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Somerset

This article is about the county in England. For other uses, see Somerset (disambiguation).

Somerset ((); archaically Somersetshire) is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

Somerset
Coat of arms
Motto(s):
Old English: Sumorsǣte ealle
(English:All The People of Somerset)
Coordinates:51°06′N2°54′W /51.100°N 2.900°W /51.100; -2.900Coordinates: 51°06′N2°54′W /51.100°N 2.900°W /51.100; -2.900
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth West England
EstablishedAncient
Time zoneUTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
• Summer (DST)UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of Parliament
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantAnne Maw
High SheriffMrs Mary-Clare Rodwell (2020–21)
Area4,171 km2 (1,610 sq mi)
• Ranked7th of 48
Population (mid-2019 est.)965,424
• Ranked22nd of 48
Density232/km2 (600/sq mi)
Ethnicity98.5% White
Districts

Districts of Somerset
Districts
  1. South Somerset
  2. Somerset West and Taunton
  3. Sedgemoor
  4. Mendip
  5. Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary)
  6. North Somerset (Unitary)

Somerset is a rural county of rolling hills, the Blackdown Hills, Mendip Hills, Quantock Hills and Exmoor National Park, and large flat expanses of land including the Somerset Levels. There is evidence of human occupation from Paleolithic times, and of subsequent settlement by the Celts, Romans and Anglo-Saxons. The county played a significant part in Alfred the Great's rise to power, and later the English Civil War and the Monmouth Rebellion. The city of Bath is famous for its Georgian architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Contents

Somerset's name derives from Old English Sumorsǣte, short for Sumortūnsǣte, meaning "the people living at or dependent on Sumortūn (Somerton)". The first known use of Somersæte is in the law code of King Ine who was the Saxon King of Wessex from 688–726CE, making Somerset along with Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset one of the oldest extant units of local government in the world. An alternative suggestion is the name derives from Seo-mere-saetan meaning "settlers by the sea lakes".

The Old English name is used in the motto of the county, Sumorsǣte ealle, meaning "all the people of Somerset". Adopted as the motto in 1911, the phrase is taken from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Somerset was a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and the phrase refers to the wholehearted support the people of Somerset gave to King Alfred in his struggle to save Wessex from Viking invaders.

Somerset settlement names are mostly Anglo-Saxon in origin (for example, Bath, Somerton, Wells and Keynsham), but numerous place names include British Celtic elements, such as the rivers Frome and Avon, and names of hills. For example, an Anglo-Saxon charter of 682 refers to Creechborough Hill as "the hill the British call Cructan and the Anglo-Saxons call Crychbeorh". Some modern names are wholly Brittonic in origin, like Tarnock, Priddy, and Chard, while others have both Saxon and Brittonic elements, such as Pen Hill.

Main article: History of Somerset
A map of the county in 1646, author unknown

Prehistory

The caves of the Mendip Hills were settled during the Palaeolithic period, and contain extensive archaeological sites such as those at Cheddar Gorge. Bones from Gough's Cave have been dated to 12,000BCE, and a complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man, dates from 7150BCE. Examples of cave art have been found in Aveline's Hole. Some caves continued to be occupied until modern times, including Wookey Hole.

The Somerset Levels—specifically dry points at Glastonbury and Brent Knoll— also have a long history of settlement, and are known to have been settled by Mesolithic hunters. Travel in the area was facilitated by the construction of one of the world's oldest known engineered roadways, the Sweet Track, which dates from 3807BCE or 3806BCE.

The exact age of the henge monument at Stanton Drew stone circles is unknown, but it is believed to be Neolithic. There are numerous Iron Age hill forts, some of which, like Cadbury Castle and Ham Hill, were later reoccupied in the Early Middle Ages.

Roman invasion

On the authority of the future emperor Vespasian, as part of the ongoing expansion of the Roman presence in Britain, the Second Legion Augusta invaded Somerset from the south-east in 47CE. The county remained part of the Roman Empire until around 409CE, when the Roman occupation of Britain came to an end. A variety of Roman remains have been found, including Pagans Hill Roman temple in Chew Stoke, Low Ham Roman Villa and the Roman Baths that gave their name to the city of Bath.

Saxon and Norman invasions

Palladian Pulteney Bridge at Bath

After the Romans left, Britain was invaded by Anglo-Saxon peoples. By 600CE they had established control over much of what is now England, but Somerset was still in native British hands. The British held back Saxon advance into the south-west for some time longer, but by the early eighth century King Ine of Wessex had pushed the boundaries of the West Saxon kingdom far enough west to include Somerset. The Saxon royal palace in Cheddar was used several times in the 10th century to host the Witenagemot.

The nature of the relations between the Britons and the Saxons in Somerset is not entirely clear. Ine's laws demonstrate that the Britons were considered to be a significant enough population in Wessex to merit provisions; however, the laws also suggest that Britons could not attain the same social standing as the Saxons, and that many were slaves. In light of such policies, many Britons might have chosen to emigrate to places such as Brittany while those who remained would have had incentives to adopt Anglo-Saxon culture.

After the Norman Conquest, the county was divided into 700 fiefs, and large areas were owned by the crown, with fortifications such as Dunster Castle used for control and defence.

The 17th–19th centuries

Somerset contains HM Prison Shepton Mallet, which was England's oldest prison still in use prior to its closure in 2013, having opened in 1610. In the English Civil War Somerset was largely Parliamentarian, with key engagements being the Sieges of Taunton and the Battle of Langport.

In 1685 the Monmouth Rebellion was played out in Somerset and neighbouring Dorset. The rebels landed at Lyme Regis and travelled north, hoping to capture Bristol and Bath, but they were defeated in the Battle of Sedgemoor at Westonzoyland, the last pitched battle fought in England.

Arthur Wellesley took his title, Duke of Wellington from the town of Wellington; he is commemorated on a nearby hill by a large, spotlit obelisk, known as the Wellington Monument.

The Industrial Revolution in the Midlands and Northern England spelled the end for most of Somerset's cottage industries. Farming continued to flourish, and the Bath and West of England Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures and Commerce was founded in 1777 to improve farming methods. Despite this, 20 years later John Billingsley conducted a survey of the county's agriculture in 1795 and found that agricultural methods could still be improved. Coal mining was an important industry in north Somerset during the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1800 it was prominent in Radstock.

The Somerset Coalfield reached its peak production by the 1920s. All the pits have now been closed, the last in 1973. Most of the surface buildings have been removed, and apart from a winding wheel outside Radstock Museum, little evidence of their former existence remains. Further west, the Brendon Hills were mined for iron ore in the late 19th century; this was taken by the West Somerset Mineral Railway to Watchet Harbour for shipment to the furnaces at Ebbw Vale.

20th century

Many Somerset soldiers died during the First World War, with the Somerset Light Infantry suffering nearly 5,000 casualties. War memorials were put up in most of the county's towns and villages; only nine, described as the Thankful Villages, had none of their residents killed. During the Second World War the county was a base for troops preparing for the D-Day landings. Some of the hospitals which were built for the casualties of the war remain in use. The Taunton Stop Line was set up to repel a potential German invasion. The remains of its pill boxes can still be seen along the coast, and south through Ilminster and Chard.

A number of decoy towns were constructed in Somerset in World War II to protect Bristol and other towns. They were designed to mimic the nighttime geometry of "blacked out" streets, railway lines, and Bristol Temple Meads railway station, to encourage German bombers away from these targets. One, on the German radio navigation beam flight path to Bristol, was constructed on Beacon Batch. It was laid out by Shepperton Studios, based on aerial photographs of the city's railway marshalling yards. The decoys were fitted with dim red lights, simulating activities such as the stoking of steam locomotives. Burning bales of straw soaked in creosote were used to simulate the effects of incendiary bombs dropped by the first wave of Pathfinder night bombers; meanwhile, incendiary bombs dropped on the correct location were quickly smothered, wherever possible. Drums of oil were also ignited to simulate the effect of a blazing city or town, with the aim of fooling subsequent waves of bombers into dropping their bombs on the wrong location. The Chew Magna decoy town was hit by half a dozen bombs on 2 December 1940, and over a thousand incendiaries on 3 January 1941. The following night the Uphill decoy town, protecting the airfield at Weston-super-Mare, was bombed; a herd of dairy cows was hit, killing some and severely injuring others.

Boundaries

The Avon Gorge, the historic boundary between Gloucestershire and Somerset, and also Mercia and Wessex; Somerset is to the left

The boundaries of Somerset are very similar to how they were in medieval times. They have been largely unaltered. The River Avon formed much of the border with Gloucestershire, except that the hundred of Bath Forum, which straddles the Avon, formed part of Somerset. Bristol began as a town on the Gloucestershire side of the Avon, however as it grew it extended across the river into Somerset. In 1373 Edward III proclaimed "that the town of Bristol with its suburbs and precincts shall henceforth be separate from the counties of Gloucester and Somerset ... and that it should be a county by itself".

The present-day northern border of Somerset (adjoining the counties of Bristol and Gloucestershire) runs along the southern bank of the Avon from the Bristol Channel, then follows around the southern edge of the Bristol built-up area, before continuing upstream along the Avon, and then diverges from the river to include Bath and its historic hinterland to the north of the Avon, before meeting Wiltshire at the Three Shire Stones on the Fosse Way at Batheaston.

Cities and towns

Somerton took over from Ilchester as the county town in the late thirteenth century, but it declined in importance and the status of county town transferred to Taunton about 1366. The county has two cities, Bath and Wells, and 30 towns (including the county town of Taunton, which has no town council but instead is the chief settlement of the county's only extant borough). The largest urban areas in terms of population are Bath, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, Yeovil and Bridgwater.

Many settlements developed because of their strategic importance in relation to geographical features, such as river crossings or valleys in ranges of hills. Examples include Axbridge on the River Axe, Castle Cary on the River Cary, North Petherton on the River Parrett, and Ilminster, where there was a crossing point on the River Isle. Midsomer Norton lies on the River Somer; while the Wellow Brook and the Fosse Way Roman road run through Radstock. Chard is the most southerly town in Somerset and one of the highest, though at an altitude of 126 m (413 ft) Wiveliscombe is the highest town in the county.

Green belt

Main article: Avon Green Belt

The county contains several-miles-wide sections of the Avon green belt area, which is primarily in place to prevent urban sprawl from the Bristol and Bath built up areas encroaching into the rural areas of North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, and Mendip districts in the county, as well as maintaining surrounding countryside. It stretches from the coastline between the towns of Portishead and Clevedon, extending eastwards past Nailsea, around the Bristol conurbation, and through to the city of Bath. The green belt border intersects with the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) along its south boundary, and meets the Cotswolds AONB by its eastern extent along the Wiltshire county border, creating an extended area protected from inappropriate development.

