Wild Oak House, Trull is a Grade II listed house in the village of Trull near Taunton. The listing on Historic England lists the property as an early 19th-century two-storey property but sadly offers no information into the interior of the house. I believe the house was built between 1820- 1840 but can only account for the house’s residents from 1840. Previous owners believe that parts of the house date back much further.
James Scoins, whose family were previous owners, provided the following information –
‘Wild Oak House is an imposing Georgian House, built most likely in its current form between 1750 and 1810. It comprises of an Ashlar rendered House to the East of the Site, whilst the rest of the house is a dressed stone wing, that dwarfs the ‘Main House’
There is speculation that the house sits on the site of an older property or that it was substantially rebuilt and extended, due to the cellars, which have remnants of a Range, Bread Ovens and are built in a brick that dates back to the mid 17th Century. One of the Cellars even boasts a 16pain Sash window.
The House boasts between 3 and 4 stories, – Lower Ground (which is at road level to one side of the house) Ground Floor, First, and Second Floors (again on the roadside of the house)
There would have been approximately 10 rooms on the Ground Floor, 11 on the First Floor, and 5 on the Second Floor (Most likely the Servants Quarters, due to interlinking rooms, small arched dormers, and minimal views over the formal gardens.
What is now known as Wild Oak House, has 2 Doric columns, with a 16 pain sash window either side and 3 above, in a very traditional Regency Style.
The House also once boasted an estate it is believed, encompassing much of the land immediately around the house, and expanding to approximately 15acres. Owners after approx 1870, built ‘Oakfied’ ‘Wild Oak’ and 2 semi-detached villas (now boarding houses for Queens College) and also owned a cottage on what is now known as Claremont Lane
There is a house recorded on the site in the early tithe maps – as being owned by a John Gill and consisted of a house and garden, and two orchards, 3 rods and 9 perches totalling 1acre.’
In 1840 an advertisement ran in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette offering Wild Oak house for sale. This advert attracted the houses first know residents – the Trenchard’s.
George And Mary Trenchard 1840 – 1857
The Trenchard family arrived in the village of Trull in 1840. Mr Trenchard Esq was a man of means and a shareholder in the up and coming railways. He was born in Chard in 1792 and spent his life in the Bampton area of Devon. George and Mary had married in 1821 in Crediton and had two daughters Elizabeth and Mary. Although Georges occupation had previously been listed as a land agent for the west of England, by the time he arrived at Trull he was of retirement age and simply listed as a Landed Proprietor. By 1851, as both his daughters approached the age of marriage, the family still lived together at Wild Oak House along with two female servants, one of them only ten years old.
The 1851 census.
|George||Trenchard||Head||Married||Male||60||1791||Landed Proprietor||Chard, Somerset|
|Mary B||Trenchard||Daughter||Unmarried||Female||26||1825||Bampton, Devon|
|Mary||Dampier||Servant||Unmarried||Female||27||1824||House Servant||Combe? Somerset|
|Susan||Wright||Servant||Unmarried||Female||10||1841||Servant||Bishops Lydeard, Somerset|
Shortly after this census was taken the couples eldest daughter, Mary, married a solicitor, Ernest Rossiter and left home. It seems that in the years to follow, youngest daughter Elizabeth passed away. Tragedy struck again in 1856 when daughter Mary, aged 28, now a mother of two, also passed away. It’s impossible to say for certain but it seems likely this drove the Trenchards to put Wild Oak House on the market in 1857. The grieving couple moved to the Crescent in Taunton before George Trenchard passed away in 1860 aged 68. George left an estate of around £14,00 (around £827,000 in today’s money) and so widow Mary was well provided for. He also bequeathed a large sum of money to a school in his hometown of Chard. Wife Mary lived out her days at 157 Park Street in Taunton where she lived with various female servants. Her occupation was listed as independent means and Railway shareholder. Mary lived to the ripe age of 93 and passed away on the 13th September 1884. Mary left her estate to her two grandsons George and Ernest Rossiter.
William and Matilda Coker 1857 – 1863
William Worthington Coker and his large family arrived at Wild Oak House around 1857. William was the grandson of a West Indies sugar plantation and slave owner named William Coker who held a vast plantation in St Croix from the mid-1700s. It was in St Croix that young William met and married Matilda Augusta Dewhurst, daughter of a slave owner. At the beginning of their marriage, William was listed as an attorney for a plantation, although his family had been involved in slavery for at least seventy years, there is no evidence that William Worthington Coker participated in the running of the plantation, he does, however, state in the 1881 census he was a retired West Indian Planter. Slavery was abolished in the West Indies in 1833 when William would have been in his late twenties. By the time the couple arrived at Trull they had nine children and William’s occupation was listed as a landed proprietor, ten years earlier he had listed his occupation as a farmer of one hundred and three acres. Given the abolition of slavery and the horrors that were revealed it is likely that the family wanted to keep their family involvement of plantation ownership low key.
