A-Z of Somerset: Zeals

Okay, so another small liberty with this one. As discussed on previous posts there are no villages in Somerset beginning with the letters J or V. The county is also devoid of any locations starting with a Z, but, a few hundred yards over the border into Wiltshire is the village of Zeals.

Recorded as Sele in the Domesday Book, the name derives from the old English term for willow, and likely relates to the settlement being in the ancient Forest of Selwood.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the area become a centre for flax working, and the population increased significantly. With cheap imports flooding the market in the early 1800s, the cottage industries in the are ran out of work, and employment became limited to agriculture.


Nowadays, the village has a population of less than 700, and, while within spitting distance of the main A303, is sheltered enough to feel remote.

The bulk of the old village is focused on the central green, and the dwellings are mainly stone-built and slate roofed.


To the east of the green are the Zeals Almshouses. Built by local resident and Member of Parliament William Chafyn-Grove in the 1860s, these five one-bedroom cottages are there to cater for retired, single of married people from the village or surrounding area.


Overseeing the spiritual guidance of the community is the church of St Martin. Built in the 1840s, money for the organ, bells and spite was given by Julia Chafyn Grove (daughter of William).


Every village has a meeting point, and for Zeals it is this Bell & Crown pub. as historic as any of the other buildings in the village, its setting adds to the ambiance; nestled beside rolling Wiltshire fields, it would have been an ideal stopping off point for local farmers at the close of their working day.


It may not technically be in Somerset itself, but Zeals is as good an end point as any for the alphabetical meander around the county. With easy access to the towns of three counties – Meare (Wiltshire), Wincanton (Somerset) and Gillingham (Dorset) – it is an ideal place to stop awhile.


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