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( en, All The People of Somerset) , locator_map = , coordinates = , region =
South West England South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the highest tier of sub-national division in England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, count ...
, established_date =
Ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsWordNet Search – 3.0
"History"
from ...
, established_by = , preceded_by = , origin = , lord_lieutenant_office =Lord Lieutenant of Somerset , lord_lieutenant_name = Anne Maw , high_sheriff_office =High Sheriff of Somerset , high_sheriff_name = Mrs Mary-Clare Rodwell (2020–21) , area_total_km2 = 4171 , area_total_rank = 7th , ethnicity = 98.5% White , county_council = , unitary_council = , government = , joint_committees = , admin_hq =
Taunton Taunton () is the county town of Somerset, England, with a 2011 population of 69,570. Its thousand-year history includes a 10th-century monastic foundation, Taunton Castle, which later became a priory. The Normans built a castle owned by the Bi ...
, area_council_km2 = 3451 , area_council_rank = 10th , iso_code = GB-SOM , ons_code = 40 , gss_code = , nuts_code = UKK23 , districts_map = , districts_key = , districts_list = #
South Somerset South Somerset is a Non-metropolitan district, local government district in Somerset, England. The South Somerset district covers an area of ranging from the borders with Devon, Wiltshire and Dorset to the edge of the Somerset Levels. It has ...
#
Somerset West and Taunton Somerset West and Taunton is a Districts of England, local government district in Somerset, England. It was established on 1 April 2019 by the Somerset West and Taunton (Local Government Changes) Order 2018. The council replaced the Taunton Deane ...
#
Sedgemoor Sedgemoor is a low-lying area of land in Somerset, England. It lies close to sea level south of the Polden Hills, historically largely marsh (or "moor" in its older sense). The eastern part is known as King's Sedgemoor, and the western part West ...
# Mendip #
Bath and North East Somerset Bath and North East Somerset (commonly referred to as BANES or B&NES) is the district of the Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset Council that was created on 1 April 1996 following the abolition of the ...
(Unitary) #
North Somerset North Somerset () is a unitary district A unitary authority is a local authority for a place's borough which is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant coun ...
(Unitary) , MPs = *
Rebecca Pow Rebecca Faye Clark (born 10 October 1960), known as Rebecca Pow, is a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician, currently serving as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Af ...
(C)
(C)
*
Wera Hobhouse Wera Benedicta Hobhouse (''née'' von Reden; born 8 February 1960) is a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who has served as Member of Parliament (UK), Member of Parliament (MP) for Bath (UK Parliament constituency), Bath ...
( LD) *
Liam Fox Liam Fox (born 22 September 1961) is a British politician who served as Secretary of State for International Trade from 2016 to 2019 and Secretary of State for Defence from 2010 to 2011. A member of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Par ...

Liam Fox
(C) *
David Warburton David John Warburton (born 28 October 1965) is a British composer, businessman, and politician who has served as the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Somerton and F ...
(C) *
Marcus Fysh Marcus John Hudson Fysh (born 8 November 1970) is a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician and former investment manager serving as the Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Yeovil (UK Parli ...
(C) *
Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian or Iain is a name of Scottish Gaelic origin, derived from the Hebrew given name (Yohanan, ') and corresponding to the English name John (given name), John. The spelling Ian is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic forename ''Iain''. It is a ...
(C) *
James Heappey James Stephen Heappey (born 30 January 1981) is a British Conservative Party politician and former British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the Br ...
(C) *
Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob William Rees-Mogg (born 24 May 1969) is a British politician serving as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council since 2019, and who has served as Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) f ...
(C) *
John Penrose John David Penrose (born 22 June 1964) is a British politician serving as Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Weston-super-Mare (UK Parliament constituency), Weston-super-Mare since 2005 United Kingdom general e ...
(C) , police =
Avon and Somerset Police Avon and Somerset Police is the territorial police forceA territorial police force is a police service that is responsible for an area defined by sub-national boundaries, distinguished from other police services which deal with the entire country ...
, website =http://www.somerset.gov.uk/ Somerset (;
archaically In language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the o ...
Somersetshire) is a
county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment ...

county
in
South West England South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the highest tier of sub-national division in England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, count ...
which borders
Gloucestershire Gloucestershire ( abbreviated Glos) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chamber ...

Gloucestershire
and
Bristol Bristol () is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routle ...

Bristol
to the north,
Wiltshire Wiltshire (; abbreviated Wilts) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England with an area of . It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The count ...
to the east,
Dorset Dorset (; archaically In language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system compose ...