When the 1861 census was taken William was away from the family home and staying in Clifton, Bristol with eldest son Edmund, it seems likely he was visiting or carrying out business with his wife’s family as the household he stayed with was headed by Jane Dewhurst, the surname being Matilda’s maiden name. Matilda was home alone with her vast family and two servants.
|Matilda A||Coker||Wife||Married||Female||44||1817||Landed Proprietor||St Croix, West Indies|
|Francis Elizabeth||Coker||Daughter||Unmarried||Female||19||1842||North Curry, Somerset|
|Walter W||Coker||Son||Unmarried||Male||13||1848||Burnham, Somerset|
|Jane C||Coker||Daughter||Unmarried||Female||12||1849||Haydon, Somerset|
|Augustus W||Coker||Son||Unmarried||Male||11||1850||Haydon, Somerset|
|John H||Coker||Son||Unmarried||Male||8||1853||Haydon, Somerset|
|Charlotte||Grovier||Servant||Unmarried||Female||23||1838||House Maid||Galmington, Somerset|
|Sarah||Poole||Servant||Unmarried||Female||13||1848||Kitchen Maid||Cheddon Fitzpaine, Somerset|
The family only remained at his house a short time before moving onto Bathford and then finally settling in Weymouth, Dorset. William Worthington Coker passed away in 1894 aged 91, his wife Matilda died seven years later aged 84. Three of their four sons served in the military, with son Edmund becoming a well-known colonel. Their youngest son John died whilst at Eton. Of their five daughters, one died in childhood, and two in their twenties. The two remaining sisters never married and lived with their parents in Weymouth. The couple were only outlived by one daughter, Mary who died eight years after her mother.
The McLean’s 1863 – 1900
Adam and Flora Mclean arrived at Wild Oak House in the mid-1860s. They were siblings of Scottish descent, their father a reverend who raised his family in Sheffield. Adam Mclean was a chemistry tutor and with the support of his sister ran a school for boys. By 1881 Adam had left Wild Oak House to open a school in Weston Super Mare, and Flora took sole control of Wild Oak offering education and boarding for young ladies. By 1870 there was a social shift in the education for girls, with many realising that lessons from a governess were no longer enough to equip young ladies in the skills they would need to find a husband and maintain a home. A ladies school would offer a curriculum subjects similar to males, mathematics, English and art, as well as the lessons of home management, needlework, laundry and bible studies taught in state schools. It was felt that a middle-class woman needed to be knowledgeable so that she could conduct intelligent conversation with her husband and children.
A newspaper article in 1884 indicated that a student, Miss E Lanyon, had taken exams at wild Oak House in English, French, English History and constitutional history. Flora Mclean paid a keen interest to the village of Trull and through her student’s needlework raised money for a new organ and brass cross for the church.
Flora Mclean never married and remained dedicated to the school until her retirement around 1900, after hanging up her teaching hat she moved to Islington where she remained for a few years before returning to Scotland where she died 1905.
Annie and Frances Sweet 1900 -1927
Annie and Frances were the daughters of highly esteemed local solicitor Henry Sweet. The girls had two younger brothers who followed their father into law however the two sisters never married. The family had lived in the area all their lives, the children growing up at the high Street in Taunton town centre before moving to Westhill in Trull, where they remained until their parents died. In 1898, after the death of their elderly mother, the two spinster sisters moved into Wild Oak House.
|Annie C||Sweet||Head||Single||Female||52||1849||Independent Means||Taunton, Somerset|
|Frances L||Sweet||Sister||Single||Female||51||1848||Taunton, Somerset|
|Alice Mary||Doble||Servant||Single||Female||24||1877||Cook (domestic)||Crewkerne, Somerset|
|Mary Ann||Stone||Servant||Single||Female||23||1878||Parlour Maid||Milverton, Somerset|
The Sweet sisters were very popular in Trull, both regular attendees to the local church and were both known for their generosity to the poor of the parish, giving gifts and blankets at Christmas. Their many kind acts in the community giving them the affection of all that knew them.
Annie Catherine Sweet passed away in April 1920 aged 71, and her sister Frances Lucy Sweet died seven years later in January 1927 aged 77. Both sisters were laid to rest at the local church.
After their deaths, Wild Oak House was left to Evelyn Caroline Badcock, it is not clear if she was a family member or friend however her mother was listed as a visitor to the house in 1901
Wild Oak House was on the market once more, along with an Austin Seven motorcar.
All furniture and a costly wheelchair were included in the sale.
