The manor of “Hache” dates from Saxon times and the word itself means a gate or bar across a woodland path. In this case it was the gateway to the ancient forest of Neroche. The manor was granted to Robert, Count of Mortain at the time of the Norman Conquest (1066) who was a half-brother of William. At that time the population was ‘three servants, eleven villanes, four cottagers with three ploughs’. Later the manor is recorded as being in the hands of Robert de Beauchamp who may be the same person. The Beauchamp family were loyal allies of William and were granted large estates in Somerset and Bedfordshire. Hence the modern name of the village ‘Hatch Beauchamp’
There was a church on the same site as the current St John’s by the end of the 12th century, and the Dean and Chapter of Wells held estates in the area at that time.
John de Beauchamp obtained a licence for a market every Thursday in 1301 and there was also permission for a fair. The literature notes that this has ‘long since been discontinued’, although nowadays there is a thriving Produce Market held monthly in the village hall.
The Black Death spread to Somerset from Dorset in the mid 14th century and devastated the population perhaps with as high as 50% mortality. It explains the current location of the main part of the village, the original settlements around the site of Hatch Court and the church would have been abandoned.
Tudor to Georgian times
By the end of the 14th century the male line of Beauchamps had died out and Hache Court passed to Roger Seymour who had married the sister of John Beauchamp III. His descendant was Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and brother of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s wife, who later became Lord Protector of England during the minority of Edward VI. He would have lived at Hache Court before this time. After his death, although in possession of the Seymour family for a further five generations, there is evidence the mansion fell into decay.
Large parts of the current church building (including the tower) date from the late 15th and early 16th century although the main part of the chancel is earlier.
Towards the end of the 17th century the lands of Hatch passed to the Bruce family by marriage but only briefly as it appears they were sold to John Collins as evidenced by the Church rate book of 1726. Around this time John Uttermare owned Hatch Green Farm. The Collins family of Ilminster had become wealthy through the wool and cloth making trade. In 1755 the Palladian style Hatch Court was built for John Collins the son of the 1726 Collins above, the architect being Thomas Prowse. John Collins was High Sheriff of Somerset in 1757, (an office held in 2012 by Pat Hunt of the village). Further wealth came to the family by marriage to Jane Langford who benefitted from the West Indian sugar trade.
Two generations later in 1822, the daughter Dorothea married William Gore-Langton. This family has been closely associated with the area to this day. Around this time there is mention of a new mansion at Hatch Park owned by H.P. Collins who had enlarged or completed the house for occupation. He was active in the Church and was responsible for the addition of the south aisle and vestry. On his death his grandson William Henry Powell Gore Langton succeeded to Hatch Park.
In 1866 Hatch Beauchamp was connected to the national railway network as part of the Bristol and Exeter railway. Earlier in 1842 the Chard canal had been opened between and Taunton and Chard without any commercial success and early proposals to convert it to a railway never materialised. The Bristol and Exeter railway instead built the single track line parallel to the canal. It bought the little-used canal and closed it down.
Colonel John Chard won the Victoria Cross for his role in the battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879 and is buried in Hatch Beauchamp. He spent his final days in 1897 at the Rectory (now Close House) with his brother the Reverend C. E. Chard.
A veteran of both the Boer War and the Great War, Brigadier Andrew Hamilton Gault lived in Hatch Court from 1923. He was a wealthy Canadian who founded Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry which distinguished itself during the First World War. He was MP for Taunton until 1935, played a part in the preparations for D-Day and died in 1958. His wife continued to live at Hatch Court until her death in 1972.
Commander Hubert Edwin Gore-Langton was awarded the DSO and French Croix-de-Guerre in the First World War. He married Lady Alice, daughter of the Earl Temple of Stowe. In memory of his wife he presented the Lady Alice Gore-Langton Memorial field to the village in 1964, the centrepiece of life in the village to this day.
A memorial to those in the village and surrounding area who died in the First and Second World Wars stands at the edge of the field next to Village Road. Memorial services take place around 11th November each year.