Dorset
to the south-east and
Devon Devon (, archaically known as Devonshire) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Ch ...

Devon
to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the
Severn Estuary , Gloucestershire Gloucestershire ( abbreviated Glos) is a Counties of England, county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dea ...

Severn Estuary
and the
Bristol Channel The Bristol Channel ( cy, Môr Hafren) is a major inlet An inlet is an indentation of a shoreline, usually long and narrow, such as a small bay or arm, that often leads to an enclosed body of salt water, such as a sound In physics, sound ...
, its coastline facing southeastern
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's
county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some pref ...
is
Taunton Taunton () is the county town of Somerset, England, with a 2011 population of 69,570. Its thousand-year history includes a 10th-century monastic foundation, Taunton Castle, which later became a priory. The Normans built a castle owned by the Bi ...
. Somerset is a rural county of rolling hills, the
Blackdown Hills The Blackdown Hills are a range of hills along the Somerset-Devon border in south-western England, which were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1991. The plateau is dominated by hard chert bands of Upper Greensand with s ...
,
Mendip Hills The Mendip Hills (commonly called the Mendips) is a range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath, Somerset, Bath in Somerset, England. Running from Weston-super-Mare and the Bristol Channel in the west to the River Frome, Somerset ...

Mendip Hills
,
Quantock Hills The Quantock Hills west of Bridgwater Bridgwater is a large historic market town and civil parishes in England, civil parish in Somerset, England. Its population currently stands at around 35,886 as of 2011. Bridgwater is at the edge of the Some ...
and
Exmoor National Park Exmoor is loosely defined as an area of hilly open moorland in west Somerset and north Devon in South West England. It is named after the River Exe, the source of which is situated in the centre of the area, two miles north-west of Simonsbath. ...

Exmoor National Park
, and large flat expanses of land including the
Somerset Levels The Somerset Levels are a coastal plain and wetland area of Somerset, England, running south from the Mendip Hills, Mendips to the Blackdown Hills. The Somerset Levels have an area of about and are bisected by the Polden Hills; the areas to ...
. There is evidence of human occupation from
Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek palaios - old, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history ...
times, and of subsequent settlement by the
Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-European peoples The Indo-European languages ar ...

Celts
,
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in the New Testament of the Christian Bible Roman ...

Roman
s and
Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
s. The county played a significant part in
Alfred the Great Alfred the Great (848/49 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons This is a list of monarchs of Wessex until 886 AD. For later monarchs, see the List of English monarchs. While the details of the later monarchs are confirmed by a numbe ...

Alfred the Great
's rise to power, and later the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
and the
Monmouth Rebellion The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as the Pitchfork Rebellion, the Revolt of the West or the West Country rebellion, was an attempt to overthrow James II. He had become king of England, List of Scottish monarchs, Scotland, and Monarchy of Irela ...
. The city of
Bath Bath may refer to: * Bathing, immersion in a fluid ** Bathtub, a large open container for water, in which a person may wash their body ** Public bathing, a public place where people bathe * Thermae, ancient Roman public bathing facilities Plac ...
is famous for its
Georgian Georgian may refer to: Common meanings * Anything related to, or originating from Georgia (country) **Georgians, an indigenous Caucasian ethnic group **Georgian language, a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians **Georgian scripts, three scripts ...
architecture and is a UNESCO
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for h ...
.


Toponymy

Somerset's name derives from
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
'' Sumorsǣte'', short for ''Sumortūnsǣte'', meaning "the people living at or dependent on Sumortūn ()". The first known use of ''Somersæte'' is in the law code of King Ine who was the Saxon King of Wessex from 688–726 CE, making Somerset along with
Hampshire Hampshire (, ; abbreviated to Hants) is a Counties of England, county in South East England on the coast of the English Channel. The county town is Winchester, but the county is named after Southampton. Its two largest cities are Southampton a ...

Hampshire
,
Wiltshire Wiltshire (; abbreviated Wilts) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England with an area of . It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The count ...
and
Dorset Dorset (; archaically In language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system compose ...

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 A motto (derived from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Re ...

motto
of the county, , 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 The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
kingdom of
Wessex Wessex (; ang, Westseaxna rīċe , 'the Kingdom of the West Saxons') was an Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until England was Kingdom of England, unified by Æthelstan in 927. The Anglo-Sa ...