Main article: Geography of Somerset

Geology

Main article: Geology of Somerset

Much of the landscape of Somerset falls into types determined by the underlying geology. These landscapes are the limestone karst and lias of the north, the clay vales and wetlands of the centre, the oolites of the east and south, and the Devonian sandstone of the west.

The River Brue in an artificial channel draining farmland near Glastonbury

To the north-east of the Somerset Levels, the Mendip Hills are moderately high limestone hills. The central and western Mendip Hills was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1972 and covers 198 km2 (76 sq mi). The main habitat on these hills is calcareous grassland, with some arable agriculture. To the south-west of the Somerset Levels are the Quantock Hills which was England's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designated in 1956 which is covered in heathland, oak woodlands, ancient parklands with plantations of conifer and covers 99 square kilometres. The Somerset Coalfield is part of a larger coalfield which stretches into Gloucestershire. To the north of the Mendip hills is the Chew Valley and to the south, on the clay substrate, are broad valleys which support dairy farming and drain into the Somerset Levels.

Caves and rivers

There is an extensive network of caves, including Wookey Hole, underground rivers, and gorges, including the Cheddar Gorge and Ebbor Gorge. The county has many rivers, including the Axe, Brue, Cary, Parrett, Sheppey, Tone and Yeo. These both feed and drain the flat levels and moors of mid and west Somerset. In the north of the county the River Chew flows into the Bristol Avon. The Parrett is tidal almost to Langport, where there is evidence of two Roman wharfs. At the same site during the reign of King Charles I, river tolls were levied on boats to pay for the maintenance of the bridge.

Levels and moors

The town of Glastonbury looking west from the top of Glastonbury Tor. The fields in the distance are the Somerset Levels.

The Somerset Levels (or Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known) are a sparsely populated wetland area of central Somerset, between the Quantock and Mendip hills. They consist of marine clay levels along the coast, and the inland (often peat based) moors. The Levels are divided into two by the Polden Hills. Land to the south is drained by the River Parrett while land to the north is drained by the River Axe and the River Brue. The total area of the Levels amounts to about 647.5 square kilometres (160,000 acres) and broadly corresponds to the administrative district of Sedgemoor but also includes the south west of Mendip district. Approximately 70% of the area is grassland and 30% is arable.

Stretching about 32 kilometres (20 mi) inland, this expanse of flat land barely rises above sea level. Before it was drained, much of the land was under a shallow brackish sea in winter and was marsh land in summer. Drainage began with the Romans, and was restarted at various times: by the Anglo-Saxons; in the Middle Ages by the Glastonbury Abbey, during 1400–1770; and during the Second World War, with the construction of the Huntspill River. Pumping and management of water levels still continues.

The Exmoor landscape with the native Exmoor Pony

The North Somerset Levels basin, north of the Mendips, covers a smaller geographical area than the Somerset Levels; and forms a coastal area around Avonmouth. It too was reclaimed by draining. It is mirrored, across the Severn Estuary, in Wales, by a similar low-lying area: the Caldicot and Wentloog Levels.

In the far west of the county, running into Devon, is Exmoor, a high Devonian sandstone moor, which was designated as a national park in 1954, under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. The highest point in Somerset is Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor, with a maximum elevation of 519 metres (1,703 feet).

Over 100 sites in Somerset have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Coastline

Brean Down from Steep Holm
The marina in Watchet

The 64 km (40 mi) coastline of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary forms part of the northern border of Somerset. The Bristol Channel has the second largest tidal range in the world. At Burnham-on-Sea, for example, the tidal range of a spring tide is more than 12 metres (39 feet). Proposals for the construction of a Severn Barrage aim to harness this energy. The island of Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel is within the ceremonial county and is now administered by North Somerset Council.

The main coastal towns are, from the west to the north-east, Minehead, Watchet, Burnham-on-Sea, Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon and Portishead. The coastal area between Minehead and the eastern extreme of the administrative county's coastline at Brean Down is known as Bridgwater Bay, and is a National Nature Reserve. North of that, the coast forms Weston Bay and Sand Bay whose northern tip, Sand Point, marks the lower limit of the Severn Estuary. In the mid and north of the county the coastline is low as the level wetlands of the levels meet the sea. In the west, the coastline is high and dramatic where the plateau of Exmoor meets the sea, with high cliffs and waterfalls.

Climate

Along with the rest of South West England, Somerset has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50.0 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1 °C (33.8 °F) or 2 °C (35.6 °F) are common. In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, but convective cloud sometimes forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1,600 hours.

In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton. Most of the rainfall in the south-west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most of the rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.

Climate data for Yeovilton, England (1981–2010) data
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.1
(46.6)
8.3
(46.9)
10.6
(51.1)
12.9
(55.2)
16.5
(61.7)
19.3
(66.7)
21.7
(71.1)
21.5
(70.7)
18.6
(65.5)
14.8
(58.6)
11.1
(52.0)
9.0
(48.2)
14.4
(57.9)
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.8
(40.6)
4.8
(40.6)
6.7
(44.1)
8.3
(46.9)
11.7
(53.1)
14.5
(58.1)
16.8
(62.2)
16.6
(61.9)
14.1
(57.4)
10.9
(51.6)
7.4
(45.3)
5.7
(42.3)
10.2
(50.4)
Average low °C (°F) 1.4
(34.5)
1.3
(34.3)
2.7
(36.9)
3.7
(38.7)
6.8
(44.2)
9.7
(49.5)
11.9
(53.4)
11.7
(53.1)
9.6
(49.3)
6.9
(44.4)
3.6
(38.5)
2.4
(36.3)
6.0
(42.8)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 72.0
(2.83)
55.6
(2.19)
56.5
(2.22)
47.3
(1.86)
48.9
(1.93)
57.2
(2.25)
48.9
(1.93)
56.6
(2.23)
64.5
(2.54)
67.9
(2.67)
65.8
(2.59)
83.3
(3.28)
724.5
(28.52)
Average rainy days 12.5 10.2 10.9 9.2 8.8 8.5 6.9 8.6 10.1 11.3 11.6 12.6 121.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 50.2 68.9 107.6 155.4 193.1 186.0 205.8 197.8 139.8 101.1 70.2 46.8 1,522.7
Source:
Main article: Economy of Somerset
The Dunster Yarn Market was built in 1609 for the trading of local cloth.

Somerset has few industrial centres, but it does have a variety of light industry and high technology businesses, along with traditional agriculture and an increasingly important tourism sector, resulting in an unemployment rate of 2.5%. Tourism was estimated in 2013 to support around 26,000 people.

Bridgwater was developed during the Industrial Revolution as the area's leading port. The River Parrett was navigable by large ships as far as Bridgwater. Cargoes were then loaded onto smaller boats at Langport Quay, next to the Bridgwater Bridge, to be carried further up river to Langport; or they could turn off at Burrowbridge and then travel via the River Tone to Taunton. The Parrett is now only navigable as far as Dunball Wharf. Bridgwater, in the 19th and 20th centuries, was a centre for the manufacture of bricks and clay roof tiles, and later cellophane, but those industries have now stopped.

With its good links to the motorway system, Bridgwater has developed as a distribution hub for companies such as Argos, Toolstation, Morrisons and Gerber Juice. AgustaWestland manufactures helicopters in Yeovil, and Normalair Garratt, builder of aircraft oxygen systems, is also based in the town.

Somerset is an important supplier of defence equipment and technology. A Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Bridgwater was built at the start of the Second World War, between the villages of Puriton and Woolavington, to manufacture explosives. The site was decommissioned and closed in July 2008. Templecombe has Thales Underwater Systems, and Taunton presently has the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and Avimo, which became part of Thales Optics. It was announced twice, in 2006 and 2007, that manufacturing is to end at Thales Optics' Taunton site, but the trade unions and Taunton Deane District Council are working to reverse or mitigate these decisions. Other high-technology companies include the optics company Gooch and Housego, at Ilminster. There are Ministry of Defence offices in Bath, and Norton Fitzwarren is the home of 40 Commando Royal Marines. The Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton, is one of Britain's two active Fleet Air Arm bases and is home to the Royal Navy's AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopters and the Royal Marines Commando AgustaWestland AW101 Merlins.

A traditional cider apple orchard at Over Stratton, with sheep grazing

Agriculture and food and drink production continue to be major industries in the county, employing over 15,000 people. Apple orchards were once plentiful, and Somerset is still a major producer of cider. The towns of Taunton and Shepton Mallet are involved with the production of cider, especially Blackthorn Cider, which is sold nationwide, and there are specialist producers such as Burrow Hill Cider Farm and Thatchers Cider. Gerber Products Company in Bridgwater is the largest producer of fruit juices in Europe, producing brands such as Sunny Delight and Ocean Spray. Development of the milk-based industries, such as Ilchester Cheese Company and Yeo Valley Organic, have resulted in the production of ranges of desserts, yoghurts and cheeses.

Traditional willow growing and weaving (such as basket weaving) is not as extensive as it used to be but is still carried out on the Somerset Levels and is commemorated at the Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre. Fragments of willow basket were found near the Glastonbury Lake Village, and it was also used in the construction of several Iron Age causeways. The willow was harvested using a traditional method of pollarding, where a tree would be cut back to the main stem. During the 1930s more than 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) of willow were being grown commercially on the Levels. Largely due to the displacement of baskets with plastic bags and cardboard boxes, the industry has severely declined since the 1950s. By the end of the 20th century only about 140 hectares (350 acres) were grown commercially, near the villages of Burrowbridge, Westonzoyland and North Curry.

Towns such as Castle Cary and Frome grew around the medieval weaving industry. Street developed as a centre for the production of woollen slippers and, later, boots and shoes, with C&J Clark establishing its headquarters in the village. C&J Clark's shoes are no longer manufactured there as the work was transferred to lower-wage areas, such as China and Asia.

Stone quarries are still a major employer in Somerset

The county has a long tradition of supplying freestone and building stone. Quarries at Doulting supplied freestone used in the construction of Wells Cathedral. Bath stone is also widely used. Ralph Allen promoted its use in the early 18th century, as did Hans Price in the 19th century, but it was used long before then. It was mined underground at Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines, and as a result of cutting the Box Tunnel, at locations in Wiltshire such as Box. Bath stone is still used on a reduced scale today, but more often as a cladding rather than a structural material. Further south, Hamstone is the colloquial name given to stone from Ham Hill, which is also widely used in the construction industry. Blue Lias has been used locally as a building stone and as a raw material for lime mortar and Portland cement. Until the 1960s, Puriton had Blue Lias stone quarries, as did several other Polden villages. Its quarries also supplied a cement factory at Dunball, adjacent to the King's Sedgemoor Drain. Its derelict, early 20th century remains, was removed when the M5 motorway was constructed in the mid-1970s. Since the 1920s, the county has supplied aggregates. Foster Yeoman is Europe's large supplier of limestone aggregates, with quarries at Merehead Quarry. It has a dedicated railway operation, Mendip Rail, which is used to transport aggregates by rail from a group of Mendip quarries.

