• Somerset Heritage Centre
Reference number
  • DD/SVL
  • The manor of Dinder was part of the Bishopric of the Bishops of Bath and Wells, and was held by the family of Rodney of Rodney-Stoke. In 1655 Sir Edward Rodney, sold the manor of Dinder to Richard Hickes. With Richard's death in c. 1710 his estates passed to his son Robert. Robert through his marriage to Elizabeth Vannam, the daughter of John Vannam citizen and fishmonger of London, had also inherited the manor of Bourton in Wick St Lawrence and lands at Bibury and Calmesdon in Gloucestershire. Upon Robert's death his estates were divided between his daughters Elizabeth, who married George Somerville (brother to James, Lord Somerville of Scotland) and Mary, who married Charles Yate. It appears that Mary died childless so the Somerset and Gloucestershire estates passed in entirety to the Somerville family. Revd William Somerville of Bibury, Gloucestershire, inherited the estates on the death of his father, in 1801 he built Dinder House. Upon his death in 1803 the estates were left to the uses of his widow, Jane. The couple had also been childless, so on the death of Jane, the lands and property passed to James Somerville Fownes, the nephew of William by his sister Ann Vannam Somerville who had married Revd Thomas Fownes of Kittery Court, Devon. In 1831 James Somerville Fownes adopted the surname Somerville through Royal Warrant. James married Frances the daughter of William Ilbert of Bowringsleigh, Devon and it was their fourth child, James Curtis Somerville who inherited the estates in 1848. James Curtis Somerville married Emily Periam Hood in 1846 and their second child Arthur Fownes Somerville, inherited the estates in 1876. Arthur Fownes Somerville was educated Marlborough and Trinity Hall, Cambridge and played rugby for the Harlequins, he served as a County Councillor and High Sheriff for Somerset. In 1880 he married Ellen Sharland of Tasmania, who he presumably met on one of his several trips to New Zealand and Australia, where in 1879 he purchased Dinder Farm in New Zealand. Upon Arthur's death in 1942 his estates passed to his eldest son Harold Fownes Somerville, who died only four years later. Harold's son Lt Mark Fownes Somerville, who served upon HMS Ark Royal died in service in 1941 and so the Somerville estates passed to Harold's brother Sit James Fownes Somerville, who was the last of his family to reside at Dinder House. Sir James Fownes Somerville, was commander in chief of the East Indies naval forces from 1938-1939 and on 3 Jul 1940 he was in charge of the British naval force that sank the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, near Oran, Algeria. After World War II, James Fownes Somerville, was placed in charge of the British Naval delegation to Washington and on 8 May 1945 he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet. After his retirement he was make Lord Lieutenant of Somerset. He married Mary Kerr Main in 1918 and they had two children. The collection has been split into 10 series, series 1 (DD\SVL/1) contains manorial records, series 2 (DD\SVL/2) contains deeds, series 3 (DD\SVL/3) contains estate and household records, such a accounts, correspondence, rentals, maps and plans and sale particulars, series 4 (DD\SVL/4) contains records relating to their New Zealand interests and estates, series 5 (DD\SVL/5) contains family and personal papers, such as family settlements, probate papers, litigation, diaries and records of public service, series 6 (DD\SVL/6) contains records relating the administration of Croscombe and Dinder parishes, series 7 (DD\SVL/7) contains images and illustrations, series 8 (DD\SVL/8) contains publications and printed material, whilst series 9 (DD\SVL/9) and series 10 (DD\SVL10) contains miscellaneous items and objects respectively.
  • 1457-1949
  • 71 boxes
Access status
  • Open
  • Collection
Related material
  • Further papers of Sir James Fownes Somerville (1882-1949) are held by the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, CB3 0DS, Telephone: 01223 336087, E-mail:
  • 2.634