Wessex
, and the phrase refers to the wholehearted support the people of Somerset gave to
King Alfred Alfred the Great (848/49 – 26 October 899) was king of the West Saxons from 871 to and king of the Anglo-Saxons from to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf, who died when Alfred was young. Three of Alfred's brothers, Æthelba ...

King Alfred
in his struggle to save Wessex from
Viking Vikings—"pirate", non, víkingr is the modern name given to seafaring people primarily from Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In ...

Viking
invaders. Somerset settlement names are mostly Anglo-Saxon in origin (for example,
Bath Bath may refer to: * Bathing, immersion in a fluid ** Bathtub, a large open container for water, in which a person may wash their body ** Public bathing, a public place where people bathe * Thermae, ancient Roman public bathing facilities Plac ...
, ,
Wells Wells most commonly refers to: * Wells, Somerset, a cathedral city in Somerset, England * Well, an excavation or structure created in the ground * Wells (name) Wells may also refer to: Places ;Canada *Wells, British Columbia ;England * Wells ( ...
and
Keynsham Keynsham ( ) is a town and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of Parish (administrative division), administrative parish used for Local government in England, local government. It is a territorial designation which is the l ...

Keynsham
), but numerous place names include
British Celtic Insular Celtic languages are the group of Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European language family. The term "Celtic" was first used ...
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 Brittonic or Brythonic may refer to: *Common Brittonic, or Brythonic, the Celtic language anciently spoken in Great Britain *Brittonic languages, a branch of the Celtic languages descended from Common Brittonic *Celtic Britons, Britons (Celtic peop ...
in origin, like
Tarnock Badgworth is a village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, England, south west of Axbridge. According to the 2011 census it had a population of 525. The village is home to an equestrian centre known as the Badgworth Arena. ...
,
Priddy Priddy is a village in , England in the , close to and north-west of . It is in the of . The village lies in a small hollow near the summit of the Mendip range of hills, at an elevation of nearly above sea-level, and has evidence of occupat ...

Priddy
, and
Chard Chard or Swiss chard (''Beta vulgaris ''Beta vulgaris'' (beet) is a species of flowering plant in the subfamily Betoideae of the family Amaranthaceae. Economically, it is the most important crop of the large Order (biology), order Caryophyllale ...
, while others have both Saxon and Brittonic elements, such as Pen Hill.


History


Prehistory

The caves of the
Mendip Hills The Mendip Hills (commonly called the Mendips) is a range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath, Somerset, Bath in Somerset, England. Running from Weston-super-Mare and the Bristol Channel in the west to the River Frome, Somerset ...

Mendip Hills
were settled during the
Palaeolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, wikt:λίθος, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone too ...
period, and contain extensive archaeological sites such as those at
Cheddar Gorge Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge A canyon (; archaic British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of ...

Cheddar Gorge
. Bones from
Gough's Cave Gough's Cave is located in Cheddar Gorge on the Mendip Hills The Mendip Hills (commonly called the Mendips) is a range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath, Somerset, Bath in Somerset, England. Running from Weston-super-Mare an ...
have been dated to 12,000 BCE, and a complete skeleton, known as
Cheddar Man Cheddar Man is a human male fossil found in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset Somerset (; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Brist ...
, dates from 7150 BCE. Examples of cave art have been found in
Aveline's Hole Aveline's Hole is a cave at Burrington Combe Burrington Combe is a Carboniferous Limestone gorge A canyon (; archaic British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language English is a West Germa ...
. Some caves continued to be occupied until modern times, including
Wookey Hole Wookey Hole is a village in Somerset, England. It is the location of the Wookey Hole show caves. Location Wookey Hole is located in the civil parish of St Cuthbert Out, in Mendip District. It is one mile north-west of the city of Wells, Somerset, ...
. The
Somerset Levels The Somerset Levels are a coastal plain and wetland area of Somerset, England, running south from the Mendip Hills, Mendips to the Blackdown Hills. The Somerset Levels have an area of about and are bisected by the Polden Hills; the areas to ...
—specifically
dry point In geography, a dry point is an area of firm or flood-free ground in an area of wetland, marsh or flood plains. The term typically applies to settlements, and dry point settlements were common in history. In the United Kingdom extreme examples o ...
s at
Glastonbury Glastonbury (, ) is a town and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of Parish (administrative division), administrative parish used for Local government in England, local government. It is a territorial designation which is the ...

