Welcome to Somerset
David Doidge

The "Dodge" parishes of the Cokers and the Chinnocks only cover a very small area and are essentially rural and agricultural and have few shops and no restaurants.

The roads and lanes are certainly those used by Elizabethans and earlier peoples. Oxen were still used to draw the plough, and the lanes were deeply rutted and difficult to travel except on a horse. The villages now contain about ten times as many people and houses. Most churches are virtually unchanged and were used by our ancestors every Sunday, and frequently, more often. Births were occasions for celebration, and of course, burials for sorrow; but marriages were very much lesser affairs than today, and concerned only the two celebrants. The church was the undoubted centre of village life. The major concern of the villages were land and its produce. The break with the Church of Rome some seventy years earlier had largely been absorbed, but there were still strong feelings about religious matters stemming from the Reformation and the form of church services was still a strong subject for many. Directives of the King and Parliament were passed to the Great Lords of the Counties and in the case of South Somerset, it was usually the Phellips of Montacute. All through the first half of the 1600's, Phellips vied with another family for the leadership of Somerset. At one time, when out of favour, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London but in the end, his family prevailed. Lesser aristocrats and gentlemen of the County would be summoned to Montacute or visited with instructions on what the King requires by way of Law or edict and such local gentry were responsible for ensuring that the law was observed throughout the County. Probably the Hellyers of Coker Court were tasked with imposing the King's Laws in the local community. The features and appearance of the Hellyers ad the Phellips would be familiar to every inhabitant.

Barrington Court is an example of a medium sized manor which is attractive and well furnished inside such as to probably give a better impression of interiors than does Montacute.

Ham Hill, a prominent landmark in the area provided a particularly attractive stone that was easily quarried for housebuilding. Not all people could afford such building materials and instead would have used other older and cheaper traditional methods such as wattle reinforced by withies from the nearby low-levels of Somerset.

We know little directly of John and Margery, but John's will reveals that he was not a poor man when he died in the parish of Halstock, just over the border in Dorset. Though his son, "Farmer" William went to Salem only about ten years after the Pilgrim Fathers, and he may have gone for religious reasons, it appears more likely that he was enterprising and seeking a new land where he could own his land and farm it with better prospects than if he had stayed in the Cokers. Sometime, somewhere, he must have spoken to someone who sparked his resolve to take the giant step towards the new territories. The main road from London to Exeter passed via Salisbury and Yeovil, just north of Ham Hill to the West. Perhaps he conversed with travelers on that road.

With both Yeovil and Crewkerne only a few miles away, and being market towns, the Dodges will probably have been familiar visitors, though many a countryman never traveled more that ten miles from their birthplace.

From early records of the Dodges in South Somerset, it appears that they were in the locality by about 1350. Other evidence suggests that there were Dodges in other parts of Somerset and the move to Sough Somerset may have been associated with the plague about that time.


The Dodge Family Genealogy book shows the ancestors of most American Dodges to stem from a John Dodge and his wife, Margery. Briefly, John and his children are listed below:
The numbers refer to those used in the American Family Genealogy Book: non- American members so not have numbers, (except John . 1. )

1. John died about October 1636 . He married Margery. His children were:

2. (Farmer) William; Came to Salem 1629. Believed born about 1604

3. Richard appears Salem 1638. Probably born as early as 1602.

. Michael lived and died at East Coker. Married Mary and had 4 sons and 2 daughters. His son included "Coker" William who went to America before 1665 and was baptised at East Coker 1643/4.

Mary was married and died in England.

Much of what we know of John and Margery comes from his will. Thought parish registers were introduced in the first half of the 150's they were generally kept on scraps of parchment and few have survived from that century. Most parish registers commence about the early 1600s. The dates for the registers of the "Dodge parishes" are:

East Coker From 1560
West Coker From 1607
Middle Chinnock From 1695
West Chinnock From 1683
East Chinnock From 1647

Thus, using the available registers, we find in the East Coker register:

Baptisms of children of Richard and Edith: Margery 1630: John 1631: Marie 1635>

Baptisms of children of Michael and Mary: Margery 1639/40: John 1641/42 (Coker) William 1643/44 who went to America; Michael 1646/47: Richard 1651

The line of Michael and Mary continues in East and West Coker for a total of three generations. Further research is needed to link them to any living Dodges in Somerset today.

There are other Dodge families in East and West Coker in the 1600s. There is a reasonable probability that they are related to John 1. But no direct evidence from the registers.

The register of Middle Chinnock, where John 1. Dwelled is devoid og any Dodges.

One further course has recently been checked. The "Bishops Transcripts" wherein parsons annually reported abstracts of their registers. Such records are usually very fragmented, but in the case of East Chinnock, three years have survived and are relevant: 1598; 1602/3; 1606. They show Mary, daughter of John, baptised 1598 with William a churchwarden; Clemente, the daughter of John baptised in 1602; Francis the daughter of William baptised 1606, and William the son of John baptised 1606.

From these transcripts, it is probably that "Farmer" William. 2. Was baptised in 1606 in East Chinnock and that he may have had a sister Clemente. The transcripts also suggest the strong possibility of John having a brother William who was churchwarden of East Chinnock in 1598.

One possible anomaly can be observed. Since clearly, John and William were family names at that time, one wonders whether there was ever a John, son of John .1. Perhaps there was and he died when young but we have no records which would show it. Further searches of documents still unexamined may reveal more and possibly go back further generation or two before John .1.

Finally, when tracing the Dodges of South Somerset after the two brothers had emigrated to America, it is very clear that there were about three or four Dodge families in the vicinity of the Cokers, and in the growing moves from country to town of the 1700s and 1800s, there was a sudden appearance of a number of Dodge families in Crewkerne about four miles to the west of the Chinnocks, and in Yeovil itself. Yeovil and Crewkerne were the two local towns which inevitably received the attentions of the men who wanted to leave the land.