In November 2008, a public sector inward investment organisation was launched, called Into Somerset, with the intention of growing the county's economy by promoting it to businesses that may wish to relocate from other parts of the UK (especially London) and the world. This now part of the Heart of the South West Growth Hub.

Nuclear electricity

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is a project to construct a 3,200 MW two reactor nuclear power station. On 18 October 2010, the British government announced that Hinkley Point – already the site of the disused Hinkley Point A and the still operational Hinkley Point B power stations – was one of the eight sites it considered suitable for future nuclear power stations. NNB Generation Company, a subsidiary of EDF, submitted an application for development consent to the Infrastructure Planning Commission on 31 October 2011. A protest group, Stop Hinkley, was formed to campaign for the closure of Hinkley Point B and oppose any expansion at the Hinkley Point site. In December 2013, the European Commission opened an investigation to assess whether the project breaks state-aid rules. On 8 October 2014 it was announced that the European Commission has approved the project, with an overwhelming majority and only four commissioners voting against the decision. Construction is underway and is projected to be completed in 2025.

In the 2011 census the population of the Somerset County Council area was 529,972 with 176,015 in Bath and North East Somerset, and 202,566 in North Somerset giving a total for the ceremonial county of 908,553.

Population growth is higher than the national average, with a 6.4% increase, in the Somerset County Council area, since 1991, and a 17% increase since 1981. The population density is 1.4 persons per hectare, which can be compared to 2.07 persons per hectare for the South West region. Within the county, population density ranges 0.5 in West Somerset to 2.2 persons per hectare in Taunton Deane. The percentage of the population who are economically active is higher than the regional and national average, and the unemployment rate is lower than the regional and national average.

Somerset has a high indigenous British population, with 94.6% registering as white British, and 2.0% as belonging to black and ethnic minority (BME) groups, according to the 2011 Census. Over 25% of Somerset's population is concentrated in Taunton, Bridgwater and Yeovil. The rest of the county is rural and sparsely populated. Over 9 million tourist nights are spent in Somerset each year, which significantly increases the population at peak times.

Population since 1801
Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Somerset CC area 187,266 276,684 277,563 280,215 282,411 284,740 305,244 327,505 355,292 385,698 417,450 468,395 498,093 529,972
BANES 57,188 96,992 107,637 113,732 113,351 112,972 123,185 134,346 144,950 156,421 154,083 164,737 169,045 176,015
North Somerset 16,670 33,774 60,066 68,410 75,276 82,833 91,967 102,119 119,509 139,924 160,353 179,865 188,556 202,566
Total 261,124 407,450 445,266 462,357 471,038 479,758 520,396 563,970 619,751 682,043 731,886 812,997 855,694 908,553

UK Parliament

Weston-super-Mare Town Hall, the administrative headquarters of North Somerset

The county is divided into nine constituencies, each returning one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons. In the June 2017 general election, eight constituencies of the county elected Conservative MPs, while Bath elected a Liberal Democrat. The ceremonial county of Somerset contains the constituencies Bridgwater and West Somerset, North East Somerset, North Somerset, Bath, Somerton and Frome, Taunton Deane, Wells, Yeovil, and Weston-super-Mare. Traditionally several of these have been relatively strong constituencies for the Liberal Democrats, with Labour often getting few votes, even in larger towns such as Yeovil. In the 2019 general election, all nine seats were held, with Jacob Rees-Mogg increasing his majority in North Somerset, as well as Wera Hobhouse doubling her majority in the Liberal Democrat Bath seat.

European Parliament

From 1984 to 1994, Somerset was represented by Conservative Margaret Daly as part of the Somerset and Dorset West constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

From 1994 to 1999, Somerset was represented by Liberal Democrat Graham Watson as part of the Somerset and North Devon constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

From 1999 to 2020, Somerset was part of the South West England constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

The ceremonial county of Somerset consists of a two-tier non-metropolitan county, which is administered by Somerset County Council and four district councils, and two unitary authority areas (whose councils combine the functions of a county and a district). The four districts of Somerset are Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset, Mendip, and Sedgemoor. The two unitary authorities – which were established on 1 April 1996 following the break-up of the short-lived county of Avon — are North Somerset, and Bath & North East Somerset. In 2019 West Somerset and Taunton Deane merged to form Somerset West and Taunton.

These unitary authorities formed part of the administrative county of Somerset before the creation of Avon (a county created to cover Bristol and its environs in north Somerset and south Gloucestershire) in 1974. Bath however was a largely independent county borough during the existence of the administrative county of Somerset (from 1889 to 1974).

In 2007, proposals to abolish the five district councils in favour of a unitary authority (covering the existing two-tier county) were rejected following local opposition. In September 2016, West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils agreed in principle to merge the districts. This was achieved on 1 April 2019 with the first elections to the new council being held in May 2019. The new district is not a unitary authority, with Somerset County Council still performing its functions.

Civil parishes

Almost all of the county is covered by the lowest/most local form of English local government, the civil parish, with either a town or parish council (a city council in the instance of Wells) or a parish meeting; some parishes group together, with a single council or meeting for the group. The city of Bath (the area of the former county borough) and much of the town of Taunton are unparished areas.

All of the ceremonial county of Somerset is covered by the Avon and Somerset Police, a police force which also covers Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The police force is governed by the elected Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner. The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service was formed in 2007 upon the merger of the Somerset Fire and Rescue Service with its neighbouring Devon service; it covers the area of Somerset County Council as well as the entire ceremonial county of Devon. The unitary districts of North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset are instead covered by the Avon Fire and Rescue Service, a service which also covers Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The South Western Ambulance Service covers the entire South West of England, including all of Somerset; prior to February 2013 the unitary districts of Somerset came under the Great Western Ambulance Service, which merged into South Western. The Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is a charitable organisation based in the county.

Main article: Culture of Somerset
The west front of Wells Cathedral

In Arthurian legend, Avalon became associated with Glastonbury Tor when monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the bones of King Arthur and his queen. What is more certain is that Glastonbury was an important religious centre by 700 and claims to be "the oldest above-ground Christian church in the World" situated "in the mystical land of Avalon". The claim is based on dating the founding of the community of monks at AD 63, the year of the legendary visit of Joseph of Arimathea, who was supposed to have brought the Holy Grail.

During the Middle Ages there were also important religious sites at Woodspring Priory and Muchelney Abbey. The present Diocese of Bath and Wells covers Somerset – with the exception of the Parish of Abbots Leigh with Leigh Woods in North Somerset – and a small area of Dorset. The Episcopal seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells is now in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in the city of Wells, having previously been at Bath Abbey. Before the English Reformation, it was a Roman Catholic diocese; the county now falls within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clifton. The Benedictine monastery Saint Gregory's Abbey, commonly known as Downside Abbey, is at Stratton-on-the-Fosse, and the ruins of the former Cistercian Cleeve Abbey are near the village of Washford.

Somerset has traditions of art, music and literature. Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote while staying in Coleridge Cottage, Nether Stowey. The novelist John Cowper Powys (1872–1963) lived in the Somerset village of Montacute from 1885 until 1894 and his novels Wood and Stone (1915) and A Glastonbury Romance (1932) are set in Somerset. The writer Evelyn Waugh spent his last years in the village of Combe Florey.

Traditional folk music, both song and dance, was important in the agricultural communities. Somerset songs were collected by Cecil Sharp and incorporated into works such as Holst's A Somerset Rhapsody. Halsway Manor near Williton is an international centre for folk music. The tradition continues today with groups such as The Wurzels specialising in Scrumpy and Western music.

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts takes place most years in Pilton, near Shepton Mallet, attracting over 170,000 music and culture lovers from around the world to see world-famous entertainers. The Big Green Gathering which grew out of the Green fields at the Glastonbury Festival is held in the Mendip Hills between Charterhouse and Compton Martin each summer. The annual Bath Literature Festival is one of several local festivals in the county; others include the Frome Festival and the Trowbridge Village Pump Festival, which, despite its name, is held at Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset. The annual circuit of West Country Carnivals is held in a variety of Somerset towns during the autumn, forming a major regional festival, and the largest Festival of Lights in Europe.

Glastonbury Tor
Tyntesfield

The county has several museums; those at Bath include the American Museum in Britain, the Museum of Bath Architecture, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, the Jane Austen Centre, and the Roman Baths. Other visitor attractions which reflect the cultural heritage of the county include: Claverton Pumping Station, Dunster Working Watermill, the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Nunney Castle, The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, King John's Hunting Lodge in Axbridge, Blake Museum Bridgwater, Radstock Museum, Museum of Somerset in Taunton, the Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury, and Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum.

Somerset has 11,500 listed buildings, 523 scheduled monuments, 192 conservation areas, 41 parks and gardens including those at Barrington Court, Holnicote Estate, Prior Park Landscape Garden and Tintinhull Garden, 36 English Heritage sites and 19 National Trust sites, including Clevedon Court, Fyne Court, Montacute House and Tyntesfield as well as Stembridge Tower Mill, the last remaining thatched windmill in England. Other historic houses in the county which have remained in private ownership or used for other purposes include Halswell House and Marston Bigot. A key contribution of Somerset architecture is its medieval church towers. Jenkins writes, "These structures, with their buttresses, bell-opening tracery and crowns, rank with Nottinghamshire alabaster as England's finest contribution to medieval art."

Bath Rugby play at the Recreation Ground in Bath, and the Somerset County Cricket Club are based at the County Ground in Taunton. The county gained its first Football League club in 2003, when Yeovil Town won promotion to Division Three as Football Conference champions. They had achieved numerous FA Cup victories over football League sides in the past 50 years, and since joining the elite they have won promotion again—as League Two champions in 2005. They came close to yet another promotion in 2007, when they reached the League One playoff final, but lost to Blackpool at the newly reopened Wembley Stadium. Yeovil achieved promotion to the Championship in 2013 after beating Brentford in the playoff final. Horse racing courses are at Taunton, Bath and Wincanton.

In addition to English national newspapers the county is served by the regional Western Daily Press and local newspapers including The Weston & Somerset Mercury, the Bath Chronicle, Chew Valley Gazette, Somerset County Gazette, Clevedon Mercury Mendip Times, and the West Somerset Free Press. Television and radio are provided by BBC Points West and BBC Somerset, Heart West Country, The Breeze (Yeovil & South Somerset) Yeovil, and HTV, now known as ITV Wales & West Ltd, but still commonly referred to as HTV.

The Flag of Somerset, representing the ceremonial county, has been registered with the Flag Institute following a competition in July 2013.