Glastonbury
and
Brent Knoll Brent Knoll is a hill on the Somerset Levels, in Somerset Somerset (; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire ...
— also have a long history of settlement, and are known to have been settled by
Mesolithic The Mesolithic (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...

Mesolithic
hunters. Travel in the area was facilitated by the construction of one of the world's oldest known engineered roadways, the
Sweet Track The Sweet Track is an ancient trackway Historic roads (historic trails in USA and Canada) are paths or routes that have historical importance due to their use over a period of time. Examples exist from prehistoric times until the early 20t ...
, which dates from 3807 BCE or 3806 BCE. The exact age of the
henge monument complex There are three related types of Neolithic earthwork that are all sometimes loosely called henges. The essential characteristic of all three is that they feature a ring-shaped bank and ditch, with the ditch inside the bank. Because the in ...
at
Stanton Drew stone circles The Stanton Drew stone circles are just outside the village of Stanton Drew in the English county of Somerset Somerset (; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which border ...
is unknown, but it is believed to be
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
. There are numerous
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's pa ...
hill fort A hillfort is a type of earthwork used as a fortified A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically ...
s, some of which, like Cadbury Castle and Ham Hill, were later reoccupied in the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start of the Middle Ages ...
.


Roman invasion

On the authority of the future emperor
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 23/24 June 79) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 69 to 79 AD. The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire ...

Vespasian
, as part of the ongoing expansion of the Roman presence in Britain, the
Second Legion Augusta Legio II Augusta ("Augustus' Second Legion") was a Roman legion, legion of the Imperial Roman army that was founded during the late Roman republic. Its emblems were the Capricornus, Pegasus, and Mars (mythology), Mars. It may have taken the name ...
invaded Somerset from the south-east in 47 CE. The county remained part of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
until around 409 CE, 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 , Budapest File:Les mosaïques des thermes 2.JPG, The mosaics of the thermal baths In ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century B ...

Roman Baths
that gave their name to the city of
Bath Bath may refer to: * Bathing, immersion in a fluid ** Bathtub, a large open container for water, in which a person may wash their body ** Public bathing, a public place where people bathe * Thermae, ancient Roman public bathing facilities Plac ...
.


Saxon and Norman invasions

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 Ine, also rendered Ini or Ina, ( la, Inus; c. AD 670 – after 726) was King of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg">Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title ...
had pushed the boundaries of the West Saxon kingdom far enough west to include Somerset. The Saxon royal palace in
Cheddar Cheddar most often refers to either: *Cheddar cheese *Cheddar, Somerset, the village after which Cheddar cheese is named Cheddar may also refer to: Places * Cheddar, Ontario, Canada * Cheddar Complex, a biological site of special scientific inter ...
was used several times in the 10th century to host the
Witenagemot 300px, Anglo-Saxon king with his witan. Biblical scene in the Illustrated Old English Hexateuch (11th century), portraying Pharaoh in court session, after passing judgment on his chief baker and chief cupbearer. The Witenaġemot (; ang, witena ...
. 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 Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to ...
while those who remained would have had incentives to adopt Anglo-Saxon culture. After the
Norman Conquest The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army made up of thousands of Normans, Duchy of Brittany, Bretons, County of Flanders, Flemish, and men from other Kingdom of France, French ...
, the county was divided into 700 
fiefs A fief (; la, feudum) was the central element of feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the histor ...
, and large areas were owned by the crown, with fortifications such as
Dunster Castle Dunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a English country house, country house, in the village of Dunster, Somerset, England. The castle lies on the top of a steep hill called the Tor, and has been fortified since the late Anglo-S ...

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. During the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
, Somerset was largely Roundhead, Parliamentarian, with key engagements being the Sieges of Taunton and the Battle of Langport. In 1685, the
Monmouth Rebellion The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as the Pitchfork Rebellion, the Revolt of the West or the West Country rebellion, was an attempt to overthrow James II. He had become king of England, List of Scottish monarchs, Scotland, and Monarchy of Irela ...
was played out in Somerset and neighbouring Dorset. The rebels landed at Lyme Regis and travelled north, hoping to capture
Bristol Bristol () is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routle ...

