G.W. Wade and J.H. Wade
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Dave Morgan, Beth Trapaga and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: A MAP OF THE RAILWAYS OF SOMERSET]
[Illustration: THE PINNACLES, CHEDDAR]
G.W. WADE, D.D.
J.H. WADE, M.A.
_With Thirty-two Illustrations and Two Maps_
"Upon smooth Quantock's airy ridge we roved."
Methuen & Co
36 Essex St. Strand
[Illustration: Hand drawn Routes of the Somerset & Dorset Railway]
The general scheme of this Guide is determined by that of the series of
which it forms part. But a number of volumes by different writers are
never likely to be quite uniform in character, even though planned on
the same lines; and it seems desirable to explain shortly the aim we
have had in view in writing our own little book. In our accounts of
places of interest we have subordinated the historical to the
descriptive element; and whilst we have related pretty fully in the
Introduction the events of national importance which have taken place
within the county, we have not devoted much space to family histories.
We have made it our chief purpose to help our readers to see for
themselves what is best worth seeing. If, in carrying out our design,
we appear to have treated inadequately many interesting country seats,
our excuse must be that such are naturally not very accessible to the
ordinary tourist, whose needs we have sought to supply. And if churches
and church architecture seem to receive undue attention, it may be
pleaded that Somerset is particularly rich in ecclesiastical buildings,
and affords excellent opportunities for the pursuit of a fascinating
In the production of our book we have used freely such sources of
information as circumstances have enabled us to consult; and in this
connection we wish to make specific acknowledgment of our indebtedness
to C.R.B. Barrett's "Somersetshire," the Rev. W.H.P. Greswell's "Land
of Quantock," and the "Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and
Natural History Society." We have likewise profited by the kindness of
several friends and correspondents, amongst whom we desire to mention
the late R.P. Brereton, Dr F.H. Allen, Mr F.R. Heath, the Rev. C.W.
Whistler, the Rev. E.H. Bates, and the Rev. J.S. Hill, B.D. (the last
especially in regard to the origin of certain place-names). But our
descriptions are, for the most part, based upon notes taken on the
spot. Almost all the localities that are included in the alphabetical
list have been visited by one or other of us: those of any interest,
which from various causes we have failed to reach, can (we believe) be
counted upon the fingers. We cannot expect our work to be wholly free
from errors and omissions, but we have done our best to make it
accurate and to render it as complete as the size of the volume allows.
I. SITUATION AND EXTENT
IV. PHYSICAL FEATURES AND GEOLOGY
V. FAUNA AND FLORA
DESCRIPTION OF PLACES ARRANGED ALPHABETICALLY
INDEX OF PERSONS
TARR STEPS, EXMOOR
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
MARKET PLACE, FROME
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
ST JOSEPH'S CHAPEL, GLASTONBURY
(_From a Photograph by Mr Walter Raymond_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
ALFOXDEN HOUSE, NEAR HOLFORD
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
HORNER WOODS AND PORLOCK VALE
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
THE HANGING CHAPEL, LANGPORT
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
THE GEORGE INN, NORTON ST PHILIP
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
NUNNEY CASTLE AND VILLAGE
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
OLD BANK, PORLOCK
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
SHEPTON MALLET CROSS
(_From a Photograph by Mr Walter Raymond_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
TAUNTON FROM THE RIVER
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
VICARS' CLOSE, WELLS
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Frith, Reigate_)
THE PALACE GATEWAY, WELLS
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
NINE SPRINGS, YEOVIL
(_From a Photograph by Messrs Valentine, Dundee_)
MAP OF SOMERSET
I. SITUATION AND EXTENT
SOMERSET is one of the S.W. counties of England. On the N. it is washed
by the Bristol Channel; on the N.E. the Avon, like a silver streak,
divides it from Gloucestershire; it is bordered on the E. by Wiltshire;
its S.E. neighbour is Dorset; and on the S.W. it touches Devon. Its
shape is so irregular that dimensions give a misleading indication of
its extent. Its extreme length is about 60 m., and its greatest width
38; but it narrows so rapidly westwards that where it abuts on Devon
its average width is only 15 m. In point of size it stands seventh on
the list of English counties, having an area of over a million acres,
or 1633 square m. It lies between 2 deg. 10' and 3 deg. 50' W. longitude, and
50 deg. 50' and 51 deg. 30' N. latitude. Its population in 1901 was 508,104. It
is one of the few counties which was originally the settlement of a
single tribe, the Somersaetas, from whom it takes its name; and the
fact that "Somerset" (like Dorset) is thus a tribal name is in favour
of its dispensing with the suffix _shire_, though "Somersetshire" has
been in common use since the time of the "Saxon Chronicle."
The climate is mild and equable, though from its diversified surface
the county experiences some varieties of temperature. The seaboard is
warm, but its considerable southward trend gives it a good Atlantic
frontage, which prevents it from being relaxing. Weston is said to be
ten degrees warmer than London. The breezes on the uplands are bracing
but never searching. The Mendips have been considered a suitable site
for a consumptive sanatorium. The central flats are damp. They lie so
low that in places the coast has to be protected by sea walls, and the
prevalence of large "rhines" or drains makes for humidity. The
sheltered vale of Taunton Dean (for the term cp. _Hawthorndean,
Rottingdean_) is warm and sunny. The rainfall is abundant, but, except
in the neighbourhood of Exmoor, cannot be said to be excessive.
_Roads_.--Everywhere highways and byways are numerous, and some
districts are prodigally supplied with footpaths. With the exception of
Exmoor, which is best explored on foot, even the remotest parts are
accessible to the wheelman. But the cyclist will find the travelling
somewhat unequal. Like the curate's fabled egg, the roads are best
described as "good in parts." Amongst the hills they are firm but
arduous, in the plains easy but soft. The main thoroughfares, however,
can be recommended both for breadth and surface.
_Railways_.--The Somerset railway system is extensive. The G.W.R. (the
chief service of the county) unites Bath with Bristol, and throwing
itself round the N.W. extremity of the Mendips, runs down an almost
ideal track to Taunton and Wellington. A loop from Worle to Uphill
serves Weston-super-Mare, whilst short branches, one from Bristol and a
second from Yatton, afford communication with Portishead and Clevedon.
Another section skirts the E. side of the county from Frome to Yeovil,
and by taking a short cross-country cut from Castle Cary to Langport
unites again with the trunk line near Taunton. From Taunton branches
radiate to Minehead, Dulverton, Chard, and Yeovil. A branch line again
connects Bristol with Frome, and access is obtained to Wells and
Cheddar by a line from Yatton, skirting the W. base of the Mendips as
far as Witham. The S. & D. constitutes a link between the Midland on
the N. and the L. & S.W. on the S. It boldly attacks the Mendips from
Bath, and after clambering over the summit at Masbury, drops down
suddenly to Evercreech, from which point it diverges either westwards
to Burnham (with branches to Wells and Bridgewater), or southwards to
Templecombe. A light railway serves the Wrington Vale, and another
connects Weston with Clevedon.
IV. PHYSICAL FEATURES AND GEOLOGY
There is a prevalent belief that the picturesque part of the West of
England begins with Devon and ends with Cornwall, to which Somerset
is merely a stepping-stone. This opinion is no doubt fostered by the
impression which the tourist derives of the county through the carriage
windows of the "Cornishman." But the considerations that appeal to
the railway engineer are mechanical rather than aesthetic; and,
unfortunately for the reputation of Somerset for scenery, the line of
least resistance is the line of least interest--the dead level skirting
the coast between Bristol and Taunton. As a matter of fact, there are
few districts which afford such a variety of physical features as
Somerset. Hill and valley, cliff and chasm, moor and seaboard, are all
to be found there; and, in addition to its wealth of scenery, Somerset
is rich in antiquities of different kinds; whilst it has also been the
theatre of some of the most stirring events in English history.
The physical skeleton of the county may be roughly described as
consisting of three parallel ranges of hills running transversely
across it--the Mendips and their outliers in the N.E., the
insignificant Poldens in the centre, and the Quantocks and Exmoor in
the W., with the Blackdowns occupying the S.W. corner. The intervening
basins are filled with a rich alluvial deposit washed down from the
hills or left by the receding sea. The _Mendips_ spread themselves
across the E. end of the county in a N.W. direction from Frome to
Weston-super-Mare, where they lose themselves in the Channel, to
re-appear as the islets of the Steep and Flat Holms. On their S.W. side
they descend into the plain with considerable abruptness; and when
viewed from the lower parts of the county, present a hard sky-line,
like some enormous earthwork. On the opposite side their aspect in
general is far less impressive, and towards Bath they lose themselves
in a confusion of elevations and declivities. The main ridge is an
extended tableland, some 25 m. long, and in places 3 m. broad. It rises
to its greatest heights at Blackdown (1067 ft.) and Masbury (958).
Geologically, it consists of mountain limestone superimposed on old red
sandstone, which here and there comes to the surface. Near Downhead
there is an isolated outburst of igneous rock. The Mendips are
honeycombed with caverns, the most notable being at Banwell, Harptree,
and Burrington; and a large one has been recently discovered some 4 m.
from Wells. At Cheddar their W. edge is broken by a remarkable gorge,
in the sides of which caves also occur. The level of the tableland is
indented with "swallet holes," the chief of which are the East Water
Swallet and the Devil's Punch-Bowl. The _Quantocks_ are much less
extensive, though their highest summits rise to a greater altitude.
Like the Mendips, they turn their steepest flank westwards, the ascent
on the E. being gradual; and on this side they are cut by a number of
well-timbered and delightful combes. Few caves have been discovered in
them, though there is one at Holwell near Asholt. W. of the Quantocks
are the _Brendons_ and the highlands of _Exmoor_, the latter extending
into Devon, though their highest point, Dunkery Beacon, is included in
Somerset. Dunkery is 1707 ft. above the sea-level; and other
conspicuous hills in this district are Lucott Hill (1516), Elworthy
Barrow (1280), Selworthy Beacon (1014), and Grabbist Hill. The
Quantocks, Brendons, and Exmoor consist of older rocks than the
Mendips, belonging as they do to the Devonshire series of old red
sandstones. Bordering the Brendons are found the red marls of the
Permian series; whilst between Dunster and Williton, and along the base
of the Quantocks, in the neighbourhood of Taunton Dean, as well as in
some other localities, Keuper and Rhaetic beds occur. The _Blackdowns_
in the S.W. are not quite so elevated as their neighbours; near
Otterford and Chard they consist of greensand, whilst chalk appears at
Combe St Nicholas and Cricket St Thomas. The centre of the county is
alluvial, and beneath it the limestone of the Mendips sinks, coming to
the surface again in the W. only at a single spot, near Cannington. Out
of this central plain rise several isolated, cone-like hills, the most
notable being Glastonbury Tor and Brent Knoll. These belong to the lias
and lower oolite rocks. The _Poldens_ consist of lias; and the same
formation constitutes the rising ground that bounds the plain on the S.
and E. of the county. The southern side of the Poldens is edged with
Rhaetic beds, which also extend to High Ham. Oolite rocks occur
abundantly near Bath, furnishing the famous Bath building-stone; and
they likewise form the prominent eminence of Dundry. Near Frome they
rest upon the mountain limestone. The same series of rocks occupies the
S.E. corner of the county, extending from Milborne Port to Bruton. On
the E. they are flanked with the Oxford clay, which reaches from
Henstridge to Witham Friary, whilst a ridge of higher ground near
Penselwood consists of greensand. Near Radstock coal is found.
The Somerset sea-coast, though destitute of ruggedness and grandeur,
possesses undeniable charm, at least at its W. and E. extremities; but
it lapses into unquestioned tameness where the sea washes the central
flats. The waters of the Bristol Channel as far down as Minehead are
discoloured; and, with the exception of a range of low cliffs near St
Andries and Watchet and a stony foreshore at Clevedon, there are no
rocks worth mentioning. Brean Down and the North Hill near Minehead are
the only headlands, but notwithstanding this, the watering places of
Somerset are breezy and healthy. Weston-super-Mare in particular has a
high reputation for salubrity, and has long been one of the most
popular seaside resorts in England.