Nellie Rogers 1927 – 1940
Nellie Rogers was in her 50’s when she arrived at Wild Oak house in 1927. Nellie was an unmarried woman from Islington, London who had previously worked as a nursemaid. She arrived in Trull in around 1911 when she was listed as living in Wild Oak cottage with a retired army officer named Robert Dundee, Nellie was listed as his ward. Nellie ran a nursery at Wild Oak House from her arrival until 1940. She offered care to children from birth to eight year old. This was a successful business with customers from all over the country.
In 1931 tragedy struck at Wild Oak House when a fire broke out in the infants bedroom. A local fireman heroically rescued the four sleeping babies but sadly only one survived. An inquest was held at the Trull parish hall. Captain of the brigade suggested the cause of the fire had been caused by two Pekinese puppies who had overturned an electric fire in the room the babies slept. Nellie was very tearful as she gave evidence at the inquest. The deaths of Eric Sargent, 10 months, Brian Bennett, 9 months and Edward Edwards aged 12 months were recorded as caused as death by misadventure. Speaking at the conclusion of the inquest the foreman of the jury stated that such institutions should have a nurse awake and on duty throughout the whole 24 hours.
You can read the tragic full story of the 1931 fire here
This tragic event must have made its mark on Nellie and her business however she continued to run a successful nursery for many years to come. On the 1939 register, the house was listed as having four staff and many infant boarders. At the age of 69, Nellie finally left Wild Oak house in 1940. The house was again listed in the local paper, this time with the suggestion of conversion into flats. The Property then became Wild Oak House – Numbers 1-5
It is unclear who purchased the property and on which dates, but a former resident has confirmed the house was used by a Maidstone private school during the 2nd World War before being divided into four flats in 1945. The property was later owned by local woman Kathleen Heaton Renshaw who passed away in 1984 aged 90. After this, the house was subdivided by local solicitor Mr Lugg, the Fear family, and the Scion’s family and became three substantial houses named Wild Oak House, Middle Wild Oak House, and Wild Oak Mews.
James Scoins kindly provided the following information –
‘Sadly many of the Period features have been removed, most likely when it was converted to a Nursery Home in the 1920s, and the house has had some eyesore additions such as the Garage Buildings, and a back staircase added around that time. In addition, it has been carved up leaving anomalies, and altered layouts, windows, and doors have been cut into the exterior unsympathetically.
One of the main features still intact, is the Georgian Gazebo, an elevated 2 storey summer house, which sits above the Garden wall, although it is now boarded in 1920’s clapboard, and is all but derelict due to its ground floor store being used as a garden shed.
although the ‘Wing’ and ‘Main House’ were almost seen as separate residences in later years, hence the Wild Oak Mews name being used by owners of the Main House, the houses had been one, and the 3 doorways/corridors were in use until the late 1980s between the Lower Ground Floor – Blocked up since 2011, Ground Floor – Blocked up in 1987, and First Floor – Blocked up in approximately 1960.
Much evidence of the Servants Quarters on the top floors remains, 5 interconnecting rooms originally, all now separated 3- belonging to Middle Wild Oak House, 2 Bedrooms and the Master Ensuite, all 20ft rooms with Original Dormer Windows, and 2 Belonging to Wild Oak Mews.
Middle Wild Oak House, boasts an impressive Staircase with a large sash window on its half landing giving views of the Gardens – and it is believed many of the Tree’s including a Silver Birch were planted when the House was one property. There is a similar staircase again with a Gallery in Wild Oak House, whilst Wild Oak Mews has staircases that were inserted in the last 50 years.
The ‘Wing’ is potentially as old if not slightly newer than the other part of the house, the lower 2 floors are definitely Georgian – the Cellars have a 16 pain sash window which is clearly original, and the only features that remain is wide elm floorboards, which have been over boarded with narrower boards. The staircase and some other remaining features like the dormers certainly indicate a house built before the turn of the Victorian era
I think it may have been refaced externally or slightly remodelled, as the spine wall of the house, is 18inch thick stone/rubble, and most definitely not a Victorian construction, as the dormers are also typical of a regency house as opposed to an 1870s build. – but there were other buildings, and they can be evidenced partially in the garden wall. – bearing in mind the Estate (as listed in 1879) included Oakfield, and Oakfield Cottage (WOH Gardeners cottage) where Claremont was. – and I’m unsure how old Claremont was as there are buildings that remain or remnants of built into the WOH garden wall. – including a blocked up window that has no building now, and WOH even had a Gazebo – which is in a decaying state sadly, yet has wonderful elevated views’
The Scoins are currently preparing to say goodbye to Wild Oak House after many years of proud ownership.
Historic England – heritage Listing Here