Bristol
and Bath, but they were defeated in the Battle of Sedgemoor at Westonzoyland, the last pitched battle fought in England. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley took his title, Duke of Wellington (title), Duke of Wellington from the town of Wellington, Somerset, Wellington; he is commemorated on a nearby hill by a large, spotlit obelisk, known as the Wellington Monument, Somerset, 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 Royal Bath and West of England Society, 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, two decades later agriculturist John Billingsley (agriculturist), 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 Normandy landings, 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 Bunker, pill boxes can still be seen along the coast, and south through Ilminster and
Chard Chard or Swiss chard (''Beta vulgaris ''Beta vulgaris'' (beet) is a species of flowering plant in the subfamily Betoideae of the family Amaranthaceae. Economically, it is the most important crop of the large Order (biology), order Caryophyllale ...
. 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 Battle of the Beams, radio navigation beam flight path to Bristol, was constructed on Black Down, Somerset, Beacon Batch. It was laid out by Shepperton Studios, based on Aerial photography, aerial photographs of the city's railway Classification yard, 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 device, 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 cattle, dairy cows was hit, killing some and severely injuring others.


Human geography


Boundaries

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 (county division), 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 of England, 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 City and County of Bristol, 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.Ordnance Survey mapping


Cities and towns

Somerton took over from Ilchester as the
county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some pref ...
in the late thirteenth century, but it declined in importance and the status of county town transferred to
Taunton Taunton () is the county town of Somerset, England, with a 2011 population of 69,570. Its thousand-year history includes a 10th-century monastic foundation, Taunton Castle, which later became a priory. The Normans built a castle owned by the Bi ...
about 1366. The county has two City status in the United Kingdom, cities,
Bath Bath may refer to: * Bathing, immersion in a fluid ** Bathtub, a large open container for water, in which a person may wash their body ** Public bathing, a public place where people bathe * Thermae, ancient Roman public bathing facilities Plac ...
and
Wells Wells most commonly refers to: * Wells, Somerset, a cathedral city in Somerset, England * Well, an excavation or structure created in the ground * Wells (name) Wells may also refer to: Places ;Canada *Wells, British Columbia ;England * Wells ( ...
, and :Towns in Somerset, 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 status in the United Kingdom, 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 (Bristol Channel), 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 roads in Britain, Roman road run through Radstock.
Chard Chard or Swiss chard (''Beta vulgaris ''Beta vulgaris'' (beet) is a species of flowering plant in the subfamily Betoideae of the family Amaranthaceae. Economically, it is the most important crop of the large Order (biology), order Caryophyllale ...
is the most southerly town in Somerset and one of the highest, though at an altitude of Wiveliscombe is the highest town in the county.


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 Built-up Area, 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, Somerset, 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


Geology

Much of the landscape of Somerset falls into types determined by the underlying geology. These landscapes are the limestone karst and Early Jurassic, lias of the north, the clay valley, vales and wetlands of the centre, the oolites of the east and south, and the Devonian sandstone of the west. 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 . The main habitat on these hills is calcareous grassland, with some arable land, arable agriculture. To the south-west of the Somerset Levels are the
Quantock Hills The Quantock Hills west of Bridgwater Bridgwater is a large historic market town and civil parishes in England, civil parish in Somerset, England. Its population currently stands at around 35,886 as of 2011. Bridgwater is at the edge of the Some ...
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 Gloucestershire ( abbreviated Glos) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chamber ...

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 of the Mendip Hills, caves, including Wookey Hole, underground rivers, and canyon, gorges, including the Cheddar Gorge and Ebbor Gorge. The county has many rivers, including the Axe, River Brue, Brue, Cary, Parrett, River Sheppey, Sheppey, River Tone, Tone and Congresbury Yeo, 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 River Avon (Bristol), Bristol Avon. The Parrett is tidal almost to Langport, where there is evidence of two Roman wharfs.Charles Hadfield (historian), Hadfield, Charles (1999). ''Canals of Southern England''. London: Phoenix House Ltd. At the same site during the reign of Charles I of England, King Charles I, river tolls were levied on boats to pay for the maintenance of the bridge.


Levels and moors

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 and broadly corresponds to the administrative district of
Sedgemoor Sedgemoor is a low-lying area of land in Somerset, England. It lies close to sea level south of the Polden Hills, historically largely marsh (or "moor" in its older sense). The eastern part is known as King's Sedgemoor, and the western part West ...
but also includes the south west of Mendip District, Mendip district. Approximately 70% of the area is grassland and 30% is arable. Stretching about inland, this expanse of flat land barely rises above sea level. Before it was drained, much of the land was under a shallow brackish water, brackish sea in winter and was marsh, 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 River Huntspill, Huntspill River. Pumping and management of water levels still continues.Williams, Michael (1970). ''The Draining of the Somerset Levels''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . 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.Rippon, Stephen (1997). ''The Severn Estuary: Landscape Evolution and Wetland Reclamation''. London: Leicester University. It is mirrored, across the
Severn Estuary , Gloucestershire Gloucestershire ( abbreviated Glos) is a Counties of England, county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dea ...