Somerset is peculiarly deficient in large rivers, for the Avon can
hardly be included amongst its belongings, since it is the dividing
line between the county and Gloucestershire. The Parrett is the one
stream of any moment. It is a sluggish and uninteresting bit of water,
rising in Dorset, entering Somerset near Crewkerne, and flowing, when
it meets the tide near Bridgwater, with a wearisomely circuitous course
of some 12 m. before it mixes with the Bristol Channel. The other
rivers, the Frome and Chew, which join the Avon; the Axe, which rises
in Wookey Hole and enters the sea near Brean Down; the Brue and Cary,
which empty themselves into the estuary of the Parrett; and the
Parrett's own tributaries, the Yeo, Ivel, and Tone, are unimportant.
Exmoor is drained by the Exe and Barle, which, when united, flow
southward into Devon.
Such, however, is the character of Somerset scenery that the absence of
water in it is hardly noticed. From what has been said it will be seen
that the county has much in it to arrest the attention of the traveller
who can appreciate quiet beauty, and, as will appear, even more to
appeal to one who is interested in his country's-past, whilst upon the
affection of its sons its hold is indisputable. As one of them
"Fair winds, free way, for youth the rover;
We all must share the curse of Cain:
But bring me back when youth is over
To the old crooked shire again.
Ay, bring me back in life's declining
To the one home that's home for me,
Where in the west the sunset shining
Goes down into the Severn sea."
V. FAUNA AND FLORA
The really interesting _fauna_ of Somerset belongs to a past age, when
mammoths, elephants, and rhinoceroses, cave lions, bisons, bears, and
hyaenas roamed over its surface. Their remains have been found in the
caverns of Hutton, Bleadon, Banwell, and Wookey, and are preserved in
Taunton Museum. Of the wild creatures which at present occur in the
county, the only one which confers real distinction upon it is the red
deer, which roams at large on both Exmoor and the Quantocks. Badgers
are not uncommon near Dulverton and in the more uncultivated districts.
The very diversified character of Somerset makes it the home of a large
variety of birds, the Quantocks and Exmoor sheltering many of the
predatory kinds, the long coast-line attracting numerous seafowl, and
the fenny country of the centre affording a feeding ground for the
different kinds of waders. Of the resident species which are
comparatively uncommon elsewhere may be mentioned the hawfinch, the
greater and lesser spotted woodpecker, the carrion crow, the raven, the
buzzard, the hen-harrier, and the peregrine falcon. Among the regular
visitors are included the white wagtail, the pied flycatcher, the
nightjar, the black redstart, the lesser redpole, the snow bunting, the
redwing, the reed, marsh, and grasshopper warblers, the siskin, the
dotterel, the sanderling, the wryneck, the hobby, the merlin, the
bittern, and the shoveller. As occasional visitors may be reckoned the
wax-wing, golden oriole, cross-bill, hoopoe, white-tailed eagle, honey
buzzard, ruff, puffin, great bustard, Iceland gull, glaucous gull, and
Bewick's swan. Visitors that may be supposed to have reached the county
only by accident have scarcely a claim to be noticed here, though
perhaps allusion may be made to an Egyptian vulture seen at Kilve in
1825, and specimens of Pallas's sand-grouse observed near Bridgwater,
Weston-super-Mare, and Bath.
As regards the _flora_ the elevated position of parts of the county
makes it the home of a number of plants which do not commonly occur in
the South of England. Thus there are found on Exmoor the crowberry
(_Empetrum nigrum_), the parsley fern (_Cryptogramme crispa_), and the
oak fern (_Phegopteris dryopteris_). _Asplenium septentrionale_ is
found at Culbone; _Listera cordata_ grows on Dunkery and near
Chipstable; and the cranberry (_Oxycoccus palustris_) is said to occur
at Selworthy and on the Brendons. On the other hand, Somerset likewise
furnishes congenial conditions for those plants that love low-lying,
marshy ground, and on the peat-moors in the Glastonbury district the
flowering fern (_Osmunda regalis_) and the bog myrtle (_Myrica Gale_)
are met with. Within the British Isles the following are found only in
Somerset: _Dianthus gratianopolitanus, Hieracium stinolepis, Verbascum
lychnitis_, and _Euphorbia pilosa. Arabis stricta_ occurs only on the
limestone near Clifton; _Helianthemum polifolium_ is confined to
Somerset and Devon; _Pirus latifolia_ to Somerset and Denbigh.
 For the birds of Somerset, see a paper by the Rev. Murray A. Mathew,
M.A., F.L.S., in the "Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological
and Natural History Society," vol. xxxix., from which we have
 For fuller information, see "The Flora of Somerset," by the Rev.
R.P. Murray, M.A., F.L.S., from which the above facts are taken.
Somerset gets its name from a Saxon tribe, but its earliest
inhabitants, like those of the southern half of bur island generally,
were Britons or Celts, and the Saxon invasion was preceded by the
Roman. Reminders that the county was once occupied by a Welsh--speaking
race occur in the constituents of many place-names, such as _Pen_
Selwood, _Maes_ Knoll, and the numerous _combes_ (cp. Welsh _cwm_). The
name of the British king, Arthur, is associated with Cadbury (near
Sparkford); and the neighbouring villages of Queen Camel and West Camel
recall the legendary Camelot. The earliest church at Glastonbury
(_Avalon_) is believed to have been of British origin, and it is
Arthur's reputed burial-place. In the dedication of the churches at
Porlock (Dubricius or Dyfrig) and Watchet (Decuman or Tegfan) is
preserved the memory of certain British saints, though these probably
came on an evangelistic mission from the other side of the Bristol
Channel. But of the primitive population the most trustworthy memorials
are the numerous earthworks and other material remains which survive in
various parts of the county, and these will be more appropriately
noticed under another heading (see pp. 20-21).
Of the Roman occupation the traces are more varied. Bath and Ilchester
are Roman towns, and from and through them Roman roads run across the
county. In constructing these, the Romans probably used in many
instances existing British trackways. The principal was the Fosse Way
(as it is called), entering the county near Chard from Seaton, and
leaving it at Bath for Lincoln. Within Somerset it is still a very
important artery of traffic. From near Chard a road is thought to have
diverged from it to the N.W., towards the Quantocks, passing by Castle
Neroche. The Fosse Way was, and is, cut at Ilchester by a road coming
from Dorchester and continuing to Glastonbury, and near Masbury, on the
Mendips, by a second, connecting Old Sarum with Axium (Uphill, near
Brean Down). At Bath it was joined by two more roads, one coming from
London and the other (the _Via Julia_) from Aust and South Wales. The
road along the Mendips was doubtless largely used for the transport of
the lead which was mined at Priddy and elsewhere, and shipped at
Uphill. Somerset, during its occupation by the Romans, seems to have
enjoyed tranquillity, for their villas, pavements, and other remains
indicative of peaceful possession are not confined to the neighbourhood
of their large cities (see p. 21).
When the Saxons made themselves masters of England, Somerset became
part of the kingdom of Wessex. Its subjugation was accomplished in
three stages. The first is associated with the name of Ceawlin, who,
after defeating the British at Deorham (in Gloucestershire), captured
Bath, and by 577 reduced the northern part of the county between the
Avon and the Axe. _Englishcombe_ near Bath recalls this occupation, and
the Wansdyke probably served as a barrier between Saxon and Briton. But
between this conquered territory and Dorset, which was also Saxon,
there still remained in the hands of the Britons a large strip of
country; and from this they were not expelled until the time of
Cenwealh (652), who defeated them in 658 at "The Pens" (identified by
many with Penselwood), and drove them westward to the Parrett. Somerton
now became the capital of the Somersaetas, the Saxon tribe that gave
its name to the county (just as the Dorsaetas and Wilsaetas have done
to Dorset and Wilts). The third stage of the conquest was completed by
Ina (688-726), who subdued the rest of Somerset, forcing the British
(whose king was Geraint) into Devon and Cornwall, and building Taunton
as a fortress against them. _Williton_ and _Willsneck_ (in the
Quantocks) perhaps preserve the name of the defeated Welsh. Ina is
famous for more than his military prowess, for he was the first King of
Wessex to issue written laws for the guidance of his subjects.
During the Saxon period Somerset did not escape the raids of the Danes;
and in the reign of Alfred it was the scene of one of the most eventful
crises in English history. Alfred, after many battles against the
invaders, had at last seen Guthrum their leader retire from Wessex into
Mercia. But in 878, in midwinter, Guthrum suddenly surprised Chippenham
and made himself master of Wessex, and Alfred was forced to withdraw to
the fens of Athelney. To the narrow limits of the "Isle of the Nobles"
the Saxon dominions in the W. were for some months reduced. Here in the
Eastertide of 879 Alfred, in the words of the "Saxon Chronicle,"
"wrought a fortress [of which perhaps the Mump at Borough Bridge is the
site], and from that work warred on the (Danish) army, with that
portion of the men of Somerset that was nearest." Seven weeks after
Easter, Alfred emerged from his place of refuge to join the men of
Somerset, Wilts, and Hants, who had gathered in force at "Ecgbryhtes
Stane" (Brixton Deveril in Wilts). Putting himself at their head, he
covered the distance that separated him from the foe in two stages;
for, halting for the night at "Iglea," the next day he defeated the
Danes at "Ethandune," and then besieged and reduced their fortress or
fortified camp. Guthrum, after his defeat, was baptised at Aller; and
at Wedmore subsequently a treaty of peace was concluded between him and
Alfred. The site of the battle of "Ethandune" is unfortunately
difficult to determine. There is an Edington in Somerset on the Polden
Hills; and the fact that the battle was followed by Guthrum's baptism
at Aller and the treaty at Wedmore (places near the Somerset Edington)
is in favour of this being the scene of the encounter. Those who accept
this identification assume that the Danes had moved from Chippenham to
the Poldens, and here, whilst watching Athelney, were taken in the rear
by Alfred, whose single night-halt at "Iglea" on the march from Brixton
Deveril is placed at Edgarley, a locality near Glastonbury. But the
distance between Brixton Deveril and Glastonbury seems too great to be
accomplished by a large body of men along indifferent roads in a single
day; and by many authorities "Ethandune" is identified with Edington,
near Westbury, or Heddington, W. of Melksham, both in Wilts. However
this may be, it was from the Somerset marshes that Alfred issued forth
to his victory, and it was at a Somerset town that he secured the
fruits of it.
The importance of Somerset during the reign of the Saxon kings who
succeeded Alfred is evidenced by the many noteworthy incidents that are
connected with its chief city, Bath, and its great abbey of
Glastonbury. It was at Bath that King Edgar was crowned in 973; and at
the same place at a later date (1013) the Danish king, Sweyn, received
the submission of the western thegns. At Glastonbury were buried three
of the Saxon kings, Edmund (son of Edward the Elder), Edgar, and Edmund
Ironside. Here too was born Dunstan, who was so prominent an
ecclesiastic in the reigns of the first Edmund and five of his
successors. He was made abbot of the abbey by Edmund, and, after
becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, was buried at Glastonbury (988). Two
other Somerset men who filled the see of Canterbury during the Saxon
period were Ethelgar and Alphege.
Under the Plantagenets the history of the county was not very eventful,
though some localities suffered severely in the disturbances of the
Norman period. In William Rufus' reign it was the scene of several of
the movements directed against the king in favour of his brother
Robert. The powerful baron-bishop, Geoffrey of Coutances, with his
nephew Robert of Mowbray, after seizing Bristol, burnt Bath, but was
unsuccessful in the siege of Ilchester (1088). On the death of Henry I.
Somerset favoured the claims of Matilda, and the castles at Cary, E.
Harptree, and Dunster were held by their owners for her against
Stephen, to the no small discomfort of their respective neighbourhoods.
Castle Cary and Harptree were taken by Stephen, but he seems to have
regarded Dunster (defended by William of Mohun) as impregnable.
In Tudor times Somerset witnessed the attempt made on the throne by
Perkin Warbeck in 1497, who was supported by Lord Audley of Nether
Stowey and other Somerset gentlemen. The pretender advanced from
Devonshire to seize Taunton; but when Henry VII. entered Somerset,
passing in his progress through Bath, Wells (where he stayed with the
Dean), and Glastonbury, to Taunton, Warbeck lost heart and fled. When
captured and brought into Henry's presence he was spared; but the
king's clemency did not extend to his supporter Lord Audley, who was
executed on Tower Hill.