Main article: Transport in Somerset
Bristol Airport, which is located in North Somerset

Somerset has 6,531 km (4,058 mi) of roads. The main arterial routes, which include the M5 motorway, A303, A37, A38, A39, A358 and A361 give good access across the county, but many areas can only be accessed via narrow country lanes.

Rail services are provided by the West of England Main Line through Yeovil Junction, the Bristol to Exeter line, Heart of Wessex line which runs from Bristol Temple Meads to Weymouth and the Reading to Taunton line. The main train operator in Somerset is Great Western Railway, with other services operated by South Western Railway and CrossCountry.

Bristol Airport, located in North Somerset, provides national and international air services.

The Somerset Coal Canal was built in the early 19th century to reduce the cost of transportation of coal and other heavy produce. The first 16 kilometres (10 mi), running from a junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal, along the Cam valley, to a terminal basin at Paulton, were in use by 1805, together with several tramways. A planned 11.7 km (7.3 mi) branch to Midford was never built, but in 1815 a tramway was laid along its towing path. In 1871 the tramway was purchased by the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR), and operated until the 1950s.

The 19th century saw improvements to Somerset's roads with the introduction of turnpikes, and the building of canals and railways. Nineteenth-century canals included the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, Westport Canal, Glastonbury Canal and Chard Canal. The Dorset & Somerset Canal was proposed, but little of it was ever constructed and it was abandoned in 1803.

A steam locomotive and carriages, on the West Somerset Railway, a heritage line of notable length, in spring 2015

The usefulness of the canals was short-lived, though some have now been restored for recreation. The 19th century also saw the construction of railways to and through Somerset. The county was served by five pre-1923 Grouping railway companies: the Great Western Railway (GWR); a branch of the Midland Railway (MR) to Bath Green Park (and another one to Bristol); the S&DJR, and the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR).

The former main lines of the GWR are still in use today, although many of its branch lines were scrapped as part of the Beeching cuts. The former lines of the S&DJR closed completely, as has the branch of the Midland Railway to Bath Green Park (and to Bristol St Philips). The L&SWR survived as a part of the present West of England Main Line. None of these lines, in Somerset, are electrified. Two branch lines, the West and East Somerset Railways, were rescued and transferred back to private ownership as "heritage" lines. The fifth railway was a short-lived light railway, the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway. The West Somerset Mineral Railway carried the iron ore from the Brendon Hills to Watchet.

Until the 1960s the piers at Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon, Portishead and Minehead were served by the paddle steamers of P & A Campbell who ran regular services to Barry and Cardiff as well as Ilfracombe and Lundy Island. The original stone pier at Burnham-on-Sea was used for commercial goods, one of the reasons for the S&DJR was to provide a link between the Bristol Channel and the English Channel. The newer concrete pier at Burnham-on-Sea is claimed to be the shortest pier in Britain. In the 1970s the Royal Portbury Dock was constructed to provide extra capacity for the Port of Bristol.

For long-distance holiday traffic travelling through the county to and from Devon and Cornwall, Somerset is often regarded as a marker on the journey. North–south traffic moves through the county via the M5 motorway. Traffic to and from the east travels either via the A303 road, or the M4 motorway, which runs east–west, crossing the M5 motorway just beyond the northern limits of the county.

State schools in Somerset are provided by three local education authorities: Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, and the larger Somerset County Council. All state schools are comprehensive. In some areas primary, infant and junior schools cater for ages four to eleven, after which the pupils move on to secondary schools. There is a three-tier system of first, middle and upper schools in the Cheddar Valley, and in West Somerset, while most other schools in the county use the two-tier system. Somerset has 30 state and 17 independent secondary schools; Bath and North East Somerset has 13 state and 5 independent secondary schools; and North Somerset has 10 state and 2 independent secondary schools, excluding sixth form colleges.

% of pupils gaining 5 grades A-C including English and Maths in 2006 (average for England is 45.8%)
Education Authority %
Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority) 52.0%
West Somerset 51.0%
Taunton Deane 49.5%
Mendip 47.7%
North Somerset (Unitary Authority) 47.4%
South Somerset 42.3%
Sedgemoor 41.4%

Some of the county's secondary schools have specialist school status. Some schools have sixth forms and others transfer their sixth formers to colleges. Several schools can trace their origins back many years, such as The Blue School in Wells and Richard Huish College in Taunton. Others have changed their names over the years such as Beechen Cliff School which was started in 1905 as the City of Bath Boys' School and changed to its present name in 1972 when the grammar school was amalgamated with a local secondary modern school, to form a comprehensive school. Many others were established and built since the Second World War. In 2006, 5,900 pupils in Somerset sat GCSE examinations, with 44.5% achieving 5 grades A-C including English and Maths (compared to 45.8% for England).

Sexey's School is a state boarding school in Bruton that also takes day pupils from the surrounding area. The Somerset LEA also provides special schools such as Newbury Manor School, which caters for children aged between 10 and 17 with special educational needs. Provision for pupils with special educational needs is also made by the mainstream schools.

There is also a range of independent or public schools. Many of these are for pupils between 11 and 18 years, such as King's College, Taunton, Wellington School, Somerset and Taunton School. King's School, Bruton, was founded in 1519 and received royal foundation status around 30 years later in the reign of Edward VI. Millfield is the largest co-educational boarding school. There are also preparatory schools for younger children, such as All Hallows, and Hazlegrove Preparatory School. Chilton Cantelo School offers places both to day pupils and boarders aged 7 to 16. Other schools provide education for children from the age of 3 or 4 years through to 18, such as King Edward's School, Bath, Queen's College, Taunton and Wells Cathedral School which is one of the five established musical schools for school-age children in Britain.

Some of these schools have religious affiliations, such as Monkton Combe School, Prior Park College, Sidcot School which is associated with the Religious Society of Friends, Downside School which is a Roman Catholic public school in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, situated next to the Benedictine Downside Abbey, and Kingswood School, which was founded by John Wesley in 1748 in Kingswood near Bristol, originally for the education of the sons of the itinerant ministers (clergy) of the Methodist Church.

Further and higher education

A wide range of adult education and further education courses is available in Somerset, in schools, colleges and other community venues. The colleges include Weston College, Bridgwater and Taunton College (formed in 2016 when Bridgwater College and Somerset College of Arts and Technology merged, and includes the Taunton-based University Centre Somerset), Bath College, Frome Community College, Richard Huish College, Strode College and Yeovil College. Somerset County Council operates Dillington House, a residential adult education college located in Ilminster.

The University of Bath, Bath Spa University and University Centre Weston are higher education establishments in the north of the county. The University of Bath gained its Royal Charter in 1966, although its origins go back to the Bristol Trade School (founded 1856) and Bath School of Pharmacy (founded 1907). It has a purpose-built campus at Claverton on the outskirts of Bath, and has 15,000 students. Bath Spa University, which is based at Newton St Loe, achieved university status in 2005, and has origins including the Bath Academy of Art (founded 1898), Bath Teacher Training College, and the Bath College of Higher Education. It has several campuses and 5,500 students.

