All posts by ckponderings

A-Z of Somerset: Lydeard St Lawrence

L is for Lydeard St Lawrence

In the depths of western Somerset, along country roads your SatNav smirks at taking you down, lies the pretty village of Lydeard St Lawrence.

The origins of the name is shrouded in a bit of mystery, but Lydeard may translate as “grey ridge”, while St Lawrence is the saint to whom the local church is dedicated. (It is likely that St Lawrence was added to the villae name, to distinguish it from the village of Bishop’s Lydeard, just four miles down the road.)

The village has a population of 500 people, and it is very easy to find yourself in open countryside within minutes of walking from the village centre.

The Church of St Lawrence is at the top end of the village and, as with may similar religious locations, is a calm and peaceful place to stop and rest.

A plaque on the gate into the churchyard pays tribute to Lance Corporal Alan Kennington, who was serving in Northern Ireland in 1973 when he was shot and killed while on foot patrol on the Crumlin Road, Belfast. He was just 20 years old.

The church also forms the last resting place for a number of other local men who passed away in the Great War – I’ll expand on these in later posts.

Lydeard St Lawrence, is certainly a peaceful village – on its own in the depths of the Somerset countryside and sheltered by the hills it is named after, it is somewhere to get away from it all. There are no immediate amenities – the post office has been closed long enough for the building to be converted into a house – but a village hall and school are there to support the community in all things secular.

Confusion and Madness

Our lives can be so busy sometimes that we don’t have the time to stop and think about the things that are going.

In this face paced world, speed and efficiency can lead to mistakes, stress and anxiety.

Slow down; take a breath; you can only do what you can do.

And that is alright.

CWG: Guardsman Harold Dummett

Guardsman Harold Joseph James Dummett

Harold Joseph James Dummett was born in early 1900, one of ten children – and the eldest son – of Harry and Elizabeth of Kingsdon, Somerset.

I have been unable to find any detailed information about Harold through online research. He joined the Coldstream Guards and his battalion – the 5th – remained stationed in Windsor throughout the war; it is likely, therefore, that Guardsman Dummett never saw front line service.

I have been unable to find a war pension or medical records and there are no newspaper reports of a violent or unusual death. It is an assumption on my part, therefore, but it may had been that Harold died during the Spanish Flu pandemic or some other illness.

He lies at peace, though, in the quiet Kingsdon churchyard.

While Harold does not appear in the newspaper records, his parents do. In April 1937, the Taunton Courier reports that

Mr and Mrs Harry Dummett celebrated their golden wedding… There was a happy family gathering of all their children and two grandsons.

Taunton Courier and Weston Advertiser – 24th April 1937

A-Z of Somerset: Kingsdon

K is also for Kingsdon

I couldn’t let the lack f a J village pass, so I have included a second K in the list.

Just to the south of Kingweston, in between Somerton and Yeovil, sits the quiet village of Kingsdon.

With a population of just over 300 people, it is a tight-knit community, somewhere where, you readily find yourself walking along quiet roads, getting welcoming nods and hellos from local resident and dog-walkers.

The village gets is name from nearby Kingsdon Hill, which in turn reflects its regal connection to Somerton, a royal estate since the Norman Conquest.

All Saints Church, to the north of the village, is a peaceful location and dates back to the 1400s. The churchyard includes two Commonwealth War Graves, which I’ll explore in later blogs.

The community feel runs throughout Kingsdon, with a local pub, a phonebox book swap facility and a village school-cum-shop.

The views south are stunning too, heightening the real sense of countryside living. And, with plenty of footpaths locally, Kingsdon works well as a start point, finish, or stopping off point for an afternoon stroll.

A-Z of Somerset: Kingweston

K is for Kingweston

Okay, so a slight hiccup in the A-Z proceedings in that there is no village (or town, or city) in Somerset that begins with the letter J. So, I will skip over that, and look at K instead.

And Kingweston is the stereotype for the evolution of a village.

It’s the end of the 11th Century. You’ve supported the winning side and so, as a reward, you are given the manor of Chinwardestune. It’s good farming land, and you have a nice house there. Over time – and changes of ownership – the manor has grown strong: you have a large house, alongside which you have built a church, there are farm buildings and cottages for your workers.

And that’s it. This village, with a population of less than 150, is little more than a farm, the attached manor house and its religious building and workers cottages.

The cottages are very picturesque; higgledy-piggledy on the lane up to the manor house and farm.

Walk up the main road and you encounter the Manor House. The barrier between those that had and those that had not. A high wall rings its lands, through the trees you get a glimpse of the grandeur within, but a glimpse is all you’re going to get.

The current Kingweston House was built in the 1800s by the long-term residents, the Dickinson family. In 1946 it was bought by Millfield School and has been used by them ever since.

The Church of All Saints is of a similar age to the manor house. Set at the upper end of the village, it is an ideal space for contemplation, as it overlooks the countryside towards Glastonbury Tor.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission suggests that Major Francis Arthur Dickinson is buried in the churchyard and, while I was unable to find his headstone, he is commemorated on the Roll of Honour in the church itself.

The plaque mentions other members of the Dickinson family who died during the Great War:

Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Carey Dickinson, of the Somerset Light Infantry and King’s African Rifles, died in Dar-es-Salaam in 1918.

Lieutenant George Barnsfather Dickinson of the East Lancashire Regiment fell at Ypres in May 1915.

The village has, understandably, a community feel to it. Even though the farm workers have move on and been replaced by wealthier country folk, Kingweston has a heart and a draw to it.