During the Great Rebellion in the 17th cent. Somerset was the field of
many important operations. At the outbreak of war in August 1642, the
royal cause was maintained by the Marquis of Hertford, who was
supported by Lord Powlett, Sir Ralph Hopton, Sir John Stawell, and
other leading gentlemen of the county. But the sympathies of the yeomen
and manufacturers were with the Parliament, and Hertford had to
withdraw from Wells, where he had taken up his position, to Sherborne.
In 1643, however, the king's Cornish army entered Somerset, and was
joined by the Marquis and Prince Maurice at Chard; and the Royalists
then rapidly became masters of Taunton, Bridgwater, and Dunster. To
oppose them, Sir William Waller was despatched to the West, and a
cavalry skirmish between the two forces took place on the Mendips near
Chewton. Waller's main army was posted at Bath; and the Royalists,
advancing by way of Wells and Frome, had another skirmish near
Claverton. They kept E. of Bath and reached Marshfield in
Gloucestershire, 5 m. N. of the city. Then on July 5 Waller gave battle
on Lansdowne Hill, and was forced to retire back to Bath, abandoning a
quantity of arms and stores; but the triumph of the victors was clouded
by the loss of Sir Bevil Grenville, who was killed in the fight. (The
monument to him on the site of the encounter was erected in 1720.) The
next year the king's cause in Somerset was less prosperous, for Taunton
was lost, and repelled all the efforts of Colonel Wyndham, Governor of
Bridgwater, to recover it. In 1645 the siege of Taunton was undertaken
by Goring. The town was defended by Blake, who vowed (it is said) that
he would eat his boots before he would surrender it, but he was saved
from that extremity by Fairfax. On the approach of the latter Goring
drew off from Taunton, and fixed his quarters at Langport, where he was
attacked and defeated. This success on the part of Fairfax not only
saved Taunton, but enabled him to besiege Bridgwater, which was
defended by Wyndham with little resolution, and fell on July 23, within
a fortnight of Goring's defeat at Langport. Fairfax also took Nunney
Castle; and as in 1646 Dunster, the last place in Somerset supporting
the king, also submitted, the entire county passed into the hands of
the Parliament. Dunster was defended by another Wyndham, but he offered
a much more prolonged resistance than his brother at Bridgwater, and
withstood the besiegers for 160 days. After the execution of the king
the small rising in favour of Charles II., under Colonel Penruddock and
Sir Joseph Wagstaff, was crushed near Chard in 1655.
In the reign of James II. Somerset was the soil upon which was fought
the last battle that has taken place in England. In 1680, the Duke of
Monmouth, in the course of a tour through the county, greatly
ingratiated himself with its people; and at Whitelackington held a
great reception under a gigantic chestnut tree, which was standing as
recently as 1897, when it was unfortunately blown down. When in 1685
Charles II. died, and Monmouth made his attempt to disturb the
succession of James, it was to Somerset that he looked for support.
After landing at Lyme, he entered the county at Chard, and passing
through Ilminster, was proclaimed king at Taunton and Bridgwater. From
the latter town (where he had stayed at the castle), he started on his
luckless campaign, which was wholly confined within the borders of
Somerset. He proceeded through Glastonbury (where some of his troops
bivouacked in the Abbey), Wells, and Shepton Mallet, intending to
attack Bristol, but at Keynsham he turned aside on finding the city
defended by the Duke of Beaufort. He threatened Bath, but it refused to
surrender; and he thereupon retired to Norton St Philip, intending to
enter Wilts. There he had a skirmish with the advanced guard of the
royal forces which had marched from London to meet him; and shirking a
more general engagement, he withdrew to Frome. The townspeople of
Frome, like those of Taunton and Bridgwater, gave him their sympathy,
but nothing else; and disappointed at the lack of support, and wearied
with his march along miry roads in drenching rain, he abandoned the
advance into Wiltshire. A report that a rising in his favour had taken
place at Axbridge decided him to return to Bridgwater. On the way he
again passed through Wells, where some of his men tore the lead from
the Cathedral roof to make bullets, and inflicted other damage on the
building. Soon after his arrival at Bridgwater, the royalist general,
Feversham, with about 4000 troops, reached Weston Zoyland from
Somerton, disposing some of his forces at the neighbouring villages of
Middlezoy and Chedzoy. As the royal troops were said to be in a state
of disorder, Monmouth, who had about 6000 men, very badly armed,
determined to attack him by night; and late on Sunday, July 5, he
started from Bridgwater under cover of darkness. But in the passage of
some of the "rhines" which cut up the Sedgemoor plain a mismanaged
pistol gave the alarm; and in the engagement that followed his
ill-equipped followers, though they fought bravely, had little chance
against the regulars, and more than 1000 of them fell on the field. The
battle had a sad sequel for Somerset. James knew no clemency; and
Jeffreys' bloody assize left a crimson trail across the country, which
even time found some difficulty in obliterating. Macaulay estimates
that the number of the rebels hanged by Jeffreys was 320, and though
the assize extended into Hampshire, Dorset, and Devon, most of its
victims were Somerset folk. A certain poetic justice may perhaps be
discerned in the fact that when, in 1688, the Prince of Orange drove
James from his throne, his march took him through Somerset, and he had
a skirmish with the royal troops at Wincanton. In connection with
Somerset's share in the events of James's reign, it deserves to be
mentioned that Bishop Ken, of Bath and Wells, was among the seven
prelates who presented the famous petition against the king's
Declaration of Indulgence.
The ecclesiastical history of Somerset may be briefly related. When
Cenwealh of Wessex (who had been converted to Christianity by the King
of East Anglia) established the bishopric of Winchester, such parts of
Somerset as belonged to the West-Saxon kingdom were included in that
see. Ina divided his augmented territories between two bishoprics,
Winchester and Sherborne, the latter including Somerset, with Wilts,
Berks, and Dorset. The first Bishop of Sherborne was Aldhelm (705), who
only filled the see for four years, dying at Doulting in 709. Ina also
founded Wells, but as a collegiate church of secular canons, not as the
cathedral of a diocese. It was not until 909 that Somerset had a bishop
all to itself, who was styled the Bishop of the Somersaetas, with his
seat at Wells (the first appointed being Aethelm.) In 1088, in
accordance with the policy of removing bishoprics from localities of
little importance, the see was transferred from Wells to Bath, the
bishop (John de Villula) at the same time becoming the abbot of the
monastery. In 1192 Bishop Savaric procured for the see the rich abbey
of Glastonbury, and became its abbot; and he and his immediate
successor, Joceline, the builder of the W. front of Wells, were styled
Bishops of Bath and Glastonbury. In 1224, however, another change was
made, and the bishop took his title from Bath and Wells, as he has done
ever since. Up to the Reformation the title was justified, both the
monks of Bath and the canons of Wells taking part in episcopal
elections; but, with the suppression of its monastery, Bath naturally
lost this distinction.
Of religious houses Somerset possessed a fair proportion. The chief
were Glastonbury, Bath, Bruton, Dunster, Muchelney, Stogursey (which
were Benedictine), Cleeve, Barlynch (Cistercian), Hinton, Witham
(Carthusian), Taunton, Woodspring, Stavordale (Augustinian), Montacute
(Cluniac). The Templars had a preceptory at Templecombe, and the
Knights of St John had establishments at Bridgwater and Mynchin
Buckland (near Durston).
 Thorpe's translation.
 See a paper on "Ethandune" by the Rev. C.W. Whistler (reprinted
from "The Saga-book"--"Proceedings of the Viking Club," 1898), who
thinks that the Danish fortress may have been Bridgwater.
The principal antiquities of Somerset may be classified as (1) earthworks
and other survivals of a primitive time; (2) the Roman remains at Bath
and elsewhere; (3) the ecclesiastical and other buildings of the Middle
1. The British _camps_ are numerous. They are probably not the sites of
permanent settlements, but were used for defensive purposes in times of
war. The most notable are Worlebury (near Weston), Combe Down and
Solsbury (near Bath), Hamdon, Brent Knoll, Masbury, Dolbury,
Stantonbury, and the three Cadburys (near Sparkford, Tickenham, and
Yatton respectively). Worlebury is remarkable for having a large number
of pits sunk into the ground within its rampart. (Castle Neroche and
Castle Orchard, which have usually been regarded as of British origin,
are now thought to owe their fortifications to the Normans.)
The remains of _megalithic circles_ occur at Stanton Drew. There are
_barrows_ at Stoney Littleton, Dundry, and Priddy. There is a
lake-village of the _crannog_ type at Godney. Other antiquities of
British origin that deserve notice are the Wansdyke and Pen Pits (the
latter near Penselwood).
2. The most interesting Roman remains are at Bath, where a splendid
system of _baths_ has been brought to light. _Villas_ and other
buildings of Roman origin have been discovered at Whitestaunton and
Wadeford (near Chard), Whatley (near Frome), Wellow, Newton St Loe,
Bratton Seymour, Pitney, Camerton, etc. Traces of Roman _mines_ (such
as tools and pigs of lead) have been found at Priddy and Blagdon, and
an amphitheatre at Charterhouse-on-Mendip. Many of the British camps
enumerated above have at different times been occupied by the Roman
3. The ancient ecclesiastical buildings of Somerset are very
interesting. Some of them, chiefly monastic foundations, are more or
less in ruins--Glastonbury, Cleeve, Woodspring, Muchelney, Stavordale,
Hinton Charterhouse. Of those that are still used for religious
purposes, the most conspicuous are Wells Cathedral and Bath Abbey. But
the parish churches, in their way, are almost as remarkable. Their
excellence is largely due to the splendid building-stone which abounds
in different parts of the county, especially near Bath, Dundry,
Doulting, and Ham Hill. Of Saxon architecture Somerset has no example
such as Wilts possesses in Bradford, though some of the ancient _fonts_
may possibly be of pre-Norman origin. The majority of early fonts,
however, are _Norman_, and the number of them shows how thickly Norman
churches once covered the country. But surviving instances of churches
wholly or mainly Norman are rare: the best examples are Compton Martin,
Christon, and Stoke-sub-Hamdon. There is herring-bone work at Elm and
Marston Magna. Of Norman chancel arches and doorways retained when the
body of the church has been re-constructed the examples are numerous;
noteworthy are those at Glastonbury, Milborne Port, Stoke-Courcy,
Lullington, Huish Episcopi, Portbury, St Catherine, South Stoke, Flax
Bourton, Langridge, Clevedon, Chewton Mendip, Englishcombe. Wells
Cathedral contains some splendid _Transitional_ work, of which there
are also specimens at Clutton. Complete churches of the _Early English_
and _Decorated_ periods are few, but many buildings preserve specimens
of these styles in combination with work of a later date. The W. front
of Wells is a beautiful example of E.E., and windows of this period
occur at E. Stoke, Bathampton, Chedzoy, Martock, Keynsham, Somerton.
There are E.E. arcades at St Cuthbert's, Wells, and further
illustrations of E.E. work are furnished by Compton Bishop, Creech St
Michael, Stoke St Gregory, etc. Decorated windows are found at
Ditcheat, Compton Dundon, Huish Champflower, Shipton Beauchamp,
Barrington, Montacute, Brympton, and very fine ones in the choir and
lady chapel at Wells. In many parish churches the chancels have been
retained when the rest of the building was reconstructed, with the
result that, whilst they often preserve early work, and are accordingly
of the greatest interest, they appear relatively to their surroundings
insignificant and mean.
But it is in _Perpendicular_ churches that Somerset is richest; and
examples of this style are too abundant to require to be cited. It is,
indeed, a source of wonder that funds and skilled workmen were
forthcoming in sufficient quantity to erect or rebuild so many churches
within a comparatively short period. It was upon the _Towers_ that the
greatest skill of the Perp. builders was lavished. They are generally
lofty, are often beautifully crowned with pinnacles and embattled or
pierced parapets, and not unfrequently abound with niches and statuary.
The quality of the tracery, however, varies with the stone employed;
and the towers W. of the Quantocks are, as a rule, inferior to those of
the centre and east of the county. Most have large external
stair-turrets (commonly at the N.E. or S.E. angle), which, when carried
above the parapet and surmounted by spirelets, add dignity to the
plainer structures, but which are less appropriate where the pinnacles
are sufficiently prominent and graceful to give of themselves an
adequate finish. In the case of some of the finest towers the staircase
is wisely suppressed before reaching the summit. In most instances the
tower is at the W. end, and is square; but a few churches have
octagonal towers, which are usually central (S. Petherton, Stoke St
Gregory, Doulting, N. Curry, Barrington). _Spires_ are comparatively
rare, but they occur at E. Brent, Congresbury, Bridgwater, Croscombe,
Yatton, Pitminster, Castle Cary, Frome, Worle, Whatley, Porlock.
