George Henry Stone was born in 1872, son of Milverton’s blacksmith James Stone and his wife Mary Ann. He followed in his father’s footsteps and, by the time he married Mary Florence Paul in 1894, he was also working in the forge in Milverton.
George and Mary had eight children – seven girls and one boy; by the time he signed up in 1915, he listed himself as a blacksmith.
His military records show that he was medically certified as Category B2 (suitable to serve in France, and able to walk 5 miles, see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes). He was assigned to the Remount Depot in Swaythling, Southhampton, which was built specifically to supply horses and mules for war service. (In the years it was operating, Swaythling processed some 400,000 animals, as well as channelling 25,000 servicemen to the Front.)
While serving George contracted pneumonia. He was treated in Netley Military Hospital, but passed away on 19th November 1918, aged 47.
Shoesmith George Henry Stone lies at peace in a quiet corner of St Michael & All Angel’s churchyard in his home village of Milverton.
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.
A hop and a skip away from Dinder is a bit of a jolt; the population of Evercreech is ten times the size, and you do notice it.
Just to the south of Shepton Mallet, this has the potential to be a bustling place, although the day I visited was a typically English summer, with heavy showers, so it was quieter than it could have been.
The centre of the village holds onto its Norman roots – Evrecriz was mentioned in the Doomsday book – and the buildings are old stone cottages, with the occasional larger manor thrown in.
The church, however, is one of the things that drew me to choosing this as my ‘E’ village. The renowned twentieth century architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner said than it has one of the finest Somerset-style towers in the county, but it is the mysterious clock that interested me.
The face of the clock has no 10 on it (or no X, in Roman numerals). Instead, the numbers go 9 – 11 – 12 – 12 (IX – XI – XII – XII).
Local rumour suggests that the person who paid for the clock to be made was instructed by his wife that he had to be home from the pub by 10 o’clock. Therefore, he ensured that the 10 o’clock numeral (X) was missing from the clock face.
While the village is a large one – with a population of nearly 2,500 – it is very easy to get into the open countryside.
Walk past the Bell Inn, one of Evercreech’s three pubs, and you find yourself crossing open fields to reach the village’s cemetery.
A small graveyard, but still in regular use, this holds a history of its own.
There is a war memorial to those who fell in both World Wars, while there are four war graves to those whose remains were able to be buried on English soil. Four stories, which I’ll explore in later posts.
One of the things I have found since moving down to Somerset how different the place names are from back in the south east of England. For every Yeovil there is a Kingsbury Epicopi, for every Bridgwater, a Chiltern Cantelo. The etymology of these place names holds a constant fascination for me, and is another reason I have set out to explore the local area more.
So it is that, on reaching the letter C in my quest, that I choose an unusually named village to photograph.
Charlton Mackrell lies midway between Glastonbury and Yeovil, on Bull Brook, a tributary of the River Cary. It shares its name with the neighbouring village – the similarly named Charlton Adam – and, like Baltonsborough, has a population of around 1000 inhabitants.
The names of the villages can be traced back centuries – Charlton comes from the Saxon word for “farmstead of the freemen”. Adam can be pinpointed to the local FitzAdam family who once lived there. Mackrell is less easy to pin down, but it is likely to have similar origins.
Certainly manorial buildings rule over the village in the way they tend to do; large houses and mysterious gated entrances can be found all over. The local church – Saint Mary The Virgin – sits right next to, and is obviously connected to, one of the larger properties (after all, manorial families often built religious buildings out of their own money to show their devotion to God, which just happened to help them control the local population).
The Charltons also suffered at the hands of Dr Beeching; the railway station closed in 1962, along with the other six stations between Castle Cary and Taunton. Three railway bridges survive, however, the lowest of which is only 2.7m (8’9″) high.
The villages’ war memorial is, unusually, not at the heart of things. It is, instead, nestled in a fork in the road joining the Charltons. Sadly, it only serves to highlight that, even in the depths of the Somerset countryside, tight knit communities were in no way immune to the ravages of war.
There are, thankfully, only eleven names of the lost under each of the villages, but given that the combined population of the two villages at the time was around 600, these twenty-two fallen represented an unthinkable loss for those left behind.
Two of the men on the Mackrell side of the memorial are buried in St Mary’s churchyard. If you have followed my previous CKPonderings blog, you will know that the history and stories behind those who fell during the Great War fascinate me.
Private Quinton Charles Wyatt was born in the Gloucestershire town of Northleach in 1893 to William and Elizabeth. His mother died when he was a toddler and, by the time war was declared, Quinton was working as a farm labourer and waggoner.