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Somerset
Somerset Language Watch Edit This article is about the county in England For other uses see Somerset disambiguation Somerset ˈ s ʌ m er s ɪ t s ɛ t listen 2 archaically Somersetshire is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north Wiltshire to the east Dorset to the south east and Devon to the south west It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel its coastline facing southeastern Wales Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon 3 Somerset s county town is Taunton SomersetCeremonial countyFlagCoat of armsMotto s Old English Sumorsǣte ealle English All The People of Somerset Coordinates 51 06 N 2 54 W 51 100 N 2 900 W 51 100 2 900 Coordinates 51 06 N 2 54 W 51 100 N 2 900 W 51 100 2 900Sovereign stateUnited KingdomConstituent countryEnglandRegionSouth West EnglandEstablishedAncientTime zoneUTC 00 00 Greenwich Mean Time Summer DST UTC 01 00 British Summer Time Members of ParliamentRebecca Pow C Wera Hobhouse LD Liam Fox C David Warburton C Marcus Fysh C Ian Liddell Grainger C James Heappey C Jacob Rees Mogg C John Penrose C Ceremonial countyLord LieutenantAnne MawHigh SheriffMrs Mary Clare Rodwell 1 2020 21 Area4 171 km2 1 610 sq mi Ranked7th of 48Population mid 2019 est 965 424 Ranked22nd of 48Density232 km2 600 sq mi Ethnicity98 5 WhiteDistrictsDistricts of SomersetDistrictsSouth Somerset Somerset West and Taunton Sedgemoor Mendip Bath and North East Somerset Unitary North Somerset Unitary Somerset is a rural county of rolling hills the Blackdown Hills Mendip Hills Quantock Hills and Exmoor National Park and large flat expanses of land including the Somerset Levels There is evidence of human occupation from Paleolithic times and of subsequent settlement by the Celts Romans and Anglo Saxons The county played a significant part in Alfred the Great s rise to power and later the English Civil War and the Monmouth Rebellion The city of Bath is famous for its Georgian architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Contents 1 Toponymy 2 History 2 1 Prehistory 2 2 Roman invasion 2 3 Saxon and Norman invasions 2 4 The 17th 19th centuries 2 5 20th century 3 Human geography 3 1 Boundaries 3 2 Cities and towns 3 3 Green belt 4 Physical geography 4 1 Geology 4 2 Caves and rivers 4 3 Levels and moors 4 4 Coastline 4 5 Climate 5 Economy and industry 5 1 Nuclear electricity 6 Demography 7 Politics 7 1 UK Parliament 7 2 European Parliament 8 Local government 8 1 Civil parishes 9 Emergency services 10 Culture 11 Transport 12 Education 12 1 Further and higher education 13 See also 14 Footnotes 15 References 16 Further reading 17 External linksToponymy EditSomerset s name derives from Old English Sumorsǣte short for Sumortunsǣte meaning the people living at or dependent on Sumortun Somerton 4 The first known use of Somersaete is in the law code of King Ine who was the Saxon King of Wessex from 688 726 CE making Somerset along with Hampshire Wiltshire and Dorset one of the oldest extant units of local government in the world 5 An alternative suggestion is the name derives from Seo mere saetan meaning settlers by the sea lakes 6 The Old English name is used in the motto of the county Sumorsǣte ealle meaning all the people of Somerset Adopted as the motto in 1911 the phrase is taken from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle Somerset was a part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Wessex and the phrase refers to the wholehearted support the people of Somerset gave to King Alfred in his struggle to save Wessex from Viking invaders 7 8 9 Somerset settlement names are mostly Anglo Saxon in origin for example Bath Somerton Wells and Keynsham 10 but numerous place names include British Celtic elements such as the rivers Frome and Avon and names of hills For example an Anglo Saxon charter of 682 refers to Creechborough Hill as the hill the British call Cructan and the Anglo Saxons call Crychbeorh 11 Some modern names are wholly Brittonic in origin like Tarnock Priddy and Chard while others have both Saxon and Brittonic elements such as Pen Hill 12 13 History EditMain article History of Somerset A map of the county in 1646 author unknown Prehistory Edit The caves of the Mendip Hills were settled during the Palaeolithic period 14 and contain extensive archaeological sites such as those at Cheddar Gorge Bones from Gough s Cave have been dated to 12 000 BCE and a complete skeleton known as Cheddar Man dates from 7150 BCE 15 Examples of cave art have been found in Aveline s Hole 16 Some caves continued to be occupied until modern times including Wookey Hole The Somerset Levels specifically dry points at Glastonbury and Brent Knoll also have a long history of settlement and are known to have been settled by Mesolithic hunters 17 18 Travel in the area was facilitated by the construction of one of the world s oldest known engineered roadways the Sweet Track which dates from 3807 BCE or 3806 BCE a 20 21 The exact age of the henge monument at Stanton Drew stone circles is unknown but it is believed to be Neolithic 22 There are numerous Iron Age hill forts some of which like Cadbury Castle 23 and Ham Hill were later reoccupied in the Early Middle Ages 24 Roman invasion Edit On the authority of the future emperor Vespasian as part of the ongoing expansion of the Roman presence in Britain the Second Legion Augusta invaded Somerset from the south east in 47 CE The county remained part of the Roman Empire until around 409 CE when the Roman occupation of Britain came to an end 3 A variety of Roman remains have been found including Pagans Hill Roman temple in Chew Stoke 25 Low Ham Roman Villa and the Roman Baths that gave their name to the city of Bath 26 Saxon and Norman invasions Edit Palladian Pulteney Bridge at Bath After the Romans left Britain was invaded by Anglo Saxon peoples By 600 CE they had established control over much of what is now England but Somerset was still in native British hands The British held back Saxon advance into the south west for some time longer but by the early eighth century King Ine of Wessex had pushed the boundaries of the West Saxon kingdom far enough west to include Somerset 27 The Saxon royal palace in Cheddar was used several times in the 10th century to host the Witenagemot 28 The nature of the relations between the Britons and the Saxons in Somerset is not entirely clear Ine s laws demonstrate that the Britons were considered to be a significant enough population in Wessex to merit provisions however the laws also suggest that Britons could not attain the same social standing as the Saxons and that many were slaves 29 In light of such policies many Britons might have chosen to emigrate to places such as Brittany 30 while those who remained would have had incentives to adopt Anglo Saxon culture 31 After the Norman Conquest the county was divided into 700 fiefs and large areas were owned by the crown 32 with fortifications such as Dunster Castle used for control and defence The 17th 19th centuries Edit Somerset contains HM Prison Shepton Mallet which was England s oldest prison still in use prior to its closure in 2013 having opened in 1610 33 In the English Civil War Somerset was largely Parliamentarian 34 with key engagements being the Sieges of Taunton and the Battle of Langport 35 In 1685 the Monmouth Rebellion was played out in Somerset and neighbouring Dorset 36 The rebels landed at Lyme Regis and travelled north hoping to capture Bristol and Bath but they were defeated in the Battle of Sedgemoor at Westonzoyland the last pitched battle fought in England 37 Arthur Wellesley took his title Duke of Wellington from the town of Wellington 38 he is commemorated on a nearby hill by a large spotlit obelisk known as the Wellington Monument 39 The Industrial Revolution in the Midlands and Northern England spelled the end for most of Somerset s cottage industries Farming continued to flourish and the Bath and West of England Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture Arts Manufactures and Commerce was founded in 1777 to improve farming methods Despite this 20 years later John Billingsley conducted a survey of the county s agriculture in 1795 and found that agricultural methods could still be improved 40 Coal mining was an important industry in north Somerset during the 18th and 19th centuries and by 1800 it was prominent in Radstock 41 The Somerset Coalfield reached its peak production by the 1920s All the pits have now been closed the last in 1973 42 Most of the surface buildings have been removed and apart from a winding wheel outside Radstock Museum little evidence of their former existence remains Further west the Brendon Hills were mined for iron ore in the late 19th century this was taken by the West Somerset Mineral Railway to Watchet Harbour for shipment to the furnaces at Ebbw Vale 43 20th century Edit Many Somerset soldiers died during the First World War with the Somerset Light Infantry suffering nearly 5 000 casualties 44 War memorials were put up in most of the county s towns and villages only nine described as the Thankful Villages had none of their residents killed During the Second World War the county was a base for troops preparing for the D Day landings Some of the hospitals which were built for the casualties of the war remain in use The Taunton Stop Line was set up to repel a potential German invasion The remains of its pill boxes can still be seen along the coast and south through Ilminster and Chard 45 A number of decoy towns were constructed in Somerset in World War II to protect Bristol and other towns They were designed to mimic the nighttime geometry of blacked out streets railway lines and Bristol Temple Meads railway station to encourage German bombers away from these targets 46 One on the German radio navigation beam flight path to Bristol was constructed on Beacon Batch 46 23 It was laid out by Shepperton Studios based on aerial photographs of the city s railway marshalling yards 46 The decoys were fitted with dim red lights simulating activities such as the stoking of steam locomotives Burning bales of straw soaked in creosote were used to simulate the effects of incendiary bombs dropped by the first wave of Pathfinder night bombers meanwhile incendiary bombs dropped on the correct location were quickly smothered wherever possible Drums of oil were also ignited to simulate the effect of a blazing city or town with the aim of fooling subsequent waves of bombers into dropping their bombs on the wrong location 46 The Chew Magna decoy town was hit by half a dozen bombs on 2 December 1940 and over a thousand incendiaries on 3 January 1941 46 The following night the Uphill decoy town protecting the airfield at Weston super Mare was bombed a herd of dairy cows was hit killing some and severely injuring others 46 Human geography EditBoundaries Edit The Avon Gorge the historic boundary between Gloucestershire and Somerset and also Mercia and Wessex Somerset is to the left The boundaries of Somerset are very similar to how they were in medieval times They have been largely unaltered The River Avon formed much of the border with Gloucestershire except that the hundred of Bath Forum which straddles the Avon formed part of Somerset Bristol began as a town on the Gloucestershire side of the Avon however as it grew it extended across the river into Somerset In 1373 Edward III proclaimed that the town of Bristol with its suburbs and precincts shall henceforth be separate from the counties of Gloucester and Somerset and that it should be a county by itself 47 The present day northern border of Somerset adjoining the counties of Bristol and Gloucestershire runs along the southern bank of the Avon from the Bristol Channel then follows around the southern edge of the Bristol built up area before continuing upstream along the Avon and then diverges from the river to include Bath and its historic hinterland to the north of the Avon before meeting Wiltshire at the Three Shire Stones on the Fosse Way at Batheaston 48 Cities and towns Edit See also List of places in Somerset List of settlements in Somerset by population and Category Populated places in Somerset Somerton took over from Ilchester as the county town in the late thirteenth century 49 but it declined in importance and the status of county town transferred to Taunton about 1366 50 The county has two cities Bath and Wells and 30 towns including the county town of Taunton which has no town council but instead is the chief settlement of the county s only extant borough The largest urban areas in terms of population are Bath Weston super Mare Taunton Yeovil and Bridgwater 51 Many settlements developed because of their strategic importance in relation to geographical features such as river crossings or valleys in ranges of hills Examples include Axbridge on the River Axe Castle Cary on the River Cary North Petherton on the River Parrett and Ilminster where there was a crossing point on the River Isle Midsomer Norton lies on the River Somer while the Wellow Brook and the Fosse Way Roman road run through Radstock Chard is the most southerly town in Somerset and one of the highest though at an altitude of 126 m 413 ft Wiveliscombe is the highest town in the county Green belt Edit Main article Avon Green Belt The county contains several miles wide sections of the Avon green belt area which is primarily in place to prevent urban sprawl from the Bristol and Bath built up areas encroaching into the rural areas of North Somerset 52 Bath and North East Somerset 53 and Mendip 54 districts in the county as well as maintaining surrounding countryside It stretches from the coastline between the towns of Portishead and Clevedon extending eastwards past Nailsea around the Bristol conurbation and through to the city of Bath The green belt border intersects with the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty AONB along its south boundary and meets the Cotswolds