The classification of Somerset Perp. towers has often been attempted,
perhaps most successfully by Dr F.J. Allen, with whom the late R.P.
Brereton was in general agreement. By these careful observers they are
grouped according to the number and character of the windows inserted
in each stage. Adopting their principle of classification, though
arranging the order of the classes rather differently, we should
separate the best towers (viz. those that have _two_ or more windows
_side by side_ on the W. front) into two main divisions, according as
(I.) perpendicular, (II.) horizontal lines predominate. The first
division (I.) has the windows of the belfry stage (_three_ or _two_ in
number) prolonged as panels into the stage below. The group is a small
one, but includes, perhaps, the finest towers in the county (Batcombe,
Evercreech, Wrington, St Cuthbert's, Wells). The second division (II.)
has the stages clearly marked off by string-courses or horizontal
tracery, and may be subdivided into subordinate classes according as
there are (i.) _three_ windows in _two_ tiers, the belfry and the stage
below (Mells, Leigh-on-Mendip, Ilminster); (ii.) _three_ windows in
_one_ tier (belfry) only (Bruton, Shepton, Cranmore, Winscombe,
Banwell, Weston Zoyland, etc.); (iii.) _two_ windows in _three_ tiers,
the belfry and two stages below (St Mary's, Taunton); (iv.) _two_ in
_two_ tiers, the belfry and one stage below (Chewton Mendip, St John's,
Glastonbury); (v.) _two_ in _one_ tier (belfry) only (St James',
Taunton, Bishop's Lydeard, N. Petherton, Staple Fitzpaine, Huish
Episcopi, Kingsbury Episcopi, Ile Abbots, etc.). A few towers have only
one window in the belfry stage, but two in the stage below (Hemington,
Buckland Denham). Among the towers with a single window in the belfry
should also be noticed a few where the window is long enough, or placed
low enough, to break the string-course that divides the topmost stage
from the one beneath (Hinton St George, Norton-sub-Hamdon, Shepton
Beauchamp, Curry Rivel).
Many Somerset churches are remarkable for their carved pulpits and
churchyard crosses, or for their woodwork. Fine _stone pulpits_ are
found at Kewstoke, Hutton, Wick St Lawrence, Worle, Locking, Loxton,
Shepton, Cheddar, St Catherine. _Crosses_ with carved heads or shafts
survive at Bishop's Lydeard, Crowcombe, Spaxton, Doulting, Broadway,
Barton St David, Chewton Mendip, Stringston, Horsingtoo, Wedmore. Fine
_screens_ are to be found at Dunster, Norton Fitzwarren, Long Ashton,
Bishop's Lydeard, Long Sutton, Halse, Minehead, Banwell, Croscombe,
Kingsbury. There are carved _oak pulpits_ at Trull and Thurloxton;
remarkable Jacobean pulpits at Croscombe and Long Sutton, and quaint
_bench ends_ at many places, especially at Bishop's Lydeard, S. Brent,
Trull, Crowcombe, Spaxton, Milverton, Bishop's Hull, Stogumber,
Broomfield. The finest _wood roof_ is at Shepton Mallet; there are
others of great merit also at Somerton, Long Sutton, Martock, St
Mary's, Taunton, Evercreech.
Good examples of _ancient glass_ occur at Trull, Nettlecombe, Curry
Rivel, Winscombe, Broomfield, E. Brent. Interesting _brasses_ are
preserved at Banwell, Hutton, Middlezoy, Tintinhull, Yeovil,
Dowlishwake, St Decuman's, Beckington, Bishop's Lydeard.
Besides its stately churches, Somerset possesses some interesting
specimens of mediaeval and Tudor _domestic architecture_. Amongst the
best are Lytescary, Meare (fish house), Martock, Clevedon Court, S.
Petherton, Barrington, Brympton, Dodington, etc. Ancient _hostelries_
survive at Norton St Philip, Glastonbury, and Dunster. _Castles_ are
infrequent in the county, the chief remains being at Taunton, Dunster,
and Nunney, and a few fragments at Stoke-Courcey, Harptree, Farleigh
Hungerford, and Nether Stowey.
Somerset is _par excellence_ an agricultural county. With the exception
of its share in Bristol, it has no large manufacturing centre. Its
commercial insignificance, however, is quite a modern characteristic.
It once took a leading place in the manufacture of cloth, and its
productions were held in high esteem. Dunster, Watchet, and Shepton
were especially noted for their fabrics. Many quaint country villages
were once thriving little towns, and almost every stream had its string
of cloth mills. The introduction of steam, and the more enterprising
spirit of the North, stole the trade, and this former era of prosperity
is now hardly remembered. Cloth mills, however, still survive at Frome,
Tiverton, and Wellington. Collars are made at Taunton; gloves are
stitched at Yeovil and Martock. There are shoe factories at Street and
Paul ton. Crewkerne manufactures sailcloth. Chard has a lace factory.
Frome possesses a large printing establishment and art metal-works.
Bridgwater, besides abounding in brick-fields, is the only seat in the
country of the bath-brick, industry. Coal is extensively mined in the
Radstock district, and iron used to be obtained from the Brendons,
though operations now seem to have ceased, and the mineral railway
which brought the ore to Watchet for shipment is now disused. Quarries
are numerous. The Mendips in the N., Street in the centre, and Ham Hill
in the S., all afford plenty of material for the stone mason. There are
large breweries at Shepton, Oakhill, Frome, and Wiveliscombe. Paper is
made at Wookey, furniture is manufactured at Yatton, and there is a
large bacon factory at Highbridge. Extensive orchards in the
neighbourhood of Glastonbury and Taunton feed a large number of cider
presses. In the agricultural world Somerset is chiefly known as a
grazing ground. It is especially renowned for its cheese. Cheddar
cheese is held universally in high repute, and the "pitch" of cheese at
the Frome annual fair is said to be the heaviest in the kingdom.
In spite of its extent of seaboard Somerset has few ports. Apart from
the share it may claim to have in Bristol, it possesses only three,
Portishead, Bridgwater, and Watchet. Portishead, like Avonmouth on the
other side of the Avon, is subsidiary to Bristol. Bridgwater lies 12 m.
up the Parrett, though only half that distance from the sea in a direct
line. Watchet serves the district, between the Quantocks and Brendons.
Minehead has a little harbour, but is of no mercantile importance.
The roll of Somerset worthies, either natives of or residents in the
county, is long and illustrious. The Church, law, literature,
philosophy, arms, science, politics, and adventure are all
represented. The following alphabetic list contains the most
important names, with dates and brief particulars.
_Alphege_ or _Aelfeah_, b. 954, at Weston near Bath; successively
Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury; killed by the
Danes, 1011; canonised.
_Bacon, Roger_, b. about 1214, at or near Ilchester; became a friar
of the Franciscan Order; studied natural philosophy and wrote,
besides other works, the "Opus Majus" (described as "at once the
'Encyclopaedia' and the 'Organon' of the 13th century"); d. 1294.
_Bagehot, Walter_, b. 1826, at Langport; economist and author of "The
English Constitution"; d. 1877.
_Beckington, Thomas_, b. about 1390, at Beckington; successively
Bishop of Salisbury and Bishop of Bath and Wells; d. 1465.
_Blake, Robert_, b. 1599, at Bridgwater; took part in the Great Civil
War on the Parliamentary side, and defended Lyme and Taunton; made
admiral of the fleet, and fought against Holland and Spain; d. 1657.
_Coleridge, Hartley_, b. 1796, at Clevedon; poet and biographical
writer; d. 1849.
_Coryate, Thomas_, b. 1577, at Odcombe; travelled, first on the
Continent (his journal, entitled "Coryat's Crudities," was long the
only handbook for Continental travel), and subsequently in the East;
d. at Surat, 1617.
_Cudivorth, Ralph_, b. 1617, at Aller; Professor of Hebrew and Master
of Christ's College, Cambridge; author of "The True Intellectual
System of the Universe"; one of the "Cambridge Platonists"; d. 1688.
_Dampier, William_, b. 1652, at East Coker; explorer and scientific
observer; author of "A Discourse on the Winds" (said to have value
even now as a text-book); d. 1715.
_Daniell, Samuel_, b. 1562, probably near Taunton; poet and prose
writer (there appears to be no authority for the belief that he
succeeded Spenser as poet-laureate); d. 1619.
_Dunstan_, b. 924, at Glastonbury; successively Abbot of Glastonbury,
Bishop of Worcester and London, and Archbishop of Canterbury; d. 988;
_Fielding, Henry_, b. 1707, at Sharpham, near Glastonbury; novelist
(best known work, "Tom Jones"); d. 1754 at Lisbon.
_Hood, Samuel_, b. 1724, at Butleigh; admiral (Nelson wrote of him as
"the best officer, take him altogether, that England has to boast
of"); made a viscount; d. 1816.
_Hooper, John_, b. 1495 (place unknown); Bishop of Gloucester and
Worcester; burnt at the stake, 1555.
_Irving, Henry_ (real name John Henry Brodribb); b. 1838, at
Keinton-Mandeville; actor; knighted; d. 1905.
_Kinglake, Alexander William_, b. 1809, at Taunton; wrote "Eothen"
and "Invasion of the Crimea"; d. 1891.
_Locke, John_, b. 1632, at Wrington; philosopher; author of "Essay on
the Human Understanding," and works on education and the currency; d.
_Norris, Edwin_, b. 1795, at Taunton; Oriental scholar; d. 1872.
_Parry, William Edward_, b. 1790, at Bath; Arctic explorer; knighted;
_Prynne, William_, b. 1600, at Swainswick; Presbyterian pamphleteer;
wrote "Histriomastix" (directed against stage-plays); several times
pilloried; d. 1669.
_Pym, John_, b. 1584, at Brymore, near Cannington; politician; one of
the five members of the Commons whom Charles I. sought to arrest; d.
_Quekett, John Thomas_, b. 1815, at Langport; microscopist and
histologist; conservator of the Hunterian Museum; d. 1861.
_Speke, John Hanning_, b. 1827, at Ashill; African explorer;
discovered Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria Nyanza; accidentally shot,
_Young, Thomas_, b. 1773, at Milverton; scientist, and Egyptologist;
described as the founder of physiological optics, and one of the
first to interpret the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone; d. 1829.
_Church, Richard William_, Rector of Whatley from 1852 to 1871.
_Coleridge, Samuel Taylor_, resided at Clevedon (1795) and Nether
_Ken, Thomas_, Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1684 to 1691; wrote the
morning and evening hymns, "Awake, my soul, and with the sun," and
"Glory to Thee, my God, this night."
_More, Hannah_, resided for many years between 1786 and 1833 at
Barley Wood, near Wrington, and did much to spread education and
religion among the Mendip miners.
_Smith, Sydney_, the humorous Canon of St Paul's, and one of the
founders of the _Edinburgh Review_, held from 1829 till his death in
1845 the living of Combe Florey.
_Wolsey, Thomas_, the famous cardinal, held for a time the living of
Limington. Whilst here he is said to have been put in the stocks by
Sir Amyas Poulett of Hinton St George for drinking too much cider.
When he became Chancellor of England he revenged himself on the
knight, who was Treasurer of the Middle Temple, by forbidding him to
quit London without his leave.
_Wordsworth, William_, resided in 1797 at Alfoxden, a house near
For distinguished persons who have resided at Bath, see p. 46.
 Chiefly derived from the "Dictionary of National Biography."
DESCRIPTION OF PLACES IN SOMERSET ARRANGED ALPHABETICALLY
_N.B._--The following abbreviations are adopted:--
Norm. = Norman (1066-1190).
Trans. = Transitional (1145-1190).
E.E. = Early English (1190-1280).
Dec. = Decorated (1280-1377).
Perp. = Perpendicular (1377-1547).
[Proofreader's Note: Additional abbreviations found in the text are:
G.W.R. = Great Western Railway
S.& D. = Somerset and Dorset Railway.]
_Abbot's Leigh_, a village 4 m. W. from Bristol. The church, which
stands at the bottom of a long lane, is, with the exception of the
tower, entirely modern, the original fabric having been destroyed by
fire in 1848. Near the S. porch is the base of an old cross. The
churchyard commands a good view of the mouth of the Avon. _Leigh Court_
is a modern residence. A former mansion was one of the many
hiding-places of Charles II. when a fugitive.