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 moorland, moor, which was designated as a national park in 1954, under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. The highest point in Somerset is Dunkery Hill, Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor, with a maximum elevation of . Over 100 sites in Somerset have been designated as List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Somerset, Sites of Special Scientific Interest.


Coastline

The coastline of the
Bristol Channel The Bristol Channel ( cy, Môr Hafren) is a major inlet An inlet is an indentation of a shoreline, usually long and narrow, such as a small bay or arm, that often leads to an enclosed body of salt water, such as a sound In physics, sound ...
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 . 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, Somerset, 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 reserves in England, National Nature Reserve. North of that, the coast forms Weston Bay and Sand Bay whose northern tip, Sand Point and Middle Hope, 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 South West England is one of nine official regions of England The regions, formerly known as the government office regions, are the highest tier of sub-national division in England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, count ...
, Somerset has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately . Temperate climate, 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 . In winter mean minimum temperatures of or are common. In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, but Convection, 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 Low-pressure area, 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 . 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.


Economy and industry

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;Lawrence, J.F. (2005). ''A History of Bridgwater''. (revised and compiled by J. C. Lawrence) Chichester: Phillimore & Co. . 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 (retailer), Argos, Toolstation, Morrisons and Gerber Products Company, Gerber Juice. AgustaWestland manufactures helicopters in Yeovil, and Normalair, 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, 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 (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence offices in Bath, and Norton Fitzwarren is the home of 3 Commando Brigade, 40 Commando Royal Marines. The RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron), 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. 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 SunnyD, 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, Yogurt, 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 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 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, Somerset, 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. The county has a long tradition of supplying Freestone (masonry), freestone and :Building stone, 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, Wiltshire, Box.Hudson (1971). ''The Fashionable Stone''. Bath: Adams & Dart. Bezzant, Norman (1980). ''Out of the Rock..''. London: William Heinemann Ltd. Perkins, J.W., Brooks, A.T. and McR. Pearce, A.E. (1979). ''Bath Stone: a quarry history''. Cardiff: Department of Extra-mural Studies, University College Cardiff. Bath stone is still used on a reduced scale today, but more often as a Cladding (construction), 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.(n/a)(1998).''Images of England: Bridgwater (Compiled from the collections at Admiral Blake Museum)''. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. Since the 1920s, the county has supplied Construction aggregate, aggregates. Foster Yeoman is Europe's large supplier of limestone aggregates, with quarries at Torr Works, Merehead Quarry. It has a dedicated railway operation, Mendip Rail, which is used to transport aggregates by rail from a group of Quarries of the Mendip Hills, Mendip quarries.Shannon, Paul (2007). "Mendip Stone," In: ''The Railway Magazine'', Vol. 153, No. 1,277, pp 22–26. (September 2007). . 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 nuclear power station, Hinkley Point A and the still operational Hinkley Point B Nuclear Power Station, 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 Électricité de France, 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.


Demography

In the United Kingdom Census 2011, 2011 census the population of the Somerset County Council area was 529,972 with 176,015 in
Bath and North East Somerset Bath and North East Somerset (commonly referred to as BANES or B&NES) is the district of the Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset Council that was created on 1 April 1996 following the abolition of the ...
, and 202,566 in
North Somerset North Somerset () is a unitary district A unitary authority is a local authority for a place's borough which is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant coun ...
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 peoples, 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 UK Census, 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.


Politics


UK Parliament

The county is divided into nine constituencies, each returning one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, House of Commons. In the 2017 United Kingdom general election, June 2017 general election, eight constituencies of the county elected Conservative Party (UK), Conservative MPs, while Bath elected a Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat. The ceremonial county of Somerset contains the constituencies Bridgwater and West Somerset (UK Parliament constituency), Bridgwater and West Somerset, North East Somerset (UK Parliament constituency), North East Somerset, North Somerset (UK Parliament constituency), North Somerset, Bath (UK Parliament constituency), Bath, Somerton and Frome (UK Parliament constituency), Somerton and Frome, Taunton Deane (UK Parliament constituency), Taunton Deane, Wells (UK Parliament constituency), Wells, Yeovil (UK Parliament constituency), Yeovil, and Weston-super-Mare (UK Parliament constituency), 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 United Kingdom general election, 2019 general election, all nine seats were held, with
Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob William Rees-Mogg (born 24 May 1969) is a British politician serving as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council since 2019, and who has served as Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) f ...
increasing his majority in North Somerset, as well as
Wera Hobhouse Wera Benedicta Hobhouse (''née'' von Reden; born 8 February 1960) is a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who has served as Member of Parliament (UK), Member of Parliament (MP) for Bath (UK Parliament constituency), Bath ...
doubling her majority in the Liberal Democrat Bath seat.


