According to Sophia Rawlins(?) in a letter dated 4 Apr 1961, Hendford Manor was owned by her great-great-grandfather John Hooper from 1792 to 1825. It was then owned by her great-great-uncle the Rev. James Hooper, who sold it to Edwin Newman who used it as his home and as the headquarters of his law firm "Newman Paynter & Co". John Hooper's younger daughter Elizabeth married Rev. Henry Brown Newman, Edwin Newman's brother.
Hendford Manor, sometimes called Hendford Manor House is not to be confused with Hendford House which is situated across the road (see below).
Marion Paynter records that Hendford Manor was "a large Georgian house that he made additions to soon after he bought it. It is now a local authority office, and the fine old stable block is now a museum".
When I visited in October 2001, the house was being used as an architects office, but the museum was still extant and appeared well maintained, though it was closed at the time of my visit (see photo below).
The circumstances drew Edwin Newman to move to Yeovil and set up his house and business in Hendford remain uncertain. Edwin's father Edwin Sandys Newman was rector at Sparkford not far away (see map below), and his wife came from West Coker (also in the area) so it can be deduced that he moved to the nearest large town to establish his business.
There is also uncertainty as to the date Edwin purchased Hendford Manor, but it was sometime between 1833 and 1840 (see Edwin's page for further comments on this)
Interesting to note is the presence of another Newman family in the immediate neighbourhood. The 1851 census shows Edwin and family living at No 23 Hendford, and by the same census another family of Newmans was living 80 Hendford, headed by a Mrs Jane Newman, then 72 years old. With her was her unmarried sister Mary Garland, three nieces and two nephews. Sandra Beckett of the Newman Name Society has kindly explained to me who these people were: Jane Newman was the widow of John Newman; her maiden name was Garland (as per her unmarried sister Mary). John Birkley (should be spelt Berkley) is the son of William Wakefield Birkley (a merchant captain) and his wife Jane (sister of John Newman). John and Jane Newman were childless and apparently brought up the 3 children of William Wakefield Berkely and Jane. One of these was John Birkley (born 1824) and he married Mary Ann Cogan and they lived in Hendford with their children Mary Jane, William and John, together with Aunt Jane Newman and Aunt Mary Garland. The unanswered question remains however: were these Newmans relations of the Newmans at Hendford Manor?
Hendford Manor seems to have passed to the ownership of Edwin's step-son James Bernard Paynter, who in the 1891 census was recorded as head of the household. I have not yet been able to ascertain how or why the house passed to the Paynter family, since Edwin had 8 adult sons of his own any one of whom might have been expected to have inherited it. Perhaps James simply purchased it from Edwin after his firm ran into financial difficulties in 1880 when the head-clerk ran off with the firm's funds, or perhaps he simply bought it from the family after Edwin's death. I remain curious nevertheless, as to how this link between the Newmans and Somerset was lost.
When he died in 1927, James Bernard left Hendford Manor to his eldest son William, who sold it to Yeovil Town Council in 1935.
By 1977 Hendford Manor had fallen into such a state of disrepair that the Yeovil council put up plans for its demolition. The Evening Post newspaper of 17 Jan 1977 reported on an attempt by 78 year-old local architect Leslie Kemp to save the building which, he claimed, was "one of the last historic pieces of architecture in the town", and his offer to take "a gang of workmen to start putting the building back to rights". He claimed that council owed the public an apology and the cost of renovation for their constant "wanton neglect" of the historic manor".
Presumably Mr Leslie's efforts were successful because there is now a plaque affixed to the front of the house stating: "Yeovil Town Council - Hendford Manor - c.1750 - built for James Hooper, Lord of Hendford Manor - Millenium 2000 Plaque".
James Bernard was quite an investor in real-estate; in 1889 (by when he was resident in Hendford Manor), he purchased Hendford House (now the Manor Hotel - photo left) across and up the road from Hendford Manor for the princely sum of £4,100 - not a small sum in those days (see copy of contract below).