_Aisholt_ (or _Asholt_), 8 m. W. of Bridgwater, is a little village on
the E. slope of the Quantocks. The church is hidden away in a small
combe, and its tower looks most picturesque against the green
background of Asholt Wood, but it is not in itself interesting. Note,
however, (1) little plain stoup and niche in the S. porch, (2) large
squint (now blocked) in the S. aisle, (3) old font. S. of Aisholt is
_Holwell Cavern_, a cave of considerable extent, and containing
stalagmites and stalagtites, but rather inconvenient of access.
_Alford_, a small village on the river Brue, 1-1/2 m. S.W. from Castle
Cary. In the fields on the S. side of the road is a mineral spring,
which once enjoyed a short-lived local popularity. The church stands in
the grounds of Alford House. It is a 15th cent. Perp. building, and
contains (1) some ancient benches, (2) old glass in one of the N.
windows, (3) a slender Perp. screen, (4) a pulpit dated 1625, (5)
piscina. Note massive corbels in chancel. The shaft of a cross with a
modern head stands in the churchyard.
_Aller_, a village 2-1/2 m. N.W. from Langport, lying at the base of
High Ham Hill. Aller witnessed the sequel to two stirring events. Here
Guthrum was baptised at Alfred's insistence after his defeat at
Ethandune (879), and here the Royalists made their last but ineffectual
rally after their rout at Langport in 1645. The church stands apart
from the village on a knoll rising from the marshes. It contains (1) an
ancient font, (2) an effigy of Sir W. Botreaux (1420) on the N. side of
choir. The internal arrangements of the tower are peculiar. It has
three arches, those on the N. and S. being apparently purposeless.
_Angersleigh_, a small parish 5 m. S. of Taunton (follow the Honiton
road to the fourth milestone, then turn to the right). It has a very
small church, perhaps originally Dec., but altered into Perp. It
contains a good carved oak reading-desk and lectern.
_Ansford_, or _Almsford_, a village 1/2 m. N. from Castle Cary.
Restoration has robbed the church of most of its interest; its tower
has some good gargoyles. A memorial-stone on the roadside near the
church marks the scene of a sudden death.
_Ash_, a parish including several small hamlets, 1 m. N.E. from
Martock. The church is modern.
_Ash Priors_, a small village 1 m. N.W. of Bishop's Lydeard Stat., owes
its name to the fact that it once belonged to the Priory of Taunton.
The church contains nothing of interest, though the N. pier of the
chancel arch preserves its squint.
_Ashbrittle_, 7 m. W. of Wellington (nearest stat. Venn Cross, 3 m.), a
parish standing on very high ground. The second element in the name is
a personal description, derived from the Norman Brittel de St Clare.
The parish church has been completely restored, and is devoid of
_Ashcott_, a parish on the Poldens, 3 m. S.W. of Glastonbury, with a
station (S. & D.J.R.) two miles away. The church has a W. embattled
tower with a carving on the W. face representing the sacred monogram, a
mitre, and a pastoral staff. There is a stoup in S. porch, but no other
feature of interest.
_Ashill_, a parish 3-3/4 m. N.W. of Ilminster, situated on rising
ground on the Taunton and Ilminster road. The church is interesting by
reason of the Norman work that it contains, including N. and S. doors
and triple chancel arch (restored). There are two effigies in recesses
in the nave wall, one representing a woman and her six children. At
Capland, 1-1/2 m. off, there is a chalybeate spring.
_Ashington_, 3 m. E.S.E. of Ilchester, has a small church dedicated to
St Vincent. It is remarkable for the large square bell-cot over the W.
gable (cp. Brympton and Chilthorne Domer) which is supported by a
massive buttress in the middle of the W. front. Within the building
note (1) the three lancets at the E. end; (2) the foliated interior
arches of the chancel windows (two of which are very small lancets);
(3) the pulpit, dated 1637. The glass in some of the windows is good.
_Ashton, Long_, is a straggling village, noteworthy for its court
and church. _Ashton Court_, the seat of Sir J.H. Greville Smyth,
was erected by Inigo Jones in 1634, and is surrounded by a
beautifully-wooded park. Long Ashton church contains a fine screen,
gilded and painted (the old colours being reproduced), and a 15th cent.
tomb (in the N. chapel) with two effigies, belonging to Sir Richard
Choke and his wife. There are also two mutilated effigies, preserved in
the N. porch, which are supposed to belong to the de Lyons family, who
once owned the park.
_Ashwick_, 2 m. S.E. of Binegar. There is no village, but merely a
group of houses. The church has a graceful late Perp. tower, with
spirelet: this is the only original part of the fabric, the rest having
been rebuilt in 1825. _Ashwick Grove_ is a prettily-situated mansion,
said to contain a good collection of pictures.
_Athelney_, included within the parish of Lyng (with a stat.), is the
spot historically famous for having harboured Alfred in 878 when he had
to escape before a sudden inroad of the Danes (see p. 12). It was once
an island (the name means "isle of the nobles"), and in wet weather
must even now almost resume that condition. Alfred, after having
defeated the Danes at Ethandune, founded a monastery here, of which all
traces have unhappily disappeared. A small monument (best approached
from the main road between Lyng and Borough bridge) was erected in 1801
by Mr John Slade, the owner of the estate, to commemorate the events
connected with the locality; but the inscription is misleading in
giving 879 (instead of 878) as the year when Alfred took refuge here,
and in stating that he lay concealed for a whole year (instead of a few
months). The neighbourhood abounds in osier and reed-beds, producing
materials for basket-work.
AXBRIDGE, 10 m. N.W. of Wells, is an ancient town, which still
preserves an air of antiquity. It is situated in a neighbourhood
largely devoted to market gardens, in which quantities of strawberries
are grown. It was a borough as early as the reign of Edward the
Confessor, but its corporation was abolished in 1886. Its most notable
feature is the church of St John the Baptist. It is a large cruciform
structure with a central tower, having three windows in the belfry, and
rather shallow buttresses. The figure on the W. face of the tower is
supposed to be Henry VI. or Henry VII., that on the E. St John. Within
the church note (1) the roofs, that of the nave plaster with pendants
(1636), those of the aisles oak (15th cent.); (2) the carved capitals
of the S. arcade and squint in the S.E. tower pier; (3) the mural
monument to William Prowse in the N. aisle; (4) the altar before the
tomb of Anne Prowse (in S. aisle), covered with a cloth worked by her
own hands (1720); (5) brass in N. aisle to Roger Harper (1493); (6) in
S. wall of sanctuary piscina and sedilia. In the N. wall is a curious
hole, apparently connected with an external cell (where there are the
remains of a broken piscina). The purpose of this cell is a great
puzzle. The church seems to have possessed two rood-lofts (cp.
Crewkerne); and has a two-storied building on the S. of the W. door,
which is thought by some to be a treasury.
In the town there are some old houses with projecting upper storeys.
One of them, called _The Old Manor House_, deserves a visit for the
sake of a fine ceiling in one of its rooms. In the Town Hall are
preserved the old stocks, the apparatus used in bull-baiting, and a
money-changer's table, dated 1627.
_Babcary_ is a village a short distance E. of the Fosseway, 6 m. N.N.E.
of Ilchester (nearest stat., Sparkford). The first syllable of the name
is a personal appellation which doubtless appears in Babbicombe; the
second is derived from the neighbouring stream. There is a church of
ancient origin, but since its restoration it exhibits little of
interest except a piscina (with credence shelf) and a good Caroline
_Babington_, 1 m. S. of Mells Road station. There is no village. The
church dates from the reign of George II. _Babington House_ is a
mansion of some age but little beauty.
_Backwell_, 1-1/2 m. S.E. of Nailsea station, a parish which perhaps
owes its name to the _back_ or ridge on which it stands. It has a
spacious church, prettily situated. The Perp. tower has double belfry
windows, and elaborate pinnacles, but the summit seems to have been
injured and rebuilt, for the upper lights are enclosed within an ogee
moulding which breaks the line of the parapet; and one of the pinnacles
is of unusual character. At the S. door note stoup, and within the
church observe (1) the 15th cent. screen; (2) the squints, high up in
the chancel pillars; (3) the E.E. sedilia on the S.; and (4) the chapel
on the N. side of the sanctuary. In front of the chapel is a large tomb
with a full length effigy of a knight in armour (probably a Rodney);
whilst within there is a mural brass and other memorials. The chapel is
the resting-place of Elizabeth, successively wife of Sir Walter Rodney
and of Sir John Chaworth, who died 1536.
_Badgworth_, 3 m. S.W. of Axbridge, lies a little way off the Bristol
and Bridgwater road. The church is dedicated to the saint that has
given his name to Congresbury, St Congar. It has a fair tower (with a
good open parapet), which contains two pre-Reformation bells, but the
interior contains little of note. The piscina looks like E.E. with a
_Bagborough, West_, 3-1/2 m. N. of Bishop's Lydeard station, is a
parish pleasantly situated on the S.W. side of the Quantocks. The
church (St Pancras) adjoins Bagborough House, and preserves its former
stoup and piscina. There are a few carved bench ends.
_Baltonsborough_, a village on the Brue, 4 m. S.W. of Glastonbury. It
possesses a 5th cent. church (St Dunstan's) containing a few features
of interest in the chancel, among them being the cornice, the piscina
and aumbry, and an old chair dated 1667. The screen is modern. The nave
retains a number of the old 15th cent. benches; to the end of one of
them is hinged a seat which, when raised, projects into the aisle,
perhaps to accommodate some youthful but unruly member of the
congregation. The old door and lock deserve a passing notice.
_Banwell_, a large village 1-1/2 m. W. of Sandford and Banwell station,
was once the site of a Saxon monastery, bestowed by Alfred upon Asser,
and is now famous for its church and caves. The place gets its name
from its large pond, fed by a copious spring, though the meaning of the
first syllable is obscure (perhaps from _bane_, ill, implying that the
spring was thought to have remedial qualities). The church has a tower
with triple belfry windows, which is lofty and finished with pinnacles
and spirelet. It should be compared with Winscombe, both being spoilt
by the flatness of the buttresses. It is regarded as early Perp., and
assigned to about 1380. The figures on the W. front are the Virgin and
St Gabriel; note the lilies (there should be only one, as at
Winscombe). The nave is lofty, with clerestory and plaster roof
(coloured like oak); the effigy at the W. is St Andrew. There is a very
fine rood-loft (1521) with fan-tracery both in front and rear: the
present colours are believed to reproduce the original; curiously, the
choir seats are _outside_ the screen. Note (1) the font (Norman) with
unusual carving on the bowl; (2) Perp. stone pulpit, attached to one of
the pillars of the arcade; (3) the seat ends and oak benches (the
original width of the latter may be seen in the last pew on the S.
side); (4) the brasses, three on the floor before the chancel, and
another (of John Martok, succentor of Wells, and physician to Bishop
King) in the vestry. This vestry contains some old Flemish glass
(brought from Belgium in 1855), depicting the story of Tobit; and there
is more ancient glass belonging to the church in the E. windows of the
aisles. Originally there was only a N. aisle, and the tower buttresses
can still be seen within the S. aisle.
_Banwell Court_, near the church, contains some remains of a manor
house, built by Bishop Beckington. In a shed near the fire brigade
station are (1) two old thatch-hooks (1610), used to drag burning
thatch from the roofs of houses; and (2) an old fire-engine of the same
On the hill which rises above the church (in a field entered near the
junction of the roads) a large cross is traced on the surface of the
ground, and raised in relief to the height of 2 ft., the limbs being
between 50 and 70 ft. long. It is surrounded by a low stone or earth
fence, and its purpose is problematical. On the hill there is also a
camp, where flints of Neolithic date have been found; and near it is an
ancient track-way known as the _Roman Road_.