European Parliament

From 1984 to 1994, Somerset was represented by Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Margaret Daly as part of the Somerset and Dorset West (European Parliament constituency), Somerset and Dorset West constituency for elections to the European Parliament. From 1994 to 1999, Somerset was represented by Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat Graham Watson as part of the Somerset and North Devon (European Parliament constituency), Somerset and North Devon constituency for elections to the European Parliament. From 1999 to 2020, Somerset was part of the South West England (European Parliament constituency), South West England constituency for elections to the European Parliament.


Local government

The Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county of Somerset consists of a two-tier Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England, non-metropolitan county, which is administered by Somerset County Council and four non-metropolitan district, district councils, and two unitary authority areas (whose councils combine the functions of a county and a district). The four Districts of England, districts of Somerset are
Somerset West and Taunton Somerset West and Taunton is a Districts of England, local government district in Somerset, England. It was established on 1 April 2019 by the Somerset West and Taunton (Local Government Changes) Order 2018. The council replaced the Taunton Deane ...
,
South Somerset South Somerset is a Non-metropolitan district, local government district in Somerset, England. The South Somerset district covers an area of ranging from the borders with Devon, Wiltshire and Dorset to the edge of the Somerset Levels. It has ...
, Mendip, and
Sedgemoor Sedgemoor is a low-lying area of land in Somerset, England. It lies close to sea level south of the Polden Hills, historically largely marsh (or "moor" in its older sense). The eastern part is known as King's Sedgemoor, and the western part West ...
. The two unitary authorities – which were established on 1 April 1996 following the break-up of the short-lived Avon (county), county of Avon — are
North Somerset North Somerset () is a unitary district A unitary authority is a local authority for a place's borough which is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant coun ...
, and Bath and North East Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset. In 2019 West Somerset and Taunton Deane merged to form
Somerset West and Taunton Somerset West and Taunton is a Districts of England, local government district in Somerset, England. It was established on 1 April 2019 by the Somerset West and Taunton (Local Government Changes) Order 2018. The council replaced the Taunton Deane ...
. These unitary authorities formed part of the Administrative counties of England, 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. In July 2021 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that in April 2023, the non-metropolitan county will be reorganised into a unitary authority. The non-metropolitan district, district councils (Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset, Mendip, and Sedgemoor) are to be abolished and their functions transferred to a single authority. The existing unitary authorities will not be altered.


Civil parishes

Almost all of the county is covered by the lowest/most local form of English local government, the Civil parishes in England, civil parish, with either a Parish councils in England, 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

All of the ceremonial county of Somerset is covered by the
Avon and Somerset Police Avon and Somerset Police is the territorial police forceA territorial police force is a police service that is responsible for an area defined by sub-national boundaries, distinguished from other police services which deal with the entire country ...
, 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.


Culture

In Matter of Britain, 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 cathedra, 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 Order of Saint Benedict, Benedictine monastery Saint Gregory's Abbey, commonly known as Downside Abbey, is at Stratton-on-the-Fosse, and the ruins of the former Cistercians, Cistercian Cleeve Abbey are near the village of Washford. Somerset has traditions of art, music and literature. William Wordsworth, Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 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 Gustav Holst, 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, 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, Somerset, 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. 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 (Weston), The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, King John's Hunting Lodge, Axbridge, 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 Protected area, 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 for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, National Trust sites, including Clevedon Court, Fyne Court, Montacute House and Tyntesfield as well as Stembridge Mill, High Ham, 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 Somerset towers, 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 (Bath), Recreation Ground in Bath, and the Somerset County Cricket Club are based at the County Ground, Taunton, County Ground in Taunton. The county gained its first The Football League, Football League club in 2003, when Yeovil Town F.C., Yeovil Town won promotion to Football League Third Division, 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 Football League Two, League Two champions in 2005. They came close to yet another promotion in 2007, when they reached the Football League One, League One playoff final, but lost to Blackpool F.C., Blackpool at the newly reopened Wembley Stadium. Yeovil achieved promotion to the Football League Championship, Championship in 2013 after beating Brentford F.C., Brentford in the playoff final. Thoroughbred horse racing, Horse racing courses are at Taunton Racecourse, Taunton, Bath Racecourse, Bath and Wincanton Racecourse, Wincanton. In addition to List of newspapers in the United Kingdom, 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 ITV Wales & West, 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.


