No Lord Congresbury manor has never had a resident Lord of the Manor, so there is no large Manor House (except Iwood Manor which had only 120 acres, compared with Congresbury’s 4000 acres now) and no medieval statues of long dead lords, as at Yatton or any massive Monument in the churchyard. But the church is well worth a visit and the churchyard has a monument to a Congresbury man who, severely wounded, captured a highwayman in 1830 and lived to tell the tale. The manor was overseen by a bailiff, often a local man , and parish affairs were organised by the vicar, when in residence, and prominent local people, mainly farmers. Most were tenants, who were often able to pass their tenancies to their children, providing considerable continuity. However, Hannah More, who started a Sunday School in Congresbury and many others elsewhere, was scathing about farmers. In 1792 she called them great ignorant farmers and a gentleman farmer was bursting with his wealth and consequence and purple with his daily bottle of port.
This 3-metre high granite cross in the churchyard is a memorial to the brave farmer who fought off an attack by a highwayman in October 1830. Charles Hardwick, of Hewish, was returning on his horse from Bristol market with a considerable amount of money. He rode and conversed with a person called Richard Hewllet. Hardwick was not far from home (about a mile and a half from Congresbury towards Weston Super Mare) when Hewlett drew a pistol and shot him in the shoulder. Hewlett then took fright and galloped away at speed towards Congresbury. Hardwick pursued his assailant and caught up with him at the bridge leading into Congresbury Moor, about a half mile from where he was shot. Hewlett then struck the gallant farmer about the head with a large bludgeon, and galloped away towards Congresbury. The farmer pursued Hewlett once again and caught up with him by Congresbury Bridge, after Hewlett’s horse fell when swerving to avoid a cart. The two men struggled on the ground and farmer Hardwick received further blows to the head and was stabbed in the side by Hewlett’s 7-inch dagger. Despite these further injuries the farmer held on to the highwayman until help arrived. Hewlett was later tried at Taunton and hanged at Ilchester jail. Farmer Hardwick lay close to death for some time but lived a further 19 years to tell the tale. He is buried at Hutton. In 1871, after a Mr Kinglake had raised a subscription, the granite cross, weighing some three tons, was erected to commemorate this extraordinary event.
The Highwayman