The _caves_ (two in number) are in private grounds belonging to Mrs
Law. They have probably been created by the action of water, and when
discovered were filled with the bones of wild animals (many of them now
extinct) embedded in silt, which had been washed into them. In one of
them there is now stacked a quantity of these bones, whilst a selection
of them is deposited in Taunton Museum. The caves are shown by some of
the outdoor servants of the house. Unlike the caves at Cheddar and
Burrington, they open upon the summit of the hill instead of into a
_Barrington_, a village 4 m. N.E. of Ilminster, is worth visiting for
the sake of its church and its interesting Elizabethan house called
_Barrington Court_. The church is cruciform, with an octagonal central
tower. The tower arches are E.E., with plain chamfered piers; but there
is a good deal of Dec. work in the transepts (note windows and the fine
canopy over one of the piscinas). The E. window is Perp.: observe the
piscina and niches in the chancel, and the large squints. The N. porch
has an ogee moulding, and contains a niche with figures of the Virgin
_Barrington Court_ (now a farm) is a magnificent E-shaped building,
with numerous twisted chimneys, turrets, and finials. It was built by
Henry Daubeny, the first Earl of Bridgwater, (d. 1548); and passed
successively into the possession of the Phelipses (afterwards of
Montacute) and the Strodes. It was here that William Strode in 1680
entertained the Duke of Monmouth. Recently an effort has been made to
purchase it for the nation.
_Barrow Gurney_ is a small village, prettily situated (1 m. from Flax
Bourton stat.), with a church about a mile away. Near the church there
once existed a Benedictine nunnery (said to have been founded before
1212); and what is now the S. aisle was formerly the nuns' chapel, and
it still retains an early doorway and a few other vestiges of
antiquity. At the W. end of the aisle is an enclosure with a number of
tiles, supposed to be the burial-place of one of the sisters. With the
exception of this S. aisle, the church has been entirely rebuilt and
enlarged. Note the mural monument to Francis James (of Jacobean date),
and the old bell beneath the tower. The churchyard contains a restored
cross. Adjoining the church is _Barrow Court_ (H.M. Gibbs) a fine
Elizabethan building. In the village is a house of the date 1687. Some
reservoirs of the Bristol waterworks are close by.
_Barrow, North_, a small village 2-1/2 m. N. from Sparkford Station
(G.W.R.). The church, rebuilt 1860, is without interest, except for a
very curious font of uncertain date, standing on a modern pedestal.
_Barrow, South_, is a village 1 m. N. from Sparkford. The church, a
small aisleless building, contains (1) ancient bench ends; (2) piscina
and aumbry in sanctuary; (3) brass to R. Morris on floor of nave. A
fragment of Norman work will be noticed over the N. door. The font,
dated 1584, has a curious E.E. look.
_Barton St David_, 5 m. S.S.E. of Glastonbury, 4 m. N.E. of Somerton,
gets its name from its church, dedicated to the Welsh bishop (who was
buried at Glastonbury hard by). The plan of the church is cruciform,
the tower (which is octagonal) being placed in the angle formed by the
N. transept and the chancel. The N. doorway is Norman, the arches of
chancel and transepts E.E. The chancel windows are lancets with
foliated heads and interior foliations. Note (1) the squint; (2) the
piscina. In the churchyard there is a headless cross, with the figure
of a bishop in his mitre on the shaft (perhaps St David).
_Barwick_, a small village 1 m. S. from Yeovil. The church--a rather
large building for so small a place--has the tower oddly placed at the
E. end of N. aisle (cp. E. Coker). The N. aisle is richer and evidently
later than the S. aisle. Observe the panelling of the arches of the
arcade and the external battlements. The character of the arcade on
both N. and S. is peculiar (cp. Shepton Mallet). The chancel has been
rebuilt, but it retains the original piscina. The church has some fine
bench ends (1533). The initials _W.H._ on the door of the reading-desk
are said to be those of William Hope, the patron of the living early in
the 16th cent. Note (1) position of Dec. piscina in S. aisle and dwarf
doorway, showing raising of floor; (2) squint and rood-loft stairs on
N.; (3) square fluted font with cable moulding; (4) consecration
crosses on jamb of W. door, on chancel buttresses, and on wall of S.
aisle (cp. Nempnett); (5) arched doorway into tower from chancel, made
up of a sepulchral slab with incised foliated cross.
_Batcombe_, a small village equidistant (3 m.) from Cranmore,
Evercreech, and Bruton stations, has an interesting church. The tower,
one of the finest in Somerset, is of marked individuality, combining
features belonging to two distinct types. It resembles Shepton in the
arrangement of its buttresses, and Evercreech and Wrington in the
character of its triple windows. The absence of pinnacles and of
superfluous ornamentation lends to it considerable dignity and
impressiveness. Note the figure of our Lord and censing angels on W.
front, as at Chewton. On exterior of church observe (1) debased S.
porch; (2) crucifix on E. gable of nave. The interior is disappointing.
The clerestory is spacious, and the roof fair, but a general sense of
bareness pervades the whole building. The shabbiness of the chancel in
particular is enhanced by a casement which does duty for an E. window.
Note (1) Dec. windows to aisle; (2) rood-loft stair; (3) curious
quatrefoil piscina in sanctuary; (4) some fragments of old glass in E.
window of S. aisle. At the W. end is a handsomely-carved font, and the
remains of another font from Spargrove Church (now destroyed) are under
the tower. An ugly monument to the Bisse family stands in one of the S.
window sills. The vestry is a nondescript chamber reached from the
chancel by a flight of stone steps.
BATH. A city and parliamentary borough on the Avon, 107 m. W. from
London, with a population (in 1901) of 52,751. It has stations both on
the G.W. and the Midland lines. Few cities are more romantically
situated than Bath, but it is not its situation which has given to it
its celebrity. Its prosperity has from time immemorial depended upon
its possession of the remarkable mineral springs in which the
fashionable world has at different periods discerned so many healing
and social virtues. The popular story of their discovery by the
legendary King Bladud is too trite to need re-telling. The real history
of Bath begins as early as A.D. 44, when it is known to have been a
Roman station. Its Latin name was _Aquae Sulis_, Sul being a local
divinity, whose name appears on several inscriptions in the Museum, and
may have some connection with the neighbouring hill of Solsbury. A
temple to this goddess existed on the site of the present Pump Room,
and the extensive ruins of the contiguous bathing establishment bear
eloquent testimony to the use which the Romans made of the waters.
Here, too, converged three of their chief highways, the Fosseway, from
Lincoln to Axminster, the _Via Julia_, which connected it with S.
Wales, and Akeman Street, the main thoroughfare to London. The
after-history of Bath is chequered. In 676 King Osric founded here a
nunnery (eventually transformed into a monastery), and in 973 it was
the scene of Edgar's coronation. After the Conquest it was a bone of
contention in the Norman quarrels, and was burnt to the ground by
Geoffrey of Coutances. After being harried by the sword, Bath passed
under the hammer. Its ecclesiastical importance begins when John de
Villula purchased it of the king, and transferred hither his episcopal
stool from Wells (see further, p. 19). In mediaeval days Bath was a
walled city, and fragments of its fortifications, crowned by a modern
battlement, may still be seen in "Borough Walls"; and two round-headed
arches of the old E. gate are visible in a passage behind the Empire
Hotel, leading to the river. The battle of Lansdown gives Bath a place
in the annals of the Great Rebellion. But the fame of Bath is social
rather than historical. It was not until the 18th cent. that the city
reached the zenith of its importance. The creator of modern Bath was
the social adventurer Nash. By sheer force of native impudence Nash
pushed himself into the position of an uncrowned king, and exercised
his social sovereignty with a very high hand. His rule was certainly
conducive to the better government of the city. From a mere haunt of
bandits and beggars, Bath became at a bound the most fashionable city
in the kingdom, and a school for manners to half England. Nash, though
very much the beau, was very little of the gentleman. To a hump-backed
lady who declared that she had "come straight from London," Nash
replied, "Then you must have picked up a d--d crook by. the way." But
polite society was not squeamish, and took him at his own valuation.
His assemblies became the rage, his social despotism was eagerly
acquiesced in, and the improvements he demanded were ungrudgingly
supplied. The social labours of Nash were admirably seconded by the
work of two architects called Wood (father and son). Terraces, squares
and crescents sprang up in generous profusion to accommodate the crowds
of visitors who were drawn into the vortex of fashion. The prosperity
of Bath did not decline with the fading fortunes of its favourite, for
it was not until the peace of Amiens opened up the continental watering
places that the fashionable world forsook Bath and went elsewhere. But
though its proud pre-eminence has passed for ever, Bath still retains
something of its former splendour. It can boast of several natives of
note, and a roll of still more distinguished residents. The birds of
passage, whose stay shed a transient glory on the gay city, are legion.
Amongst those who claim Bath as their birthplace are William Edward
Parry, the Arctic explorer, John Palmer, the postal reformer, and
William Horn, the author of the _Every Day Book_. The list of famous
residents includes Quin, the actor, R.B. Sheridan, Beckford, Landor,
Sir T. Lawrence, Gainsborough, Bishop Butler (who died at 14 Kingsmead
Square), Gen. Wolfe and Archbp. Magee. Nelson and Chatham, Queen
Charlotte, Jane Austen, Dickens, Herschell and Thirlwall, are to be
numbered amongst the visitors.
The general plan of Bath is easily grasped. The river throws itself
round the city like an elbow, and in the corner of land thus embraced
the streets are laid out something in the manner of an irregular chess
board. One main thoroughfare runs from the S. gate, and climbs by a
gradual ascent northwards; and as it goes, expands into the spacious
shopping quarters of Milsom Street. Another good string of streets runs
from the Abbey also northwards, and on its course extends a long arm
eastwards across the river to the suburb of Bathwick.
The chief sights, the Abbey, Pump Room, Roman Baths and Guildhall, lie
grouped together in convenient proximity. The imposing terraces,
squares and crescents of the once fashionable residential quarters are
to be found chiefly on the N. and W. sides of the city. A pretty view
of Pulteney Bridge with its singular parapet of shops may be obtained
from the terrace at the back of the Municipal Buildings.
The chief public buildings are the Pump Room, rebuilt in 1796, and
considerably extended in recent times; the Guildhall, built in 1768-75,
containing some good portraits; the Upper Assembly Rooms (1771); the
Royal Institution (1824), on the site of the old Assembly Rooms, the
scene of Nash's triumphs; the Mineral Water Hospital (1737); and the
Holbourne Art Museum (containing a large number of pictures, many of
which are unfortunately not the "old masters" they profess to be, some
good porcelain, and a fine collection of "Apostle" spoons). Hetling
House in Hetling Court was once a mansion of the Hungerfords. The
public grounds are the Victoria Park, Sydney Gardens, Henrietta Park,
and the Institute Gardens (subscribers only).
[Illustration: ROMAN BATHS, BATH]
_Roman Baths_. The waters from which Bath gets its fame are believed to
owe their origin to the surface drainage of the E. Mendips, which
percolates through some vertical fissure, perhaps at Downhead, to the
heart of the hills, and are conducted by some natural culvert beneath
the intervening coal measures, washing out as they go the soluble
mineral salts, and whilst still retaining their heat emerge again at
the first opportunity at Bath. The Romans were the first to make use of
this natural lavatory, and with their unrivalled engineering skill
founded here a magnificent bathing establishment. Though the fact of
their occupation of the site was long known, the extent and magnitude
of their arrangements have only lately been laid bare. Thanks to the
skill and intelligence with which a thorough investigation of the site
was made by the city architect in 1881, every visitor to Bath has now
an opportunity of examining the finest extant specimen of a Roman
bathing station in the world. The entrance to these antiquities is
through a corridor to the left of the Pump Room (admission 6d.). This
passage opens upon a modern balcony overlooking the great central
basin. To investigate the ruins, a descent must be made by the
staircase to the basement. The Great Bath is a rectangular tank 111
feet by 68 feet, originally lined with lead 1/4 inch thick. It was
surrounded with dressing-rooms, from which steps led down to the water.
The great hall which contained it was covered in with a roof of hollow
bricks and concrete (plentiful specimens of which lie scattered about),
supported by carved columns. On the left is another square bath with a
semi-circular tank at each end, and a series of vapour chambers behind
it. The greater part of this bath was unfortunately destroyed in the
18th cent., to furnish material for the construction of a new bath. To
the right of the great bath is a fine stepped circular bath, and beyond
this again are sudatories. Still further on, extending beneath the
street, in a part not always shown to the public and somewhat difficult
of approach, is a third rectangular basin of considerable size. Even
this does not complete the full tale of the bathing accommodation once
provided. Buried beneath the basement of the Pump Room itself has been
discovered the masonry of a large oval bath, the outline of which is
still marked out in the flooring. The huge Roman reservoir into which
were poured the healing waters as they bubbled up fresh and fervid from
the bowels of the earth cannot now be seen, for it lies immediately
beneath the floor of the King's Bath, but the visitor can still inspect
the overflow conduit which conveyed the surplus waters to the Avon. The
character of the lead and brick work should be carefully examined if
justice is to be done to the skill of the Roman workmen. The specimens
of the tessellated pavement that once formed the flooring of the great
hall are worthy of passing notice. The King's Bath, the great bathing
place of the fashionable world in Nash's day, is open to the air, and
may be seen from one of the windows of the corridor. The various modern
baths must be inquired for on the spot. Medicinal bathing is obtained
at the New Royal Bath, in connection with the Grand Pump Room Hotel.