AONB by its eastern extent along the Wiltshire county border creating an extended area protected from inappropriate development Physical geography EditMain article Geography of Somerset See also List of hills of Somerset Geology Edit Main article Geology of Somerset Much of the landscape of Somerset falls into types determined by the underlying geology These landscapes are the limestone karst and lias of the north the clay vales and wetlands of the centre the oolites of the east and south and the Devonian sandstone of the west 55 The River Brue in an artificial channel draining farmland near Glastonbury To the north east of the Somerset Levels the Mendip Hills are moderately high limestone hills The central and western Mendip Hills was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1972 and covers 198 km2 76 sq mi 56 The main habitat on these hills is calcareous grassland with some arable agriculture To the south west of the Somerset Levels are the Quantock Hills which was England s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designated in 1956 57 which is covered in heathland oak woodlands ancient parklands with plantations of conifer and covers 99 square kilometres The Somerset Coalfield is part of a larger coalfield which stretches into Gloucestershire To the north of the Mendip hills is the Chew Valley and to the south on the clay substrate are broad valleys which support dairy farming and drain into the Somerset Levels Caves and rivers Edit There is an extensive network of caves including Wookey Hole underground rivers and gorges including the Cheddar Gorge and Ebbor Gorge 58 The county has many rivers including the Axe Brue Cary Parrett Sheppey Tone and Yeo These both feed and drain the flat levels and moors of mid and west Somerset 59 In the north of the county the River Chew flows into the Bristol Avon The Parrett is tidal almost to Langport where there is evidence of two Roman wharfs 60 At the same site during the reign of King Charles I river tolls were levied on boats to pay for the maintenance of the bridge 60 Levels and moors Edit The town of Glastonbury looking west from the top of Glastonbury Tor The fields in the distance are the Somerset Levels The Somerset Levels or Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known are a sparsely populated wetland area of central Somerset between the Quantock and Mendip hills They consist of marine clay levels along the coast and the inland often peat based moors The Levels are divided into two by the Polden Hills Land to the south is drained by the River Parrett while land to the north is drained by the River Axe and the River Brue The total area of the Levels amounts to about 647 5 square kilometres 160 000 acres 61 and broadly corresponds to the administrative district of Sedgemoor but also includes the south west of Mendip district Approximately 70 of the area is grassland and 30 is arable 61 Stretching about 32 kilometres 20 mi inland this expanse of flat land barely rises above sea level Before it was drained much of the land was under a shallow brackish sea in winter and was marsh land in summer Drainage began with the Romans and was restarted at various times by the Anglo Saxons in the Middle Ages by the Glastonbury Abbey during 1400 1770 and during the Second World War with the construction of the Huntspill River Pumping and management of water levels still continues 62 The Exmoor landscape with the native Exmoor Pony The North Somerset Levels basin north of the Mendips covers a smaller geographical area than the Somerset Levels and forms a coastal area around Avonmouth It too was reclaimed by draining 62 63 It is mirrored across the Severn Estuary in Wales by a similar low lying area the Caldicot and Wentloog Levels 63 In the far west of the county running into Devon is Exmoor a high Devonian sandstone moor which was designated as a national park in 1954 under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 64 The highest point in Somerset is Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor with a maximum elevation of 519 metres 1 703 feet 65 66 Over 100 sites in Somerset have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest Coastline Edit Brean Down from Steep Holm The marina in Watchet The 64 km 40 mi coastline of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary forms part of the northern border of Somerset 67 The Bristol Channel has the second largest tidal range in the world At Burnham on Sea for example the tidal range of a spring tide is more than 12 metres 39 feet 68 Proposals for the construction of a Severn Barrage aim to harness this energy The island of Steep Holm in the Bristol Channel is within the ceremonial county and is now administered by North Somerset Council 69 The main coastal towns are from the west to the north east Minehead Watchet Burnham on Sea Weston super Mare Clevedon and Portishead The coastal area between Minehead and the eastern extreme of the administrative county s coastline at Brean Down is known as Bridgwater Bay and is a National Nature Reserve 70 North of that the coast forms Weston Bay and Sand Bay whose northern tip Sand Point marks the lower limit of the Severn Estuary 71 In the mid and north of the county the coastline is low as the level wetlands of the levels meet the sea In the west the coastline is high and dramatic where the plateau of Exmoor meets the sea with high cliffs and waterfalls 72 Climate Edit Along with the rest of South West England Somerset has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country 73 The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 C 50 0 F Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 C 69 8 F In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1 C 33 8 F or 2 C 35 6 F are common 73 In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south west of England but convective cloud sometimes forms inland reducing the number of hours of sunshine Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1 600 hours 73 In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton Most of the rainfall in the south west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection Most of the rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions which is when they are most active In summer a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers and thunderstorms Average rainfall is around 700 mm 28 in About 8 15 days of snowfall is typical November to March have the highest mean wind speeds and June to August the lightest winds The predominant wind direction is from the south west 73 Climate data for Yeovilton England 1981 2010 dataMonth Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec YearAverage high C F 8 1 46 6 8 3 46 9 10 6 51 1 12 9 55 2 16 5 61 7 19 3 66 7 21 7 71 1 21 5 70 7 18 6 65 5 14 8 58 6 11 1 52 0 9 0 48 2 14 4 57 9 Daily mean C F 4 8 40 6 4 8 40 6 6 7 44 1 8 3 46 9 11 7 53 1 14 5 58 1 16 8 62 2 16 6 61 9 14 1 57 4 10 9 51 6 7 4 45 3 5 7 42 3 10 2 50 4 Average low C F 1 4 34 5 1 3 34 3 2 7 36 9 3 7 38 7 6 8 44 2 9 7 49 5 11 9 53 4 11 7 53 1 9 6 49 3 6 9 44 4 3 6 38 5 2 4 36 3 6 0 42 8 Average precipitation mm inches 72 0 2 83 55 6 2 19 56 5 2 22 47 3 1 86 48 9 1 93 57 2 2 25 48 9 1 93 56 6 2 23 64 5 2 54 67 9 2 67 65 8 2 59 83 3 3 28 724 5 28 52 Average rainy days 12 5 10 2 10 9 9 2 8 8 8 5 6 9 8 6 10 1 11 3 11 6 12 6 121 2Mean monthly sunshine hours 50 2 68 9 107 6 155 4 193 1 186 0 205 8 197 8 139 8 101 1 70 2 46 8 1 522 7Source 74 Economy and industry EditMain article Economy of Somerset The Dunster Yarn Market was built in 1609 for the trading of local cloth Somerset has few industrial centres but it does have a variety of light industry and high technology businesses along with traditional agriculture and an increasingly important tourism sector resulting in an unemployment rate of 2 5 75 Tourism was estimated in 2013 to support around 26 000 people 76 Bridgwater was developed during the Industrial Revolution as the area s leading port The River Parrett was navigable by large ships as far as Bridgwater Cargoes were then loaded onto smaller boats at Langport Quay next to the Bridgwater Bridge to be carried further up river to Langport 77 or they could turn off at Burrowbridge and then travel via the River Tone to Taunton 60 The Parrett is now only navigable as far as Dunball Wharf Bridgwater in the 19th and 20th centuries was a centre for the manufacture of bricks and clay roof tiles and later cellophane but those industries have now stopped 77 With its good links to the motorway system Bridgwater has developed as a distribution hub for companies such as Argos Toolstation Morrisons and Gerber Juice AgustaWestland manufactures helicopters in Yeovil 78 and Normalair Garratt builder of aircraft oxygen systems is also based in the town 79 Somerset is an important supplier of defence equipment and technology A Royal Ordnance Factory ROF Bridgwater was built at the start of the Second World War between the villages of Puriton and Woolavington 80 to manufacture explosives The site was decommissioned and closed in July 2008 81 Templecombe has Thales Underwater Systems 82 and Taunton presently has the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and Avimo which became part of Thales Optics It was announced twice in 2006 and 2007 that manufacturing is to end at Thales Optics Taunton site 83 but the trade unions and Taunton Deane District Council are working to reverse or mitigate these decisions Other high technology companies include the optics company Gooch and Housego at Ilminster There are Ministry of Defence offices in Bath and Norton Fitzwarren is the home of 40 Commando Royal Marines The Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton is one of Britain s two active Fleet Air Arm bases and is home to the Royal Navy s AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopters and the Royal Marines Commando AgustaWestland AW101 Merlins 84 A traditional cider apple orchard at Over Stratton with sheep grazing Agriculture and food and drink production continue to be major industries in the county employing over 15 000 people 85 Apple orchards were once plentiful and Somerset is still a major producer of cider The towns of Taunton and Shepton Mallet are involved with the production of cider especially Blackthorn Cider which is sold nationwide and there are specialist producers such as Burrow Hill Cider Farm and Thatchers Cider Gerber Products Company in Bridgwater is the largest producer of fruit juices in Europe producing brands such as Sunny Delight and Ocean Spray Development of the milk based industries such as Ilchester Cheese Company and Yeo Valley Organic have resulted in the production of ranges of desserts yoghurts and cheeses 86 Traditional willow growing and weaving such as basket weaving is not as extensive as it used to be but is still carried out on the Somerset Levels and is commemorated at the Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre 87 Fragments of willow basket were found near the Glastonbury Lake Village and it was also used in the construction of several Iron Age causeways 88 The willow was harvested using a traditional method of pollarding where a tree would be cut back to the main stem During the 1930s more than 3 600 hectares 8 900 acres of willow were being grown commercially on the Levels Largely due to the displacement of baskets with plastic bags and cardboard boxes the industry has severely declined since the 1950s By the end of the 20th century only about 140 hectares 350 acres were grown commercially near the villages of Burrowbridge Westonzoyland and North Curry 61 Towns such as Castle Cary and Frome grew around the medieval weaving industry Street developed as a centre for the production of woollen slippers and later boots and shoes with C amp J Clark establishing its headquarters in the village C amp J Clark s shoes are no longer manufactured there as the work was transferred to lower wage areas such as China and Asia 89 Stone quarries are still a major employer in Somerset The county has a long tradition of supplying freestone and building stone Quarries at Doulting supplied freestone used in the construction of Wells Cathedral Bath stone is also widely used Ralph Allen promoted its use in the early 18th century as did Hans Price in the 19th century but it was used long before then It was mined underground at Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines and as a result of cutting the Box Tunnel at locations in Wiltshire such as Box 90 91 92 Bath stone is still used on a reduced scale today but more often as a cladding rather than a structural material 90 Further south Hamstone is the colloquial name given to stone from Ham Hill which is also widely used in the construction industry Blue Lias has been used locally as a building stone and as a raw material for lime mortar and Portland cement Until the 1960s Puriton had Blue Lias stone quarries as did several other Polden villages Its quarries also supplied a cement factory at Dunball adjacent to the King s Sedgemoor Drain Its derelict early 20th century remains was removed when the M5 motorway was constructed in the mid 1970s 93 Since the 1920s the county has supplied aggregates Foster Yeoman is Europe s large supplier of limestone aggregates with quarries at Merehead Quarry It has a dedicated railway operation Mendip Rail which is used to transport aggregates by rail from a group of Mendip quarries 94 In November 2008 a public sector inward investment organisation was launched called Into Somerset 95 with the intention of growing the county s economy by promoting it to businesses that may wish to relocate from other parts of the UK especially London and the world This now part of the Heart of the South West Growth Hub 96 Nuclear electricity Edit Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is a project to construct a 3 200 MW two reactor nuclear power station 97 On 18 October 2010 the British government announced that Hinkley