538.

Philip of Spain and Mary I (marriage 1554)  1553  - 1558

1556 -  Following a review of local government Ilchester was given a Charter of Incorporation stipulating structure and responsibilities of the Corporation. The Corporation was given the Manor farm and so became Lord of the Manor.

1576 Act introducing 'House of Correction'

A House of Correction was established on the north side of the river, and the gaol moved on to the same site by the end of the 16th century


Corporation in dispute with Sir Robert Phelips of Montacute and William Dawe on fairness of the collection of the Ships Tax.

Charles I 1625 – 1649

Many battles in the Civil War were fought in the west. Ilchester is on the route to and from the south west taken by both the Royalist and Parliamentarian armies. Charles spent four nights at the house of William Dawe in 1644 whilst on a recruiting drive in .

Monmouth Rebellion 1685

The Duke of Monmouth passed through Ilchester on his way to Bristol. Many of the prisoners taken on the failure of the rebellion were sent to Ilchester jail. Their injuries treated by the local surgeon Joseph Winter


Article published speaking of “unparalleled and unjustified barbarity and hellish cruelty exercised on a prisoner at Ilchester gaol”.

17th, 18th and first half of 19th  century

Ilchester continued to send two representatives to Parliament. This attracted attention from powerful and wealthy men vying for influence, promoting bribery and corruption but bringing money into the borough.

1820 Royal Commission investigation conditions at Ilchester Jail

Henry Hunt, sent to Ilchester jail for his part in the demonstration that led to the Peterloo massacre, wrote to his influential friends about the appalling treatment and conditions at the jail and particularly the jailer William Bridle who was dismissed in 1821.

1832 Reform Act

The Government aware of the anomalous situation with boroughs, many which had shrunken in size and importance or disappeared completely, electing M.P's, carried out a review and introduced reform. Ilchester's right to elect M.P's was removed and with it any interest and funding from wealthy individuals.

Mid 1800's

For a brief time Ilchester became a Coaching Town, however the railways soon followed and because of the marshy nature of the ground around the railway bypassed it.

1885 Municipal Corporations Act

The Act looked at the viability of all Boroughs confirming the status of some and dissolving others. Ilchester was dissolved in 1886. To manage the remaining assets of the Corporation and the Almshouse which it managed Charities were set up. In 1889 the Ilchester Town Trust was set up to manage the assets of the Borough for the benefit of Ilchester Inhabitants. The Almshouse assets to be managed by Ilchester Relief in Need and Education Charity (IRINEC).


The suitability of the land outside Ilchester for aircraft take-off and landing was spotted in 1938. The government acquired land at the start of WW11 and built the base RNAS Yeovilton/HMS Heron.

With the influx of personnel and their families Ilchester has once again become a thriving community.