A-Z of Somerset: Isle Abbotts

Tucked away deep in the countryside between Ilminster and Taunton is the picture perfect village of Isle Abbotts. Taking its name from the River Isle – which flows nearby – and Muchelney Abbey – whose lands it once sat on – Isle Abbotts is a tine village of little over 200 people.

And tucked away it is! I know I’m still fairly new to the county, but the road from Ilminster is as countrified as you get. High hedges on both sides, a strip of grass down the middle of the tarmac, battling tractors, a dog, some chickens and a Tesco lorry, it took a while to get there, but the journey was worth it.

There is a very chocolate box feel to Isle Abbotts; thatched cottages, a green, well tended gardens and cute village hall, the place is the epitome of the English country village.

There are two churches – The Blessed Virgin Mary and a baptist chapel (now a house, but the graveyard remains) – and the former is the heart of the village, as it should be. The majority of the graves are old and ornate, reminding you that the church was funded by – and therefore the domain of – the local landowners.

All the elements of a small community are there – a stone-built bus stop and information board, a hall with a stand for second-hand books, a sun-bleached telephone box, a tree planted to commemorate the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

But the bigger reminder of the connection between Isle Abbotts and the countryside around it is the farmland.

It is very easy to get right back into the countryside from the village centre, passing through farmland, you come to a bridge across the River Isle, from where a track passes to the neighbouring village of Isle Brewers.

(Smaller in population than Abbotts, Isle Brewers takes its name not from beer-making, but from the the family of William Briwere, lord of the manor in the 1200s.)

At this end of the village, the Manor Farm dominates the landscape, and you readily remember that this is what would have provided labour for the majority of the population in days gone by.

Quiet, isolated, but calm and peaceful, this is definitely a place that reminds you to get out in the sticks, get away from town and city life and enjoy the open air.

A-Z of Somerset: Haselbury Plucknett

H is for Haselbury Plucknett

In the south of the county of Somerset, almost at the border with Dorset, lies the enchantingly named Haselbury Plucknett. Lying three miles (5km) to the east of Crewkerne, the name literally means “(Alan de) Plugenet’s hazel grove”. A somewhat busy road runs through the village, but this does not detract from its charm.

The cottages in the centre of the village are built of local stone and face the village green. They’re well-attended and give the village a real sense of community, something that was in evidence as I roamed around.

Just down from the village green are the Jared Gear Almshouses, set aside to provide safe and secure housing accommodation for people with limited financial resources who have connections with Haselbury Plucknett.

Wulfric of Haselbury was a noted resident of the village. In 1125 he moved there from Compton Martin, just south of Bristol, in pursuit of a wholly religious life. He withdrew from secular matters almost completely, living in a cell adjacent to the village church, St Michael and All Angels. Wulfric’s piety attracted notable well-wishers; King Henry I and King Stephen both sought his advice and he became well renowned not just around Somerset, but also at court. When he died in 1154, he was buried in the church.

The village church lies just off from the centre and, like the village itself, is a tranquil place. There are no Commonwealth War Graves in the churchyard, but the War Memorial commemorates the twelve Haselbury souls who gave their lives on the field of battle during the Great War.

One of those remembered was Harry Shyer. He was just 20 years and 3 days old when the ship he was serving on – the HMS Good Hope – was torpedoed off the coast of Chile during the Battle of Coronel. All hands from the ship were lost, a total of 926 men.

The war memorial includes two sets of brothers: John and William Eastment and George and Harold Tout. Given the population of Haselbury Plucknett was less than 500 at 1911 census, the war must have taken an incredible toll on the village and the twenty-two losses would have been felt.

Two other key parts of the village lie within 300ft (90m) of each other; the local school and the village pub. (I make no assumptions as to their location, other than Haselbury Plucknett being a small village!)

A-Z of Somerset: Godney

G is for Godney

The next in the A-Z is one that potentially challenges what I am looking to achieve in a list of Somerset villages as it examines what actually constitutes a village.

In England, at least, you have hamlets, villages, towns and cities.

  • Hamlets have no central place of worship and no meeting point (for example a village hall).
  • Villages have one central place of worship and a meeting point.
  • Towns have more than one of each and will often have a charter to hold a weekly market; they will also have their own form of council.
  • Cities are larger conurbations with multiple places of worship and meeting points.

So, why bring this up now?

Well, the issue with the next place I have visited is that technically it is not a village.

Godney has a handful of houses, a farm and a small church (Holy Trinity), but no meeting point.

It lies just to the north of Glastonbury, on a small rise overlooking the River Sheppey.

Why am I including Godney in the A-Z, then? Well, on the other side of the river are two other hamlets – Upper Godney and Lower Godney – and between the three of them, they meet all of the requirements of a village.

So, then, I am looking at The Godneys, not just Godney itself. (Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch, but they’re nice places!)

While Godney has the place of worship, Lower Godney has the meeting place. This is where the Village Hall is located, as well as the local pub, The Sheppey Inn (named after the river that runs behind it).

Upper Godney is today just a small stretch of houses, but it was once where the local school was located as well as the village post office. Both have now closed and are houses.

There are no war graves in Godney. However, like Dinder, it formed part of the war lines, and the landscape includes a number of pill boxes at either end.

The Godneys are surrounded by flat, drained marshland and the natural ditches formed the basis of tank defences during the Second World War. These were supplemented with a purpose-built anti-tank ditch around the village, while bridges in the area were prepared for demolition at short notice.

The Godneys are a great place for walking and cycling, particularly as the ground is so level. The views south to Glastonbury Tor and north to the Mendips are well worth it.