Of particular interest in the Parish register of East Chinnock is what is effectively a prayer of thanksgiving following a plague in the parish in 1646 through which "Coker" William must have lived.

East Coker Parish Register: Extract: 1645

"Memorandum that in 1645, in the parish of East Coker, from the eighth day of June until the tenth day of September, there died and were interred in the contageous Sickness, Plague, and Pestilence three score and ten persons - and it pleased the Almighty suddenly, beyond all mens expectation, to put an end to this fearful visitation. For which extroaordinary favour we ascribe all Laud and Praise unto his sacred name in the words of the prophet David - Psalm the 116th - verses 12, 13, and 14. What shall we render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards us? We will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of he Lord. We will pay our vows unto the Lord, even now in the presence of all his people."


1641 19 buried
1642 14 buried
1643 16 buried
1644 21 buried


Somerset Pleas Vol. 41. Roll 1232
18th April, 1278

Essoin taken before the King in the Chapel of Gvidas near Glastonbury on Monday the morrow of Easter in the Sixth yeare of Kind Edward (m12) Somers. Anseim de Gurney plaintiff. (is essoined) against Ralf de Belelaunde, Peter de Dravcote, John Daniel, Robert de Netherton, Robert Berebret, Gilbert le Veel, John Page, John Uppehull, Roger Dogg, William le Chamberlayne, Walter North and William Woderys on a plea of novel disseisin by Adam Fot Affd.

Sybil the wife of Anseim (is essoined) on Wednesday after the quinzaime of Trinity (29th June) at Bridgwat and none of the recognitors came therefore let the sherrif have the bodies (in margin "No est". let the assize be extracted).


In a lease dated 13th June 1350 - the year after the plague, certain land is again identified by it's position between two other properties: It was two acres of meadow lying in Coker Mere in le Honyn - opposite Godelle Mead between the meadow of Sir John the chaplain of St Marys on one side and the meadow of William atte Mere on the other and abuts the brook. This parcel of land was leased by Adam, son of Richard atte Mere, of West Coker to John le Doo of West Coker and Joan his wife for the term of the life of one of them, the longer liver, for the payment of one rose at the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptists. The witnesses were John de Salisbury, John Elys, Robert Gater, John Reynolds, Richard Penny, John Peay, John Williams, and others. John of St Marys in this deed will have been the rector of East Coker. John de Southton who had died of the plague the previous year. John le Doo we have met in association with his clerical brother, Philip. Others of these names occurring in documents of the precious decade are evidence of the plague not having entirely broken the continuity of village life. On the other hand in the seventh year after the plague, the name of John Levereich and Joan his wife, and Andrew Dagge and Emma his wife, vendors to this same John le Doo, of two messuages, and four score and six acres of land and four acres of meadow in West Coker and Hardyngton Mandeville - quite a considerable property are not familiar from any earlier assessment for the tax on goods.

REGISTRUM RADILPHI DI SDALOPIA (Somerset Record Society. Vol. 10)
Entry No 2666 n page 695

Viij ld 1352 July A.D. (Bishop's Court) at Wyveliscomb. The lord instructed Robert Doggeton, priest, to the parish church of Estcoker, vacant by the resignation of Phillip Doo at the presentation of Sir Hugh Courteney, Earl of Devon.

Feet of Fines. Vol. 17. Edward III to Richard II
1356 30 Edward III

At Westminster, in three weeks of Easter between John le Doo, Estcoker, querant, and Stphen Loverich and Joan His wyfe and Andrew Dagge and Emma his wyfe, deforceiants, for two messuages, four score and six acres of land, and four acres of meadow, in Westcoker and Hardyngton Mandeville. Stephen and Joan and Andrew and Emma acknowledge the claim of John as by their gift and quitclaimed for themselves and heirs; for this John gave them twenty marcs of silver.

Entry No 263 in Vol. 13 Bishop Bowett's Register

17th November in the year above written. Master Richard Pitts instituted William Dogge, clerk having the first tonsure, to the church of Otyrhampton, vacant by the death of Hugh Wyllyng, the last rector, at the presentation of Sir Thomas Swynbourne, knight, and Elizabeth Tryvet, his wife. The Archdeacon to Taunton to induct.

Entry No 270

15 December, yeare aforesaid, the vicar-general instituted William Talbot, chaplain, to the church of Otyrhampton vacant by the simple resignation of William Dogge, clerk, the last rector, to which he was presented by Thomas Swynbourne, knight, and Elizabeth Tryvet, his wyfe. The Archdeacon of Taunton to induct,

November 3rd 1410 London

The Bishop received a presentation by John Chudyock esquire of William Dogge, clerk, to the chapel at Kyngeston by levele (Yeovil) and committed to Master John Tyssebuty, canon of Wells, his commissary general, to make inquisition upon the right of the presenter and the other articles usual in that behalf: and if the inquisition finds for the presenter and presentee to institute the latter as rector or warden in the chapel.

On the 13th November the inquisition Commission returned their certificate. A copy is held - in latin. It found that William Dogge was the rightful incumbent of the chapel. However, for whatever reason, William did not retain his appointment for long. In 1418, 27th February at Wells, we find: (Th Bishop) instituted Sir John Bardoff, chaplain, as rector or warden of the free chapel of All Saints. Kyngeston by Yevele vacant by the resignation of William Dogge, etc.

1451 29th Nov.

Thomas Dogge appears in list of Escheators for Somerset and Dorset. He may be a member of the Devon Dodges.