Point already the site of the disused Hinkley Point A and the still operational Hinkley Point B power stations was one of the eight sites it considered suitable for future nuclear power stations 98 NNB Generation Company a subsidiary of EDF submitted an application for development consent to the Infrastructure Planning Commission on 31 October 2011 99 A protest group Stop Hinkley was formed to campaign for the closure of Hinkley Point B and oppose any expansion at the Hinkley Point site In December 2013 the European Commission opened an investigation to assess whether the project breaks state aid rules 100 101 On 8 October 2014 it was announced that the European Commission has approved the project with an overwhelming majority and only four commissioners voting against the decision 102 Construction is underway and is projected to be completed in 2025 103 Demography EditSee also List of settlements in Somerset by population In the 2011 census the population of the Somerset County Council area was 529 972 104 with 176 015 in Bath and North East Somerset 105 and 202 566 in North Somerset 106 giving a total for the ceremonial county of 908 553 Population growth is higher than the national average with a 6 4 increase in the Somerset County Council area since 1991 and a 17 increase since 1981 The population density is 1 4 persons per hectare which can be compared to 2 07 persons per hectare for the South West region Within the county population density ranges 0 5 in West Somerset to 2 2 persons per hectare in Taunton Deane The percentage of the population who are economically active is higher than the regional and national average and the unemployment rate is lower than the regional and national average 107 Somerset has a high indigenous British population with 94 6 registering as white British and 2 0 as belonging to black and ethnic minority BME groups according to the 2011 Census 108 Over 25 of Somerset s population is concentrated in Taunton Bridgwater and Yeovil The rest of the county is rural and sparsely populated Over 9 million tourist nights are spent in Somerset each year which significantly increases the population at peak times 67 Population since 1801Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011Somerset CC area 109 187 266 276 684 277 563 280 215 282 411 284 740 305 244 327 505 355 292 385 698 417 450 468 395 498 093 529 972 104 BANES 110 57 188 96 992 107 637 113 732 113 351 112 972 123 185 134 346 144 950 156 421 154 083 164 737 169 045 176 015 105 North Somerset 111 16 670 33 774 60 066 68 410 75 276 82 833 91 967 102 119 119 509 139 924 160 353 179 865 188 556 202 566 106 Total 261 124 407 450 445 266 462 357 471 038 479 758 520 396 563 970 619 751 682 043 731 886 812 997 855 694 908 553Politics EditUK Parliament Edit Weston super Mare Town Hall the administrative headquarters of North Somerset The county is divided into nine constituencies each returning one Member of Parliament MP to the House of Commons In the June 2017 general election eight constituencies of the county elected Conservative MPs while Bath elected a Liberal Democrat 112 The ceremonial county of Somerset contains the constituencies Bridgwater and West Somerset North East Somerset North Somerset Bath Somerton and Frome Taunton Deane Wells Yeovil and Weston super Mare Traditionally several of these have been relatively strong constituencies for the Liberal Democrats with Labour often getting few votes even in larger towns such as Yeovil In the 2019 general election all nine seats were held with Jacob Rees Mogg increasing his majority in North Somerset as well as Wera Hobhouse doubling her majority in the Liberal Democrat Bath seat 113 European Parliament Edit From 1984 to 1994 Somerset was represented by Conservative Margaret Daly as part of the Somerset and Dorset West constituency for elections to the European Parliament From 1994 to 1999 Somerset was represented by Liberal Democrat Graham Watson as part of the Somerset and North Devon constituency for elections to the European Parliament From 1999 to 2020 Somerset was part of the South West England constituency for elections to the European Parliament 114 Local government EditMain article Somerset County Council The ceremonial county of Somerset consists of a two tier non metropolitan county which is administered by Somerset County Council and four district councils and two unitary authority areas whose councils combine the functions of a county and a district The four districts of Somerset are Somerset West and Taunton South Somerset Mendip and Sedgemoor The two unitary authorities which were established on 1 April 1996 following the break up of the short lived county of Avon are North Somerset and Bath amp North East Somerset 115 In 2019 West Somerset and Taunton Deane merged to form Somerset West and Taunton 116 These unitary authorities formed part of the administrative county of Somerset before the creation of Avon a county created to cover Bristol and its environs in north Somerset and south Gloucestershire in 1974 Bath however was a largely independent county borough during the existence of the administrative county of Somerset from 1889 to 1974 In 2007 proposals to abolish the five district councils in favour of a unitary authority covering the existing two tier county were rejected following local opposition 117 In September 2016 West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils agreed in principle to merge the districts 118 This was achieved on 1 April 2019 with the first elections to the new council being held in May 2019 The new district is not a unitary authority with Somerset County Council still performing its functions 119 Civil parishes Edit Main article List of civil parishes in Somerset Almost all of the county is covered by the lowest most local form of English local government the civil parish with either a town or parish council a city council in the instance of Wells or a parish meeting some parishes group together with a single council or meeting for the group The city of Bath the area of the former county borough and much of the town of Taunton are unparished areas Emergency services EditAll of the ceremonial county of Somerset is covered by the Avon and Somerset Police a police force which also covers Bristol and South Gloucestershire The police force is governed by the elected Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service was formed in 2007 upon the merger of the Somerset Fire and Rescue Service with its neighbouring Devon service it covers the area of Somerset County Council as well as the entire ceremonial county of Devon The unitary districts of North Somerset and Bath amp North East Somerset are instead covered by the Avon Fire and Rescue Service a service which also covers Bristol and South Gloucestershire The South Western Ambulance Service covers the entire South West of England including all of Somerset prior to February 2013 the unitary districts of Somerset came under the Great Western Ambulance Service which merged into South Western The Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance is a charitable organisation based in the county Culture EditMain article Culture of Somerset The west front of Wells Cathedral In Arthurian legend Avalon became associated with Glastonbury Tor when monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the bones of King Arthur and his queen 120 What is more certain is that Glastonbury was an important religious centre by 700 and claims to be the oldest above ground Christian church in the World 121 situated in the mystical land of Avalon The claim is based on dating the founding of the community of monks at AD 63 the year of the legendary visit of Joseph of Arimathea who was supposed to have brought the Holy Grail 121 During the Middle Ages there were also important religious sites at Woodspring Priory and Muchelney Abbey The present Diocese of Bath and Wells covers Somerset with the exception of the Parish of Abbots Leigh with Leigh Woods in North Somerset and a small area of Dorset The Episcopal seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells is now in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in the city of Wells having previously been at Bath Abbey Before the English Reformation it was a Roman Catholic diocese the county now falls within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clifton The Benedictine monastery Saint Gregory s Abbey commonly known as Downside Abbey is at Stratton on the Fosse and the ruins of the former Cistercian Cleeve Abbey are near the village of Washford Somerset has traditions of art music and literature Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote while staying in Coleridge Cottage Nether Stowey 122 The novelist John Cowper Powys 1872 1963 lived in the Somerset village of Montacute from 1885 until 1894 and his novels Wood and Stone 1915 and A Glastonbury Romance 1932 are set in Somerset The writer Evelyn Waugh spent his last years in the village of Combe Florey 123 Traditional folk music both song and dance was important in the agricultural communities Somerset songs were collected by Cecil Sharp and incorporated into works such as Holst s A Somerset Rhapsody Halsway Manor near Williton is an international centre for folk music The tradition continues today with groups such as The Wurzels specialising in Scrumpy and Western music 124 The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts takes place most years in Pilton near Shepton Mallet attracting over 170 000 music and culture lovers from around the world to see world famous entertainers 125 The Big Green Gathering which grew out of the Green fields at the Glastonbury Festival is held in the Mendip Hills between Charterhouse and Compton Martin each summer 126 The annual Bath Literature Festival is one of several local festivals in the county others include the Frome Festival and the Trowbridge Village Pump Festival which despite its name is held at Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset The annual circuit of West Country Carnivals is held in a variety of Somerset towns during the autumn forming a major regional festival and the largest Festival of Lights in Europe 127 Glastonbury Tor Tyntesfield The county has several museums those at Bath include the American Museum in Britain the Museum of Bath Architecture the Herschel Museum of Astronomy the Jane Austen Centre and the Roman Baths Other visitor attractions which reflect the cultural heritage of the county include Claverton Pumping Station Dunster Working Watermill the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton Nunney Castle The Helicopter Museum in Weston super Mare King John s Hunting Lodge in Axbridge Blake Museum Bridgwater Radstock Museum Museum of Somerset in Taunton the Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury and Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum Somerset has 11 500 listed buildings 523 scheduled monuments 192 conservation areas 128 41 parks and gardens including those at Barrington Court Holnicote Estate Prior Park Landscape Garden and Tintinhull Garden 36 English Heritage sites and 19 National Trust sites 3 including Clevedon Court Fyne Court Montacute House and Tyntesfield as well as Stembridge Tower Mill the last remaining thatched windmill in England 3 Other historic houses in the county which have remained in private ownership or used for other purposes include Halswell House and Marston Bigot A key contribution of Somerset architecture is its medieval church towers Jenkins writes These structures with their buttresses bell opening tracery and crowns rank with Nottinghamshire alabaster as England s finest contribution to medieval art 129 Bath Rugby play at the Recreation Ground in Bath and the Somerset County Cricket Club are based at the County Ground in Taunton The county gained its first Football League club in 2003 when Yeovil Town won promotion to Division Three as Football Conference champions 130 They had achieved numerous FA Cup victories over football League sides in the past 50 years and since joining the elite they have won promotion again as League Two champions in 2005 They came close to yet another promotion in 2007 when they reached the League One playoff final but lost to Blackpool at the newly reopened Wembley Stadium Yeovil achieved promotion to the Championship in 2013 after beating Brentford in the playoff final Horse racing courses are at Taunton Bath and Wincanton In addition to English national newspapers the county is served by the regional Western Daily Press and local newspapers including The Weston amp Somerset Mercury the Bath Chronicle Chew Valley Gazette Somerset County Gazette Clevedon Mercury Mendip Times and the West Somerset Free Press Television and radio are provided by BBC Points West and BBC Somerset Heart West Country The Breeze Yeovil amp South Somerset Yeovil and HTV now known as ITV Wales amp West Ltd but still commonly referred to as HTV 131 The Flag of Somerset representing the ceremonial county has been registered with the Flag Institute 132 following a competition in July 2013 Transport EditMain article Transport in Somerset Bristol Airport which is located in North Somerset Somerset has 6 531 km 4 058 mi of roads The main arterial routes which include the M5 motorway A303 A37 A38 A39 A358 and A361 give good access across the county but many areas can only be accessed via narrow country lanes 67 Rail services are provided by the West of England Main Line through Yeovil Junction the Bristol to Exeter line Heart of Wessex line which runs from Bristol Temple Meads to Weymouth and the Reading to Taunton line The main train operator in Somerset is Great Western Railway with other services operated by South Western Railway and CrossCountry Bristol Airport located in North Somerset provides national and international air services The Somerset Coal Canal was built in the early 19th century to reduce the cost of transportation