The spring which keeps the whole of this vast array of bathing
appliances going yields three hogsheads per minute, and issues from the
earth at a temperature of 117 deg. Fahr. The chief constituents of the
waters are calcium sulphate, sodium sulphate, magnesium chloride,
calcium carbonate, and sodium chloride, and there are traces of other
[Illustration: BATH ABBEY]
_The Abbey Church_. The Abbey, though somewhat hemmed in by meaner
buildings, stands in a commanding position in the centre of the city.
Without any claims to be regarded as an architectural gem, it has
sufficient merit to adorn its situation. Its career has been a series
of vicissitudes. Though Bath takes precedence of Wells in the official
title of the see, it has seldom been the predominant partner. John de
Villula, with the intention of making the city the bishop's seat, built
here a church so spacious that the nave alone would swallow up the
existing building. Of this Norm. church there still survive (1) bases
of clustered pillars under a grating in N. aisle of choir, (2) a single
pillar in same aisle, (3) round arch and pillar in vestry, S. of choir,
(4) bases of pillars at exterior of E. end. With his successors' change
of plans, Villula's church fell on evil days, and was allowed to decay.
In 1495 Bishop Oliver King beheld, like Jacob, the vision of a heavenly
stairway and climbing angels, and heard a voice saying, "Let an olive
establish the crown, and let a king restore the church." In consequence
he, in imitation of the patriarch, vowed a "God's house" upon the spot.
With the help of Prior Bird, he projected the present edifice, and the
west front still commemorates his dream. But whilst the building was in
course of construction the Reformation intervened and put a stop to the
work. The monastery was dissolved, and the Crown offered the church to
the townspeople for 500 marks. The citizens, however, declined the
bargain, and the building passed from the hammer of the auctioneer to
that of the house-breaker. Stripped of all that was saleable, the shell
passed into the possession of one Edmund Colthurst, who made a present
of it to the town. For forty years it remained practically a heap of
ruins. Episcopal attention was again drawn to its unseemliness, not
this time by ascending angels, but by the more prosaic instrumentality
of a descending shower. Bishop Montague, seeking shelter one day within
its roofless aisles from a passing thunderstorm, was moved by the
discomfort of the situation to undertake the completion of the fabric.
He finished the work in 1609, but on somewhat economical lines. He
vaulted the roof with plaster, and it has been left to the modern
restorer to make good his work in stone. Externally the church is a
cruciform building with a central tower, characterized by two tiers of
double windows and spired octagonal turrets at the corners. The tower
is a rectangle, the N. and S. sides being shorter than the E. and W.,
and the transepts are correspondingly narrow. Though somewhat stiff and
formal, the general design derives a certain impressiveness from the
lofty clerestory, the immense display of windows, and a profusion of
flying buttresses. The fantastic reproduction of Jacob's Ladder, with
its beetle-like angels, on the W. front, should be carefully observed,
and note should also be taken of the elaborately carved wooden door and
the figures above and on either side (Henry VII. and SS. Peter and
Paul). The two ladders are flanked by representations of the Apostles,
whilst below the gable is the figure of our Lord, with adoring angels
beneath. The interior has something of the appearance of an
ecclesiastical Crystal Palace--one vast aggregate of pillars and glass.
The details are poor (note the absence of cusps in alternate windows of
nave), and the fan tracery (original in choir only) is exuberant. In
some of the clerestory windows are fragments of old glass, and the very
unusual feature of pierced spandrels to the E. window should be noted.
The one really beautiful thing in the interior is _Prior Bird's
Chantry_ at the S.E. of the choir. The delicate groining of the roof,
the foliage, and the panelling will be generally admired. Note the
constant reiteration of the Prior's relics, with mitre, though priors
did not wear mitres. There is an effigy of Bishop Montague under a
staring canopy between the columns of the N. aisle. In the sanctuary is
the tomb of Bartholomew Barnes, and a brass to Sir George Ivey. The oak
screen across the S.E. aisle is in memory of a former rector (Rev. C.
Kemble) who did much to restore the Abbey. As a reminder of Bath's once
fashionable days, the walls of the aisles are covered with memorials of
local celebrities; amongst them there is a tablet to Nash (S. wall near
S. transept). The tomb of Lady Waller in S. transept, and Garrick's
epitaph on Quin (N. aisle of choir) should perhaps also be noticed. As
Dr Harington's sprightly epigram suggests, this portentous display of
mortality is not an inspiring study for visitors who come to Bath to
take "the cure,"
"These walls, adorned with monument and bust,
Show how Bath waters serve to lay the dust."
Among objects and places of interest in the outskirts of the city that
deserve a visit are Sham Castle, an artificial antique on Bathwick
Hill; Widcombe Old Church (built by Prior Bird); the chapel of St Mary
Magdalen in Holloway (built by Prior Cantlow in 1495); Beckford's Tower
on Lansdowne, and Combe Down (where a portion of the Wansdyke may be
Bath gives its name, with sometimes more and sometimes less
justification, to quite a number of articles, including Bath stone,
Bath buns, Bath olivers, Bath chaps, Bath chairs, and Bath bricks (for
the last, see pp. 26, 64).
_Bathampton_, a prettily situated village, 2 m. N.E. of Bath. Its
church is in the main Perp., but the chancel arch is E.E., and the E.
window consists of three lancets. There are two recumbent figures of
the 14th cent., a knight and a lady, at the W. end of the S. aisle; but
the most remarkable feature of the building is a still earlier effigy,
much defaced, within a niche in the exterior wall of the E. end. It
seems to represent a bishop, since there are traces of a crosier,
though some have taken it for a prioress. Some small remains of a
priory are still to be found at the rectory near the church.
_Bathealton_, a parish 3 m. S.E. of Wiveliscombe. The church has been
rebuilt, and is of no antiquarian interest.
_Batheaston_, a large parish on the Avon, 2-1/2 m. N.E. of Bath
(nearest stat. Bathampton, 1/2 m. away). The church has been restored,
but it retains its well-proportioned Perp. tower. One of the bells
dates from pre-Reformation times, and has the inscription _Virginis
egregiae vocor campana Mariae_. To the N.E. of the village is _Solsbury
Hill_, with a British camp on the summit. It probably gets its name
from the British goddess Sul, who seems, from the inscriptions in Bath
Museum, to have been identified by the Romans with Minerva.
_Bathford_ is a village 3-1/2 m. E.N.E. of Bath (nearest stat.
Bathampton), standing on a hill sloping to the Avon, which was here in
Roman times crossed by a ford that gave its name (formerly Ford) to the
place. The church (ded. to St Swithin) is of E.E. origin, but has been
enlarged and modernised. The font is Norm.; some Norm. work remains in
the N. porch, and there is a Jacobean pulpit.
_Bawdrip_, a small village, 1 m. from Cossington, and 3-1/4 m. N.E. of
Bridgwater. It possesses an interesting little cruciform church, with a
central tower supported on E.E. or Early Dec. arches. There are three
piscinas, one in the sanctuary, the others in the transepts, that of
the N. transept being on the sill of the squint in the chancel pier. In
this N. transept is the effigy of a knight in plate armour under a
foliated canopy, said to be that of Joel de Bradney, d. 1350.
_Beckington_, a large village on the Bath road, 3 m. N.E. from Frome.
It was once famous for its cloth, and the number of old houses which it
possesses and its general appearance of spaciousness bear testimony to
its former importance. The church stands back from the main street, and
is well worth a visit. It is chiefly Perp., but has a Norm. W. tower
with Perp. windows, and a richly groined vault. A fine octagonal E.E.
font stands in the S. aisle. Note (1) squints, (2) piscinas in
sanctuary and S. aisle. The monuments are--(1) in N. wall of chancel,
the effigy of a knight in armour, supposed to be J. de Evleigh
(1360-70) and wife; (2) a little higher up, effigy of lady, Mary de
Evleigh (1380-1400); (3) brass on chancel floor to John St Maur and
wife (1485), though the lady, who, after John St Maur's death, married
Sir John Biconyll, lies elsewhere; (4) brass on S. pier of chancel arch
bearing a merchant's mark (said to belong to John Compton, d. 1510);
(5) in N. aisle, slab and bust to S. Daniell (1619), reputed to have
been poet-laureate (but see p. 29). Bishop Beckington of Wells
(1443-65) was born here. At the corner of the lane leading to the
church is _Beckington Castle_, a fine old gabled house with mullioned
windows. _Standerwick Court_, a Queen Anne mansion, is a mile away; and
in the neighbourhood is _Seymour Court_, a farmhouse, once the abode of
_Beer Crocombe_, a small village 1-1/2 m. S.E. from Hatch Beauchamp
Station (G.W.R. branch to Chard). The church (Perp.) is uninteresting.
The prefix _Beer_ (thought to be a personal name) occurs in several
Dorset and Devon place-names.
_Berkley_, a small village, 2-1/2 m. N.E. from Frome. It possesses a
"classical" church--a very unusual thing for a country village--date
1751. It is an odd little building, with a balustraded W. tower and a
small central dome, said to have been copied from St Stephen's,
Walbrook. Within is a monumental slab tracing the descent of the
Newboroughs, from the time of the Conquest till 1680. _Berkley House_
dates from the time of William III.
_Berrow_, a parish 2 m. N. of Burnham, where there are good golf links.
The church is close to the shore, and contains little of interest.
Note, however, (1) stoup in S. porch, (2) curious piscina in chancel,
(3) small Jacobean pulpit, (4) gallery dated 1637. Outside of the S.
wall are two slabs with much defaced effigies, probably from an earlier
_Bickenhall_, a parish 1 m. S.W. of Hatch Beauchamp station. The church
is modern, but contains on the chancel wall a monument, with a kneeling
effigy, to a lady of the Portman family (1632).
_Bicknoller_, a little village 2-1/2 m. S.E. of Williton, nestling
under the W. slopes of the Quantocks. Its name (and that of Bickenhall
likewise) is probably connected with _beech_ (cp. the numerous names
containing _ash-, oak-, elm-, withy-_). The church, which used to be a
chapel of Stogumber, has a picturesque parapet N. and S. In the
interior the chief features that call for remark are (1) the capitals
of the N. arcade, with their bands of "Devonshire" foliage, (2) the
fine screen (1726) with beautiful fan tracery, (3) some good seat-ends,
(4) monument to John Sweeting of Thornecombe (d. 1688), (5) squint in
chancel pier, (6) piscina. In the churchyard is the shaft of an ancient
A little above the village is _Trendle Ring_, the site of an
encampment; whilst on the road to Crowcombe is an old house called
_Halsway_, said to have been a hunting lodge of Cardinal Beaufort, the
son of John of Gaunt, and guardian of Henry VI.
_Biddisham_, a small parish 4 m. W. of Axbridge. The small church is
reached by a lane from the Bristol and Bridgwater road. It retains a
square Norm, font, a piscina, and a Jacobean pulpit. Outside is the
shaft of an old cross.
_Binegar_, a small village on the top of the E. Mendips, with a station
on the S. & D. The church, rebuilt 1859, has a plain Perp. tower with a
representation of the Trinity on one of its battlements.
_Bishop's Hull_ (_hull_ is merely _hill_), a village 1-1/2 m. W. from
Taunton. The church is a ludicrous example of Philistinism. A small but
interesting Perp. church has been enlarged by the simple expedient of
replacing the S. aisle by a spacious chamber furnished with galleries.
On the N. is a slender octagonal E.E. tower (cp. Somerton). In the
original part of the church note (1) on N. of sanctuary, elaborate
Jacobean tomb with effigy, in legal robes, of J. Farewell (1609); (2)
effigies of three grandchildren tucked away in a small recess in wall
opposite; (3) grotesque corbels on E. wall of N. chapel; (4) good
bench-ends (observe representation of the Resurrection in N. chapel,
and of a night watchman near font). By the side of the Taunton road is
a fine Elizabethan mansion of the Farewells, date 1586.