Transport

Somerset has of roads. The main arterial routes, which include the M5 motorway, A303 road, A303, A37 road, A37, A38 road, A38, A39 road, 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 railway station, Yeovil Junction, the Bristol to Exeter line, Heart of Wessex line which runs from Bristol Temple Meads railway station, Bristol Temple Meads to Weymouth railway station, Weymouth and the Reading to Taunton line. The main train operator in Somerset is Great Western Railway (train operating company), Great Western Railway, with other services operated by South Western Railway (train operating company), 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 , running from a junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal, along the Cam Brook#Cam Valley, Cam valley, to a terminal basin at Paulton, were in use by 1805, together with several tramways. A planned 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),Athill, Robin (1967). ''The Somerset & Dorset Railway''. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles . and operated until the 1950s. The 19th century saw improvements to Somerset's roads with the introduction of Turnpike trusts, 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. 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 Railways Act 1921, pre-1923 Grouping railway companies: the Great Western Railway (GWR);David St John Thomas, St John Thomas, David (1960). ''A Regional history of the railways of Great Britain: Volume 1 – The West Country''. London: Phoenix House. a branch of the Midland Railway (MR) to Bath Green Park railway station, Bath Green Park (and another one to Bristol);Smith, Martin (1992). ''The Railways of Bristol and Somerset''. Shepperton: Ian Allan Publishing . the S&DJR,Christopher Awdry, Awdry, Christopher (1990). ''Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies''. Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 237.Casserley, H.C. (1968). ''Britain's Joint Lines''. London: Ian Allan. . and the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR).Williams, R. A. (1968) ''The London & South Western Railway'', v. 1: The formative years, and v. 2: Growth and consolidation. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles, ; 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,Atthill, Robin and Oswald Nock, Nock, O. S. (1967). ''The Somerset & Dorset Railway''. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. . as has the branch of the Midland Railway to Bath Green Park (and to Bristol St Philip's railway station, 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 Railway electrification in Great Britain, 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, Vale of Glamorgan, Barry and Cardiff as well as Ilfracombe and Lundy, 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.Handley, Chris (2001). ''Maritime Activities of the Somerset & Dorset Railway''. Cleckheaton: Millstream Books. . 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.Charlesworth, George (1984). ''A History of British Motorways''. London: Thomas Telford Limited. . 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

State schools in Somerset are provided by three local education authority, 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 school, infant and Junior school, junior schools cater for ages four to eleven, after which the pupils move on to secondary schools. There is a three-tier education, three-tier system of First school, first, Middle school, middle and Upper school, 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. Some of the county's secondary schools have Specialist schools programme, 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, Wells, The Blue School in Wells and Richard Huish College, Taunton, 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 General Certificate of Secondary Education, 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 education#Special schools, special schools such as Newbury Manor School, which caters for children aged between 10 and 17 with Special education in the United Kingdom, special educational needs. Provision for pupils with special educational needs is also made by the mainstream schools. There is also a range of Independent school (United Kingdom), independent or Public school (United Kingdom), 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 of England, Edward VI. Millfield is the largest Mixed-sex education, co-educational boarding school. There are also Preparatory school (United Kingdom), preparatory schools for younger children, such as All Hallows Preparatory School, 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 Quakers, Religious Society of Friends, Downside School which is a Roman Catholic public school in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, situated next to the Order of Saint Benedict, 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 Methodism, 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 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, Somerset, 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.


See also

*''Outline of England'' *List of High Sheriffs of Somerset *List of hills of Somerset *Grade I listed buildings in Somerset *List of tourist attractions in Somerset *Lord Lieutenant of Somerset *West Country English *Healthcare in Somerset


Footnotes


References


Further reading

* Victoria 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 ** ** 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. * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Official Somerset Tourism website

Somerset County Council
* *
Somerset
at GENUKI
Somerset Day
{{Featured article Somerset, Non-metropolitan counties West Country Ceremonial counties of England Counties in South West England Counties of England established in antiquity