With everything else that has been going on in the world, it’s taken a while to get there, but here is the complete list of alphabetical Somerset villages posts. What started out in August 2020 as something of a lockdown photographic project, helping me explore parts of my new home county that I might normally bypass, became much more than just something to challenge my satnav.
Twenty six villages, each with their own individual personalities and traits. Each came into being in different ways, for different reasons, but each brings something different to the county, adding different stories to the county’s history.
(The previously mentioned disclaimers apply to the alphabetical journey. There are no villages in Somerset beginning with a J or a V, so K and W are doubled up. Zeals is technically not in Somerset, but is within a few hundred yards of the border, so I have taken the liberty of including it in the list, as there are no other places in the county starting with that letter.)
Over half way through the alphabet, and it’s the last of four recaps of the alphabetical journey around Somerset so far. Lockdown 2021 means that I have been unable to complete the A-Z, but this brings us up to date with the stop offs so far.
Click on the links to see the full post for each village.
In the north of the county*, just eight miles from the centre of Bristol lies the quiet village of Stanton Drew. Nestled in the rolling hills of this part of the county, it is easily overlooked. (Avoid using your SatNav – you will end up encountering all sorts of twisty turny country roads!!)
Old enough as a village to have featured in the Domesday Book, it was listed as Stantone, from the Old English and Celtic words meaning “the stone enclosure with an oak tree”.
Drew came from the name of one of the former owners of the area, and was added to distinguish the place from neighbouring Stanton Wick and Stanton Prior.
Approaching from the north, the first hint of Stanton Drew comes from the sight of the unusual Round House. Originally a tollhouse, this quirky thatched building sets the tone for the other buildings in the village.
Over the narrow bridge, and you arrive at the village itself.
You very readily identify that this was once a place of great wealth. There are a number of large properties, and it is difficult to identify if there was ever just one manor house.
Stanton Drew gained its wealth from coal, and, at, as late as the 1950s, there were as many as three mines within the parish boundaries.
In fact, there is little evidence of any smaller housing; yes the land around the village is also good for agriculture, but there aren’t many traditional farming cottages to be found.
The main religious site is the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which dates to the 13th and 14th centuries.
As befits a village of this stature, there is a school and village pub, but as you wander round Stanton Drew, you can’t help but get the feeling there there is something more about this place, something that you cannot quite put your finger on.
And oddly, it’s the garden of the village pub – The Druid’s Arms – that gives you the first hint.
For while Stanton Drew was first listed in the Domesday Book, its history significantly predates this writing from 1086.
Three stones form a prehistoric enclosure, within site of the village church. They hint at the ceremonial activities which took place here around 4,500 years ago.
They are also said to be the relics of a parson, bride and bridegroom, turned to stone by the Devil because their wedding guests danced on a Sunday.
Behind the church as the most impressive element of Stanton Drew.
Three stone circles, up to 371 ft (113m) in diameter lie to the east and north of the village. Contemporary in date to the Neolithic site at Stonehenge, the Great Stanton Drew circle is, in fact, larger than its more well-known Wiltshire counterpart.
Only the stone circle at Avebury is bigger in size, meaning that the Stone Age circles of Stanton Drew are, in fact, the second largest Neolithic site in the United Kingdom.
Significantly less visited than either Avebury or Stonehenge, Stanton Drew is one of the country’s best kept prehistoric secrets.
Undoubtedly one of the places to visit in the county, there is plenty to admire in Stanton Drew, and, for history buffs and walkers alike, there is more than enough to see and do.
* While Stanton Drew lies in the Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Authority, is is still part of the ceremonial county of Somerset, and so is happily included as part of this A-Z wandering.