_Bishop's Lydeard_, a village 5 m. N.W. of Taunton, with a station on
the Minehead line. It gets its name from the land having been bestowed
by Edward the Elder upon Asser, Bishop of Sherborne, in 904. Its church
has an exceptionally fine tower, with double windows in the belfry. The
W. window is good and the tower arch very lofty. Note (1) the fine
screen, with the Apostles' Creed in Latin; (2) the series of quaintly
carved bench-ends, the designs (windmill, ship, stag, etc.) standing
out well against the coloured backgrounds; (3) the good, though plain,
roof; (4) oak pulpit; (5) brass in S. transept of Nicholas Grobham and
wife (d. 1585 and 1594). In the churchyard is a fine cross (14th
cent.), with the figure of St John the Baptist on the shaft, and
_bas-reliefs_ on each face of the octagonal base. There is also the
base and broken shaft of what was once the village cross.
_Bishop's Sutton_, a village 2-3/4 m. W. of Clutton, with a modern
_Blackford_ (near Wedmore), a village 6 m. S.W. from Cheddar (G.W.R.).
The church is an eccentric octagonal structure built in 1823.
_Blackford_ (near Wincanton) is a small village, lying rather low, 3 m.
E. of Sparkford. The church, which formerly belonged to Glastonbury
Abbey, is small and plain, but possesses a Norm. S. doorway and a Norm.
font. There are also the remains of a stoup in the S. porch and of a
piscina in the S. wall.
_Blagdon_, a village on the N. slope of the Mendips, 12 m. S.W. from
Bristol. A light railway from Yatton has its terminus here. The beauty
of the neighbourhood, naturally considerable, has been enhanced by the
formation of a large artificial lake, 2-1/2 m. long, intended as a
reservoir for Bristol. A charming view across the valley is obtainable
from the hillside above the church. The church is remarkable only for
its elegant Perp. tower. The rest of the building is an ugly Victorian
substitute for the original fabric.
_Bleadon_, a village 1 m. E. of Bleadon and Uphill Station, lies at the
foot of Bleadon Hill. The church has a tall tower with triple windows
in the belfry; but it is inferior to others of the same class, since
too much space is left between the base of the windows and the string
course (cp. Long Sutton). The chancel (the oldest part) is Dec. and
possesses a low side-window (cp. Othery, East Stoke, Ile Abbots). The
position of this and of the recess in the S. wall points to the chancel
having once been longer, a conclusion confirmed by traces of
foundations said to exist in the churchyard E. of the present east end.
Note in the S. porch a _bas-relief_ of the Virgin and Child; and in the
interior of the church, (1) stone pulpit; (2) Norm. font; (3) two
effigies (attributed to the 14th cent.), one near the pulpit, the other
in the sanctuary (the slab upon which the latter is lying is supposed
by some to be an Easter sepulchre, though its position on the S. is
unusual); (4) piscina on the N. of chancel--perhaps displaced. In the
churchyard is a mutilated cross. On the hill above there are traces of
_Blue Anchor_, a hamlet 3 m. E. of Dunster, with station. There is a
pleasant little bay here which possesses possibilities as a future
watering-place, but at present the accommodation for visitors is
extremely limited. The cliffs that border the foreshore are strikingly
coloured and are veined with alabaster. The view towards Minehead is
charming. It is said that the sea at very low water uncovers the
remains of a submerged forest.
_Bossington_, a hamlet 1 m. from Porlock, lying under Bossington
Beacon, which is the W. end of the North Hill (see _Minehead_). It is a
picturesque place, noteworthy for its huge walnut trees. It is
separated from the sea by a stretch of shingle. There is a little
chapel of some antiquity, which has a good E. window (restored). The
summit of the Beacon may be reached either from the hamlet itself or
from Allerford (whence numerous zigzag paths lead through the woods).
_Bradford_, a parish on the Tone, 4 m. S.W. of Taunton, with a church
ded. to St Giles. The stair-turret is on the S. face of the tower (as
at Wellington). The piers of the arcade seem to be E.E. or Dec., with
two in the Perp. style at the E. end, one of them being of the normal
Somerset type, whilst the other has the "Devonshire" foliage. There is
an effigy of a knight of the time of Richard II. in the S. wall; and
there is also preserved the base of a Norm. font (with foot ornament),
supporting a bowl of later date. Under the W. window of the S. aisle
are the old stocks.
An ancient bridge across the Tone (perhaps dating from the 13th cent.)
carries the road to Nynehead and Milverton: the parapet is modern.
_Bradley, West_, a small village 4 m. E.S.E. from Glastonbury. The
church is an unattractive-looking little building, but of more interest
than its appearance suggests. It has a short, battlemented W. tower
(with pyramidal cap), supposed to date from 1400. The vault is groined.
In the S. porch is a mutilated stoup. Within, note (1) in chancel,
image brackets and defaced piscina; (2) rood loft stair and window. The
nave roof is original.
_Bratton Seymour_, a village conspicuously perched on a hill 3 m. W.
from Wincanton. The church has been rebuilt. Its prominent position
makes it an excellent landmark. W. of the church is a tumulus where
have been discovered the remains of a Roman watch-tower.
_Brean_, a scattered hamlet 4 m. N. of Burnham, near the estuary of the
Axe. Its little church, with its foundations much below the level of
the neighbouring sand-dunes, is noteworthy merely for its lonely
situation. To the N. is _Brean Down_, a narrow promontory extending
more than a mile into the sea, with traces of earthworks. From Weston
it may be reached in the summer months by a ferry; the road from the
same place is a circuitous one, by way of Bleadon or Lympsham.
_Brent, East_, a village 2 m. E. of Brent Knoll Station. The name may
refer to the knoll, _brent_ meaning a steep hill. The place has a
church with a stone spire. Its most interesting features are,
externally, the sculptures on the W. face of the tower ((1) Virgin and
Child, (2) the Father holding the Crucified Son, (3) Christ crowning
the Virgin), and, internally, the roof, the woodwork, and the ancient
glass. The nave roof, of plaster, may be compared with that of
Axbridge; its date is 1637. The Jacobean or rather Caroline pulpit
dates from 1634, and the columns supporting the gallery from 1635. The
seat-ends (15th cent.) are good: among the carvings note the symbols of
the Evangelists (that of St Mark is missing, both here and at S. Brent)
and the initials of John Selwood, the antepenultimate Abbot of
Glastonbury (d. 1473). The old glass (late 14th cent.) will be seen in
two windows in the N. aisle. Two effigies, one an ecclesiastic, the
other probably a layman, have been placed under two of the windows. The
frescoes (in S. porch and chancel) and the cross in the churchyard are
modern: on the latter are statuettes of apostles, and mediaeval and
_Brent Knoll_ is a conspicuous eminence of lias, drowned with a cap of
inferior oolite, about 450 ft. above sea-level and four acres in
extent. On the summit is a camp with a single rampart (though there
are, in addition, external terraces in certain positions), British in
origin, but utilised by the Romans. It commands a splendid view,
embracing the Mendips and Quantocks, Glastonbury Tor, the Channel, and
the River Parrett.
_Brent, South_, 1 m. from Brent Knoll Station, has a church very
picturesquely situated on the side of the knoll. Though in the main
Perp., it contains examples of earlier work. The S. doorway is Norm, or
Trans. (12th cent.), and there is also a small Norm. pillar (perhaps
part of a piscina) attached to the E. wall of the N. aisle. The S. wall
is in E.E. (note the corbels); and a large S. chapel (note piscina),
now used as a vestry, is Dec. (about 1370). The Perp. W. tower, with
triple belfry windows, has unusually short buttresses for a tower of
its class. Within the church the most noticeable features are (1) fine
wooden roof of N. aisle; (2) mural monument of John Somersett (d. 1663)
and his two wives; (3) font of unusual shape; (4) the seat-ends
(assigned to the 15th cent.), with their curious carvings, partly
sacred emblems and partly humorous scenes, the latter depicting a fox
(1) in the robes of an abbot or bishop, (2) brought to trial, (3)
_Brewham, South_, a village 3 m. N.E. of Bruton. It lies in a dell
through which flows the Brue (whence its name). The church, chiefly
Perp., is not of much interest, though beneath the tower at the S.W.
corner is a doorway of rough construction but peculiar character; near
it is a stoup. In the churchyard is a cross and an old font. _North
Brewham_ is a small hamlet 1/2 m. away.
_Bridgwater_, a seaport of more than 15,000 inhabitants, on the tidal
part of the Parrett. It has a station on the G.W.R. main line to
Exeter, and is the terminus of the S. & D. branch from Glastonbury. The
general aspect of the town is uninviting, and its immediate
surroundings are almost as uninspiring as its buildings. The river,
which ministers largely to its prosperity, adds little to its
attractions. It, however, furnishes the town twice a day with a mild
sensation in the shape of a bore, which at the turn of the tide rolls
up the river-bed like a miniature breaker. Though the name,
_Bridgwater_, hardly savours of antiquity it really conceals quite a
venerable origin. The not uncommon combination of a bridge and water
has nothing to do with the nomenclature. The name appears to be a
corruption of _Burgh Walter_, from Walter of Douay, one of the
followers of William the Conqueror. In the Great Rebellion the place
proved to the Royal cause in the West a kind of Metz. The castle was
supposed to be impregnable, and was held in force for the king by
Colonel Wyndham, but on the destruction of the suburb of Eastover by
Fairfax, the royal colours were, much to the chagrin of Charles,
unexpectedly hauled down from the stronghold, and the garrison, 1000
strong, tamely walked out. The Parliamentary commander made a huge
"bag" by the capture. It was, however, in connection with Monmouth's
ill-starred enterprise that Bridgwater attained its chief historical
notoriety, for it was here that the Duke had his headquarters before
the fatal engagement on Sedgemoor. Of the castle--founded by a De
Briwere, who is said to have been the bearer of Richard I.'s
ransom--hardly a vestige remains. King's Square now occupies its place,
and a few fragments of its walls and portions of the water-gate are
incorporated in some of the cellars which border the quay. In the
centre of the town is the parish church of St Mary, a spacious building
with a low W. tower of red sandstone crowned by a tall and graceful
spire. It is chiefly Perp., with an ugly and inharmonious modern
clerestory; but there are some remains of the Dec. period in the N.
porch. Over the altar hangs a picture of the "Descent from the Cross,"
said to have been found in the hold of a captured privateer. The
noteworthy features are (1) black oak screens and pulpit, (2) the
blocked squints, in the porches, (3) stoup and geometric rose window in
N. porch, (4) mural monument to Sir Francis Kingsmill and two sons. In
the churchyard are two timeworn, recumbent figures recessed into the N.
wall of N. transept, and an altar-tomb to Oldmixon, mentioned in Pope's
"Dunciad." In front of the town-hall is a good statue of Blake, the
famous Cromwellian admiral, whose birthplace, much modernised, will be
found in Blake Street. An arched doorway in Silver Street is said to
have been the gateway of a college of Grey Friars. A house E. of the
churchyard has a fine panelled ceiling. The modern church of St John in
the suburb of Eastover (for the name, cp. Northover at Ilchester and
Southover at Wells) stands upon the site of a former hospital of the
Knights of St John, founded by William de Briwere in the 13th cent.
Besides its shipping trade, Bridgwater does a large business in bricks
and tiles, and possesses a unique industry in the manufacture of Bath
bricks--presumably so called from their resemblance to Bath stone. Beds
of mingled mud and sand are left by the tide in recesses excavated in
the river-banks. The deposit is dug out, moulded into bricks, and
dried, and then exported for cleaning metals.
_Brislington_, a rapidly growing suburb of Bristol, 1-3/4 m. S.E. of
the city, with a station on the Frome branch. The church has a tower
which is characteristic of a considerable class of Somerset towers. On
its S. face are two quaint little effigies (supposed to represent the
founders, Lord and Lady de la Warr), and each side of the parapet has a
niche containing a figure (cp. Tickenham and Wraxall). The S. aisle has
a waggon-roof, and there is a piscina in the S. chapel. The square font
is presumably Norm. _Brislington Hill House_ is a 17th-cent. brick
_Broadway_, 2-1/2 m. N. of llminster, derives its name from its
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