The unusual Somerset names continue as we head to the village of North Curry. Nothing to do with spicy food, the name is thought to derive from the Saxon or Celtic word for ‘stream’. There are a number of similarly named villages along this ridge to the east of Taunton – Curry Rivel, Curry Mallet and East Curry – but it is the North Curry that I found myself visiting.
Like Milverton, North Curry is a place that seems to have pretentions above its station. With a population of more than 1600 people, it is almost a town, but most of its wealth derives from its historic location – a dry ridge above water-logged marshes proved an ideal location for settlement from Roman times onwards.
The wealth is reflected in the number of large houses, particularly around the central green – Queen Square – and North Curry appears gentrified by Georgians and Victorians alike.
This sense of self importance is continued towards the north of the village, where the church – St Peter and St Paul’s – appears far larger than a place of North Curry’s size should accommodate. This is particularly the case, given that it is built on a ridge overlooking Haymoor and the River Tone – this is a building that was meant to be seen from afar and admired.
The central square is where the hub of life was focused. Sadly, the village’s post office/store and pub are all that remain of the old hustle and bustle. North Curry’s former wealth still remains on show, however, with a large memorial to Queen Victoria, an ornate War Memorial and a walled village garden being the focal points for today’s visitors.
While the wealth brought by through travellers may have long since departed, this is by no means a washed-up place. North Curry may be slightly off the beaten track, but it is still worth a wander around and there is plenty of opportunity to admire views and contemplate the wonder of the architecture.
Five miles to the west of Taunton lies the pretty village of Milverton. With a population of nearly 1500 people, it feels like more of a town, and the size and architecture of the houses hint at this being a bustling and rich place.
As with much of Somerset, the key trade was cloth, and a silk throwing factory was set up in the village at the beginning of the 19th century, eventually employing more than 300 people.
One of Milverton’s notable residents was Thomas Young (1773–1829). He is a man who had fingers in many pies, counting a scientific understanding of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology amongst his specialisms. He is probable more notable for his interest in Egyptology, and helped translate the Rosetta Stone.
The parish church is the Church of St Michael and All Angels, set in a quite location, and raised above the surrounding houses. It is a peaceful and tranquil location, perfect for reflection and contemplation.
A number of Commonwealth War Graves lie in the graveyard, which I’ll expand on in coming posts.
For a town of its size, Milverton has the amenities you would expect; there is another church – a Wesleyan Chapel built in 1850 – a school and a lone remaining public house, The Globe. Shops are minimal, as is transport – the village’s station was another of those that feel during the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
One surprise, however, is the village’s High Street. Doing away with what we nowadays expect, there are no shops or conveniences on it; it is literally a high street, leading up a hill away from the church.
One thing I have found, as I reach the halfway point of my alphabetical journey around Somerset is that, while generally the same, all of the places I have visited have their distinct personalities.
Milverton has just that. It is a large village, the result of its previous industrial heritage, but has slipped back to become a sleepy locale, and is all the better for it.