of coal and other heavy produce 60 The first 16 kilometres 10 mi running from a junction with the Kennet amp Avon Canal along the Cam valley to a terminal basin at Paulton were in use by 1805 together with several tramways A planned 11 7 km 7 3 mi branch to Midford was never built but in 1815 a tramway was laid along its towing path In 1871 the tramway was purchased by the Somerset amp Dorset Joint Railway S amp DJR 133 134 and operated until the 1950s The 19th century saw improvements to Somerset s roads with the introduction of turnpikes and the building of canals and railways Nineteenth century canals included the Bridgwater amp Taunton Canal Westport Canal Glastonbury Canal and Chard Canal 17 60 The Dorset amp Somerset Canal was proposed but little of it was ever constructed and it was abandoned in 1803 60 A steam locomotive and carriages on the West Somerset Railway a heritage line of notable length in spring 2015 The usefulness of the canals was short lived though some have now been restored for recreation The 19th century also saw the construction of railways to and through Somerset The county was served by five pre 1923 Grouping railway companies the Great Western Railway GWR 135 136 a branch of the Midland Railway MR to Bath Green Park and another one to Bristol 137 the S amp DJR 136 138 139 and the London amp South Western Railway L amp SWR 136 140 The former main lines of the GWR are still in use today although many of its branch lines were scrapped as part of the Beeching cuts The former lines of the S amp DJR closed completely 141 as has the branch of the Midland Railway to Bath Green Park and to Bristol St Philips The L amp SWR survived as a part of the present West of England Main Line None of these lines in Somerset are electrified Two branch lines the West and East Somerset Railways were rescued and transferred back to private ownership as heritage lines The fifth railway was a short lived light railway the Weston Clevedon amp Portishead Light Railway The West Somerset Mineral Railway carried the iron ore from the Brendon Hills to Watchet Until the 1960s the piers at Weston super Mare Clevedon Portishead and Minehead were served by the paddle steamers of P amp A Campbell who ran regular services to Barry and Cardiff as well as Ilfracombe and Lundy Island The original stone pier at Burnham on Sea was used for commercial goods one of the reasons for the S amp DJR was to provide a link between the Bristol Channel and the English Channel The newer concrete pier at Burnham on Sea is claimed to be the shortest pier in Britain 142 In the 1970s the Royal Portbury Dock was constructed to provide extra capacity for the Port of Bristol For long distance holiday traffic travelling through the county to and from Devon and Cornwall Somerset is often regarded as a marker on the journey North south traffic moves through the county via the M5 motorway 143 Traffic to and from the east travels either via the A303 road or the M4 motorway which runs east west crossing the M5 motorway just beyond the northern limits of the county Education EditSee also List of schools in Somerset State schools in Somerset are provided by three local education authorities Bath and North East Somerset North Somerset and the larger Somerset County Council All state schools are comprehensive In some areas primary infant and junior schools cater for ages four to eleven after which the pupils move on to secondary schools There is a three tier system of first middle and upper schools in the Cheddar Valley 144 and in West Somerset while most other schools in the county use the two tier system 145 Somerset has 30 state and 17 independent secondary schools 146 Bath and North East Somerset has 13 state and 5 independent secondary schools 147 and North Somerset has 10 state and 2 independent secondary schools excluding sixth form colleges 148 of pupils gaining 5 grades A C including English and Maths in 2006 average for England is 45 8 Education Authority Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Authority 52 0 West Somerset 51 0 Taunton Deane 49 5 Mendip 47 7 North Somerset Unitary Authority 47 4 South Somerset 42 3 Sedgemoor 41 4 Some of the county s secondary schools have specialist school status Some schools have sixth forms and others transfer their sixth formers to colleges Several schools can trace their origins back many years such as The Blue School in Wells and Richard Huish College in Taunton 149 Others have changed their names over the years such as Beechen Cliff School which was started in 1905 as the City of Bath Boys School and changed to its present name in 1972 when the grammar school was amalgamated with a local secondary modern school to form a comprehensive school Many others were established and built since the Second World War In 2006 5 900 pupils in Somerset sat GCSE examinations with 44 5 achieving 5 grades A C including English and Maths compared to 45 8 for England Sexey s School is a state boarding school in Bruton that also takes day pupils from the surrounding area 150 The Somerset LEA also provides special schools such as Newbury Manor School which caters for children aged between 10 and 17 with special educational needs 151 Provision for pupils with special educational needs is also made by the mainstream schools There is also a range of independent or public schools Many of these are for pupils between 11 and 18 years such as King s College Taunton Wellington School Somerset and Taunton School King s School Bruton was founded in 1519 and received royal foundation status around 30 years later in the reign of Edward VI Millfield is the largest co educational boarding school There are also preparatory schools for younger children such as All Hallows and Hazlegrove Preparatory School Chilton Cantelo School offers places both to day pupils and boarders aged 7 to 16 Other schools provide education for children from the age of 3 or 4 years through to 18 such as King Edward s School Bath Queen s College Taunton and Wells Cathedral School which is one of the five established musical schools for school age children in Britain 152 Some of these schools have religious affiliations such as Monkton Combe School Prior Park College Sidcot School which is associated with the Religious Society of Friends 153 Downside School which is a Roman Catholic public school in Stratton on the Fosse situated next to the Benedictine Downside Abbey 154 and Kingswood School which was founded by John Wesley in 1748 in Kingswood near Bristol originally for the education of the sons of the itinerant ministers clergy of the Methodist Church 155 Further and higher education Edit A wide range of adult education and further education courses is available in Somerset in schools colleges and other community venues The colleges include Weston College Bridgwater and Taunton College formed in 2016 when Bridgwater College and Somerset College of Arts and Technology merged and includes the Taunton based University Centre Somerset Bath College Frome Community College Richard Huish College Strode College and Yeovil College 156 Somerset County Council operates Dillington House a residential adult education college located in Ilminster The University of Bath Bath Spa University and University Centre Weston are higher education establishments in the north of the county The University of Bath gained its Royal Charter in 1966 although its origins go back to the Bristol Trade School founded 1856 and Bath School of Pharmacy founded 1907 157 It has a purpose built campus at Claverton on the outskirts of Bath and has 15 000 students 158 Bath Spa University which is based at Newton St Loe achieved university status in 2005 and has origins including the Bath Academy of Art founded 1898 Bath Teacher Training College and the Bath College of Higher Education 159 It has several campuses and 5 500 students 160 See also Edit Geography portal Europe 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029795 2 Yeovil Town Talk football Archived from the original on 5 April 2010 Retrieved 7 November 2010 Wales and West ITV Ofcom Archived from the original on 19 January 2012 Retrieved 10 July 2011 Somerset Flag Institute Archived from the original on 20 July 2013 Retrieved 26 May 2015 Rivers and Canals Somerset County Council History of Somerset Archived from the original on 8 September 2012 Retrieved 29 October 2006 Athill Robin 1967 The Somerset amp Dorset Railway Newton Abbot Devon David amp Charles ISBN 0 7153 4164 2 HM Government 1921 Railways Act 1921 The Railways Archive originally published by HMSO Archived from the original on 27 May 2015 Retrieved 26 May 2015 a b c St John Thomas David 1960 A Regional history of the railways of Great Britain Volume 1 The West Country London Phoenix House Smith Martin 1992 The Railways of Bristol and Somerset Shepperton Ian Allan Publishing ISBN 0 7110 2063 9 Awdry Christopher 1990 Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies Patrick Stephens Ltd p 237 Casserley H C 1968 Britain s Joint Lines London Ian Allan ISBN 0 7110 0024 7 Williams R A 1968 The London amp South Western Railway v 1 The formative years and v 2 Growth and consolidation Newton Abbot Devon David amp Charles ISBN 0 7153 4188 X ISBN 0 7153 5940 1 Atthill Robin and Nock O S 1967 The Somerset amp Dorset Railway Newton Abbot Devon David amp Charles ISBN 0 7153 4164 2 Handley Chris 2001 Maritime Activities of the Somerset amp Dorset Railway Cleckheaton Millstream Books ISBN 0 948975 63 6 Charlesworth George 1984 A History of British Motorways London Thomas Telford Limited ISBN 0 7277 0159 2 Cheddar Valley cluster map directory PDF Sexeys School Archived from the original PDF on 7 October 2011 Retrieved 21 November 2010 Learning in Somerset Celebrating Somerset Archived from the original on 11 February 2009 Retrieved 26 October 2007 Education and Learning Somerset County Council Archived from the original on 29 August 2009 Retrieved 18 December 2007 Primary Secondary and Specialist Schools Bath and North East Somerset Council Archived from the original on 11 December 2007 Retrieved 18 December 2007 Schools North Somerset Council Archived from the original on 26 May 2015 Retrieved 26 May 2015 Richard Huish College Creative Steps Archived from the original on 2 April 2008 Retrieved 18 December 2007 Sexey s School Sexey s School A Brief History Archived from the original on 7 July 2007 Retrieved 1 July 2007 Farleigh College Farleigh College Archived from the original on 9 October 2007 Retrieved 18 December 2007 Wells Cathedral School Wells Cathedral School Archived from the original on 11 December 2007 Retrieved 18 December 2007 About Sidcot Sidcot School Archived from the original on 3 December 2007 Retrieved 18 December 2007 About Downside School Downside School Archived from the original on 12 November 2012 Retrieved 7 June 2012 A Christian Ethos Kingswood School Archived from the original on 22 August 2008 Retrieved 21 November 2009 Somerset Colleges Somerset Colleges Archived from the original on 6 April 2015 Retrieved 26 May 2015 University of Bath History of the University Archived from the original on 3 August 2008 Retrieved 2 January 2008 University of Bath Facts and figures Archived from the original on 25 March 2015 Retrieved 26 May 2015 Bath Spa University Our History Archived from the original on 10 March 2013 Retrieved 26 May 2015 BDZ at the heart of two academic libraries Bibliographic Data Services Archived from the original on 22 December 2015 Retrieved 18 October 2015 Further reading EditVictoria History of the Counties of England History of the County of Somerset Oxford Oxford University Press for The Institute of Historical Research Note Volumes I to IX published so far Link to on line version not all volumes Archived from the original on 3 May 2015 Volume I Natural History Prehistory Domesday Volume II Ecclesiastical History Religious Houses Political Maritime and Social and Economic History Earthworks Agriculture Forestry Sport Volume III Pitney Somerton and Tintinhull hundreds Volume IV Crewkerne Martock and South Petherton hundreds Volume V Williton and Freemanors hundred Volume VI Andersfield Cannington and North Petherton hundreds Bridgwater and neighbouring parishes Volume VII Bruton Horethorne and Norton Ferris Hundreds Volume VIII The Poldens and the Levels Volume IX Glastonbury and Street Baltonsborough Butleigh Compton Dundon Meare North Wootton Podimore Milton Walton West Bradley and West Pennard Adkins Lesley and Roy 1992 A Field Guide to Somerset Archaeology Wimborne Dorset Dovecote Press ISBN 978 0 946159 94 9 Aston Michael Burrow Ian 1982 The Archaeology of Somerset A review to 1500 AD Somerset Somerset County Council ISBN 0 86183 028 8 Aston Michael 1988 Aspects of the Medieval Landscape of Somerset amp Contributions to the landscape history of the county Somerset Somerset County Council ISBN 0 86183 129 2 Bush Robin 1994 Somerset The complete guide Wimborne Dorset Dovecote Press ISBN 1 874336 27 X Costen Michael 1992 The origins of Somerset Manchester Manchester University Press ISBN 0 7190 3675 5 Croft Robert Aston Mick 1993 Somerset from the air An aerial Guide to the Heritage of the County Somerset Somerset County Council ISBN 978 0 86183 215 6 Dunning Robert 1995 Somerset Castles Somerset Somerset Books ISBN 0 86183 278 7 Leach Peter 2001 Roman Somerset Wimborne Dorset The Dovecote Press ISBN 1 874336 93 8 Little Bryan 1983 Portrait of Somerset London Robert Hale Ltd ISBN 0 7090 0915 1 Palmer Kingsley 1976 The Folklore of Somerset London Batsford ISBN 0 7134 3166 0 Robinson Stephen 1992 Somerset Place Names Wimborne Dorset The Dovecote Press Ltd ISBN 978 1 874336 03 7 External links EditWikivoyage has a travel guide for Somerset Wikimedia Commons has media related to Somerset Official Somerset Tourism website Somerset County Council Somerset at Curlie Somerset at Project Gutenberg Somerset at GENUKI Somerset Day Retrieved 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