He joined the 8th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment on 22nd November 1915. He was posted to France four months later, but medically discharged from the Army on Boxing Day 1917.
Private Wyatt died in Charlton Mackrell on 11th November 1918 – Armistice Day – and buried in St Mary’s churchyard.
Private Roberts Pretoria Hallett was born in the summer of 1900, to Frank – a shepherd from Charlton Adam – and Emily, who came from Charlton Mackrell. Roberts (the correct spelling) was the youngest of eleven children.
Roberts was just twelve when his father died, and, when war came, he enlisted in Taunton, along with his brothers, Francis and William. The Great War was not kind to Emily Hallett: her son William died while fighting in India in 1916; Francis died in the Third Battle of Ypres in June 1917.
Roberts was assigned to the 5th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment; while I’ve been unable to identify exactly when he saw battle, by the last year of the war he would have been involved in the fighting in northern Italy.
What we can say for certainty was that is was shipped home at some point towards the end of the war, and died – presumably of his injuries – in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 16th October 1918.
William Hallett was buried in India, Francis in Belgium. Private Roberts Hallett, therefore, is the only one of the three brothers to be buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in his birthplace of Charlton Mackrell.
The first of an ad hoc, semi-regular roam around the villages of Somerset…
We’ll begin out journey in the village of Ashcott.
Situated on the side of the busy A39, three miles (5km) to the west of Street, Ashcott is a small village made up of a mix of old and modern buildings.
While the village seems to lack a real central focus, All Saints Church dominates the eastern heights.
The local amenities include a couple of pubs – the Ring O’ Bells and the Ashcott – and, while no longer served by the railway (Ashcott and Meare station and, indeed, the whole of the Burhnam branch line, were axed as part of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s), it is still a pleasant walk down to the Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall nature reserves, where the trains once passed.
Note: What could be more random than eight inflatable unicorns sat in someone’s front garden? I walk down this road regularly and they certainly weren’t there on previous occasions — that’s the kind of thing I’d notice!
Name: Droning Speck
Note: In the end, are we not all going round in circles? The blue of the sign against the blue of the sky really caught my eye, but something wasn’t quite right. It all seemed a little random…
Location: Shapwick Heath, Somerset
Note: The bug had caught my eye, glistening brightly against the yellow irises. One of the things I love about mt photography technique (trigger-happy, drive-by snapping) is that I don’t always know what the result is going to be. It was only when I looked at the image on the computer that I appreciated it was two bugs, rather than one! (Yes, they’re cuddling to keep warm… It was a misty morning…)
Name: Doctor Ken, Gin Sop
Note: The random thing for this photo is that I have been called upon to do the ironing!
Name: Cap Does Craft
Location: Gallery Floor – South Yorkshire
Note: Random was called for and and random this is! The speckled tiles, straight lines, wavy shadows, reflections and rainbow were taken pre-pandemic but work with the theme. The rainbow was created by sunlight refracting through the edge of a glass door (and the handles to the door can just be seen in the reflection next to the rainbow). Whether the different aspects of this image come together to make a pleasing whole is perhaps for you to decide?
Location: South West Sheffield (Taken during lockdown while on daily exercise)
Note: This photograph is of hay bales wrapped in plastic to produce silage, ready to be used as winter feed for livestock. Most often we see these bales on farms dressed in black plastic and I liked that these are pink and green, which in itself seemed unusual. I also liked the random nature the various components in the composition. Brambles with their incredible daily growth are gradually attempting to reclaim the area for themselves and the bales arranged seemingly without too much order. In a different setting this might be considered a work of art!
Name: Cooking-Post Nerd
Note: It’ funny what you can find wandering the local streets during your daily exercise. I mean, what could be more random than Bear’s Curious Quest?!
The signs were all there, no doubt about it. There was not escape and, even though he couldn’t read the language, the intent was still pretty blindingly obvious.
But how to go about it? Which was his best way out? He didn’t know who was after him, or when they would catch up, but he knew he would give escape a bloody good try, and this was where his fight back began…
Colour is also on the cards for the new Mass Observation Project, so get snapping!
Take a photograph based that sums up the theme COLOUR to you, however you want to interpret it.
Email the image to email@example.com by Thursday 30th April 2020.
Images should be a maximum of 650 pixels wide.
Include your name, website/blog address and a short note about the image, including where it was taken.
I’m currently not under personal quarantine, and am eager to have my daily constitutional for as long as I can.
In addition to this, having not long moved into my new home, the place is still a bit of a tip (although it’s getting there slowly) and with some building work going on (the builders working in isolation), I am paranoid that whatever photo I take will show up the dust!
So, with my once-a-day walks continuing, camera in hand, I am photographing the outdoors quite happily!